Bicycle Mayhem

19 de Mayo

Country/Day: Guatemala/5

Bikes Fixed: 4

Bicimaquinas Built: 0.5

Bikes/Day: 0.8


If you peek over the wall the view here is great.

As happened with India there’s been an explosion of things to update on… of sorts. The problem here is that, well, I’ve no internet at home! Okay, it’s not so much a problem as an inconvenience, but to save money I have to type up the blog here, take it on a flash drive to the tienda del interneto, copy and paste it into the frame, etc. Internet is pretty cheap, but still.

On the bright side, I get to sit on a porch with a view while I type my blog.

So, I’m going to break the updates into two sections. The first one, today, will be about work. The latter, later this week, will be about life at home. Both are equally interesting and intriguing and it’s hard not to just blurt out everything all at once… but I feel like I don’t have time for that, nor do you necessarily have time to read it.

Oh also — in case you aren’t sure — every conversation I write about happened in Spanish (unless otherwise indicated). It was probably a little less elegant than I type it: I still feel completely lost (like today at the market, which will get its own post) but, you know, I’m alive, I can buy food, and I can work, so my language skills must not be terrible. I will write en espanol where I remember it (both for practice and for fun), but no doubt my recollection is imperfect, and I don’t want to practice things that are, well, wrong.

Work life:

As I mentioned in my last post I didn’t work at all on day one. I got to BiciTec about 4:30 so it’s probably a good thing. Anyways, Carlos asked if I could start the next day, to which I replied affirmatively, and on jueves, there I found myself (PS totally should have installed the Spanish language pack when I fixed my computer). Carlos had said he’d be around to pick me up about 8. I don’t have a watch and hadn’t set my clock yet so uh… I didn’t actually know when that was (in retrospect, I could have just turned on my computer and subtracted an hour – Guatemala is CST but they don’t acknowledge daylight savings, which is solely United Statsian (recallI can’t say “American”)).

Fortunately Carlos had also told me the “water would turn on” about 7. So I knew when the water turned on I could just set my clock to 7 AM and I’d be set. Sure enough, some time after waking up, the water turned on (more on this in the “home life” post). I couldn’t really believe it was 7 because I’d been up for a while… then I remembered the whole daylight savings thing and had a new appreciation for it. As things are without it, the sun rises about 5:30 or 6 and sets about 7:30. Get up early, go to bed early. It’s not bad, it’s just a little weird. It makes sense from the perspective of a third world country, as there’s a lot to do in the day, and (for me anyways) “that time before breakfast but you’re awake anyways” is a great time to get stuff done. Anyways, we’re encroaching on the home life post again.


Well this looks clean and organized and not full of bicycles to work on.

So roundabout 8 (said my clock – score 1 for logic and the timing of the water guy) Carlos’s son, Antonio, showed up and took me to work on his motorcycle. There was actually very little to do. For whatever reason we didn’t get many customers, and didn’t have any bikes (but wait! – until tomorrow). This was both good and bad. It was good because it gave me a chance to practice communicating, and it gave Carlos and I chance to talk about how things were run. I also helped him finish a bicimaquina – a combo corn grinder (on the right in the photo below) and vegetable pulper (on the left).



Then Carlos decided I was going to learn how to weld. Or more, he asked if I knew how, and I said no, but I wanted to learn. So he taught me how to weld, and I started on my first bicimaquina, a bicycle blender.


Unforunately about halfway through we ran out of parts. “Manana,” said Antonio, who was helping me while Carlos was off on an errand.


So it´s half of a bicycle blender.

Tomorrow, Carlos had said, we were getting a shipment from Bikes Not Bombs. Tomorrow we would have all the bikes we need.


I was fed lunch and invited for dinner, which I graciously accepted. More on food later, but basically, I wasn’t ready to brave the market yet. I was glad not only for the company and the good food but the fact that I could focus on doing good work and making myself at home instead of fretting over how to eat (and yes, more on that later).


Corn tortillas. So many corn tortillas.

Anyways, I walked home (about a 10-15 minute walk), practiced accordion, and crashed.


Armed with a clock, I can tell you what time the roosters start crowing.


There’s one that crows at 4:15. Then on the hour (roughly) until about 6:30. Yet another reason to not celebrate daylight savings… and to go to bed early. On the bright side, about 6 AM the birds start up, and all you hear are birds… there are so many birds. It’s really nice to wake up to, even if I’m used to the 10 AM wake up I did while home.


So the next day I got to work and we kind of lounged around again waiting for the shipment from BNB. Carlos would get really worried about it and then we’d get a call saying “una hora mas, una hora mas” – one more hour, one more hour. It was supposed to arrive about 8 AM and didn’t get here until 1. Carlos had been saying the day before and that entire morning “ahora no trabajamos, perro entonces, trabajamos mucho forte” (right now we aren’t working, but later, we are working very strong). And he was right.


Guess how many bicycles.

Once the container arrived, we finished our lunch and got to work. I was detained by the armed guard that came with the container, who had apparently followed it all the way from Texas. He had a work visa there and wanted to practice his English with me. We talked about the income disparity and how outsourcing works in Mexico (basically, despite the shipping company being based in the US, he’s “employed” in Mexico, so they don’t have to pay taxes… or something). During this conversation I could see a few bicycle wheels trickling in… so I thought maybe it wouldn’t take all day. I was wrong.


A wall of bicycles. That’s how many.

I didn’t count but I’d estimate there were about 300 bicycles in that container, among other things. There were some other goodies, including a lay-down scooter, a unicycle, a truing stand, a bike stand, and an air compressor. Most of the gaps were filled with seats, though, or paper bags or milk cartons filled with parts or tools.


I took a lot of “in progress” pictures, both of the trailer and of the shop. However, because the internet here isn’t too fast, I’ll just pick the most telling one and upload it for now. The rest will be uploaded… later… possibly (but hopefully not) when I get back. Here it is.


A NEW wall of bicycles.

Also, just because I can’t help myself, here’s a photo of Carlos Jr. descending a pile of wheels we made. He had to get a tool we inadvertently buried… oops?


Help… me…

So yea… good day. And no, there will be no more leisurely days.


After the day of unloading bikes, we ordered Dominoes (which seems to be everywhere; I had it a few times in India, too). I kept nodding off, so promptly thereafter, Carlos sent me home, and I crashed.


On Saturday I did four bikes. Not bad… but I’m going to try and do five tomorrow. As I tried to do with India until my computer crashed, I’ll photograph every bike I fix, then make a compilation at the end of the trip. Awesome. Also on Saturday… we magically had customers! As I said, on Thursday there had basically been nothing to do. On Friday we got some people curious what such a huge truck was doing in Itzapes… and on Saturday they all came by to find out! I guess Carlos had been telling people about the day the bikes would come… as the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” We built a bicycle tower, and people are coming to buy them.


So, all for now. Please comment! I love hearing from my readers. And yes, I have many more posts to do… hopefully my computer will make it (there’s no electricity a mi casa just yet).


Let’s… go… fix… a bike…


7 thoughts on “Bicycle Mayhem

  1. Marilyn says:

    Are the BNB bikes new or used? Who buys them, for how much, and what to they use them for? Do you prefer the rooster and birds to the noise in India?

    • Kyle says:

      They are all used, and need a variety of work from brake adjusts to complete overhauls. Some are remarkably expensive (just discovered a bike today with a 2-piece Deore crank – sells for maybe $325 new).

      Everybody buys them, but mostly commuters. And yea, the roosters and birds are actually kinda nice. : o)

  2. Grandma says:

    You should get together with your cousin, Caleb – he had to learn welding for his first job here too and now is hoping to get more training this fall. Do you remember the welder on the farm?

    • Kyle says:

      …I do not. But I will definitely continue welding when I get back. It´s fun, not to mention useful. Actually, I kind of want to start my own bicimaquineria.

  3. Jenna says:

    Can’t wait to see the pictures! Awesome post, I can’t wait to hear about all the different sorts of “bicimaquina”s you get to build! And I want to hear about the food!

    Is a rooster preferable to pigeon sex? Will you ask someone what a rooster says there? Its different everywhere, no one else says cock-a-doodle-do… what did roosters say in India?

    • Kyle says:

      There will be a food post, don´t worry. : o)

      The rooster isn´t bad actually, because it´s just a one time thing. Also, he doesn´t start by crashing into my roof. And yes, I will ask what roosters say. : o)

  4. Jenna says:

    Yay! Pictures!

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