Monday, April 27, 2015

Bert and the Man-Purse

Bert: "I never thought I'd love having a purse so much."
Man purse!
He says: "It's not lame because all the old men have one."
Why does Bert have a man-purse? Because a lot of stores here in Guatemala are very small. Wearing a backpack is handy because it carries a lot of stuff and you can have your hands free.... but you end up knocking over displays when you turn around in a store aisle. :)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

1000 Words - #1

In Jucanya, Guatemala
Sometimes a picture is all you need. You can make the 1000 words to describe it!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Eating Like a Gringo in Guatemala

While we have been enjoying eating local foods quite a bit (oh, pupusas!), we have been "cheating" and eating some typical gringo foods. And boy, did we pay for it! There is an import store called Sandra's that has two locations in town. It is quite well stocked and very popular. However, the prices are outrageous! When I am questing for some back-home food, I go there last, after the market, the Despensa, and Chalos's.

I managed to find peanut butter at Chalo's. I bought the cheapest, a local brand called B&B, which was Q29.50 (about $4.75 Can.) for 480 grams. They did have Jiff but it was waaaay more expensive. Of course, you can't have peanut butter toast without some real butter!
Half a pound of butter for about $4.19 Canadian.
Bert was confused and asked, "Why does it have salt in it?" 

Speaking of peanuts, I bought this little cup of BBQ nuts on Santander for Q10,
or about $1.60. It was more full, but I ate some. :)
One of the neat things about Guatemala is a lot of foods come in really small packages. Or else they come in a large package, with many more individually wrapped packages inside. Bert splurged and bought some Oreos, and each package inside held six cookies. Spaghetti sauce comes in little squeezy pouches, not cans. It only looks like enough sauce for two servings. Mayo and mustard also come in bags, but ketchup comes in a plastic bottle.

We were contemplating how in Canada everything comes in massive big bulk sizes. MEGA this and JUMBO that. Costco is king! But here I guess people buy in small quantities, maybe just what they need for a short time, or maybe it's just what they can afford. Not sure about the reasons. I've heard that some packaging here is designed specifically because few Guatemaltecos have fridges. They keep their eggs on the counter. It's weird but apparently fine. We've put ours in the fridge because there's more room in there than on our counter. :)
An example of mini sizes. A teeny pack of gum (chicle) with teeny pieces inside.
This is our new favourite breakfast. Chocolate Rice Krispies.
Cost: Q12 ($1.93) for 320 grams.
This is something I wish came in MEGA size.
This is not really gringo food but it's one of my favourite things here.
It's basically Kool-aid but with vitamins. I guess it's their equivalent
of frozen concentrated cans of juice. They have a ton of flavours but
blackberry is my fave. We drink TONS of this.
Only costs Q1.95 or about $0.31 Can.
Bonus: Socially insensitive picture of a Injun. 
OMG Check it out! We spied this in a store in the market. It was locked behind glass!
I think we paid Q10 for it, or about $1.16 Can.
TOTALLY AWESOME. Better than KD. I'm not joking. I love it.
So what is the most expensive gringo food? Pretty much anything dairy: milk, cheese, ice cream. Beef. Chips -- Bert bought a bag of Lay's for Q12 ($1.93). For that, you can get an entire breakfast in some places. And Willow's cat food is not cheap either. (Although dog food is not so pricey.)

And strangely enough, coffee is very expensive. I read online that it's more profitable for them to export their coffee than to sell it here. Apparently, Guatemalans usually drink instant. Eww. (I'm planning on doing a whole blog post on coffee later.)
I found a mug worthy of my morning coffee.  :D
What's the cheapest food? Fruits and veggies from the market. A half pound of onions was Q1, or about $0.16. A pound of strawberries was Q10, or about $1.57. Handmade fresh corn tortillas. Bread is actually pretty cheap, if you buy it from the bakery and not the Despensa.

I've been keeping track of a lot of the prices and I think I'll put up a separate page with the prices. I remember wanting to know that information before I came here, just to get an idea of how cheap or expensive things were.

Sorry, this is a short post but I'm beat after a long day of work and Bert just got home and he says, "I have so many stories to tell you." I'd better go!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bert and the Quest for Rubies Emeralds

The two dark glassy rocks on the middle right side are obsidian.
The top left red rock I think has some jasper in it, but I could be wrong.
Bert doesn't quite remember how he got the idea to look for rubies (which could have something to do with Q5 tequila at Palapa Bar) but he's spent the last few days with his head down looking for pretty rocks.

Two days ago at our little beach, he found a nice piece of obsidian and several as-yet unidentified rocks that caught his eye. I emailed my Dad, an experienced rockhound, and he gave us some suggestions but said that he would need to take a closer look for a more accurate identification. *ahem!* Come down to visit anytime, Dad!  :D

Yesterday, Bert walked up the riverbed in Pana and found some more interesting mineral specimens. According to Google, Guatemala is known for its high quality jadeite, and to a lesser extent opals, but poor Bert came home with only paperweights. I guess we'll have to go back to the bar and find the guy who mentioned the rubies to find out the truth.

Anyhoo, the journey is more important that the destination, as they say, and Bert had a grand old time exploring up the river. He found a toppled house, most likely victim to excessive rains and an underpaid architect. An anonymous artist had drawn some "Mayan graffiti" on the roof.

Whoops, all fall down.

A picture showing how far the house has fallen over.

Pretty cool graffiti. Not sure what it means. Any guesses?

Bert found another bridge besides the yellow one that cross the Rio Panajachel.

The river keeps going up and up and up. Can't wait to see it in the rainy season!
As for me, I'm still nursing a sore foot and trying not to pout too much when Bert has all the fun. I keep reminding myself that we live here now, this isn't some two-week vacation, so I'll have plenty of time to find my own rubies... or paperweights.  :D

EDIT: Bert found that guy again and he said that it's emeralds, not rubies, that are found around here. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Puppies of Pana

One thing you will notice right away about Panajachel, and Guatemala in general, is all the dogs. A dog that lives on the street is called a chucho (choo-choh). Some of these dogs are actually owned by locals who let them run free during the day to scrounge for food.
This is our landlady's dog, Jack, eating an avocado.
Both he and Greta love to find avocados and chow down on them.
Then when they're finished eating, they have a nice ball -- the pit -- to play with!
Kinda like a Guatemalan Kinder Egg.
A street dog tuckered out from a long night of carousing.
A smart chucho finds some shade.
This is one of the dogs that lives at the Palapa Bar.
As you can see, he is a tripod!
Guarding the shop? Or waiting for master?
We pass this cutie-pie every day we walk to town.
They were interested in something over there.
This wee puppy was at the coconut stand by the yellow bridge.
So tiny!
This is Canela (Cinnamon)! She is adorable. She hangs out at the coconut shop too.
Although most of the dogs around Pana tend to be hound types,
you can find the odd poodle, cocker spaniel, and even dachshund.
We met this little sweetheart at the InGuat office. Bert fed her and she hung out with us.
Last but not least, Greta!! Bert was trying to get a nice photo
but Greta was not obliging.  :)
Many of the street dogs in Panajachel are in rough shape: limping, scarred, or starving. Thank goodness for charities like Ayuda Perros y Gatos. Click for more information or to make a donation.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Day of Strangeness

My left foot's been really swollen lately and I don't know why. It started out as a pain in my Achilles tendon when I got out of bed a few days ago. I figured I had just been hiking up too many damn hills. But the swelling hasn't gone down so maybe there's more going on than I know. I'm giving it a few more days before I ask P. to introduce me to her doctor.

Because of my gimpy foot, we had a short day in town today. Bought a cell phone for myself -- finally -- so now Bert and I can separate in town to do our own thing and text to meet up later.

Shared a delicious plate of Fries Palapa (chili cheese fries) at the Palapa Bar (Q45 or $7.17 Canadian), plus some fruity drinks. Enjoyed watching the dogs interact on the street. Did not enjoy how the street vendors walk right into the restaurant to harass you at your table.

Found the Value Village of Pana! It's next door to the Despensa (Guatemalan Walmart). A tiny entrance off the street opens up into a huge room filled with clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, and shelves full of other people's junk. Bert is having no trouble finding clothes to buy but I haven't found anything in my size. Then again, I'm not a big fan of sifting through racks of unsorted clothes. Maybe the best-jeans-EVER are in there somewhere, but I can't be bothered to seek them out.

Today was my turn to get ripped off. I bought some cards from a young boy named Jesus who had been charming me for a week. I kept telling him I would buy so I just figured today was the day. Of course he gave me the line, "For you, three for Q100." How could I resist? I know I overpaid but he seemed like such a smart, well-spoken, and funny boy, I figured I would help him out.

Bert was super happy to find some flags to sew on his backpack. He even sewed them on himself!
See Bert sew. Sew, Bert, sew!
Later, he took the Canada key chain off and put it on my bag.
It was too much Canada. Gotta maintain our modest demeanor, eh? 
You may have been wondering how Willow is. She's loving it here.
She chases and eats tasty bugs. She prowls in the gardens outside.
And she relaxes like a queen when she's tired.
This was a taste adventure! I bought this thinking it was a large chocolate bar.
I took a nice bite and... EWWWWW. I spit it out! I read the package more carefully,
in Spanish of course, and it turns out it's hot chocolate mix. In bar form. Cool.
Bert is dropping his latest punk Spanish guitar album next week.
Just kidding. Bert has discovered Photoshop.  :)
Bert's acoustic greatest hits album is out soon too.
Kidding again. But doesn't it look like a 70s album cover?
We've got tons of other photos saved up for future blogs posts. You can check them out on my Shutterfly page, which you can get to using the link over on the right-hand side that says "More Photos Here." I've also put a link to my Youtube channel where I'm keeping the videos, although there aren't that many yet. Feel free to bookmark all the sites so you can keep up with our adventures. Time for bed. Beunas noches.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tuk-Tuks in Panajachel, Guatemala

This is Bryan's tuk-tuk. We met him in English class.
He says he works 7am to 9pm.
A tuk-tuk (took-took) is the equivalent of a taxi here in Panajachel. They zoom around with wild abandon, often creating long lines that look like they should spill out dancing clowns.

They each have a unique number and are almost all painted red, which seems to be related to how old the vehicle is. There are a few yellow ones that seem to be older, and I did see one light green one.

Many drivers have decorated their vehicles to show their individuality, and some even have advertising on them. They paint logos and flames and faces on them, and it seems like some of them have named their tuk-tuks as well... unless that young Guatemalan man is named Rosita!

The highest tuk-tuk number I have seen so far in Pana is 161. And yes, I have seen the #1 tuk-tuk as well!
A tuk-tuk parked outside a tienda (convenience store) with an
adorable pup keeping watch.

You hail a tuk-tuk by raising your hand, or sometimes just by glancing at them too long, or sometimes they even just drive up to you and offer you a ride. The drivers will say, "Taxi?" if they think you are a gringo.

A ride anywhere within Pana and Jucanya is Q5 per person, or about $0.82 Canadian. When you go out of the "delta", like to our house, the price doubles to Q10 per person. Late at night, the prices goes up by 5Q per person.

Anyone and everyone can get in a tuk-tuk: kids, dogs, bags of stuff, friends piled up. It seems a bit odd that they charge per person. It's not like back home where you can split the cost of a cab. But maybe the "per person" cost is only for tourists... you never know.

If you have a tuk-tuk driver's phone number, you can call him to come pick you up anywhere in town or even at your house. When you meet a nice tuk-tuk driver, one that you trust or one that speaks English, ask for his number so that you can give him more business. Even if he is busy, he can send a friend.

There seems to be quite a brotherhood amongst the drivers. We were warned not to "mess" with them as they are quite a close-knit community but in my opinion, it seems like they are divided. There are young brash drivers with tuk-tuks pimped out with neon lights at night and slogans like "Fast & Furious" and "Incredible Hulk." There are older drivers who have very simple tuk-tuks, or even rusty and rattly ones, and they seem to be just doing a job.
Then there are well-spoken young men who are courteous and helpful, and go out of their way to make sure you are happy. They are my favourite and include our friends Bryan (#132) and Victor (#88).
As a side note, I have only seen one female driver in Pana.

Tuk-tuks parked in early morning.
Some tips for tuk-tuks: 
Be careful entering a tuk-tuk that already contains another passenger, as it has been reported that people have been robbed by this way.
If you are going to an unusual or far-off location, be sure to confirm the price before entering the tuk-tuk.
Carry exact change as some drivers will insist they don't have change and you'll end up being ripped off.

Here is a short video of us riding in a tuk-tuk in town.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Note to Self: Avoid the Market on Sundays

This post is a little late in coming. Had some Internet connection issues earlier today. Not cool!

Anyhoo, yesterday, Sunday, we took a different route to walk into town. Our apartment is to the east of Panajachel. When walking into town, there is a suburb of sorts called Jucanya. Once you cross the yellow bridge, you're out of Jucanya and that's the beginning of Pana.
I had seen on Google maps that there was a small foot bridge crossing the river in Jucanya and we set off to find it. Of course, the streets have no names (sing it!) and they curved back around and we ended up down at the lake shore. That was actually quite interesting because it seemed that we walked right into a local picnic or something! There were tons of people there, but not a gringo in sight. We kinda snuck through, trying to be unobtrusive, and then I stopped to take a picture looking back from the river delta. I also took a 360 video from the riverbed.
We call those boats "party boats". I don't know what their true purpose is.
People all pile on and the boat tours down the shoreline with music blaring.
They go right past our park. 
It's the very end of the dry season right now so the river is just a stream.
This is looking back up the riverbed towards the yellow bridge.
 After our stroll by the lake, we headed up to the market. Bad move! Apparently, Sunday is the day when everyone and their cousin converges on the market! It was crowded and noisy and crazy. There are people hawking their wares, trucks and tuc-tucs and chicken buses and motorcycles roaring by, a hundred people talking at once, and traffic cops blowing their whistles. It smells like rotting fruit, diesel fumes, and fish. It is quite an experience!
The street fills up with vendors who just put down a blanket and arrange their wares on it.
There is everything from coconuts to shoes to cell phones to shrimp. 
There are vendors who set up to sell helado, ice cream, which is super popular with the locals.
I have yet to try one. The ice cream vendors' carts are on wheels, and they ring a bell as they walk the streets. 
This lady's umbrella fell down and caused a traffic jam of people.
I felt like a giant next to the short Mayan women. You could barely squeeze through the crowds
in some places, but no one seemed to mind. 
Where's Bert?
See him now? He bought a pound of strawberries and 3 garlic bulbs for Q11 or about $1.80 Canadian.
Inside the market building are even more fruits and vegetables, plus along the wall
are places that sell fresh meat. You can see a kid expertly slicing a haunch of something for
a Mayan family. I haven't dared to buy meat here. 
Peppa Pig pinata! Plus a cool bike. 
Me again, hot and blistered and making a silly face.
You may think you know what this is, but you don't.
Bert bought this for me. It's the most beautiful cat litter scoop
you have ever seen! Cost Q15 or $2.46 Canadian.
Totally exhausted tonight but have many more pictures and stories to share. Just gotta find the time to post it up here! Hasta luego, todos.