Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Adventures in La Torre

Back in Canada when I got restless in the middle of the night or if it was freezing cold winter outside but I wanted to stretch my legs, I'd go to the 24-hour Walmart and just wander around. Tonight, I kinda revisited that experience by strolling around the new-ish La Torre supermarket for over an hour. It's not nearly as big as Walmart but it was fun to just take my time and explore the weird and wonderful things on the shelves. I wasn't even planning on blogging about it but I thought, what the heck. Some people like this weird "day in the life" stuff. 😊

Tuna. Lots of it.
So these multitudinous shelves of canned tuna are what got me started thinking that my rambling trip to the local grocery store in Guatemala would be interesting to other people. There were more cans, even. I couldn't fit them all in one picture. I don't think I've ever seen so many different types of tuna!
And now you're like, "Big deal." Nope. It is a big deal. Buying tuna in Guatemala is HARD. Back home, the choices are basically tuna in water or in oil, am I right? Oh wait, there's like...I'm trying to remember. Flakes or chunks? Skipjack or...? Anyway, when I moved to Panajachel, I learned very quickly to check the ingredients on the tuna cans. Yes, ingredients! A lot of canned tuna in Guate has pieces of soy protein in it. It's not just tuna. So you gotta check or else you end up with some weird fishy protein substitute. (Unless you like that stuff, then go for it.)
The other strange thing is that some cans of tuna down here have vegetables in them. Peas and carrots and onions. That's actually the type I bought tonight, just to try it out! And they have barbecue tuna and tomato tuna as well. I guess Guatemalans like their tuna! I do too, but just plain old tuna in water, no fancy stuff, please and thank you.

Patrón tequial Guatemala
Oooh, fancy tequila.
I love tequila. The good stuff is smooth and fiery and makes me wanna dance. 😊 Patrón bills itself as "ultra-premium" tequila. I wonder if it will make me an ultra-premium dancer? Well, I can't afford to try. Those bottles cost about $78 U.S. or $102 Canadian. Eeks. I'll take the Q5 shots at La Palapa! Ha ha!

price tag shelf la torre
Precio Super 4! 
You can't help but notice the highlighted yellow price on the sticker. Except that's not the price. It's only the price if you buy FOUR of the item. They have this Super Price 4 thing. It's on all the shelf tags. It was irritating at first cuz I kept thinking that the yellow price was the sale price, and then would get unpleasantly surprised at the cash register. Shoppers beware!

A jigsaw puzzle for kids.
My Spanish is improving but this one made me pause. The word rompecabezas translates into English as "Break Heads". I was so confused! I'm looking at the thing and figuring it must be a jigsaw puzzle but what a strange word to use for it!

Packages of toilet covers.

I think I should have bought some of the above toilet seat covers to stash in my purse. Not for around here but for when I'm doing chicken bus runs to the border. Some of those public bathrooms are NASTY. And that's if they have a toilet seat at all. I guess these covers would work just as well on the bowl rim itself. ICKY.

Mmmm chocolate.
So what did I end up buying on my shopping trip?

A 430-gram jar of peanut butter Q23.40
That big chocolate bar Q15.90
4.4 lbs of dog food (on sale) Q19.70
12 English muffins Q17.50
162-gram bag of pretzels Q5.90
Can of tuna with vegetables Q12.80

I've put the XE currency converter widget below so you can change Quetzales into whatever your currency is. Handy dandy!

Thanks for reading. Just so ya know, I have 19 blog posts in draft that I have yet to finish and publish, so we're nowhere near done here! Remember that you can use the Search bar on the top right or the topic cloud also on the right to find topics. And head over to my YouTube channel to see videos of puppies and kitties and weather and other fun stuff. TTYL!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Sense of Community

Maybe it's the small town -- Panajachel has only 17,000 people.
Maybe it's the shared experience of being a stranger in a strange land.
Maybe it's just that only the most accepting and adventurous folks become expats.

All I know is that I actually feel a sense of community in Panajachel that I haven't felt in any town I've lived in for years.

I have friends here both close and casual. I say "hola" to people on the street. Some people say "hi" to me and I have no clue who they are, (sorry!) but I always say "hi" back.
infinite nap cartoon awkward hug
People in Pana hug when meeting and leaving. I am REALLY BAD at it.
I'm sorry. I'd really prefer not to hug.
I think if I had chosen to live in a larger city in Guatemala, like Antigua or Xela, it wouldn't have been so easy to meet people. There may, in fact, be more expats in those cities, but I don't think there would be as many opportunities to interact. And you wouldn't get that feeling like, "Oh, I should say something because I keep crossing patha with this same person because there's only one main street." 😊 Then again, in a larger city with a larger pool of expats to meet, I could find myself with more friends and a larger social circle.

There is definitely a feeling of camaraderie when you see another foreigner in Guatemala. I have literally stopped what I was doing to ask wide-eyed white folks if they were lost and needed help. In addition, people have walked up to me and said, "Hey, I hear you're speaking English. Can you help us?" For the most part, expats and travelers alike are open and helpful. We all share that feeling of being a bit lost sometimes, even if we've been here for years.

One of the phrases you'll probably hear about Guatemala is "the wanted and unwanted". I'm not a fan of that expression. I am neither wanted by the law back home nor unwanted back home. I'm here because I desired a different lifestyle. I wanted to live cheaply so I had more time to travel. I wanted to experience new things. I'm easily bored. 😁

But you know, it's taken me three years to actually recognize this feeling of community. Not the town's fault nor the people's. Pretty much everyone I have met here has been friendly, knowledgeable, and welcoming. But those of you who know me will undoubtedly recognize that I am socially awkward! I don't get out much...anymore.

When I first arrived in Panajachel in 2015, I used drinking as a way to meet new people. Have a few frozen margaritas at La Palapa or some Stoopid Juice at Gringos Locos and you're making friends in no time! I had a blast and met so many fun, exciting, and interesting characters, some of whom are still good friends three years later.

But that sort of lifestyle isn't REALLY me. Plus, one thing about travelers is that they...wait for Ha ha! People come and go. Even expats who have been here for a decade sometimes get itchy feet and head off for new adventures. So your social circle changes. Good friends leave, new friends come along. There is drama and broken hearts and alcoholism and arrests. The bar scene can get old. Nowadays, I go out maybe once a month, plus maybe another once or twice a month to a house party or casual dinner.

But that's fine with me. I like to sit at home on my computer, chillin' with my cats, learning new stuff, writing blog posts and all that jazz. When I venture out into town to shop, it always takes longer than I expect because of all the time I spend stopping and chatting with folks. (Bert gets so frustrated with me!) There are plenty of events and nights out on the town that I can participate in if I choose to. And if I organize a BBQ at my house or a party at the bar, lots of people show up to have fun! It's a good feeling.

As my regular readers are aware, a big part of my life in Panajachel is being a foster parent for AYUDA Para la Salud de Perros y Gatos. My involvement with this big-hearted charity is what inspired my blog post today. I met a lovely woman who came all the way across the Lake from San Pedro just to pick up a foster kitten I had so she could bring it to a Guatemalan family. For some weird reason, I just felt so connected to this person and I had a warm feeling that we shared something. We shared many things actually. We were both foreigners, both animal lovers, both willing to go the extra mile for a cute critter, both still struggling a bit with Spanish. And we both have found a way to give back to our community.
tortoiseshell kitten tortie cat
The adorable foster kitten that I had to say goodbye to today. 😭
In doing research for this blog, I came across this lengthy but fascinating article about a guy coming to Pana to study the expats. Does anyone remember him?

To kinda sum up, the author describes "high impact" and "low impact" expats. High impacters are those who run business, operate charities, employ locals, and are involved directly with the Guatemalan culture through their friends and work. Low impacters are those who "live in a bubble", whose friends are all the same as them, who learn only the most basic Spanish to get by, who give back very little to Guatemala.

I think I'm low impact, which kinda makes me sad, but is also pretty understandable. I would love to have more Guatemalan friends, but my Spanish is not good enough yet. I don't have enough money to operate a business or employ anyone, not even a gardener for my backyard jungle. I live in a bubble, but I was like that back in Canada as well, so that's nothing new.

I think the longer I am in Guatemala, however, the more I am heading towards high impact. I'm fascinated by Guatemalan culture and do my best to learn about it and respect it. I am working to improve my Spanish and can have a decent conversation with the guy that runs my local tienda. Sometimes I can even make a joke! 😁 My volunteer work with AYUDA gives back to the community. They are very proudly a Guatemalan registered NGO, not an American one. Even though AYUDA is run by expats, they employ a Guatemalan veterinarian, accept interns from the Guatemalan veterinary school, and focus on education and creating positive change in the Guatemalan culture.

So how to close out this post...hmmm. I guess my message is that even if you are the most introverted of introverts, a sense of community is important and should be cultivated and cherished. No matter where you live, don't lock yourself up inside too much. Get out and meet people who love the same things you love, whether that's animals, yoga, mountain biking, art, coffee, or underwater basket weaving. Get on Facebook and connect with folks, then go outside and actually meet them in person. And if you are in Pana and say "hi" to me and I can't remember your name or where we met, forgive me! 😊 I'm a bit of a dork that way.
I really need this button. It'd be like my Medic Alert bracelet.
Or maybe I should get it tattooed my forehead? 😆 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Arrive at Lake Atitlan in Style

Your grubby backpacking friends will be envious when they see you fly into Lake Atitlan on a private helicopter! 😃

Kat and Steve, owners of La Fortuna, took this recent footage of their helicopter flight from Antigua to Lake Atitlan. Amazing!

La Fortuna has a beautiful and informative website with enticing taglines like...
Comfort & Serenity
Relax in Style
Rustic, Meet Luxurious

I've seen this place and I have to say it's INCREDIBLE. 😍 The hotel has been given a bazillion 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor and has won several awards. Plus, they're eco-friendly! Truly an exquisite location on Lake Atitlán. Check them out and start planning for your next special occasion trip!

"My partner and I had our second stay at La Fortuna recently, and every aspect of our experience (the room! the view! the food! the hospitality!) was completely incredible." -- j0shgee of Toronto

La Fortuna at Atitlan Lake Guatemala
One of the bungalows at La Fortuna hotel on Lake Atitlan
Click on any of the logos below to find out more about La Fortuna at Atitlan hotel.