Stories from Guatemala: Bad Translation

In 2001, I went to Guatemala for one month, living & working in an orphanage for 2 weeks, then later living with families who hosted the students from our group as we worked in local communities. I will share more about the this trip as my Odyssey unfolds (probably around chapter 5 or 6)... but I thought it would be interesting and fun to share some of the little stories and tales. 

Funfact: The pictures through these stories are taken with 35mm film. It feels really long ago that we used film and waited to pick up our developed roll to see if we 'got the shot' ... are we our parents talking about the days of a-tracks and vinyls? Yes, i just realized I called them a-tracks... I always say that by accident, that's how out of my world they are.

So like I said, we were living in a large orphanage (helping with a build and playing with the children in our spare time). We were warned that lice is a common problem, so being the paranoid traveling girls that we were, we checked each other every night (in the photo above, I'm checking my friend Karisa... and she's about to be told by me 'I see something'). We r-u-n out to the school yard and find two girls, 12 year olds.. we point to her partline and Karisa (with her high school spanish) asks them something like: "What's this??" Well, either her high school spanish was a little rusty or things were lost in translation (and fear filled in the blanks)... but she understood them to say was "BUGS".  ie. DOOOOOOM
Well... that was it, us girls were in full freakout mode assuming we all had IT. I called my Mom in Canada COLLECT (it was a $75.00 phone call), and she ran out to buy some of that special shampoo because another Winnipeg translator/chaperone team was leaving for Guatemala that night for the second part of the trip... and we needed that shampoo. Bad.
The day went on and all the girls assumed we had "it" and felt super crawly and majorly contagious. In the photo above, I had been video taping in the school ground (with my large video camera that was as big as a loaf of bread... oh technology) and the kids wanted to see themselves on the screen, so they swarmed around me. And I'm like, "GUYS-- back up! be careful!" But I had no spanish and couldn't communicate. Eventually, one of the kids wanted to take a group picture of us (the top/first photo) I just posed and hoped I hadn't made the problem worse. (I *love* the energy & joy of the kids in the photo... they were so awesome! I also love how skinny I was, lol.)

The next day, we were talking to the nurse who was a missionary from the States (ie. strong english and strong spanish)... she took a look at Karisa and Me and declared... "you have dandriff. The water pressure here does that to me too."

All that panic due to one word translated wrong. Lol. The translators arrived in Guatemala with the shampoo and we kept it on hand just incase... but never ended up needing it, at all.


  1. What an awesome experience. I lived in Romania for a a summer and the village I was in had an orphanage; the kids were fantastic.

    The creepy crawly/contagious feeling definitely hits home - I had a bed bug scare last week and I felt like a leper. A leper covered in phantom itchiness. Ewwwww!

  2. That's awesome! I DID get headlice once, and it's happened to me twice since that I got completely carried away thinking I had them again (itching like craaaazy), and then realizing it was a false alarm. Amazing how a girl can flip out when she thinks there are creepy crawlies on her head. :)

  3. were you aware of the recent trip many female bloggers made to Guatemala?

  4. Thanks for showing me that Chandra, I'd never seen that. Cool!

  5. That sounds like such an amazing experience!

  6. Hehehe. Good old dandruff!

  7. Just reading your story made me get the creepy crawlies. I have two boys at home and I am constantly freaking out about lice. I make them wash their hair with this supposedly preventative shampoo because I am so paranoid.

    Sounds like it was an awesome trip.


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