Monday, November 30, 2009


I don´t know where the time goes in this life of leisure. I never did finish my last entry due to technical difficulties.
You may have read about the earthquake we had on Thursday, November 26. It registered 5.9 and happened off the coast of El Salvador. I was on a computer, and everything was shaking for about 30 seconds. Nothing was damaged and no one was hurt, although I heard that a window washer in Guatemala city was shaken off his platform, and was hanging from his safety belt.
Fuego (Fire), one of the three volcanoes surrounding Antigua, puts out a cloud of smoke and ash every now and then. It is also amazing to see, but again it is not at any dangerous level of activity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


In an attempt to learn something new, I will see if I can add a short video clip today. On Sunday, my buddies and I were going out for dinner, and happened upon an amazing band playing in El Parque Central. Their music is kind of traditional Peruvian style, with some interesting modern elements. The percussionist also played one of those hollow ceramic "jugs" with two openings. You force air inside with cupped hands. Janet, you know what I'm talking about. The band is called "Haceros de Lluvia" (Rainmakers), from Guatemala City.

I'd also like to show you this gorgeous place where I like to do my skyping and blogging. It is a garden centre/cafe just south of my house. It is very peaceful. Lots of birdsounds, especially now as the sun is going down.
Hmmm. The video upload is taking forever!!! I´ll skip that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

El Pilar, nature preserve

I’ve had lots of difficulties creating my blog. It seems that there are always interruptions in internet service when I’m uploading photos or saving text. I lost today’s entry, so I’m trying again. This isn’t looking quite the way I’d hoped, but hopefully I will gradually figure these things out.
In the photos you’ll see my friends Bonnie, Debbie and Julie on the deck of a treehouse at Earth Lodge where we walked two Sundays ago. The boy and goat are frequent visitors outside my room. The steps are at El Pilar, the nature preserve. The others were taken en route to Earth Lodge.
There is always lots to do here, but especially on the weekends. Last Sunday, Bonnie, Julie and I walked about an hour to El Pilar, and then hiked about 3 hours in a lush ravine up the side of a mountain. There are many types of birds there, including something like 20 different types of humming birds. At the top we had a picnic, then walked about 3 hours back. On the hike we only saw 2 other people and their puppy. We were exhausted when we returned, but it was worth it.
Saturday night there were 4 different dance performances going on in Antigua: tango, belly dancing, salsa and folk dancing. I wanted to see them all, but that wasn’t possible. Bonnie, Tommy and I chose the belly dancing performance because of the venue. It was held in an amphitheatre created in the ruins of a centuries old church on the edge of town. The dancers and costumes were amazing and there was live music provided by a band from Saudi Arabia. One of the final dancers danced with a two metre long snake wrapped around her neck and torso. At first I thought it wasn’t real, but the way it moved made me realize it was. Yuck!
Last Wednesday, a few of us went to Ricky’s Bar, intending to practice our salsa moves. The first few couples on the floor were so amazing that we were too intimidated to dance. We enjoyed the show though, and the music. The band was Buena Vista de Corazon, with the drummer/singer from Buena Vista Social Club. They also play across the road from my house on Thursday evenings, but then it is more mellow dinner music.
My friend Suzanne was here for a few days on her way back from Nicaragua, where she was working with “Sleeping Children Around the World”. We had a great time together, eating, drinking and enjoying live music. She has been here many times, and in a round about way, introduced me to the place and to Maria Elena. Thank-you Suzanne!
You all know I am a creature of habit, so it will come as no surprise that I have a daily and weekly routine here. I have a Spanish class Monday to Friday for two hours, and teach English Saturday mornings. I alternate days of yoga classes and private salsa lessons. Of course I enjoy my Café Condesa latte each morning sitting in the sunshine in El Parque Central.
It doesn’t get much better than that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two Weeks So Far

I still haven't got this blogging thing totally figured out, but I'm learning. So, what's happened in the past week? Here are some highlights, and I'll try to put in some photos too. I haven't figured out how to put captions with the photos though.

On Sunday, my buddies, Bonnie, Julie and Debbie and I had a potluck breakfast at Debbie's and then walked uphill for about two hours to a cool place called Earth Lodge (which you can google if you want more info). On the way, we went through the village of El Hato, where there was a health fair going on at the local school, for all the locals. It was provided by students and instructors from a college in Guatemala City. They were doing vision testing, hygiene education, dental check-ups, hair cuts...all kinds of stuff. There are so many projects led by foreigners, but it is great to see Guatemalans looking after each other.

We continued on to Earth Lodge with a few kids accompanying us. They were very cute, and as you can see from the photo, they enjoyed splashing through the puddles. Then we met women returning from the "pila" with jugs of water on their heads. Some women have to walk a few kilometers to this pila each day.

At the pila we continued down a path to Earth Lodge. It is a hostel and restaurant situated on the side of the mountain, with the most spectacular view down into the valley, to Antigua and Jocotenango. It is lush and fresh and beautiful. It is owned by a young couple from Canada and US, but there weren't there on Sunday. Apart from us, there were lots of young European guys and a few girls. They were playing a variety of active games and having a blast. We played ping pong and then had a delicious lunch out on the patio.

Then we looked at the accommodations: a tree house for two, built around an oak tree. One of the photos is of Bonnie, Debbie and Julie on the deck of the treehouse. There is also a dorm for eight and a few other cabins. Those friends and a few other Americans are going there for American Thanksgiving. I opted out because if I go there, I want to go at a more tranquil time.

When we got back to Antigua, there was a religious procession going on. Only one "anda" (float carried by about 40 people). We encountered the procession again as we were heading out for dinner with another friend, Ingrid. Unfortunately, in the smoosh of the crowd, Ingrid had about $200 lifted from her fannypack, which was hidden under her jacket. She didn't feel it happen. She was thankful that she had left her passport, cards and airline ticket in her room.

We went to Debbie's son's Italian restaurant for dinner. Marcelo was studying International Business in the states, but dropped out at 23 to try his hand in the restaurant business. He has had the restaurant for about six months, and it is doing very well. We had a great dinner, two bottles of wine, and a lot of laughs.

I'd better wrap up because it is almost time to go home for lunch.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Good morning!I had an exciting day yesterday November 1st. My two main buddies from my house are two women from California, Julie and Bonnie. We went about an hour by van to a town called Sumpango where they have one of the biggest kite flying displays for the Day of the Dead. First we were entertained in the van by two young Aussies who were hungover from partying the night before. They were hilarious. Then in Sumpango, first we spent a couple of hours at the cemetery taking photos. Families gather at the graves, clean them up, paint them, decorate them with flowers, burn incense, and then have a picnic by the grave. They also fly kites to communicate with the departed. It is quite beautiful and a very happy occasion. I didn´t see any sad faces.Then we climbed up the hill to where they display the huge kites, up to 15 metres in diametre. Each kite has a theme, many to do with the environment or poverty or family violence. They are made with a bamboo frame and tissue paper. Groups spend weeks working on them. They are works of art. Spectacular! They are able to fly, but yesterday there wasn´t enough wind for the biggest ones to fly. The biggest we saw flying was about 6 meters across. When we got back, Bonnie and Julie wanted a steak dinner, so the three of us went to a steakhouse. It was pricey compared to Guatemalan food, but for about $22 we had a delicious steak dinner with wine. While we were eating it started to pour with rain. We called a taxi, and thank goodness we did, because when we got to our street it was completely flooded. There was a fountain in the middle of the road where one of the manhole covers had blown off from the pressure. When we got out of the taxi, we were up to our knees in water. The ditches were full, and the street was honestly like a river. Now I see why the threshold to each door is about a foot high. It keeps out most of the water. My place was nice and dry. Apparently there was a drought during the usual rainy season, and now we´re getting rain in what should be the dry season. I didn´t bring a raincoat!It´s still beautiful though, and doesn´t spoil my enjoyment of the place.