Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Our Garden in Panajachel

After several months of living in our new house, I finally got to meet our landlord! We had rented the house through Francesca at Mayan Lake Realty while the landlord was in Florida. He just arrived back in Guatemala for a month and came over to the house to meet me and check out how the property was doing.

It was fascinating to hear him talking about the plants in the garden. He knew them all, and also recognized that some had gone missing while he'd been away. I was sad to learn there used to be a six-foot rosemary bush in the garden that must have died sometime in the last year. Bummer! Luckily, I just recently got some rosemary starts from a friend here, and once they're hardy enough, I'll plant them in the spot where the old bush used to me, as now I know it will flourish there.

The landlord also explained the mysterious "alien tree". You may remember it from our Xmas party...
Our bizarre Guatemalan Xmas tree!
Well, the landlord told me it's frangipani and then casually said, "I planted this tree. I grew up around them in The Congo." Wow! There are stories to be told there, I'll bet!

The frangipani is also called plumeria and I found a neat article about them at Maya Ethnobotany. I'm now very much looking forward to when the tree blooms and produces aphrodisiac flowers! 😍

Another mystery tree in our garden was revealed to be a loquat. I noticed a gorgeous blue-grey tanager feeding off the small fruits the other day. Now I know they're tasty for humans as well! The common name is nispero. Read more here.

Just as I was finishing up this post, the blue-grey tanager showed up! So cute!
Much more blue in real life. The camera doesn't capture it.
I asked about our poor chopped up lime tree. The landlord was dismayed to see it had been hacked down, and then pointed out that there used to be another huge lime tree by the gate. All that is left is a stump. :( The chopped up one has some shoots coming off it so I will research how to prune a citrus tree and see if I can get it to grow up nice and strong.

Everything in the yard is super dry right now. When they talk about the "dry season" in Guatemala, they're not kidding! We haven't had a drop of rain in months. Bert spends hours in the yard watering everything to try to keep it alive. I'm more of the mindset that if a plant can't survive the dry season, it's not meant to be. Honestly tough to keep a nice green grass lawn in a place that turns to dust for months at a time. The plants that are doing the best in our garden are the native ones, of course.

I went out and did a video for you all. I think I should do another one in a few months when the rains come. Someone remind me, okay? 😁

If anyone knows the names of some of the plants in the video that I didn't know, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks and have a sunny day!

Monday, January 1, 2018

It's 2018?!?!

Time flies when you're having fun, and it's soooo true here in Panajachel! It's hard to believe another year has passed. Every day is summer. 😎

I decided late last night that I wanted to go out for New Year's Eve. There could have been rum involved -- I admit nothing! Bert came as my guide to the dark streets of Pana. We both agreed it's still kinda surreal to be out on New Year's Eve in shorts and tank tops. But it's much better than slogging through the snow and ice!
Santander. Pretty empty, actually. We found lots of folks later on, though.
The last stretch before the waterfront.
Here's everybody! The boardwalk was packed with people waiting for the fireworks to start.
From somewhere behind us, maybe the big hotel, someone was releasing Japanese lanterns with live flames and everything. They were so magical! The two weird smears at the top of this picture are lanterns, plus various other fireworks going off on our side of the lake and the other!
What's so cool about fireworks in Guatemala is that there are no rules. Ha ha! It's not some organized, measured, safe display of fireworks in one place. It's all around you at all times! Balls of flames shoot past your face. Smoke and sparks dance at your feet. People shoot from the rooftops, from their balconies, from everywhere. It's joyous and mad and beautiful. It makes me laugh out loud every time. 😁

A short video will give you a much better idea of the lights and sounds of NYE 2017 in Panajachel, Guatemala!

You may have noticed that my blogging is getting a bit sparse. I am not finding as much time or motivation to do it as often as I used to. So, to keep you all happy and full of Guatemalan goodness, here are some Instagram accounts of my friends here!

The lovely Jen, who posts great pictures of the quirkiness of a life in Panajachel.

Amazing Iva, my Canadian friend who is always there for me. Inspirational quotes and advice plus select pictures from her life.

Dave, my imgur buddy, shares photos and humour from around Lake Atitlan and other places.

Have an awesome 2018, dear readers. Be excellent to each other!πŸŽ‡πŸ’œπŸŽ‰

Monday, December 25, 2017

Nochebuena en Guatemala

Nochebuena (good night) is what Guatemalans call Christmas Eve. It is the biggest night of the Christmas holidays here, even bigger than the actual Christmas Day! And it's definitely louder. 😁 If you've been following my adventures in Panajachel, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you're new here on my blog, you're in for a treat below!

A few pictures of our last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve day.
We don't know why there are metal dinosaurs in the park in front of the municipal office,
but they certainly are festive this time of year!
That's Bert heading into the mad crowds at the market in Panajachel.
It's apple season here! Plus in the back, you can see someone selling sparkly Christmas garland.
Fresh shrimp. In the hot sun. Yum.
Another view of the Pana market, from the "top" near the dumpster. Yes, that's a volcano in the top right.
I love the "persons of the third age" as they call them (senior citizens) who bring the most interesting and traditional items to sell at the market. They sit right on a blanket on the ground and sell herbs, flowers, plantain leaves, pine needles, avocados, and other fascinating items.
Cotton candy and fresh shrimp -- interesting combo.
Also notice the dude on the right selling long tubes of fireworks.
Bert snapped this picture while out walking doggies.
Not a bad place to spend the holidays, eh? And all year actually!
Guatemalans spend Christmas Eve day preparing for the big night. They have nativity scenes set up in their houses with lights and incense. They make tamales and ponche de fruit. Families gather together and eat and drink and be merry until midnight.

We're not Guatemalan, so our Xmas Eve celebration was kind of a mishmash. We gathered at NJP's house and he made us delicious pizza. I brought a mix for ponche, which was absolutely delicious. I can see why the Guatemalans love it so much! We had cake for dessert and chatted a bit before all going back to our own homes.
On the way to NJP's house, the alley was decorated so beautifully!
(It was very windy so everything is blowing and blurry.) 
The punch mix. Ingredients: apple, sugar cane, guava, raisins, plumbs (sic), tejocote, pineapple, hibiscus flowers, cinnamon.

Put the punch mix in a big pot with two-thirds of a gallon of water and a cup of sugar. (We cut back on the sugar and it was still super sweet.) Bring to a boil and serve hot! It tastes like apple cider but with flowers. Yummy!
Dried fruits and things.
Steaming hot and wonderfully fragrant.
If you'd like to see how ponche de frutas is made from scratch, check out this lovely grandmother. Every family has their own special take on this traditional Christmas recipe.
Ponche de Frutas - al estila de la abuela Oti
Skip to 3:00 to see the HUGE mixing spoon she has! πŸ˜†

NJP's super delicious pizza.
At midnight all over Guatemala, everyone goes outside and sets off fireworks. I mean, everyone! Even the poorest families buy a few roman candles to shoot. I can attest to that as I nearly got hit by one from the eight-year-old boy two doors down! He and his sister were walking up and down the river road with a plastic bag of fireworks and a smoldering piece of wood to light them. Crazy!

I took a bit of a video of the Christmas Eve excitement here in Panajachel. I was standing out on the river road in Jucanya, across the river from the main town. I taped for a minute before midnight, and then a few minutes after. I stopped recording because I didn't want to be staring at my camera screen. I wanted to be fully enjoying the moment in real life! It is one of the most magical and joyous experiences to stand out in the dark on a warm and windy night and see an entire city light up with pirotécnicas. I love it! 😊

I miss my family a lot this year but I am reminded every day of their love and generosity. I have gifts from years past all around my home, plus many fantastic memories from our trip to Walt Disney World this year. ¡Quiero a todos ustedes muchΓ­simo! (I love you all very much!) πŸ’œπŸŽ„πŸŽ†