Sunday, April 30, 2017

HIPTIPICO -- Supporting Mayan Artisans

I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of Hiptipico, Alyssa, at a Cafe Moka here in Panajachel not too long ago. We were discussing street dogs, my main passion and a side project in Alyssa's busy life. We also chatted a bit about her life journey to Pana and her amazing work with local artisans. Hiptipico works with women in the Western Highlands of Guatemala to help sell their amazing textiles, weavings, beadwork, and original designs all around the world.
I encourage you all to visit and watch the introductory video. It is Alyssa herself telling her story and the story of the Mayan women she works with. The cinematography is amazing and really captures the vibrancy and beauty of Guatemala.

"When you shop with Hiptipico, you know the authentic story of the artisan who made your product and the traditional technique and materials used to craft it. Through this dignified job opportunity, Maya artisans partner with Hiptipico to lift themselves out of poverty while doing something they love."

Alyssa at an outdoor textile market. Her long blonde hair must get a lot of looks!
Hiptipico was also recently published on Buzzfeed Community with an article of 15 Reasons You Should Visit Guatemala Immediately. There are several things on her list that I have yet to do myself. I'd better get to it!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Panajachel Has Google Street View!

Mister Jon, of Mister Jon's Restaurant, posted on Facebook today that he found his restaurant on the Guatemalan version of Google maps. So exciting! The page says the photos were taken in November 2016. I'm in the process of going around the map trying to find anyone I know!

Click the picture of La Palapa to go to the map and take a tour of my town!

Google Street View Panajachel La Palapa Guatemala
La Palapa!!
I'm so pumped they finally did this. I remember wishing for Street View before I came here. It's one thing to look at a map and some photos and perhaps a few videos; it's a more immersive experience to virtually stroll around town!

You can just click on the map to move around, or you can click on the left-facing arrow in the far top left (by where it says Calle de los Arboles in the photo above) and it will pull you out to the map view. Then click on the little yellow man in the bottom right corner and drag him to any blue street. Have fun!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday 2017

I actually got my butt out of bed early and went downtown...and nothing was going on! HA HA! I'm so out of touch this year. I didn't see a single procession. Not one! How is that even possible? I guess it's like when you want to see a parade, there aren't any, and when you're trying to get somewhere in a hurry, you're blocked by marching bands and school kids in weird costumes. Oh well.
Sooooo many buses parked along the river! They're not kidding when they say it's the busiest week.
And check out how low the river water level is. It's barely there! Wait until the rains come and then I'll show you the difference.  :)
I love these weird fruity arches they put up.
My friend went to San Juan across the lake and took some great pictures of their alfombras. They're quite artistic there!
They put some Van Gogh influence into a picture of Lake Atitlan. Amazing.
The colours are so rich!
Just amazing work. With sawdust. Just wow.
This is a very natural one with flower petals and pine needles. The smell of the carpets is so wonderful.
This is another alfombra from Solola.
What happens to the carpets of sawdust and flowers? The processions walk through them. Yep, they walk all over them and mess them up! Then the sweepers come and clean it all up and all that's left is dust in the cobblestone cracks. Pretty neat, eh?

Leaving you with this short video of how busy it was down at the beach and docks. If you look closely, you can see Bert taking Calvin down to the water for a drink!
Happy Easter, everyone! 😊

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Good Friday 2017 at Lake Atitlan

Bert and I went for a nice walk around town and saw a few alfrombras (carpets) being made on Santander. We both think the town is not as busy as it has been the last two years, but perhaps we're just getting used to the madness. There was a rocking concert last night that went on til about 1 a.m. that we could hear all the way over in Jucanya. Lots of party boats blasting music down at the lakeshore. Lots of new vendors and lots of amazing food! It's a good time!

Scroll down to see my pics from Pana, as well as some pics I stole from Facebook of other Good Friday events. :)

They plowed a road from the Jucanya side all along the river and down to...this. They couldn't have built a bridge? Or put some rocks across? We had to backtrack and hop across the river at another point and then walk down to the fair.
This is the first time the fair is down at the beach. Pretty cool views from that ferriswheel!
There's a wolf hiding under that ride!!
This was the funniest thing! See that kid in the red pants? He was literally spinning the carousel BY HAND.
The newest fashion trend -- pink sun hats!
Elote Loco! (Crazy corn.) This lady is here all the time and she had her crazy corn out on display.
It's corn with ketchup, mayo, green picante sauce, and some dry cheese. Looks good!
I thought it was funny this drink stand was set up in front of the bouncy castles!! Have a margarita whiel your kids play! Why not? 
The BBQ meats smell soooooo good!
Yeah, Santander is a little busy!
Alfombras YAY!! Look at all the fruits and veggies!
Kinda reminds me of a salad bar display on a cruise ship or something. 
Sexy dancing ladies!!! No Semana Santa is complete without sexy dancing ladies. 😄
This was a neat carpet. Jesus is on the left there and some poor chicken got plucked (or killed) to provide feathers for a bird figure in the middle.
It's all made with stencils and coloured sawdust and the white grains are from some plant.
I'll have to find the name of it.
Still finishing up their designs.
Where's Waldo? Making an alfombra in Panajachel!
Quick video of one of the longest carpets we saw.
More videos on my YouTube channel, as always!
Tuk-tuks everywhere!
Here are some pics from other towns in Guatemala. Pretty interesting what goes on. I wish I had the energy to get to some other towns but I'm usually not ready to do anything until too late in the day. Maybe next year!
In Santa Cruz, the Amigos de Santa Cruz Foundation got together to make this traditional carpet. Great work!
Click here to visit their Facebook page.
A beautiful carpet in the town of Solola. Check out the man's intricate shirt in the foreground!
Talk about a salad bar! This is in Antigua. I asked what happens to the food when it's over.
One lady said the church people pick it up. Another said it's donated to needy families.
Not sure what ocean life has to do with Christianity but I love it! This is from Antigua as well.
It's the best place to see amazing alfombras during Semana Santa but it's also incredibly busy and expensive.
So gorgeous! And look at all the people. WOW!
I got this picture from our local news channel's Facebook page. I guess in Santa Clara there is a tradition
of having a fruit fight. It's called Toronjeada. Sounds fun but painful!
"The story goes back in the year 1600, in this time the commune bought 15,500 grapefruits, the performance begins with the signing of an act on the part of participants, to avoid lawsuits or revenge. Form two teams from an average of 20 people, the participants were throwing grapefruits, the meaning is but the repentance of Judas Iscariot, who for some coins sold to Jesus. Judas Iscariot is also plagued by 25 lashes as punishment."

There's still a few more days of celebrations to look forward to! If I can get enough coffee in me, I might head out for a stroll again today and/or tomorrow.
If you are considering a visit to Guatemala, Semana Santa is the time to be here! That is, if you like crowds and parties and awesome religious ceremonies. You have to book way far in advance though. Hotels get filled up really quick.
If you'd rather enjoy Lake Atitlan and Guatemala at a more peaceful time, avoid this week, or maybe even month, altogether! Either way, I hope to see you here soon. 😊

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Walk on Palm Sunday

Semana Santa (Holy Week) has started and the town is full of tourists! It's quite a madhouse, to be honest. It seems the holiest week of the year is also considered the best time to get drunk and pass out on the street. Go figure!

Bert and I went for a walk around town yesterday afternoon to see what was up. It was later in the afternoon, so we had missed most of the action, but we did get to see a few small alfombras, the religious carpets made of coloured sawdust.
The big church in Pana with a lovely traditional alfombra leading up to it.
Another carpet. It's coloured sawdust!
That's Bert on the right. He was hungry and walking fast! No time for carpets! :)
Apparently, this is Bert's resting spot when he walks dogs. It's a wee bit of shade and it overlooks the lake.
He's eating crappy pizza!
Why is the pizza crappy? Cuz Guatemalans apparently don't know what it takes to make a good pizza. (Okay, not all Guatemalans. But I guess when you're paying Q10 for a slice, it's not that bad. About $1.82 Canadian.) Bert's slice had a half a piece of pepperoni, a triangle of ham, some cut of weiners, and a tiny piece of red pepper. Pretty much zero sauce and a teeny bit of cheese. Mostly bread. Some pizza stalls are better than others, as we learned when we walked further down the street and saw pizza stands selling Hawaiian and real pepperoni pizza slices. Next time! :)
They plowed rocks all part of the river delta to stop one of the streams. Then they set up a carnival??? Okay...
The windsock is there because the paragliders land on the river delta.
I want to try to get out more this Semana Santa and see things I missed last year. It's difficult, though, because my work is just getting busy now too! A lot of the parades happen in the mornings before it gets too hot. Many expats complain about this week because it so much busier and louder and chaotic than the rest of the year in our peaceful town, but I like it. But then again, it's only my third Semana Santa so perhaps I haven't had enough time to get sick of it! (Yes, we had our two-year Guateversary on April 1. Yay us!)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Ice Cream

This post is for my Dad. Hi, Dad!! *waves excitedly in a northern direction*

Guatemala has a perfectly healthy obsession with ice cream. And with good reason! Nothing is better on a hot day in the sun than a cool treat. And lucky for everyone, you can find helado pretty much everywhere. (Pronounced eh-LAH-doh, remember h's are silent in Spanish.)

The biggest chain of ice cream stores in Guatemala seems to be Sarita. I equate this to Dairy Queen back home. I know of four Saritas in town, plus Sarita brand ice cream is sold in the Despensa and in convenience stores everywhere.
The newly renovated Sarita store on Santander.
This photo was taken at 10:30 am. Perfect time for a sundae! :D
One of the cases of ice cream flavours in Sarita. They also had more flavours plus fresh and frozen fruits and other toppings in another case.
There are three other branded ice cream shops in town: La Nevería, Holandesa, and Marco Polo. These seem a bit fancy, like a Baskin-Robbins back home.
La Nevería. Really good and inexpensive banana splits!
Sign in front of La Nevería. Hard to walk past this store!
Banana Split from La Nevería. Looks just like the picture!
And yes, they have ice cream cakes! You can even buy just one slice.
Just wanna quick ice cream on the go? Just pop into pretty much any tienda. A great number of them have a freezer with ice cream in it, sometimes labeled with Sarita or the other popular brand PaliDeli, and sometimes the store owners will make their own frozen treats.
The convenience stores usually put out a sign with the ice cream pictures and prices...and then the freezer has only three things in it! HA!
PaliDeli is another popular brand of ice cream in the tiendas.
For a truly local treat, all you have to do is listen for the bell! Little ol' men push ice cream carts around town and set up in strategic locations like the market and in front of the school at lunch. Prices range from Q1 to Q3 and you can even get some fruity sauce on top. Yummy!
This ice cream guy is smart and takes his cart around to the high schools at lunch break.

Another frozen treat shop in town is Sombrilandia. (A sombrilla is a beach umbrella or parasol.) They seem to be only open on weekends but their frozen fruit pops are to die for! Definitely stop by there while strolling down Santander at dusk. Be prepared for super fresh flavours! I had the mango fruit pop and it literally had stringy bits of mango in it.

The only picture I have of Sombrilandia, and I didn't even take a pic of my fruit pop!
You can see the paintings though. That's what they look like, little umbrellas. :)
Another popular option are granizadas, which are basically Slushies or Slurpees. (The literal translation is "hailstorm". Pretty appropriate!) This is another cart you can find on every street corner. Most often, I see the carts with a hand-cranked ice shaver but in the market there is a lady who shaves a big block of ice with a little hand-held thingy. Neat!

I always thought they only came in sweet flavours -- lime, watermelon, mango, etc -- but I was told that they also serve spicy ones! I found a video showing a crazy concoction of shaved ice with vegetable juice and some other fun stuff. Check it out! Would you try this? I sure would!

And a post about frozen treats wouldn't be complete without mentioning the iconic Guatemalan delight -- chocobanano! It's simply a frozen banana on a stick dipped in "chocolate" and sometimes sprinkles or nuts. Very cheap and very refreshing. Plus vitamins and all that!
So never fear, future visitors to Guatemala. You can get ice cream and other delicious frozen treats whenever your sweaty self desires them. (Or frozen daiquiris, for those so inclined. La Palapa sells spiked daiquiri and margarita slushies. My fave!)

And Dad, there ARE Dairy Queens in Guatemala, but only in Guate City. Seems they have some stiff competition here! But nothin' beats a Peanut Buster Parfait, right? :D