Monday, December 25, 2017

Nochebuena en Guatemala

Nochebuena (good night) is what Guatemalans call Christmas Eve. It is the biggest night of the Christmas holidays here, even bigger than the actual Christmas Day! And it's definitely louder. 😁 If you've been following my adventures in Panajachel, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you're new here on my blog, you're in for a treat below!

A few pictures of our last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve day.
We don't know why there are metal dinosaurs in the park in front of the municipal office,
but they certainly are festive this time of year!
That's Bert heading into the mad crowds at the market in Panajachel.
It's apple season here! Plus in the back, you can see someone selling sparkly Christmas garland.
Fresh shrimp. In the hot sun. Yum.
Another view of the Pana market, from the "top" near the dumpster. Yes, that's a volcano in the top right.
I love the "persons of the third age" as they call them (senior citizens) who bring the most interesting and traditional items to sell at the market. They sit right on a blanket on the ground and sell herbs, flowers, plantain leaves, pine needles, avocados, and other fascinating items.
Cotton candy and fresh shrimp -- interesting combo.
Also notice the dude on the right selling long tubes of fireworks.
Bert snapped this picture while out walking doggies.
Not a bad place to spend the holidays, eh? And all year actually!
Guatemalans spend Christmas Eve day preparing for the big night. They have nativity scenes set up in their houses with lights and incense. They make tamales and ponche de fruit. Families gather together and eat and drink and be merry until midnight.

We're not Guatemalan, so our Xmas Eve celebration was kind of a mishmash. We gathered at NJP's house and he made us delicious pizza. I brought a mix for ponche, which was absolutely delicious. I can see why the Guatemalans love it so much! We had cake for dessert and chatted a bit before all going back to our own homes.
On the way to NJP's house, the alley was decorated so beautifully!
(It was very windy so everything is blowing and blurry.) 
The punch mix. Ingredients: apple, sugar cane, guava, raisins, plumbs (sic), tejocote, pineapple, hibiscus flowers, cinnamon.

Put the punch mix in a big pot with two-thirds of a gallon of water and a cup of sugar. (We cut back on the sugar and it was still super sweet.) Bring to a boil and serve hot! It tastes like apple cider but with flowers. Yummy!
Dried fruits and things.
Steaming hot and wonderfully fragrant.
If you'd like to see how ponche de frutas is made from scratch, check out this lovely grandmother. Every family has their own special take on this traditional Christmas recipe.
Ponche de Frutas - al estila de la abuela Oti
Skip to 3:00 to see the HUGE mixing spoon she has! πŸ˜†

NJP's super delicious pizza.
At midnight all over Guatemala, everyone goes outside and sets off fireworks. I mean, everyone! Even the poorest families buy a few roman candles to shoot. I can attest to that as I nearly got hit by one from the eight-year-old boy two doors down! He and his sister were walking up and down the river road with a plastic bag of fireworks and a smoldering piece of wood to light them. Crazy!

I took a bit of a video of the Christmas Eve excitement here in Panajachel. I was standing out on the river road in Jucanya, across the river from the main town. I taped for a minute before midnight, and then a few minutes after. I stopped recording because I didn't want to be staring at my camera screen. I wanted to be fully enjoying the moment in real life! It is one of the most magical and joyous experiences to stand out in the dark on a warm and windy night and see an entire city light up with pirotécnicas. I love it! 😊

I miss my family a lot this year but I am reminded every day of their love and generosity. I have gifts from years past all around my home, plus many fantastic memories from our trip to Walt Disney World this year. ¡Quiero a todos ustedes muchΓ­simo! (I love you all very much!) πŸ’œπŸŽ„πŸŽ†

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Countdown to Christmas

Life has been trundling merrily along. Bert is super busy with his dog walking and pet sitting business. There are endless doggies parading in and out of our garden! I mentioned on my Facebook feed the other day that I feel like I'm in a real-life version of that riddle of the farmer trying to cross the river with a fox, a chicken, and a bag of grain. At our house it's -- Mia can't be with Calvin, Jefe and Iggy can't be with the cats, Gus can't be near the neighbour, Daisy can't be allowed in the bathroom or near any shoes, Mia is okay with Noodles but not Queso, and a new doggie who is staying with us for a month is hanging back shyly in the corner going, "What the...?" Ha ha! We are constantly juggling pets and people around here. :)

But life is good and I can't complain that Bert is working so much. He's making good money and spending it wisely. He has also gotten back into mosaic making with a vengeance! Here is his latest piece in progress.
Beautiful, isn't it?
Me, I'm trying to focus more on making consistent money every day, although my lazy streak usually kicks in around 1pm. I love nap time! I'm glad that I have the opportunity to work at night when the house is quiet and I'm more alert.

Christmas is sneaking up on us again. The warm weather and sunny skies make for a strange holiday season. But there are lights up all over town and in our house too! We had a Christmas Party with a few friends, which was loads of fun.

Noodles discovering Xmas lights for the first time.
Christmas tree Panajachel Guatemala
The Christmas "tree" at the big church here in Panajachel.
(It's not really a tree but fake branches over a metal frame.)
Fireworks for sale everywhere. Never a dull moment around the holidays!
The bakery has Olaf and street dogs. How festive!
Our bizarre Guatemala Christmas tree.
Not much else to report. I'll leave you all with a short video I took while walking to the grocery store the other day. No shoveling snow here! 😊

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's C-C-C-Cold!!

Oh my! I thought when I moved from Canada to Guatemala that I would never say the word "cold" again unless it was in reference to my frozen margarita! But these past few days and nights it's been really chilly here in Panajachel. The winds are CRAZY. Doesn't help that our house is made of wood and the wind just whooshes right through the half-inch cracks around the windows. πŸ’¨πŸ˜²

This weather station says it's going to go down to 5°C (41°F) tonight. Brrrr.

So what do we do to keep warm? Lots of hot chocolates and lots of blankets.

Our new doggie, Mia. Rob put a blankie on her cuz she was cold and she hasn't moved since. :)
When Calvin gets really cold, he puts his tail over his nose. Not quite there yet!
Queso and Noodles sharing a pillow and some warmth.
Every doggie gets a pillow to sleep on. Gus guards his quite zealously.
Rui loves to go out and run around in the wind, but comes in to eat, drink, and warm up his toes.
Wait? Where are his legs?? Ha ha! He's "meatloafing". πŸ˜†
Willow says, "Cold? BAH! I'm a Canadian kitty. I gots me the FUR." πŸ’—
Bert all bundled up and doing mosaics at the kitchen table.
My solution to late-night work sessions -- a candle to warm up my fingers. 
What do Guatemalans do about the cold? Lots of families have wood stoves in the houses for cooking, and I imagine they use them to heat their homes on nights like these. Families share beds to keep warm. There are lots of wool blankets for sale everywhere. We see a lot of locals wearing wool toques and scarves and big winter jackets.
Here in the highlands and the higher elevations, there is actually a real danger of hypothermia for those who are unprepared. Many municipalities have "warming centers" where people can stay overnight. We've seen news stories of homeless or drunk people found frozen to death in the morning. :(

Here's to warmer temperatures in a few days! And my condolences to my family and friends back in Canada who have months and months and MONTHS more of this to look forward to. 😰

Friday, December 8, 2017

Let's All Go To The Clinic!

Yesterday morning, bright and early, we took Mia and Queso and Noodles to the Ayuda Para la Salud de Perros y Gatos monthly spay/neuter clinic at the Panajachel municipal hall. It was a big day.
Mia was indeed pregnant, despite rumors to the contrary, but she was early enough along that we decided to terminate. It was a tough decision and I'm kinda sad. But there are so many homeless street dogs around the Lake, we didn't feel it was right to add to the burden.
Queso and Noodles, both about eight months old, got neutered and vaccinated. My poor babies! I was so nervous all day waiting to hear that they were okay, especially Sweet Baby Noodles, who is still so small! They came through it like little troopers. I'm sure they'll bounce back quickly.

I snapped some bad quality photos of the day. The lighting wasn't the best and animals are always troublesome to photograph. "Stay still so I can capture how cute you are!!" 😊

My babies, Queso and Noodles, squished into one carrier. They didn't mind.
Bert and Mia at the back of the line. The clinic is so popular, it often fills up before the open time of 9am. Latecomers get turned away. :(
It's wonderful to see so many people bringing in their pets!
Selaine, AYUDA's founder and powerhouse, and the cutest softest puppy ever!
Signing everyone in.
People find very creative ways to get their cats in to see the vet! Carried in a sack, in a laundry basket, or just in their arms.
Two sweet kitties waiting their turn.
Kim, the AYUDA intern, talking to a lady about her dog's condition. I hope she turned out okay!
Selaine getting kisses from another sweet pup. I just could NOT get that pup to sit still for a photo!
Smiling cuz he has no idea what they're gonna do to him.
A young volunteer getting lessons from Selaine about recognizing dog language.
A late arrival -- a feral tom cat in a trap. Good catch! The lovely couple who brought this guy in also captured a momma cat and kittens. Excellent work!
Bert and the wee little puppers!!
To donate to AYUDA and support the low-cost care of my pets and many others, please visit this link:
A great Xmas gift!

It was one of those days where everything that needed to get done all happened within the space of a half hour. Bert went off to pick up the animals from the clinic while I simultaneously worked and scrambled to help a friend move into the casita. It was a relief when everyone was pretty much settled. That is until the kittens woke up and decided they were well enough to walk about. (They're weren't!)
Numbers on their heads!
Silly Queso tried to walk and fell down. Then he pooped himself. *sigh*
(It's pink dye on his butt, not blood.)
Poor Mia. 😒 She still had the spirit to chase our other cat, Rui, which worried me to no end. Not for Rui's sake, cuz he got away, but for Mia's stitches! Ouchies!
My boys cuddling for warmth. I put a blanket on them after this. They were so cold! It's an effect of the anesthesia, but it's scary to feel your normally warm kitty so chilled.
Poor Noodles wouldn't stop shivering, even with a blanket and his brother, so I filled up my hot water bottle, wrapped it in a towel, and tucked it beside them. They slept together on a big pillow on the bedroom floor.

Everyone is doing okay this morning. Mia is quiet. Noodles hurt his leg somehow and is limping but otherwise good. And Queso is walking around really low to the if the floor is moving! LOL

Have a great day, faithful readers. Hug your pets!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Bert Got a Tooth Pulled

Poor Bert showed up late last week with the right side of his face all swollen up. It looked like he had some grapes tucked under his bottom lip! I knew immediately that a cracked tooth had gotten a nasty infection. I sent him off to the dentist immediately. You don't mess around with this stuff.

We use Dra. Lily Contreras, located on Santander above the Banco Industrial. Here is her link in the Atitlan Directory:

Dr. Lily wasn't in the office when Bert showed up, but her assistant called her and she came quickly. She took a look at Bert's tooth and told him he'd have to get the infection under control before they could remove the tooth. She said it was "too dangerous" to operate while the infection was so bad.
Dra. Lily's assistant posing in the office. πŸ˜„
So off Bert goes to the pharmacy to get antibiotics. Eeks, expensive! Clavimox BID, 20 pills for Q404. That's a 10-day course, twice a day. (Clavimox is 125 mg of Clavulanic Acid and 875 mg of Amoxicillin.)

Today, Bert headed back to meet the dental surgeon, Dr. Hector Alberto Cordon Orellana. (Whew, say that five times fast!) They were running late, about a half hour, which is not unusual here or back home either, for that matter. The procedure itself only took about 30 minutes.

Bert says, "The worst part was getting the needles." It didn't take long to get the tooth out but then they had to scrape the infection off the bone. EWWWWWW. πŸ˜– "It felt like torture. That was excruciating. Tears were forming in my eyes." After a minute or two of that, they were done. Ouchies! They packed it with gauze and sent him home with instructions not to walk dogs today. He has to rest. (He's pacing the floor right now. The painkillers have obviously kicked in so his energy is still high.)

Dr. Lily said Bert was very brave. Ha ha! Bert says it made him feel like a child when she said that but I think it's adorable. He says, "What was I supposed to do? Cry like a baby? You just gotta sit there and take it."

The cost of the extraction was only Q350. Less than the antibiotics! They gave him a prescription to get 600mg of ibuprofens but we had some at home already, so we didn't buy more.

Bert kept the tooth (gross), showed it to me and said, "Do I get money from the Tooth Fairy?" I said, "Yeah, the money to pay for the dentist!"

So now Bert is on soft food for a few days. But we get to try this new Jello flavour: strawberry and banana.
Strawberry-banana jello. Yummy!
The moral of the story: there are good dentists here in Panajachel, Guatemala. Pretty much just like home, and actually cheaper. Don't fret about dental care if you're thinking of moving to Guate.
Smile on! 😁

Thursday, November 30, 2017

This Week on "Dogs of Our Lives"

Just a quick post to update everyone on a new addition. Bert's eye was caught by this lovely lady who was living on the streets of Santiago, across the lake from us.
They called her Dulce, which means "sweet".
A small animal welfare organization called Fantasma Animal Rescue had been keeping an eye on her and posted her picture on Facebook to see if she could get adopted. Well, Bert couldn't resist! He contacted Donald and Barbara at Fantasma, arranged to meet them, took a boat over to Santiago, and brought home a new doggie! Oh my!
Santiago Guatemala dock Lake Atitlan
Bert at the docks in Santiago.
Bert on the boat with the new doggie!
But wait! There's more!
Yep. Preggers. As in, puppies on the way. Soon. Like, before Xmas. 😲

So now I'm Googling all about pregnant dogs and making a whelping box and how to help a dog give birth. I've never done this before! It's gonna be exciting. (And messy. 😬)

To read more about Fantasma Animal Rescue, please visit their Facebook page here.

To donate to them using PayPal, you can use their link below. They are a very small, very dedicated group that is just getting started and have a lot of work cut out for them! Please help in any way you can. Gracias!
Our New Girl relaxing in the yard.
We will probably rename her. We already have a dog named Dulce in our extended pack (Bert's dogwalking client), so she needs to be unique!