Saturday, February 28, 2009


I made it to the lake, which was absoluetly beautiful! Lago de Atitlan is situated between 4 volcanoes, and the scenery is amazing. I arrived in Panajachel and took a boat to Santa Cruz, where I would be working at Islaverde Hotel. I worked for a week, getting their compost cleared of plastic and cans, building beds with what I could find, and planting/transplanting some veggies and herbs. Unfortunately, all they really wanted me to do was yard-work (pruning, cutting grass, etc.)-it was a beautiful place to do yard work-but I had come to do organic gardening to produce for the kitchen/restaurant. Anyway, I knew that I wasn´t really needed there or doing much anything of significance (not to mention feeling uncomfortable with my somewhat high-strung anorexic boss), so I moved on after a week. My time there was not a total waste though-I learned a couple of things in the kitchen, helped the compost situation (which will unfortunately, probably go to heck again now that I have left), and took an amazing hike to San Marcos and back.

After leaving the lake, I headed to Xela (Quetzaltenango), which was going to be my next stop anyway. If I stick to my sort-of-tentative-schedule, I´ll be here for about another month. I applied for a volunteer position at an organic community garden directed toward local women who learn and work the land, and then get to take the veggies home. It seems very well done, with a great compost program, and I have a meeting on Monday to talk about what I will be doing, get to know people, etc. I also found a pretty good hostel to stay at, with a great group of people who are all staying for at least a month. One of the girls from Seattle and are I are going to be roomates for the month, and there is another girl from Fort Collins. I´m loving the feel of the city, some great cafés, veggie restaurants, and markets.

Currently, my favorite thing to do is go to the market and come up with different recipe ideas and experiment in the kitchen (the kitchen is one of the reasons I like my current hostel). I´ve tried a couple of fruits I had never seen before, and some of the staples are fresh, delicious, and cheap: carrots, beets, spinach,squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, banana, onion, etc. I have been making a very conscious effort not to buy anything packaged (some exceptions like oil, and rarely pasta or yogurt), and I always take my own bags to the markets and panaderías.

I arrived in Xela on ash Wednesday, and it seems that the party will not be stoping any time soon. Every Friday there is a huge "feria" outside of the cemetery and the church in front of it. It´s beautiful; with all the families, the church decorated and full of people and candles, tons of food stalls-mostly fried, delicious sweets-my favories are the macaroons and pumpkin seed discs, and some hilarious carnival games and rides. Tonight some of us from the hostel may go to a big football (soccer) game together.

And for everyone´s entertainment: I sometimes go to aerobics at a really ghetto gym by my hostel. I always stand in the back, but my head is a good foot above everyone else´s in the mirrors in front of us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

No wonder people love Antigua

I've spent the last few days in Antigua, Guatemala, which represents little of "real" Guatemala but is still a lovely, comfortable place to hang out. I've stayed at a really nice hostal with cute rooms, breakfast buffet, drinking water, internet, and solar power-a bit of a splurge ($7/night), but worth it. Town is full of brightyl painted architecture and cobbled streets, with several nice parks. The market here is huge and very different from those in Mexico. On the west side all of the chicken buses come to pick-up and drop-off. They are the most elaborately pained school buses I've ever seen, with flashing lights, painted characters, and entertaining drivers. I looked like a silly white girl walking around between them, just taking it all in. Most of the fruits and veggies are in the outdoor section of the market and the prices are even cheaper than in Mexico. I bought potatoes, carrots, garlic, onion, green beans, and avas (I don't know what they're called in english) and made a pretty tasty veggie soup. I aslo bought delicious hand-made blue corn tortillas, and found a wonderful panaderia-the best bread I've had so far (sorry, Casa del Pan).

Yesterday after breakfast,reading on the roof, and a walk around town I took a "tour" to Pacaya volcano, the only active volcano around Antigua. IThe tour was really just a ride and then a guy who walked in front of us on the path and didn't really talk. Thick clouds were all around the volcan and this "sunset tour" looked like it might turn out to be a bit disappointing. Anyway, it kind of felt like walking on the moon: weird grey rock, thick clouds sitting on the ground, and at one point we wet "skiing"-there is a section of the side of the volcano that is reallt loose rock and you just rin down it. Then we hiked further up to where you can actually see and touch the red lava-ther were people roasting marshmallows. On the hike back all the clouds magically cleared and we saw the red red sunset and all the other volcanoes around the town. It was beautiful!

When I got back I met up with some people from the hostel and went to see one of the members of Buena Vista Social Club play weith another group of musicians. They played a couple of my favorite songs and people were dancing some great salsa! It was a great last night in Antigua, and now I'm off to the lake.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pine Trees and Palm Trees

Quite a bit has happened since I left San Cristòbal,. This is a condensed version:
-traveled to Palenque where I slept on a "bed" which was a slab of cement in the shape of a bed coming out of the cement floor.
-visited the Palenque ruins, where I was convinced that the howler monkeys were going to attack.
-went to misol-ha and agua azul waterfalls in the pouring rain, which made the rivers and waterfalls look more like chocolate milk than anything else
-spent a night in a Lacandon village, where I didn`t understand a word of the mayan language.
-made the boat ride to the absolutely amazing mayan ruins of Yaxchilan and then across to the Guatemalan border.
-swam in the lake around Flores, Guatemala in the middle of the afternoon with the moon over head and the most beautiful clouds I have ever seen.
-snuck into the Tikal ruins where I painted and took a nap at the top of one of the temples overlooking the canopy with the tops of the other pyramids sticking out.
-ate watermelon in the rain on the roof of our hostel and listened to the awkward students practicing at the music school.
-saw all of the horrible deforestation due to cattle raising in Guatemala (and Mèxico).
-climbed a rope ladder down the Semuc Champey limestone bridge and crawled into the caves underneath (google this place for pictures-seriously!)
-ate cardamom chocolate, made from cocao and cardamom grown not 5 minutes from where it was made and then consumed... by me!

Who knows what´s next!?