Monday, June 29, 2009

Old school.

Scenes like this are disappearing from Guatemala, and I took full advantage of it. Walking the streets of San Pedro the other day, I came across these two old Mayan men in their typical dress, chatting away, obvlious of me taking their photo. The ones with the old lady are too much. Classic moments!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The night the Zoola burned.

There is a rather well known place here in San Pedro called Zoola. I call it the Zoola as that is what I hear all the Israelis say, the Zoola. The Zoola is a hotel and restaurant, very, very laid back style. The Zoola has a reputation as a great place to hang out, eat, smoke, and chill, sometimes for hours on end. The Zoola was built about six years ago, and is owned and run by Israelis(which there is no shortage of here). Though the Zoola is not visible from any road or pathway, it has an impecable reputation and is always very busy. The Mayan ladies whom work in the kitchen don´t mess around and can make any Israeli dish that they are challeged with, among other things.

I live very near the Zoola. The other night, about 9pm, I saw a huge plume of smoke coming from directly where the Zoola is located, smoke that signaled it was not just a trash fire. I could also see flames, very big flames coming from the Zoola. I thought I was dreaming. And knowing that the Zoola is usually very busy, I kind of panicked hoping everything was alright, you know, minus the huge fire. I immediately assumed it was a fire from the kitchen, but being Monday, the Zoola was closed(its normal day to be closed).

I knew I had to go see what was happening, and to see if I could do anything to help. I walked on the dirt pathway to the Zoola, my heart racing. When I arrived I saw what I already knew, the Zoola was burning. As can be seen in the photos, the Zoola has a thatch roof, and that thatch roof was flaming, huge. By the time I arrived, there was plenty of people inside doing their best to put the flames out. San Pedro does not have a fire department, there might be some Bomberos(firefighters)in a neighboring town, but there is not time to wait for these things here. We also do not have regular running water here, so hoses were pretty much out of the question as well.

The fire was being fought with buckets of water being thrown up to the flames by Mayan and foreign men alike. This was a serious team effort. I stood outside on the grass pictured to the left, slack-jawed gaping at what was taking place before me. Every time a bucket of water was thrown up, flaming hot coals rained down. Perhaps you are wondering why I didn´t do anything to help, well, sometimes the best thing one can do is stay the hell out of the way. These men had this handled as best it could be handled, and I would have been in the way.

I was truly in shock, and as I stood there chatting in disbelief with my Mayan girlfriends, I was hoping and praying so hard in my heart that this place would not burn to the ground, and that all would walk away unharmed. The community of expatirates that live here is pretty tightknit, and all I could think of was the owners and managers of the Zoola and how devastating this all is for them and all of us that live here. The Mayan ladies in the kitchen were also weighing heavily on my heart as I am close friends with one of them and for these people to be out of work is crippling to an already miniscule family income.

After about an hour of fierce fighting, the flames were gone and the last bits of smoke were being tortured with bucket after bucket of water. The mood had lightened significantly, as the men knew they had won the battle, and laughing was heard as the soaking, dirty men continued to do what they could to kill the smoking coals. It was over, the fire at the Zoola had been put out by the persistence of normal people, all with something at stake.

How did this fire start? This was not a kitchen fire, being that the kitchen was not functioning at the time. The fire did not come from anyone chilling in the restaurant, the restaurant was closed. Want my opinion? This is obvious arson. The fire started on the roof of the Zoola, probably gasoline thrown, then ignighted. The fire started in the first break of rain we had had for days as tropical storm Andrés poured on us for nearly a week. The Zoola is a very sucessful restaurant owned by foreigners. This is likely arson perpetrated by someone whom has beef with either the owners, or the simple success of the place. Was it Guatemalans, was it someone who hates Israelis specifically? Seems an obvious act of racism, something we expats deal with on a daily basis here. Either way, this is a bit scary for all of us expatirates here, puts us all on our toes.

I went back on Tuesday afternoon to check out the clean up effort. Everyone seemed in pretty good spirits, and the remnants of the fire had been cleaned up very well. "We are reopening at 3pm". Take that arsonists!

In the meantime, the kitchen and another area of the Zoola are fully functioning, undamaged. Thankfully, only a small area burned, and is easily rebuildable. The folks of San Pedro, tourists and locals, will soon be able to chill in leisure at the Zoola once again. The Mayan ladies will continue to have work, and trust me when I say this, the Zoola will be as busy as ever.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Finding my way.

Though it may be common assumption that life in another country is all fun and games, quite the opposite is true. Yes, this place is very, very charming, but there are plenty of aspects that are far from beautiful.

I came to Guatemala following a feeling that this is the most perfect place on Earth for me in my life right now. Do I still believe that? I can honestly say that I don´t know. And now that you are all asking yourselves, "What the hell happened?", I´m actually not going to indulge.

In order to make myself feel better about the struggle I am currently going through to find my place here, I will post some photos, yet again, probably to remind myself more than others, exactly why I am here.

Above, Juanita La Bonita, working in the field by my house.

Kristel! My oh my, Kristel. She kills me with those brown eyes. And no one on Earth has ever met a three-year-old with such amazing powers of convincing.
Kristel, Mingo and me.
Lake Atitlán, sunrise from the Indian Nose Mt.
The volcanos and me, from the Indian Nose Mountian. Hiking in the dark sucks, but so worth it when the sun comes up.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Living in Central America, things about myself that I thought would never change, are changing.

I have never really minded spiders, they don´t send me into a panic, or send me running. Perhaps I can "blame" my mother for my lax attitude towards spiders, being that she makes sure to have a pet black widow in a jar in the house at all times. Totally worth it, throwing other spiders in the jar and watching the death match is awesome, to say the least.

However, living and traveling in Guatemala and the surrounding countries, where insect life is abundant, has changed my attitude towards these creatures. Upon sighting a spider in my room or wherever, I used to be a "catch and release" type, believing that spiders are good because they kill far more annoying bugs. Then, one day as I commented that "Spiders eat other bugs", the person I was conversing with made the comment, "Yeah, and they get eaten too". Touché.

I live in a three story, virtually open air house, in the highland jungles of Guatemala. Spiders are everywhere in my house, literally. There are thousands of them, no exaggeration, sometimes I wonder if it´s millions. For the most part they mind their own business and stay out of my way, in the corners of the rooms or wrapping their webs in areas of the house where they are not bothersome. I even get a bit giddy when I see a fly or mosquito struggling to escape from a web as the spider approaches to kill it dead. Damn the flys!!!

But all this being said, if a spider is in my space, I no longer have the "catch and release" attitude. I now have the "smoosh upon first sight" attitude, even the tiny baby spiders. What am I supposed to do here? I swear, if I catch and release, it will come right back in, plus they are just too numerous to catch and release all damn day long. I have better things to do than chase spiders around my room. They will learn to stay out of my space, or they will be a gross looking wall decoration, right next to the smooshed flys.

The hugest spider I ever had to smoosh was when I was in Guatemala the first time, last year. This thing was the size of a small baby and was on the wall of my hotel room. I could not do anything until that thing was dead. As my flip-flop flew through the air towards the thing, I screamed like a little girl, then did the dance of grossness immediately afterwards for at least two minutes. The giant was mangled and dead on the floor, but I was able to change my clothes without being watched and I was able to sleep.

The above pictured spider, inside the toilet tank of the hotel I stayed in during my recent trip to Mexico is the inspiration for this blog post. That spider is also the size of a baby and being in a very precarious position, I had to be creative with how to smoosh it. A long stick came in handy. Then it floated in the toilet water as the flushes drained and refilled the tank. I´m sure someday it´s body will rot in the toilet tank water and the circle of life will be complete.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pool party!!!

In proper tradition, I had a birthday party yesterday to celebrate my thirty beautiful years on this here Mother Earth. Mostly, I have posted pictures with hilarious captions to suffice as describing a party is very boring to read.

Chema!! My little love, enjoying cobbler and ice cream, pantless.

What party is complete with out a sleeping baby? You go, Amelia!
In this photo we can see that I am holding it down as the hugest woman here. Me and my thirty years with our Mayan friend Chino.
I know it appears as though the plate is on fire, but trust me, there is cobbler and ice cream under there somewhere. We had to shove thirty candles in a very small space here people. No, the beer and cigarettes are not mine. How can I possibly keep my bikini body at thirty years old with that kind of behavior? Birthday cobbler made by the redneck in the hat to the right of the photo. Thanks Nestor for the awesomest pineapple cobbler ever!
¡Amigas bonitas! Mayan girlfriends trying their hardest to know how the heck to smile in a photo.

Top left, the folks enjoying tasty beverages at the bar at the pool. Top right, Ben(left)trying desperately to give me my birthday present by beating Nestor(right)at Boccie Ball. I didn´t get my present, that redneck can´t be beat! There´s always next year Ben. And above, Daniel, my very good friend, owner of the pool and my sometimes boss when I work at the pool. Huge thanks to Daniel for offering his facilities and his day off to have a party for me!Chema and his sister Eileen, enjoying the pool and making funny faces for all. Below, to finish the night, Daniel had no problems spanking me thirty times or so with one of the gifts I received, a fly swatter. God bless you Caroline, it is one of the best birthday presents ever as my birthday falls exactly in the middle of fly season here at the lake.

I hope you all had as much fun as I did! Happy birthday to me.