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One day a volcano erupts and lava shoots up in the sky. Another day the rain interrupts and the sky starts falling down.

The president declares a state of emergency when the active volcano of Pacaya starts to spread rocks, lava and ash over the country. And when the inhabitants in the capital have scraped their car windows clean from layers of black ash, they receive another rinse from the heavy rain. A hurricane hovers by the coast and I am glad that I am not out on the roads. My wet clothes are draped over the bicycle that has been standing in a room in San Pedro for a month. The rainwater is pouring in underneath my bed and masses of water are pouring down the mountain slopes and take twenty houses with it down to the lake.

When the sky clears the devastation is clear. A small shoe is placed on a mud pile instead of its owner’s foot and on the muddy beach lays a toy that has fallen from a child’s hand. The mudslide has taken everything out of its context. Rice packages have floated away from their cupboards, a flower patterned sofa has been pushed out of the living room and a little girl has been torn away from her family. Men with mud up to their ankles now stand at the spot where her house once stood, digging after the same body that the divers are searching for in the brown water.

Most people got evacuated during both of the natural disasters. Here at the lake however, there are no aid workers, no disaster relief and no excavating machines. All there is is solidarity. Neighbours have brought their gardening tools from the corn fields to dig with joined effort and the dive centre that usually deals with tourists in wetsuits are now a search and rescue team underwater. Staples and support are circulating on land. There is no panic on the scene, the atmosphere is calm after the storm. A calmness which tells me that the state of emergency is no unfamiliar state for the people of Guatemala.




  1. Jörg Monday, May 31, 2010, at 5:39 PM

    Dear Hanna,

    this sounds shocking! Please take care of yourself!

    All the best to you!


  2. Hanna Monday, May 31, 2010, at 9:45 PM

    Thank you Jörg.

    It has been a chock for the entire country. The skies are now clear over the lake, the streets have dried up in my part of town and show no signs of the storm. The landslide area on the other hand has changed drastically and the people of San Pedro have joined their efforts to try to restore the lives of the families afflicted.

  3. Kathie Minidis Sunday, June 6, 2010, at 10:32 PM

    Hey Hanna! Love your site. Missed saying good bye to you in San Pedro. Send me an email to let me know how you are doing and how the digging is going!

  4. Hanna Wednesday, June 9, 2010, at 9:53 PM

    Thank you Kathie, I hope you are enjoying your last few days in the country and that Antigua is still standing safely. My arms are digging along in the mud until I get to do some leg-work when I get back on the bike.

  5. Anna S Friday, June 18, 2010, at 1:53 PM

    me gustan las fotografìas de Guatemala! son maravillosas y conmovedoras! (?) =)

    Stannar du längre å gräver? Vilken väg ska du ta sedan? Blev det ngn spanskakurs eller tog naturens krafter över?



  6. Anna S Friday, June 18, 2010, at 1:58 PM

    I love your lovelely list of thanks to people that you met along the way, and have been lovely to you! You are lovely and a real love-spreading-soul!

    Love Anna Strömmer Willems

  7. Hanna Saturday, June 19, 2010, at 8:49 PM

    And I love lovely you and your lovable ways Anna.

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