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Plans August 6, 2009

Filed under: Guatemala,Planning — goodbyekitty2007 @ 9:02 pm

There have been complaints that I haven’t blogged for ages. True. I’ve been busy making escape plans instead! My replacement at the school has arrived, so I’ve been training her, and I’ve been booking and changing flight and train tickets. Here’s what’s going to happen:

11 August – leave Todos Santos
11 – 18 August – Nebaj, Antigua, Copán
18 – 19 August – fly from San Pedro Sula to Toronto via Miami & La Guardia
19 August – (probably) 2 September – Toronto, Montréal, Québec, Ottawa, Niagara Falls
2 – 8 September – New York, baby!
9 September – arrive London Heathrow.

Now you know.

If you want me to write anything else about Todos Santos: this is your last chance! Ask questions!


It’s The Ashes! July 9, 2009

Filed under: Guatemala — goodbyekitty2007 @ 9:57 am

Dear England team,
I’m getting up at 3 a.m. every day to follow you. Please make it worth my while. Thank you.

Dear Australia team,
please go out easily in the second innings. I would like to go to the market in Jacaltenango on Sunday. Thank you.

Dear BBC,
I love you for letting me listen to TMS online in Guatemala, even though it’s screwing with my head because it makes me feel like I’m at home. Thank you.

Dear Guardian OBO,
you also rock. Thank you.

Dear Knit Before Wicket-ers on Ravelry,
the Ashes knit-a-long is great. I’m making one of these in sparkly silvery grey and it’s beautiful. Thank you.

Dear “dragons” (that group of high school kids who invaded – more on them later),
good timing that you’re leaving this morning. I also have enough left over food from your dinner last night that I might not need to cook again for a while. Thank you.

Dear everyting else in my life right now,
you’ll just have to wait. It’s the Ashes!
Thank you.


It isn’t paradise without the falls June 21, 2009

Filed under: Guatemala — goodbyekitty2007 @ 7:35 pm

The Quetzaltrekkers came for their bi-weekly dinner and mattresses yesterday, so I made the usual chicken stew (improved this week by making the sauce separately). They failed to bring me a Canadian again, but I’m beginning to get used to it. After dinner I gave them more beer and watermelon, and they were happily sitting on the sofa watching a movie. I did some tidying up, went on the roof . . . and instead of coming back down like a normal person slipped on the third to last stair. (The roof leaks above the bottom steps, and they were wet. Also, they are built shoddily and slope forwards. It was an accident waiting to happen.)

I came down rather heavily, banging my face on the metal railing in the process. I saw stars and sat there for a while before getting up. Apparently I then stood in the doorway, blood pouring from my face, and said something like “uh, guys, I think I need some help”. (I don’t exactly remember, but it sounds like me.) Luckily, the Quetzaltrekkers always come with two guides who are qualified first-aiders – so a massive thank you to Jon and Brendan, who looked after me extremely well (and probably enjoyed getting to use the extra-large first aid kit they’d been carrying through the mountains for five days). They cleaned me up, bandaged me, gave me sweets and painkillers and asked all the right questions about concussion. Then they sat me down and I got to watch the second half of The Usual Suspects (I’d never seen it, shame on me) instead of doing the washing up.

Result from this week’s fall: one black eye (swelling rapidly), one gash on the cheek (not deep, apparently, but bleeding profusely), one hole in elbow, one painful swelling on said elbow, one massive bruise on my hip and a fair amount of skin taken off my ankle. Plus plenty of sympathy and being told that I’m a trooper.

Very early today I got rudely woken up at 4.30 by the abovementioned Jon and Brendan, who wanted to change my bandage before they left. Very good of them, in retrospect, less so at the time, especially as I ended up having their head torches shone in my face – we’ve been having a fair amount of power outages recently. I went back to bed for a while, all steri-stripped and padded up.

The first thing I did when I got up again was to make sure I knew all the words to explain what had happened – things like “to slip” and “metal railing”, for instance. My face looked like I’d have a lot of explaining to do. And it was true, although depending on the angle at which people looked at me (and the fact that my hair does cover a fair amount of the bandage) most people greeted me with “buenos dí . . . ah! ¿que pasó?”. I explained, I got my clean huipil from Clara’s washing line (the one I wore yesterday has blood on it) and I went to the health centre to have my bandage changed again. The nurse was very lovely, whether she believed my story about the stairs I’m not sure (domestic violence is very common here, though she must have considered my size relative to the local men). It was a little disconcerting that she was wearing jeans and a hoodie, but I suppose as long as she does her job properly it doesn’t really matter. The health centre itself is basic, but it does have a doctor, a nurse, posters about immunisations and it’s open late during the week, which is more than many of the communities nearby can offer. I’ll be going back there every day for more bandage changing.

Other “exciting” news today: I was pleased with Pakistan beating Sri Lanka. I got a comment published in the Guardian’s OBO (in fact, I told Gary Naylor that he was wrong). I worked on my second Vinnland sock. I ate left over chicken stew all day. I went up on the roof and back down again, just to prove that I could. Err . . . that was it, probably.


Rubbish. June 19, 2009

Filed under: Guatemala — goodbyekitty2007 @ 6:59 pm

I spent most of today getting rid of various kinds of rubbish – it’s all a bit different here if you’re used to kerbside collections and recycling banks! I do separate my rubbish though, oh yeah:

Organic – goes in a bucket outside the door (it was in the kitchen, but with the rainy season come the flies and it was getting unpleasant). Eventually it gets fed to Rosa’s pig – it used to go to Susanna & Fortunato’s, but they slaughtered theirs for Easter. Pigs can eat everything, apparently, except egg shells.

Paper (which includes toilet paper; Guatemalan plumbing isn’t designed to cope with it so you have to throw it in a bin) – gets burned in the garden every once in a while. I’ve discovered that cardboard is harder to burn than you think, and that burning a VCR manual still looks unpleasantly like book burning.

Cans – get collected in the kitchen (a testament to my coke habit) and eventually taken to my friend’s house. A man comes round to collect them and pays about five centavos per can. I guess I could take that money myself, but my friend and her family need it more than I do.

Grass – I have come up with the perfect solution for getting the grass cut in the garden – just let the sheep in! There are a mother and daughter who graze their flock near the school anyway, so once the grass is long enough I let them come in. They take about three days to reduce it from over a foot tall to nothing! (Bonus: cute lambs in my garden :))

Everything else – collected in bin bags the usual way . . . then taken to the municipal rubbish dump. That is a place you need to see to believe it (photos to follow) – it’s just a hill side where people (legally) throw their rubbish. Road at the top, corn fields at the bottom, as well as plenty of stray dogs and vultures. Occasionally people set fire to it, so there’s less of it . . .



Filed under: Guatemala — goodbyekitty2007 @ 4:06 am

So, apparently I am now running an internet café as well as a school. Through various mysterious ways we have acquired four computers and a satellite on the roof – I’m really not entirely sure how this happened, but yesterday morning I was carrying hardware and furniture through the rain and then a man came to put all the cables and stuff in . . . and now one of our classrooms is an internet café. Good! It’s fast and it’s in my house – now if only it was wireless and I had my shiny precious . . . but I can’t have everything.

It hasn’t really translated into any more blogging (yet) though – I’ve been waaay too busy catching up on facebook and ravelry and twitter and the cricket and all the other wild and wonderful things that I didn’t have time and bandwidth for before. I’m more likely to respond to e-mails now, though. And I welcome suggestions for more procrastination.


Home again! June 15, 2009

Filed under: Guatemala,Mexico — goodbyekitty2007 @ 1:38 am

Slightly more civilised departure time today: 7.45 a.m. Nothing of note happened – I knitted my sock (the wrist is back in action), watched whatever videos I was being shown, looked out of the window and decided that Guatemala has by far the more spectacular landscape. I passed Mexican immigration without any problems, but I was slightly apprehensive about the Guatemalan side, after all the noises about my passport last time. The boss man wasn’t there, though, so the other two officials were all smiles. They couldn’t believe that I wasn’t married and one of them was even willing to get orthopaedic shoes to be taller (I played my usual “I would marry a Guatemalan but they’re all shorter than me” card). I may have jokingly promised to weave them some shirts, too, but according to my current plans I won’t be crossing the border there again, so it shouldn’t matter too much 😉 Anyhow, they let me back “home” with another 90 days to stay. Hooray!

Getting a bus back to Todos Santos proved more difficult. Rumour had it that the direct bus would be going back at 2.30, but to cut a long story short, that wasn’t the case. I wandered around La Mesilla cursing my shopping bags for a while and eventually took a minibus to the next town (the name of which permanently escapes me), where I essentially waited for some definite information. Of course, this being small-town Guatemala again (ah, how I missed it!) you can’t just sit by the side of the road and wait. I met Rolando, who comes from San Juan Atitán (which you might remember from previous blog posts) and runs a hardware shop (“ferreteria” in Spanish – I am *still* disappointed that has nothing to do with ferrets), so I was installed on a little plastic chair in said shop to watch Italy beat the USA while he tried to find out from various people what was happening to my bus. We also talked about Todos Santos and English football. I could have stayed there for hours . . . But there was no bus, so finally I bit the bullet and went to Huehue, where I changed to another minibus and went back to Todos Santos. (For the really interested: it looks like a huge detour on the map, but it doesn’t actually take much longer and only costs 10Q more.) It rained when I got in, but apparently nothing noteworthy had happened since I left. I love my pueblito.


Pura Todosantera! June 12, 2009

Filed under: Guatemala,Mexico — goodbyekitty2007 @ 1:34 am

So, granny squares notwithstanding, I was waiting for the bus in the freezing cold at 4 a.m. It came about 45 minutes later, but hey. Such is Guatemalan time. Of course I was wearing full traje, hat and everything, so I am sitting on the bus, which isn’t going anywhere yet because the driver is getting coffee . . . a man gets on and asks me if it’s going to Concepcion. In Mam! Talk about going native. I was very pleased, although I have to admit that a) it was very dark, b) he was very old, c) I understood nothing except “Concepcion” and d) I couldn’t reply in Mam. We had a little chat in Spanish and finally we were on our way. Clara had promised me that I would be able to sleep because the roads were good, but she must have been taking some different roads. That was a joke. I live in a remote mountainous region – there *are* no other roads. To give you an idea, Todos Santos is about 50 km from La Mesilla, which is where the border crossing is, and it takes about five hours to get there. The road did get better eventually, but I’m too tall to sleep on chicken buses anyway. (More about chicken buses another time.)

The bus actually dropped us off at a petrol station a way before La Mesilla, who knows why, so we got another little bus to town from where I had to walk to the border post. It was considerably warmer there than in Todos Santos; we must have lost all altitude on the way. (In fact, at least two of the towns we passed – San Martín and Jacaltenango – are warm enough to be centres for coffee growing areas.) La Mesilla is unremarkable, it’s basically one very long main street lined with shops selling cheap merchandise, often in bulk. I looked at cowboy boots (mmmh, I still want some . . .) but didn’t but anything.

Crossing the border was a little irritating on the Guatemalan side – they weren’t too happy with my temporary passport, and once they’d come round to it their computer didn’t work – but eventually they let me go with the promise that I’d get my new passport soon. (The consulate in Cancún is sending it, hopefully.) The Mexican side of the border looked identical, except that the shops slowly became market stalls, and there were more people calling out to me in English. I had to catch another little bus to Ciudad Cuahtemoc, which is where Mexican immigration is – I’m not surprised that all those Guatemalans make it across illegally when there is a good five miles of countryside to disappear into before anyone checks your papers! The Mexican official was very nice and let me enter on a transit visa, which meant I didn’t have to pay the twenty-odd dollars or so.

Mexico is soooo different to Guatemala. In Guatemala you get on a bus which happens to be passing, someone comes round to collect money eventually and you get off wherever you need to. In Mexico you have to go to the terminal, someone sells you an actual ticket for an actual specific departure time (you get to choose your seat on a screen and everything!) and the bus then takes you to another terminal. It’s also air-conditioned, comfortable (leg room!) and shows movies (The Golden Compass today; I’d already seen it on another Mexican bus . . .). If you’re lucky, you even get to sit next to a guy from Colorado who’s been living in San Cristóbal for three years (and has just done a visa run in the other direction) so you can chat. (Thanks, Jason!)

We arrived in San Cristóbal (the stress is on the O, I’ve been trying to teach people that for months) about four o’clock in the afternoon and after checking back into El Corte Maltese (which is where I stayed last time, though sadly Marco and Vivian were in Italy to show off their brand-new daughter to the family, and my towel was no longer there either) I went straight to my favourite place in town – the falafel place on Maria Adelina Flores. Friday is 2 for 1 day! I’d been dreaming about it for days and it didn’t disappoint. The owner used to live in Israel and totally knows what he’s doing. I might be slightly in love with him, based entirely on his cooking skills. Mmmh. That was enough to keep me happy for the rest of the day! 🙂