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! 😊

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Things Taped Together

There's this weird thing they do here in Guatemala at the grocery stores. They tape things to other things, like random things almost. The purpose? I don't know. To get rid of stuff? Their combinations can be kinda baffling, as you'll see in the pictures below. But I have to admit, I have purchased something I didn't necessarily need because it had something interesting taped to it. So I guess it works! (Mayonnaise with Tupperware containers taped to it is my favourite, two things I always need more of.)
Here's an article that talks a little bit more about it, so you know it's not just me that's seeing this.

A bowl taped to cereal. Makes sense.
Pork cracklins with orange juice. Interesting choice.
Balloons taped to Corn Flour. Huh?
More balloons, this time taped to oil.
Bert saw the balloons taped to the oil and said, "Add some girls, and we've got a party!" 😆

free items taped to other food grocery store Guatemala
A whole display of things taped to things!
I also remember reading a blog post about some people in Guatemala who had an idea to see what they could tape together and get away with it. Like, they went into the grocery store with some clear packing tape and just picked up two random things, taped them together, and then tried to buy them. I can't find the article though! If anyone has read it and knows it, please comment below! I thought it was hilarious.
Happy shopping! 😊

Monday, July 30, 2018

Computer Troubles

Hey, faithful readers. Just updating everyone on my computer nightmare! My hard drive died on Friday. Heavens to Murgatroyd it has been CRAZY trying to get everything back. I am so lucky to have NJP as my geek-on-call. He drove around town and found me a new hard drive, which is a minor miracle as Panajachel is such a small place. I got a 500 GB hard drive for Q450, about $78 Canadian or $60 U.S. I could have got a bigger one for the same price if I had time and energy to get to the city, but I needed to get back online STAT!
HP hard disk Short DST fail
Yep, it done broke. :(
So now I'm reinstalling everything -- Chrome, Word,, all my work programs -- and also working on trying to recover some files from the wrecked hard drive. I've had some success with PhotoRec...and then the power went out this morning and I don't know if I've lost all my progress or not. *sigh* 😕
PhotoRec screenshot
It's finding stuff, so that's good. Not sure how to deal with it all, but I'll figure it out.
One thing that gave me some peace of mind in the middle of this mess is knowing that all my best pictures are on this blog. How cool is that? 😄 I also had quite a few important files saved on OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox. They all give a bit of free storage and I'm too cheap to buy professional versions or upgrade, so I spread out my files to those three apps.

For now, my live webcam of Lake Atitlan will be offline. As I've mentioned previously, the Internet here is none too fast, so I'm using all my bandwidth to reinstall and upgrade and such. No time for webcams! I will get it back online as soon as I can.

In other news, my multi-species household (ha!) is doing well. The kittens are a week old today and cuter than anything. We have way too many dogs here so I'm trying to get it together enough to advertise the foster-doggies for adoption. Things will start to calm down in a few days when some doggies go back to their owners who are returning from vacations. Bert has started up with his mosaics again and we're also looking into doing new types of art.
The orange triplets, one week old. They are so freaking adorable.
Seven doggies! They were all having a blast playing and wresting outside.
Sassy, Cinder, Honey, and Luna are all up for adoption and will hopefully find new homes very soon.
I've got to get back to my computer madness. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Guatemala Is Not All Dirt Roads and Tin-Roofed Shacks

Before I came to Guatemala, I was only slightly less naive about the country than most people. I had done my research and focused my attention on the town of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, population 17,000. I wanted a rural setting and wasn't bothered by stories of power outages and muddy roads and electric showers. I've never been a city girl. I'm a country mouse! 🐭

Recently, a friend posted a picture of the movie theater in Xela (Quetzaltenango) and a friend of hers commented, "That can't be Guatemala." But it is! I think a lot of people believe Guatemala is all dirt roads and tin-roofed shacks. And while that is actually true for the most part, I can tell you that Guatemala also has fancy malls and wide paved highways and 5-star hotels and even TGI Friday's.

The population of the capital, Guatemala City, is 2.9 million. The second-largest city is Xela with 225,000 people. A big drop! Doing some quick math, that means 17% of Guatemala's population lives in the city. Yikes.

aerial view Guatemala City
Aerial view of Guatemala City. Sooooo big!
Guatemala City is quite sprawling, actually. I think that's probably due to a combination of earthquakes and poverty. There are not many multi-story buildings, and the city keeps growing outward as more people move closer to the opportunities that a big city provides. Seen from the air as you arrive on a plane to Aurora Airport, the city looks pretty dirty and grey. That's because almost all buildings here are built from concrete block. The owners will paint the front of their house or store, but not the sides or back. They save money by only painting the part of their house that facing the street. Very frugal.

I haven't spent any significant time in Guate City. I get in and get out. I'm usually only there to go to the airport. I have friends, however, who do regular shopping trips to the city and really enjoy it. Guatemala City is as modern as any large city can be! There are malls, museums, modern art, ballet, movie theatres, and music concerts. There is even La Aurora Zoo, which I've heard is actually quite nice.

For me, if I really need to do a shopping trip to buy something that isn't readily available in Panajachel, I'll go to Xela (Quetzaltenango is its official name but everyone calls it "shay-lah"). It's about 2.5 hours by chicken bus and the trip only costs between Q25 and Q30. The mall in Xela that I go to is called Pradera and it is located two blocks from the main bus terminal. I've written about it several times before. I go there a lot when I'm on my visa runs to have lunch, use a clean bathroom, and stretch my legs.
Centros Comerciales Pradera Xela mall
Centros Comerciales Pradera Xela. Look how shiny!
Pradera Mall's website is here and you can check out the list of stores. There is a Walmart, Ashley Homestore, Benetton, Levi's, GNC, and more shoe stores than you can count. They even have a Sears and a RadioShack, strangely enough. And, yes, there is a movie theatre here with real theatre popcorn! There is also a food court just like any mall "back home" with Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonald's, Pollo Campero, and more.

(EDIT: I just found out there's another modern mall in Xela called Utz Ulew. I'm gonna check it out next time I go there!)

Whenever I go to the mall in Xela, I always feel like a country bumpkin! Yes, there are still people wearing traditional clothing, but there are a lot more people wearing "regular" clothes...and they all seem to be wearing much nicer clothes than I have, and sporting new shoes and glasses and jewelry and iPhones.

Another weird thing that I've noticed when visiting Xela is women with short hair. I'm so used to the long, straight, pulled back hair of the women in Pana that it was actually a shock to me to see a girl with a stylish short 'do. 😄

Antigua Guatemala arch
Beautiful, iconic La Antigua, Guatemala
Another upscale, modern city in Guatemala is Antigua, population 46,000. It is a totally different city than Xela. It is known for its gorgeous Spanish Colonial architecture, historic ruined churches, and jaw-dropping Easter celebrations. There are no malls here, but there is no shortage of fancy restaurants and stores to visit. The town caters more to the tourist crowd rather than those looking for first-world delights, so you'll find lots of stores selling jade, silver, chocolate, and traditional textiles.

And the restaurants! Oh my! There are so many tempting places to eat. You will never run out of options for food, from traditional Guatemalan dishes (done right) to sushi, Indian, Korean, tapas -- you name it! And of course the beloved Londoner Pub! Just go to TripAdvisor and see for yourself. It lists 330 restaurants in Antigua. Buen provecho!

If you absolutely must have a taste of home when in Guatemala, I have to recommend the world's prettiest McDonald's in Antigua on 4th Street W., not far from the central park. An unassuming sign marks the entrance. Inside you can sit in the lovely garden next to the fountain and admire the volcano while you chow down on your McNífica. 😄 I take all my friends there just so they can be amazed!

I hope you've enjoyed this blog post about the modern side of Guatemala. Personally, I prefer the rustic side: the cobbled streets, jungle-clad hills, and beautiful indigenous people. But it's good to have options to soothe my first-world soul every now and then. 

Why don't you come to Guatemala? Book a flight now with

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Dusty Days and a Pregnant Cat

Here's something you may not know about Guatemala: sandstorms in the Sahara Desert -- yes, in Africa -- blow all the way across the ocean and dump sand on us here! Wild, eh?
It is technically rainy season here, but we've had an early canicula, which is the term for a hot, dry stretch in the middle of rainy season. It's been super nice, but it also came with some high winds and the polvo del Sahara.
Lake Atitlan Guatemala volcanoes dust Sahara polvo
Saharan dust making the volcanoes at Lake Atitlan all hazy.
The local newspapers and news stations put out warnings when the dust gets bad. It can be hazardous to asthmas sufferers. Here is an article (in Spanish, of course) from Prensa Libra about the Saharan Dust in Guatemala. (Hint: if you're using Chrome as your browsers, you can right-click the text and choose "translate to English".)

I watched the two-minute video below from NASA and it says the Saharan dust is important because it brings phosphorus to the rainforest. Pretty cool!

Revue Magazine has a neat article about the canicula here if you'd like to learn more about that. (In English.) 
I have to restate though that the weather is 99.9% super nice here all the time. I think I may have said this before, but being a Canadian, weather is such an important thing in my life. It still baffles me that I can wear shorts and t-shirts and sandals YEAR ROUND. Time stands still because there are not winters to mark the years. It's always summer! 

Speaking of summer, here's a picture of my newest foster cat, who I named Summer! She is such a sweet girl. And she's pregnant! She is due is maybe two weeks or so. The poor thing has to stay cooped up in my bedroom because she's not vaccinated and can't get vaccinated until after her kittens are born and weaned. So she can't interact with my other cats. I will for sure update when she has her babies! I've had a lot of cats in my life but never a pregnant one because they've all been sterilized. Summer will have her kitty-babies and then get fixed after that and be adopted out to a loving family. 
Summer, my foster kitty, who is gonna have kitty-babies! Yes, she has something wrong with her left eye as well, but we can't do anything about it until after the kittens are weaned.
To those who are enjoying my webcam, sorry that it keeps falling over! Like I said, the winds have been high and they keep knocking the camera pole askew. I have made a wooden brace for the cam but have yet to get up there and attach it. Stay tuned! 😊

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Adventures in La Torre

Back in Canada when I got restless in the middle of the night or if it was freezing cold winter outside but I wanted to stretch my legs, I'd go to the 24-hour Walmart and just wander around. Tonight, I kinda revisited that experience by strolling around the new-ish La Torre supermarket for over an hour. It's not nearly as big as Walmart but it was fun to just take my time and explore the weird and wonderful things on the shelves. I wasn't even planning on blogging about it but I thought, what the heck. Some people like this weird "day in the life" stuff. 😊

Tuna. Lots of it.
So these multitudinous shelves of canned tuna are what got me started thinking that my rambling trip to the local grocery store in Guatemala would be interesting to other people. There were more cans, even. I couldn't fit them all in one picture. I don't think I've ever seen so many different types of tuna!
And now you're like, "Big deal." Nope. It is a big deal. Buying tuna in Guatemala is HARD. Back home, the choices are basically tuna in water or in oil, am I right? Oh wait, there's like...I'm trying to remember. Flakes or chunks? Skipjack or...? Anyway, when I moved to Panajachel, I learned very quickly to check the ingredients on the tuna cans. Yes, ingredients! A lot of canned tuna in Guate has pieces of soy protein in it. It's not just tuna. So you gotta check or else you end up with some weird fishy protein substitute. (Unless you like that stuff, then go for it.)
The other strange thing is that some cans of tuna down here have vegetables in them. Peas and carrots and onions. That's actually the type I bought tonight, just to try it out! And they have barbecue tuna and tomato tuna as well. I guess Guatemalans like their tuna! I do too, but just plain old tuna in water, no fancy stuff, please and thank you.

Patrón tequial Guatemala
Oooh, fancy tequila.
I love tequila. The good stuff is smooth and fiery and makes me wanna dance. 😊 Patrón bills itself as "ultra-premium" tequila. I wonder if it will make me an ultra-premium dancer? Well, I can't afford to try. Those bottles cost about $78 U.S. or $102 Canadian. Eeks. I'll take the Q5 shots at La Palapa! Ha ha!

price tag shelf la torre
Precio Super 4! 
You can't help but notice the highlighted yellow price on the sticker. Except that's not the price. It's only the price if you buy FOUR of the item. They have this Super Price 4 thing. It's on all the shelf tags. It was irritating at first cuz I kept thinking that the yellow price was the sale price, and then would get unpleasantly surprised at the cash register. Shoppers beware!

A jigsaw puzzle for kids.
My Spanish is improving but this one made me pause. The word rompecabezas translates into English as "Break Heads". I was so confused! I'm looking at the thing and figuring it must be a jigsaw puzzle but what a strange word to use for it!

Packages of toilet covers.

I think I should have bought some of the above toilet seat covers to stash in my purse. Not for around here but for when I'm doing chicken bus runs to the border. Some of those public bathrooms are NASTY. And that's if they have a toilet seat at all. I guess these covers would work just as well on the bowl rim itself. ICKY.

Mmmm chocolate.
So what did I end up buying on my shopping trip?

A 430-gram jar of peanut butter Q23.40
That big chocolate bar Q15.90
4.4 lbs of dog food (on sale) Q19.70
12 English muffins Q17.50
162-gram bag of pretzels Q5.90
Can of tuna with vegetables Q12.80

I've put the XE currency converter widget below so you can change Quetzales into whatever your currency is. Handy dandy!

Thanks for reading. Just so ya know, I have 19 blog posts in draft that I have yet to finish and publish, so we're nowhere near done here! Remember that you can use the Search bar on the top right or the topic cloud also on the right to find topics. And head over to my YouTube channel to see videos of puppies and kitties and weather and other fun stuff. TTYL!