Sunday, January 22, 2017

Stoplights in Pana???

Now I get to say, "I've lived here since before there were stoplights!"  😊

One of four semáforos now in Panajachel.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bacon is Life

Think you want to move to Guatemala? Think again!!
(Or just readjust your food budget. 😊)

250 g of bacon costs Q27.90. That's $4.86 Canadian.
(For my American friends, that's 8.8 ounces of bacon for $3.70)
The good news? You should probably be eating bacon in moderation anyway and eating more fresh fruits and veggies. In that case, Panajachel has got you covered!
After my fatty, salty, awesome-y breakfast, I'm going to wash my stinky dog, do some work, then hit up the market for some strawberries and bananas.
It's a good life.

P.S. Did you notice the brand name? It's FUD. An English speaker would pronounce that "fuhd" rhymes with "mud". However, in Spanish it's pronounced "food". HA HA!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Forest Fire at Lake Atitlan

A forest fire started up on the hills last week, apparently because some dummies were burning garbage at a garbage dump that was supposed to have been decommissioned several years ago. Who burns garbage in the dry season? And with such high winds??
forest fire Lake Atitlan Guatemala
A picture I took from Jucanya of the fire coming down the hills. (January 9)
Expats, Kat & Steve, owners of La Fortuna Lodge, became very alarmed when the fire started coming down the ridge towards their property. They called all the proper authorities -- Sololá Bomberos (firefighters), CONRED (disaster agency) and more -- but no one showed up. They put an appeal on Facebook and we ALL started calling everyone and posting pictures of the fire to get attention. (Pictures below courtesy of Facebook.)

Meanwhile, they recruited men from the nearest town, plus the help of friends and friends' guardians (pronounced gwar-dee-ahns, they are groundskeepers and handymen) to fight the fire themselves. Hard work!
forest fire Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Look at all those dry leaves! Not good.
forest fire Lake Atitlan Guatemala
A resourceful expat had a firehose that he loaned to La Fortuna. They soaked the jungle around the property.
Can you imagine trying to fight a fire in this dense bush and steep terrain?
forest fire Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Fire coming down the dry hills above La Fortuna Lodge.
forest fire Lake Atitlan Guatemala La Fortuna
Photo taken yesterday by the lodge owner. Fire is still not out. 
Luckily, the high winds have died down the past day so hopefully the fire won't jump too much further. We haven't had rain in as long as I can remember. 'Tis the dry season, you know! The fire was on the local news channels and is also heading towards other towns, so it is getting much more attention. Many have said it's the biggest forest fire they've seen in the area in a long time. Crossed fingers that it will soon be out with no lives lost.
forest fire Lake Atitlan Guatemala
Photo I took this morning. The smoke is spreading all over the lake.
If you would like to "relax in style" at Lake Atitlan, I recommend a stay at La Fortuna. Such a gorgeous place! It made the very elite list of TripAdvisor's Top 25 Small Hotels in the World. Check it out.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Problem of Poverty

I'm going to write this blog post in a hurry and try not to edit it too much. I don't want to delete out the parts that make me look bad. I need to be honest.

See, I'm struggling with the issue of poverty. I used to be the kind of person who changed the channel when starving kids from Africa came on. I never gave to beggars, figuring any money I gave them would go to drugs. I have never been good at sharing. (Ask my sisters!)

But here in Guatemala, it's so hard to look away. Poverty is all around me. My neighbours -- noisy jerks that they are -- don't have running water. Their kids play in the dirt with sticks and pots. In town, I see beggars every day, many of them disabled. Five-year-olds have jobs working the street selling bracelets and gum. I regularly encounter old women scouring the garbage dump by the river for anything they can find. In Guatemala, poverty is in your face.

Yet here I sit at my fancy computer in my secure apartment with a solid roof and an indoor bathroom. How can I justify that?

Selfishness, that's how.
Or can it be called self-preservation?

We all feel like we work hard. We all hang on to what we've worked for. We all want more. Don't we?

Today on Facebook, an old friend of mine posted a photo of some hors d'oeuvres he had made for a party at his apartment. The scene could have been from a glossy magazine. And it made me sick. I couldn't stop thinking that their foolish fancy cheeseboard probably cost more money than my neighbours make in a month. How can people live in such ridiculous excess when other people are going to bed hungry and cold?

But here I am, not hungry, only slightly cold. Who am I to talk?

I don't like to give to beggars, but I do it anyway. Sparingly. Bert is more generous than me. He gives away his last Q5 to any big-eyed shoeshine boy who says, "Tengo hambre." I am always thinking of how much money I need to save for bread and water and cat food and my Internet bill.

But if I was in their shoes, my stomach aching, my head pounding, my eyes dry from lack of sleep.... how would I see myself, fat white woman that I am?

Poverty makes people uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to be reminded that there are so many people in the world who are going to bed hungry. I don't want to feel guilty for buying a chocolate bar that costs as much as two pounds of beans and 15 tortillas.

But you know what else? Poverty is relative. By many standards, I am poor. My sisters cannot understand how I can live like this. My sandals are held together with a twist tie and hot glue. My glasses are scratched so much I can't see out the edges. I don't own a single pair of shorts without holes in them. And I eat beans and tortillas a lot. A lot.

All of these thoughts just tumble around my head and I'm not quite sure how to reconcile them all. I am richer than some. I am poorer than some. I give, but not as much as others do. I am generous yet I am selfish.
This is life.
All I know is that I want more things. I want nice clothes. I want to eat fancy hamburgers. I want a nicer apartment. I want I want I want. *sigh* But how can I want -- no, how can I feel okay with wanting when others NEED. This is a problem that Guatemala brings to the front of my mind daily. And I don't really like it.
A photo I took last year of inside an old couple's bedroom in Santiago.
So it's super late at night and the crazy winds are finally dying down. I am grateful for my cement roof that has not been blown apart today. I am grateful for warm blankets on my bed on this cold night. I am grateful my belly is not empty.

Tomorrow I will work hard and be even more grateful and try to be a more generous person, a less selfish person, a more open-hearted person. Care to join me?
Wanna help? I recommend Mayan Families, a wide-reaching organization that provides assistance to Guatemalans in the areas of nutrition, education, elderly care, healthcare, and so much more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Amazing Wall Art in Panajachel

I hesitate to call this graffiti. It's so beautiful! San Pedro has a lot of gorgeous street art as well. I wonder if some of these artists came from over there on the weekend or something?

For those who want to see this in person, it's the river-side wall of the big soccer stadium on the main road right before the yellow bridge. Go on the dirt road between the coffin-making place (Hasta Nunca!) and the soccer stadium. You'll see the fish right away!
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala
This bird-fish is the first one you see from the road. It's on the corner wall by itself and then you walk around and see the rest. This is just spectacular work!
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala
The long wall.
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala woman
Bert said this one reminds him of Amazing Iva. :)
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala
Love the dude on the side.
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala
No clue. Looks nice though.
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala
Dooooood.
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala
Any guesses on what this says? Rexs? 
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala Sorek
Sorek?
graffiti wall art Panajachel Guatemala
I didn't take pictures of all the art, just the pretty colourful ones

I'll be uploading a video I took so you can see all of it together. Check my YouTube channel tomorrow or the next day.

EDIT: Just saw a news story that this artwork was sponsored by the Municipality of Panajachel. How very cool! Murales Artísticos con Grafiti