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. 馃槻

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. 馃槵)

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!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Random Pics of San Crist贸bal de las Casas

I do what's called a "visa run" from Panajachel to somewhere in Mexico every 90 days to renew my tourist visa and be permitted to remain in Guatemala. There are ways around this type of trip but to be honest I kinda look forward to getting away. It's a nice weekend vacation, although traveling across Guatemala and Mexico can be intimidating, frustrating, dangerous, and exhausting. (Plus beautiful, exhilarating, and inspiring!)

Here are some pics from my last trip. Enjoy. 馃槉
OMG, what is on top of that chicken bus???
*ZOOMS* It's chickens! (And one turkey.) LOL
If I had to make up a motto for San Cris, it would be: Beautiful and Busy. There is always a lot going on and the town is just so super pretty. I love visiting there. (Except for the arduous 12-hour journey!)

My hotel. Great central location but hit-or-miss with the room quality.
I put all of my restaurant, attraction, and hotel reviews on Tripadvisor. Check out my review for Hotel Posada Tepeyac by clicking here.

Saturday morning I woke early and walked across town to do some shopping at Chedraui. Check out this video I took of a park along the way. It made me shake my head and smile.
(If the audio doesn't play, I'm sorry! YouTube says it's copyrighted. I'm disputing it, of course, because how could I control what music they play in a public park?  EDIT -- The jerks at EMG Music, who own the rights to the Beatles, forced me to remove the song from the video, which meant basically muting it. It was "Come Together" and it was blasting super loud in the park, which is what made this video so unexpected.)

After shopping and returning my parcels to my room, I wandered around town looking for a shuttle to Chamula. Ended up at the HUGE crazy-busy market where I finally spotted my ride and happily toured off out of town for a few hours.
If you missed yesterday's post about Chamula...what the heck??? Geez, go back and read it right now. It's awesome!  馃槣 

Near the market, reading all the minivans that go by, trying to find one to Chamula!
There are a LOT of colectivos in San Cris. Whew!
They were having a graffiti contest around the big cathedral. Early morning, it looked like this.
Later in the day, it looked like this!
More awesome graffiti.
Beautiful art!
What did I tell you about busy? I love that there are so many pedestrian-only roads. It's super fun!
San Cris at dusk, so pretty.
So I mentioned that I booked a shuttle with Magic Travel to go from Panajachel to San Crist贸bal de las Casas (and back). Well, they kinda forget the "back" part!
On Sunday morning, I was out bright and early on the street corner waiting to be picked up to go home. Well, I waited in vain! No one showed.
I checked the business card that I had (with incredible foresight) tucked in my purse and decided to walk over to the shuttle agency's office in San Cris, which luckily wasn't too far. (In San Cris, shuttles are handled Tierra Maya, not Magic Travel.) But their office was closed! Hmm...
I went back to my hotel and asked to use their computer and internet. I got on Facebook and messaged Magic Travel back in Guate. They called me on my cell phone almost immediately and tried their very best to get me connected to a ride home, but alas, it was too late. I told them I would be okay to stay another night and get a shuttle in the morning.
NOTE: Magic Travel did all they could and were extremely helpful. It was NOT their fault, but the fault of Tierra Maya Travel in San Crist贸bal de las Casas. Magic Travel actually gave me a refund for one way, Q250. I will continue to use their services as everyone at the office was so awesome and also very patient with my horrible Spanish.
So... what to do with an extra day in San Crist贸bal de las Casas? Walk around and take pictures of random stuff! Yay!!

The sidewalks of San Cris make me feel like I'm in a video game -- step up, step down, dodge left, step up, dodge right, step down. RAMP! Plus the cobblestones are worn so smooth they are slippery. Be careful out there. 馃槰
A payphone? Total relic. I wonder if kids are confused by this.
Nice little river going thru town.
Doggie doorknocker. I need one of these!!
Solem statue dude overseeing the city.
Abandoned well. AWESOME.
Yes, I peered down it. It was full of trash.
The building that was near the well.
I love the pale mystical sun rays in this pic. *Cue the choir of angels*
I find myself constantly marveling, "It's November." Pinch me!
Okay, so you're like, "Huh?" Number one: Cinnamon Frosted Flakes? YUMMY! Number two: the price tag on the shelf was digital. Very cool technology.
It seems in Mexico is a lot like Guatemala in that they love a good parade! I was outside my hotel on Sunday afternoon when this commotion passed me by. I absolutely LOVE the inflated inner-tube costumes! So clever.

View from the third-floor balcony of my hotel. The receptionist who led me up here said these were "traditional houses" and pointed out the peach tree and lime tree below.
This is called papel picado, literally "pecked paper". On the ceiling of the taqueria where I ate dinner.
Nighttime in San Crist贸bal is a treat! (Sorry for blurriness.)
Who needs Walt Disney World when you can find Mickey and Minnie on the streets of San Cris!
If I could have found a bench to sit on (ouchies sore feet from walking), I would have stayed in the square for hours just watching the excitement. As it was, I took a brief video and a slow limp around the walkways and then headed back to my hotel for a sleep.

Monday morning, I was outside waiting for my shuttle at 6:40 am. Tired, cold, nervous. At 8:00 am, I called Magic Travel in Guatemala to tell them there was no shuttle. I was alternating between anger and slight panic. About 10 minutes later, a guy walks up the street with a paper in his hand. "Cristal?" Huge sigh of relief. "Si! Soy yo!" (Yes, that's me!)
We walked almost two blocks to get to where he had parked the van. Is this what had happened the morning before? He just couldn't find me? I didn't ask. I just settled into my seat and zoomed on home.
Early morning waiting for my shuttle. Again.
Suddenly... horse parade!! Outside the Mexican immigration office at the border where you get your passports stamped. (Mesilla)
A warning to travelers: one of the Guatemalan "officials" in the migration office at La Mesilla asked for a fee of Q25 from many passengers on my shuttle. They didn't know better, so the paid. The guy didn't ask me, probably because he noticed all the in and out visa stamps and figured I would know that there is no fee.

What to do? First of all, deny them. Tell them there is no free to enter Guatemala. "No hay tarifa para ingresar a Guatemala."
If they insist and they are holding your passport, ask them for a receipt. "Quiero un recibo." They won't be able to provide one and will most likely back down.

As always, thanks for reading and for your kind comments! See ya next time. 馃槉

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Church at Chamula

This past weekend, I did a visa run from Panajachel, Guatemala, to San Crist贸bal de las Casas, Mexico. This wasn't my first trip so I won't bore you with the details. If you're interested in how to do a visa run, please visit my previous post here:

Nothing has changed really. It costs Q500 per person return from Pana to San Crist贸bal. I chose Magic Travel for this trip. The blog post following this one will explain how poorly things worked out! 馃槵

But back to Chamula...first of all, thanks to Cindy for the tip to visit this place! It was so awesome!

Why visit the church at Chamula? 
To experience an amazing and unusual traditional Mayan/Catholic religious site.

How do I get to Chamula?
In San Crist贸bal de las Casas, look for colectivos (minivan shuttles) that have Chamula on the front hood. I found one up near the main market. Alternatively, visit any travel agency in San Cris and book a shuttle time.

How much time does it require to visit Chamula?
It was about a half hour trip either way, plus I spent about an hour inside the church and an hour exploring the village.

How much does it cost to visit the church at Chamula?
The colectivo from San Cris to Chamula cost 18 pesos each way. Entrance fee for the church is 25 pesos.

Look for these guys to take you from San Crist贸bal to Chamula. (And back, of course!)
Approaching the church. So stunning!
To the left of the church, look for this little place to buy your ticket, 25 pesos per person.
They are serious about the "no pictures" rule. It says, "Those tourists who do not respect these rules will be punished." Eeks!
Another sign warning of no photos or videos.
The archway as you go into the church.
I obeyed the rule of no photos and enjoyed just being inside the church. It was so very fascinating. I recorded the video below immediately after exiting the church to capture my emotions and description.

A few things I forgot:
There were pigeons and other birds in the rafters.
There were several big black bells sitting on a bench.
The Mayans in the church were drinking pop (soda) and alcohol, although I didn't hear any of the rumoured "belching to release evil spirits". I watched a man pour Coke on some flowers he had carefully arranged on the floor, and a woman used her fingers to spray Coke on the candles to make them sputter and hiss.

After leaving the church, I bought a red Fanta as a symbolic tribute to the church and gulped it down. I then strolled through the small, quiet town.
Wide empty streets. A few fruit vendors, that's about it. They arranged their fruit in piles on different coloured pails, it was cute and colourful!
I didn't want to take a picture of the local Mayans in their traditional clothing because I think that's kinda creepy, so I stole this photo from the Internet. The women wear fuzzy black wool skirts! I saw a few older men wearing white wool vests. Must be hot!
Traditional faldas (skirts) of the Tzotzil women of Chamula and Chiapas region in Mexico.
I found the sheep they get the wool from! They were each tied to a peg in the ground and were happily grazing in circles.
The reason I walked across town was to visit a graveyard we passed on the drive in. Interesting and very picturesque.
From what I've read, this church burned down and they never rebuilt.
I had a little stalker. 馃槉
Dried pine needles and branches and flowers on all the graves.
I didn't go closer to the church because I was nervous about stepping around all the graves.
These stray dogs didn't have a problem cutting across the cemetery!
More sheep just hanging out on the hillside.
This is the happiest ram I've ever seen! He's loving this sunny day.
San Crist贸bal and Chamula currently have a weird obsession with pom-poms. I bought these from a little boy for 15 pesos. He said it was an adorno, an ornament. I told him it was a toy for my kitten!
If you still aren't convinced you need to visit Chamula, or you're just curious for more info, please read the article below. 馃槉

I'll be doing another blog post tomorrow with some more pictures of San Crist贸bal de las Casas.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bert Bechamel, Landscape Photographer

If you've been following along, you know that my Canadian partner chose the code name of Bert Bechamel. Well, Bert has discovered another new talent. (As if he didn't have enough already. Pfft.) He is an excellent photographer!
Here are a few of his photographs from a recent motorcycle trip with our good friend, NJP. (Another awesome code name!)

I love how he framed this pic with the trees and leaves.

These boats are called cayucos. The one on the end with the curved parts is unusual.

NJP's new bike!

That's the bike Bert rode.

I suppose it helps a wee bit that the subject matter is so darn beautiful! But still, I think Bert has an awesome photographer's eye. I'm happy to lend him my camera anytime. :D