The Chief Cook

Guatemala History, Real Estate and More

I went on a volunteer trip to Guatemala one year.

There was a hospital there, and it needed a water source, which they determined to be a water tower. Now this wasn’t your typical water tower. This was basically a small concrete block cube built on top of a platform elevated about twenty feet up on concrete block posts.

The project was to build the tower.
Now, I’m not afraid of hard work, but I wasn’t sure that I’d actually be up to that project. Or more precisely, that I would be much help. But I liked the idea of the project and I asked if there was anything else I could do to help.

The project coordinator said, well, we need someone to cook for the team of volunteers coming in to do the construction. Do you cook?
Do I cook? I said, said I. Move over Julia Child and Barefoot Contessa and Dave Ramsey and Emeril and all the rest of the bunch! Do I cook? Hell, yeah!

So I glommed on to the crew that flew down to Guatemala as the chief cook and bottle washer.

We flew into Guatemala City and spent two days there. The guys went around buying concrete block and rebar and whatever else they needed for the tower, and I went grocery shopping. One of the men went with me to help carry stuff.

On our third day in-country, we left the capital city and drove out to the project site. It took us six hours to get there. Our driver was careful, but it was still pretty hair-raising because we were on a mountain road with steep drop-offs. I mostly just shut my eyes.

I was grateful to not be on one of the other trucks that often passed us coming the other way—open-back trucks piled high with people, stalks of bananas, chickens, goats, wheelbarrows, gardening tools, and sacks of potatoes.

We got to the remote hospital and unloaded all of the supplies. We also saw our living quarters, which was a house that belonged to a businessman who was out of town. There were enough rooms for the guys to be two to a room and for me to have my own. (Lucky me!)

We were all there for two weeks. I have to say, it took me a good two days to get the hang of cooking there. The poor guys. I guess it was the altitude, but it took forever to bring water to a boil, and to get stuff cooked through. My timing for getting stuff cooked just went out the window.

The guys were patient, though, and I did get the hang of it.

The other challenge I had was cooking with ingredients that were different from what I’m used to. I had to be kind of creative. Thank goodness I’m a comfortable cook and I enjoy experimenting. It doesn’t faze me to try out new things on people, so that worked out fine.

I did that the whole two weeks, and it was great. The men were appreciative, and I felt like I made a solid contribution to that project!

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