SEC 2012 - Work hard, play hard

Blog entry by Rebecca Lo from the University of Hong Kong.

For the past week, our group has never been more restless! In Conguaco and San Pedro, Guatemalans flocked to the town hall to attend our presentations about the micro consignment model products and sales campaign, and we conducted more than a hundred eye exams. My responsibility that day was to conduct a simple inventory and client list – whoever buys a water filter or solar product must provide us their telephone numbers so that Soluciones Comunitarias can follow up on their purchases and provide client-support services – for example, one of our solar products has a three-month warranty (one of the reasons is that we don’t want to sell products at a relatively high price to clients and in the end the products don’t work). We always provide the clients the contact information of the salesperson who sold the product because we want to help them, not simply sell the product. Education plays a major role in our micro consignment model – educating the clients on how to maintain the product is, in my view, even more important than convincing them to purchase a product, because in the end, we want to improve their livelihood by improving efficiency, eliminating waste, and reducing expenses.

Doing a testimonial interview at a family’s house that purchased one of the water filters.
For myself, it is especially rewarding whenever we sell a water filter – it is very interesting because from where I come from (Hong Kong), water always needs to be boiled before drinking, so I wasn’t very convinced when our leaders said boiling water is a waste of time and gas. But then I tried to understand more of the situations of Guatemala and the differences between the two places – I genuinely believe a water filter could deliver a kind of solution for Guatemalans, so I am content enough to sell the products. In the long run, however, having a water filter at home is not the only answer for dirty water from the tap. Eighty-five percent of the water in urban Guatemala is unclean or contaminated – it is not a micro project any more, but a macro one that involves much effort from the government!

I can't do it ... before I get too sick, please give me a horse. Gracias!!
Now about the fun part in Antigua.

To experience more of Antigua, our group travelled to Volcano Pacaya, which is located in Escuintla, Guatemala. The guide told us the hike was approximately an hour and half, so I was not worried at all – but obviously I wasn’t fit enough to complete the hike … therefore I took a taxi up to the volcano – by taxi, I mean A HORSE. I am glad I ‘finished’ the hike with the horse rather than just giving up the hike! And it is the first time that I rode on a horse during a hike.

Our guide showing off being warm at the top of Volcano Pacaya.
Everyone enjoyed the scenery from the top of the volcano. It was very windy and cold at the top of the volcano, but there are lots of ‘hot spots’ everywhere. Our guide found a hole that is so warm and big that he could just lay inside it. So all of us just tried our best to find all these hot spots to stay warm. Honestly, the hot spots also generate some kind of steam that feels like a spa or a thermal treatment. They should develop a tourist business there, especially after a long hike, people might want to relax a bit … just saying.

Ninos en Guatemala, Francisco and Diego.
On the same day, I went to a dinner party at my host dad’s parents’ house. They keep on emphasizing that there are many children in Guatemala, and this was the first time I felt the many children surrounding me. They are ALL adorable. I simply cannot pick my favourite … meanwhile, I’ll stick to the two-year-old son in my host family, DIEGO.