November 20, 2017

weekend on the south coast - las lisas

i joined a few new friends for a weekend on the south coast [pacific] on a tiny island almost to the Honduras border.  the beaches were made up of the black volcanic sand and the island quite deserted in a strange way.  there were many structures but they all looked abandoned - as though after one of the storms the owners had never returned.  the first two days the ocean was ferocious.  

huge waves and a powerful current scared me from getting in farther than my ankles.  we spent a lot of time in the hamocks.  it was a such a perfect meditation on how very insignificant we are compared to the power of the water.  

i was mesmerized by the breaking of the waves and watched as they crested and crashed into the beach.  instead of swiming we walked miles up and down the beach without seeing another person which was bizzare.  i found astoundingly beautiful shells on the beach but they were the kind that were animal houses so i threw them back and i regretted not having my camera to photograph them. 
the hotel was a bit of a mixed bag and in all fairness it was more geared to nationals so i'd call it off the beaten path for sure.  the water in the pool was green so i skipped that thinking it was just an ear infection in the making.  it was a resort some westerner bought and was trying to manage remotely but everything was run down.  the rooms were just cardboard type walls with thatched roofs that were open [palapas] which makes sense here because of the heat and humidity.  it just requires one to be comfortable with the bats mating on the ceiling and other crawling things in the room.  the staff didn't know how to feed a vegetarian and i'd assumed [shame on me] the meals would be buffet so i could choose as i needed to get a balance of protien but they served by plates so i was at the mercy of the kitchen which decided as a vegetarian i just would want carbs.  i'm starting to really hate tortillas.

then there were amazing tile murals of frogs and turtles that seemed out of place because they were so beautiful.

STILL, it was a relaxing weekend on an island most people would be fortunate to find themselves.  i NEVER FORGET how blessed i am to be free to explore the world as i want.  there is a strange elation i get when i am traveling.  even just driving this weekend i find myself as excited as a child at christmas when i'm going along and look at new things.  here it was the volcanoes, the coffee plantations [fincas or farms they are called here], the sugar cane, the rivers and the vendors.  it's easy to see why so many people fall in love with this country - from the water to the mountains - it is all beautiful.

the most special moment of the trip was the release of the sea turtles to the sea and for that you must wait for my next post.

November 15, 2017

little things

this afternoon i noticed my cord for my iphone and ipad wasn't working.  it's strange because it is just a simple cable.  my phone battery was at 20% and so i set off to find a replacement.  

i would usually have a backup cable but lost it somewhere between Africa and Guatemala i didn't replace it.  there was an initial sense of dread when at first, waving my cord around and asking in spangish for a replacement i only got shaking heads in return.  

most places i've been this process starts with a post in an online forum about WTB and ends with several hours of visiting dusty shops in the basement of buildings hunting for western style cables.

then, to my surprise and delight i found a shop right at the plaza where i needed to be anyway that had the exact cable that i needed.  it's the little things that make life easier overseas and it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

November 13, 2017

emergency numbers

i saw this posting on facebook and thought oh yeah, i should know the emergency numbers for local services. then i saw two pizza delivery options listed at the bottom and wondered what emergency requires a pizza delivery?

November 6, 2017

spanish immersion

in Antigua, there is a large population of expats and tourists so you’d think that the locals in the main expats shops and restaurants would have english but they don’t. it is my experience so far that they either don’t have or don’t want to use english.  even in the heavily touristed areas of Antigua the menus are in spanish.  my spanish is good enough to get me around but not to negotiate a contract or debate politics.  there's another strange thing - even though i respond 'yo no comprendo' every time people keep speaking to me very quickly.  so i've found myself a teacher.  it is strange to pay some to talk to me in Spanish, however, I find that when it is my money i do a much better job of engaging than in my high school spanish class.  my teacher figured out pretty quick that I wasn’t going to conjugate every verb and what I need is street Spanish.  wish me luck.

November 3, 2017

all saints day - barriletes gigantes

my favorite was a box kite - this was one panel
the day after halloween is all saints day.  it's a national holiday in Guatemala and a day for the nationals to remember deceased family members.  it's typical for them to clean, decorate and picnic on the graves in the cemetaries.  they also fly kites which they believe to be a way to communicate with the spirits.  

in two of the towns outside of Antigua, Sumpango and Santiago, the kite building and flying has become quite competitive.  both of these towns celebrate with kite festivals which were highly recommended to me.

when i think of festivals, i think of sitting in traffic then wandering around a alcohol fueled crowd but this wasn't like that at all.  

it was an easy thirty minute ride from Antigua and the crowd was really tame.  i think it helped that they guy who was running our shuttle knew exactly where to go so we were dropped right at the kite field.

the kites which are massive can take months to build.  they use indigenous materials to glue the paper together.  the small kites are 30 feet in diameter - the largest are 90 feet tall.  that's a lot of glue and paper.

conquistadors still very much a presence here

into the air
getting a thirty foot kite into the air is no small task but it's clear the rope teams are experienced and well organized.  it takes the length of the soccer field to get them into the air and there is a blow by blow commentary from the stage which is hilarious even when i only understand half of it. there are crashes and near misses and the crowd is really wrapped up in the drama.  

it's mesmerizing to watch the kites floating in the sky and when they have four or five aloft at the same time it's really entrancing.

in Sumpango the kites are kept on a soccer field separate from the cemetary which i skipped because i felt like it would be more than a little voyeristic.  talking to people afterward i heard the nationals were not so happy to see tourists walking over and photographing graves - so was glad to have skipped that part.  i had been invited to join a family on what would have been a more intimate experience but i declined wanting the freedom to wander and observe without the concerns of what was culturally appropriate.

i think of kites as being playful toys for kids but the themes on these kites were very sophisticated and left me staring at each one to decipher the meaning.  corruption, conquistadors, peace and the planet were all depicted.

the day was filled with surprises, it was an awesome experience and the kites were amazing.  i felt so lucky to get to see this incredible expression of the Guatemalan culture.  

November 1, 2017

it's halloween

such a great holiday and not one that is celebrated in Asia or Africa so i've been missing out the last few years.  i was walking down the street today and ran across this.  Frida's gets the award for best party promotion.