Lake Atitalan, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Tuk Tuk

The tuk tuk is a "taxi" or basically a tiny car, or maybe a metal structure that holds a driver and a couple passengers set around a motorcycle motor? However it's built, it gets you around for Q5-- or about 65 cents per person, when you've got too far to walk.

My husband and I sold our cars when we moved to Guatemala. We walk everywhere now and love the freedom and improved health it provides. But when we purchase a few too many supplies at the Dispensa, it is nice to flag down one of the tuk tuk's for a quick ride home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Spiders, Squirrels, and Sand Flies

At this moment there's a squirrel busy on our roof, banging about and looking for a way to get in. He shows up every morning. We can hear him pattering about. One time he did get in, until our property manager climbed the roof and closed the entryway.

Spiders are all around, occasionally finding their way in and building webs in the high corners. I don't like killing spiders. When I find one, I like to put him back outside.

The worst of the insect life in my opinion are the sand flies. They are so small you hardly see them, like gnats, and you don't know you've been bitten until later when the area begins to itch. And itch. And itch. And swell.

One time I was in our garden at dusk and got bitten really bad, (dusk and dawn are when the sand flies are out feeding) but I didn't realize how much until the next day when both my feet swelled up and itched so intensely I wanted to cut them off. Calamine lotion, campho phenic, anti-itch cream, lavendar essential oil-- none of it helped. I was up all night in misery.

The next day I called my daughter who gave me a remedy that worked like magic. Put ice packs on the affected areas until the skin goes numb. Then dry and apply cortisone cream. Take Benadryl or some other antihistime. The ice, the cortisone cream and the antihistime pills together knocked it. I had 3 or 4 hours peace until they started itching again, at which time I did another treatment. It only took 3 treatments that day and the next day I was feeling human again.

So you see, despite all my lovely photos and happy experiences, it isn't quite the Garden of Eden it may appear to be. And I haven't even told you about the termites.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Religion

There are many churches in Guatemala, with the Catholic Church being the largest and the oldest, of course. Catholicism goes way back to when the Spaniards came to the New World.

At Easter time, the week leading up to it is called Semana Santa, or Holy Week. It's a festival week with vacationing, partying, family gatherings, and religious celebrations, culminating with Easter Sunday.

Regardless of one's personal religious affiliation, appreciating the Catholic churches with their schools, culture, statuary, courtyards is part of learning the history of the land.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Quetzal

The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, so colorful and beautiful! They are found in forests and woodlands, especially in humid highlands. I've not yet seen one, but then I haven't been looking either. But aren't they beautiful??
The quetzal bird is so important to the country, they also named their national currency after it. One quetzal is worth 100 centavos. In American dollars, the ratio is about 7.50 to one, or one American dollar gets you 7 - 8 quetzales.

Bottom line, our dollars go pretty far if we are careful, and Americans can live fairly well in Guatemala for a whole lot less. I'm still not over the thrill of taking $350 out of the ATM for my U.S. bank account and seeing it come out in well over Q2000.

So even though the Quetzal bird is pretty, I'm more excited about the Quetzales I carry around in my bag for shopping. Call me shallow but after years of living frugally and trying to make ends meet in the States, it's rather nice to have a little extra cash in Guatemala.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Panajachel

Panajachel, called Pana for short, is about 90 miles, or a three hour drive from Guatemala City. It is one of several towns on Guatemala's fabulous Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala's high country at an elevation of over 5000 ft. Population is about 15,000 and growing. The weather is gorgeous, never too hot or too cold, because of the elevation and the lake.

 People like to take off at the harbor and do a boat tour of Lake Atitlan, visiting other villages along the shore.
On the hills around Pana, you can see how the farmers grow their crops in terraced fields.

Pana is where we are now living, with no plans to move any time soon, God willing. Our family's hotel Casa Colonial is right off the main street, called Calle Santander, where tourists wander up and down to shop at the stalls selling traditional Guatemalan items and to eat at the local restaurants.

Casa Colonial Hotel, now open for guests. Come and enjoy Pana!

My husband taking a break from all the walking we do up and down the streets of Pana.

Not all streets of Pana are as busy as Calle Santander. Behind these walls are quiet gardens, homes and apartment dwellings. There's always somewhere interesting to walk along the cobblestone streets. I've walked all over and always felt safe.

It is especially nice to see a branch of our church just down the street from the hotel. It makes us feel right at home each Sunday when we attend services.

Panajachel is a wonderful place to visit, and to live!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Organizing a New Routine in a Foreign Land

At first the idea of organizing our routine didn't seem so hard. It was pretty much like moving anywhere new, something we'd done quite a few times before. You find housing, you explore your neighborhood, you set up your work routine based on the job requirements. You get a few things for functioning in everyday life.

Setting up the household has been the most difficult, because Panajachel is a tourist/ resort area without shopping centers or large, familiar stores (WalMart, PriceMart, malls) like there are in Guatemala City.

When I wanted towels, I found a few overpriced, thin ones at the Dispensa. The Dispensa is actually owned and operated by WalMart, only a whole lot smaller. Not that I'm in love with WalMart-- give me Costco or Target any day-- but I'd have sure taken to a Super WalMart if I saw one in Panajachel.

You just don't run out and get things, like sheet sets or cutting boards or a shower curtain. You do without or you find a substitute until you can get to Guatemala City (3 hours away.) Or to Xela, which is closer but did I mention we don't have a car? So figure in the price of the transportation-- a taxi, or a private shuttle, or you can always take the chicken bus, or catch a ride on the next pick-up truck.

So far transportation has stopped me from venturing beyond Pana for shopping. I keep my routine pretty basic and centrally located within walking distance.And a lot of what I need is found in the corner tienda. The one shown is actually the size of two, or even three, tiendas. Most of them aren't this big.

So I get up and ready for the day, spend time at work writing and/or editing, plan the meals and walk to the market, study Spanish, back to writing and/or editing with too-frequent breaks for social media.

We enjoy family time in the evenings when we can.

If it's just my husband and me, we watch something on Netflix then go to bed.

So far we like it!