WELCOME TO GUATEMALA!
Hello again from (mostly) sunny Guatemala!
The tourist brochure said that the rainy season here lasts from May to September. When
the calendar rolled over to October 1st, the faucet was turned off and there was no more rain.
Well, we did have a brief interruption called Hurricane Iris, and that brought a couple of days of
wind and intermittent rain, but the storm passed and the sun came back. There have been
clouds in the sky also, but they stay up there--or they did until yesterday. Then a day
that started out beautifully sunny ended with a huge thunderstorm in the afternoon, followed by
another one that woke me up at 2:00 this morning with heavy rain and lightning very close by.
Some sprinkles again this afternoon. Must be making up for last week. Although the
days are a little shorter (not as drastic a change as further north like Oregon) the temperature
is still short-sleeve-shirt comfortable. The other evening I put on a light jacket "just in
case", but didn't need it.
As you may gather, Hurricane Iris did not bother us here in Guatemala City. We laid in
an extra store of water, but never even lost electricity once. Other parts of the country,
especially on the Atlantic coast and the northern lowlands, had it rougher, with a lot of roofs
blown off and many people injured, but no loss of life in Guatemala that I have heard of (some in
Belize, however). We are thankful that it was no worse.
Notice the Bees' Nest
What Are They Doing?
For those of you with Web access, Episode #4 is illustrated now, so check it out! I
discovered something the other day: I was showing my Web site to the librarian at school,
and was appalled to see that the pictures I had worked so hard on were grainy, and the colors were
washed out. If you are seeing my site like that I recommend that you toss your monitor in
the garbage and buy a decent one! I didn't realize that the quality of monitor made that
much difference. Obviously, if the pictures were larger they would be better, but they
shouldn't have been as bad as I saw. "You get what you pay for" certainly applies
On to other things. Just after my last mailing, we celebrated September 15 here, which
is the Central American Independence Day. For days before, the street vendors were busy
selling Guatemalan flags, the private buses were flying them, they were in the store windows.
Friday, the day before, was a holiday, and there were torch-carrying runners running around all
over the place. On the 15th we discovered a "new" mall, and there was a
private-school band playing patriotic songs and some guy making speeches between selections.
Fireworks going off, of course; lots of them around here, and not just at special occasions like
at home. Actually, the celebrations were very subdued compared to usual, out of respect for
the people who died in New York and Washington D. C. Some countries canceled all
festivities, but not Guatemala.
We have joined the Praise Team at church, leading the singing for the "contemporary"
service, and Sunday was our debut. We heard nothing but good comments, so I guess we are
stuck. They don't have a choir, so this is the next best thing for us. There were four of
us singing, plus piano and guitar (Deb forgot to bring a tambourine from school; will have it this
week!) Then every other week when I am not tutoring on Tuesday and Thursday, there are a
couple of men's breakfasts/Bible studies I have been attending. On Thursdays Pastor Smith
has been discussing the differences between Islam and Christianity (in light of world events, most
relevant), and it is very interesting and informative. Did you know that at the time of
Mohammed the Arabs worshipped the sun and the moon, and that Allah is actually the moon god?
That is why you see the crescent moon on the flags and on mosques. Not the same god as the
God of the Bible!
Antigua and Agua Volcano
Last Saturday Deb and I took a shuttle bus to Antigua and spent the day walking around, going
to the jade factories, museums, and the Artisan's Market, as well as the main market where
everything is for sale. Bought a small blanket for Deb's side of the bed, and a covering
for our sofa/futon. We ate lunch at a restaurant where I noticed an avocado tree in the
courtyard, and commented to the waitress. She then pointed out the "níspero" tree
behind it, with a fruit about the size and color of an apricot but with several smaller seeds in the
Tower and Church
Invited me to pick some, saying that they are very tasty. She was right,
they are. She also said that fruit bats come in every evening to feast on them, and she can
always tell when the fruit is ripe because she hears the squeaking and chittering of the bats.
Wish I could have seen them, but was getting back to the shuttle bus at that time. At least
I know where to find them; I will be back! Oh, yeah, the food was good, too.
Sleeping While Mama Sells
Jade is a big thing in Guatemala. It is different from Chinese jade; it is harder, and
comes in more colors (including lavender, recently discovered). Although the jade masks and
other artifacts had been known, only in the last 30 years has the source been discovered and a new
manufacturing of jade jewelry and objects d'art sprung up.
There seem to be two
main factories in Antigua, which supply most of the jade objects. In addition to regular
jewelry, they offer reproductions of ancient Mayan masks and figurines, copied from the originals
in museuums. For $200 I can have a small reproduction of a mask of the bat god "Zotz"
for my collection, but I will need to save my centavos for that one. I have seen
many street vendors selling jade necklaces; now I know where they come from. Each bead and
piece is cut and shaped by workers in these factories we toured. Even then-President Clinton
visited the oldest and biggest one.
Wednesday I spent an hour and twenty minutes talking about and showing pictures of bats to two
third-grade classes at Maya. They LOVED it. Much of my material and resources is
still at home in Oregon, but I managed with the help of my scanner. Some of the kids really
ask good questions, and some have had experience seeing bats, so it was a good time. I also
downloaded some material off the Web for the teacher to use after I was gone for follow-up.
One class had to leave early, and I went back Thursday for a half-hour to finish up with them.
Also have an invitation next spring to another class when they study the rain forest. When
word gets around I suspect that I will get more invites to other classes as well.
Yesterday I registered for a Spanish class at IGA, the big language school here. Starts
on Tuesday, runs for two hours (11 to 1), five days a week, seven weeks. Can take higher
levels after that, but this will get me started. Tired of not being able to talk to people,
or not being able to ask questions because I wouldn't understand the answer. Only problem
is that it blocks my doing anything at Maya besides the tutoring I do now. Oh, well.
I have been collecting some pictures that don't directly illustrate my e-mails, so am going to
stick some on the Web page so you can enjoy them (if your monitor's any good). More views
of life in Guatemala.
A Common Sight
Wish Cars Did This!
Lots of Bikes on the Road
Helmets are Required!
Next weekend is a three-day weekend with Friday off for some holiday or other, so we are talking
about going south to Copán in northern Honduras. A lot of ruins there to see;
supposed to be interesting. Need to find a tour package. If we make it I will tell
you about it in the next episode.
Hole in the Ground!
Oh, got an e-mail from someone asking if we keep up with what is going on in the world.
Well, somewhat. I pick up the Prensa Libre newspaper from a street vendor for Q2 ($.25) if
I come by her corner in the morning, and that has some world news. I only have to decipher
the Spanish. Then there is the Guatemala Post in English which comes once a week, and it
has more news. We miss all the local Oregon politics, however. Some would say that
is a blessing, except that we will be rather ignorant when it is time to vote. We have no
idea what local issues are being cussed and discussed in Oregon. We get MORE than enough
of local politics here, however, and most of it is charges of corruption against the government of
President Portillo and his Ministers. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to do any good.
They keep finding new and innovative ways to raise taxes and keep the money for themselves.
What a place Guatemala could be if it had a corruption-free government using the money wisely!
We are well; I even survived some "gut bombs" at a local religious festival in Zone 1
without any real discomfort. I enjoy your e-mails, as well, as it is a contact with the
world "back home".
Santo Domingo de Guzman
Some of the Decorations
Better Than I Had!
Cooked in a Sweet Syrup
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