Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, 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
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"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

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!

28 comments:

  1. You seem to have adjusted very well, Karen, despite not having the conveniences you were used to having.

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  2. Sounds a bit like camping (hope that's not offensive), and after a while you do get used to waiting for the things you "need", or making d with other things, or doing without.
    A simplified life, and probably a better one.
    I like this series!

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    1. Mimi, It does feel very much like camping! Even the house we have has a lot of wood in it and reminds me of my grandparent's summer cabin in Minnesota. Only the vegetation surrounding is definitely not north woodsy.

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  3. You're learning to adapt. We forget how convenient things are here in the states. You need something, you just run out and get it.

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  4. Looks like you are adapting to your new place Karen.

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  5. How long have you been there? How long will you stay? I've just got to make time to back and read more of your blog .... putting it on my TO DO list!

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    1. Susan, We arrived on Feb. 8 so about 9 weeks now. It still all feels fresh and new. No plans to leave yet!

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  6. Organizing something new can be exciting and difficult, depending on how convenient the "conveniences" were prior to the move. I think we in the US take it for granted that everything is a short drive away, and always available.

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  7. It can take a lot of time. When I moved just a few hours away in the same state, I felt like my life had turned upside down. It took almost a year for me to find my groove. (I'm slow. ha) That would be a challenge without the stores but sounds like you are starting to settle right in.

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  8. Adjusting to a different way of life must be quite hard and getting used to making do must give you quite a sense of achievement.

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  9. Being a homebody who doesn't like change that much, I found moving house a couple of years ago pretty stressful and your post just made it clear to me why - because I had to create a whole new routine. You're a lot braver than me, I don't know if I could settle into such a different type of place. ;P
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX - A to Z Drabblerotic

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  10. I think what you learn is what you can do without. But it is an adventure something that years away from today, you can tell your grandchildren about!

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  11. Being an expat always energized me. I took nothing for granted and I had a chance to explore new things every day! Glad you're having such a great experience.

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  12. Sounds like quite the adventure... Living in a new country has to be trying at times, BUT, a new venture is worth the minor inconveniences.

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  13. Hi Karen - moving anywhere new, or adjust to a different life style is going to take time .. and you were so surrounded by family and friends .. life will settle down .. and it looks just gorgeous! Cheers Hilary

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  14. Give me Target too - when I relocated for work a lot back in the day, it was one of my questions to consider a move...is there a Target there? So funny. In my mind it seems like a no-brainer to trade Target for paradise...until I was out of my favorite hand soap or yoga pants or affordable dog food or...or...or...pitiful. So glad you are making the adjustments and sharing this beautiful adventure.

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    1. Lisa, For me it's Costco. I could never imagine moving to an area without a Costco. But look at the money I'm saving LOL.

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  15. I would miss Target. And Harris Teeter.

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  16. You have adjusted very well, Karen. We always treated our emigration like an adventure.

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  17. Your husband is awfully young, and good looking...

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    1. Always look forward to these anonymous comments so I can guess which Gowen boy it is.

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  18. I like the analogy to camping, because that is the sort of thing you're unlikely to do indefinitely. This means you will either become a version of a "local," (albeit the sort that speak with an accent) or you will come back.
    And either way, it's grand.

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  19. I can only imagine what it's like to go to foreign place and trying to start over. I don't think I'd ever be able to do it. You and your husband are brave. :) I've never even been camping or on a road trip! haha

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  20. I guess we really take for granted how easy it is to shop where we live.

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  21. You are like the people on House Hunters International! I hope things are getting easier and that you will just get on a chicken truck one day and head to the big city:) Your home looks cozy from what I see

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  22. Lamenting that there is no Walmart in Panajachel? Maybe you are in the wrong place.

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    1. Sean, Just thinking about the things I can run out and get at a Walmart, or any kind of big box store in the States...like sheets that actually fit the beds. And a set of measuring cups.

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