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Firecrackers

This was some of the noisemakers that went on for days and seems to still be going on but with less frequency.

el colchon

Our apartment - that's the door to the street

Our apartment - that's the door to the street

A few posts ago, I mentioned going in search of a pump. Well, first, out of necessity we soon learned the word for mattress — colchon, and the thing is the one in our nice apartment was awfully uncomfortable — mushy and springy. The first morning we woke up very sore indeed.

The apartment again -- looking into the kitchen and the bedroom beyond

The apartment again -- looking into the kitchen and the bedroom beyond

We found our apartment while in Vancouver through a real estate agency’s website — Casa Nova.  It’s always a little risky committing to something for a month but thankfully it worked out fairly well. And should anyone be interested, it’s not necessary at all to pre-book. Just get here and take a week to look for a place. There are many apartments available. (A cell phone is useful. For service got with Tigo as we are told it’s much more reliable.)

Oh, yes, we have wifi too but you got to stand in the armoir to connect and remain connected, ha, ha, ha

Oh, yes, we have wi-fi too but you got to stand in the armoir to connect and remain connected, ha, ha, ha

Our apartment is fully furnished and includes hot water, very few linens, cleaning twice a week (that was a surprise, it wasn’t on the website) and a rooftop patio. In this kind of warm/hot climate, you definitely want to have a little spot to sit outside — a garden would be perfect but a patio is the next best thing.  It feels unnatural if you can’t sit outside.

Things we have to take care of include getting a bomba of pure drinking water (a large water container), getting gas for the gas stovetop (there’s no stove), and disposing of the garbage.

the bombas of Salvavida agua pura

the bomba of Salvavida agua pura

There are several ways of getting your bomba…a truck comes by and you buy one.  If you’re not going to be home, you can ask your neighbour to get it for you, or there’s a tienda (like a corner store) in our neighbourhood that sells them. Or you can get one at the Bodegona (supermarket).A bomba is 16 Quetzales, that’s about $3 CAD. Cheap ha?

Luckily the gas tienda is right around the corner, so we can just walk there. Whenever you have heavy things to carry, like the bomba and the gas tank, you can grab a tuk tuk — a very bumpy experience in Antigua’s cobblestone roads. Our teacher tells us that a tuk tuk anywhere in town is 10 Q and not 15 Q as we’ve been charged.

Having a lesson on our rooftop patio with our teacher Gustavo or Tavo as Lenny has taken to calling him

Having a lesson on our rooftop patio with our teacher Gustavo or Tavo as Lenny has taken to calling him

It was hard figuring out garbage pick up. Our helpful neighbours George and Renzo (from the US, Renzo is originally Guatemalan) didn’t know themselves when pick up was. I think because of the holidays everything was a little screwed up. I think we finally get to dump our garbage Monday morning. We’re just going to put it outside George and Renzo’s door.

The view from our rooftop balcony, the sun hasn't come up yet, it's beautiful

The view from our rooftop balcony, the sun hasn't come up yet, it's beautiful and hot once it shines

So, let’s return to el colchon…you can find almost everything in Antigua, it is truly amazing as it’s a pretty small place. We thought we’d try figure out the mattress situation ourselves as Casa Nova was closed for the holidays. So off we went one day in search for un colchon. We forgot our dictionary so at first we had to use roundabout sentences and gestures which usually works pretty well. We discovered that spring mattresses were expensive, $200 buckuroonees. There were no foam mattresses anywhere but there are cotton mattresses…but we could only find a single size. So the next word to learn was ‘pump’which here they called ‘inflatador’ but in the dictionary it says ‘bomba’. We started asking for air mattresses. We asked by saying ‘colchon con un inflatador con pied (a foot pump). I think we found the only air mattress in town ($40 CAD) and we found a bicycle foot pump at el mercado (that’s a hard place to navigate, it’s a maze if I’ve ever seen one). Then we had to rig up the hole of the mattress so we could pump air into it — is was inches too large. Once home we tried pumping air into the darn thing…sh*t, it’s not easy. It remains in the closet unpumped — we could take it to the gas station I guess.  Anyway…we talked to George and Renzo and they graciously swapped our lump of a mattress for the one in their guest room which is only 50% better. We talked to the agency and hhmmmm, they might not do anything about it while we’re here. Hmmm, what to do?

Enough of that, suffice it to say that it was a learning experience and that all the salespeople we met were very nice. It is possible to get things done here, it just takes more effort and time. And that’s the story of el colchon which I guess is not over yet!

Breakfast on the pation, that's only a quarter of a small papaya in those two plates, muy sabrosa...very tasty

Breakfast on the pation, that's only a quarter of a small papaya in those two plates, muy sabrosa...very tasty

New Years Eve

New Years Eve was a blast here in several ways.  We were out all day and by 9:00 PM we were struggling to get out at all for the big evening.  For most of the evening there was sporadic reports of firecrackers – some like the fairly benign ones that we were used to and others that were quite a lot more likely to get your heart rate up a bit.  Then around 10:00 there was a combination of rapid fire and volume right at our door that we took as an urging to get out and see what was going on.

Our street was decorated previously for Navidad but now it was lined with candles and there was a procession headed our way.  Halfway up the street the procession stopped and there was a solemn service that lasted 15 or 20 minutes.  It was quite beautiful to watch and the smell of incense and firecrackers really added a new level of stimulation.  As they headed down the street and headed to the next neighbourhood (I think) it was obvious to me that although it was a religous event it touched the people around the area in another way.

Procession

Procession

Long after the procession left the people in the neighbourhood remained talking and listening to music while the kids set off more fireworks.

Fireworks

Fireworks

After that experience we headed to Parque Central.  This was a different scene altogether.  There were crowds of people and the park itself was full.  There were families, couples and small groups and all seemed very relaxed. Even though there were people walking around with open bottles of wine(the wine store will open them for you), there seemed to be no rowdiness.

It was hard to tell if there were any coordinated fireworks by the municipality at all but even so there was plenty of action in that department.  In our culture or at lest what I know of it there is a concern with safety that would have made this scene impossible.  There were fireworks shooting in all directions from all around and you could follow them as they landed on and near crowds.  Again there seemed that there were few if any problems.  It was all quite haphazard and I liked that better that any other fireworks display that I have seen before.

Early on New Years Day small groups of people (mostly young and well dressed) would walk around the neighbourhoods beating on various noise makers and carrying a small statue of some religous icon that I really couldn’t identify for sure, and taking donations for what we’re not sure, maybe their church?.  And of course there were more firecrackers.

Waking up early

Waking up early

montezuma’s revenge?

Yep, it had to happen sooner or later. There we were standing at the cash register at the Bodegona (the supermarket) when I suddenly felt an incredible pain in my belly. “I have to go” I said to Lenny and walked in front heading home as quickly as I could all the while holding “it” in — you know what I mean right? It was a painful 10 minutes with waves of pain that felt like my stomach wanted to explode and finally, after 15 minutes, explode I did! Thank god that was it! So if it’s not continuing perhaps it’s not Montezuma’s revenge. I don’t know what did it — could it have been the double espresso with chocolate icecream and a brownie! Bah, anyway, the icecream here is a lot better than it used to be! And yeah, there’s so many places to eat at. We’re discovering new ones everyday and the atmosphere is so great in just about all of them. I will do a post later with shots of restaurants.

As we were walking toward the Parque Central yesterday, we came across a protest. It was a good sized group with what seemed mostly Mayan people. From what I understood, the municipality wants to move or change the bus terminal which is currently located by the mercado. It’s a huge inconvenience to the many people who carry loads of stuff to sell at the market. A change in location would mean extra long walking to carry their stuff to their destination – el mercado / their livelyhood.

The police was very present. There were a whole wack of them ready with batons and guns. Some sporting gas masks. And some taking pictures of the protesters. The protesters seemed very peaceful and the group was led by one speaker. The protest terminated in front of the municipal offices where the leader asked for the mayor to come out and talk to them. And that he did! The mayor said in a leaflet that these are just rumours but who knows. I believe they want to make the change for us tourists! I have been told that the mayor plans to introduce his own microbus company to take people from the edge of town (where the buses will be located) into the centre. Apparently, the mayor has done some good work but this change, which is supposed to take effect January 15, is definitely not a good thing.

Considering the fairly recent civil war and violence that Mayan people have endured in the past, a protest of any kind is very courageous!

Protesters in Antigua in front of the municipal offices (city hall)

Protesters in Antigua in front of the municipal offices (city hall)

A close look at the soldiers/police

A close look at the soldiers/police

Protest Poster taking a little break for helado

Protest Poster taking a little break for helado

The poster says: 1 cent for shame, 1 cent for intelligence, 1 cent for dignity, 1 cent for honesty. Donkeys!

Mayan women watching the protest, and partaking

Mayan women watching the protest, and partaking

End of the protest, Mayan women leaving

End of the protest, Mayan women leaving

antigua, guatemala

This is our third trip to Guatemala.  Arrived on the 25th…long trip because of a 4 hour wait in Houston. Oh well, it was nice to just finally be here and especially arrive in Romelia’s nice courtyard house. We took a cab from the airport ($30 US for two for a 45 minute trip) to Antigua. It was dead quite in Antigua, it was about 12:30 at night and Lenny was getting us to Romelia’s house on memorized directions…but he did it!

romelias

Romelia's place (runs a non profit - Foundations for Education)

So this one month trip will be a little different from the others. We are renting a nice apartment in Antigua — $450 US for a one bedroom with rooftop patio, includes maid twice a week, electricity, hot water, wireless internet. Our street is called Colonia El Pensativo. On our second night here there was drilling up the road till 11:30pm. And twice now there has been no water–no shower today. That’s just the way it is. Different place, different rules.

Our Street

Our Street

Our Apartment

Our Apartment

We’ve been walking around and re-acquainting ourselves with the town. Made a trip to the market for vegetables and fruit — but you can buy practically  anything the mercado…like today we needed a bicycle pump (but not for a bicycle–tell you later). It’s an indoor and outdoor market and it’s truly a maze when you get inside.

A tienda (little store) in Antigua

A tienda (little store) in Antigua

How much does food cost?

Currency: 1 CAD = 6.50 Quetzales

1 super large papaya – 10 Q
1 melon – 5 Q
2 peppers – 4 Q

Stuff bought from a supermarket and a deli:

Yogurt – 19 Q
Parmesan cheese – 38 Q for 450 grams (locally made in Guate)
Can of plum tomatoes – 22Q
Tagliatelle, package 21.5 Q

You can find just about anything here, either at the mercado, or La Bodegona (large supermaket), or at deli shops.

We got a cell phone, a basic motorola which included 61 minutes of airtime, all for 225 Quetzales.

We are having lessons with a tutor at our house, the two of us together. His name is Gustavo, very laid back. Should be fun. First lesson tonight!

Romelia and our Spanish tutor, Gustavo

Romelia and our Spanish tutor, Gustavo

Buenas tardes,

Laura, from sunny Antigua.

motion sickness

Leaving Thursday, December 25th – six more days to go!

One of the things I have to worry about and prepare for is motion sickness. I generally don’t have a problem here at home (Vancouver) but roads in less developed countries can be nauseating…and ships and small boats can really swing with the waves.

I’ve tried Gravol, the 50mg dose, but it is still very strong for me and I end up feeling very groggy, impatient and greatly irritated the rest of the day. And have a really hard time making decisions while under the effect. I came across several other drugs online but could not find them locally: Dramamine, Bonamine, Marezine, and Triptone. It looks like I tried Bonamine in my last trip in Guatemala but I do not remember how well it worked (I found some expired Bonamine in my medicine cabinet).

This time along with the Gravol, I’m bringing along some homeopathic medicine. I’ve bought cocculine by Boiron. It’s indicated for motion sickness and nausea. I’ve also got Ginger Root capsules to help with nausea. This is more of an after the fact remedy.

Apparently, there’s also a motion sickness patch and a motion sickness relief band that is battery operated but again not available locally. Online, the band is about $130. I’ve tried the non-battery operated version of the bands but they didn’t seem to work for me. Could be I just missed the acupuncture spot.

Crossing my fingers the homeopathic medicine will work. By the way, Gravol and Bonamine were available in Guatemala.