Saturday, 10-13-01

Hello again from (mostly) sunny Guatemala!

Our Patio
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.

Neighbor Apartments

Other Neighbors

Notice the Bees' Nest

What Are They Doing?

Removing Rain!
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.

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 to monitors.

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.

Union Church
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

Tower and Church

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 middle. 

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 Mask
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. 

Famous Visitor!
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

More Smoke!

Wish Cars Did This!

Lots of Bikes on the Road

Helmets are Required!

Another Neighbor

Hole in the Ground!
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.

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!  (Sound familiar?)

Santo Domingo de Guzman

Some of the Decorations
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".

Better Than I Had!

Cooked in a Sweet Syrup


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