Wednesday 8-22-01

Greetings again from the Land of Eternal Spring.

Ginger Flowers

Young Coconuts

Volcano Pacaya

Well, it isn't ALL eternal spring. This weekend a group of us drove to the coast at San José, where we stayed overnight at a hotel. That is on the Pacific Ocean, almost due south of Guatemala City. When you drop down out of the mountains it gets HOT and HUMID. Made us want to spend a lot of time in the pool or in the air-conditioned rooms. We weren't actually on the beach; we drove to a restaurant we had heard of for dinner, and they were within walking distance from the public beach, so we walked down there before dinner. Beaches in Guatemala mostly are not public, unlike Oregon where they are a Public Highway, open for all. (We toured the Radison, a resort with its own beach, that costs $200/night for 2 people, but includes food, drinks, entertainment, all the facilities.) The beaches are sandy, but it is black volcanic sand, sharper on the feet. And there is no SOLV, so the public beaches are trashed. But the water is warm, which would have been good for playing in had we been prepared for that, but watch out for rip tides. And sunset was in the wrong place! Isn't the sun supposed to go down over the water? Here the beach faces south. Coconut palms all over, and everybody is trying to sell you coconuts. The big thing is chilled coconuts, so that when you buy one they stick a straw in and the milk is cool. Of course that costs more money; I think I paid Q3 or Q3.50, $.24 or $.28. Driving back on Sunday, it was really nice when we started climbing back into the mountains, as the air cooled off and we stopped being sticky with sweat. Saw a volcano that was smoking; guess several do that periodically.

Guatemalan Currency

I realized that I gave the money exchange rate last time, but didn't explain what "Q" stands for. The national bird in Guatemala is the Quetzal ("quet-sál", accent on "sal"), and the unit of money is also the Quetzal. Plural is Quetzales ("quet-sál-ace"). Exchange rate averages about Q7.8 per dollar, and for rough conversion you just divide the cost in Quetzales by 8 to find out what it really costs. Thus a nice seafood dinner that costs Q80 at the restaurant, really is only about $10, less than you would pay in the U. S. The largest bill is Q100, with Q50, Q20, Q10, Q5, and coins for Q1, .50, .10, .05, .01 (centavos) but nobody bothers with the .01 coins (except me; I pick them up).

The other thing to clarify is our e-mail and mail service. E-mail is currently with a free connection, and we pay for phone minutes (no flat-rate fee like at home). So we connect, download our messages, get off the phone. Or we write and queue messages, then connect, send, disconnect. The only problem is when I am so interested in my messages that I forget to break the phone connection for a while. With our mail to the Florida address, that is a courier service which delivers the mail directly to Colegio Maya for a small fee per each. We can mail to you the same way; they carry it back to the U. S. and mail it. What a lot of people do is connect with people traveling back to the States and send mail with them to be mailed. I understand that our church has such a box, but we need to get some U. S. postage.

Deb is having an interesting time teaching music to all the ages. Says the 4-year-olds can't even understand English, let alone have a clue about anything. A real challenge. She tossed out a lot of photocopied music (not legal nor ethical), needs to get new stuff. The school has several instruments available, so a lot of potential. Very few in "choir", but they are learning about their "instruments". The PTA parents are vary excited about having a real music program, and Deb just found out there is a real budget to buy supplies. Now she needs the time and availability to buy them.

I have started tutoring Fernando in 11th-grade English (using a home-school course in literature and grammar from the U. of Nebraska). We meet 8:00-9:25 on "A-block" days, which is Mon.-Wed.-Fri.-Tue.-Thu., and I am charging Q150 per session. That is low for tutors, but I figure I am new at this. Could be as much as Q234 for an experienced tutor. His spoken English is pretty good, so we are doing well. I also met another mother whose 8th-grade daughter has the new-school-new-grade panics, and let her know I am available. The school director has indicated that I could get quite a bit of business tutoring, so I don't think I will get bored.

Also trying to figure out the buses here. A lot of buses, but no route map or schedule. Probably need to pick a bus, see where it goes, make my own map. Fare is Q1 or less, so it won't cost a lot to find out. There are the city-run buses, then there are the private "chicken buses" for more local color.

The other day as we were walking to a store they were pruning trees back from power lines, and we noticed that one they had trimmed was an avocado tree, with a bunch of young green avocados on the cut branches. Loaded up my backpack (sure was heavy on the way home from the store), and they have ripened! Deb says the ones on the tree probably are getting larger, and some are hanging over the sidewalk, so should be fair game. We love avocados, especially free ones.

Yesterday evening I made it back to the apartment from a bus ride as raindrops were increasing; shortly thereafter the "windows of heaven" opened up and dumped. Rained all evening and part of the night. This is afternoon, and it is raining hard again. Making up for the days it missed, I guess. I need to take an umbrella to meet Debby at the gate so she doesn't get soaked.

Friday, 8-24-01 addendum: since there is a server problem and I can't send this, here's an update. You'll get it when I can send and receive e-mail again.

Kids at the Zoo!

"King of the Mountain!"

Tiger and "Ruins"

Went to the zoo today, the Zoologico Nacional, otherwise known as La Aurora Zoo. It's at the north end of the airport, and I walked around three sides to find the entrance, but now I know. Between a mile and mile-and-a-half from the apartment. Busloads of kids there in the morning, and the entrance (inside and out) is lined with shops selling food and drink. Admission is Q8, about a dollar. Actually not a bad zoo; many of the yards have as much space for the animals as ours does, and most of them actually have grass and other green plants. And the signboards are good; they give the common and scientific name, photograph, distribution map, information about the animal like on our Talk Cards (characteristics, diet, reproduction), and if it is native to Guatemala (quite a few of the smaller animals and birds were). In the snake house they were marked whether venomous or not. There's a "nocturnal animals" exhibit, but no bats. The grounds are not as well-policed as ours; there tends to be trash around.


Up Close

It's A Hard Life!


Up Close

Lots of Info on Their Signs

Sunday, 8-26-01 addendum: finally solved the problem (I hope), so you should get this. We went to the ballet this evening, saw Romeo and Juliet. Having had ballet it was much more interesting to watch than otherwise, seeing how the dancing interpreted the story, and knowing how hard they were working.

Yesterday Deb and I got on a bus armed with a map and notebook, and rode it to the end of the line, recording the route. Turned around and rode it to the other end, then back to the start. For a total of Q6 ($.77) we now know where bus #65 goes. If we do this each Saturday, eventually we will be able to get around this town by bus.

Well, that's the news from Guatemala, where all the drivers are crazy, all the buses are smoggy, and all the flowers are above average.



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