Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Parque Central Re-Visited


Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



After I published this post on Central Park, I discovered more photos and videos.



Musicians at Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Music and dancing is the theme of this article.

A Friday night at Central Park in this video:




A Sunday afternoon of music and a little dance in the video below: The video also offers decent shots of the neighborhood volcano, the Cathedral, the park, and the traffic.




Et toi! And another video here:




Central Park isn't just about traditional live music. It's about rock, too.


Music at Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


 A vendor in traditional garb takes in the music.

Vendor at Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.






Monday, June 27, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Drinking Water



Clay water filter, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


This is both an educational post and a comedic post, the latter offering a wonderful opportunity to laugh hard at this reporter's obliviousness.

I'll start with my cluelessness.


I am oblivious

These photos are of the clay water urns at the house of my airbnb hostess.

The urn is graceful and pretty in its simple lines, color, and material. It sits out on the covered veranda of my hostess' house, which overlooks the pretty garden.

My hostess explained that this is where I should get my drinking water.

At the time, I thought, what an elegant way to proffer filtered water! So much sweeter than those glug-gluggy, bulky blue water jug operations.

For several days, I'd draw my water for my coffee or my water bottle, and at times, I'd observe that the water seemed to be very low, only to discover less than an hour later, that the urn was again full. Gee, I wondered, where are the blue jugs stashed, and who is lifting those heavy suckers and pouring them into this urn? A maid comes once a week, so someone else must be replenishing the urns. Wouldn't I hear the doorbell if a water supplier came with new water supplies?  

I knew my thinking was somehow awry, but I didn't stop to examine it.  


One day, when the water was out (and my hostess was away), I asked another guest, a woman who'd been there for several months, if she could explain the system to me so I could do my part, if any, to keep the urn filled.

So here's the funny part. She explained that you get a pot of water from the kitchen sink and pour it into the urn. The urn is the filtration device.

Well, fuckity-fuck.

The magical replenishment explained, the universe back in order.

From then on, I added water to the urn every day as a contributing member of the house society.

It amazes me how easily our mental models can obscure facts in front of our faces. All of my previous experiences with countries with dubious water supplies had included bottled water, large or small. I had no knowledge about clay or ceramic filter jugs like this one. I didn't stop once to examine how the reality in front of me might differ from my "wallpaper" assumption.

I am still laughing at myself. But I'm also appreciating this important reminder about how assumptions color our judgements so insidiously.


Clay water filter, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Education

My hostess' daughter, when I shared with her my new understanding, said "Oh yeah, so much money is saved by using these clay filters! They're really popular now. They're great!"

It was a Guatemalan who invented the modern ceramic water filters. An excerpt from a 2013 article in the New Internationalist:

In 1981, Fernando Mazariegos developed a technology called ceramic pot filtration. The following year, the design was awarded the top prize by the Latin American Institute of Water Engineers for its effectiveness in treating contaminated water. It has since gone on to receive awards from the World Bank.

There are different designs and materials for the filtering urns. Some use replaceable carbon filters; some incorporate copper or silver into the clay or ceramic material; some have a plastic liner.

None of these systems are perfect, but assuming they are in good condition, cleaned regularly, and used properly, they do a bang-up job of filtering out contaminants, including bacteria.

More information here:

You can take a look at different types of water filters - ceramic, clay (like the one at my hostess' house), plastic, and enamelware - at the Guatemalan Ecofiltro here.






Friday, June 24, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Parque Central


View of Central Park from Cafe Barista, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Parque Central. Also known as Central Park.



View of Central Park from rooftop terrace of a cafe, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



It's not the only public gathering place in town, but it's the main one. It's got the classic plaza arrangement in which the church, city hall, courthouse, and market anchor each side of the square.

View of Central Park from within the Cathedral, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



Central Park is bound by the:
  • Cathedral
  • Palace of the Captains
  • City Hall
  • A line of cafes

Within Cathedral on Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



Most days, I cut through or around Central Park on my way to Spanish class.




View of Central Park from rooftop terrace of a cafe, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Early in the mornings, men sweep the plaza. I liked hearing the sound of the brooms and the birds, like in the video below:




On many evenings, there's music. Often on the veranda of the Palace of Governors. Other times, on a stage in front of city hall.  A few dancers.


Music and dancing in front of Palace of Governors, Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Music and dancing in front of Palace of Governors, Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Music and dancing in front of Palace of Governors, Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Music and dancing in front of Palace of Governors, Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

The Cathedral is imposing.


Behind the Cathedral on Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Within Cathedral on Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016


Within Cathedral on Central Park, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016

There is, of course, the mermaid fountain.

Omnipresent on the plaza are women and girls selling textiles and other items to domestic and international tourists. The women and girls wear traditional dress. Some men sell tourist items, as well.

View of Central Park from rooftop terrace of a cafe, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


There are vendors who sell nuts and other festival-type foodstuffs.

In early, early mornings, you might encounter inebriated local folks, solo. A little later, but still early, you see individuals sitting on benches, often alone, sometimes in pairs, part of their daily routine, taking in some fresh air, enjoying the beauty of the park and the people-watching as the town wakes up.

There are people who sleep on the park perimeter. Some of the vendors, who come in for part of each week from their villages.


View of Central Park from rooftop terrace of a cafe, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: The Inevitable Chicken Bus Post


Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


What's a chicken bus

I'm going to turn it over to other writers to tell you all about the Guatemalan chicken buses.


Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



Here's the movie trailer for the documentary:




My little chicken bus story

I took a chicken bus to and from Lake Atitlan. The experience was similar to what I had in Ethiopia (here and here are two examples) in that the bus driver has a helper to: 
  • Hang out the door and call for potential passengers; 
  • Collect money; 
  • Load luggage; 
  • Generally maintain some order on the bus; and
  • Run speedily to streetside vendors to get himself or the driver something to drink or eat. 


Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



Yup, the bus goes pretty fast and the bus seats are slippery, so as the bus takes hairpin turns, passengers slide from one side of the bench seat to another, depending on the direction of the curve. The fun of this wears off quickly.


Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



I did not experience the packed-til-overflowing situation described in the scenarios above. Maybe Guatemala has a similar situation as in Ethiopia, where the "class" of the bus, i.e. 1st or 2nd class - and the price of the ticket - brings certain expectations of how many people are allowed in the bus, the conditions of the interior, and the number of stops.


Chicken buses, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Below is a video I took outside Santa Lucia Church in Antigua, in which chicken buses and tuk-tuks star:



OK, now don't get me wrong on what I'm about to say. The chicken buses - the camionetas - are part of what makes Guatemala Guatemala. They are beautiful - like tropical birds of paradise. The camioneta system seems to meet the needs of Guatemalans and visitors. And what an elegant way to recycle school buses.

But damn, these buses hurtle through the narrow cobblestone streets of Antigua, farting great black odiferous clouds of exhaust, and being generally noisy.  



Monday, June 20, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: San Lázaro Cemetery


San Lázaro Cemetery, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Is it the ultimate irony to name a cemetery after Lazarus? It would seem so to me, but maybe there's a nuance I'm not getting, or maybe Antigueños are an optimistic people.


I probably would have wandered over to the cemetery at some point during my Antigua stay, but what drove me to put it on my must-see list was a provocative conversation with my Spanish teacher.


San Lázaro Cemetery, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


One day, during a lesson, I don't remember how the topic came up, but she casually mentioned formerly-interred bodies being thrown into the garbage dump if the deceased's descendants failed to pay the annual cemetery bill.

Internal squealing of brakes in my head, backing up. "Wha?"

At first I thought she was talking about tossing the cadavers into the city dump, about which I was incredulous, but after some refinement of terms and my understanding of same, I got that there was a garbage area in the cemetery itself. I am deliberately using the word "garbage" - or "trash" if you prefer - because that is the term my teacher used, i.e. "basura." Not that this was any less startling to me.


San Lázaro Cemetery, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


So, really, this is how it works in Guatemala. You've got to pay recurring cemetery fees if you want your deceased loved one to remain in his eternal resting abode. My impression is that at San Lázaro Cemetery, there's a grace period of sorts, where maybe your loved one's body can stay in situ for awhile past the payment-due date, but then it's moved to another "resting area" to give the family more time to find the funds for (newer, but less stately?) digs, but once that period ends, the corpse is chucked into what one person might call a mass grave and what another might call a garbage dump.

Indeed, an article on the Guatemala system here: Evicted From Their Own Graves (2014) - Caution, disturbing photos included. 


San Lázaro Cemetery, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


So I went to the cemetery so I could see this for myself, but in talking to the cemetery workers, who confirmed the practice, I was told visitors weren't allowed to go to that spot because of "safety" concerns.

I did note that at least one crypt, possibly that of a delinquent "renter," is used as a work shed of sorts. If so, perhaps that is a kindness, forestalling eviction.

San Lázaro Cemetery, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


As with all cemeteries, there are the chi-chi neighborhoods and the more humble ones.

Overall, the cemetery is gracious, serene, and beautiful. The public area, that is.


Some other takes on San Lázaro Cemetery: 

Tree-Lined Cemetery Path (2007)
Wall of Graves (2016)
San Lazaro Cemetery (2015)


A slideshow below of San Lázaro Cemetery:




Some other cemeteries I have known are here.



Friday, June 17, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Meat Delivery


Meat delivery to the Bodegona, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Meat delivery to the Bodegona Supermarket in Antigua.


Some articles on beef in Guatemala




Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Flashback to June 2011: Life Lessons from the Food Network Channel

Tamar's lunch, Rustavi, Georgia. August 2011.


On June 13, 2011, I wrote the post below.

It still holds true.


Lunch in Tbilisi, Georgia. April 2012.


Monday, June 13, 2011


Life Lessons from the Food Network Channel


I don't like to cook, and I'm not a foodie.

But I love to watch the Food Network Channel's Chopped and The Next Food Network Star.

The food in these shows are simply the medium used to deliver artistry, beauty, adventure, suspense, and human drama to the viewers. It is ridiculous how much stressful suspense I feel while watching sweating contestants struggle to "plate" their food before the final-seconds countdown ends. Sometimes I have to cover my eyes or even flip the channel for those last seconds, it feels so intense.

But what I find most intriguing are the life lessons I see in these shows:  
  1. Radiate confidence in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is, in fact, part of your "product."  
  2. You will make a mistake. When you do, own it, fix it if possible, and move on. Beating yourself up avails nothing but pain for yourself and those around you.
  3. Your plan will go awry. When it does, take a breath, then move to a different plan. 
  4. Remain calm.
  5. There will be criticism. Accept it with grace. Acceptance does not necessarily equal agreement. 
  6. Be professional: You don't need to push others down to raise yourself up.
When I was doing my CELTA course a few months ago in Playa del Carmen, there were a couple of particularly challenging days.

In one, I'd felt really good about a class I did, and felt dashed when the tutor told me I'd left out a very important piece of the assignment, which affected her assessment of my overall performance for that lesson. I allowed this to rattle my confidence in a big way.

The very next class I did, I experienced a technical glitch that rattled me in a way that was disproportionate to the problem. Once that got fixed (with the help of a colleague), I saw to my dismay I'd made an error on one of my handouts, which compounded my sense of dismal failure. At the time, it was just a horrible, sick experience, again, out of proportion to the grand scheme of things.

During the afternoon critique session, I gleaned two things: 
  1. If I make a mistake, don't dwell on it in front of the class - just fix it and move along or, if there actually isn't any substantive impact on the day's lesson, don't even mention it (as doing so adds nothing of value to the students).
  2. Lack of self-confidence is a real performance killer. (And to the "audience," it is immaterial if the projected self-confidence is real or acted.)

So come Sunday evening, I'll be settling in to watch another installment of The Next Food Network Star. 


Tia serves khinkali. Rustavi, Georgia. August 2011.













 

 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Santo Domingo del Cerro



Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



To get to Santo Domingo del Cerro, you go to the illustrious hotel, Casa Santo Domingo. From there, you can get onto a free shuttle from the hotel to the mountain.



Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



Here is a flashy video of Santo Domingo del Cerro that the hotel produced. It's pretty.



Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



In addition to the angel, maybe my favorite experience at Santo Domingo del Cerro was with the birds.



Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


It felt special to have one hop onto my finger then waddle up my arm to my shoulder. It was good to focus all of my attention on what this small bird was doing, to be mindful of nothing else.

Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


I wasn't able to capture its quality with my camera, but the light shone through the chairs' muslin covers like soft candles. The chairs glowed where the sun struck them.

Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Outside the chapel, a large foot. Don't ask me; I don't know.

Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


You might be surprised, but I've seen a few celebrity toilets. Such as Stalin's. So coming across the toilet used by the late Pope John II, well, I'm just adding it to the list.

Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


All in all, Santo Domingo del Cerro is a must-see in my book. Mostly because of the diversity of things to entertain all of the senses. 


Poet Miguel Ángel Asturias. Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

There are sights and sounds to see up close and far away. 


Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


There are things to touch, flowers to smell.



Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


There are whimsical works and contemplative works.  Much of the artwork is by Guatemalan artist, Efrain Recinos.


Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


Although I didn't find my lunch entree or coffee to be particularly remarkable, both were perfectly OK and besides, pairing food and drink al fresco is a good in itself.


Getting ready for a party. Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.

Santo Domingo del Cerro, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.