Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Visiting a Dentista in Antigua, Guatemala, February 21, 2018

Choosing a dentist: someone who is going to touch your mouth, give you a needle and hopefully make it so you never knew you had a problem with your teeth is difficult, especially in a poorer country like Guatemala.  Last year, I had a crown done in Managua.  Luckily, friends knew of David Ortiz, so there was no research to do.  Show up, open your mouth and pay the bill.  David trained in the U.S. and worked for 25 years in Las Vegas.  His office was like one in Canada - clean and bright with state of the art equipment.  My crown and cleaning cost $400 US.  

Zip ahead a year and another tooth has collapsed.  I asked Marta who she saw and well, apparently most Guatemalans don't go to dentists because they are too expensive.  Marta has a full mouth of teeth and is therefore not a typical Guatemalan.  She suggested La Cruz but warned me that he was very caro.  I emailed him and had a response almost immediately - $400 US for a crown.  I asked at school and Sheny gave me two names from other students.  I found both offices and was told in one that a crown costs 2000Q ( $346 Can) and the other place said it depended on what color you wanted - I'm thinking blue? green? red?  What I think she meant was white to match your teeth or silver or gold.  White cost 900Q or $156 Can.  That sounded too good to be true.  I emailed Erin at Common Hope to say I wouldn't be in to 'work' this afternoon because I needed to see a dentista and she recommended Dr. Ovalle who is whom I finally saw.  

His office didn't open until 3 so I wandered until then: bought some wine - Marta loves a glass of wine with supper!, bought my transportation to Xela and San Cristobal, paid for my next week of classes and changed some US money.  ATMs are generally a rip off; charging close to $20 Can just to use the machine.  I'm glad I still have some US cash along.  I also stopped in at another dentist's office.  It was rubby and there were 2 women waiting - a Mom and daughter.  The Mom had few teeth, probably pulled by this dentist.  They went in first and after a few minutes of looking around the bright pink waiting room and wondering where all the patients were, I left.    

Dr Ovalle's office is bright and clean and very busy.  Eventually I was in a chair in what appeared to be his office.  He was sitting at a desk with a computer.  When I entered the room, he hopped right up, introduced himself and I explained my problem.  WITHOUT gloves, he opened my mouth and poked around.  He then took a picture of my tooth and showed me that I had not only a partially disintegrated tooth but also a little black hole - 2 cavities.  He believed he could fill the cavities and that a crown was not required.  Make my day Dr. Ovalle!  He put some kind of paste on the spot on my gum where he was going to insert the needle.  5 minutes later I was watching the Olympics and waiting for the freezing to kick in.  Now he put on gloves and drilled and puttied and drilled some more.  He followed the same procedure as home, using a light to harden the filling and then the blue paper th check for high spots. 

I have another appointment on Saturday for my check up and cleaning.  My total bill is $111 Can.  As the freezing is coming out, my teeth feel as good as new - no high spots and no rough spots.  I'm pleased.  

Looking forward to tomorrow - beautiful sunshine, a slight breeze and pleasant temperatures.

P.S. Nico's first skate-

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Antigüeña Spanish Academy and Colonia, Guatemala, el 20 de Febrero, 2018

School was good.  Antigüeña Spanish Academy is on the north west corner of Antigua, 2.4 km from where I live.  It takes a good 30 minutes to walk there.  Streets are cobblestone and sidewalks are up and down.  I have started sort of marching when I walk - picking up my feet so I don't fall again.  And speaking of falling, my right side ribs are killing me.  My wrist is fine, the bruise on my arm is not so tender anymore but my ribs are getting worse.  I have a hard time getting up from bed, it's painful to sneeze and take a deep breath.  I must have cracked a rib or two.  Not fun but there's nothing to do about it except wait - 6 weeks one website says!

Antigüeña Spanish Academy is in a large garden and tables of students and teachers are scattered amongst the plants-

Other students, like me, are upstairs under a roof.  I like it up here because it's not too hot and there is no wind.  In spite of all the students, I don't hear anyone else-

Down below this level are more students.  I wouldn't like it here because it's near the water and coffee and there is a lot of commotion-

Since last year, they've built a serving area for our 10 o'clock snack-

It's interesting how the population changes from week to week.  Last week the school was packed.  Tatijana and I sat in the windy and sunny courtyard.  It wasn't pleasant.  Today there were still students and teachers around the edges trying to stay out of the wind and sun-

After class, I checked a few more travel agencies for transportation to Xela and then San Cristobal, then made it home in time for lunch. I had little time to rest before I had to leave for the biblioteca but amazingly enough, a chicken bus was right at the corner when I got there!  No waiting.

This afternoon was special because I went with a social worker to Colonia to see Axel and we went without a translator!  I am pretty proud of myself!  I am Axel's madrina - godmother, because I sponsor him which also means his family.  For $60 US/month, he and his sister get to go to school and the whole family - Mom, Dad, Myron (17), Axel (11) and Dulce (6) get medical  and dental care. They also have access to the social programs and library at headquarters.  They sold their house a few weeks ago and are staying for free in a brother's house. About 5 years ago, Julio, the Dad, was accused by his place of employment of stealing.  No police were involved, nor was there a trial, but Julio paid back all the money, even though he claimed to be innocent. The family borrowed from the bank and the interest and payments have been killing them. Mom visited the clinic frequently citing many issues -  all from stress because as soon as they sold their house and paid off their loan, she was better.  Julio now works in a toilet paper factory and Mom has a small tienda. Very small from what I could see. 

The street to their home-

Their front door-

The courtyard upon entering is mass confusion.  It looks like they just threw everything in a pile but I'm sure they know what's where-

The kitchen-

They have tarps hanging to keep the sun out.  They have a fridge and a gas stove, 3 bedrooms and I am presuming some sort of bathroom but I didn't see it.

Axel, his Mom and sister Dulce-

Axel's Mom made this purse for me.  It took her one day-

I gave Axel the first Harry Potter book and The Little Prince.  I brought the family a food basket and the game Uno which we played-

Axel wrote me this card-

I felt sad and had tears in my eyes when I walked into their home.  I was thinking about how lucky I am to live where I do and have what I have.  So many of us do not appreciate what we have.  For some, there is never enough.  I enjoyed my visit but was exhausted by the time I got home. The chicken bus was packed - we were like sardines and when you're getting close to where you get off, you have to squish between people, like really squish.  Supper was great and afterwards while watching the Olympics, I noticed that half of one of my molars has broken off so, it's off to see a dentista tomorrow!

Two of my three favorite men-

I see Wall in Nico's eyes but Jane too, maybe in his mouth.  I'm looking forward to seeing this little monkey. He knows his colors and has become quite a talker.  He didn't fall too far from the tree. His Mom was talking a blue streak at 20 months.  Nico will be 2 on March 3. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Antigua, Guatemala, February 19, 2018

Another week of school coming up and it is going to be great.  I have Sheny back as my teacher and she is awesome.  The four hours passed in a minute and I'm looking forward to the rest of my days here-

She is so organized, knows how to explain things in a simple way, is very fluent in English, writes down new words so I can copy them, knows when to change activities and is a pleasure to talk with.  Today she was telling me about some experiences she's had with nasty spirits.  She can see shadows and dead people so of course I was fascinated.  She is a hard worker, managing to save up to buy a PS4 which was her dream last year.  She plays soccer on the weekends, has 4 cats and rides a motorcycle!

Many people cook with wood and I guess this is where they buy it-

The differences in Guatemala are so profound.  How can this be 2018?  Such a simple yet difficult life.  

It was with mixed emotions that I headed for la biblioteca.  What menial tasks would I have to do today?  It's not that I'm above doing menial tasks, it's just that I could be helping so much more but maybe I am helping them by cutting and pasting and it shouldn't matter what I do, as long as it's helping.  I guess I shouldn't complain.  So, today I had to cut out parts for paper faces: a large circle for the head, two small and skinny rectangles for the eyebrows, a triangle for the nose, two medium sized circles for the cheeks, half a circle for the mouth and eclipse shapes for the eyes with a smaller circle on top.  There was a teacher workshop in progress and this was to help them with a possible art project.  Next, I had to put computer barcodes in new books as well as stamp the books in 3 places for identification.  During these activities, I took any chance I got to read to kids.  Of course, the reading is not just for them because I learn too although the kids picked books I wouldn't.  One about insects, the other about animals.  Oh well.  Vocab is vocab.  Organizing, sorting and discarding magazines and papers that are not useful for students searching for pictures was next and finally I had to wash the 4 tables.  Griselda did ask me what I would like to be doing and I told her that I could teach English, even though it will only be for the next 6 days.  She is going to talk to the kids that come and see if they are interested.  

Supper was awesome - chicken, green beans with onions and a grated carrot salad with piña, raisins, mayo and mustard.  While having supper, Marta told me that the Spanish school she's affiliated with charges students $130 US for a week homestay.  That's 954 quetzales.  Of that, she gets 50Q.  Repeat, 50Q!  For the week!  For room and board!  That's unbelievable yet I know that all schools do this.  It's the same as for classes.  I paid $120 US for one week and I bet Sheny doesn't get much more than 50Q either.  What robbery!

Tomorrow is the day I've been waiting for.  I'm going to see Axel and his family in their home.  I've got 2 books - the first Harry Potter and The Little Prince as well as a game of Uno.  I'm looking forward to it!  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Antigua, Guatemala, February 18, 2018

Sunday, the kitchen is closed at my house - Marta deserves a day off!  I walked downtown, looking for a restaurant full of Guatemalans.  That way you know that it's good food and it's cheap.  I passed numerous restaurants with high prices, made especially for tourists but I knew there had to be what I was looking for somewhere- la comida tipica.  I finally asked a server if desayunos was served in the mercado.  No, he said, only almuerzo.  Liar!  I walked to the market and there were numerous places I could eat breakfast.  Chorizo sausage costs 66 cents.  Two scrambled eggs - 66 cents.  Why would one eat anywhere else?  I had this fancy looking fruit, yogurt, honey and granola bowl for $3.  I'm not sure where the yogurt or granola were but oh well-

After breakfast I wandered around the mercado and bought 5 DVDs, obviously pirated because they cost 86 cents each.  They're all Oscar contenders except for Nacho Libre which is supposed to be a funny one about Mexico.  Each tienda put the dvd into a player to show me the film on a tv screen and to make sure they spoke English.  After my shopping spree, I headed to Filadelfia Coffee Finca on a chicken bus to buy some 'good' coffee.  I toured there last year and bought coffee so I'm hoping it's the same.  Fuego was up to his old tricks-

By the time I got back, it was lunch and I was back in the mercado.  On the top left is ground pork in a patty, the bottom left is torta de carne - basically a hamburger patty and my favorite is on the right - chile rellenos - ground pork mixed with spices rolled into a ball and fried.  So good!  I also had pico de gallo-

I had my fingernails shellacked and walked home, only to find the beginning of a Lent Procession in the street in front of my home.  During the next 5 Sundays of Lent, different neighbouring villages will walk to and around Antigua to commemorate the death of Jesus.  These three fellows were the leaders-

There are numerous alfombra - carpets of flowers on the road to praise Jesus.  The procession walks right through them-

The pueblos of Santa Catherina de Alejandria and San Pedro Apostal were in charge of presenting the procession this afternoon-

The Romans carry banners-

People dressed in purple are called cucuruchos which actually means pointed hat.  Incense also shows adoration for Jesus-

More Romans-

Men carry the float of Jesus-

The bands play slow marching music-

More cucuruchos-

This little guy is getting into it early.  He's carrying his own andas of Jesus-

The cards that people wear have a number on them indicating when it will be their turn to take over carrying the andas-

Women carry the andas of Maria-

Following Maria is San Juan and Magdalena.  They always accompany Maria-

The last part of the procession - (it's not a parade) is another band, again playing slow and mournful musica-

Quite a few members of Marta's family were here from the ciudad and Antigua to watch the processions from right in front of her house.  Marta loves to cook and entertain.  I am very lucky!

At 5:30, I met 12 English speaking ex-pats at 6e Avenida and 6e Calle.  We went to a restaurant for supper and even though I ordered a stuffed pepper, I got a chile rellenos.  It cost 4 times as much as the one I had at noon and tasted 1- times worse!  Anyway........    Walking home, the procession was just on its way out of town!  What a long afternoon for them!

I had a great weekend.  I'm not used to having to do things like school and work.  It's kind of crimping my style but it's back to the grind tomorrow!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Antigua, Guatemala, February 17, 2018

Yeah!  Today is a free day - no school and no volunteering.  It's like I was back working, always excited for the weekend and having nothing to do all day.

I love the bodegona - the main supermercado.  It's huge, packed and has everything you can imagine including booze and free samples.  But last night, Marte Julia mentionned there's an even better one in Jocotenango, just a couple kilometers north called La Torre and it's brand new.  So, that was my first mission this morning.  What a disappointment!  It's in a mall and just like Coop or Sobeys.  When I travel, the last thing I want is a cold and sterile supermarket like at home.  So, I won't be going there again.  The mall is only half full but it's just like a North American one.  I'm not sure how many Guatemalicos can afford to shop here-

To make matters worse, I got sucked in to buying coffee in the grocery store.  Everytime I do, I end up giving it away or leaving it behind somewhere.  The woman assured me it was export quality and very rich and strong.  Not.  When will I learn?

Because it's now Lent, many windows and doorways are adorned with white and purple sashes.  There are also black robes with similar sashes for rent/sale-

Coming back to Antigua, I walked through the market.... again.  I just can't get enough-

I had my toenails shellacked for $13.68!  Hard to believe.  Then I visited a few travel agencies to see how much the next part of my adventure will cost.  I'll travel by shuttle which is a mini van rather than by chicken bus because I want to get there before I have another birthday.  Chicken buses race down the highway but stop continuously and my backpack would be on the roof which is not necessarily the safest place for it.  A shuttle will take me directly to my hotel and pick me up the next morning.  I couldn't believe it but prices ranged from $90 US to $48 US for exactly the same trips!

Lots of women manage carrying loads like this.  They make a support ring out of a piece of cloth and that's what the basket sits on-

The view from my front gate-

After lunch and a rest, I went walking again to find the Lutheran Church.  I found it all right, but there didn't seem to be anyone around and the courtyard was locked and looked vacant.  On the way there, a very thin and tiny Guatemalan woman asked me for money.  I usually ignore them, it seems you have to because there are so many.  I went into San Francisco church yard where there are always a lot of stands set up and bought what the seller said was chocolate and coconut in a kind of bar.  Well, it was molasses and coconut!  Anyway, there she was again, right beside me.  Another woman was selling tamales so I asked her if she wanted one.  She said no, she wanted leche.  Leche?  She pointed across the street to the tienda, so away we went.  Some tiendas are wide open little shops where you can help yourself to anything and take it to the counter to pay.  In this one, the owner must be paranoid because almost everything is behind bars and the counter where he sits.  He put the leche on the counter and looked at her funny, sort of as if to say, as if!  Then she asked for aceite (cooking oil), then laundry soap in the powder form and in brick form.  Her smile kept getting bigger and bigger.  Her last wish was a bottle of vitamins.  All together it cost 65Q which is $11.  She put everything in her bag and away I went.  She followed me and asked for money to ride the collectivo which I know costs 2Q.  I looked at her and was ready to give her the money when she said 10Q.  That's when I left her.  As I walked around, I started feeling badly.  I've been trying to be more generous on this trip.  We have so much and sometimes I think we don't realize how lucky we are and how much we have.  It makes me sad seeing so many poor people and they don't have a government helping at all with social programs.  So, I should have given her the 10Q and then I'd have felt really good.  Another lesson learned.  

I'm looking forward to another 'free day' in paradise tomorrow!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Antigua, Guatemala, February 16, 2018

I think I'm back into this time zone!  After breakfast, I walked to a nearby park to meet Tatijana to go on our day trip.  The buildings of Antigua are so beautiful, especially in the bright sunshine-

Not sure this meets code-

I walk under él Arco everyday at least once.  Early morning is best to see Volcan Agua.  By afternoon, it's usually clouded over-

We took a chicken bus to Pastores where Tatijana is from.  Our first stop was to her Mother's home.  Numerous family members live in the big house.  A few were having breakfast - bread, platanos and frijoles-

Tatijana is wearing white and her Mom is right beside her.  The sister in pink is also a teacher at the school.  Her son is 3 and she nursed him at the table-

The home is made of tin sheets and plywood.  There is little storage so things are just piled up.  They use wood for cooking-

The second stove-

The kitchen counter-

They have a dog, a cat and 3 pet pigeons-

Pastores is known for making boots.  There are many shops-

Tatijana's friend is sitting at his sewing machine-

Next we stopped at a public school and I had a little visit with the Grade 4 class.  They were very noisy and the floor is a mess-

The reason we went to Pastores was because the municipality has spent the last few years developing a place they hope many tourists will visit.  They've built a gorgeous swimming pool Andy covered cooking spots, planted fruit trees and have camping areas.  The land is fully fenced with rolled wire on top so it's' super safe.  I hope the local children will be able to take advantage of this beautiful pool-

The views are great from the top looking north down the valley-

Antigua is south in the distance-

They had many chairs set up for what Tatijana told me was to be a 10 o'clock ceremony.  Few were there by then but at 10 to 11, the dignitaries spoke and the ribbon was cut.  We didn't stay for the food but it looked great - tortillas, tostadas and tamales -

There was also a marimba band playing-

and a brass band-

We left about 11:30 and caught a chicken bus- 

back to Antigua.  Tatijana went back to school to talk to the boss about potential work next week. I'm glad it won't be with me.  I was explaining to her family the rest of my travels and I said on March 20 I would voler, which means to fly in French (I always use French words when I don't know the Spanish words and often I'm right!) and Tatijana's sister and she got into a big argument about whether it was volar or volver.  Tatijana is a piece of work, let me tell you.  Even at the swimming pool, when we had a personal guide tour us around the place, she kept telling him what to say and interrupting him.  She also told me when I should take a picture and where I should sit.  I ignored her for the most part-

There are probably 30 buses like this at any one time at the terminal-

I walked home through the market then stopped at the gigantic supermarket.  I had forgotten how cool the mercado is too - anything imaginable is there and for cheap.  I'm going to go back tomorrow.

After lunch, I went to Common Hope where I did more cutting and pasting.  My first project was to glue two large pieces of paper together, cut out the letters of the alphabet and glue them on, then cover it with clear plastic and tape that onto the back-

I did three of them and it took forever; maybe because I spent a lot of time talking with Lynn, the employed Canadian in the library.  She told me that her daughter, who is a writer, had her house remodelled on HGTV!  It was about a $50,000 reno in 2011.  Her daughter knew what to write to get picked - single Mom with a Colombian son in a newly purchased home in a trendy area in Toronto.  Since she bought the house, its value has increased 2.5 times.  Lynn also invited me to supper with a group of women who meet every Sunday night.  I'm looking forward to that.

My next project was cutting out a rectangle on the front of a Cheerios box-

The biblioteca-

is nicely setup.  The main area-

houses many books.  There are reading rooms for older kids-

and younger kids-

Loreli works here and Ana is the teacher-

for whom I've been doing all this cutting and pasting.  I don't mind really; it's simple but I'm not interacting with anyone except Lynn and that's in English.  Maybe next week will be better and maybe what I'm doing is what volunteers do here.  

Looking forward to 2 free days to explore Antigua!