Friday, August 29, 2008

64. Car Shopping

Is not very much fun when you have a very little budget, are not at the luxury dealers and are not going to get to have leather, a sun roof, and lots of buttons to push.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

63. English - sort of

We took the super delux overnight ADO Uno bus from Veracruz to Matamores on the 19th. We were boarded and had our passports inspected twice by immigration and the Federales. We watched a horrible Dolph Lundgren movie, Direct Action, in English with Spanish subtitles. Then an episode of the single greatest television series in the history of television series, Meerkat Manor. It was in Spanish and a little hard to follow, but Shakespeare was alive and Flower was still in charge. (I know what you're thinking, but the Meerkat's made Entertainment Magazine's 10 Shows You Should Be Watching list last summer. You should be watching. At a minimum, it should be on our DVR for those Sunday afternoon lounge fests.) Crossing the boarder was a little hairy. The Mr had trouble answering the US Border Agent's questions correctly, which was actually kind of funny to watch until it looked like we might be in a little trouble for trying to bring Cipro across. While the Mr was looking for the bathroom to dump it, the Agent asked me if he was sleep, yeah, 17 hour bus ride. Anyway, it all basically worked out and we were able to walk across the bridge, enter the US and meet Capt Jim and the SM. Brownsville, Texas is a good place to gradually adjust to being back in the states. It's a lot like Mexico. Mexas. Or Texico. Lots of Spanish going on. It's hot and sticky and generally not a pretty place. We crashed after breakfast.

After all this time traveling, I was in serious need of some grooming. I overpaid for a not so great mani / pedi on Friday. After months without polish, my toes look funny with pale pink on them. And on Saturday, the SM and I got up early, left Port Isabel at 8:30 to get to a 10am hair appointment in McAllen. Yes, I was nervous. I have curly hair and have had countless bad haircuts from stylists who don't know how to cut curly hair. Plus, I needed color and just had a bad feeling as we walked into the super 1980s salon (as in wall of mirrors) off the garage of her home. Normally, I would have turned around and left without a single word (especially after getting a look at the duct tape on the hairdryer), but shaggy brassy mop isn't exactly a great look. And it all worked out basically fine. The cut is pretty good - or at least I think it will be after the 5 day curl recovery period. The color is dark. I guess I wasn't specific enough when I asked for chocolate. It's definitely dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate. Honest mistake. Could happen to anyone.

Saturday, we went fishing in the bay. With live shrimp. I know - me fishing! Who am I? I caught a 2 foot lady fish, which is a fighter, but not good eating, so we put it back. The Mr caught 2 crabs. They were covered in eggs, so we put those back too.

And I'm back in the knitting groove. You can get a lot done on a bus while you're trying to not watch Dolph.

We fly to Oregon on Wednesday. I can not wait to see the puppy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

62. Veracruz

I wasn't going to write today. In fact, I should be showering and packing up our stuff while the Mr is out for a walk on the smelly beach, but I'm procrastinating.

Yesterday, about two hours into the bus ride, we were stopped by the Mexican Army. I think maybe I was sleeping before the stop because it seemed like all of a sudden, a guy in uniform was walking down the aisle, explaining that this was a military check point and that they were going to do something with the equipaje (luggage). We've been boarded before and nothing happened, but this time passengers were getting off the bus, so we did too. We had to locate our bags and stand by while the army went through them. They were very polite and aside from the massive assault rifles strapped to their backs, it was all very civilized. I did get a little nervous when he found our bag of coffee, but he wasn't bothered since they were the whole beans.

I'm always fascinated by the other passengers on the bus. This trip, it was all locals except us and an Italian man traveling alone. I love the Italians. So colorful. If they're not jonesing for a cigarette, pushing other passengers out of the way to get off the bus, they're chatting loudly or completely knocked out. This guy read his Lonely Planet Messico guide book for about 10 minutes, then stretched out and slept the rest of the way. He was super tall, had the wing span of a condor and looked even more uncomfortable than I was. He was wearing red jeans pants, a neon green t-shirt, a navy blue long sleeve t-shirt and yellow shoes. Truly a fiesta for the eyes.

Veracruz is exactly as expected - not a place you would want to stay for very long. Our hotel is fine - typical sterile high-rise hotel - the bed is comfortable and the AC works well. Too well. We had to leave a 200 peso deposit for the tv remote. There is a pool, but it's murky and makes you wonder what kind of chemicals they use. Or what happened in the pool just before we arrived. We didn't stay in very long. Dinner last night was not so great. Lonely Planet was totally off. We slept well and are just waiting around for the next bus. We'll arrive in Matamores early tomorrow morning, will take a taxi to the border, walk across and get picked up by Capt Jim. Of course, he's not so great with the details and our meeting spot is a little loose. I asked about meeting at a restaurant on the state side. We'll be looking for you is what he said...So we'll see how that works out.

No photos today. Veracruz just isn't worth it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

61. Monos

We've extended our stay in Oaxaca one more night. We've just had our communal breakfast (always a joy) and are enjoying a cup of coffee on the rooftop terrace at the hotel.

The Mr was up here the other night and reported seeing a parade and monkeys. I thought he meant monkeys in the parade and didn't believe him when he said they were on the roof. But they are. After asking for restaurant recommendations, one of the hotel guys confirmed that the neighbor has two pet monkeys in a cage in the corner of her terrace. Jose and Peter. She also has a big dog. I don't know what his name is. The monkeys have hammocks. It's funny. You have to look really closely, but they're in there. We're also thinking we need a zoom lense for the camera.

I'm not sure why, but white suits have been on my mind. Not dinner jackets or monkey suits, but actual suits. White pants and jacket. I haven't been able to decide if they're better on a man or a woman. And do you have to be super tan to pull it off? You certainly have to be careful with your undergarments.

We leave Oaxaca tomorrow. 8:30am bus to Veracruz. Slumming it on the regular ADO line. The GL left later in the early evening and got us to Veracruz in the middle of the night. From what I understand, Veracruz is not a place you would want to arrive at in the middle of the night. The Mr has booked us a nice hotel on the harbor and we'll tuck in until our bus leaves for Matamores on Tuesday.

Friday, August 15, 2008

60. Great Night

Tonight we happened upon a rooftop bar serving tapas. It was finally the right temperature for jeans, my Robert Roller Rabit tunic, and my metallic Bernardos. We ate tapas (not so good), drank margaritas (the Mr) and sangria (me) with Coldplay and The Verve playing on the stereo and a lovely view of Santo Domingo Cathedral in the setting sun. We finished up at Las Ollas for chocolate cake, hot chocolate and tequilla. It was a great night.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

59. Oaxaca

The overnight bus to Oaxaca was, thankfully, uneventful. Overnight is the way to go. I knit until about 11, took 1/2 an Ambian and hardly noticed the two times we were boarded by Mexican immigration officers. We arrived Oaxaca just after 8am, took a taxi to Casa de las Bugambilias and was able to have breakfast, family style. All Americans at the table. And of course, there is always one person who takes over the table. This time it was a woman from San Francisco, fluent in Spanish, 5th trip to Oaxaca, was recently on an archeological dig in Peru, said things like "in mesoamerica" and is traveling with her "friend" Diane. Not that I was listening.

Our room wasn't going to be ready until 1, so we sleep walked around the city, found the Anador walk street with shops, restaurants, galleries and museums. Lots of old churches and colonial buildings. We're pretty immune to old buildings at this point, but we did our share of sight seeing. Oaxaca has a bit of a cosmopolitan feel to it and I suspect the Mr and I will be horribly underdressed.

We were a little disappointed once we got into our room, Camelias. Silly me thinking there would be more to it than what's is the online photo. It's basically the step-child of the hotel - small, tucked over the kitchen with a seperate entrance, no AC or balcony. But it was the cheapest and that's why we booked it. The bed is Mexican (And what is it with matresses in Mexico? Why is it so difficult to find a decent matress? One that isn't cement, or doesn't have springs digging into you? And don't even get me started on the pancake pillows.) but the sheets are soft, the towels are thick and there is a hair dryer. A hair dyer! Fancy. I think I'll give myself a little facial tonight.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

58. Back to SC

Our tourist van was scheduled to leave Antigua at 4:30am. I knew it was going to be a rough day. I just didn't know how horrible it was going to be. We were up at 2:30 because I forgot about the time change when I was setting the alarm on the cell phone. The van picked us up at 4:15. We were the first passengers and I was able to convince the driver to let me sit in the front because I can get "enferma de coche". Not exactly the right way to say car sick, but he got the idea. And maybe I shouldn't have said anything because that's exactly what I was less than two hours into the trip. I have no idea why I've hung on to two of Lucy's poop bags, but was so grateful to have them because tourist buses only make scheduled stops and they're not all that often.

There was a group of Spaniards on the van with us. I love that Spanish lisp, saying grathias instead of gracias. The Mr's teacher said that some people in Central America talk with the lisp, but that it's considered an affectation. Kind of like Madonna's accent.

We made it to Sol y Luna just as it was starting to rain. Cisco gave us the tour and got us settled in. The whole place is very eclectic - art and stuff on every wall. Our room has a chimenea in the corner and robes hinging in the closet. Good thing the Mr was a boy scout. His fires have been really good. It's still the rainy season in Central America. The dampness just goes right through me, but the fires have really help. Plus, when you can find a sunny spot...

SOL y LUNA Guest Inn

Cisco was a film photographer in Los Angeles, has been in San Cristobal for over 14 years and is a bit of a hippy with an amazing collection of rare and otherwise illegal orchids. Apparently, when he started collecting the illegal species, he had a friend in the government who smoothed his way and he's now working with an NGO to create an orchid museum in San Cristobal. Cisco was very kind to me while I wasn't feeling well. He made me tea from his peppermint plant. And got me a bucket. He has two cats that hang around the house. They're brothers. I can't remember their names, but they're Spanish and start with L. Lola and Lolita? No. They're boys. Anyway, keep in mind that I'm not really a cat person, but aside from the cat hair on some of the chairs, I liked these cats. Cisco's a great host, puts out a really satisflying breakfast and if you're ever in San Cristobal, you must stay with him. He also has music playing throughout the day. I can't remember the last time I listened to Deep Purple, but it was exactly right on today.

Sol y Luna Orchids

I've given up on my yarn search. I'm convinced you can't buy yarn in Central America. At least, not where we've been. I have, however, been knitting a bit more. Maybe it's the cold. I'm making some progress on the Guatemalan girl socks. That's how I'm thinking of the colors, Guatemalan.

Notice my sleeve. 28Thirty is getting serious usage on this trip. It takes up a ton of space and every time I'm packing, I curse the damn thing, but once the temp drops, I'm so glad I have it. Who would have thought?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

57. Patron Saint of Drinkers and Smokers

Here's a patron saint I can get into. Maximom. He receives offerings of candles, cigars and booze and is said to offer healing to worshippers.

Maximón Patron Saint

Sunday, August 10, 2008

56. Lana

The woman who owns the book store told me that I would find yarn at the market. She said to ask for: lana que hace sweter. I confirmed that with Yoda and practiced saying it over and over. All week, I'd been waiting for the day we'd hit the market, dreaming about the baskets and baskets of richly dyed, super soft alpaca and wool. I was prepared. Nothing was going to stop me from finding yarn. I've looked in every place we've been. I've seen beautiful hand made garmets. There has to be yarn in Central America. Even the Mr had agreed to spend as much time as necessary looking for yarn. Finally, it was Sunday, our last day in Antigua and we'd set aside the whole afternoon for the market. We found clothing (Aberkrombie, Kalvin Klein, Tomas Hilfiger), housewears, mini-grocery stores, toys, shoes and just a lot of crap.

What I wasn't prepared for was the market itself. It was just too much. Too many people cramped into tiny lanes. Too many stalls to visit. Too many smells. And way too close to the meat stalls - row after row of unrefrigerated hanging slabs of cow carcass. Mix in a whole lot of bleach and you've got instant upset stomach. I lasted all of about 15 minutes. In that time, I did get to use my phrase and was given directions to a couple of different stalls that were supposed to have lana que hace sweter. All they had was acrylic or embroidery floss. We left, went for a leisurely lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon reading, drinking beer and getting ready for the trip back to San Cristobal.

The Mr couldn't have been happier.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

55. Piracy?

Last night we went to the movies. Sort of the movies. It was movie theater like - tiered seating, old theater chairs - but with tables and a menu and waiters. They were playing what we thought were 2nd or 3rd run movies. Turns out it was a Spanish DVD of La Misma Luna. They don't charge for the movie, just the food and drink. That's not exactly piracy; right? And probably not nearly as illegal as the DVDs of the Sex and The City Movie for sale on the streets of Antigua? I was tempted, but resisted.

Friday, August 8, 2008

54. La Antigua, Guatemala

As the name suggests, this city is old. Like 1500s old. It used to be the capital of Guatemala until a couple of earthquakes hit. After the second or third, they changed it to Guatemala City, which is less than 30 miles away, so I don't fully understand the logic. Anyway, when the moved they just left the ruins so the city is full of partially crumbly buildings, mostly churches, cathedrals and convents. There are so many that after awhile, we're like oh, hey, look, another crumbly old building and we keep walking.

Ruins of another church

The streets are uneven cobblestone. Cars, motorcycles, tuk tuks and buses bounce down super narrow streets. When it rains, the streets fill up with muddy water and you have to be careful to not get splashed. The city buses are old school buses, fantastically colored with the guy that collects the money hanging out the door yelling the route. Guate. Guate. Guate. To Guatemala City.


I don't love it here. It has a bit of a seedy feel to it. It's very touristy and because of that it's expensive. What I do love, though, are the indiginous little girls. We've seen so many in San Cristobal and here that you just want to take home, give a bath and a hot meal. We haven't been able to take any of their photos, but the Mr snuck this one this morning as she was walking away. I was writing down phrases for Yoda to translate for us.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

53. Spanish Class

I had just been thinking that it had been a very long time since I was in a “classroom” setting, but then I remembered that I just finished that correspondence course in January. Granted, that took me a full year longer than it was supposed to, but whatever.

Anyway, Spanish class isn’t exactly fun. The first day was sort of fun because it was new, but the truth is that I haven’t exactly applied myself, haven’t been studying verb conjugation or vocabulary. I think part of the problem is that my teacher is a little…what’s the right word here…maybe odd. He’s odd. And sort of an Ewok. Or at least what I think of an Ewok. I not sure that I actually know what an Ewok looks like, but the name seems right. Or maybe a gremlin. He’s about 5 feet tall. Mustached. Wears cartoon character ties. Divorced with 2 kids. Has a severe blinking habit. Oh and is a cobbler when he’s not teaching. Really. He makes shoes. The Mr called him Yoda because of the strange gurgly Yoda sounding tick noise he makes all the time.

The Mr’s instructor is an older gentleman. Very civilized and seems entertained by the Mr’s lack of Spanish and French pronunciations. The Mr is lucky. If I had his instructor, I’d be all Spanish Spanish Spanish.

So Yoda (his real name is Gerber, but I can't not think of him as Yoda) and I spend our 4 hours sort of chatting – me asking simple questions in Spanglish (yes, I’m capitalizing it) and him responding in Spanish Spanish Spanish – and both of us copying stuff from another teacher’s notebook into our notebooks. He likes to use different colors in his notebook, so his is prettier than mine, which annoys the hell out of me.

After two sessions of sitting at little wooden desks and uncomfortable plastic chairs, today we hijack the class and take our teachers to a Museum of Weaponry (I don’t know if that’s what it was called, but there were lots of weapons – guns, rifles, canons) and then we took a very long lunch break. Total Spanish class slackers.

Here's a picture of me and Yoda. Note the tie.

Jaime and her Spanish teacher

After a tasty dinner at Burger King, we went to Panza Verde for drinks. One of the founding members of the Buena Vista Social Club was playing a short set. There wasn't a place to sit in the little room he was playing in, but we could hear from the bar and didn't have to pay the cover. The margarita was ok, but they just aren't the same in Guat as they are in Mexico.

Monday, August 4, 2008

52. Getting to La Antigua, Guatemala

You have no idea how I hated to leave Lomas de Tzunana. It was just so nice. Although, this British couple did get attacked (Maria's word. Mugged is more accurate) on the road to Tzunana by three teens. One of them was wearing Metallica t-shirt. The Mr also saw them on the trail as he was on his way back to the hotel. Fortunately, he had picked up a bamboo walking (fighting?) stick and they didn't mess with him. I don’t know. Maybe it was time to go.

Our departure went off like clockwork. 10am checkout and goodbye to Maria and Thierry. 10:35 not Mariano (our waiter and all around helpful guy except that he spoke close to zero English) took our bags down to the dock. Caught the 11am launcha to Panajachel. 11:35 guy from travel agency meets us to get his money. 12 van arrives. And then things get wacky. There's another woman on the van. She's traveling with her husband and teenage son. They've made the trip before. Apparently, there's a shortcut to Antigua that avoids the construction and delays on the Pan American Highway. And by Highway, they mean road or street. The shortcut is super curvy, cliffy and skinny. She’s freaking out about it because she “gets sick”. So I’m thinking car sick and I am like, Hey I have stuff for motion sickness. And she says, No it’s anxiety, sheer terror and I cried the whole trip. She begs the driver to take the PAH, to drive carefully and not kill us because she has a child and needs to survive this trip in sort of Spanish. He quietly listens and lets her finish and finally says: Tengo ninos tambien. Nadie muerte hoy. I have kids too. No one dies today. It was really hard not to laugh.

Other than that, the trip was uneventful. Yes, the road was curvy and cliffy and skinny. A guy in the back got sick. Strangely enough, I didn’t. Perhaps I was too busy trying to listen to this total hippy semi burn out guy who talked the entire trip. His name is Jack when he’s from Santa Cruz. Joaquin when he’s in Guatemala. Jack talked about all he’s seen in Guatemala in the 29 years that he’s been coming to Atitlan. Talked about the Mormans invading Santiago de Atitlan. Talked about how no one knows what’s happening with the sewage pipe in the lake after the earthquake. Talked about Demi, Ashton and the girls being on the lake two weeks ago. Talked and talked and talked. Which was actually fine because crazy anxiety lady didn’t get her freak out on.

We’re signed up for 20 hours of Spanish classes at Centro Linguistico International. They had a last minute cancellation and we were able to get a room at the school. It’s ok. Not great. Bed sucks, but once again, the Mr comes up with a genius solution. We sneak into the bodega after hours, help ourselves to two mattress pads and an extra blanket and remake the bed with all three under the sheets. It helped. We have a view of the courtyard and the volcano to the south. We get free laundry and internet. Plus, it’s only $125US for the week, so I guess you can’t really complain. Classes start tomorrow afternoon. And tonight I’m wondering what I’ve got myself into.

View from our room at ILC Spanish school

Sunday, August 3, 2008

51. And that's what I get

Last day in Atitlan. Sunny and warm again. I’m finally getting to wear the cute little top that the couple from Kansas gave me in Merida. And bermuda shorts. And I have to admit that I had been feeling a little cute. Cute and even kind of girly. And then I was in the lobby, trying to book a hotel and Spanish lessons in Antigua. I was even helping a couple from Israel with their phone reservations. In Spanish. So feeling good. As you can imagine. And then the girl asked when I was due...

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I can’t believe it’s August already. It’s practically the end of summer!

After the crazy thunder, lightning and rain we had yesterday, we were happy to wake up to clear skies and sun. We had a leisurely breakfast out on the patio, enjoying some of the best coffee we’ve had recently. It’s grown locally in the highlands of Guatemala. We hope to find some to buy in Antigua. No idea why they don’t sell it around here, but they don’t.

After breakfast, we took a launcha to San Pedro to hit the ATM and then a tuk tuk (tricycle taxi) to the next village over, San Juan. San Pedro is a super hippy back packer hang out. The water appears to be polluted and the city smelled. San Juan is smaller and Maria suggested we visit to get a feel of a typical Guatemalan town. And that’s exactly what it was. Not much going on other than just people living their life.

I’ve been on the look out for yarn shops throughout this whole trip. I thought for sure I’d find one in Merida, what with all the textiles for sale. No dice. And then I thought for sure I’d find one in San Cristobal because of all the Europeans who have moved there. Surely there are knitters. Right? Nope. So imagine my surprise when I walked into a little shop selling hand woven table cloths, napkins, table runners, etc and found those same triangular bins that yarn shops in the states use for displays. Yarn! Hand dyed, cotton yarn in beautiful saturated colors. I nearly fell over with joy. But then I learned that it wasn’t really yarn. It was embroidery string. I still touched every single skein, but didn’t buy anything.

I also saw a woman crocheting in the central market. She was making a very pink lacy tablecloth. I wanted to take her picture, but the indigenous people believe that a photograph steals your soul, so we didn’t get one.

I have, however, been knitting a bit more. I think it’s the lakeside setting that has inspired me again. It’s just so lakey and lodgy that knitting makes sense here. So I’ve picked up the socks that I cast on during the bus ride from Isla to Merida and have about 2 inches done. The colors are very Guatemalan – blues, purples, greens, oranges – not colors I usually knit with. I think they’ll be girl socks. Short girl socks.