Ride boldly, Lad, fear not the
spills! (From "The Man From Snowy River," by Banjo Paterson)
I'm not the man I used to think I was.
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"
(William Butler Yeats)
For a looong discussion on motorcyling in general and Adventure riding in particular, see the archives (or scroll down) for
the first post on September 28, 2006.
It gives some opinions and ideas, along with a bit of philosophy; one (old) man's view of the world of 2 wheels.
|New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
|Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
Sunday, November 29, 2015
6:52 pm mst
We have had a show this evening, what with some brilliant activity from one of the local active volcanoes; Fuego by name
(Fire). And fire it is this evening, with lots of brilliant sparks and hot material belching from the maw. Lava is flowing
down one side, seeming to reach two-thirds of the way down the mountain.
I tried a few snapshots, both with the IPhone
and the IPad, but it is too far, and the resolution not good enough for clear photos when expanded. Nevertheless, it is a
pretty and fiery sight. Vesuvius or Pompei is isn't---at least not yet.
I am suffering one of my bouts with sinusitis.
Woke up the last two mornings with a sore throat and a whiskey tenor voice, worse this morning. It will run its course in
a week or so, but in the meantime, I am sniffling around, blowing the reddening nose, and issuing occasional coughs and sputterings.
Tomorrow, back to work. I'm hoping fútbol is on the agenda. Makes for a quicker day.
The weather is quite
nice. About 65 to 70 during the day, with nights and early mornings around 50 degrees. Loverly!
Friday, November 27, 2015
9:07 pm mst
The last day of my fourth week flew by. I spent it hanging clothes. There was a mountain of wet wash, and Margarita asked
me to hang it. They do have an electric dryer here, but I am not sure that it works, and besides, with the high electric costs,
it is much better to just hang it all. Have I mentioned that Guatemala privatised the electric generation years ago. Same
for water---you cannot drink it. It too, is expensive.
Speaking of expense, today I read an ad for groceries that showed
carne asada at over $7.50/Lb, USD. They are also starting to use "Black Friday" as a marketing gimmick, just like
home. Sell, sell, sell. Don't have the cash? Put it on your shiny new credit card.
So, there I was, happily hanging
clothes of all kinds, tiny socks, knit hats, wee little jeans, dresses, blankets, pillows, sheets, baby bibs, all manner of
baby clothes, teensy T-shirts, coats, vests, towels, the whole shebang. It did remind me of my mother and her clothes lines,
except she used those old-fashioned wooden clothes pins. Here they are not in evidence, and the tias often hang the most precarious
items by wedging them between the strands of the woven rope (plastic) lines. When they run out of line, they spread a blanket
on the grass and strew things out across it.
Then comes a rainstorm, and there is much scurrying to get things out
of the wet and under the open terrace, roofed but wall-less. No rain today, so by the time I left at least the thinner garmenst
and sheets had driec enough to do some folding. For Ruth---I wish I had paid better attention to your efforts to teach me
how to fold fitted bottom sheets. Mine wind up in a sort of a wad.
So, it was to-go time before I knew it, and I wedged
myself aboard a very full chicken bus and stood for the twenty minute very wild ride by a very rough driver. His right foot
must have had a tic, because his braking was rough and jerky. Reminded of some pilots I have ridden with...
Got to a
bank and withdrew some Quetzales on my credit card, as I need to get my room and board paid and done with. It was easier than
I remembered, and my rehearsed speech seemed to work well enough so that I got the requested amount fairly quickly, although
the young lady who assisted me took pains to write down the amount after I asked for it in plain Spanish. She wrote the figure
down, passed it to me, and said, "Correct?" So much for clear enunciation and diction.
After dinner, I helped
Mary dry dishes. Hadn't done that since I was a kid either.
Thirty for now...
Thursday, November 26, 2015
8:04 pm mst
Here, it was just another day at the office.
Spent the AM folding clothes, hanging wet ones, moving furniture, and
playing a game of fútbol with a couple of 7 year-olds on the grounds within the orphanage walls. Tiring for an
When I arrived, shortly before 0900, Wendy, the over-all daily OIC (officer-in-charge to you civilians),
was about to launch a sack race with the kids. She challenged me, and how could I refuse? She is built like an NFL line-backer,
and had me whipped from the starting gun. The "course" was the two concrete automobile tracks that lead from the
front gate to the patio---about 150 to 200 feet. She met me coming back, I ran out of gas on the back-stretch and had to walk
to the finish, panting like I had just finished a marathon. Got to do something to get into some kind of condition!
I had lunch with the kiddies, and got back to Casa Mary at 1320. Juana, the maid/cook informed me that my
new abode was ready, I made haste to get settled. I had only been in the room a couple of times, years ago, and had forgotten
just how nice it really is. It is a large BR en suite, and the bath (nice tub/shower) has a low-boy, oval commode almost a
dupe of the one we have at home. A tiled interior, with a very nice sink washbasin and WOW! HOT WATER at the tap! Finally
a shave with hot water!
The apartment floor is Mexican-style (Saltillo), but glazed and laid in diamond pattern with
square borders. It has nice armoire, desk, television, WiFi, and large french-like 7 foot high windows opening onto a view
of tiled roofs and distant greenery.
I am sorry Hilde has left us, but this apartment is veddy nice! I did promise
again to see Tono often and have conversations with him.
After dinner, William (Suardo) Mary and Salva's son came in
and told us of his new mini-van. He made the deal today, right at the deadline before his $10K price reduction disappeared.
He took me to his garage next door, that he rents from the neighbor, and showed me the car he has sold to his uncle as partial
payment on the new Hyundai van he ordered. The sold one is a '77 Datsun pickup. He has fully restored it, over 4 years---new
paint, brand new engine, new wiring throughout, even new rubber at the windshield and windows. It is in beautiful shape, including
a working dashboard clock. He sold it to his uncle for $8KUSD, and I think the uncle got a great deal.
Wm will use the
new rig for his tour guide business, and it is bound to provide his clients with first-class transportation. The van is air-conditioned,
diesel powered, auto tranny, fog lights, electric windows, the works. Heretofore, he had rented at $125/day, and it makes
sense that he bought this van, as it cost around $35K USD, and the interest is only about $800/year. He can make that back
easily over the year, and his business should bring him some increases in revenue and gross profit.
Oh, yes. Jackie,
one of the tias at Patricia told me yesterday that a bus driver on her bus route---San Fernando to Antigua, was shot by an
extortionist gang yesterday because he would not pay their demands. The other drivers went on strike out of fear (no kidding!)
and that the line was shut down.
Today, we happened to take the same bus from Antigua to San Lucas, and she said that
TWO were shot and killed yesterday; the driver and his helper (on his first day of work at his new job), and that the gang
has so far escaped capture. She is pretty sure they came in from Guate. I did not watch the news last night, but I doubt there
was much notice. I am told that if it is not someone important, it does not rise to the level of "news."
William is right to be packing heat...
Did I mention that the penalty for packing without a license is 25 years
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Antigua Wins! NOT
8:00 pm mst
No the home team did not win, but neither did they lose. They fought the bad guys from Guate to a 0-0 tie, and thereby
apparently are not out of the running.
The game was a grand affair, with a nearly full stadium, and lots of support
for the Verde (green). Los rojos (the red) had a man ejected mid-way through the first half, apparently for unsportsmanlike
conduct. He argued about a call---one yellow card. Then he either pushed, punched or threatened a referee, and that was the
second yellow and therefore a red and expulsion. So the baddies hung on for a tie with only 10 men on the pitch. Antigua just
could not put one into the cage, although they came quite close on several, and did bag one which was denied because of some
obscure (to me) infraction.
I imagine the stadium holds around ten thousand, and was nearly full. We had a very good
time, booing the Rojos, the referees, and in general living it up. Salva bought a couple of "I support Antigua"
floppy-brim hats, and I proudly sported one for the whole game. Later, on the way out, Maurice bought a long-sleeved Antigua
team jersey, purple color. I wanted one in the team color, green, but they didn't have a Medium size. Maybe tomorrow I can
find an authentic on in town. Q200 ($26.00). A bit pricey, but nice material and good woven-in quality, but sprinkled with
Dinner tonight was a nice get-together, with Hilde, Lorna, Salva, Mary, Maurice, Ralph and me. I may not have
mentioned Ralph, another German. He was here the first week I was in town, but left for a week to stay with another family
in San Pedro, not far. He is a man about 60, a former teacher. He is fairly fluent in Spanish, and of course, English. He
has some experience in teaching English in Latin America---here, Ecuador and Cuba. He and Hilde are leaving tomorrow, so they
got special dinner of traditional tamale, which I think I mentioned earlier. They are very tasty. Mary says they are the traditional
Christmas dish, and in earlier days, they ate tamale as a regular fare. I look forward to having more of them as La Navidad
Hilde said that my new best friend, Antonio Ramirez, was very sad that she was leaving, and she asked me
to stop by the hospital often and to talk to him and take him to coffee or maybe even Pollo Campero for some fried chicken,
Guatemalteco style. I promised.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
A New Level
8:52 pm mst
Today is a bit of a segue.
What kind of a country do I come from? The Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave ain't
what it used to be, or what I used to think it was.
We now have people at the level of presidential candidates who
fit the very definition of demagogue. They play on aroused fears and repressed hatreds, advocating no Muslim should be president,
Muslims should be prohibited from entering the country, only Christians from the MidEast should be considered for entry, Muslims---Muslim
Americans should have to register, and every site that promotes anything I do not like should be restricted.
this, Nazi Germany redux? WTF is going on that so many Americans are apparently going to vote for any candidate that promotes
hatred. Trump said that the black man who voiced protest at one of his rallies and was beaten and choked "probably had
it coming." This is the kind of obscenity that came from Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 30s and 40s. Yes, yes, it is
all too often that comparisons with or references to Hitler and his gang are used, but this is difficult to ignore. Thuggery
was rife in Germany in the thirties, and thuggery seems to be part of the bigotry and hatred that surround the candidacy of
just about every Republican in the race that has the slightest chance of being the nominee.
I barely recognize my country
anymore. We continue to sink further and further into a morass of immorality and raw hatred, fueled as referenced above, by
fear. What happened to the "...home of the brave" part? Brave? I think not. We Americans are afraid of just about
everything: AIDS, Ebola, terrorism (especially from "them Ayrabs"---not so much from the home-grown kind), innoculations,
socialism, "Big Gummint", black youth, marijuana, drugs, GMOs, China, Russia, ISIL (IS, Daesh, whatever), Iran,
crime (on the decrease, BTW), lawyers (unless we need one), science, secular humanism, pediphiles, homosexuals (most pediphiles,
BTW are NOT homosexual), Muslims, "somebody's going to take my guns", black helicoptors, IRS, too many regulations,
speed control cameras, Mexican immigrants, Latino immigrants, just about any non-white Christian immigrant, home invasion,
what did I miss? And how did we arrive at this sorry state? Could it have been media wall-to-wall 24 hour, 7 day bleating
and whining, keeping us riled up over the latest horrible, bloody, murder, auto crash, disease outbreak, war, whatever is
selling papers (who reads papers anymore---too much work), getting viewers (more like it, just pick up the remote and scroll
through for the disaster of choice),
Yeah, we have reached another low level on the downhill slide. Our national morality
is mirrored in our voting, our celebrity worship, and our "I've got mine, and you can go eff yourself" attitude.
the world, I want to get off.
Monday, November 23, 2015
...and a chicken in every pot
7:50 pm mst
We were just about to leave for the football pitch when visitors arrived. They were Americans who had years before adopted
children from Guatemala, and were back to sample some local culture, led by an American woman who has herself adopted a couple
of children and who lives in Antigua part-time.
It turned out that one of them works for Delta---an office person, and
he had started his airline career with Republic. Small world---his "Delta" T--shirt was the conversation starter.
small army of helpers arrived soon after, with a moving van, and we shuttled aboard 32 brand new double bunks, spring frames,
and mattresses, for distribution among underprivileged families around the area.
Then came lunch. I declined today,
as I had a previous date at Casa Mary---one which I am very happy not to have missed, because they served Jacón, a
rich stew of chicken and veggies in a steamy brown, seasoned sauce. ¡Que rico! as they say here. ¡Muy sabrosa!
orphanage lunch was a chicken-rice soup. I helped serve a few bowls, then paused to watch part of the contingent scarf down
their fare. It was not David Copperfield. The soup looked quite good, but I was surprised to find a couple of bowls with---wait
for it---a complete chicken foot---toenails (claws), skin, and all, right up to the knee-joint. A bit of a shock to see that
thing lurking just beneath the murky surface. The two lucky recipients were happily gnawing on the remnants as I made my escape.
the way, "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" was a campaign slogan during The Great Depression; the
campaign of---Herbert Hoover. We may be getting back to the same state.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
2:10 pm mst
Up and at 'em at 0730 today. After breakfast, Hilde took Maurice and self to the hospital where she works as a volunteer.
She has done this work when in Antigua for over about seven years. She is leaving this coming Thursday, and I will be sorry
to see her go, except that I covet her room, and will get it as soon as she departs---mixed feelings!
So, this hospital
is in a former church hospital, and for the present is a care facility for impaired persons of all ages. At the entrance she
greeted Antonio, a man of indeterminate years, probably well past sixty. He was sitting near the entrance with his blind man's
white cane, and at the sound of her voice he greeted her cheerily in good Spanish (as opposed to poor grammar street Spanish).
She introduced us, and the four of us walked into the facility, with Antonio slowly shuffling along on what appears to be
a stiff left leg. He is totally blind, one eye squinted fully closed, while the other, the right, is yellowed over without
iris, lens or white.
Hilde took us around the different wards; for the older men, older women, boys, girls, the vegetative,
the anxious, the wheel chair bound, the infants. Not different from many other like facilities the world over, except that
these seemed to be quite well-cared for, considering the massive amounts of money and work involved in such an enterprise.
This facility was originally started by a Franciscan Priest who began with one-on-one works with street children and
it gradually attracted some money support and has evolved into the current care hospital. Just walking through is both daunting
and encouraging, because despite what appears to be hopelessness, there is care and caring. Example. Most of the residents
are impaired and hence incontinent. Disposable diapers are much much too expensive, so they use the old-fashioned kind---the
kind my then wife and I used with our two children over fifty years ago. Imagine the enormous amount of work and the compassion
it must take to clean all of these over and over again. This place houses somewhere in the vicinity of 130 residents! Do your
After the brief tour, we three went to a very nice little restaurant; La Luna de Miel (The honeymoon
Restaurant) for crépes. Mmm! We all had savory rather than sweet.
Of course, it was drizzling most of the morning,
and now at 1500, it is raining fairly hard. But, as is ometimes said here regarding the rain, "Yo no estoy hecho de azúcar"
(I'm not made of sugar---I do not melt). But if if keeps up I am going to have to buy a brolly.
Just spoke with Hilde
as she left for a massage. Antonio (Tono, or Toño) is 67. He was a campesino for years, then later he sold peanuts
on the street and in the local mercado central. He was an alcoholic, and at one point fell through a window, injured himself
somehow that resulted in slow deterioration of his sight and finally, complete blindness. He lived with friends for awhile
(I think he said he has one son, but he never visits), and finally had to be put into some kind of rehab and finally to this
place of respite.
He and I did have a lively conversation while Hilde and Maurice did some more touring of the place.
Toño asked me what I used to do, asked all kinds of questions about what kinds of airplanes, how many passengers they
carried, how much money I made, how much I make in retirement, how long I have been retired and so on.
As I conversed
with him, he corrected my Spanish---I cannot say how much I appreciate this---and we had a grand time. Hilde says that he
loves to talk and I can get permission to take him out for coffee sometimes, so I am definitely going to do it. Of course
I have selfish motives, because it is improving my Spanish, but aside from that, I enjoy this man's conversation and company.
He benefits from the attention and the interaction with someone other than fellow residents who very often are incapable of
any social intercourse at all.
One needn't come to Guatemala to learn this: Religious or not, thank the gods,
your God or a lucky star that you arrived where you presently are in the condition you now "enjoy," and I do mean
Raining like mad at the moment. Dry season? Hah!
Friday, November 20, 2015
Music That Soothest The Soul
5:05 pm mst
The fin de semana, at last! But, today was football day, and the morning was happily spent watching the kiddies practice
techniques and ending with a couple of games of fútbol. Then three-quarters of an hour with the girls and a Zumba class.
I greatly fear that before this is over, the kiddies will be dragging this old form out to do some Zumba, and it will be a
moment of humility as the kiddies, ranging from 4 to mid-teens, will very pointedly show me up. I might as well face up to
Last evening, four of us went to a band concert, held in what was once a monastery. I don't have the name at hand,
but it was a large cavernous cathedral room, with high vaulted ceilings. The religious artifacts and trappings had been removed,
and the acoustics were a bit wrong for a twenty-piece military band. They would have been much better off outside. But it
was very nice. It consisted of trumpets, clarinets, trombones, flute, tubas, bass horn, French Horns, drums, Etc., Etc..
opened with The William Tell Overture. It was great, given the location. Before the start of the music, several city dignitaries
spoke, and Hilde told me that these guys have been robbing the treasury ever since they took office, but they have the nerve
to stand in front of 150 or so citizens and spout encomiums about the band, their 46 year history, blah, blah, blah.
did several other classical pieces, the names of which I do not know, being the ignorant, uneducated pilot that I am, and
then there were some medlies, one of which was Christmas songs: Winter Wonderland, Silver Bells, of course, Jinglebells, Merry
Christmas. I had never heard these done by a mostly brass band, and it was a bit startling if not quite loud. No matter, a
good time was had by all, and a reception was held after---all free!
The band was all in dress uniforms, and the conductor
was straight and proper. A diminuitive man, not more than 4'8", he was nevertheless quite imposing up there on the dais,
moving his pointer authoritatively and wringing the utmost from his group. We all enjoyed it---Hilde, Maurice, Lorna (another
guest, a Guatelmateca who has lived in the US for many years, and this old man.
Yes, even loud (but melodious) music
does in deed soothe the soul...
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
8:54 pm mst
The morning at the office went well. Tia Jackie needed a bit of help in sizing childrens' feet for the next year's shoe
order. They will apparently get them from the US via a charitable organization.
So we set about tracing 36 pair of footsies.
We are suddenly at 36 tiny bodies, don't ask me how the count went from 23 to 36, but that's it now. We were to increase each
foot measurement by one finger-width, to allow for future growth. I think I understood that the new shoe batch would be for
two years. Of course, my wrinked old forefingers are considerably thicker than those of Tia Jackie. No matter, for my portion
will have more room to grow.
We also tried to catalogue just how well current footwear fits and also the sizes of said
shoes. The sizing, however, depends upon which country made the shoes. There are US sizes, UK sizes, European sizes, Korean
sizes, Chinese sizes and Guatemalan sizes. Sometime a seven-year-old boy's shoe would be US size 2, whiie a little bit later
a smaller boy might have on a pair of US sized shoes that read 12. Who knew? Neither of us did. We dutifully traced, sometimes
one on a right foot and the other on the left. Results in this case might startle whomever ultimately looks at the tracings,
because mine were inevitably larger.
Having fit the ambulatory, not without some screaming an wailing amongst the toddler
group, we launched on the babies, not always an easy task, as it takes at least on to hold them in a stance whilst
somehow keeping the tiny foot from wriggling around, throwing the tracer into wobbly and inaccurate measurement and leaving
a shape more a Rorschach blob than that of a human foot.
Task completed, the clock neared 1300 Hrs, and i took my leave
and bussed my way to Antigua and a lunch of Quiche (ham and cheese---tasty!) and a Blood Orange Pellegrino Soda.
to the lavandería to pick my duds (Q35 for about 8 Lbs.= $4.55USD). Then Spanish class, now at 1500 with a new Teach---Margarit---and
some more help with pronoun objects, direct and indirect. Then she had me read aloud a short story---about one typewritten
page---by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. That will by my homework for tonight; to mark all of the direct and indirect object pronouns,
identify the people in the story, describe them, and tell what was the outcome of the tale. She is strict! When mis-identifying
a DO or ID, I got ¡NO! loud and emphatic. No fooling around with this maestra. I suddenly felt like nine-year-old in
Catholic School, facing a nun holding a three-cornered ruler. Whew! Pressure! I fear tomorrow that my knuckles might suffer
Later in the afternoon, Salva took Hilde and me to a nursery/restaurant for a snack and soft drink. He had to
buy a couple of pots for a cactus for his granddaughter, so we made a treat of it. I had been to this nursery before
with him. I think it is called "La Colonia." and very large, covering several acres, with thousands
of flowers, plants, trees, the whole shebang that makes up a full service nursery.
We had pie and soft drinks, and a
nice conversation, most of which, the parts between Hilde and Salva, I understood little of, sadly. Words here and there,
but usually a gist that goes shimmering away like a brisk breeze.
Every day, poco a poco.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Another Good Day
8:07 pm mst
Spent the morning watching the boys train and play fútbol. They have an interesting program, wherein young coaches
lead the children in exerecises, run the field perimeter a few times, then do some ball control exercises, such as dribbling,
maneuvering around traffic cones, footwork exercises, and finally, a football game. As there are enough kids for two games,
they play two. The coaches seem very dedicated, and are helpful, especially to the barely-past-toddlers who are there to train
and play. Several pairs of parents came to watch, typical of little league games back home. One couple brought lawn chairs
to sit in, and also brought the family dog. BTW, I see a lot of dogs here, and most appear to be cared for. Pets (mascotas)
are pretty popular. We have a pair of kittens that roam around the orphanage.
incidentally, there is a large sign
directed at parents advising them not to shout, curse the coaches, act badly, and to behave them selves
so it looks like parents in the US are not unique in their sometimes
overly exhuberant support of their children.
So, during the event, one of the niños
(boy) had to use the bathroom (#2), and neither of the two toilets on site had TP, so I trooped down a block or so to una
tienda and bought a roll of "papel higénico"---2 Quetzales, or 26 cents US. I am good for something!
left early again, as I had been invited to Sandra's house for lunch. Her oldest son, Marcello (20) picked me up at the Parque
Central with his Suzuki 125 motorbike, and I clutched him 'round the waist as we cruised the 10 or so kilometers to the house.
He was a pretty good motorcyclist, although I chided him for not wearing a helmet.
It has changed a lot since I was
last there. They have a very nice inner garden, behind the walls and gate that separate them from the street. Their plot is
probably 75 feet by 35 feet, with the house and rooms along the wall farthest from the street. The garden is filled with fruit
and avocado trees---oranges, limes, and a sweet fruit about the size of a ping pong ball, the name of which escapes me (nipro?).
It is quite sweet, and we ate several right off the tree before sitting down to lunch, which was delicious. She served chiles
rellenos (stuffed green chiles), Guatemalan style, with rice and tortillas. Tortillas here are a bit different from what we
are used to in the USA and Mexico. They are a bit thicker, and only about four inches in diameter. They are made from corn
flour, which I much prefer over wheat flour. The food was very good, and i manged to cram in two helpings. It was followed
by coffee, como te gusta (as you like it) and galletas (cookies). We had a very nice time, and I threw caution to the winds
and conversed reasonably well in Spanish, with a few words of English to help Sandra and Marcello with their English. Sandy
is a good maestra de español, and I think I will take some extra lessons from her on the weekends. I think we'll do
a one hour lesson on Saturday and again on Sunday.
They have also added on a couple of new bedrooms, which they rent
out to visiting Spanish Language Students. There is a language school there in San Juan, so they have access to them. Two
young women, one from Germany and the other from Switzerland just departed yesterday. I think they were smitten with Marcello
and he with them, because Sandy told me the girls cried when they had to say adios.
Marcello got me back
to Maximo Nivel School just in time for my Spanish lesson, only to find out that the hour had been changed from 5 O'Clock
to 3. My error. They sent me an email yesterday that I scan-read and missed that little morsel of information.
as Kurt V. said "and so it goes..."
Sunday, November 15, 2015
8:57 pm mst
At precisely 1100, Mary and Hilde appeared at my front door to sweep me away to Casa Mary. We made a clean escape, and
after a quick stop at the supermercado, arrived at the house and I settled in. ¡Que bueno!
Mary and Salva's middle
son, William, made lunch and a fine one it was. He is quite a cook. The routine here is that house guests get their meals
five days a week, and breakfast on Saturday. Weekends are for family +Hilde and me. Quite a complement, and I greatly appreciate
it. They have a regular cook during the week, but weekends are a family dining affair.
They have gone to great lengths
to make me welcome, and William was most gracious in welcoming me, and said it was his great pleasure that I am staying here.
was lively and congenial, and they invited the young German to join in. Lots of banter and stories back and forth across and
around the table, most of which I at least, and I think Maurice missed. I get words, but the gist is most often way over my
head. Most discouraging. Hilde speaks Spanish like she was born here. Once in awhile I manage to bumble my way through a sentence
or two, but that's about it.
The chicken bus passes up 7th Avenue on the way to Guate, about two blocks from the house,
so my daily walks are cut a bit. I'll leave Hogar de Amor early tomorrow, as I have a lunch date with Sandra Mendoza and her
family in San Juan, about 9 Clicks down the road. Her son Marcello is coming to the main plaza at 1300 to pick me up on his
125cc Moto. Should be fun!
That's 30 for today...
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Plop plop, fizz, fizz. Oh what a relief it is!
4:34 pm mst
Whew! The deal is done. Tomorrow I'll be moving to La Casa Mary, and will be with my old friends Salva (Salvador) and Mary
Lopez, where the food is very good, the friendships are better, and where they are more than eager to help with my Spanish
struggles. They are very quick but kind to correct my most egregious errors. The scarcely can correct all of them, or I would
be stopped at every other word, so the let the least of them pass and concentrate on the more serious ones, like the time
I mistook an umbrella for a windshield. The word for umbrella is "paragua," the word for windshield is "parabrisa."
I used it in Costa Rica once, and the respondent looked at me like I had lost my mind. I told him that I had left my windshield
in my room.
So, things are looking up. I lunched with the Lopez today, and had quite a nice conversation, two conversations
actually, with two of the guests there; Hilde, a young woman from Belgium, and a new arrival, a young man from Germany. Hilde
is very fluent in Spanish, Maurice, not so much. He is worse than I. We conversed in English, however. Hilde is also fluent
in English, Flemish, French. Maurice speaks very good English, with a distinct British accent, as he studied for two or so
years in England.
Yesterday, at the orphanage (am I repeating myself here? I have a feeling that I am) I had it
pretty easy, as I went with Tia Jackie and 10 of the older kids to watch the boys play and train at fútbol (soccer
to Americans), and the girls to dance Zumba. Zumba, as near as I can tell, is a dance-cum-exercise. The participants, led
by a lively and bouncy young woman, move in unison with different dance steps and moves, all in one large group. This is not
ballroom dancing. It is sort of like health club workouts with lots of movement to sauce (salsa?) music.
much else. Spanish eludes me. I spend a lot of time internalizing phrases and sentences before delivering them, and then stumble
all over myself when vocalizing. Concretes are not so hard, but abstracts are nearly impossible. I start out with some concept
and linguistically roam through the language's roads and byways, usually coming to a dead end, failing to have made
anything clear except my lack of facility.
Two steps forward, one step back (now I know I am repeating myself)!
Thursday, November 12, 2015
7:14 pm mst
This is my second attempt at a post today. The first one went glimmering away somewhere in inner space.
shorter. I slipped away from Hogar Amor de Patricia early, as I had a lunch date with my former hosts (from two trips 8 or
9 years ago) at Casa Mary. We discussed a possible move from my present habitation to their house. I have cleared it with
the managers at International Volunteers HQ and Maximo Nivel, the school which acts as their agent. I stipulated that I will
forfeit my prepaid fees as long as my present host gets her pay for the entire time as though I were staying with her for
the whole two months.
Mary, Salva and I will discuss it further on Saturday. They have to be sure their calendar
for other guests is clear for them to add me, and also, I have to see how much six weeks at their house is going to cost,
because I don't have enough cash to cover it, and I am not sure my Desert Credit Union Debit card is going to work in any
local ATMs. The only alternative will be to use my Bank of America Credit card to draw cash. I did this one time in Venezuela
when the ATMs rejected my card. Then I have to rush-rush-rush to go online and pay the credit card in full before interest
piles up, and it does it heavily and quickly.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Rainy Season Is Over...
6:49 pm mst
Cloudy this morning. I left "home" without a jacket, and by the time I arrived in San Lucas, the place for my
appointed tasks, it was not only a bit coolish, it was also drizzling---more a heavy mist. I stopped at a just-opened
tienda (shop, store) and paid $625 Quetzales (about $29USD) for a Zip-up Adidas hoody. I scarcely need another (non-rainproof)
coat, but it was comfortable.
By the time 1300 rolled around, it was raining heavily, although it turned out to be merely
one of the day's several rainshowers. There was another later in the afternoon just before departing mi casa for the Spanish
lesson. I borrowed the house brolly, and the rain ended about half way through the walk to Maximo Nivel School offices.
day in the life...
Sunday, November 8, 2015
8:19 pm mst
It's Sunday, The Sabbath. Why aren't you in church, or just resting? That's (latter) what I'm doing...
Saturday, November 7, 2015
9:06 pm mst
I repeat, whew! Saturday at last! I do admit that the week went by rather quickly. It only seemed like a month.
took a few photos with my cell phone Friday before I left, forgetting that sending from here is expensive if sent by cell
phone. I can send by IPad (I think) for no extra charge, so will snap a few shots of the kids next week and try to put them
on this site. If not, I will email them directly to your email addresses.
Went to lunch with my former hosts today.
They invited me over, and Mary whipped up a grand lunch, especially for me. Fish, which Salva refuses to eat. If it doesn't
move on legs, he won't touch it. Too bad, because it was delicious, served sautéd with boiled new potatoes, freshly
sliced cucumber, and a strange but very tasty vegetable of some kind. They told me the name, but with my incomplete command
of español, I missed it entirely.
They are very kind, and I am quite sorry that I am not staying with them this
time. I am thinking of having a chat with the powers at Maximo Nivel, Jettisoning the money already paid here, and renting
from Salva and Mary for the balance of my time here. The food in comparison to what is served here, is heaven. As a
matter of fact, the food at La Casa Mary stands up to just about anything I have had. ¡Es muy buena!
that I had instant coffee for breakfast today, and they nearly threw up. So did I. Hey! I am not complaining, but the contrast
Cool today. I estimate in the high 60s and very low 70s. Lovely!
Friday, November 6, 2015
What I Wrote Yesterday
6:28 pm mst
Re-read yesterday's entry. That's pretty much it.
But, after almost 40 years in a field I really loved and 21 years
as a retired bum, it is interesting that this interlude is making me a clock-watcher. I have not done that since before I
went into the air force, and that was a long time ago. I worked at Albers Mills for a summer, loading freight cars with sacks
of rice or grain or something, and another summer for a short time in a paint factory (came home every night higher
than a kite from paint fumes, but that is another story). Also was a box-boy at Albertson's Grocery store in Seattle for several
seasons, and they all were jobs that made one long for; morning break, lunch, afternoon break, and most of all, quitting time.
Every subsequent job I had was so much fun I never longed for the day to be over. Of course I watched the clock pertaining
to schedule-making and other things, but not in the sense just used.
I do have to say though, that today was pretty
good. I checked the clock at about 0945 and thought, "Oh God, when will it be over?' But the rest of the stint
went surprisingly fast, and 1300 was there almost before I knew it.
Time flies when you are having fun, and sometimes
when you are not...
Check that. I did enjoy myself some today. Chaos can become the norm.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Day four---or is it three?
6:43 pm mst
It depends on how one counts. Day four here in Antigua, day three in the orfanato.
It started well. I made the right
stop, there right opposite La Torre Supermercado. Things are improving!
We began right away with a game of "La
Loteria," which in this case is a kiddies' game of bingo, but instead of letters they use pictures of different things,
like a frog, a bird, a tree, a palm tree, a fish, and so on. I was beaten by a five year-old, but I did learn a few new nouns.
The 14 year-old young lady resident, named Soliya or Soyila, not sure yet which, after the Bingo game dissolved into
utter chaos, with the dried black beans (frijoles) used as markers scattered far and wide, and kiddies scrapping over which
card, got our a very basic book of English phrases and led me in a Spanish lesson, wherein she also enlarged her English vocabulary.
It was mutually beneficial, but I think I got more out of it than she.
After that it was: play with the
children, feed the children, sweep the floor, and then, when a little van arrived with foodstuffs, I helped unload and then
put them in the storage room. There were several 50 pound bags of corn flour (for tortillas), a 100 Lb. bag of rice,
a bag of black beans, and at least 25 pounds of dark sugar---not brown sugar, but, I guess what we call raw sugar.
delivery was from a NGO called Orphanage Resources International. They mainly supply orphanages in Guatemala
monthly. The young people who staffed the van said that they currently supply foodstuffs to 149 orphanages in the country,
none of which are state funded. The state cannot afford to take care of its abandoned and homeless children.
feed a kid or two, and it was lunch time for the bigger kids. Lunch was offered me, I have and will continue to decline,
as their resources are limited, and they do not need another mouth.
Wild ride back to Antigua was per usual, and
I stopped for lunch at La Condessa, located right across from the Plaza Mayor---center point in the city.
at la casa after my Spanish lesson, we had a pleasant dinner of quesadillas (Guatemalan style) and conversation with la ama
de Casa, Telma. A very pleasant lady, and Carol, the fellow from Quebec, she and I came to very quick agreement that cell
phones at the breakfast or dinner table are bad form, but what one expects these days from just about any age. Antonio told
me this afternoon that there are nearly as many cell phones in Guatemala as there are people---14 million. The fascination
we see in the US is not unique. They are ubiquitous, persistent, and as Antonio said, make users good targets for robbery.
Absorbsion in a phone marks one as a good prospect for a holdup, he told me. They also appear to be a place for locals
to dump their Quetzales. Consumerism is flourishing!
Big thunderstorm late this afternoon. I got caught, but no hay
problema, because I don't melt.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
6:48 pm mst
Day three. Missed my stop again! The morning bus was PACKED to the rafters. I could not find a seat, and stood almost all
the way. Finally got a seat nearing my stop, but the aisle was full and I could not see through the standees to see the landmark
glass-fronted building announcing my stop as the next one. The bus stopped. I thought the stairs to the overhead crosswalk
looked familiar, but just as I was able to see La Torre Supermercado across the boulevard, the bus lurched into motion. Not
knowing how to say "Stop the fucking bus!" in clear and unmistakeable Spanish, I shouldered my way to the front
and de-bused at the next stop. I need the exercise. But, tomorrow will be different!
The older children were taken to
a dance class soon after my arrival, and all that remained were two nannies, a cook/bottle washer, and a nursemaid---along
with 10 or 11 diapered tots, ranging from two months to about one year.
I sat on my can for a few minutes, then asked
Jackie how I could be of help. She suggested I sweep the floor of the area outside the sleeping rooms and the day room/kitchen.
That done, I watched and (sort of) helped the gardiner (Eddy) replant some grass along the driveway margins that had been
eroded by errant car wheels. OK, so I carried a couple of pans of water for him.
Then I fed a couple of the in-arms
babies their bottles, did a bit of "sacando aire" (burping, in English). Later I spoon-fed a couple of six-month
olds some really disgusting baby food. I could not help but muse that it won't be that long before someone is feeding me that
Left the rest of the school supplies I had brought with the Administrator, and bid my goodbye for the day.
back to the bus stop, caught a waiting bus, and wormed my way to the very back---standing of course.
And away we went,
screaming around the cloverleaf 270 degree turn at warp one, with every passenger straining to keep from being hurled
to the left side of the machine by strong lateral G load. We straightened out on the highway to Antigua, careered down the
mountain, wildly whipping through the turns like Juan Fangio (boy does that name date me!).
From the back of the bus,
it was quite amusing to watch the 60 or passengers, seated and standing shift simultaneously to one side in a turn, then as
if choreographed, swing back to normal stance and seating as the roadway straightened. The next sweeper produces the same
results---mass surging to one side, then back to center again as she straightens out.
These busses have 9 rows of seats,
two to a side, divided by a fairly narrow aisle---they were designed for children remember. That makes, if I have figured
in my head correctly, 36 seats. It is remarkable how many passengers can hang one bun on the edge of a two-butt seat that
has two butts in it already. The seated ones scrunch over a bit, and the new sitter plops a cheek on the edge---right or left
depending on the side, and dangles there for the length of the ride.
Add to these, usually eight to ten bun-hangers,
twenty or so jammed into the aisles, and you have your basic chicken bus load. The driver has his helper who helps with parking,
getting fares on and off, and collecting tickets. After the bus has left the congested stops and the road is open (wild curves,
steep grade), the helper wriggles down the aisle, taking money. When he comes to me, my morning word is "San Lucas"
and he takes 5 Quetzals (about $0.71US). Come the next stop, more people get off and on, and somehow the helper knows who
has paid and who has not. He writhes down the aisle again, taking tolls from new riders. Going in the mornings, the helper
shouts "¡Guate Guate Guate!" meaning of course, "This is the bus to Guatemala City, fools!"
the Quetzal is the name of the currency, taken from the name of the beautiful bird which is the national symbol. Sadly,
there are no more Quetzal birds in Guatemala. I think there are some in some other Central American Country, but alas, not
I have pretty well decided that my role is give the kiddies a few English words for a short while each day,
but the majority of my presence will be to do whatever needs to be done. I envision changing diapers sometime soon.
Should I prove ineptness, thereby absolving myself of that task, or should I suck it up and do it right, sentencing
myself to two months of dirty bottoms?
Can you believe that Zury Rios-Mott, daughter of the infamous President
Rios-Mott, responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of mostly indigenous people, has the gall to run for president?
She is, or was married to a US Congressman, one Jerry Walt, who left congress due to pending charges of corruption regarding
some money dealings he had with, yes, President Rios-Mott. Rios-Mott, incidentally was charged and convicted of massive
theft and crimes, including mass murder. His darling daughtere paid huge sums (allegedly) that got him freed and out of the
country and the arms of justice. Maybe American politics are not the only ones...
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Day One In The Pit
6:53 pm mst
So, there I was, riding the chicken bus for the second day. I had forgotten what an exhilarating experience it can be.
Jammed almost literally cheek to jowl---in some cases the seated ones are jowl to the cheek of the person standing by his/her
side, jammed up against one another like pigs in a chute. Most of these busses are old school busses or Bluebird chassis
with diesel engines. The drivers herd them through the narrow cobbles of Antigua with great abandon, slowing almost to a stop
for the speed bumps (which, due to the condition of the pavement are scarcely needed), then lunging forward, careening through
the streets madly.
When they get out of town, on the road to Guatemala City, they throw any caution away and lurch
along at warp speed, careering through the many curves recklessly. I have wondered how an evacuation might work, what with
no escapes save for the door through which most of us entered, and the emergency doot at the very rear which is often used
for "normal" entrance and egress. With upwards 70 people jam-packed into the enclosure, a rollover would be definitely
a singular event for survivors.
Jammed in as I was, I was unable to see the main landmark that announced my forthcoming
stop (on the left, an expanse of two-storey, glass-fronted building. So, I missed it, and had to walk back half mile or so.
No problem once I found the proper overrhead cross-walk, just opposite the Torre Supermercado.
Another half-mle saunter,
with a short stop for a cup of sweetened black coffee, and I was at the orphanage. It is called Hogar el amor de Patricia,
as noted before. A knock at the steel sliding door soon brought Ceci, one of the nannies employed by the home. Kiddies swarmed
around, and I was greeted warmly by one and all.
I conducted a little class in numbers and colores with the most advanced
of the bunch. They were a group with a 14 year-old at one end, and five or six others ranging from four to seven or eight.
They had had some exposure before, and one lad in particular, Antonio, was quite adept at calling out numbers and colors in
English. The poor fourteen year-old girl was pretty bored by it all, as she has had English instruction at school, which by
the way, is out for the season. This apparently is their "summer break." The home pays for instruction at private
schools, ,as the state schools are sub-par. Most parents who have the means send their children to private schools. I think
the charter school movement in the US portends a similar situation if things do not change. Money for public schools will
be siphoned off, and they will become poorer and poorer academically as well as funding.
Afte awhile that broke up and
a teacher who is not one of the nannies took several of them to make baskets out of twisted newspaper which is then coiled
into a circular base upon which other twisted paper ropes are glued, one on top of the other until a basket emerges
from all of the paper, spilled glue, paste, dirty hands, runny noses, smiles, cries, fighting, running around shrieking,
and other chaotic activities.
So, as I quickly learned, my role is to be a baby sitter who may (or may not) add to these
unfortunate childrens' life experience. I am told that the exposure to a male figure and a non-Spanish-speaking voice and
cadence is going to be of some (vague) benefit. It is not for me to judge, but I am struggling to know how I am going to be
able to keep up interest for TWO MONTHS.
It was a loooong four hours, and I departed at 1300, worn to a frazzle.
Walked back to the bus stop and wedged myself into another Toad's Wild Ride back to Antigua.
I also discovered back
at the "office" that I am the first volunteer to be assigned to this particular site, so I am the guinea pig. There
is much to learn, and that goes for me as well as the kids.
Monday, November 2, 2015
6:12 pm mst
This site is driving me crazy. I have been trying to sign in so that I can make some entries for 30 minutes, with little
success until now. I had better press on before it crashes on me.
I dropped the ball badly (again) on the previous entries
regarding the trip to Baja California. It is no longer pertinent, and has been relegated to history.
So, I am proceeding
with current events. I am in Antigua, Guatemal, where I will be for the next couple of months. I am volunteering at a NGO
that provides services for local people. I have signed up to "teach English," although I am not a qualified teacher.
I know my own language pretty well, so perhaps I will be of some value to the people who are the subject of my efforts.
arrived here last evening, via Delta Airlines. Decided not to ride the bike down this time, and already I regret that I finked
out and took the easy way. And, believe me, it is a LOT EASiER! However, I see motorcycles hereabouts, and long for mine.
Oh well, I am unhorsed for the nonce, and so be it. My choice.
I am staying in a private home, with my own room and
a shared bath. Not ideal, but better than the normal with this organization, which is dormatory living---not an area of interest
for me, to say the very least. So, the accommodations are acceptable. The ama de casa is a very nice woman, and
so far the meals (breakfast and dinner today) have been good.
I went to the International Volunteer HQ today. It is
run locally by Maximo Nivel, an English language school. They gave us (four of us) an orientation, and since I have
opted for private Spanish lessons daily, I took a Spanish exam, which consisted of reading, writing, listening, and finally,
speaking. It was a bit humbling, as it brought clearly into focus my weakness(es).
After a short walking tour of La
Antigua, my "minder" took me on the rather long bus ride to my place of work for the next 8 weeks. It is called
Hogar el amor de Patricia. That roughly translates to the home of Patricia's love, meaning her love for abandoned and otherwise
homeless children. The site houses currently 22 children, ranging from just a few weeks to 13 years of age. I will be
trying to help them with their Spanish words as well as introducing them to some basic words in English. Hardly "teaching
English", but nevertheless of some value, mostly because it exposes them to an outsider, some different lingual tones
and cadences, and perhaps most of all, it gives them a chance to interact with a male figure who is not threatening, abusive,
or violent. These niños have had a very rough time, and anything I can do to help them begin their lives will be worth
One of the smallest today was merely weeks old, had been abandoned, and was malnourished. Such a tiny thing! It
reminded me of the tiny babies Ruth and I brought back from India years ago.
So, mañana, I will head out
at 0800 and wend my way via "chicken bus" to San Lucas for a few hours tending to small children.
I did have
a Spanish lesson this aftenoon, and it was quite valuable. My instructor, Antonio and I carried on an hour long conversation.
He did most of the talking, and kept it at a volume and speed that I could pretty handily comprehend. I was encouraged by
the encounter, and in the meantime learned a good deal about the history of regimes in Guatemala, including the horrible war
that was fought here for 36 years. Sadly, the USA was involved in some of the events that precipitated the war, namely, fomenting
and supporting a military coup and minor revolution that deposed the democratically elected president. We backed the leader
imported from El Salvador, flew airplanes against the sitting administration, and generally mucked about and brought about
a nearly four decades internacine war that murdered some 250,000 Guatemalans before it was over. It was brought about by a
land reform President Arbanz proposed which would have taken some of the United Fruit (bananas) land to parcel out to the
campesinos. He was branded a communist---a very effective ploy in the Red Scare days of the McCarthy fifties, and Eisenhower
and his minions came to UF's rescue by implementing a "revolution" that was arguably not popularly supported.
Antonio said this afternoon, "It's our history." As if to say, "what's done is done, and we have to go forward."
lesson was valuable, and I think that If I can keep this up for 8 weeks, I may actually progress in my feeble attempts to
learn español. ¡Ojala! as they say here---a word that arises from the Arabic N'Shallah---God willing.
it for today. More on the morrow.
For future use