one quarter has passed

Loads of new photos on the flickr, linked on the sidebar...

So, did I mention I´m quite fond of Guatemala?

The cross-dressing party on Saturday night was quite nice, pretty laid back, but we should´ve been more aware of the happy hour before dinner! La Iguana Perdida is a hostel with private rooms, one of which we stayed in with a beautiful view of the Volcan de San Pedro and Lago de Atitlan (the lake!). A great big dinner is served with everyone around the same table, and as soon as it´s over (it´s delicious, by the way, vegetarians got giant beet falafels/burgers) the shots are pressed upon you! Teams mix shots and compete to sell their particular mix first. All fun and games coming from folks dressed in drag. I realized that it´s really more for the men, cause all I had to do was paint on a mustache, put my hair up and wear jeans and a baggy shirt. Mike wore a lovely outfit, a flowy skirt with a tight skimpy spaghetti-strap shirt and a rainbow-strapped bra stuffed with my socks. He also brushed his hair all down and to the front, o so cute, and he tied the cord in his shorts (worn under the skirt) above his hips to look like thong straps. :D

Sunday we came back to Pana on a very slow lancha across the lake, where we´ve been resting since. We´ve been playing cards a couple of nights with the parents, which is pleasing. Mike´s mom is funny with a few glasses of wine, her highly competetive spirit, and a certain amount of herbal influence. Ha! It´s fun to be her partner, for the most part... I´ve been enjoying kitchen access, making ginger/rosa de jamaica tea and making yummy free-range eggs. The yogurt here is pretty dang good, too.

Yesterday we went to the Solola market about 20 minutes up the cliffs which is not a tourist market at all, but a place where lots of people from different places come twice a week to buy the things they need. Lots of cheap beads for making tourist stuff, belts and jewelry. So much beautiful food, spices, fruits, yarns, breads, yellow and blue corn tortillas, shoes, clothes, cloth, housewares, etc, etc. Mike bought a headband to carry things across the forehead made of deer skin with the fur on the inside. It´s pretty cool. Other than that, we didn´t have much need for anything else. A very interesting experience though, especially riding the chicken bus there and back. A chicken buses are all school buses from the United States that get re-fit with longer seats, a badass stereo system, bag racks and a fancy paint job. I was actually quite impressed by them, just like riding a school bus (cause it is), but with good tunes and tightly packed. For 5Q a person, it´s the shit. 5Q in town only gets you a ride from one shop to the next in a tuk-tuk, which is like a super fast golf cart equipped with an insane car alarm/siren.

Today was quite interesting, as we visited the medicinal herb garden across the Rio Panajachel (a very small river this time of year, more like a creek), about 10 minutes walk from where we live on the Rio. I went into the book store here where we´ve been using the computers yesterday and was asked what I was looking for by the young lady at the desk. I´ve been on the look-out for a native plants book, so I told her, and she asked if I´d been to the garden. Apparently she works there half time volunteering with the three indigenous gardeners and other gringo volunteers. She gives tours and has gotten more into actual gardening, according to our tour today! It was a lot of fun going through the garden, as it´s set on a mountain side quite reminescent of Mountain Gardens, and we all three just shared a lot of information about plants. We talked a good piece about herbal smoking blends, Mountain Gardens, and certain plants we use for different things than is traditional here. It was great, and then Jennifer walked us to the office of the project to look at the fair-trade woven goods from the women in the villages around the lake. Back-strap weaving is a very old tradition here, and a lot of girls are taught how to weave from a very early age. Guatemala went through 30-some years of civil war, and a lot of men died or disappeared, so there are loads of widows, especially here in the highlands where there is the highest concentration of indigenous peoples. Some of these widows have formed cooperatives to make and sell weavings, and this particular project called Maya Traditions (mayatraditions.com) supports these groups with marketing, strategies, new designs for world markets, good quality materials and some funds. The garden is an extension of the support provided for the women by providing traditional information passed on from medico Mayas (the head gardener was taught by his grandmother), as well as plant starts, information booklets with recipes/preparation methods/identifications/glossary, and workshops in different towns. It´s all part of a prevention campaign in order to deal with the high cost of prescription drugs and support of tradition.

All this and more, my friends.

Hasta luego,
Abigail <3>


San Pedro a Lago de Atitlan

I´m watching the lake, listening the continual routing sound of home construction in the street below, and seriously considering the $13 massage in San Marcos about 10 minutes across the lake. Volcanoes and mountains are delicious, I guess is how you say it in English.

Mike and I are studying at La Escuela de Espanol Collectiva, where they guarantee the teachers fair wages, and the locals whose home we´re staying in is also appropriately paid. Maria y Jose are hosting us, super kindly and patiently, along with their toddler, Felix. Maria cooks in a local restaurant at night, but she makes our breakfast and lunch, while her sister, Angelica, makes our supper. Questions Mike and I were most asked, why are we vegetarian (la maiz en Estados Unidos es muy mal, los animales con la maiz es muy mal!), how old we are, how long we´ve been together, and where we´re from, in that order. Most noticeable differences in the home - the sink is under the stairs to the roof, and it´s two huge cement basins with a flat space in the middle to wash clothes and dishes, and the kitchen is on the roof in a basic, slatted wood room with a tin roof with thin pieces of cardboard nailed between the slats to keep some of the wind out.

The school is great, a lot cheaper here in San Pedro, and we share a rather good teacher. We study outside under thatched huts for four hours with a great view of the lake and take breaks throughout to refill our free local, organic coffee. It´s quite pleasing the whole experience.

We´ve been spending quite a bit of time in our off-hours at this bar called the Buddha, which is first floor bar, second floor table area, third floor/roof the place with the big Buddha shaped cob pizza oven that they run on the weekends and Friday surrounded by cob wrap-around benches. There are also cob benches throughout the other two floors. It´s quite pleasant, the roof is a good place to be alone and for other various and sundry activities (liking splitting a litre of Gallo while you do your Spanish homework and catching the second-hand herbal smoke of the folks around you).

We leave San Pedro for Santa Cruz on Saturday afternoon to stay overnight at La Iguana Perdida- they have a famous cross-dressing party every Saturday night with a room full of clothes and costumes, barbeque, and music. Exciting! Mike´s brother Nick gives it very good reviews.

Well, with love and well wishes, I´m off to find another quiet place to study for tomorrow!

all my heart, dear fellas,



Ahh, Guatemala...

Delicious food, kindly folks, beautiful textiles- it is treating me well on this fourth full day of our journey. I bought white calla lilies this morning and avocados for 1Q each ($1=7.79Q), that's 7 for under a buck! Same for garlic. Every third vendor at the market in Panajachel was selling fresh chamomile for 3Q per big bundle, less with bargaining, and dried linden blossoms or hibiscus blossoms. $2 for a beer, though. Weird.

Had an incredible reading with a Mayan astrologer in Antigua, trying to decide if I should take her up on the offer to apprentice, actually trying to find a good reason to pay however much it costs or if I even should. Maybe I need to go across the lake to San Pedro to study Spanish, but the astrologer reminded me kindly that these people have roots- the white people need a lot more help. So there's that. I suppose I am only here to look, listen, hopefully learn. Work off some ego and connect a little more bluntly.

Mike reminds that that this country is more wealthy than the United States because it grows all its own food, and it knows where it comes from, where it's going. Unfortunately, we blancos are lost on those counts. It's beautiful, though, seeing the mountainsides planted in small diverse plots, some with calla lilies dividing the plots. It heals my soul a little just to see it.

More later, as usual, my beautiful friends.

Buenos noches,
abby <3


moving to Guatemala

So, I've been working on this house in Springfield, caulking, priming, painting, etc. The house address is actually 444, but http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&safe=off&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7GFRD&q=476+chenery+st+springfield+il&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&resnum=1&ct=title is a fun photo of it. Thanks google! Thanks to this work, which I've been doing for Mike's mom and stepdad, I've been able to visit my parents and sisters this Christmas, buy some nice, light-weight thermals, and get my teeth cleaned, which was highly needed after 15 years. Also, I should have a nice chunk left, enough to pay for at least one week of Spanish language classes with a homestay in a Mayan family's home, possibly two if I can find them a bit cheaper when we're there. In any case, the house is pretty cool, it has a hitching post out front from way back when it was built and horses were the transportation norm. It has pleasing trim, old-time pocket doors, a steam furnace with radiators in every room (I <3 radiators), and a very nice wooden staircase that goes up from the front room where you enter and joins the second story kind of loft-like into the first with a landing and window 3/4 of the way up. It even has a lion's head knocker on the front door. :)

We're heading off to Guatemala next Tuesday, the 13th, which is less than a week away, now. I don't think we'll really have that much to bring, either. I'm packing light on clothes, hoping to find them rather cheap once we're there, and there's not a lot else I really think I need. I went to Munich and Amsterdam about 5 years ago, and I couldn't figure out how backpackers did it- now I can't even remember what I brought that was so necessary that I needed a giant suitcase and a huge backpack. Well, it was a little colder there, especially in March... I learned today that Mike's mom went ahead and booked us and his brother, Nick, at this hostel called the Black Cat in Antigua for 3 days once we get there, which I suppose is a good thing. I believe it's one of the more touristy towns, but there's supposed to be really nice German architecture (a little odd, I admit), good markets, and something else I can't remember. After that I guess she's rented a 3 bedroom house in Panajachel, which is on the coast of Lake Atitlan, across from the volcanoes. It's nickname is Gringotenango, which is to say, place where white people flock. It will be beautiful, though, and I'm quite looking forward to low-cost visits to the acupuncturist and tasty vegetarian food on the cheap. Look: http://z.about.com/d/gocentralamerica/1/0/H/-/-/-/Maya.JPG

The place we're planning to volunteer with the second month, after the folks head back home, is called Maya Pedal, where they make bicimaquinas, or bike machines for indigenous agricultural use. and here you can see lots of what they make. They're situated in a town called San Andreas Itzapa, which also happens to be an area where local shamans can be found. or so I hear... I'll keep ya updated.

My tired bones need resting, now, and I'm pretty distracted filling up my new ipod, free from a friend, who got it free when his downstairs neighbor moved out and didn't take anything. !

Have you ever had 3100 songs to choose from? I am in joy-ing.

Send your blessings for our trip, my wonderful friends and family!

all my heart is filled with your names and faces (which I regularly go over in my head so I don't forget how much I have freely been given),
abigail <3