Sunday, February 28, 2016

Exotic Fruit Time!

While we're impatiently waiting for mango season, we're trying new fruits at the market.
This week it's granadilla. Well, actually one granadilla and one something else, perhaps tamarillo? The lady selling them at the market said they were both granadillas, and when I asked which was better, she said they were the same. I paid Q1 for two, or about $0.18.
When I got them home and Googled a bit, I found pictures showing that the red one is a tamarillo. And after my taste test of them, I can assure you they are VERY different fruit!
Granadillas on the left and tamarillos on the right.
I started with the red one. It looked very much like a tomato to me, and even smelled a bit like one. When I did my Googling, it even said they are called Tree Tomatoes. When I cut it open, it had seeds like a tomato too: small and crunchy in a gooey substance. From the video down below, I knew to use a spoon to scoop out the middle and eat it.
Inside the tamarillo.
The taste? Oh my heavens, SO SOUR!! My tongue hurt! If you can get past the sourness, it tasted like a cross between a mango and a Roma tomato. Not bad flavor but the sourness was overwhelming. Would not buy again.

Next up, the granadilla. I cut it in half. The skin was much more fibrous and unyielding than the tamarillo. And I was NOT expecting THIS inside!!
Inside the granadilla
OMG it's full of tadpoles!! Ha ha! It took a bit of nerve to scoop that stuff out with a spoon and put it in my mouth. But it was actually really good. Sweet and slippery, with crunchy seeds. I liked it!

Lucky for us, there are still plenty of "normal" fruits at the market. Strawberries are Q5 a pound, pineapples are Q5 each, and cantaloupes are Q10 each. Plus there are papayas, bananas, bananitas (baby bananas), grapes, apples, sapotes, watermelon, kiwis, annonas, and probably some more I'm forgetting. And those are just the things in season now! Mangos will be back in season soon, and after that there will be dragonfruits and rambutans. Yum! 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Panajachel Market Pics

I love the market! I am a bit shy taking pictures though. I feel self-conscious whipping out a camera and taking photos of fruit!  :D
There is always so much to see at the market, and even more so on Sundays when they close the street and set up even MORE booths. It's fun to just wander through and gawk at all the stuff.
This guy sits on the side of the market road and chops up this weird piece of wood. Each circle has neat patterns in the wood. No one I talked to seems to know if it's just for decoration or if it has a more significant purpose.
One of my favourite vendors. You can see the awesome strawberries right in front. Her sheet was blowing down over her head!
I love the beautiful clothes the women wear and the fancy headwraps. And so much talent and excellent posture to carry baskets full of food on your head!
If you don't feel like cutting your own fruit, you can get it pre-chopped.
Also check out the sapotes at the bottom right. :)
Many types of fresh fruits. This guys has different types of apples on the bottom row there, which is actually kinda rare around here, plus the first mangos of the season. They're the yellow things in the front of the basket at the bottom on the red crate. There aren't any big red & green mangos yet but soon!
Inside the market building are more vendors selling fruits and veggies and many other things.
One of the butchers. Stinky!
And near to the butchers... flowers to make things less stinky!
Mountains of veggies.
Seeds and nuts and spices and mysterious bags of things.
Back outside in the sunshine, baskets of yummies.
I didn't take any pictures of the fishmongers cuz I was too shy. They have a wide variety of fish from the ocean, plus octopus, crabs, LOADS of big shrimp, and the freshwater fish and crabs from the lake.
Inside the market building are also "regular" stores selling all sorts of things.
Shoes. Lots of shoes. Guatemalans love shoes!
They have tiendas that sell all the pantry items, plus hardware stores. You can find almost anything!
A gift store in the market.
And when you're exhausted from all that shopping, you can get chicken and fries! 
One day when I'm more brave, I'll take a video of a walking through the market, inside and out. Then you can hear the noises as well. I wish I could record the smells too! Such an immersive experience.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Another Awesome Day

Had such a great day today! Smiled for almost all of it. Here are some pics to show you what life is like in Panajachel, Guatemala... or at least what my life is like! Your experience may vary. It may be even MORE awesome!  :D

Look who followed Bert home! It's Gimpy! If you don't remember him, check out my blog about him by clicking here.
He's such a loveable goofball.  
Going for a walkies. Gimpy stayed with us for a few days, then got a ride up to the vet's to get his nuggets removed,
then he's going back to his family. 
"I'm so handsome."
One of these flowers is not like the other.
At what point is it appropriate for me to go "nyah nyah nyah" to my friends back in Canada?
This is Derpy. I love him but he won't let me pet him. He's a stray that comes into our yard sometimes. 
Kira, our landlord's cat!
So many animals in our yard!
This morning the Gadget-cat came to eat breakfast with The Kittens. He is very elusive but I got a picture. 

A delicious breakfast at Mister Jon's Restaurant on Santander.
This is a sapote.
The inside of the sapote. It was very creamy, sweet, slightly stringy. I don't think I really liked it.
It kinda tasted like a sweet squash. The taste was hard to describe.
Real Canadian maple syrup at Chalo's!! That's 500ml for Q101.50 or about $18.10 Canadian. Tempting. 
Went down to the Lake to watch the sunset. Lovely, as always.
Pachi loves to play in the water! She's such an adorable weirdo.
Video of her romping over at my YouTube channel.
Tropical trees and a lovely sunset at Lake Atitlan.
We've been going through a bit of a hard run lately but when I step outside into the sunshine and hear the birds singing, when I cuddle my kitty, Willow, when I watch goofy Pachi running on the beach, when Bert buys me a package of cookies to cheer me up... all of that makes my heart happy. :)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Kaqchikel Language and Mayan Families Foundation

My original intention for this post was to show a video of a Mayan speaking Kaqchikel, which is the native language spoken on this side of Lake Atitlan. To me, it sounds very much like a Canadian First Nations language and it is fascinating to hear the local ladies at the market chattering away to each other.

While I was looking for a video spoken in Kaqchikel, I came across a bunch of videos from Mayan Families with interviews of the people they have helped... and are still helping!
I have many lovely friends who work or volunteer at Mayan Families, which is well-known non-profit organization here in Panajachel. Mayan Families offers a wide range of programs to help Guatemalan people of all ages, plus they have a large yard full of dogs that need adopting.

So now this post has three purposes: to let you hear what Kaqchikel sounds like, to help you understand the life of an elderly Mayan woman here in the Western Highlands, and to connect you to a great charity in Guatemala.

I apologize that this woman's story is quite sad. I'm not trying to make you cry or make you feel obligated to rush over to Mayan Families' website and give away all your money... although any donations to them would be greatly appreciated, of course!

There are people struggling all over the world, even in Canada. I remember feeling quite a bit of disdain for homeless beggars in Canada. I would think, "Get a job! There are lots of jobs!" To be quite honest, I don't think my mindset has changed much in that regard. In fact, it might be even more "politically incorrect" now. I see the way some Mayans live, the suffering, the poverty, the hunger, and it is hard to think of going back to Canada and giving a toonie to a young man begging by the Mac's who will probably buy cigarettes and a coffee. Two dollars would buy a lot of tortillas here in Pana!

Anyway, sorry if I appear disdainful or rude or ... hmm, what's the word I'm looking for? Those people who won't let you enjoy your ice cream because children are starving in Africa? Is there a word for that? :)  All I'm saying is try to realize what you have, and even more so realize what others don't have and what they need and if you can help them at all, even if in the tiniest way.

Bert gives away quetzals all the time to people on the street. He has a soft heart! Sometimes I get cross with him because I know we need that money for our own food. But it's hard to tell someone to stop being generous. :)

Me, I try to help when I can, even if it just by buying lower quality avocados from the elderly lady with a cloth on the ground at the market rather than buying the big shiny avocados at the Despensa. I don't have a lot of money either but I know what I have is more than most, and I am grateful.

I hope this video opens your eyes to the Mayan lifestyle, opens your ears to the Kaqchikel language, and opens your heart to people everywhere.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Identifying a Bug, And Other Adventures

There are a LOT of bugs in the world, and plenty of them have decided to call Guatemala home! As you've seen on previous posts, we have lots of scorpions, beetles, ants, spiders, butterflies, and other multi-legged friends. :)

Bert called me outside the other day to show me a lovely moth that had landed on the porch. We snapped a few photos of the beautiful buggie-boo!
Such a beautiful little moth! Really bright blue iridescent body.
He was very lively! He wasn't flying much but was motoring around with his wee legs. He climbed all over my hand and arm!
I was super curious to know what type of moth it was, so I did my usual Google searches. The closest I could get was it was some type of Ctenucha moth, or Tiger moth. However, there are a bazillion species of them. (That's an estimate, hee hee!)

So I wrote to the awesome folks over at and...surprise! They actually got back to me! (They get a ton of questions all the time, I'm sure, so I was super pumped that they found my query interesting enough to pursue.) Here is what they said.

You are correct that this Tiger Moth is in the subtribe Ctenuchina, and we believe that it is in the genus Cyanopepla based on the image posted to Emtomofausac Insectos de Guatemala and the image on Neotropical Lepidoptera that is identified as  Cyanopepla bella, though we are not fully convinced that is the correct species.  We located several members of the genus online that look very similar, but none have the bold, unbroken red marking on the forewing.  We will contact Arctiinae expert Julian Donahue to see if he can provide a species. 
SECOND EMAIL from the expert:
As luck would have it, I think I've come close.
This is the original figure of Gangamela ira (Druce, 1896), described from Panama, which, it has been noted, is virtually identical to the figure of Cyanopepla beata Rothschild, 1912, also described from Panama.
At present, the two taxa remain as separate species in separate genera! If they are the same species, then the Druce name would have priority, but that still leaves the proper generic placement in question.
Note that your Guatemalan specimen has much more blue on the inner margin of the forewing, and may, in fact, be something completely different! But this is the closest I can come for now.  Julian.

Ooh, that's a lot of scientific speak, eh? Totally made me smile to hear the bug geeks getting excited about identifying an unusual specimen.

My love of animals, science, biology, wildlife, and all things natural started when I was knee-high to a grasshopper back in Canada. I have a clear memory of catching a beautiful unusual minnow in the trap at Camp and Dad helping me to send it to the University for identification. It turned out to be an Iowa Dace minnow. It obviously made quite an impact on my young mind to imprint such a memory on me!

Here are some other random photos from this past week. No more bugs, I promise!

I'm fascinated by the poinsettia tree in the alley. I wish you could see the colours better!
I was taking a picture upwards to the bright sky so the colors are not great.
A close-up on one of the cool orange flowers mixed in with the poinsettias.
 Teeny tiny purple blossom! They were strewn all over the street from a big bush.
One of the rare and beautiful street signs in Panajachel. What's interesting is this street is now referred to by most people as Calle Rancho Grande due to a large hotel complex. This is the old name, I guess. 
The elusive Gadget-Kitty. He is a very shy wild cat that lives behind our house. He looks like a cat I used to have named Gadget, who was a black smoke tabby. I've never seen his like...until now!
The Kittens. See the little black one peeking out from behind her brother? Adorable!
The Kittens, who still don't have proper names, amuse us every day with their antics and adorableness. They come running right up to the house when they hear the rattle of cat food.

To help them live long and happy lives, we took them to the AYUDA sterilization clinic this Thursday.
They were quite a handful, I was told! We had managed to lure them both into a crate using food, but the vet techs at the clinic had a difficult time trying to extract just ONE kitten when it came time for their surgeries. I was told there were leather gloves involved!
The surgeries were successful, and also confirmed that the all-black kitten is a girl and the black-and-white is a boy. (This might help with the naming, eh?)

We brought them home all doped up and sleepy, and they stayed in their crate overnight. This morning, I fed them soft food through the bars, which they gobbled up. What a treat! I put the crate back outside in the garden for a half hour so they could get their bearings, and then opened the door. They very timidly and gingerly stepped out, then limped up the hill into the bushes. Poor things! They must be sooooo sore!

It makes me nervous that they're out there with stitches and such, but there's not much more I can do. We don't have a place for them to be inside without Willow or the dogs. AYUDA assured me it would be okay. And it's true so far. The Kittens came down for some dinner as usual and, while not frisky, they weren't lethargic or ill-looking. I will be keeping a close eye on them!

Kitties unhappily ready to go to get fixed!
We've seen some gorgeous sunsets here on our walks near the lake, but my camera doesn't seem to be able to capture the full beauty. So I'm instead putting up a photo I stole from the Web. Enjoy!
Lake Atitlan at Sunset. I believe this is taken at Laguna Lodge, which is a super-fancy resort near Santa Cruz.