December 13, 2017

butcher shop

this is the local meat shop.  it's on a road i walk on a couple times a week.  see the red flag?  that means he's just butchered up some animal so the meat is fresh.  whenever i see it i say a quick blessing for the dead one.

December 8, 2017

burning of the devil

really,  it's a thing here every december 7.  it started out as a way to prepare for december 8 which is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  during the colonial period the people would light lanterns on the night of the 7th to 'show the way' for Mary.  however, those people who could not afford a lantern would burn trash in front of their house.  as the telling goes, this escalated to dangerous proportions and the compromise of a local burning of the devil was agreed upon.

when i heard the devil had been erectred i passed by wanting to get some photos.  in Antigua, there are two gas stations.  they are on opposite sides of the same street.  in the middle of that street is a small trianglular area and that is where this 10 foot devil is burned.  really.

then a day later i heard the tragic news that vandals had pushed over the devil and broken it apart. 

but, not to fear, the devil would be burned and so he was repaired and returned to the pedestal between the two gas stations with a few bandaged limbs but still a very good likeness to a devil.  

finally, the day arrived and out comes the cans of gasoline to douse the devil.  there are proclomations made, random firecrackers and torches readied.  at the precise time of 6PM the devil goes up in flames. 

i can barely wait to see what happens next week.


December 6, 2017

immaculate conception

it seems there's a procession here every week for some feast or festival or religious ceremony.  last Sunday as i was passing through the central plaza i saw the preparation for a procession from the main cathedral so i waited around to see what was coming.  it was a big one for the Holy Day of the Immaculate Conception which isn't actually until Friday.

i don't know why the procession would be on Sunday if the holy day is on Friday but i'm going to take a guess.  there are so many churches in this 1KM square town that they have to share the holiest of the statues and so this statue of the immaculate conception gets paraded to a different church each day.

it's difficult to capture the moment with just a few photos.  there were bombas [mega firecrackers] and music and candles and a lot of people wearing medals.  think mardi gras if you've ever been there.  it's a huge honor to be one of the people carrying the statutes and in some cases they charge money.  

ps if you don't know what the immaculate conception is you need to google it or ask a catholic.  

December 4, 2017

chicken buses

Guatemala is where school buses go to die.  it's kind of like their retirement place - like Florida is for retired people.  when the school buses in the US are moved out of service, they are hauled down to Guatemala where they are given a makeover which usually includes some painting, statutes of saints or other religious symbols and lots of chrome.  



these buses are called chicken buses because they are the primary transportation for the nationals [who sometimes will be transporting chickens] and they are not expensive.  in picking a bus going in your direction it's always best to choose the one with the most chrome and best painting.  it's an indication the bus has been probably been cared for mechanically as well.  in relation to other countries i actually feel pretty safe on these.  i just use them to get around certain routes - usually villages outside Anitigua but less than 30 minutes.  still, most drivers drive like 'bats out of hell' with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake.  for this reason it's not advisable to take them on longer distance trips where the possibility of brakes failing on a steep incline or curve would be flirting with fate.

it's a weird feeling riding an American school bus in Guatemala but i also feel like i'm being transported back into my childhood in some way.  uber is active here so that's what i use after dark.


December 1, 2017

donald eres un pendejo

this shirt has popped up everywhere.  i've seen dozens of people [mostly guatemalans] wearing it.  several restaurants have even made it the server's uniform shirt.  so, yes, this is how the world views our president.

the translation is 'donald is a fool'.  


November 29, 2017

clean boots

there is a central plaza in Antigua [like most latin american towns] and it's a good place to meet up with friends.  

even though i've only been here a short time i find if i'm sitting in the park on my own within 10 minutes someone i know will wander through and sit for a chat.  

today i was waiting for a friend and an older Guatemalan woman was sitting next to me and making me quite nervous as she was trying to talk to me in Spanish.  but it's good practice so i give it a go while furiously texting my friend 'come quickly, i'm being forced to practice my spanish'.  

oh, also, the central park is inundated with Mayans [the indigenous people of Guratemalan - like native americans] ALL SELLING THE SAME CRAP.  seriously, there can be fifteen women at the same time all pushing the same ugly necklaces and scarves at you while you avoid eye contact and murmur 'no gracias'.  

there are also always a few boys willing to polish your shoes so i do take advantage of that for 15Q [US$2].


November 27, 2017

rohingya

the rohingya are back in the news and people often ask me about it.  about the shaming of Aung San Suu Kyi over her lack of action on the horrible human rights violations taking place.

when i see reports that some country or organization is going to pull an award Aung San Suu Kyi has been given [but probably never asked for] it shocks me that they understand so little about the country and its politics.  

here's what i wish people knew - there are effectively three centers of political power in Myanmar.  first, the military retains enormous power [economic control and 25% of the parliment seats]; second, the democratically elected NLD [National League for Democray] of which Aung San Suu Kyi is a leader; and third, the MONKS.

it is not a secret that the 'buddhist' MONKS are responsible for poisoning the Myanmar citizens against the rohingya and are the root cause of the genocide.  so, Aung San Suu Kyi has few and perhaps even no options when it comes to the rohingya.  

this article on cnn gets it right 
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/25/asia/myanmar-buddhist-nationalism-mabatha/index.html

the situation has been bad, is bad and is unlikely to get any better or to have a happy ending.  the rohingya are basically illegal immigrants but before anyone vocalizes opinions on this it would be prudent for them to look at how their country treats illegal immigrants.

my previous post in 2015 about the rohingya.  

another more happy post can be done about Zimbabwe!

November 22, 2017

las tortugas - the turtles

the turtles in Asia are a symbol of wisdom.  when diving i chase sea turtles because they are so very.  yes, very everything. 

as a teenager in Florida when we sailed to the island of Keewaden we would often find the paths that turtles made from the water to their nests.  occasionally we would dig up and count the eggs to report to the conservation group.

for a lot of reasons, mostly related to costal development and fishing methods, turtles are declining in numbers.  so i love to see a community [yes, the nationals of a developing country!] coming together to preserve a species that is endangered.

there are quite a few turtle sanctuaries in central america - each doing thier part for conservation.  it seems at odds with a country imersed in poverty yet they seem to understand the importance of these species.

everywhere i have witnessed the special bond between children and animals and it is always the same mixute of love and wonder and amazement that seems to be lost as we become adults.

the buckets of baby turtles were emptied onto the beach at sunset so they would follow the sun into the water and it was priceless to experience the exodus of the turtle hatchlings into the ocean as the waves lapped up to take them on thier journey.


i left saying, 'las tortugas, las tortugas siempre en mi corazon' [the turtles, the turtles always in my heart].  it was the best memory of my weekend on the coast of Guatemala.

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.
corruption

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.

October 25, 2017

f&$*ing metrics

tried to bake something today and the oven is in celsius not fahrenheit.  just once i would like a miss universe contestant to declare, 'it is my mission in the next year, as a prelude to world peace, to standardize the units by which we measure salt, distance and temperture'.    

and yeah, i did the math [via google] and i still couldn't get the tempature right.

October 23, 2017

summer’s here!

well, not really, but it is the end of the school year in Guatemala and the same joyful feeling i remember is on the faces of the school children in the village of San Antonio Aguas Caliente.


i was invited to a year end celebration and left humbled by the immense impact a few people are having in this village.   the situation here for school children is quite grim.  poverty, iliterate parents, lack of nutrition and poorly equiped schools contribute to a vicious cycle.

on the dream tree
supported by private donations and volunteers Creating Opportunities for Guatemalans is an ngo providing a holistic approach to success for school children.  during the after school program the children receive homework support, nutritional snacks and hygiene lessons.

scavenger hunt
and the staff here make it FUN.  during the party they had a scavenger hunt - the list was easily found items discarded on the street - plastic bottles, straws, bottle caps.  i have never seen a happier bunch of kids racing through the street picking up trash.  as the children left this year end celebration with hugs for everyone i could feel the love and appreciation they had for the staff.  if you know any ESL teachers who would be interested to join the staff send them to the website.

October 22, 2017

finally some sun

the people of Antigua say the rainy season is through September but that isn't true according to wikipedia which includes October as a high precipitation month.  so, while the locals celebrate every rain free day as the end of the rainy season it is for me still dark, cold and bit dreary.  today i did glimpse the magic that is Antigua when i stepped off the street into my courtyard and saw the Volcan de Agua peaking out from the clouds.  what a welcome surprise - not ready to break out a swimsuit yet but looking forward to more days like this.


October 21, 2017

search for the ultimate taco

you knew it was coming.  it's the impossible dream.  in thailand we chased the perfect pad thai and here it is the best taco.  people are passionate about the tacos here and i am working my way through the options in antigua.  i stopped in to try the Tacool which was too greasy so it rates only ⭐.  plus at 40Q [5.50$] is way overpriced for street food.

October 20, 2017

caoba farms

veggie burger
small place just outside the city of antigua - less than one mile from my house - so an easy walk.  it's a lot of things rolled up into one property. organic farm.  yoga shala.  music venue. amazing restaurant. health food shop.  artist's market on saturdays.  i went for the sunday yoga class [led by greg] which was awesome but a tad voyeristic as people wandered through taking pictures of the yoga class - made me understand how animals in a zoo feel.  there's also a 'rum lady' who is always pushing the local rum brew.  i've only been in the morning so not quite ready for rum sampling.  i wasn't however able to escape without buying a couple of new trinkets.  





October 18, 2017

back in avocado land

in Africa, the avacados grow wild in everyone’s yard and at the end of the market day the sellers will give them away for free so they don't have to carry them home.  i'm happy to find them plentyfull here. 

guacamole for everyone.... and mangos and papaya!


October 16, 2017

new apartment

entry from street
moved into the new apartment.  i really don't enjoy the search for a living accomodations but i am getting better at it.  it really only took me three days to decide on a place.  as long as the internet is good and i can sleep well i should be happy.  it's one of three townhomes in a row.  the couple next door are super nice and have been feeding me [alot].  they also let me practice my spanish and are very encouraging.