Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mexican Day of the Dead Party

I was invited by my lovely friend, N., to attend a Mexican style Day of the Dead party this past Saturday. It was very cool!
Día de Los Muertos is held on November 1 every year and celebrates the lives of those who have died. It is not a somber holiday. Rather, they people gather together to drink, eat, laugh, and tell stories about the deceased. In some cases, they stay up all night in the cemetery.
Marigolds are the flower of the dead. I love marigolds!
My sweet, kind, generous, smart friend, N! She even got her face painted for the party. She represents Catrina, the fancy female skeleton of the Day of the Dead.
N. made some jalapeño poppers and some tasty Mexican soup.
N. told us about the Mexican tradition of building an altar. The glass on the left is salt water to represent tears.
You put a picture of the deceased on the altar and sometimes also an object they really loved.
This is traditional Mexican art made of tissue paper. It's called papel picado.
N made mini sugar skulls for us to decorate!
This is my sugar skull. I wanted him to be smiling. :D
Several friends stopped by for food and drinks and chatting in N's beautiful garden.
A very shy kitty that comes in N's house and is best friends with her black cat
My buddy, Australian Ian, and the black cat!
N bought an amazing cake! It is called a pan tres leches -- three milk cake. YUM.
Here you can see the neat way they cut cakes in Guatemala. They make a circle in the center and then cut slices around the outside. We ate a LOT of cake but it was soooooo delicious!
I'm sorry I haven't blogged much lately but time just seems to be passing so quickly! I'm still loving it here in Guatemal, although fall makes me very homesick. It's neat to feel the change in the air here though. It's the end of October but it feels kinda like the first week of September in an "Indian summer" in Canada. The river road where I walk Calvin is lined with orange and yellow flowers. There is a nice brisk wind that keeps the heat at bay...most days anyway! The rain hasn't pretty much stopped and some of the trees on the hills are even turning colour, just like home! 

I've been spending a lot of time preparing for Hallowe'en...which is tomorrow! I can't wait to make my next blog post about the amazing party we're gonna have. Talk to you soon.  :)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Gus' Story

Meet Gus. Disgusting Gus.

If you saw a dog like Gus on the street, lying in the hot sun, not moving, would you pick him up? Or would you walk on by and pretend you didn't see him?

Well, Bert couldn't walk on by. He picked Gus up and took him home and let him sleep on his own sweater for warmth.

He contacted Ayuda Para la Salud de Perros y Gatos, the most awesomest charity for animals here at Lake Atitlan, and asked for help in getting Gus the treatments he needed. They gladly helped Gus to get vaccinated, sterilized, and treated for parasites and infections, including a horrible case of mange.
Gus is the poster puppy of street dogs in Guatemala.
And now... the result of 11 weeks of care, dedication, and love! The new Gus!

Not so disgusting Gus! Nice and plump, with bright eyes and a good coat.
What a sweetie! He absolutely adores Bert.
For those coming from first world countries to Guatemala, the sight of so many stray dogs is shocking. They're everywhere! And they're not usually in good shape -- skinny, mangy, and often hopping on three legs. Stray dogs roam the markets, beg outside restaurants, and prowl the streets in packs at night.

But there is hope for the animals of Guatemala. Many dedicated and passionate people, both Guatemalans and expats, have created charitable organizations to help dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. Here are my favourites!

Ayuda Para la Salud de Perros y Gatos -- Panajachel and Lake Atitlan
Animal Aware -- Sumpango
Unidos Para los Animales -- Antigua
Happy Tails -- Quetzaltenango (Xela)
Hope for the Animals -- Panajachel

Guatemala is a developing country and just starting out when it comes to animal welfare but positive actions are being taken. I encourage everyone to do their part to promote the humane treatment of animals. Donate time or money or supplies to your local animal charity today!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Feria Panajachel 2016!

I've missed most of the parades and fun in Pana this year because I live in Jucanya across the river now. It's nice in a way to be a bit further away though. The bombas and partying aren't quite so loud. :)
What's a fair without candy!!
I took a walk through the fair on the "big day", October 4th. The fair is to celebrate Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Panajachel, and apparently October 4th is his day. All the booths and vendors and rides set up at least a week before and stay at least a few days after as well. It's quite the event!

A few pics as well, just for fun. I love the fair! Although, I do know some expats who purposefully leave town during this time. Perhaps one day, I'll be tired of it too. Not yet!

A bit shoddy but still fun.
Kinda looks like it belongs in a horror movie. :)
This is the real scary thing -- the Ferris Wheel of Death!
Pana's big church is devoted to Saint Francis.
Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

San Antonio Palopó

Last Saturday, Iva and I decided to go to visit San Antonio Palopó in search of pottery owls. I had read an article on Antigua Daily Photo about tecolotes, owl figurines made out of clay that bring good fortune to the house. Well, I definitely need one of those!

We met in front of the Despensa for a pickup truck. Well, it's the town fair this week (and last week and next week) so the road was blocked off and a big parade was shuffling down the street.
Hmm, the road to the Despensa looks different today. 
Yay, parade!
This was totally cool. These guys had built a working Wall-E!It was rolling down the street under its own power. Every now and then they would pick it up and point it in the right direction. Its eyes even moved!
Iva and I wended our way back thru the parade towards the yellow bridge to find a pickup. The first one was full, so we waited and chatted. Another one didn't come so we decided to walk thru Jucanya along the road to Santa Catarina. We got to the end of town and a pickup came up behind us and we were on our way!

TIP: Our pickup cost Q3 to Santa Catarina another Q3 to San Antonio. On the way back, we paid Q5 for a pickup from San Antonio direct to Panajachel.

Discovered there was road construction in Santa Catarina. They let us off and we had to walk through the mud and construction men to get to the other side of the town to find a pick up to take us to San Antonio.
Looking back at the road construction. See that guy kneeling on the bottom right. His entire job was to chip away at that rock with a chisel and mallet. Wow. And you think your job sucks?
Well, we found a pickup, got in the back...and waited. And waited. And waited, Until the driver decided, forget this! I'm going back to Pana. So we and the few other passengers got out of the back of the truck to wait for someone else. Weird.
Several trucks went by but they were too full. We were getting a bit frustrated when a minivan with a San Antonio sign on the dash drove up. We flagged it down and hopped in. It was very full so Iva sat in the front seat -- premium! -- and I knelt on the floor between the back seats -- not so premium! HA!

A short ride later we arrived in San Antonio Palopó on the eastern shore of Lake Atitlan.

The lake was beautiful, as always, and it was neat to see the volcanoes from a different angle. Cerro de Oro, the little half-volcano lumpy thing, was very obvious from this viewpoint.

We were super hungry, so we stopped at the first restaurant we saw: Cessi's at Hotel Nuestro Sueño. (Our Dream Hotel) The hotel and restaurant were gorgeous, with a nice view of the lake from our comfy lounging chairs, but the food was overpriced and disappointing. Oh well. Can't win 'em all.

After lunch, we strolled along the shoreline road admiring the view and hoping to stumble upon the pottery shop. We saw stores selling the traditional blue ceramics but we wanted to find the workshop itself that I had read about in this article.
San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala
The hills behind San Antonio. Do you see the dirt path waaaay up there? There were people walking down it.
This swingset has the BEST view!
The hotel where we had our lunch. Really nice property!
Interesting art on the wall of the restaurant.
canoes cayucos Lake Atitlan San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala
Really old canoes. The use them for fishing. Surprised they're still afloat!
Lake Atitlan San Antonio Palopó Guatemala
A cloudy day. The two volcanoes, Toliman & Atitlan, are hidden in the clouds to the left. Cerro de Oro is the lump in the middle-ish. San Pedro volcano is to the far right.
San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala
San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala
Fancy communal washing area.All the ladies were down at the lakeshore washing their clothes the traditional way. So much for progress! :)
As we wandered down the road, a man motioned us to his shop selling pottery and figurines. Then we noticed a narrow dusty stairway leading up between some buildings, and a small sign basically saying, "ceramic workshop this way". Cool! The man insisted on leading us, which actually worked out well since he brought us up to a room full, I mean REALLY full of ceramics!
ceramics pottery Guatemala
Whoa. No bulls allowed in here! Surprised I didn't break anything!
We got to meet some young guys in the workshop who were sanding down the shaped clay pieces and painting things by hand. Everything was coated in dust and a few of the guys were wearing masks. The workshop had an amazing view of the lake. What a great job!

raw ceramics pottery Guatemala
A box of owls waiting to be painted.
Iva bargained well for her owl!
ceramics pottery Guatemala owl buho tecolote
So many cute owls to choose from!
After we made some purchases at the workshop, we walked back down the stairs and perused a few other shops along the way.
ceramics pottery Guatemala vase
Really gorgeous double vases. Handpainted hummingbirds!
ceramics pottery Guatemala
There was a wide variety of animals figurines, as well as dishes, vases, drawer pulls, crosses, cups, sugar bowls and milk jugs, salt & pepper shakers, and even ashtrays. 
ceramics pottery Guatemala
I loved the octagonal dishes and the hummingbird motifs.
Very rare to see a colour other than blue!
We wanted to walk a bit more around the town and started up towards the churches, but by the time we got there, it had begun to rain pretty steadily. Lucky for us, a pickup was right there and he was heading to Panajachel. Yay!

ceramics pottery Guatemala owl buho tecolote
My two owls. I love their different personalities! The big guy is all "oooOOOooOOh" and the little guy is like, "Don't mess with me!"
I love going on day trips! It's nice to be able to just hop on the back of a truck and go to the next town whenever I feel like it. Cheap and easy. Still so much to see around the lake. I've got a couple more towns to hit up before I can say I've seen them all. :)