Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spending Money vs. Giving It Away vs. Getting Ripped Off

The past couple days have been super-fun but also a bit frustrating.
San Pedro has a totally different vibe than Pana.
P&B (our landlady and landlord) took us on a lancha across the lake to San Pedro to hit up Smokin' Joe's BBQ for gringos. Unfortunately, it had been cancelled so no delicious meat for us, but it was still an enjoyable day. We found a nice little place called Clover Restaurant and had lunch. (Sandwich for me, nachos for Bert). Chatted and shared life stories with P&B, who both had very interesting tales to tell.

We've walked around Pana a hundred times. We've met some more lovely English-speaking people. We've stayed out past dark and saw the tuk-tuks all lit up with strings of neon lights. We've seen a large snake and a small lizard. We've gazed at the stars and marveled at the chorus of night peepers. It's been great!

But one of the frustrating things is how quickly our money seems to be disappearing. There appears to be several factors to this.
1. Getting short-changed. Bert noticed that he gave a clerk a 5Q note for a 3Q item but only got 1Q back. He didn't complain because really it's just $0.17 but still...
2. Prices varying when you buy. One day a bottle of water is 3Q, the next day it's 4Q. Perhaps this is because of Semana Santa holidays. Not sure.
3. Service charges and tax. We weren't sure which places were charging us tax, which restaurants we should be adding a tip, and which were already adding a service charge on the bill.
4. Often, there are no prices listed on items, and you won't receive a receipt or a bill when buying things. It's hard to tell if you're been ripped off. They could be making all the prices up, for all we know!
5. Our lack of language skills is leading us to be mis-charged. For example, at dinner last night we ended up ordering two nachos instead of one. They were good though! :)
6. Gringo stuff is expensive! I paid $19 for a bottle of spray-on sunscreen. Eeks.
7. We give money away to beggars. And it's not even so much actual beggars -- people sitting on the street asking for change -- but Bert tends to hand out money to anyone who asks. A few days ago, he felt guilty for not wanting to buy some crafted thing from someone, so he gave them $5 U.S. He's bought two bracelets from the old Mayan ladies because he feels bad.
Guard dog from above!

The solution to stop the outflow of money?

First, Bert is going into town today to talk to some local charities and ask about helping out, rather than just handing out quetzales to everyone on the street.

Second, we are going to cut back on eating out and try to figure out what we can cook at home. There is a store here called Sandra's that is the gringo grocery. It has everything from Captain Crunch to Pringles to frozen pizza. If we can't figure out how to cook with local foods from the market, we can always go there and splurge to get some familiar food.

Third, practicing our Spanish and being more assertive about correct change. Knowing when to let it go and when to dispute a change in price.

In the meantime, I've got to get back into the groove of working. It's been a wonderful two weeks of relaxing. Now it's time to see if the Internet here can handle my daily workload. Fingers crossed!

Video of a bit of our boat ride to San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala.

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