Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Surrender!

I've been trying to upload photos with each of my blog entries, but have finally faced the fact that the Internet service we have here in our guest house, while adequate for many things, it a real bummer for uploading photos.

I'll try to find a WiFi site or Internet cafe where I can upload them in a reasonable amount of time.

March 27

This morning I'm up and working on the computer until about 10:00 a.m., at which time I took our laundry down the street to the lavandaria.

When I got back to the guest house, Linda and I started walking down to Parque Calvario, by way of the Vrisa Bookstore, where we returned a rental book Linda had checked out.

From there we walked to Parque Central and stopped in at Pollo Campero to get a soft-serve ice cream cone, however they weren't selling them yet. Instead, we walked around the area on the east side of Parque Calvario. We checked out the area on the east side of the Palacio Municipal (city hall) to see if there was a market going on, but it was locked up. We walked through the Commercial Mercado, a two-story, semi-open air building with a basement (actually it's street level on one side), but most businesses were closed. We walked to the front of the Palacio Municipal to see of the town band (two marimbas, a snare drum and a string bass) were playing, but they weren't.

We sat in Parque Central on a bench in the shade for about a half an hour and only had to say "no, gracias" about five times. From there, we walked over to the site of a restaurant that offers live marimba music (or so we read), but got confused by the street names. The site we wanted was in Zona 1, where we were, but the address I used, which worked, albeit incorrectly, was in Zona 3.

Frustrated, we went to Pollo Campero for lunch and further study of our maps and location information. After lunch, we walked to the correct location for the restaurant we were seeking. It was across the street from Dispensa Familiar, so we went into the grocery and picked up some items we needed.

We then walked home and dropped off our purchases. I went to pick up our laundry. Today's laundry, which included our bed sheets, sweats and most of our clothing and towels, cost only Q40 ($4.80). After taking the laundry back to the guest house, Linda put it away while I went to the mercado on the corner to pick up some fruit and vegetables we needed.

Back at the apartment, I sterilized the fruit and vegetables I had purchased with Sanavida and put them away. I tried to work on the computer, but our connection was so bad I shut it down and read a mystery we had purchased at one of the used book stores we had visited.

Around 5:00 p.m., it was so pleasant outside, that we decided to go for a walk before fixing supper. We walked from our guest house to Parque Calvario, from there almost to Parque Central and then returned to the guest house to prepare supper.

Not long after supper, the third young woman living in our guest house, Saskia, a native of the Netherlands, returned from a three-week trip to El Salvador. We introduced ourselves and soon she and Paula were chatting away in Dutch.

Later, I tried to work on-line, but got frustrated and decided to upload all my completed blog entries and worry about adding the photos to them later.

March 26

This morning, after breakfast, I worked on the computer until about 10:00 a.m. At that time, we decided that we needed to go on another adventure.

While we were preparing to leave, Ariana called to tell me that my USB drive was ready to return. She had transferred the files to it that she wanted to give me. We arranged to meet around 10:10 a.m. by La Torre Rosada (the Pink Tower), which is in the middle of the street near her apartment.

I have no idea what the story is behind La Torre Rosada. It's a tower with a pitched roof standing in the middle of the intersection of three streets. When I asked back in 2007, I was told that it probably was put there when they introduced electricity to this part of Xela. Other than that, no one knows much about it.

After picking up my USB drive, we walked toward Parque Central to catch a microbus heading for Hiper Paiz and Pradera Mall. We were looking for some cough medicine for Linda and thought that we might have more selection there.

Wonder of wonders, we did get to our destination without a problem. Once there, even though we had eaten a good breakfast, we were both hungry, so we headed for the food court and had a Q25 ($3.00) shrimp special at Pollo Campero.

After our early lunch, we walked through the mall and stopped by several shops selling computers to see if there was an external antenna that could be used with a laptop to increase the strength of a WiFi signal. (I later learned that there are, but that they are primarily used with external WiFi cards. There's really no way to use such things with internal WiFi cards, like you find in most laptops, unless you have a great deal of electronics experience and knowledge.)

We walked through Hiper Paiz looking for the cough medicine and were soon referred to the pharmacy department, where we found some Vicks Formula 44. When we showed it to the pharmacist, he recommended that we try a different product. It is a German preparation called Abrilar Jarabe (April Syrup), which contains an extract of Hedera Helix (Common Ivy).

We then headed over to the Pollo Campero on the street in front of the mall and had a soft-serve ice cream. From there, we crossed the four-lane highway by the elevated walkway and walked down the road to where the Burger King was situated. We had heard that there was a branch of the Bake Shop located there. We never found it, although we did find another strip mall with a very interesting fitness center in the middle of it's entrance.

Walking back towards Pradera Mall, we crossed the four-lane again by the elevated walkway and looked for a microbus heading for Parque Democracia, which isn't far from the original Bake Shop.

The Bake Shop, by the way, is a bakery that is operated by a group of Mennonites who live in the mountains surrounding Xela. It's only open two days a week (Tuesday and Friday), because it 's so difficult for them to make the trip into town. It's the only place in town to get American-style baked goods and real cheddar cheese. We purchased some cheddar and a loaf of delicious banana bread.

After getting our goodies, we begin to look for a microbus that will take us to Parque Calvario, near where our guest house is located. We start by looking where we had gotten one just yesterday, but saw none. We soon discovered that the routes were disrupted today by a parade and market day. We tried six different locations before we conceded defeat and soon found a microbus heading towards Parque Central. Once there, we decided to have an early supper. another shrimp special for Q25, at Pollo Campero.

After eating, we headed over to the Dispensa Familar to pick up some items we needed and then headed back to the guest house. Once there, we worked on our computers and read until it was time to call it a night.

March 25

This morning, after breakfast, I spent the morning reviewing documents I've received from Primeros Pasos. This is primarily background information dealing with their history, objectives and results. I'll need this backgrounding if I'm to prepare grant applications and letters of inquiry.

Late in the morning, I ran across a funding source in Houston that got my interest. Rather than call them directly, I turned to my daughter in Missouri city, Susan, to make the inquiry for me. I later heard that she had gone through quite a workout before she was able to leave a voicemail message. She's hoping that a carbon-based unit (i.e. human) will return her call.

Mid-morning, Ariana emailed me and said that if I dropped off my USB drive, she could get the files she wanted to give me transferred to it. It was such a nice day that Linda walked with me over to the Torre Rosada (Pink Tower), which was adjacent to Ariana's apartment. On our way back, we stopped by our corner mercado and picked up a dozen eggs. I had brought the empty carton from our last dozen and used it, since eggs are usually sold in a flat of 30. We also bought two avocados and bananas. We then returned to our guest house to put away our provisions and I continued working on my document review.

Just before noon, we decided to walk to Parque Calvario (just around the corner and one long block away) and pick up a microbus that would take us to the Minerva Terminal (where all the chicken buses in Xela congregate), where we could walk to the Pradera Mall for lunch in the food court. There are a number of fast food restaurants there that Linda feels comfortable with after just coming off of major intestinal distress.

By the way, a microbus is typically a van, but it could be actually a small bus, minibus, that is used for public (though owned privately) transport here in Xela. A ride anywhere in town only costs Q1.25 (15 cents). Today, we think we may have witnessed a worlds record when we rode with 25 people at one time (four were standing).

When we got to Parque Calvario, we just missed both a bus and a microbus that were pulling away as we crossed the park. The next three or four microbuses were completely filled, or so we thought.

Eventually a microbus arrives and several people get off, making room for us to get on. On the windshield was a sign indicating where it went. One of the destinations was Terminal, which I assumed was the Minerva Terminal.

We rode this microbus from Parque Calvario, past Parque Juarez, past Mont Blanc (the smaller of the two shopping centers in Xela), past the Minerva mercado and, just as we expected it to turn right to go to Terminal, it turned left. We ended up about as far out in Xela as we could get and still be considered in town. By this time the microbus had emptied except for us and when I pointed to the sign and said that we wanted to go to Terminal, the driver just shook his head.

Instead, he drove us on until he found another microbus waiting by the side of the road and asked them if they were going to Terminal. They said they were (should I believe them?) and we changed microbuses. This one took a different route back and before we knew it, we were back at Parque Calvario, where we had started not so long ago.

We decided to take our chances and repeated the route we had earlier taken, but, this time, we got off at Parque Juarez, as we had spied a Pollo Campero on the corner. That we saw it was somewhat of a miracle, since both sidewalks along side the restaurant were filled with stalls selling shoes.

We went into Pollo Campero and were surprised to find almost every table filled and it was only 1:30 p.m., which is early for lunch in Guatemala. Since Linda's blood sugar was only 105 this morning, we celebrated by ordering fried chicken. Mine was extra crispy, while Linda ordered tradicional. We ordered the dinner (2 pieces of chicken, french fries, roll and beverage) and were only charged Q30 ($3.60) each.

After we finished lunch, we walked along Parque Calvario and continued on to Mont Blanc, the smaller of Xela's two shopping malls. Like Pradera Mall, it's two stories, but not as long. We went there for two purposes: first, I needed an ATM to replenish our funds and second, we needed some groceries and there is a Supertienda Paiz, which is smaller than a Hiper Paiz (think Walmart Superstore), but larger than a Dispensa Familiar (think small grocery store).

After getting our groceries, we walked back outside and returned to the street that the microbuses were using. The usual street, in front of Mont Blanc, is under reconstruction.

It wasn't long before a bus appeared. I asked if they were going to Parque Calvario and got a negative response. I got the same response from the next vehicle, a microbus. Finally, a minibus appeared and when I asked if it was going to Parque Calvario, the auydante replied vuelta (return), so we got on. We rode on this minibus to the end of the route and then it returned right to Parque Calvario and we got off right in front of Calvario Church.

On our walk back to our guest house, we once again stopped by he mercado for some additional fruits and vegetables that we would need for supper.

While Linda fixed supper, I started reviewing possible funding sources for Primeros Pasos projects. I took a break when supper was ready and resumed my search after I had eaten. When I finally stopped searching, I had identified seven possible funding sources, not including the one Susan is checking on. While most of them have submission deadlines next fall and winter, several have submission deadlines as early as May and, in two cases, no submission deadlines.

My final task this evening was to record my daily activity for posting on my blog. I'm still behind on my postings, but at least the text is practically finished.

March 24

Today we were up early, had breakfast and headed over to Parque Calvario, where we are meeting Ariana to take a chicken bus to Tierra Colorada Baja, the location of the Primeros Pasos medical clinic, for which I will be doing some fund development consulting. We met up with Ariana at about 8:50 a.m., but discovered that chicken buses heading the direction we wanted to take were few and far between. I even headed over to a tienda thinking that would cause one to appear quickly. It didn't! Finally, a chicken bus does appear going the direction we want and we get on board around 9:40 a.m.

It was really different from the chicken buses we rode in the La Antigua area. Those chicken buses were bursting with passengers most of the time, while this one was practically empty. The trip took about 15 minutes and cost Q2 (24 cents).

Once at the clinic, Ariana gave us a quick tour and took us to the "salon de salud" (health room), where we observed a first grade class being taught about intestinal parasites and how to avoid them. This is a significant problem for about 20% of the people in this part of Guatemala. When the lecture was over, each child got to look through a microscope at a parasite and then received a tooth brush.

After the lesson was over and the children had left, we talked with one of the children's health volunteers from Houston. She said that she typically went to the participating schools and did three 40 minute health presentations for each grade level. Unfortunately, her team partner had returned home, so she was helping with children's health presentations at the clinic for the time being.

While waiting to meet with the education coordinator, we felt the ground move, but didn't think too much about it. Later, we learned that there had been an earthquake (4.9 on the Richter Scale) on the Guatamalan Pacific coast.

When we met with the education coordinator, we learned that each school sends each of their classes to the Primeros Pasos clinic once each year for a physical examination, a dental check and a health lesson. They also do health lessons in each of the ten participating schools. In addition, there are women's educational classes. Of course, the clinic is available at a modest cost for anyone needing medical attention.

Soon after noon, we began waiting for a chicken bus to take us back to Parque Calvario. Ariana had given me a large folder of additional information that I will use in my fund development work and I wanted to drop it off at our guest house.

On the way, we stopped by the corner mercado to pick up some vegetables to make soup for supper and a mop (actually a handle with a wire mechanism that allows you to attach a towel to the end).

After dropping off the material, we walked to Parque Central to have a grilled chicken caesar burrito with fries and a drink at Pollo Campero. They are quite tasty and, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, they only cost Q20 ($2.40).

After lunch, we went to Dispensa Familiar to pick up some needed items and returned to our guest house, where Linda took a nap and I worked on the computer doing my daily job search and working on my blog.

Supper was an excellent soup, followed by more blogging. Actually, the blogging goes fairly fast. It's the picture loading that takes time, especially when the daily blog that I loaded today has seventeen photos.

March 23

Slept in. Worked on those questions for that job application. At 10:00 a.m., I took our laundry down the street to be washed and, after I returned, we walked over to INEPAS and found the outside door open, but the inner door locked. We rang the bell and the owner came out and let us in. Supposedly, she was to be my contact for the village computer project. After discovering that she didn't (or wouldn't) speak English, we pieced together what she told us in Spanish. Evidently they have computer labs in 40 villages and each village lab has from 35 to 40 computers. In other words, we're talking about 1,400 to 1,600 computers. Furthermore, she let us know that our Spanish wasn't good enough to work with them and that next week, Semana Santa (Holy Week), everything would be shut down anyway. To cut to the chase, we thanked her for her hospitality, informed her that we probably couldn't accomplish much and left intending to check with Entremundos later.

From there, we walked to the Vrisa Bookstore, where Linda found two books she wanted, one of which we're renting rather than purchasing.

We continued on to where the microbuses load to go out to Hiper Paiz and the Pradera Mall. We soon found one and left on our Q1.25 (15 cent) trip. The route was much more complex than during our last trip, since there was major road work that had to be avoided.

Eventually we were let off in front of Hiper Paiz and decided to have lunch at Pollo Comparo. Once again we ordered the Chicken Caesar burrito, but the camarero (waiter) tried to tell us something that we didn't understand. Later, when examining the promotional piece on a nearby table, I understood. The Q20 price was only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We ended up paying Q33 ($3.96) each, but they were still tasty.

Following lunch, we walked through the Pradera Mall, a two-story shopping center. We found two mugs and a knife that really cuts at one bargain store and clothes hangers at another. We then walked through Hiper Paiz, where we found some unsalted peanuts, trash bags and some live culture yogurt that Linda wanted.

We next walked over the four-lane highway on the crosswalk and found a minibus heading back towards Parque Central. After getting off downtown, we stopped by Dispensa Familiar, but didn't buy anything.

We headed back to the guest house and worked on our computers. Just after 4:00 p.m., I picked up our laundry (a large laundry bag full). The charge was Q25 ($3.00).

Supper was scrambled eggs, avocado and a banana. We spent the evening trying to catch up on our blogs. Hopefully, I'll get caught up soon. The text is almost all up-to-date. The delay is due to the time it takes to upload photos. Oh, how I long for true high speed Internet!

March 22

Slept in (Note: When I write this, I'm getting up between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., just not at 5:00 a.m.). In the morning I worked on those questions for that position I'm applying for. Around 10:15 I start walking to Ariana's office, which is in the same building as Entremundos, a local non-profit that works to support other non-profits in the area. Naturally, I can't find it, so I have to call so that she can help me find the location.

Regarding my inability to find her office, I'd like to point out that street addresses in Guatemala are very strange. For instance, the street address of the guest house we're staying at is Diagonal 12, 6-58, Zone 1. Now, "Diagonal 12" is the name of the street. "Zone 1" denotes the area of town in which the address is located. I know of at least six zones in the urbanized area of Xela, but there must be more in the rural outskirts, since I saw some land for sale in Zone 10, where ever that is.

We had a nice visit and I learned quite a bit about the project and their needs. She also promised to email me some other documents about the project that would be useful in preparing grant applications. Since we need to see the clinic that is the core of the project first-hand, we made plans to meet at 8:50 a.m. at Parque Calvario, not far from our guest house, so that we could take a chicken bus to the clinic.

I returned to the guest house, where we had some homemade soup for lunch and following lunch, walked over to INEPAS, a Spanish school, that has computer labs located in a number of villages surrounding Xela. The sign on the door stated that they would be open at 3:00 p.m., but they weren't, so I walked over to the Vrisa Bookstore, which boasts over 4,000 used books for sale. After checking it out, I walked back to INEPAS and found it still locked, so I headed over to the North & South Bookstore, which is a more conventional bookstore selling primarily new books. From there, I returned once again to INEPAS and found it still locked, so I decided to walk over to XelaPages, an Internet cafe facing Parque Calvario, to see Tom Lingenfelter.

Tom was very helpful during our last visit to xela and I wanted to ask him some questions. When I arrived, Tom was sitting at his desk by the front window in the Internet cafe he owns (he has other related businesses also). He recognized me (perhaps my hat was a giveaway), but needed help with my name, which isn't unexpected after an absence of over 2 1/2 years. I discovered, to my dismay, that Cubatenango, a restaurant that we had really enjoyed on our 2007 trip had closed because the owner had not been able to find good help. I did get other restaurant recommendations and, after telling Tom why we were in Xela, a suggestion that I contact Entremundos to see if they need any help with their computer lab. Evidently, according to Tom, they do.

After leaving Tom, I walked back towards the apartment. First, however, I picked up some fruits and vegetables that we needed at the corner mercado. As you can imagine, it's really convenient to be able to walk half a block and pick up fresh, ready to eat produce.

Back at the apartment, after sanitizing our fruits and vegetables, I once again worked on my blog and other computer tasks.

For dinner, since Linda was feeling better, we went back to Pollo Campero to try a chicken Caesar burrito for Q20 ($2.40) that we had seen advertised. We each had one and enjoyed them so much, we ordered another to split.

After dinner, we returned to the guest house and I continued working on those questions for the latest job opportunity I've located and continued on that project until about 10:00 p.m.

March 21

Slept in. Linda was feeling better this morning, although still weak from her ordeal.

We started walking to Parque Central at about 10:10 a.m. to find out what time the next Mass would be. As we arrived at the cathedral, a nun was walking in, so we followed her and attended the 10:30 a.m. Mass.

Compared to Ciudad Vieja, it was undermanned. There were only six altar servers. There was a real organ, however, and the congregation did sing. In fact, it was a sung Mass with the priest and congregation chanting the Mass parts.

Once again, at the sign of peace, everyone in front and behind us wanted to shake the gringos hands. At communion time, it's almost like rush hour in Los Angeles. People get up and go, no matter where they are sitting. It would make a U.S. church usher cringe.

After Mass, we walked over to the nearby Pollo Campero, which isn't as nice as the one in La Antigua. The staff are nice, however. We ordered grilled chicken, which wouldn't be ready for 20 minutes and the manager sent a complimentary plate of papas fritas (french fries) to our table for us to munch on while we waited.

After lunch, we stopped by Dispensa Familiar to pick up some items we needed and headed back to our guest house. We're both feeling the effects of the altitude of Xela. It's about 7,500 feet, so we're taking it easy as we acclimate ourselves to it.

By the way, I read in a local give-away magazine, Xela-Who, that in Europe, Canada or the United States, if we were this high, we'd be walking through snow.

The rest of the day, I worked on my blog and started preparing to apply for another position. This one has a list of ten questions that need to be answered for consideration. Even if I don't get considered, it should be an excellent form of mental exercise.

Tomorrow I'll be meeting with Ariana at Primeros Pasos, the health project I'm going to be doing some grant writing for. It will be interesting to see what kind of financial needs they have and whether I'm able to help them find funding to meet them.

March 20

Slept in. Linda came down with a stomach problem (sounds like classic Montezuma's Revenge) and decided to stay in bed (as much as is possible with those symptoms).

Dropped off laundry at lavandaria, picked up groceries at Dispensa Familiar, got cash at an ATM across from Parque Central, returned to the guest house.

After putting away the groceries, headed down to the market on the corner to pick up some fruit and vegetables.

Returned to the guest house to have a light lunch. Linda was ready for something bland, so I boiled some potatoes for her.

After lunch, I worked on the computer and tried to bring my blog up to date. Fortunately, when I have been without adequate Internet service, I've been keeping my blog text in a file, so that I can upload it when I have better access. The hard thing to do, with the quality of the Internet service I've encountered, is upload the photos to the blog entires.

Around 4:00 p.m., just as I was getting ready to go pick up our laundry, we had a mild earthquake. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it was rated at 5.3 Richter scale with IV intensity - light shaking and no damage. Guatemala is certainly a rockin' place.

With Linda under the weather, I fixed scrambled eggs for supper. After doing the dishes, I returned to work on my blog. I'm finally catching up. I'm only a week behind now.

March 19

This morning we were up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for our trip to Pana that was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to pick up our 9:00 a.m. shuttle to Xela. After getting ready to go, we finished packing the final items we would be taking. I'm not sure I've mentioned what we carry with us, so here goes: two large rolling duffles, two rollerboard carryon bags (primarily with books), two backpacks with our two computers, a medicine bag, my breathing machine and Linda's coccina (kitchen equipment we've picked up while here). It's quite a load. One of the reasons we're taking a shuttle is that they drop you off right at the door to your lodging.

Our truck for our trip into Pana finally arrived about 7:45 a.m. After loading, we started the trek. A short distance down the road, the driver stopped to pick up a man and two Maya women going to market. I had assumed that we had contracted to use the truck exclusively, but stopping to pick up more passengers must be a genetic trait in these drivers. Linda tells me that Joan admonished him not to stop for anyone else, as we needed to get to our departure point for Xela.

We soon arrive at Pana's main crossroad and out three extra riders depart. Turning down Calle Santander, we're soon at the travel agency, which is closed! We had also wanted to eat before we left, so we drug our luggage into the restaurant next door to the travel agency and ordered our breakfast. While we were eating, the travel agency opens for business and I drag our luggage through the connecting door to the travel agency.

9:00 a.m. comes and goes, so I ask the young woman at the travel agency when the shuttle will arrive and she told me, "9:00 a.m." It finally arrived at 9:15 a.m. and we helped the driver load our small mountain of luggage. I assume that we'll drive around town picking up other passengers, but the driver drives right out of Pana. I ask the driver if we'll be picking up other passengers at Los Encuentros (the place on the InterAmerican Highway where passenger switches are often made) and he tells me that we're going directly to Xela. It finally dawned on me that we have this shuttle (an 11 passenger van) all to ourselves. Well, almost all to ourselves. At Nahuala (the driver's hometown), we stop to pick up his father and a friend, who evidently are going to Xela.

We finally arrive in Xela and are taken immediately to Casa Latina, where we are shown to our bedroom. We're on a floor with three other bedrooms (two young women from the Netherlands and another from Michigan). We share a kitchen, bathroom, dining area and living room with television. There is also wireless Internet. All this for only Q1350 ($187) per month.

After unpacking, we head over to our favorite restaurant, Cubatenango, to discover that it's evidently has either moved or closed. Instead, we walk to Parque Central to eat at McDonalds, since we haven't yet located safe places to eat. After eating, we walk over to Dispensa Familiar to pick up some items we need, such as oatmeal, instant milk, tea, limes, bananas, oil (for popcorn) and bath towels. We lug these items back to the guest house and Linda takes a nap, while I use the Internet access. Susan and Max are on-line, so we try to video conference, but it keeps freezing up. We finally are able to audio chat with no problem. Maybe it wil work better tomorrow.

For supper, we walk back to confirm that Cubatenango was still closed (hope springs eternal) and end up walking back to Parque Central for another hamburger at McDonalds. Afterwards, I spot the Pollo Campero just down the street from it and wish we had seen it earlier.

After walking back to the guest house, Linda wasn't feeling well (altitude?) and decided to rest and I decided to work on my blog. Tomorrow will be a relaxed day, hopefully. I do want to see if the municipal marimba band plays tomorrow morning. When we were here in 2007, we aplauded when they finished a beautiful tune and they responded by playing the "Stars and Stripes Forever" for us.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 18

Since we're on vacation, we got up late and had a leisurely breakfast with Joan. It was a beautiful, clear morning. We could easily see across the lake to Volcan San Pedro and the Cerro del Oro (small hump in the middle of the picture.

As was the case most mornings, there were fishermen on the lake,

women washing clothes

and boats waiting for their owner to take them out.

Afterwards, Joan called a driver she knows to take us into Panajachel. Here's a picture of Linda in the back of the pickup

and here's one of me.

She wants to pick up some plants for her garden and we intend to do some things on our own. When we reach Pana, we discover that there is a public transporation strike underway. A large number of tuk-tuk drivers have blocked the street and are talking, most likely, about the need to increase the city-approved tuk-tuk fee, currently about Q5 (60 cents) per person for most locations in town. I consulted my map and suggested to the driver that we drive around to the other road out of Pana and come in by the mercado. He didn't think we could do that, due to the heavy traffic around the mercado. Eventually, watching the other drivers turn around to take the alternative route, he decided to try it himself. It was a slightly longer route, but it did get us into Pana.

Once in Pana, Joan had the driver stop so that she could make a withdrawal from an ATM and we got out (we'd been riding in the back of the pickup) and told Joan that we would find our own way back.

We first began looking for the Adrenalina travel agency. Yesteday, while checking options for getting to Xela, we picked up a map (with advertising) for Xela. We had noticed that the standard charge for a shuttle to Xela was $20 (Q160). Not seeing any variation on the price, we concentrated on departure options. Most shuttles leave at 6:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. Adrenalina, however, offers a 9:00 a.m. shuttle, which we preferred. Furthermore, that map we had picked up had two 10% discount coupons. We finally found them and booked our ride to Xela.

We next walked down towards the playa, where we strolled along the promenade. We finally headed own to the dock where the launch to San Pedro La Laguna departs.

Once there, we boarded a launch (chicken boat) for a direct trip across the lake. The fare was Q25 ($3.00) each (one way).

The trip across the lake took about 25 minutes, once we departed. These boats don't usually leave until at least 11-12 passengers have boarded. The lake was smooth and it was a pleasant trip. In the distance, we could see the taxi launch that runs along the shore

stopping at all of the villages.

It's funny, when you look across the lake, it looks so small. When you cross it in a launch, however, it seems so big.

We were soon approaching San Pedro La Laguna

and the village dock.

After docking, we exited the launch and began walking up the mountain.

San Pedro is build on the side of a mountain, like most villages on Lake Atitlan. The main street goes almost straight up.

After about a vertical block, we decide to turn left and go through gringolandia, where the restaurants and businesses targeting the gringos are located.

we soon walk through there and begin what turns out to be a very long and roundabout walk, often at steep inclines, to find a crossing street that will bring us back to the center of town. Once we found the mercado and the church,

we decided to look for some place to have lunch. In the process, we find ourselves heading out of town.

We turn around and finally make our way back to that vertical main street. While many Guatemalans are Catholic, there are many Protestant (all are called Evangelical here) churches. Here's a photo of a very modest Baptist church.

We continue our walk down the mountain until we get to the cross street into gringolandia. We look at the lunch options and decide to eat at Fata Morgana, where we had a delicious thin crust Hawaiian pizza. Isn't Guatemalan food great! We also had the best limonada (limeade) we've found yet in Guatemala.

After stuffing ourselves on pizza, we head back to the dock and get ready to board a launch that will be returning to Pana. While we're waiting to board, these two women get off a launch, pick up their load and head up the mountain.

Once again, we wait until we have 11-12 passengers. In fact, we end up making the trip with 13 passengers.

This trip, which also took about 25 minutes, was not as pleasant as the earlier one. While Lake Atitlan is very smooth in the morning, after noon it becomes very choppy and launch pilots, like their chicken bus counterparts, try to go as fast as they can to maximize the number of trips they can make. The result is a very rough ride.

Once back in Pana, we head up hill (everything seems to be uphill in Guatemala) to find a tuk-tuk to take us across town to Dispensa Familiar, where the buses heading to San Antonio Palopo congregate. After calling Joan to find out what we needed for dinner, we picked up our groceries and boarded a pickup ready to leave.

This trip I made standing up. The view was awesome, especially as I held on tight as we rounded the many tight curves. Once back in San Antonio Palopo, we got down from the truck at the bottom of the steep hill up to the church and took the fairly level, buy Guatemalan standards, street back to Casa Sonrisas.

Dinner was good and, afterwards, I continued working with Joan's computer and printer. It was almost 9:00 p.m. when I finished, but they were working correctly by that time.

We bid Joan goodnight and headed back to our room to pack and get ready for a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 17

Happy St. Patrick's Day! They say in the U.S. that on St. Patrick's Day everyone's Irish. Evidently Guatemala didn't get the message. In fact the two gringos we wished Happy St. Patrick's Day to looked at us and said, "it is?"

This morning we woke up to find that onions were being washed in the lake below our B&B

and fishermen were already out on the lake.

After breakfast, I puttered around with Joan's printer. It had been out of ink, so we picked up some yesterday. I installed the new cartridge, but it didn't work well. This morning I proceeded to clean the printhead several times and finally got "Print Test Page" to produce some clean copy. I wasn't able to align it properly, since there wasn't a color cartridge with ink and Joan didn't want one, so I decided to put it aside until later in the afternoon.

Mid-morning we decided to climb up the mountain to the church where we could pick up a truck going into Panajachel.

Believe me when I tell you that it's a steep climb.

to the street in front of the Catholic church.

There we located a pick-up truck with wooden bench seats in the back and a welded frame that would take us to Panajachel for Q5 (60 cents) each. Today was the day that we were originally going to Las Canoas to work on their computers, but after being told that it would cost about $50 to make the trip there and back, I reconsidered. I don't mind doing volunteer work, but I don't want to have to spend big bucks to do so.

While we were waiting to leave, these two Kaqchikel men in ropa tipica (typical village clothing) stopped so I could take their picture.

From the road in front of the Catholic Church, you can see Casa Sonrisas. It's the gate with the yellow flowers over it.

Here's a closer look at the gate.

Once we arrive in Panajachel, we started walking. We had three objectives: 1) locate transportation to Xela for Friday, 2) investigate the availability of tours to villages on the lake and 3) have lunch. We also needed to pick up a couple of used books to read, which we did first. Afterwards, we noticed a cafe across the courtyard, so we decided to check it out. Their menu included a chicken burrito for Q44, which we ordered, intending to split it. When it came, we had two plates, each with a burrito, pico de gallo and guacamole. I assumed that they had intentionally misunderstood what we wanted to inflate the bill. After starting to eat the meal, I decided that if that was the case, I could live with it since it was quite good. When we were finished, I was amazed to find that we had only been charged for a single order, two drinks and lime, for a total of Q69 ($8.64). Color me amazed and delighted.

Following lunch, we started walking down the street towards the playa (beach). As we walked, we checked out the various craft shops. It's amazing. In the U.S. we tell businesses that they have to differentiate their product to increase market share. Guatemala must teach that similiarity breeds success, because, almost without exception, every craft shop is a dead ringer for every other craft shop. Now, there are exceptions, but they ARE the exception.

On our walk to the playa (really more of a shoreline), we got to practice our "No gracias!" (no thank you) as we were targeted by street vendor after street vendor. Now I'm starting to add "Mi zapatos no es cuero" (my shoes are not leather) to the shoe shine boys and men, and "No tengo la musica" (I don't have music) to the vendors selling flutes. Today, a women tried to sell us an apron. I held it up to my body and told her "No me gusta!" (I don't like it), while she yelled "Es para una mujer" (It's for a woman!). To be honest, we did buy several things today, but we just don't have room in our luggage to bring Panajachel out of the recession all by ourselves.

When we arrived at the playa, we walked along the promenade before going down to walk along the playa itself.

From there we walked to the east end of the playa, where we walked back towards where we descended to the playa. We stopped to rest and noticed that there was a helado (ice cream) stand looking lonely in front of us, so we purchased some ice cream bars.

After our rest, we began our trek back to the business district because we heard thunder in the distance. I had read that it would rain today, but no one believed me because we are in the dry season. As is so often the case in Guatemala, there were many beautiful flowers on display.

On our way back we noticed this very strange Olympic-style runner on top of a pillar.

we stopped by an ATM to get Q2000 (about $250) for Joan. That's the most you can get with your ATM card on any one day. We also checked out a possible site where Joan can get replacement end caps for her crutches. We think we found it and will stop by tomorrow with her as we are going to Panajachel for breakfast. That done, we headed over to the Dispensa Familiar to pick up some sugar and find a truck heading back to San Antonio Palopó. Believe it or not, the same driver who took us back yesterday saw us and asked if we wanted to go to San Antonio Palopó. We said yes and hopped in the back for the trip back, during which I stood the entire way holding on to the center brace. We had felt a few drops of rain in Panajachel and felt a few more on the trip back, but arrived without any problem. Looking across the lake, however, we could see the clouds moving in.

Once back, I continued my attempt to discover why Joan's printer doesn't print and had just found out that HP color printers had to have a usable color ink cartridge to work. About this time it started raining and kept raining...very hard, which is very unusual, especially in the dry season. It actually rained harder than I've seen it rain in a very long time and, according to Joan, it's never rained this hard here in the two years she's lived here.

To add insult to injury, we soon discovered that the electricty had gone off. This forced us to stop working on the printer, since it couldn't work without electricty, and begin getting supper together, while we still had enough light to eat by.

Supper was shrimp and crab (probably that artificial type) cerviche, from a stand down the street, avocado and crackers. It was much better than I expected, since the fish and seafood isn't cooked, except by the acid in the lime juice that it's prepared with. Here's a recipe to give you an idea of how it's prepared:{603D92CB-14DA-480E-A26D-2A63239D01AF}

With the lights out, we decided to head to our room, where we could record our daily blog entry. Of course, we would have to upload it once we were in Xela, since Joan's Internet service works but isn't that fast, especially for uploading pictures.

We had no sooner started than the lights came on, so I plugged in my laptop. Linda had to use the netbook on battery, since we don't have an adapter (three prong to two prong) for it. Fortunately, it has a 10 hour battery, although I doubt that it would last that long. It will definitely last long enough to record her blog.

Now that my blogging is done, I'm going to take my shower. I had decided to wait until tomorrow morning, since the shower in our room has one of those Guatemalan "widow maker" shower heads that heat the water as it come out.

After my shower, I'll do some reading and still be asleep early tonight.

March 16

After a pleasant night's sleep, we were up in time for breakfast at about 8:00 a.m. All of our meals at the B&B were on the covered terrace overlooking Lake Atitlán.

Afterwards, Linda did our laundry, while I tried to determine why Joan's printer wasn't printing. After some research, I became convinced that the reason it didn't print was that it didn't have any ink. You'd think that printer manufacturers would include a simple indicator to show that there wasn't any ink in the cartridge, but of course they don't.

About 11:00 a.m., we all decided to head to Panajachel. We started walking and soon hitched a ride with one of Joan's friends who was heading to Pana. Joan needed to drop off a large poster of her son (he died in a skate-boarding accident in California last year) that one of his friends had sent her. We waited with the tuk-tuk,

while Joan met with the man who would do the framing.

We also had lunch at a restaurant on the waterfront, stopped by a bookstore and the bank, picked up an inkjet cartridge and get some groceries. We returned to San Antonio Palopo in a pick-up truck with bench seats and a metal frame that dropped us off right at her gate.

After returning, Linda got the laundry in, while I worked on getting our laptop to work with Joan's Tigo dongle. This is a device that looks like a USB memory stick, but lets you connect to the Internet through the Tigo cellular phone network. It's not as fast as I would like, but is better than nothing. Of course, I'll need to wait until we get to Xela before I can upload my latest blogs with pictures.

These four days will be our Guatemalan vacation. We intend to just take it easy. We're not going to push ourselves, as there's plenty of time to do that when we get to Xela.

Here are some additional photos of the bed and breakfast we are staying at on the shore of Lake Atitlán. First, our bedroom's the one on the left

and here's an interior shot. The fellow in the mirror is a prowler.

Here's a view of a fisherman from the deck.

After supper tonight, we're going to hit the sack early and probably do some reading. I have no idea what we'll be doing tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, we'll give it some thought.

March 15

Today is the day we head for San Antonio Palopó on Lake Atitlán. Our alarm clock issued its cheery greeting at 4:30 a.m. (ugh!). After an early breakfast, we finished packing, straightened up the apartment for the final time and hauled our luggage down to the front door. As we were waiting at the front door, we noticed something that we had not seen before. There was smoke coming out of one of the peaks of Volcan Acatenango.

Our taxi driver was scheduled to arrive at 6:15 a.m., which he did, so that we could get to the parqueo (parking lot) where the pullman to Panajachel would be loading in plenty of time. The pullman usually arrives around 6:50 a.m. for a departure around 7:00 a.m. While we were waiting, a strange man came up to those of us who were waiting and told us that the pullman was not coming. Most of them left to find alternative transportation, probably chicken buses. One of the individuals waiting, however, told us that a backup bus would be coming soon, so we decided to wait. We needed (stress needed) some snacks for the trip, so I walked over to the Bodegona, which had just opened. In addition to the snacks, I stopped at the cell phone booth and asked if today was triple saldo (triple minute) day for Tigo. It was, so I loaded Q100 into my account, which gives me 300 minutes.

When I returned to where Linda was waiting with the luggage, she told me that she had been told that no bus would be going to Panajachel today. It was time to put our Guatemala survival skills into action and find alternative transportation. I started walking towards the center of town, but only found closed travel agencies. At the first intersection, for some reason unknown to me, I decided to turn right. Within a half block I found a travel agency that was open and discovered that they had a tourist bus heading for Panajachel at 8:00 a.m. I quickly purchased two tickets for Q100 ($12.00) each, quite a bit more than the Q36 ($3.60) we had planned to spend, but definitely not out of our budget. The travel agent asked me to stay at the office until a bus arrived to take me to pick up Linda and the baggage. Soon a small bus appeared and I was taken to where Linda and the luggage was patiently waiting. We then went to pick up more passengers and their luggage before returning to the travel agency, where a much larger bus was waiting to load.

It was about 8:20 a.m. when we finally were on the road, but at least we were moving in the right direction. The scenery on the route was breathtaking. We finally arrived in Panajachel at about 11:30 a.m. and called Joan to let here know where we were. She found us with two tuk-tuks, which proceeded to take all of us and our luggage from Panajachel to San Antonio Palopo (accent). The trip took about 30-45 minutes, but the views were awesome. All the roads around Lake Atitlan hug the side of the mountains that surround it. We soon arrived at the gate to Casa Sonrisa, the B&B that we're staying at for the next four days.

Casa Sonrisa is right on the lake and is really very lovely. We have a lovely bedroom with private bath (Guatemalan showerhead). The dining area is open air, as is another deck. The B&B hugs the side of the mountain from the road through town to the lake. A hotel up the street quotes a price of $150 per night for their rooms. Joan, who owns Casa Sonrisa, quoted me a price of Q100 ($12.00) per night, although I insisted on paying Q150 ($18.00) per night. She only has two rooms for rent and I suspect that she does it as much for the company as for any thought of profit.

Soon after we arrived, we had lunch. In addition to a juice (much too sweet) made of hyasinths (???) and mineral water, we had puppessas (spelling), an El Salvadoran dish which included a fried cheese-filed quesadilla with a type of cole slaw on top. I've had it before in Ottumwa at an El Salvadoran restaurant. We also had sliced papaya.

Looking out over the lake, I saw a women doing laundry

And a man out in the unique type of boat used on Lake Atitlán.

After lunch, Joan insisted that we walk up the road

to meet Ken Edwards, an award winning ceramicist (, who lives and works here. He's from the United States, but has worked professionally in a number of countries, including Mexico and Guatemala. He's also 85 years old. We had an interesting conversation in which he explained the different motivations of gringos and Guatemalans.

We finally returned to the B&B, so that Joan and Linda could nap and I could work on my blog entry for the day surrounded by beautiful flowers.

We had a late dinner with Joan and soon returned to our room where we got to bed early since we were exhausted.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March 14

This morning was rather relaxed. I worked on my blog before church. It was about 10:30 a.m. when we headed down to the highway to find a chicken bus.

Because of our late start, we walked part-way to Ciudad Vieja before picking up a chicken bus. To our surprise, Driver stopped in Ciudad Vieja by the gas station for some reason and got off the bus. Soon, another bus came along and we jumped off our chicken bus and took the one that was moving. We just made it to church at the Ciudad Vieja cathedral at 10:55 a.m.

Mass this morning wasn't as elaborate as last week, there were only 10 altar servers. Father Andre was the celebrant and we understood more of his sermon this week, not all, but more.

After Mass, I examined the processional barge that was stored in one of the side chapels of the church.

It's really quite a massive structure.

It may be hard to believe, but it takes fifty men (changed about every block) to carry this structure through the streets of La Antigua (starting and ending in Ciudad Vieja) from about 11:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m.

As we had planned last Sunday, we joined Fathers Andre and Bernard for lunch in LA. We went to a small restaurant, La Cuevita de lo Urquizu (The Little Cave or Cellar of the Urquizu, whatever that is?), that had probably 12 meat choices (stewed, roasted, fried, etc.) all cooked in traditional clay pots and an equal number of vegetable and salad choices. Of course, there were corn tortillas. It was quite good.

Following lunch, we continued on to Santo Domingo, a former Dominican monastery that has now been recreated as a Five-Star hotel. In addition to the hotel and dining facilities, there are also colonial museums and preserved ruins.

At one time the chuch that stood on this site (now only a shell with a tent-like roof) was one of the largest in La Antigua. It was a fully functioning monastery that was destroyed by one or more of La Antigua's many earthquakes. Here's a view of the monastery crypt

and here is what's left of the monastery kitchen.

After enjoying coffee and chocolate con leche and enjoying the parrots,

they took us back to our apartment, as we have to be packed and ready to leave to meet our bus in La Antigua at about 6:15 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Since Linda has not been feeling her best and I'm basically lazy, I decided to ask Art if he could find us someone to clean our apartment after we leave. One of the downsides of living near an active volcano is the presence of volcanic ash. At dinner last night, Art told me that he had someone lined up for us and that it would cost Q45 ($5.60). Sounds to me like I made an excellent decision. Unfortunately, I didn't have change, so I had to walk into CV to get some. The simplest way to get change is to go to a tienda (small store) and buy something, so I did. I purchased some diet Coke (600 ml or 20 oz) for Q5 (60 cents) each. On my way, I called my mother and chatted with her until I lost the connection for the second time. It took me a while to realize that I had run out of minutes. I'd have to call back on Linda's phone when I returned to the apartment.

On my way back, there was an older policeman on my side of the road. He asked where I was walking, so I told him to our apartmento. He asked if I was from the EEUU (los estados unidos), and I said that I was. I also said I was from Iowa, which usually leads to a blank stare, so I said oeste (West) of Chicago and he nodded. He asked what the lump on my backpack strap was and I showed him my anti-nausea wristbands. I told him they were for enfermo de montana (use circumfex on second n) or mountain sickness.

Back at the apartment, I used Linda's phone to call my mother and Bill. they had just returned from Amarillo, where they had attended a family funeral. I suggested that Los Angeles and a visit with Syd, Nic and the twins wasn't much farther. We soon started packing and decided that it would be a miracle if we could get everything to San Antonio Palopo (accent on final o) and eventually to Xela. We are definitely going to have to jettison some stuff before we return to Iowa.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 13

Today Linda was still not feeling up to par and elected to stay in bed for most of the day. However, since we were almost out of groceries, I elected to go into La Antigua for supplies.

I took a chicken bus into town and got the groceries we needed at Bodegona. Since it was lunch, I decided to have lunch at Pollo Campero and pick up a take-out order for Linda, since her appetite had returned. I had intended on taking a tuk-tuk back to the apartment to save time, but Alameda Santa Lucia was jam packed with traffic and nothing was moving.

Knowing that the chicken buses used back streets to get out of town, I found one heading for Alotenango and soon was on my way. Surprisingly, Linda's lunch was still somewhat warm when I returned to the apartment.

Fortunately, Linda was feeling better when it was time to leave for dinner. Our landlords, Art and Rosa, had invited us to dinner at the home they're renting in La Antigua. If you remember, they lived at their bed and breakfast (next to our apartment), but had rented it to a family with ten children (8 boys and 2 girls) as a home. The dinner Rosa prepared was delightful. We enjoyed the conversation also, as it gave us new insight into the life of an expat. Following dinner, Art graciously took us back to our apartment.

March 12

Today, we once again slept in and then surfed the Internet and worked on our blogs. Mid-afternoon, Linda started to feel nauseaus. She decided to go to bed, hoping that it would pass and we ended up spending all day at the apartment, .

My only outing was to walk into Ciudad Viejas to pick up some Coke light. Walking back, I greeted the police at the intersection by the cemetery and they greeted me back.

March 11

This morning we got on a chicken bus for La Antigua around 8:30 a.m. We needed to drop off our laundry at the lavandaria and also wanted to attend the 9:00 a.m. expat breakfast at Café Contessa. This week it was almost standing room only.

After breakfast, Carl invited us to join him, Claire (his wife) and Patsy (a friend) on a trip to the mall in Chimaltenango. Having nothing better to do, while we waited for our laundry to get done, we readily accepted.

The purpose of the trip was to go to the Maxi-Bodegona (a better stocked grocery store) and look for a computer keyboard for Patsy's laptop. The built-in keyboard on her laptop was giving her problems and, being three years old, probably wasn't cost effective to repair.

The trip to Chimaltenango was uneventful. The only keyboard available in the mall was much too expensive, but the grocery store, to our surprise, had one much cheaper. After finishing our shopping, we returned to La Antigua for lunch.

After parking in La Antigua, we walked past the park in front of La Merced Church and noticed that the fountain was decorated with flowers.

Lunch was at Frida's, named after the artist and wife of Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, a Mexican cafe. According to Carl, they have the best nachos in La Antigua. While I'm not sure they are the best, however, they very well may be the biggest nacho plate. After our appetizer, we had other entrees, such as a tortilla soup or tacos.

After lunch, which was later than we usually eat, Carl drove Patsy home and then took us to get our laundry. We had intended on taking a chicken bus back to our apartment, but Carl graciously insisted on driving us home.

Dinner was scrambled eggs, followed by video conferencing and blogging.

March 10

Today was pretty much a catch-up day. I spent part of the morning working on my blog and got really excited when our Internet access finally started working well.

With the Internet access working well, I immediately downloaded all of the drivers (18) that I needed to finish working on the Child Aid laptop. By the time I finished, it was time for lunch, which we ate at the apartment.

After lunch, we headed into La Antigua and had a strange ride. We were walking into Ciudad Viejas and were just at the crossroads by the cemetery, when a chicken bus with two passengers, a mother and child, stopped to pick us up. Instead of driving through Ciudad Viejas, the driver took the (fairly) new highway that connects to the Central American (Pan American) Highway to the east of Chimaltenango. He then takes the unpaved shortcut to La Antigua and doesn't stop at the terminal, as we had expected. Afraid that he would keep on driving out of La Antigua, we bailed across from La Recolección Monestery, which appears to have been one of the larger one in La Antigua.

The church interior is almost completely filled with debris from whatever earthquake destroyed it.

Other parts of the monastery have evidently been cleared of rubble, but give an impression of the size of the facility.

As we were leaving the grounds, we noticed this tree which undoubtedly was here when the monastery was founded.

After leaving the monastery, we stopped by Dispensa Familiar to use the ATM machine and then headed over to the Rainbow Cafe for an afternoon snack. From there we headed over to the Paca, a part of the mercado where clothing can be purchased for as little as Q1 (12 cents). We've been told that "hay ganga allí" (there are bargains there), but we didn't find any.

After leaving the Paca, we picked up some bananas and plums at a stall in the mercado and headed over to McDonalds for a light, early supper. On the way, we saw this man pounding down cobblestones that had just been reset.

We headed back to our apartment and, for once, we let off right at the street to our apartment. That evening, I installed those 18 drivers on the Child Aid laptop and downloaded other updates. We also find time to video chat with Nic, Gia, Cos and Donna in California, after which I worked on my blog.