Monday, May 21, 2018

Tapachula Torture

As a guest in lovely Guatemala, I only get a 90-day pass to stay here. After that, I have to go on what's called a visa run. That entails leaving Guatemala for 72 hours and then re-entering and getting another 90-day tourist stamp in my passport.

If you've been reading my blog, you will know that have done this over and over and over again. I think I am one of the few expats who actually does visa runs, rather than sending their passport with a service. (Illegal but cheap and easy.)

I also think that 90 days is just enough time for me to forget how AWFUL visa runs can be. I was actually excited when I got on the chicken bus in Pana this past Friday morning. Eight hours later...not so freaking happy.

I do visa runs to Tapachula, Mexico. It is the closest border point. I am also poor, so I do the run by chicken buses, rather than a nice comfy shuttle with a gaggle of other white people.

Let me tell ya, chicken buses can be hellish.
The devil on four wheels.
After a day of riding chicken buses, I am physically sore. There are bruises on my knees from banging against the seat in front of me. My stomach muscles ache from holding myself upright. My arms and hands are stiff from gripping the chrome railing to try to keep from sliding. My head pounds from the diesel fumes and blaring music.

Why do I do it? Price, really. To go from Panajachel to Tapachula by chicken buses and colectivos costs only Q55 plus 20 pesos. A shuttle, if I could find one, costs Q300. (These are one-way prices.) The other option is to go to San Cris, which is even further and costs even more. So I suffer for a day to Mexico and a day back to get 90 days of freedom in Guatemala.

The other reason I do visa runs is because of the cheap medications in Mexico. I've mentioned this before but I must stress that buying prescription meds in Mexico is up to 10 times cheaper than in Guatemala, depending on the drug. I buy generic meds from Farmacias Similares, and I get a 3-month supply to last me until my next visa run.
I know where all the Simi's are near the central park in Tapachula. There are five of them within walking distance.
Another reason to go to Mexico... even with the pain and anguish of the chicken buses, it's actually kinda fun to get away. I eat a lot of junk food, do a lot of shopping, sleep in a quiet hotel room, and enjoy just walking around seeing the sights.

Of course, you've got to plan your day. It's as hot at 9am in Tapachula as it is at high noon in Pana. So you've got get out and do your walking before the sun gets too high. Plus, there are usually rain showers mid-afternoon, so get back to the hotel room before then for a little rest, and then out again at sunset when the rains clears to find a nice place for dinner.
The fountains in the main square were turned on in the morning. So pretty.
I'm not a big fan of shoes but I am a big fan of air-conditioned stores. 😁
There is a huge market up at the north part of Tapachula, near the Chedraui. I got lost and wandered in circles quite happily there for some time.
Tiny super-hot peppers.
When it gets too hot, I head for the huge Chedraui store for some cool shopping.
Chedraui has a huge liquor section. A lot of the bottles had these weird security things on top of them. I was wondering if they would spit ink on you if you tried to take them off. I didn't test my theory. :) 

After almost getting arrested for shoplifting at Chedraui thanks to a tiny metal tab in a package of SuperGlue, I headed back out into the hot sun to stroll back to my hotel. I got a bit lost but asked directions from an old lady, and then confirmed those directions at the next block with a cop, and made it home just before the rains started.

There are sooooo many taxis in Tapachula. 
One of my favourite things about going to Mexico is to eat yummy foods. I didn't have a lot of money to spend this time, so I focused on the most bang for my buck, which included weird snacks, special coffees, Chinese food, and sweets!

Reese's peanut butter coffee? Yes, please! Unfortunately, they were out! Awwww. Next time, I guess.
There are a bunch of Chinese food places scattered around the central square. They all sell 1 item plus rice for Q45 or 2 items for Q55. A very large helping and nice to have some veggies.
One of my snacks while walking. I think it cost 5 pesos. It's corn nibs, not really sweet, but juicy and crunchy. There was hot water in the bottom of the bag that kept it warm. The lady offered me lime and chili for it but I declined. What it really needed was butter and salt!
A Mexican party in a bag! Spicy nuts and beans. 
I nearly squealed out loud when I found these! I ate them all while relaxing in my hotel room as it poured rain outside. Such a flashback to childhood!
My return trip from Tapachula to Panajachel was slightly less irritating and painful than the way there. It is such a wonderful feeling coming down the big hill from Solola to Pana and seeing Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes below! I smile every time and think, "I'm home." 😊

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

AYUDA needs Ayuda!

For those who don't know Spanish, AYUDA means "help". AYUDA Para la Salud de Perros y Gatos is the awesome charitable organization that I volunteer with here in Panajachel, Guatemala. You've probably seen the link over there to the right. ⇨⇨⇨
And you've undoubtedly seen the multitude of photos of the puppies I've fostered for AYUDA over the past three years. 😊
Look at these little puppers!! Who can resist those faces??
Well, as the title says, AYUDA needs ayuda! They are short on funds. Their hearts are bigger than their wallets! If AYUDA can't get funds soon, they are going to have to cancel some sterilization clinics. 😧
We don't want that, do we? NO!

So I'm asking all my readers to please consider giving a donation to AYUDA Para la Salud de Perros y Gatos by going to their website (link below)

Donations are by PayPal. If you don't have PayPal, you can always email AYUDA and make other arrangements. You can also elect to do a recurring monthly donation so that you know the dogs and cats are being cared for on a regular basis.

You're not gonna believe how far your money will go!
A $40 donation provides the full package for one dog or cat! πŸ˜ƒ
  • sterilization surgery
  • vaccinations to prevent distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, Parvovirus, rabies, and other deadly diseases
  • treatments to cure and prevent external parasites such as fleas, lice, and ticks
  • treatments to cure and prevent internal parasites such as tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and other types of internal parasites
  • follow-up care
That's an amazing amount of help you can provide with just $40. Plus, AYUDA does so much more than just clinics. I could go on and on about the stuff they do but I don't wanna keep you from hitting up that link and making your donation! 😁

Thank you from the bottom of my heart! πŸ’œπŸΆπŸ±

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

New View From My Live Webcam of Lake Atitlan

Bert gets all the stars for this one! He climbed on a wooden ladder in between our house and the fence, deftly avoided the razor wire, and attached the webcam to a piece of bamboo with wire and duct tape!

The problem before was the cam was pointing directly at a street light, which made the view kinda crappy and washed out. Now we have more power lines in the shot, but a clearer view of the Lake and San Pedro volcano. (At least when it's sunny!) I would love to get the camera up higher still to show more of gorgeous Lake Atitlan, but unless we put it right up on top of the roof, I don't think that's gonna happen.

I've also figured out how to embed the webcam live on my blog here. It should be showing up over to the right. ⇨⇨⇨
To get to the page, click here: SpiralCee EarthCam

This is a screenshot of the cam right now. I'll get a better one soon! Rainy season has started so we're seeing a lot more clouds and it's lovely and cool today.

live webcam Lake Atitlan Panajachel Guatemala paraglider paragliding
Check it out! I got a pic of a paraglider coming in for a landing on the beach!
Thanks for all the views and likes on my cam! Fingers crossed for more extraordinary sunsets. 😁

Monday, May 14, 2018

A New Fruit -- Nance

It's fun that I can still find food here in Panajachel that I haven't tried before. Today's adventure in eating was a small yellow berry-type thing called nance.
Let me tell ya: you can't win 'em all.
Nance is disgusting!!
Bert said, "I can go the rest of my life without ever eating that again."
nance Guatemala
I bought the nance at the market. It cost Q2 for 1 pound. (But I swear that moments before I stepped up, the vendor was calling out Q1 for 1 pound. Hrrm. πŸ˜•)

The first thing I did was wash them, just with water, no bleach or chemicals or anything. Then we smelled them. EWWWWWW. Bert said they smelled like chemicals, like "something I shouldn't be eating, like a Tide Pod." Ha! I thought they smelled soapy and like something else familiar but not quite pleasant. I figured it out a bit later. They smelled like fruitcake! But not sweet yummy fruitcake but like old crappy fruitcake with too much allspice and cloves.

Despite the smell, we sampled them anyway! They were soft to bite into with a texture like a pear. They have pits in the middle which means there isn't much fruity bit to eat. They were white inside, a bit juicy, but also kinda tart or bitter.
The taste was pretty much indescribable. Definitely not good. I guess a bit sweet but kinda soapy or something. Just weird. I tried a few different colors and sizes just to be sure I hadn't just eaten one that was unripe but they were all equally unpleasant.

When I Googled "nance" it said they are usually made into desserts and also fermented into liquor. I contemplated that ... but then just threw the rest of them into the compost pile.

Good thing I also bought mangos and plums from the market so I have something yummy to snack on!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

There's a New Grocery Store in Town

Okay, so this is the biggest thing to happen in Panajachel in three years. People have been pumped about this for MONTHS on the Facebook groups.
Yes, finally this past weekend, La Torre Supermercado opened! YAY!!!
We didn't go opening weekend cuz we wanted to avoid the crowds (ha!) so we waited until today to go. It was impressive. NJP came with us and we had a great time commenting and joking about all the foods! I think we may have startled some shoppers. 😊

La Torre means "tower", hence the logo.
Oooh! So shiny and clean!
A nice selection of fruits and veggies. Reminds me of Sobey's back home.
Canned soup! Honestly, don't see this much around here. Soup is sold in pouches as a dry mix.
I used to eat Campbell's vegetable soup straight from the can with a spoon. Cold. Ah, the good old days. πŸ˜†
Prego. YUM. Pasta sauce is sold in single-serve pouches in Despensa.
Check out the price though. Q30 for alfredo sauce?? That's $4 USD or $5.25 CDN.
Awesome! Refrigerated meats! Really nice selection of all meats and cold cuts and also prepackaged stuff in another case. And a friendly clean butcher to fulfill your "carne" desires! 😁
Bert grabbing a rare treat, JalapeΓ±o poppers! He was over the moon for these!
Mister Huevo. Ha! Not SeΓ±or Heuvo or Mister Egg. Yay bilingualism!
It also says "Those of the nice yellow yolk."
Huh? Is this Diet Sprite?

Not one millisecond of hesitation when I saw this!! It was the last one on the shelf.
Later, I found more at the checkout. It cost Q10 for only 2 cups. That's $1.75 Cdn.

Chip dip???? Another thing we have not seen much here. Of course, we grabbed the cebolla -- onion.
It was very thick, like cream cheese dip, but tasted a bit strange, like too cheesy or something.
Can't have dip without chips! Tyrrell's even! These are British crisps and super yummy.
Yes, that is caviar. Rob was tempted but I said no. Ha ha!
So you're probably wondering what the big deal is. A new grocery store. So what?
Well, we've been shopping almost exclusively at Despensa Familiar for three years now. It is BORING. Their selection is crap. However, their prices are low.
We occasionally shop at Chalo's and Sandra's. Chalo's is a bit higher up than Despensa, and then Sandra's is the import store. Very expensive.

Honestly, there wasn't much at La Torre that I hadn't seen in the three other stores in town. The prices were a bit higher on standard things like beans and pasta and such. The big thrill was the selection. Just having variety is soooo awesome. I could shop Despensa with my eyes closed, and Bert and I always go there and complain that we're BORED with everything they sell. We've tried it all. La Torre is full of new things to eat! πŸ˜‹

Nice things at La Torre:
Lots of hair dyes and beauty stuff for ladies
Nice pet food selections, although no PetMaster, which is what we feed our doggies
Great wines and liquors
Lots of CHEESE!!
Prepackaged meats for those who don't want to talk to the butcher
Our favourite precooked, precut roast beef pieces for fajitas and roast beef sandwiches
Decent fruits and veggies, although I will probably still hit up the market for those things
Whole wheat flour
Good variety of cereals
Frozen foods, like stuff you can throw in the microwave (Bert's fave section)

Bad things:
It's more expensive, though not by as much as I expected
It's far from us, like literally the farthest side of town

Final thoughts? Bert is hyped to shop there all the time, he says. I will still go to Despensa for staple foods but head over to La Torre when I need something fun and different. Kinda the same as home. I always shopped at No Frills but loved going to Zehrs and Sobey's to just get treats. La Torre feels the same as that. Shiny, clean, organized, but the prices cause frugal me to hestitate just a wee bit.

La Torre is located on the main street just as you enter town from SololΓ‘. Can't miss it!
La Torre website HERE for those wanting to browse items and compare prices.