Sunday, November 11, 2018

Even More Beautiful Lake Atitlan and BIGGER Kites

One thing that I haven't had a chance to do here in Guatemala yet is go to see the giant kites of Sumpango. It happens every year on November 1st, which is unfortunately the day after Halloween and a day on which I'm usually recovering from partying the night before! This year was no different so I didn't go to Sumpango. From Panajachel, we'd have to go to Antigua and stay overnight to get up at 4am to go to Sumpango before the crowds hit. I've heard that it's so busy that if you don't get there super early, you'll never get in.
Here is some amazing drone footage shot by Slowly Anywhere at this year's giant kite festival! Sumpango Kite Festival 2018
Anyway, I was thrilled to see on Facebook that some of the giant kites were going to come to Lake Atitlan this year! I had thought that all the kites were burned ritualistically after the Day of the Dead, but I guess I was wrong. So Amazing Iva and I went on an adventure! 😊

Step One: catch some sort of transportation up to San Andrés Semetabaj
We got in a colectivo (minibus) and paid Q3.50 to go up to San Andrés. The driver said we could catch a tuc-tuc from there to the festival and it would cost us Q15 each. That's expensive! There was a Guatemalteca girl on the shuttle who spoke a bit of English. She found us a fleta driver (pickup truck) who would take the three of us for Q35. Bargain! He warned us there was lots of polvo -- dust. Well, he wasn't kidding!
Our Guatemalan friend, Iva's legs, and my hand... in the back of a pickup on the dustiest road EVER!
Our first look at the lake and field.
We arrived, dusty and laughing, and took a quick glance at this giant dirt field and some weird contraptions in the distance. Then we said, "We're hungry. Let's go eat!"

The smell of food cooking was so enticing! Look at this awesome BBQ!
We decided to try a bit of something new, plus a bit of something usual. We ordered an arepas rellenas de pollo y queso, a Venezuelan sandwich of chicken and cheese. Turns out it was freaking DELICIOUS! I wish we had gotten more! We also got BBQ (churrasco) which was also delish. (Plus I got to share my bones with a doggie.) The sandwich was Q30 and BBQ plate was Q20.
A peek at the chicken salad sandwich to the left, and my plate of BBQ chicken, coleslaw, beans, potato, onions, and tortillas, of course!
For those who want to learn more about the arepas, click HERE for a video and recipe. So yummy!

After food, we immediately headed back to see the kites!

Amazing view of volcanoes at Lake Atitlan.
My adventure partner! That's as close to the cliff edge that we got. That's Panajachel down there! I can see my house!
This is also where paragliders take off over the lake.
Could you run off this cliff?
Sharing the view with friends near and far.
What a view. Even bluer in real life.
Selfie! Kinda windy up there. Plus I got sunburned. 😊
My camera doesn't do panaramas, but this is close.
On to the kites, and a bit of the view of the hills behind.
This poor kite must have collapsed earlier in the day. You can see the snapped bamboo. All the kite dudes were resting in the shade.
This kite frame was HUGE. But also torn apart by high winds.
Last picture in this blog, you can see the top of this kite from down in Pana.
This kite flying was actually pretty big, like I'd say 3 meters across. There were five or six guys with thick gloves holding the line.
Kite guy climbing a pole to fix some pullies. Quite impressive! Also safe. (Ha!)
Iva and I were standing really close to this giant kite and we figured they were going to try to raise it soon. We kept starting videos, then stopping, cuz the kite guys would give up. There are multiple short videos on my YouTube channel of half attempts. We finally got a bit bored and decided to walk up the hill, and that's when they finally raised it. And then 3 seconds after I stopped filming, it collapsed! 😖 The announcer said, "A round of applause for the strong young people!"

The big kite collapsing!! Iva got it on video.
All the kies were super pretty, especially with the light shining through.
Another big kite with interesting details.
After we had seen all the kites, had a small sideshow adventure with a young boy making me a granizada (slushie), ate some chocolate wrapped in beet leaves, and perused the craft tables, we decided to head home. We went to the exit and asked the lined-up tuc-tuc drivers, How much? They all paused. They were trying to calculate how much to rip off the white girls!! Then one said Q15 a person. The next said Q10. SOLD! We got in his tuc-tuc and it CRAWLED painfully up the dusty hill. He literally had to track back and forth across the slope to get up it! Then his tuc-tuc stalled! Ha ha! We did finally make it to town and Iva gave him an extra tip. 😇

Waited a bit by the side of the road in some tiny town, then caught a colectivo back down the hill to Pana. I had to ride backwards, which made me ill. We paid Q5 to go down the hill. (Uphill was Q3.50) It never ends, the greediness. I swear. *sigh* To travel 15 minutes up a hill and 5 more minutes to the site, then back again, cost us each Q30. For comparison, the chicken bus from Pana to Xela and back, two hours each way, is only Q40. Sheesh!

Walking home from the market to my house in Pana, I could see the top of that big kite waaaaay up on the hill.
All in all, it was a jaw-dropping kinda day. I'm really glad we went! It was a nice taste of a Guatemalan tradition without a long trip to Antigua and huge crowds. 👍

P.S. The absolute BEST part of my day? Bert cleaned the house while I was out! 😍

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Beautiful Lake Atitlan and Kites

"Bert" and I still sometimes stop and look around and go, "We live in Guatemala. Whoa." 😲

View from the center of the tuc-tuc bridge, looking down the San Franciso River towards Lake Atitlan.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Trying Black Sausage

So it's Day of the Dead time of year here in Guatemala, Día de Todos Los Santos and Día de Los Muertos, and that means FIAMBRE!! Fiambre is a traditional dish served at this time and is basically a big platter of cold meats and stuff. So the grocery stores get all these new types of sausages and processed meats and things in, and a lady sets up at the back of the Despensa to dole out tasty foods by the pound. I wish I could afford to buy some fiambre but it's like Q80 for a half pound or something. It looks delish! Like a cold cut platter with veggies and mystery stuff. 😆

I decided to buy a special sausage not found very often. It is chorizo negro. (Spanish pronunciation: cho-REE-soh NEH-gro, not cho-ree-zoh nee-gro, by the way.). You guys might recognize chorizo as a spicy sausage, normally found in Canada and the U.S. as more dried and cured like a Pepperette. Here chorizo is very common and seems to refer to the type of spices included in the sausage. It's fat and moist and round and we ate it a LOT until we got kinda sick of it. The only other regularly available sausage is longaniza (LONG-gah-nee-sah), which is milder and whiter.

"Bert" was apprehensive. He said, "What's in it that makes it black?" Turns out, it's just food coloring!

As with all sausages and hot dogs in Guatemala, remove the casing! They're not edible. They're actually plastic.

Something a little disconcerting about eating food that's GREY. 
Here's my opinion of chorizo negro. It's GOOD! Are you surprised? Ha ha! It is very weird to eat something that's black or grey, but it smelled delicious right out of the package. It's precooked and ready to eat (listo para consumir), so I ate a slice of it cold. Flavorful and spicy! Bert then fried some up in a pan and we ate them on buns, like a sausage dog, with mustard. They had a nice cumin taste and other miscellaneous spices. I really enjoyed them. I will buy them again, for sure!

So here's the wisdom from this: don't be afraid to try new stuff. It could be awesome. 😊

P.S. If you've been wondering where we've been, we've been busy designing T-shirts. What?? Yes, t-shirts! It's our new side hustle. You can check out some of our designs here on Redbubble and some more here on Amazon. Redbubble ships worldwide; Amazon is only for the States.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Annual Fair in Panajachel 2018

Okay, so I went out to the fair and took some pictures... and then I saw the ones that the municipality took and I realized mine weren't nearly as impressive! So I'm linking to their Facebook album so you can see and be awed by the madness and magnificence that is the FERIA! 😎 The crowds, the food, the crazy unsafe rides, the insanely loud music, and the unbelievable fireworks! Good thing it only lasts a week.
The church of San Francisco and a crazy rock concert all in one!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Panajachel's Annual Fair

Panajachel's patron saint is Saint Francis of Assisi. In fact, Pana is sometimes called San Francisco. Our big church is the church of St. Francis. And every year, the whole town goes nuts to honor his death on October 4, 1226.

I've done posts on the feria before and probably will again. It's really crazy and fun. The streets are packed. People come from all over. There's churros and 3xQ10 pizza and barbecue and games of chance and foosball and loud music and dancing and wild costumes.

Today I was strolling past the church on my way home and just took a short video of the ferris wheel and church together. It's so pretty. In a few nights, the whole square will be filled up with bands and people dancing. So fun!

I'll try to get some more pictures for you all soon. It's really quite an amazing time of year, although some people hate the crowds and noise. It's all in good fun.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Trying Shukitas Potato Sticks

Saw these on sale and was intrigued by the package. I like that there are still new things to discover in Guatemala...even if it is just snacks! 😋

Shukitas potato sticks snack food. New! 😄

The word shuco actually means "dirty". Shukitas would mean something like "little dirties". Ha ha!

As I say in the video, a shuco is a special hot dog sandwich served at a street cart. They are cooked on a charcoal grill and the bun is toasted. They are served with avocado and mustard and mayonnaise and shredded cabbage and green hot sauce. You can get more stuff on them, of course, on request. Sometimes they chop up the weiner, sometimes it's whole. You can even get other meats added onto it, which is called a mixto, as one of my fave Guatemalan bloggers explains here: The Shuco Hot Dog.

These snacky food things that I try in the video are a pale comparison to a real shuco! I need to get out to a street cart tonight and have myself some junk food. Click the link to see a video of a street vendor selling this awesome Guatemalan food: Hot Dog Corner

Monday, September 10, 2018

Just Another Sunday in Panajachel

I was going out to do some errands yesterday and thought that I should just record some everyday life in Panajachel, Guatemala, to share a normal day.

Even on a cloudy day, it's beautiful.

After three-and-a-half years here in Guatemala, it's kinda normal. But still every now and then, I'll look around in surprise and wonder and think, "Guatemala? How did I get here again? Crazy!" 😊

Friday, September 7, 2018

Mayan Children and Attention Span

If you ever visit Guatemala, and especially small indigenous towns, you'll undoubtedly notice small children doing "adult" things like going to the store, babysitting their smaller siblings, and even working. There are kids in Pana that I swear are six years old that work as shoeshine boys. It's shocking.
But a recent study a friend shared with me shows that Mayan children are given autonomy and responsibility and are flourishing. They are learning to be grown-ups at a younger age and they thrive on it.
It's totally true, in my opinion. The kids here aren't spoiled. They behave (for the most part) and they contribute to the family. Now, I'm not condoning giving a six-year-old a job -- they should be in school -- but perhaps some first-world parents can learn something from the Mayan way of life.

A charming Mayan girl selling her wares on the street.
To help the children of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, get good nutrition and schooling, please support Mil Milagros (A Thousand Miracles) here:

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Beautiful Song in Kaqchikel

This song is called "Ruk'ux qana'ojil" -- Essence of our Wisdom. It's so wonderful not just for the singing but for the language, the visuals, and the message.
Click here to see an English translation of the lyrics. (Opens in a new window.)

I've watched it several times. I love the traditional clothing (tipico) and the scenery and showing the daily lives of these beautiful people. When the girl goes into her grandmother's house, you can see the dirt floor, the simple walls, the low cooking stove. Then she grinds corn on the stone slab! So cool.

The message is lovely and one that I wish more people would recognize. I know that I didn't appreciate the wisdom of my elders when I was younger but it seems as I get closer to being an elder myself, I have developed more respect for the ways of the past. I wish I had spent more time with my own grandparents to learn about their lives and where they came from. I have fond memories though. Both sets of grandparents were really nice people, albeit very, very different. I really miss my Nanny, my mother's mother. She was a hoot!

Go hug an older person today!! 💜👴👵💜

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Blueberries in Guatemala? Truth or Hoax?

A while back, I saw an article on Facebook that Guatemala was now an exporter of arándanos to the United States. The article showed a picture of blueberries. HUH? There are blueberries in Guatemala? And enough of them that they can be exported? I had to do more research on this!

blueberries in Guatemala arándanos
Guatemalan blueberries!
First of all, the word for blueberry is not really well-defined in Latin American, probably because they're so new here. I have heard arándano, arándano azul (as opposed to arándano rojo, which is a cranberry), mora azul (blue blackberry), and even just spoken in Spanish with an accent, blooberi. You can read a bunch of people discussing this exact thing on this page.

This bag of trail mix shows how confusing things are when Spanish is not the same in every location.
In the picture above, the ingredients are actually just yellow raisins, peanuts, cranberries, blueberries, and cashews. But they had to put two different words for almost every ingredient. And they put arándaos for cranberries and then just "blueberry". Only one! Ha ha!

In Panajachel, I have only see blueberries frozen in bags in Sandra's grocery. I have not once seen them at the market. Asking around, I learned that blueberries are grown in the far north of Guatemala, near Huehuetenango. Mister Jon's restaurant serves blueberry pancakes with berries from Huehue. Yum!

The article about exporting blueberries says that they will be grown in hothouse farms in Chimaltenango, which is near the capital. Blueberries need a certain type of acidic soil that is not found here, so they are probably going through a lot of trouble to make them grow. Plus, I believe they need a freezing period as well. Not sure how they're gonna do that in the Land of Eternal Spring. 😁

I've posted before that Guatemala has blueberry-flavored pop (soda), which is both hilarious and delicious. They also have blueberry jam, blueberry-flavored candies, AND just today I discovered a limited edition Chapina popsicle that is blueberry flavor and made to look like the Guatemalan flag. Sweet!

Special edition Chapina popsicle. Chapina is colloquial for Guatemalan woman.
The package says "arándano" on the bottom left.
Look! It's the flag! (Minus the crest in the middle.) It was quite tasty.
My Canadian friend has said to me that she is planning a trip home deliberately during blueberry season so she can gorge on them. When I went to Florida, my sister bought me fresh blueberries that I devoured with gusto! Somethin' about those little blue orbs that is just super yum and so Canadian. Tastes like home.

Now I've got to go and find out where that darn blueberry farm is...and if they have an outlet store! 😊

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cats Are Better Than Dogs -- Sorry Not Sorry

Our foster kittens are one month old! They are freaking ADORABLE. And so easy. The mother cat, Summer, takes care of them so well. Kittens are way easier to have than puppies, that's for sure, especially when they have their own mother and I don't have to wake up every two hours to bottle feed them, like I did with Noodles.

orange kitten ginger cat
How cute is he??? 😍

We are overloaded with foster dogs right now. It's difficult to find homes for adult dogs, especially females. Guatemalans prefer males and prefer puppies. We explain that the females are sterilized and won't go into heat or have babies, but it's still a hard sell. We will keep trying!

Cinder is super smart and loving. She is our newest foster doggie.
(But not for long. We're getting another tomorrow!)
Sassy is so energetic and people-focused. She wants someone to love!
Snowflake is the sweetest, more lovable puppers! Her brother was adopted but she is still with us. Why?? She's so cute!
Honey-Bear is quiet and independent and has legs for miles! Ha ha! She is a beautiful young dog and I hope she can find the perfect home..
If anyone would like to help with the cost of food and medications for all these doggies, please head over to AYUDA's page here and make a donation. We have gratefully accepted donations of dog food from several friends in the community, so a big THANK YOU goes out to them! 😊

Saturday, August 18, 2018

It's Tuc-Tuc Time!

I love tuc-tucs. 😍
What's a tuc-tuc, you ask?
Officially, they're called auto rickshaws, and the word is sometimes spelled tuk-tuk, from the original Thai word that was actually just an onomatopoeia for the sound their little engines make as they putter around.
How 'bout I just show you?
A typical tuc-tuc in Guatemala.
Tuc-tucs are the personal public transportation of small towns in Guatemala. Here in Panajachel, they cost Q5 per person within town. If you leave town, it's Q10 and up. If you get one really late at night, like after 10pm, they'll charge you Q10 per person as well. Other towns have different rates, so be sure to ask before you get in.

Oftentimes, there are so many available tuc-tucs that they'll pass by you and offer, "Taxi?", especially if you're a white woman standing on the side of the road with bags of groceries. 😀 If you need to hail one, you put your arm forward from your body, not above shoulder height, and flap your hand. It's weird. Watch the locals to see how they do it! You don't raise your hand over your head like hailing a cab in New York City. 

Most tuc-tucs in Pana are red, but occasionally you will see a yellow tuc-tuc.
The tuc-tucs of the traffic cops are lime green!
This tuc-tuc has a spoiler. HA HA!
Also, it has advertising for the grocery store. The tuc-tuc owner gets paid Q125 per month to have this put on his tuc-tuc.

A tuc-tuc with an ad for booze. Ha! 
This tuc-tuc has its rain flaps on. They don't really work so well. Ha! Water still splashes in when it's really pouring out but, hey, it's better than walking.
Some useful Spanish phrases you'll need to know when using tuc-tucs to get around:
A dondé vas? - Where are you going?
No estoy disponible. - I'm not available. (The driver is off the clock or waiting for another passenger.)
a la derecha - to the right
a la izquierda  - to the left
un poco mas lejos - a little further
allá, allí -- there (Spanish speakers have many words for "there". Watch this video from Butterfly Spanish)
aqui - here
cerca de - near to
hacia de - towards

Another really cool thing about the tuc-tucs in Panajachel is that many of them have been painted and customized. I've spent many, many months taking pictures of them to show you!
This one is good! Captain America
Dragon Ball Z
Superman and Batman
I'm not sure why it's #89 but also "The Number Three"
The back of the tuc-tuc above. I think it's a Transformer. And bullet holes too. 
I don't know what Parza is. 
Cool mods to the front of this tuc-tuc
Scary alien robots are cool.
An impressive Hulk tuc-tuc
The back of the Hulk tuc-tuc
A rather sad looking Thor.
Suicide Squad!
The absolute BEST art on a tuc-tuc I've ever seen. Predator vs Alien
(Hey, who's that skinny white dude to the right?? 😄)
A tuc-tuc modified to look like a chicken bus! Adorable!
Another SUPER cool things in Pana that I absolutely LOVE is the tuc-tucs get all lit up at night. I think it's so adorable and fun, though some people find it tacky. There is even a tuc-tuc with a disco ball inside it! 🎇
I made a short video of tuc-tucs in action in Pana, including at 1:01 my favourite night-time tuc-tuc, the kitty-cat tuc-tuc! Take a look.

My favourite tuc-tuc...because of the driver! :D 

This is my good friend, Victor, tuc-tuc #88. He gave me the answers to all my tuc-tuc questions!
Gracias, Victor!
My friend, Victor, told me I could put his phone number here and anyone who visits Pana can call him for a ride. If he's not available. he can find you a driver who is.
VICTOR (502)5557-9701
If you have WhatsApp, it is a free call (I think. I don't use Whatsapp.) If you are calling from an American phone, you will need to use the 502 area code.
Victor speaks really good English and is super friendly and helpful. He can also arrange for tours in the area and take you to all the local sites, even out to Santa Catarina and San Antonio, which is a beautiful drive. Tell him Cristel sent you! 😊