Entries by Cameron Quayle

River Work

Our main focus for our time here is dentistry.  But a simple walk through town reveals numerous ways to help, get involved with the community and better understand the daily challenges of the people here. Running through Panajachel is a small river that empties into Lake Atitlan.  Along the length of the river workers spend their days digging out sand and gravel delivered daily by the rivers flow.  These workers will shovel the sand and gravel mix onto the river banks and then spend their time separating the sand from the gravel, a laborious process.  The workers are paid by the cubic yard of sand or gravel.  If an individual works hard they separate up to a yard of sand and gravel each day.  If they reach this goal they can sell these raw materials for building materials. The payoff for their day of hard labor…between 50-100 Quetzales (about $7-13.00 US Dollars).  Remarkable. 


Myself and a good friend from the US, who lives here now, felt like we could get to know another side of Panajachel by helping out.  We each purchased a shovel and at least once a week we go down to the river in the early mornings and help a river worker separate their sand and gravel.  This gives us the chance to help them.  By helping them we can increase the amount of materials they separate and in turn get a bigger paycheck that day.  We talk about why we are there and get to know them and their backgrounds. 


We met one man, Roberto, who has been working the same spot in the river for 20 years.  He started when he was 13 years old.  He works the same spot on the river his father worked before him for 45 years.  Through this experience we have had the opportunity to go into Roberto’s home and meet his family.  We’ve even had the opportunity to take dinner to his parents who are now 90 and 75 years old, and still working. 


Another women we met last week is 70 years old and works on the river.  She is the only woman I’ve seen working on the river.  We don’t know a lot about her because she doesn’t speak Spanish, she speaks a Mayan language called Kaqchikel.  We know she appreciates our help because each morning we help her she takes our shovels into the lake and washes of the sand and gravel for us.  Last Friday she gave me a hug before we left.  I don’t speak Kaqchikel but I know what that means. 


This is a side of Panajachel very few if any tourists see.  Truthfully, these are some of my favorite mornings. 

Guatemala Dia de Indepencia

Part of travel is immersing yourself in the local culture and celebrating with the people.  Today we had the awesome opportunity to witness a Guatemalan Independence Day celebration.  Parades, food, marching bands, fireworks and a ride on the camioneta (chicken bus) all came together for a magical day.  People were wearing their tipico (traditional clothing) and Gautemala flags were flying everywhere.  The people love their country and are proud to be Guatemalateca!

Spanish School

One of our big goals is to learn Spanish as a family while we are here in Guatemala.  After a few days of relaxing and unwinding we began researching which Spanish school in town had the best reputation and the highest ratings.  After searching around we found Jabel Tinamet, Panajachel’s premiere Spanish school. The owners Gregorio and Candelaria were warm and inviting.  The school is open and most classrooms were open so we could experience a fresh breeze during class time.  They were even very nice to accommodate our sweet four-year-old Cannon.  We have so much to learn but Jabel Tinamet is our first step in the journey. 

Santa Catarina Palopo Hot Springs

Lake Atitlan is full of limitless treasures.  Today we hopped in the back of a pickup taxi en route for Santa Catarina Palopo.  For 3 Quetzales a person (about $0.45) we rode with the wind in our hair to the next village around the lake from Panajachel.  A Short walk down to the lake shore and around the lake takes you to a simple but enjoyable spot with arguably one of the most beautiful views in the world.  The whole family can jump into Lake Atitlan from a large rock or just soak in the warm waters from the volcanic hot springs.  We spent the morning basking in the sun, enjoying the warm water, amazing view and talking with the locals.  We’ll be doing this one again. 

Same Blue Track, Different Country.

Not long after we arrived in Panajachel, Guatemala the kids were doing what kids do…playing.  The went through their bags and found their blue track and Hot Wheels cars.  Before long they were playing with the neighbors kids and everyone was laughing.  The best part: the neighbor kids didn’t speak English and our kids didn’t speak Spanish.  The kids were united in the language of play and tonight was a witness that play is a universal language.  I was proud of our kids for pushing their comfort limits and knocking on the neighbors door with their track and cars in hand.  When we push our comfort limits we grow.  

We Love Guatemala

***Graphic Content Alert*** Over the past few days we have shared a few things we love about Guatemala and the people we serve while we are there. One of the big questions we get after we return home from our humanitarian trips is, “What do the mouths look like that you take care of?” Today […]

Humanitarian Mission

Yesterday we shared pictures of the people we encountered on our recent dental humanitarian mission to Guatemala. Today we want to share some of the scenes we saw as we traveled through the country. Women washing laundry in the lake, “chicken buses,” markets, humble homes, fishing boats, 3rd world wiring, cemeteries and a family garden. […]

Guatemala Experience

Recently Dr. Cam, Flora and Michelle had the opportunity to go to Guatemala for a dental humanitarian mission. They hoped to share more of their experience while they were there but the limited cell coverage and WiFi didn’t allow for that. Over the next few days they want to share why they love the people, […]