Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 1

Today was Jueves Santo de la Cena del Señor or Holy Thursday. We went to Parque Central just before noon for lunch and found the municipal band playing one of two concerts scheduled for the day.

After lunch, we walked over to the cathedral to try to find out what time the Holy Thursday Mass would be held and found a procession leaving the church and proceeding around Parque Central. (Note: this was one of three processions held this day.)

Like in La Antigua, they also create alfombras (decorative carpets of flowers and sawdust) in the streets.

We went back later in the afternoon, before going to the church and found the municipal band playing again in the shade of Parque Central.

We never did find out what time the Holy Thursday Mass was being held, but did see a notice that there were weekday Masses at 6:00 p.m., so we decided to arrive at 5:30 p.m. to make sure we had as seat. On our way to the church, I took this picture of the front of the cathedral.

The church was fairly empty when we arrived, but there were other people there who were also unsure when the service would start. Here's a picture of the sanctuary prior to Mass.

We had no problem getting a good seat, since the service didn't actually start until 8:00 p.m. Please note, that there were quite a few Guatemalans in the church with us while we were waiting. Here's a photo showing the crowd that attended, as it was a full church.

Other than the fact that the Mass was in Spanish, it was identical to others that we've attended in past years, with the exception being that it was celebrated by the Archbishop.

After Mass, we walked back to our guesthouse.

March 31

Buying those crutch tips was only part of our challenge. We now had to get them to Joan in San Antonio Palopó, which was no small task.

They do have a postal system here in Guatemala. We've heard that mail even gets delivered...sometimes. We had used the post office in La Antigua to mail a postcard to Linda's mother on Ash Wednesday. To date, it still hasn't arrived. I imagine it's now decorating some postal employees wall.

Our first task today was locating the post office. We eventually found it, but didn't recognize it as the walls were plastered with Tigo (a cell phone company) signs. The young woman "working" there, who never stood up the entire time we were there, let us know that we had come to the right place.

I foolishly thought that they would sell mailing envelopes, like our post offices do in the states. How silly of me. We left to find something to put the crutch tips in so that we could mail them.

Our first stop was a papelería (stationary store), where I purchased a manila-like envelope for Q0.50 (6 cents). It promptly tore when I pushed the box into it. The clerk assured me that they didn't have anything else that would work.

We then headed over to a well-know Guatemalan restaurant, Casa Ut'z Hua, for comida tipica, or so I thought. While the food was fine and the serving was appropriate for comida tipica, the service was lacking and the cost was strictly for gringos - Q95 ($11.90). Typical comida tipica costs Q20-25 each.

Leaving the tourist trap, we located Trama Textiles, the weaving cooperative where Linda intends to learn how to use a backstrap loom as soon as Semana Santa is over.

Walking on towards Parque Benito Juarez, we tried several other papelerías with no better results. Finally, we went into the Paiz Super Mercado in Mont Blanc and bought a kraft paper gift bag and some tape and I got out my Swiss Army knife and used the scissors to take it apart, so that we could wrap and prepare the package for mailing.

That done, we walked back to Parque Benito Juarez and took a microbus heading for Parque Central, where we then walked to the post office to mail the package. This time the young woman did stand up so that she could walk across the room to weigh our package. Having done that, she then sat down, filled out the receipt for postage, took our payment of Q30 ($3.60) and our package for mailing. Now, if only a miracle will occur and it gets delivered!

As is often the case, we then walked over to Despensa Familiar to pick up a few things that we needed and headed back to the to our guest house. This trip only took us about three hours.

All in all, those crutch tips cost us about $10.00 and at least eight hours of our time. Thank heavens most things are so much cheaper here in Guatemala.

During the evening, we once again heard a processional band playing, but couldn't locate it, so we didn't bother trying to track it down.

Note on Processions

Although we had to stumble on them, we did find two guides to Semana Santa processions in Xela. The first, produced by Pollo Campero, only told what was happening, but didn't show any routes on the map that was included. The other, produced by the municipal government, included a listing of processions and also had a map, stolen from the Xelapages website and edited to remove any reference to Xelapages, except the red square and arrow pointing to in adjacent to Parque Calvario, did show routes.

What amazes us is that the times shown on both schedules seem to have absolutely no basis in fact. It seems that the individuals managing these processions start them when they are ready to do so and couldn't be bothered by any printed schedule. If we had relied on these schedules, we probably wouldn't have seen anything. Instead, pure luck has worked well for us.

March 30

Today we are going to find crutch tips. Late last week, I had emailed Tom (Xelapages) to ask if he new where we could find them. He was at the beach with his family over the weekend, but, on Monday after he returned to Xela, he wrote to let us know that he would find out for us.

We walked over to Xelapages, which is across from Parque Calvario, to get our directions and then took a microbus to Parque Benito Juarez. After lunch, we started waking toward the medical supply store, which is near the hospital in Zona 3.

We had a map, actually about four maps, but soon got turned around. Streets in Xela, as in La Antigua, often lack street signs, so it's somewhat difficult to know where you are at times or how to get where we want to be.

Nevertheless, we did find the medical supply store and purchased the crutch tips for only Q30 ($3.60) and it only took us about three hours to do it. Our mission accomplished, we walked back to Mont Blanc, to pick up some things at the Paiz Super Mercado and decided that we would walk back to the guest house. We had done it before and, belive it or not, actually knew how to get there.

On the way, however, we sidetracked to stop at the Bake Shop, the Mennonite bakery that is only open on Tuesday and Friday. We picked up some more cheddar cheese, as this is about the only place in Xela to buy it.

The route back to our guest house brought us to Parque Calvario, so we stopped by Xelapages to let Tom know that we had been successful in our mission. We then went back to the guest house.

This evening, while working on our computers, we heard music. Rushing to the front gate of our guest house, we discovered another procession passing down our street. This was indeed a bonus, as we didn't have to track it down.

March 29

Today's adventure involved microbuses, those vans that are used primarily for public transportation in Xela.

We decided to be smart, so we went over to Parque Calvario, which is only a short walk from our guest house, to find a microbus heading towards Parque Benito Juarez. After find one, we soon found ourselves at our destination.

After having lunch at Pollo Campero (They're having some great promotions right now. Each day there's a different special for only Q20-Q25), we walked over to Mont Blanc. I needed some cash and the ATM's at Mont Blanc are regarded a very secure, since the building is locked up each night and crooks can't sneak in and attach devices to the to steal card numbers, as can happen in unsecured sites. We also picked up a few things we needed at the Paiz Super Mercado that is located there. We also spent some time looking for crutch tips for Joan (owner of the B&B we stayed at on Lake Atitlán), but didn't find any.

Ready to head back to the guest house, we didn't find any microbuses heading for Parque Calvario at the last place we had taken one. We then walked over to Parque Benito Juarez and couldn't find any heading for Parque Calvario. To make a long story short, we never found a microbus heading to Parque Calvario. Instead, we decided to settle for a microbus going to Parque Central, which we knew we could find. After a short walk from there, we managed to make it back to the guest house.

Later that evening, we heard music and left the guest house to find another small procession coming from Parque Calvario. It's amazing to see what intensity these Guatemalans put into celebrating Semana Santa. In La Antigua, you can attribute it to tourism, but here in Xela, they are doing this primarily for themselves.

March 28

This morning we left for church around 10:00 a.m. and when we reached Parque Central, we noticed a small women's procession turning the corner next to the cathedral. Today is Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday), the official start of Semana Santa (Holy Week). We're finally to the last week of Cuaresma (Lent). After viewing this first procession in Xela (they don't start as early as La Antigua), we headed over to the cathedral for the 10:30 a.m. Mass.

As we approached the church, vendors were selling special palm creations with flowers. We got one for Linda, but I picked up a free one, without flowers, as we entered the church, which was starting to fill up. We were fortunate to find seats close to the front, which helps us keep up. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring our Spanish misselettes or our English translations of the readings this morning.

It was soon time for Mass to begin and the procession started coming down the main aisle. We were pleased to see that the Archbishop was presiding this morning. He came up the aisle with only eight altar servers (two designated to hold his miter and his shepherd's staff), although he did have about eight Eucharistic ministers, six readers and an adult attendant dressed in a white alb. As he came up the aisle, he bless all the palms with a large aspergil (sprinkler) made out of bound palms. After he had passed, it was necessary to dry our glasses.

Even without our missellettes, which are not used often we've discovered, we had no trouble following the Mass or understanding what was going on. The Archbishop's sermon was even somewhat understandable, although that could have been due to the unique features of the feast.

I was impressed with the way that the Archbishop presided this morning. He wasn't just present while others did their thing, he actively presided at the Mass and gave his own sermon. You could tell, buy the reaction of the congregation, that he is highly regarded by his flock.

After Mass, we had lunch and returned to our guest house, after stopping at Despensa Familiar for some things that we needed.

For supper, rather than cook, we decided to head over to Parque Central for dinner. Once there, we stumbled on yet another procession.

New Approach

Now that we are in Xela, we're not running around as much. I'm therefore going to change how I'm blogging and only report new and interesting things that are happening to us.

After all, we're getting up at about the same time each morning (7:00 a.m.), having breakfast (usually oatmeal) and work on our computers until about 10:00-noon. I'm still doing a daily job search (applied for two more this week) and am working on a grant proposal and letters of inquiry (requesting the opportunity to submit a proposal) for funding for Primeros Pasos. After this coming week (Semana Santa - Holy Week), I will probably be doing some computer work for Entremundos, a local non-profit that works with other local non-profits, and that could lead to doing similar computer work with some of their affiliate non-profits.

Rest assured, there are still going to be plenty of adventures, but I've had it with reporting the daily life routine, since for the next five weeks we are "living" in Xela, not just visiting here.