Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Long-Awaited Update!

Hi, guys! I'm here, no worries. Just been living life and not worrying about blogging so much. It gets kinda strange when your mind starts having a running commentary on everything you do in preparation for writing it down later. I had to stop the voices! HA!
Here's some photos from the last few weeks. Some of you will have seen these already on my Facebook page but some are new.
Also... HI BERT'S MOM!! We're okay. Busy. Happy. I'm sorry I haven't blogged for so long.
Met my friend Jo-Lori for brunch at Deli Jasmin. Wonderful place!
The interior of Deli Jasmine. It goes way back into a lovely tropical garden. Paradise!
Went wandering around some alleys in town and met a lovely fat pitbull!
Discovered some damn good Nutella substitute!
Pachi got soaked playing in the waves one day so she was banned from coming inside until she was dry! HA!
The Kittens are getting big. We're going to catch them this week and get them fixed thanks to AYUDA. 
The kittens licking up pancake batter from a bowl in our pila. In the back is Poppa Fat-Head, possibly their father. He is very shy. 
Went to a fun birthday party for my friend Hana Lucia. That's crazy Cassidy in there too, preparing to cut the cake Guatemala style, which is to make a circle in the middle and then cut slices around. Who knew?

The adventures of Calvin, the Escape Artist, continue. He lunged against his chain until the ring broke and then took off for an hour. He came back all stuffed with garbage and then slept for the rest of the day.
Pachi is perfect and sits there watching her foster-brother being a dork.
Baby scorpion!
Giant citrus fruits fall off the tree up the mountain and roll onto our porch. We made lemon cookies!
This is a plume moth! There are many types with funky wings. They are very distinctive in that they all make this T-shape when resting. This guy is teeny, only about an inch wide wingspan. 
Today was a Sunday stroll over to NJP's and back. I love Pana. If you can look up from the dog-poopy cobblestones for a few minutes, there are many things to see!
Bert snapped this rare photo of Willow and Pachi sharing the morning sun.
I wish I had the nerve to take more pictures of the people here. Their clothes are so beautiful. Their faces are so beautiful too! This family was walking all together, obviously heading to a house somewhere in Jucanya. Three of the ladies had babies slung on their fronts. Not sure if that's their dog, or just one following them. 
An abundance of fruit and sun. Hard to believe it's January 31. :D
Bert waiting patiently for me on the way to NJP's because I kept stopping to take pictures!
A view from the path to NJP's place, looking to the road. I love the yellow house with the three different flowering trees.
That wall is actually a raised sidewalk. Or it's a wall that people use as a sidewalk. Who knows? We walk on it. It scares me. I feel like I'm going to topple off!
On the way back from NJP's, kids were climbing in the orange tree. 
Bert says he never noticed this giant palm tree in town. How can you miss it?
I definitely need to try the food at this little place. The cops like it! Those are their police bicycles.
I love how they recently painted the wall to look like stones. :D
Lots of other things going on but I'm really trying to get away from my computer more and enjoy the sun. Hasta pronto, mis amigos!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Some Great Reading for You!

Sorry I've been absent from blogging for the past little while. In the meantime while you eagerly await my next original post, you can hop over to my friend Iva's blog and read her hilarious take on life in Guatemala. She moved here from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada in October and is loving it! She is going through a lot of the same adjustments I went through in my first six months. Her blog is funny, inspiring, blunt, and very much Iva! :D
The Amazing Me Movement -- 10 Things I Mutter Under My Breath On the Streets of Guatemala
Iva and I swimming in Lake Atitlan on Christmas Day 2015

Friday, January 8, 2016

Second Visa Trip to San Cristóbal, Mexico

Here are the pics from our second 90-day visa run from Panajachel, Guatemala, to San Cristóbal, Mexico. Despite our woes, as explained in yesterday's post, we did have a decent time. San Cris is a beautiful city and well worth a visit!
Of course, first you have to get into Mexico. Not so hard, actually. Just lots of lines and waiting and a bit of paperwork on the Mexican side. For more details, see my post about our previous 90-day visa run.
The passport building on the Guatemala side.
The Guatemala Mexico border at Mesilla.
Shuttle madness outside the Guatemala Immigration office on the Gaute side in Mesilla.
This trip to San Cristóbal wasn't so much about touristy stuff like last time when we visited all the churches and such. This was about trying to find stuff we couldn't get in Panajachel.
We stayed at Hotel La Media Luna. We were in the "Sirena" room. Mermaid!
And this painting was above our bed! (I love the fish's face. Boobies!!)

As tired as we were, we still headed down to the Central Park area our first night. I was so glad we did! Everything was all done up in lights. It was crowded and festive and musical and fun! 

The next morning we slept in so late that the cleaning lady knocked on our door. I guess it was time to head out. We were sore from our bus trip so we hobbled around town trying to "walk it off!" First stop... an OXXO for coffee. These corner stores are prolific in San Cristóbal, kinda like a Mac's store in Canada or a 7-Eleven in the States.
Ah, sweet OXXO! Home to all the junk food you could ask for. :D
After becoming fully caffeinated, we went to the bank. OUCH. Exchange rate is bad news for Canadians right now. But at least I could use the bank machine and didn't have to stand in line like the folks in the picture below.
Monday morning bank lineup in San Cristóbal, Mexico.
We were on several quests for material items, so we bypassed the churches and museums in search of good shopping. San Cris is a great place to shop for really nice clothes, shoes, and souvenirs. But we were short on cash so we headed for... the 3 Pesos store!
 A "dollar" store in San Cris! So awesome. :D
It was a HUGE store. Multiple rooms with everything you could want that you can't get at the OXXO. :D
Ah, yes. Everyone needs a cow hoof for their... kitchen? Motorcycle? Purse?
Of course, you can't visit San Cris without going to the markets, both the craft and food ones! They are fascinating to walk around and offer so many wonderful things. I really wanted to buy a carved jaguar but couldn't justify another trinket to clutter up my desk. *sigh* Instead we got Bert a new shirt with a jaguar on it for $5.
An aisle in the textile market.
Bert in the outdoor craft market in San Cristóbal. It was covered in tarps because it was raining a bit.
The market in San Cristóbal is so colourful and full of variety. I love how they stack their fruits and veggies.
In the market, a video arcade tucked away in a corner!
Okay, we did see several churches -- they're hard to miss -- but I only took pics of the awesome carved one. I love it!
A different perspective of Santo Domingo church in San Cristóbal.
A man with no head holding a baby with no head. Nice.
A rare sighting of the author!
We snuck behind the vendors' tents to get a different view of the church. (Gosh, I wish I had a better camera.)
One of my favourite things about San Cristóbal are the pedestrian streets. There a several of them leading off in different directions from the central park. No cars allowed. They are lined with fancy shops and restaurants, packed with people, teeming with vendors, and full of life! It's nice not to have to dodge traffic. There are sidewalks on the other streets of San Cris, but I find them quite treacherous. They are narrow, cobbled, and every four or five feet there are sudden dips for driveways. If I lift my eyes from my feet for 10 seconds, I end up tripping!

The city was still dressed up for Christmas. Light and tinsel everywhere, plus Xmas music still playing!
There was some construction going on at the center park and artists had done amazing murals on the boards.
Turning ugly boards into beautiful art.
Jaguars are everywhere in Chiapas. Well, not the real ones, but representations of them.
This was another mural on another street. So beautiful! But not worth crossing traffic to get closer. HA!
We were on a mission to somewhere so I just snapped a pic from across the street.
OMG Pogos! Aka Corn Dogs aka banderillas. YUMMY.
(Bert is practicing his scowl by the looks of it!)
I Googled "Walmart in Mexico" and found out that there are stores branded as Bodega Aurrera in San Cris that are run by Walmart, same way that Despensa Familiar in Panajachel is basically a Walmart grocery store. So off we went for a walk to find the place.
A carnival in San Cris.
The picture above shows that it's colder, cloudier, and wetter in San Cristóbal than in Pana at this time of year. It was at times refreshing and at times downright chilly! Bring a jacket. 
We found it! A Mexican version of Walmart. 
The Bodega Aurrera in San Cristóbal was like a grocery superstore with food plus housewares, liquor, tools, toys, electronics, clothes, and even motorcycles.
About $10.69 for 1200 mL of tequila. Tempting but we didn't buy any. REGRETS!!
We only bought snacks at the Bodega Aurrera before moving on. We were also on a quest to find a dog collar, which took us touring around the city to some new places we hadn't seen before. Plus we wanted some "food from home" so we Googled a bit and walked down to ... a mall! We literally said, "OMG, it's a mall. It has mall things!"
The movie theater in San Cristóbal, plus *gasp* McDonald's and Domino's!
Me next to the penguins in the mall!
McDonald's menu in San Cristóbal, Mexico.
After much debating, I went for McDonald's over Domino's. It was FREAKING DELICIOUS. Rob felt guilty for the price, which was quite high actually, so he bought nachos from the place next to McD's. He said they tasted like something you get at a convenience store. Gross. Dude, shoulda gone with the McNifica Doble! (Great name!)
At current exchange rates, a Big Mac combo here would cost $6.26 Canadian. Cheaper than home, I guess, but when you can get two Pogos for $3, or four small tacos for $2.75, you start to question it.

At one end of the mall, there was this HUGE store called Chedraui. It was sooooo much better than the Walmart/Bodega Aurrera. It had everything they had and more, and at cheaper prices to boot. If we ever go back to San Cris, we're definitely saving our money to hit up this store again. Great prices and awesome stuff for your cupboard, living room, tool box, and closet!
I called this the "Cheddar" store. Who knows how to pronounce this? Ched-ra-ow-ee?
Lots of walking this trip. There are mini-buses that act as public transportation but we didn't have the energy to figure them out. Besides, you get to see more interesting stuff when you take the slow route.
Dark and moody statue near the mall. Couldn't find a plaque to tell me who they were.
Birds in a pond. I think they are egrets and grackles. Video on my YouTube channel here.

Pretty streamers in the wind.
One of our other quests was to find a prescription medication that I discovered costs 10 times as much to buy in Guatemala than in Canada. I stopped into one of the multitude of pharmacies in San Cris and found out how easy it is to get medicine in Mexico. I simply gave them a paper with the name in Spanish and the dosage and the lady walked behind the shelves and brought it out to me. No prescription. No doctor. Just plain old cash! It was funny though, cuz I wanted to buy three months worth but the store didn't have that many in stock. So they actually sent their delivery guy to another location to get more boxes for me. How nice!
For the curious, the prescription back home in Canada costs about $0.38 per pill. The cost in Mexico was about $0.50 per pill. Not bad!

One of the many pharmacies around town. This store's mascot is Dr. Simi, a jolly mustachioed fellow.
There was a big Dr. Simi dancing in front of one of their many branches in town.
I find it strange that the pharmacies play loud music on speakers. 
Inside the pharmacy. 
Another nice feature of San Cris is that they have amazing bakeries. Bakeries in Pana are nice but they don't offer much selection. On top of the numerous private bakeries, there is a chain called Doña Isabel that was stuffed full with rosca cakes. They looked a lot like the King Cakes offered for Mardi Gras, and in fact they did have a plastic baby king inside them!
(Doing some quick research here shows me that I know very little about religious holidays! Forgive me my heathen ignorance. King Cakes for Mardi Gras and Roscas de Reyes are pretty much the same!)
I tried a sample of a rosca cake but didn't find it appealing. Dry, not too sweet. However, I did buy a bag full of donuts, cookies, and pastries! We basically gorged on snack foods every night in our hotel room. :)
My niece's name!
Mmm treats! The orange boxes in the back are all rosca cakes.
Another fun thing we came across was people filming a movie or TV show. They were in two different locations in town: in the center square in front of the big cathedral, and in a restaurant on a street very near to our hotel. We got to watch them filming. I took a video too! Click here to see the scene below in action.
The man and the woman in the pink dress are being filmed, while the three kids on the right-hand side are soon going to run across the square to make the pigeons fly up. You can see the girl in the turquoise beret preparing to cue the kids to run. 
There were two people feeding the pigeons to make them come to the filming area. 
Big lights set up for filming at the restaurant.
That night they were filming a couple eating inside the restaurant. The crew were outside watching it all on monitors.
The streets lit up at night.
Had a craving for pizza since we declined the Domino's the day before, so we took a chance on a local restaurant called PP's Pizza. SO GOOD! 
Other pics from our three days as we wandered about town shopping and gawking.
I suppose this dude spits water? On the back wall of the cathedral.
There was graffiti all over town that all started with the phrase "presentación con vida" and ending with different words.
Not quite sure what it was about.
"Why does everyone have a TV?" We kept asking this of ourselves. I think they were giving them away somewhere.
I tried to get a picture of what the box said but failed. 
I saw this little dude on the street and had to pose with him. We went into the store behind him and bought a man-bracelet for Bert and a pretty purple metal ring for me. 
Happy Bunny is in Mexico!
I started joking about doing some of those cringe-worthy couples selfies you see on Facebook, you know the ones where their cheeks are touching? UGH. Well, this is our couples selfie!! HA!
(And this isn't the best one by far. There are tons where Bert's scowling and I'm making fake googley eyes at him.)
That's all the pics I'm posting, so as not to bore you with my narcissism. Oh wait. Isn't that what a blog is for? :D
Head over to my YouTube channel to see videos of a weird pedestrian crossing sign, some of the ride back to the border, and other videos you may have missed. (No, this isn't a plug to get views or likes. I'm just too lazy to embed all my videos in my blog.)
Hasta pronto, mis amigos!
The view from our shuttle as we approached the border back to Guatemala.