Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas in Guatemala 2019

This Christmas in Panajachel was unfortunately soured by many little troubles. But I am focusing on the good things that happened and not the bad, and I am especially thankful for all my good friends here in Pana who made my Xmas very special.

I had a wonderful trip across the lake to San Pedro to visit a friend.
I had a delicious potluck Xmas dinner.
I enjoyed the midnight fireworks on Christmas Eve.
I received thoughtful, generous, and unexpected gifts.
I am blessed with a house full of adorable cats and dogs.
I got to video chat with my family in Canada on Christmas Day.

One of the most special moments was small and simple. I was walking home from the potluck and feeling a little down. I saw three young girls playing with some firecrackers, just little ones that spit and sparkle. I walked over to them and gave them each a huge two-foot-long sparkler that I had in my bag. Their faces lit up with excitement! They ran quickly to a nearby tienda to tell their mother. They said (in Spanish), "Look what the gringa gave us!!!" 😄 There was one more child in the store that got the last of my sparklers and I wished them a Feliz Navidad and walked away with a smile on my face.

Below are some photos and videos from the last few days. Christmas here is very special, full of family and traditions, and it's just like home in that way.

Bert got a Christmas basket from one of his dogwalking clients.
This is Coco. She is staying with us for Xmas while her mom is in the States.
The J sound in Spanish sounds like H.
A family selling moss, lichens, pine boughs by the road.
Guatemalans use them to make nativity scenes.
I bought a stick & moss deer for only Q10. The pets love it!
Leo has killed the deer!
There are a lot of parades at Christmastime. Random Santas on motorcycles one night.
A beautiful mural painted on the wall on the way to the docks.
The docks in Panajachel. We went to visit a friend across the lake in San Pedro.
The old Mikaso hotel.
The church in San Pedro.
Some lovely gifts from my friends.
A cute card from my friend.
The "tree" and church in Panajachel
Olafs at the bakery.
My friend built this beer tree for the bar!
The giant sparklers. Only Q10 a pack and 4 sparklers per pack.
That's about $1.71 Canadian or $1.30 American.
Bert and his sparkler at the potluck dinner on Xmas Eve.
Bert's creative Christmas wrapping of my gifts!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas or other holiday celebration! 🎄🎅🎉

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Hard To Believe It's December

I know there are tons of people around the world who celebrate Christmas without snow, but it just doesn't seem right to me! I love the summery weather but at Xmas time I just need teensy bit of Winter Wonderland. ❄⛄❄

Who among you would trade their white Christmas for my sunny one? 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Belated Photos of our Xela Xopping Trip

We went to Xela (pronounced Shay-Lah) for Xopping (shopping -- get it??) on the last weekend of December and hit up some big fancy malls for Black Friday sales. It was a lot of fun and exhausting at the same time! One of my friends said, "Well, I've had enough of consumerism for a while." 😆

As usual, we rented a private minivan and driver thru my friend, Gustavo. The van seats 12 and we had 8 people with room for all our packages -- although we really tried to fill all that room up!!

Our first stop was Interplaza Mall. It was super fancy! It's always a bit of a shock to go from rural Panajachel to Xela, which is so much more of a big city with all the amenities of home. The streets are a bit dirtier and of course everyone is Guatemalan, but being in a shiny mall feels kinda like Canada.

Me in the Barbie photo booth. So hilarious!

I went up to the second floor to take pics looking down at my friends in the Barbie booth. :D
The bunch of us were like gawking kids in a candy store. It was fun! You would have thunk we'd never been to a mall before. 😃

Bert beelined it to Wendy's! It had been four and a half years since he's had good fast food.

There was an outdoor balcony at the food court. You can see the "perky" volcano and the Dollar City.
The Dollar City is everyone's favorite stop and we shopped HARD. Cheryl won the prize for biggest cart with Elle a close second! The "boys" graciously offered to help the ladies carry their packages.

Bert helping Cheryl carry her bags.
After Dollar City, we went to Cemaco, which is kinda like a HomeSense or HomeGoods plus they also have tools and gardening and flooring and paint and everything basically. Well, no clothes actually, which is nice. If I was richer, I'd buy so much stuff at Cemaco!

Look at all the Christmas stuff!
A rare selfie! Me in the big toy store called Juguetón in the MyLittlePony section!
Going into the Juguetón toy store was super crazy. It was a HUGE store and there were kids running everywhere, even at 10am. I went in specifically to find Guatemalan UNO cards, but it took me a bit to find them...and then of course they were right at the checkout counter when I left. Duh. Should have checked there first!
It was very festive in the toy store but also strange because it was so clean and seemed expensive. It's hard to reconcile this big white heaven of toys to the poor kids living on my street who share one half-deflated ball. Every now and then, I buy my neighbour kids some bubbles and they laugh with delight! I wish I could afford to buy them more toys or ice cream or something. I really have no clue what toys kids want these days though. Good news though -- Juguetón does a toy drive for kids every year at Christmas. Yay! 

One other strange thing -- all the Barbies were white. Huh? Why weren't there Latina Barbies?

Holy Christmas Tree, Batman! (And Bert to the side there.)
After Cemaco, it was off to our "usual" mall, the Pradera, where there is a Walmart. We stopped and got MORE food -- cuz we're gluttons like that -- and then I hit up Walmart while others went around to the Megapaca for second-hand clothes and stuff, and others wandered the mall to browse the shops. Pradera mall is super nice and has more reasonably-priced stores than Interplaza, the first mall. By the time we got there, it was just past noon on a Saturday so it was PACKED. It really felt like Christmas shopping! I had to wait for almost 30 minutes to use the washroom. Ugh.

Everyone was all shopped out by late afternoon so we hopped back in our minivan and headed home. The ride home is always a lot quieter than the ride there! We made it back to Panajachel in time for Cheryl to catch a boat back to her home across the lake in San Pedro. Her husband didn't even chastise her about all her purchases! 😆

Some of my Dollar City haul.
For those who are interested in the prices of things in comparison to home, below is a chart of the stuff in the picture above and the approximate equivalent in Canadian and American dollars. The Dollar City stuff is identical to the stuff back home. Sometimes they even have Dollarama price stickers on them still.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and remembering that it's not all about buying gifts. Sure, I love presents as much as the next person, but I love more that I have a wonderful family and great friends! ☮️

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Big Boy Is a Star!

A short while ago, a lovely Canadian woman named Jess posted in a Facebook group that she was looking for a dog to do a commercial. Of course, I jumped all over that and sent her a tonne of photos of all the doggies. Jess and her husband, Greg, came to our house and met our pack of lunatic puppies and we all agreed that Big Boy would be the best dog for the job because he is big, handsome, and well trained.

Bert posted on Facebook: "Well, it is about time one of my fury freeloaders got a job. Big Boy is going to be in a video ad for a nice couple that I met here that have a pet business in the U.S. They work with local artisans here making collars, leashes, and other accessories. So proud of my Big Boy! The money he makes will go towards helping other street dogs! (like he used to be)"

At 6am on a Sunday morning, Bert and Big Boy went across town to meet everybody -- Livvy the photographer, Jess & Greg, and two human actors.

They filmed in front of some random person's house because it had a nice doorway.
In the picture above, you can see that Hank (our former dog who voluntarily returned to the streets) decided to come along and hang about with the team! Bert said that Hank was Big Boy's "entourage". LOL!

Bert commented: "Big Boy taking 5 because he is such a diva."
Big Boy had a bit of a crush on his co-star.
It took 3 hours of filming to make this 1-minute commercial but I think it turned out great!
Congratulations, Big Boy, on your first job!

If you'd like to check out the lovely collars and dog accessories, click here --> RUFF ON THE ROAD

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Please Give A Guatemalan Family a Lovely Christmas

Hello, friends! I know many of you donate to charity rather than buying gifts 🙌 so I would love if you could help out Dr. de Peña and this family.
If you watch the video, you will meet Ana and her four children who live in one room together and work every day on the streets selling things. None of the children go to school because they have to work to make money for food.
If you are in the first world, can you imagine if your four children under the age of 11 had to work?? No, I think not. I would love for people in Canada, the States, and all "rich" countries to understand that life is so different here in Guatemala. I would especially love children back home to see what kids' lives are like here! They would be shocked! 😧 Perhaps some kids can show this to their class at school. That would be very cool.

Dr. Louis is well-known in town as a doctor and a philanthropist. He treated me when I had pneumonia and even adopted a cat from me! He is a very generous guy and loves to help the street kids. Panajachel is blessed to have him in our community.

Please donate and share the video and/or the GoFundMe campaign:

This family makes on average $6 a day. Donating even $20 would mean so much to them! I am looking forward to Dr. Luis posting a follow-up video with their smiling faces on Xmas Day! 🎄
#pleasegive #Panajachel #GoFundMe

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Lovely New Mural in Panajachel

There's been a lot of road construction in Pana lately, which is awesome despite the inconvenience. The new roads are smooth and wonderful! They didn't install any sidewalks, but ya know, pedestrians have no rights in Guate.
After Calle El Chalí was finished, Selina Hostel painted a gorgeous mural on the wall next to their place. I pass it every time I go to the La Torre grocery store. It's also right by the only gas station in town AND the road to the docks. So lots of people will get to see it.
The hummingbird detail on the mural outside Selina hostel in Panajachel, Guatemala.

There are several other murals going up around town. One day I will go out and get pics and/or videos of them all and compile them for you. It's quite the trend in towns around Guatemala and a welcome one too because plain old concrete bricks can get kinda boring.
To my Canadian friends, yep, it's December! See any snow here??? Nope! HA HA! Enjoy all that shoveling and scraping. 😝 #livingthedream

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Second Annual Giant Kite Festival at Lake Atitlan

For the second year, I got to go up the hill to see the Barriletes Gigantes -- giant kites -- at the Lucy Sturgill Foundation festival. This time Bert came with me and I thought it would be fun for him to take the camera while I hung out with my friends. It was a great idea...and a horrible one! He took HUNDREDS of pictures! Ha ha! It's taken me two weeks to sort thru them and choose the ones to showcase here. He is a great photographer and has a wonderful perspective. It was neat for me to come home and go thru the pictures and see the festival thru his eyes.

Note that this is NOT the really big kite festival that happens every year in Sumpango. That one is a few hours' drive away from us and is super crowded. There are a lot more kites there and much bigger ones but it happens on November 1st, a day that I am most often recovering from a fun night out for Halloween. This smaller festival suits me just fine. Plus there is a spectacular view of Lake Atitlan.

We had to walk a bit from the parking lot to the grounds. This was our first glimpse of the Lake and volcanoes.

The view looking the other direction -- corn and hills for as far as you can see. And pine trees!

You could get really close to the edge and look down down down.

This is just to the side of where the paragliders take off!

I can see my house!!
An old man was blowing in a conch shell and making a blessing over a fire.

It was very windy and this kite broke while we were looking at it.

The kites are made of a bamboo frame with paper and tape.

Unique shape.

Of course, Bert found a stray dog to feed.

The largest kites were being assembled down at the bottom of the slope.

Amazing detail

I loved this one.
This one had a neat theme of how corn makes up the Mayan people.

Bert went down to the bottom of the grassy slope to look back up at everyone.

These were the queens of the kites...or something. I think they were actually from Sumpango.
They are being interviewed on TV.
The queen and the "breezes"? 
Their traditional outfits were beautiful.
This is a more accurate picture of what these girls went thru. See the two dudes with the cameras? ALL day people were snapping pictures of these girls like they were movie stars.
In addition to the big kites, kids were flying little kites all over the lawns.
I stole the next eight pictures from my friend who took some great photos of some things Bert missed.
Selling kites for the kids.
The kites were so pretty against the blue sky.
Me! Showing how big the kites were...and there were way bigger too!
A great pic of that shaman dude and his ceremony.
There were also craft booths. This was rughooking from old second hand fabric.
A charity I support that does cat rescue. I bought a cute mug!
Kites in preparation, crowds, TV van, kites standing up, lake and hills. So much color!
Of course, there was AMAZING food there too. I got to have an arepa de pollo, the same as I had last year. It's a Venezuelan sandwich of chicken, mayo, cheese, and avocado sauce. So good!
Here's some videos that Bert took. You can hear the wind whooshing! Also, I love the excited sounds the crowd makes when the kites fly...and fall!

There's me! Huffing and puffing up the big hill on the way out of the festival.
I made Bert pose like he was admiring the Lake :D 
It was a great event and everyone who went with us said it was awesome and they were so happy that we went. I was glad that I could share it with some new friends and that Bert got to come this year.