Sunday 8-12-01

Greetings a second time from Guatemala.

As you might imagine, it has been a busy time. To condense the last two weeks, we found the main English-speaking church, called the Union Church, only a block from the hotel. I like the pastor. Serves the business and diplomatic community, anyone else so inclined. We both experienced a bout of the "Tourist Bug" (Deb's episode being accompanied by fever), and we looked at a couple more apartments, including (finally) the one we had discussed by e-mail before coming down.

Our Apartment

Deb and "Easter" Lilies

Our Bananas!
And that is the one we chose! Only 7 blocks from the hotel, so walking distance from the church and shopping, and has 24-hour guard (he has to unlock the gate to let you in or out). Four buildings with four apartments each, surrounded by all kinds of vegetation, so I look out the living room window at six banana plants, a palm tree, and various exotic flowers (including Easter lilies 7-8 ft. tall now blooming). Oh, and my wife reminded me that we also have fireflies! We are on the ground floor, and it is a large two-bedroom, so we have room for guests! Large kitchen, with lots of cupboard space. Costs $640/mo., and the school gives us $650 housing allowance, so we are happy. They also gave us a brand-new bed (delivered from the store), and we got a couple of night stands, a coffee table, and four dining-room chairs left from previous teachers. There is also a dining table that no one else seems to have claimed, so guess we will take that and have a real table to eat off of. We bought two futon pads (sofa- and chair-sized) from a departing teacher, and just bought a frame for the large one, so now have a couch to sit on (can be a bed). Also found a good price on a microwave oven, so we are looking pretty good. We now have food in the refrigerator, so can fix real meals. The water here is from a well, and is tested drinkable, but we have a faucet filter in the kitchen for drinking and cooking, just in case. There is a communal coin-op washer and dryer, $1.00 in US quarters each load (manager sells quarters).

The Resort

Our Resort

Lush Setting
Last weekend, as part of new-teacher orientation, we were bused to Panajachel (accent on the last syllable, "j" sounds like "h") on the north shore of Lake Atitlán. It is to the west of us (beyond Antigua), and we had about an hour to shop before getting on a boat. Bought a rug for the living room (about 5 ft. x 7 ft.), and a wool coat for me, both together for Q350, about $45. After a 15 minute boat ride we arrived at a resort on the lake with the village of Santa Cruz half a mile up the side of the mountain. We stayed at this resort, Arca de Noé, "Noah's Ark", overnight. Our room had two twin beds, a table with candle, a mat on the concrete floor, and a little light bulb that was solar powered and good for about 1-1/2 hours, the sign said. The communal shower was solar heated, and I THINK the "Hot" felt warmer than the "Cold", but I wouldn't swear to it. The food was delicious, however, and the flowers were beautiful.

Ron by Cabin

Teachers and Bus Driver

Deb and Flowers

More Flowers!

Lake Atitlan and Volcano Toliman

Their Bananas
On Sunday we rode back to Panajachel and drove to Chichicastenango (there's a mouthful for you, pronounce just like it looks, with the accent on "an"). There we did more shopping, this time buying two hand-embroidered blankets, one like a quilt top for Q400 which we have on our bed, the other one backed and VERY striking in its colors for Q550. (To convert to dollars, divide by 7.8.) We were told the second one took 2-3 months to make, and I believe it. We have it on the futon, but I'm afraid of messing up the embroidery, so will use it for a wall-hanging (a lot of bare concrete walls here to soften). On the drive home we stopped at a hand-crafted furniture place on the side of the road, and found a rocking chair which we got for Q300 and he will deliver it to the school this week along with other stuff another teacher bought. Couldn't believe the price, and it is a comfortable chair with (plastic) rattan back and bottom.

You Going My Way?

A Parrot!

A Parrot of A Different Color!

Famous Church at Chichicastenango

Shopping Makes You Thirsty!

What we are finding is that many things, department-store stuff and canned and bottled food, may not be much cheaper than home (or even more expensive), but locally-crafted stuff is pretty cheap and produce can be, depending on where you buy it. I won't be using "Gray Poupon" mustard here, as I finally found it for 4 times the cost of "Dijonaise".

This week Debby has been doing in-service training and cleaning and arranging her room, with classes starting on Monday. I have been playing "Mr. Mom", cleaning the apartment, shopping, taking delivery on furniture. When they painted they didn't use a drop-cloth, so there were white spots of paint on the (real) tile floors and counters which I have been removing.

Friday night we attended a party at the school director's apartment, and I met a teacher with a learning-disabled (or possibly just slow?) child who needs a tutor in reading (to understand what he is reading). It would be first period in "A" block (three days one week, two the next), so looks like I have a job. The director has also indicated that after all the kids get registered and things settle down she may be able to find part-time work for me, so that would be nice; I would have my own spending money. I need to learn the bus system; I can ride to school with Deb in the school shuttle, but probably won't want to spend the whole day there. There are a lot of buses, but confusing, with different companies and no such thing as a published route map or schedule like we have in Portland. We have been doing a lot of walking for shopping, carrying our backpacks.

Last night five of us (and a car) went to the circus, and it was the most fun we've had in a long time. The antics of the inter-act clowns kept us laughing, and some of the acts were incredible. There was this bear that came out and climbed up on a tightrope (probably four feet above the ground) and proceeded to do some amazing things. I thought at first it was a human in a costume, the way he would pat and feel the rope, but we finally realized that this was a real bear. And the trainer only came out later, to help him with some tricks and do some with him. There were rewards, and the tongue was definitely real! And the magician rivaled what you see on T. V. Once there was the beautiful girl put into the empty cage, and when the curtain was whisked away there was a beautiful white Bengal tiger in her place. Or the four lovelies in another cage that transformed into a helicopter with its tail sticking out one side, and two other lovlies climbing out of it. Or the woman kneeling with her neck locked into a frame, a box placed over her head, a sharp knife severing her neck, the box being carried to the other side of a table, and both the head and body still functioning when the front flap was raised. That was spooky! The contortionist was incredible, then the areal trapeze work reminded us of Cirque de Soleil, it was so impressive. We were very glad we went.

I should comment on the political situation here. The president has imposed an increase from 10% to 12% on the value-added tax (sales tax), and Guatemalans are NOT PLEASED. There have been protests and marches, even riots with burning tires in some outlying towns. There was a general strike one day, when nothing was open, which delayed our getting into our apartment by one day because the manager was on strike. Nobody thinks the president really needs the extra money like he says, but that too much money is being misused. Will have to see what happens, but I don't think he will back down.

Weather has continued to be tee-shirt weather, mostly partly cloudy, with a few rather heavy thunderstorms in the late afternoon (and a couple of nights) dumping lots of rain but drying quickly afterwards. A group of us got caught once, but waited it out under a roof. Like back home, there has been less rain this summer than usual. The "norm" is a shower every afternoon, but we haven't seen that. It has been quite nice for walking; not too hot, and not too cool at night.

We are doing our e-mail through a free-access service, and our son's server. Were talking about cable modem, but they want $80/mo., so won't bother. We just pay by the minutes we are on the phone line. Not the best arrangement, but cheapest. Have had some problems setting up the computer that have delayed this report. No pictures yet; three rolls to get developed. Aiming for a digital camera at Christmas.

That's enough for now. School starts tomorrow!


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