Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I hate to admit it, but I CAN'T MAKE TORTILLAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love to cook, and I was all excited that Christy taught us how to make tortillas in Antigua. So, armed with all good intentions, I went to my local grocery store and bought that bag of masa flour that I've never had the guts to buy before this day, me and all my newfound knowledge. The end result: masa on the floor, on my upper arms, all over my kitchen counter, a sad looking ball in my sink (the second such mishap; I called the 10 second rule to the earlier diver and threw it disgustedly onto the hot griddle with its other malformed cousins). Bound and determined to make the DAMNED THINGS, I decided that the next trip is to the local tienda to get a, gasp, _tortilla_press_. The horrors of admitting failure...

Roadkill looks tastier than this...They taste ok. Chewy because they're way too thick. Definitely not round. It's like the incident that we don't speak of, from childhood, with the blueberry pancakes...don't ask...I also made some sort of improvised chicken/green pepper/onion/salsa casera thingy and frijoles, for old time's sake. I dedicate this hastily-thrown together meal to Christy. ¡Buen provecho!, mi amiga...
I'll guess I'll just close my eyes and pretend that I'm back in Antigua again.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Back home. Disoriented. Bit of culture shock. Don't really want to talk about the trip right now, so please don't expect me to be all bubbly. Or wordy. It's not happening. I took 700 pictures because I'm mostly visual. So if you want to know what happened, look at the pictures. It really doesn't do justice in any language to talk about this amazing experience with words. "It was amazing." (that's an understatement). "It was a great learning experience." (another understatement) If you want to see the flickr link to all the pictures, you'll have to ask me for the link. Won't be doing that for another few days or so. Difficult to choose which pics to show you right now... It was a huge honor for Chad to carry the torch for PROBIGUA. Pretty emotional stuff. So we were walking down the street behind this baby and her mama and Chad said to me, "Oh, you're going to take a picture, aren't you?" Well, if you know me, you know that I HAD to. Probably gonna blow it up to poster size and put it on my living room wall. If you look at me right now I sort of look like her. A final pic of us with our maestras. The card catalog from the Antigua Public Library.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

pic of the day

from the 15 septiembre independence day parade, La Antigua, Guatemala.

practicing numbers, basic conversation, learning how to take the chicken bus-public bus, bargaining (verb is regatear), and not getting hit by traffic in the streets...dateline 18 septiembre 2006

Ayer, viajamos a San Antonio aguas calientes y fuimos de compras. Este pueblo es 15 minutos sur de antigua. regateo y practico uso frases como ¨cuanto cuesta¨ y ¨no tengo mucho dinero¨ y ¨no me gusta esto, quisiera cosas muy pequenas¨ (i don´t like that, i´d like smaller things) es dificil para mi recordar numeros grande, pues hablo y regateo muy, muy despacio. por ejemplo, una vendedora dijo, ¨veinte cinco para una¨ dije, ¨veinte para..........dos...¨ y dijo, ¨esta bien.¨ compre una tela grande y cosas pequenas. tome muchos fotos, por supuesto. los buses condujeron muy rapido por todas las calles. yo tengo panico cuando veo un bus o coche conduciendo muy rapido. regresamos a antigua con memorias nuevas y cosas buenas.

¨There ain´t no surer way to find out whether you like people
or hate them than to travel with them.¨ Mark Twain

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Two of my pics...from the back of the bibliobus and a mother and child in San Antonio, last week.

Today, we visited Santa Maria Cauque, another pueblo. The kids swarmed the bus immediately and we had a lot of fun trying to find the types of books that they needed for homework (human sexuality for the older kids or colonial Guatemala pics that the younger students used to draw pics from the drawings...the younger students wanted Winnie the Pooh books, but there werent any on the bus...) Chad entertained a large group of kids with the one magic coin trick that he knows. I gave away Highlights magazine stickers to the kids (thanks manang bev) and we traded for the ones that they favored the most. I had 12 young ones swarmed around me trying to get more than the 3 each that I gave initially...if I didn´t know the spanish name for a sticker (tortear is turtle, i forgot) they helped me out. Of course I found the local bakery and bought 8 cookies for our teachers and fellow PROBIGUA students. I took a pic of the machine that local women were using in a tienda, they bring bowls of husked corn and it grinds into meal for making tortillas.

by the by, this past martes (tue) kristi, the cook at the hotel, taught fran and i how to make tortillas. there´s actually an infinitive for it, tortear. to make tortillas. so it was fun and funny to see the two americans mess up making something that young children can do...of course pictures were taken. we ate them afterwards, hot, with queso fresco. darned good.

in the evenings, chad always stays and chats with kristi and now we´re teaching her a bit of english. i almost typed ingles...yes, i´m immersed...it´s really helped me improve conversationally, because i can practice what i learned during the day. of course you know that i love to cook and to eat, so much of my conversation is what is that vegetable, how do you make chicken pepian or mole or whatever...that´s how we got the tortilla lesson...it´s so wonderful to stay in a place where you feel like part of a family or a friend instead of just a random tourist renting a room for a short time.

this family has a son who is a lawyer, in his young 30´s. he lives in the part of the house that we stay in and he delights in talking to us during dinner and afterwards, engaging in conversation, spanish only of course, and he´s funny and he especially loves hanging out and talking w chad.

Ah, el volcan Pacaya!
Besides the run on Thursday, this would have to be my highlight, so far, in Guatemala. On Saturday, September 16th we traveled out to one of the 33 volcanoes in Guatemala. Antigua itself is surrounded by three of them. Chad, Gerie and I traveled with three other folks from our school (Clare, Jackie and Tom) plus another six people. We decided to do an afternoon ascent so that we would be on the volcano at night to better see the lava. We started our trip up around half past five with our very entertaining guide, Jose. The ascent began in the forest sharing a trail with other hikers and horses. I was very careful on my ascent to step around the horse puckey--don´t want to dirty my sneakers, you know. The ascent was a bit steep, but hey I´m from WA and we got some big mountains too, y´all. So it was a work out but I thought I was golden. The ascent was marked by stopping and admiring the scenery, the other nearby volcanoes, and the signage that detailed the types of flora and fauna. We broke out of the forest and were on a plain, with cows, looking at Pacaya´s flank. We could see lava and the smoky red glow at the top of the cone. Below us were several towns with their lights twinkling in the night. Wow, amazing, this is absolutely gorgeous I thought. Then I realized that we weren´t finished with our ascent. Yup, we´re going on up. OK, I´m game. We start up the flank and as we ascend the pumice rock gets finer and deeper until it is quite difficult to get a good foothold to continue up. There was a lot of pausing and decision-making on my part. On one hand, I couldn´t figure out how I was going to continue on without getting better footholds. On the other hand, I was almost there and realized I would regret turning around without reaching the top. I plodded on, literally plodding. I found a walking stick laying in the pumice, picked it up and plodded on. At one point the guides had strung a rope, I hooked on to it and pulled myself up until our trusty guide, Jose came looking for me. He hooked onto my arm and helped me up the rest of the way. Wow, I sure was happy I made the trip. There was a lava field at the top with glowing rocks all over the place. I took some obligatory pictures and walked a little further to another lava field. It was windy up top but warm--duh, on top of a volcano. We hung out at the top for quite a bit of time--surveying the lava field and looking down on the outlying towns that now looked so far away. But every dream must come to an end and what goes up, must come down. Ah, the descent. The ground had a similar texture to snow and the angle was similar to being on an intermediate ski slope. Oh, if there were some lava skis it would have been so easy to cut back and forth. Instead it was like descending a ski slope in your sneakers. I went down sideways, sliding and slipping along--what happened to all that plodding. The angle was steep enough that if you leaned a bit you were equal with the volcano side. I did lose my footing a couple of times but just kind of fell over on my ass. I did hit a rock the one time and still have a leg bruise to prove it. Once off the pumice it was an easy hike back through the woods. Until, of course, it started to rain. Was I surprised--no. It had rained every night that we had been in Guatemala, so far. Why would that night be different--just because I had to get off a volcano. And, since I´m from WA I had packed a rainjacket in my bag. And because I´m smart I had a flashlight. So I think I´m good to go. But my glasses soon were full of raindrops and steamed up from the humidity. So onward down the now muddy trail. And remember all that horse puckey I tried so hard to avoid on the way up, well I hardly cared at this point. What´s a little horse dung on the sneakers. I had a need to get to the bottom, get out of the rain, and celebrate my ascent and descent in my head. Well, the descent was taking a bit longer than I had liked and at one point I slipped on a rock and went down on the muddy, shitty trail. Yow, get me off this trail! OK, so it´s still raining, I´m muddy-shitty, my glasses are fogged up--what else? Oh yeah, my flashlight died. Thanks to Chad for returning to my and Gerie´s side at that point. He had been ahead and did come back to help us. So three of us on one flashlight on a slick trail, que divertido! Finally, my savior Jose came back up, grabbed my arm and guided me down the rest of the trail. Yes, I did leave Gerie and Chad behind. I figured they could take care of themselves. But yeah, when my salvation came, I was gone. No team-playing for this gal. But what an accomplishment, despite the bruises, the soaking wet clothes, and the issue of the mud and filth. I know I whine a lot but that doesn´t mean I didn´t have a good time. It was an amazing trip both in the beauty of the scenery and the personal physical accomplishment. Not something I´ll forget too soon.

Written on September 14, 2006

Hello Everyone,

This is the first time I´m posting to the blog since I´ve been here. Boy, I sure have been busy! I´m loving every second of it!

Today the whole entire school piled into the bibliobus and left for Antigua at 2PM to go to Chimaltengango. I was told Chimaltenango is about 21 Kilometers from Antigua. It was an incredible trip! We´re driving along the streets and there are bus loads and truck loads of people everywhere! Kids are in the streets running with a torch in hand and blowing the whistles in their mouths to celebrate the independence of Guatemala. I´ve never seen anything like it!
We were traveling to Chimaltenango to view the school that Probigua has there. That´s not all though. We were travelling there to join in on the festivities. You see, once we arrived at Chimaltenango we all got out of the bus and started running with the torch after we viewed the school. This is no small thing in Guatemala. The whole country gathers together in various groups. It could be a group from a church or a school or a business. I mean seriously, there are probably thousands of groups! The streets are PACKED full of people running from one city or town to another. Well, Probigua had their own group and we were fortunate enough to be a part of it.

I really enjoyed participating. I ran, maybe, three quarters of the way. Along the way there the spectators were kind enough to make sure we stayed cool by throwing water on us. I was completely soaked by the time I made it back to Antigua.

I´ve got some catching up to do!
I´ll have to start back on last Thursday, September 14th--the day before Independance Day. We went on Probigua´s bibliobus to an area outside of Antigua, approximately 10 kms away from the school. The plan was to run back to Antigua with a lit torch to symbolize Guatemala´s independance. At first I wasn´t sure if I wanted to run or not, because technically, I don´t run. But the excitement of the day got the better of me and I started running with the group. We left from a large school compound called Instituto de Pedro Molina where men and women live and study to become teachers. Probigua has an affiliation with this school as well as many libraries in the area. Probigua´s director, Rigoberto Zamora, is a popular figure at the school. So we were enthusiastically sent off with Rigoberto in the lead with the torch. It was very touching to see the large group of students cheering us on.
The run started on a downhill, which is always a good thing, and I ran and took pictures at the same time. There were buses and trucks full of people waving flags, cheering on the runners, and... throwing water at us. Yes, this wasn´t just a run. It was run and dodge the hundreds of people trying to pelt you with water balloons, bags of water, dishes of water, and hoses.
I got around the first of what I was calling ¨water hazards¨ by being a coward. I got back on the bus and drove through the group of water demons, then got back out to run again. The second group I begged in Spanish--No agua, por favor! and it worked. They must have felt sorry for me or I wasn´t a very interesting target. At one point, someone did peg me, so I finally got into it. The next time I passed a group of kids with water ballons and buckets, I picked up my speed a bit, ran past and stuck out my tongue at them. If I´m going to get hit with water, I want to make it worth everyone´s while. I think the kids got a special kick out of pelting the gringos, especially the gringa dragging her ass up the road. We also got plenty of encouragement. There were families lining the roadside, sitting on blankets, cheering on the runners. Folks waved and yelled and clapped for us. It was a great experience. It was very moving also. I could equate it to how we celebrate our own independance with our own traditions and the events we have that create our national pride. I feel especially privileged to have been included in this crazy and touching national event.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Chad on the the terrace at Casa Ovalle in Antigua.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Buenos dias, mi amigos.

I walked to school this morning by myself so that I could walk at my own pace (we´ve been leaving casa ovalle with 5 or 10 minutes to spare...i hate walking to school with a sense of panic) and so that I could log on quickly and write to ya´all.

We traveled to Volcan Pacaya on Saturday. Hell of a way to remember a birthday. Let´s just say that it was HELLA DIFFICULT for me (Chad loved every minute of it) and I rode a horse most of the way, thanks to 2 new friends from Portland who lent me the 40 quetzales (remember, 1 dollar is 7.5 q) so that i could cling to the poor animal for dear life...I was thinking, the ascent is killing my knees, so I want to ride this horse...but now i´m realizing that riding a HORSE up a 45 degree angle is scarier...at one point i had to get down because it was too steep of an angle...however, all in all, it was pretty amazing and i don´t regret it at all. i didn´t actually go as far up as chad and fran did. (my knees, i had to go to the bathroom, i was wearing my keens...rocks and volcanic dirt in my shoes...i was tired...i´m out of shape...) so i sat at the bottom of the volcano and watched lightening flash from behind the volcano, lighting up the entire sky...watched lava flow down from the right side...looked at the glow of red emenating from the top of the volcano...the lights from the pueblo below, in the valley...and thought about all of you and prayed for my next year and all of my family and friends. that was my birthday trip.



Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dateline: 12 Septiembre 2006

I thought I was walking the streets in fear of being accosted by strangers; now I have to guard my room key from Panchita Loca....

Manana, vamos a otra ciudad, visitar una escuela hablar y leer con los ninos y ninas. (Tomorrow, we're going to another city to visit a school to speak and to read with the boys and girls.)

Chad's teacher told him that tourists get shot if they take pics without asking, so now I'm just taking guerilla pictures of people's backs...or taking them quickly before they see the camera...

This place reminds me of the Philippines. I like it; at some cellular level, it's sort of "like home" even though I was born and raised in Washington State. (I love the brown eyed children.)

For once, I didnt' compose most of this in Babelfish/altavista...I am learning a LOT. I'm behind Panchita and wayyyy behind Chad, but we got to Past and Future this morning (I thought I was going to be stuck in Present Tense all this week. I wanted to say, "are you sure that I'm ready for this now?!?") I have 3 pages of homework for tonight. I'm studying Estar and Ser right now.--supposedly tricky for any level of spanish language students...

Hasta manana,


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hello All,

Since Gerie (or should I say Geraldina) and Chad are busy with their instructors, it's my turn to dish. It's Day 2 and with the rate we're going we can't help but learn something. We're at it with our individual instructors all day long. We start at 8am and go until 10:30, take a 30 minute break and work until noon. Take a 2-hr lunch, yes 2 hours, and then work again until 5pm with a 15-minute break sometime in the afternoon. We then get to speak Spanish with everyone we come in contact with: shopkeepers, restaurant folks, the family whose B&B we're staying at, and yes, the hawkers who follow us and try and sell us things at every waking moment. I already made the mistake yesterday of telling a woman my name. She found me later on a different street, used my name and reminded me that she'd wait for me. What was I thinking? Have I never been anywhere before? Do I live in a cave? Could be worse I suppose, she's nice about it and already started using a nickname. Just in case you're wondering Panchita is a popular nickname for Frances and Frank. About our B&B: not exactly swank but nice, clean, and they cook for us. The woman who cooks our meals, hangs out and chats with us in Spanish while we eat. There is a nice rooftop deck where we should be able to see at least two of the three surrounding volcanos--haven't yet though. There is also a bird (parrot, macaw) in the main courtyard who whistles and says hola. Chad is planning on teaching it Frere Jacques--should be pretty annoying when that happens. Food here is decent, there's the touristy spots and the more down-to-earth places. I do believe most are tourist spots since this is a big tourist destination. There are a lot of Spanish language schools and a lotof foreign tourists walking around. We are gearing up for Independance Day on Friday, September 15th. The year was 1821 and the country Spain, if you're wondering. There is a tradition of running with torches the day before Independance Day and we will be doing so with the school. I haven't quite figured out the significance of the "running with the torches" but I'll try and get the scoop. Fill you in on that later. But between the running with torches on Thursday and the trip to the active volcano on Friday we'll be living on the edge this week. Can't wait to see what they've got planned for next week ;-) One has to wonder how these folks keep return customers. Still haven't realized my dream of 24/7 with Gerie (I mean Geraldina) yet but I'm still working on it. I'm planning on trying to move into her room, especially since she has a nicer one than I have. (She'll pay for that once we're back at HCC). We just experienced an incredible downpour that lasted for quite awhile. I'm very happy that we were inside and not out on the streets. Speaking of which, they may be flooded--it was a lot of rain. Well, that's about it for now. We're still chugging along and enjoying ourselves. More posts to come. Cheers, Fran (Francisca, Panchita, whatever...)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

We've collected money from coworkers at the Library, and thanks to these kind donations, I was able to purchase many books at a great discount. Thanks to Gini, the nice cashier at my local Barnes & Noble.

Thank you SO MUCH for your donations! We're very excited to bring so many books with us. [We're only "required" to bring 1, each.] PROBIGUA provides books to more than 25 libraries in Guatemala. Thank you for helping bring new books to some of these libraries.

Here's a sample of what I bought: Click on the my library link to see all the books that we're bringing.