27 March 2007

All The Kings Horses

Lauren, the suspected volunteer to be "the one who would meet the man" called me up a few days after the e-mail saying only one volunteer would meet Bush. She invited me to dinner at a local street vendor with three former Peace Corps Volunteers that were in town. When I arrive at the restaurant made of plastic tarps, I found out that the three former volunteers were current employees of the US Department of State. The purpose of the meeting was to let them get out of their local hotel where they were staying with roughly 50 other Americans working for the Secret Service, Department of State, or the White House directly. How nobody in town noticed four dozen gringos skulking around Tecp√°n is beyond me. They had been preparing for the visit of the head bean of the free world and needed some good Guatemalan food. They openly discussed some of the theatrical touches that had been placed on the visit, as they explained always are. In Guatemala, storefronts and rooms during holidays and celebrations are decorated with pine needles on the floor. To mimic this ´local´idea to an extravagant extreme, they covered over a kilometer of road with pine needles to which George Bush's limo was originally planned to drive on.

The following day we were invited to have pizza and beers at "there place," a hotel out of town that had been rented by the Americans and converted into the "operations center." A room adequate for a small wedding was converted into a computer lab and office, including clocks of varying time zones, computers covered with USAID stickers, and an excessive number of manila folders. And, within 2 hours, rapidly emptying pizza boxes and roughly four coolers of Guatemalan beer. While chatting over beers with various employees with the West Wing, I personally couldn't help but feel a little confused. All of them were under 35, which I was explained was young people are most likely to work campaigns, and therefore end up getting the appointments. Security workers were (unsurprisingly) all men who were (unsurprisingly) usually ex-soldiers. Other odd theatrical issues that were taken up included the issue of the stray dogs that live in the Mayan ruins that the President was visiting. While the issue of a dog attacking the leader of the free world may have entered the discussion, the larger concern was that the bomb dogs used by the secret service may end up fighting with the strays. While these military dogs likely knows 100 ways to kill a mammal with its tail, secret service warned that they would shoot the strays if they came near to avoid the risk. However, gunfire going off in a place of religious importance to the Mayan population (over 90% of the local population), especially given the U.S. support of the civil war/genocide 20 years ago. When the stray issue was mentioned to the mayor, he assured them that they would be gone by the President's arrival, which they after realized meant he would likely leave out spoiled meat to kill them. More humane ideas, such as temporarily trapping them, were tossed around afterwards. Far as I know, the stray dogs get what many Guatemalan strays get sooner or later in their life: meat marinated with anti-freeze.

1 comment:

giantgringo said...

Giantgringo here (PCV Vista Bella/Utz Samaj 2000-2002). How many times you heard the name "Aubin" , my former site mate who you resemble, from all the locals? Please tell all the folks around that "Esteban" says hello/ Khak-ICK/ Securrrhh, etc. Thanks for the blog updates. We have alot in common, including the Big Easy. I hope we can keep in touch.

I am required to mention that this blog doesn´t reflect the opinions of the Peace Corps.