Friday, May 27, 2016

Los Negritos -- Dance of the Masked Men

You gotta be on your toes if you wanna see the good stuff in Panajachel!

Your first clue: rosca dealers! You may recall I blogged about the ring cookies before, and looking back now, it seems that that blog post was this same celebration...only I didn't know it.

Anyway, late last week I saw the vendors setting up near the market. I went to Facebook and asked, "What's coming up?" My Facebook buddies told me that it was Baile de Negritos, The Dance of the Masked Men. It seems to be the special way they celebrate the religious holiday of Corpus Christi. Because of that, the exact date changes every year, but you can figure out when it's going to fall based on Easter.

I was working on Thursday afternoon when I heard a commotion outside. It was getting closer and closer. I started typing faster to get my work done, and even faster when the music and honking and shouting started getting further away. I zoomed thru my work, submitted it, grabbed my keys and my camera, and raced out the door.

Just down the street, I saw this!
Hmm, what's going on up there?
I zigged and zagged up the street at a brisk walk, trying to catch up. Lucky for me, the group stopped to perform!
I raised my camera above the crowd to try to get a picture of the guys dancing. You can see a statue of a dude on the left. You can also admire some of the beautiful clothes the Mayan ladies wear.

All the participants in the procession were in high spirits!
(From drinking spirits, if you know what I mean!)

I snuck around to a higher vantage point to take some more photos and a short video to try to capture the music and hooting and general merriment. :)

Once the performance was done, the men picked up the marimba and walked on. 
I wanted to see more so I cut down a different street to try to get ahead of the procession.
I ended up kinda in the middle of the procession! No clue what street this was. I just moving with the crowd.
We walked together in a big group down the narrow cobbled street. Then most of the group started breaking off from the street and entering what looked like someone's backyard. I hesitated but a nice man standing at the gate (not in a costume) told me to come in, so I moved forward to check it out!
(I asked my very knowledgeable friend, N., about it later and she explained that there is an elder council of sorts in Pana and Jucanya that hosts and pays for these celebrations. The house that the party goes to is different every year.)
Very serious incense and candle bearers. Perhaps for them this is more religion and less fun and dancing.
I stood practically in the garden just at the entrance to the backyard and tried to take it all in. People were moving in and out, there were HUGE speakers set up playing music, everyone was chatting and some of the costumed men were hooting and cheering. Then I noticed everyone was going over to one area of the yard and coming back with what looked like bowls of chicken soup. Yummy!
(My friend N. told me they probably got a shot of the local liquor, Quetzalteca, too!)

I took some video and then moved back out of the garden area to let more people inside. I stood on the street with my friend and gawked at everything around me. So interesting! I said to N. that it seemed like drunken Halloween! She told me that it goes on into the night as well. I'm pretty sure I saw the night-time dance last year in front of the church. I remember being astounded at crazy dressed up people. But you know, that could be any day here in Guatemala!!  :D
All sorts of folks in the procession, and the float getting dangerously close to the wires, it seems to me!

Jesus joins the party. (At least I think that's him. He looks kinda blinged out!)

Amazing to see how many people came down this little street.
 I stood back and watched the two floats and the bands and pretty much everyone file past me. Kids were joking around. Masked men were teasing friends and randomly hooting and laughing. And the fireworks! EEKS. I actually was so close to a giant set of crackers going off that I got hit in the face with shrapnel! And the bombas, the big loud ones... ouch! I wasn't the only one plugging their ears. The men seemed to get such a kick out of setting the fireworks off though. Guess it brings out the kid in everyone. :)
Tons of smoke drifting around from incense and fire crackers.
You can see the firecracker debris all over the ground.

Such intricate designs. So beautiful.
The variations in costumes was fascinating. Some were like the man above, very intricate and traditional, with a mask carved out of wood. There were lots of animals costume, some kids dressed up, people wearing simple masks made out of a cut plastic ball, and then strange costumes like Darth Vader wearing traje (traditional women's clothing). There were many men dressed as women!

I've put together all the video into one video that's only about four minutes. Keep an eye on the crowd and see the amazing variety of outfits! I wish I had been able to see more of the late-night celebrations. Maybe next year!

For some jaw-dropping colourful photos of Pana's celebrations, including Los Negritos and Semana Santa, check out this blog I found called Cultura Es Vida.

EDIT: I found some more history about the dancing and costumes. It's in Spanish but you can use Google Translate in Chrome to turn it into English.
Corpus Christi and Los Negritos

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Introducing Rui!

You may have noticed me and an adorable kitten taking a selfie in the blog post about the housewarming party. Yes, that's our new kitten! We've only had him for two weeks and I waited to post about him because we weren't sure at first if we were going to keep him.

The story begins... Bert goes to the bar and comes home with two kittens!
Rui on the left and his brother on the right.
Bert had been told by the bartender that the kittens were fixed and had their shots. He thought, "What a deal! All the expensive stuff is done." Well, he didn't realize that there's no way kittens that young could have been fixed! I estimated they were only five weeks old. They probably should still be with their momma! You can see in the photos that their eyes are still blue. As an age indicator, kittens' eyes usually are blue until six weeks of age.

Willow, my elderly cat that I brought from Canada, of course hated the little monsters. Calvin, the foster-dog-that-never-left, wanted to eat them. So they were confined to the spare bedroom while I decided what to do. With the number of animals we already had and the high probability we could quickly find a home for these cuties, I decided to put them up for adoption with AYUDA. Within a few days, we got a bite!

This little dude was very active. He wouldn't sit still for a photo!
Rui is the smaller of the two, and very vocal! He meows all the time. 
The kitten brothers did everything together. You can see how much smaller Rui is compared to his brother. He is the runt!
A lovely young couple came across the lake from San Marcos to meet the kittens. They loved them both but decided they really only had the time and means to take one of them. Oh no! The brothers were going to be separated. Not ideal but as the guy said half-jokingly as he scooped up the tabby, "Life is hard. Let's go!"

So we were left with one tiny tabby-and-white kitten...who cried and cried at being alone. So of course I had to let him into the bed to sleep with me and then there was no turning back! We had officially been adopted by a kitten from a bar.  :)

He had already named himself at that point: ruidoso, meaning noisy. We shortened it to Rui (ROO-ee).

First order of business, a bath to rid him of some of his fleas and mites.
Teeny Rui napping after his first bath.
Being cute.
Rui on Bert's head!
Supervising my work.
A kitten's life is so hard -- eat, play, sleep, repeat.
It's a bit of a hassle juggling the animals in the house but it's so worth it for the number of times I have a smile on my face. Rui loves to snuggle, pounce, and climb my bare leg. And his meow, while demanding at times, is absolutely precious! Here's a short video that I took the night before our housewarming party. So cute!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Housewarming Party!

Bert and I are finally in a big enough house that we can have guests over! The Fancy New Place is probably four times as big as the little casita on Santa Elena. So much room for activities.

We hosted a housewarming party last Friday evening and had a blast. So many wonderful friends, so much good food, and such great conversations. The house is now officially warmed.  :D

A few notes about hosting a party in Panajachel:
1. This town is not so hot on street numbers, so you'd better figure out a great way to describe where your house is in relation to other landmarks. I've found that taking a screenshot of Google maps is an easy way to show people where you are. I must have done a good job cuz only one person couldn't find the place!
2. Your menu will have to be modified to suit the availability and affordability of ingredients. I usually love making a lot of dips with cream cheese plus have a cheese and pickle plate. Here, it's kinda cost prohibitive! Cheese is very expensive, and dill pickles are practically non-existent. (Sandra's has them but they're very pricey. I sometimes make my own but didn't have time to get them pickled enough for the party.) Lucky for me, my guests brought both cheesy items and picklely items to satisfy my cravings!
3. People bring their dogs. It's awesome!  We had Manchez and Trixie come to visit. Of course, then Gimpy and Calvin got all snippy and had a fight. But it's not a good party unless there's a fight!
4. Said dogs need to be watched. Gimpy ate more cookies than any other guest. 
5. Ice in a big washing bin is a necessity. We only have a bar fridge, -- full-sized fridges are reserved for the lucky and the well-to-do -- so everyone's beer went into the ice-filled laundry tub. Worked like a charm.
6. The party will break up earlier than you think...cuz it's been dark since 6:30 pm. Yeah, it's still a bit of a shock to me to have a party that goes for hours and then everyone goes home and it's only like 10. Ha!

We were too busy having a good time to take many pictures, but I am posting what I have. 

FOOD! I was so pleased that people brought dishes to contribute to the party buffet. We ate like kings!
Kitten selfie!
Rui was the true guest of honour. I think everyone got a chance to hold the little cutie.
Prompt guests get the best seats!
My landlady lent us some chairs as we had next to none. All seats were filled by the height of the party!
Gets dark early 'round here. :)
Manchez is such a cutie! Her huge ears get me every time. 
We were treated to a free performance by Pana legend, Julito!
Hear one of his original songs on YouTube.
The men talking shop.
The late arrivals kept the party going!
We were a bit freaked out by this lurker in the window across the way. But we figured out it was probably a garbage bag.
Trixie and Stray, cutest couple in Pana. 
I love the later parts of get-togethers where you're tipsy and chatting about the weird stuff that doesn't seem appropriate for earlier parts of the day! :D
Willow stole a meatball and took it to the top of the fridge to eat it.
Ugh, I'll clean up tomorrow. Or maybe Sunday.
I am so blessed to have such thoughtful friends! On top of bringing food and drinks and themselves, I also received some lovely housewarming gifts.
Yes, that's margarine. Silly gift based on a Facebook conversation. I love it!
A good time was had by all, except maybe Calvin who was tied up the whole evening and still managed to get in a fight. He did get to lick out the meatball pot the next day, so I suppose it turned out okay for him in the end!

Next party? A sauna party! Probably in July. I need at least a month to recuperate from this one! Thanks to all my awesome friends for coming! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Angel's Trumpet

I promised a post about Bert's favorite flower and here it is! We are lucky to have one of these growing right by the stairs at the Fancy New Place. The scientific name is Brugmansia. The common name? Angel's trumpets! I love it!
And besides being beautiful, they also smell absolutely divine at night. They release fragrance at dusk to attract moths for pollination.
The tree right now is laden with flowers -- soooooo many! -- but soon they will all fall off and it will be bare for a bit before blooming again.
angel's trumpets brugmansia Guatemala
Angel's trumpets... such a perfect name!
angel's trumpets brugmansia Guatemala
So soft and pretty.
angel's trumpets brugmansia Guatemala
We've hung solar-powered fairy light in the tree. They look so lovely and mystical at night!
Even MORE flowers open at night.
Information on possibly growing this lovely plant in your area, provided you live someplace nice and warm. :)

Monday, May 16, 2016

World Fair Trade Day May 14th

My girlfriends and I went to the World Fair Trade Day event at a local NGO here in Panajachel called Mayan Traditions. It was very interesting. I wish I could have stayed longer and chatted a bit more but I was in such a rush to get so many things done that day! I also wish that I had tons of money to buy all the super-interesting and gorgeous handmade items that were for sale. The Mayans do such amazing textile work. The fabrics are so beautiful, intricate, and colourful. I want to cover all the surfaces in my home with fabrics!
Guatemala Mayan textile fabric back-strapped woven
One of my pieces of Mayan fabric. I'm going to hang it in the living room.
Mayan Traditions NGO Guatemala
The Mayan Traditions compound in Jucanya, Guatemala
Mayan Traditions NGO Guatemala backstrap weaving
Demonstrating backstrap weaving
Mayan Traditions NGO Guatemala Panajachel
Artisans set up in the lovely garden area.
Mayan Traditions NGO Guatemala
Inside the Mayan Traditions shop.
One of my favourite finds at the event were pine needle baskets. I had recently seen a demonstration of this on Youtube and was fascinated by it. It is a traditional craft of North American Indians. Mayan Families initiated a training workshop to teach this skill to the Mayan people here in Guatemala. It is amazing! Read more about it on Mayan Tradition's website.

Mayan Traditions NGO Guatemala pine needle baskets
Baskets woven from long pine needles. 
The event also had herbal remedies and tinctures made with plants grown in their organic medicinal garden. The gardens are not located at the same site as the buildings, so we didn't get to see them, however, they did have a few medicinal plants growing on the grounds, plus some lovely flowers and shrubs. (For those interested, you can book a tour of their "Mother Garden" site for a small fee.)

A honeybee is having his breakfast in this pretty hibiscus.
Echinacea plant. Lots of people have heard of this, but not so many recognize it when they see it!
I love going to these events around town, although I don't go very often. It's so interesting to see what non-profit organizations are doing in this area. I especially like Mayan Traditions as they are directly involved with women, helping them to market and sell their crafts, as well as passing on their traditional arts to the next generation. Keep up the good work, guys and gals! :D

Friday, May 13, 2016

Magic Disappearing Volcano

Rainy season seems to have stalled for a bit. This morning was super bright and clear. I could see the volcano again! Yesterday it was obscured by haze. 
View of Lake Atitlan and San Pedro volcano from just outside our front gate.
Same view, minus volcano, plus Bert and dogs!
Bert's been picking up more work than he can handle! He had overlapping dog-walking jobs on Thursday and then worked at NJP's until 8pm. I snapped this picture of him with our landlady's dog Charlotte on the left, and N&J's four doggies on the right. They did really well together! And what does Bert say, "I coulda taken one more." *rolling my eyes*

I've got work to do -- sigh -- so I'd better sign off. Que le vaya bien! (I hope all goes well with you!)