Palm Sunday Photos

Irving didn’t have to work on Palm Sunday, so we all went to Antigua and enjoyed the procession for a little bit. There weren’t many carpets left since we went later in the afternoon, but we did see some pine ones.

semana santa antigua

These are the cucuruchus or carriers for the floats. There are hundreds of them!

palm sunday antigua guatemala

I love it when they dress up the little ones in the same outfits as their dads.

palm sunday cucuruchu

This is one of the carpets that was being made when we went by.

semana santa alfombra

semana santa carpets

carpets semana santa

semana santa carpet

There were no good photos of Jesus for some reason, but my sister got this one:

semana santa

Women dress in white or black to carry the Mary float.

semana santa

Here’s the Mary float:

Mary float Palm sunday guatemala

After the procession has destroyed the carpets, these guys come along behind and clean up really quickly.

carpet cleaning guatemala

Happy Birthday to Me

It’s my 34th birthday today and since my sister is here, I got spoiled rotten! First, they all let me sleep in until 8:30. Then, I got this for breakfast:

eggs benedict

My sister also stayed up half the night making me a cake that I wasn’t allowed to see until after lunch. It was pretty awesome:

Supernatural cake

supernatural Impala cake

For those who aren’t familiar with this car and the symbols, it’s from the TV show Supernatural.

Next up were some sweet gift boxes designed by the boys and some special cards they made me.

birthday cards

This is inside Dante’s card, Minecraft imagery and a birthday cake:

Irving took me out without kids for a bit and we went to look at fabric though I didn’t get any because I seriously have to sew some things with what I have first! Then we headed home and Sarah is making Baconators, some pretty unhealthy looking hamburgers. Well, I only turn 34 once, right?

My dad sent down some gifts with my sister. They are really beautiful!

wooden bowls

rolling pin

cutting boards

I don’t even want to use them, they’re so nice!

Alfombras of Semana Santa (Holy Week Carpets)

Semana Santa in Guatemala is a stunning combination of colors, smells and sounds. Guatemalans love colors, as evidenced by the brightly painted houses and beautiful woven fabrics here, but nowhere does this love of color appear more strongly than in the alfombras or carpets of Semana Santa.

These are not actual carpets, of course, but rather temporary ones created for the processions that wind around Antigua (and other towns/cities) during Holy Week. The carpets are designed months in advance in many cases and the stencils made or purchased. Every year, the designs are different, but the insane amount of work that goes into these temporary works of art is the same.

There are several different kinds of alfombras. The most impressive ones are made of colored sawdust, which is sold in bags of color or hand mixed with dye by those making the carpets. Here is a sawdust carpet (alfombra de aserrin) in progress:

semana santa alfombra

A base of plain sawdust is laid down to fill in the cracks in the cobblestones and create a flat surface. On top of this, colored sawdust is smoothed out, usually using pieces of wood to form the edges.

The next step is placing stencils on top of the base coats and adding the elaborate colors. Sometimes multiple stencils are used to create more complex designs, such as portraits of saints.

Other alfombras are made of pine needles and flowers. Here’s an example:

semana santa in antigua

These are made by arranging a thick layer of pine needles over the street, then topping it with flowers, sawdust or fruit and vegetables. It’s not uncommon to see children running along after the procession, darting between legs to grab flowers and fruit that hasn’t been completely destroyed yet.

The carpets take hours to create, so often, people work all night long on them, finishing minutes before the procession arrives to destroy their hard work. There are usually a couple of different processions going at any given point in the day, so the carpets have to be carefully planned to be done between one procession going through and the next one passing.  I will be posting more photos when my sister and I go to Antigua to check out the processions next week, so stay tuned!

If you want to see the alfombra making process, this is an interesting video:

What’s a Tuk Tuk?

I sometimes forget that people outside of Guatemala read my blog, but obviously, there are some terms that people who have never been here might not understand. A commenter recently brought this to my attention, so I figured I would let you know what a tuk tuk is. These are not exclusive to Guatemala, I’ve seen photos of them in other countries, such as Thailand, as well.

This is a tuk tuk:

It’s a moto taxi with three wheels and a little seat in front for the driver. The handlebars are similar to a motorcycle. These are quick and easy transport around town when a full size taxi is too big. They’re very handy for getting around carpets during Semana Santa (Holy Week).

Semana Santa and Sisters

This is the busiest time of year around here. Irving, his dad and his youngest brother are all rushing here and there to play in processions and vigils around Antigua and the capital. Add to this the fact that Irving and Melvin are also in a band that continues to have gigs every weekend and we barely see the guy these days.

semana Santa Guatemala

It will only get worse as we reach the actual Semana Santa. Then Irving will be playing in processions that last up to 18 hours, only to finish and grab a tuk tuk to the next one. He rarely sleeps during the week and food is minimal, usually sandwiches handed out by the band leaders. This year, we have the added challenge of his diabetes. The white bread sandwiches and packaged cookies that they usually give the musicians are definitely not what he needs to be eating. I’m still working on that puzzle. Back before kids, I used to walk with the processions and bring him food and drink, holding the stuff while he played. That hasn’t been an option for years now.

semana santa antigua

My sister, Sarah, is coming down tomorrow. This is the first time I’ve had someone here during Semana Santa, so we will be doing the tourist thing and dragging three kids through the streets to see the processions and carpets. I guess after living here for so long, the novelty has worn off and now I tend to see Semana Santa as more of a nuisance, but it really is spectacular. The boys have only been to Antigua once during this week (twice if you count the long walk with Dorian when he was 4 months old), so it should be interesting to see how they react. They have music flowing in their veins, so I suspect they will enjoy it.

semana santa processions

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Episode 79

Me: “At Disney World they have the Beast’s castle and you can go eat there. Sometimes the Beast even comes in.”
Dante: “A real beast?”
Me: “No.”
Dante: “A robot, then?”
Me: “Just a guy dressed as the Beast.”
Dante: relieved “Oh, okay.”
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Dominic: upon returning from running errands with Irving “Any food here? I need FOOD!”
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Dante: “When I’m a man, I’m going to open a pizza shop and make my own pizza. It’s going to be great and we’ll have LOTS of money!”
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Dante: “Mama, do we have any chemicals that explode?”
Me: “Um, no . . .”
Dante: “I thought I asked to you to buy some the other day.”
Me: “I forgot?”
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Dominic: “More eye-peem!”
Me: “Can you say ‘ice?’”
Dominic: “Eyes.”
Me: “Can you say ‘cream?’”
Dominic: “Peem. More eyes-peem!”
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Dante: “I HATE school! This is stupid! Why do I have to do this?”
Me: “Well, when you grow up, you’re going to need a job to make money and school helps you with that. Plus, math helps you figure out if you are making the right amount of money or if people are shorting you.”
Dorian: “AND, if you are building houses, you need to know how much wood to buy and how much to charge people.”
Dante: “Oh, that’s why? Okay.” Buckles down to work.
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Me: “Dominic, can you say London?”
Dominic: “No.”
Me: “Can you say Londres?”
Dominic: “No. Papa can say it.”
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Me: “Auntie Sarah is going to sleep in your bed, since you don’t sleep in it.”
Dominic: “Oh, Sawa sleep here.” looks around. “Oh! Need a pillow!”
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Me: “Dominic, what are you doing?”
Dominic: “Nothing.”

Where Can I Find Cornstarch in Guatemala and Other Grocery Questions

I tend not to write a ton of “authority” posts on living in Guatemala because they are often controversial and if you say something costs so much, you get jumped on. I’m not up for that kind of fighting on my blog, so I leave those sorts of posts to folks like The New Expat and Rich over at UnwireMe. However, I’ve recently gotten a few shopping questions from some new expats, so I figured I’d answer them, since they’re a little off the beaten track.

Where can I find cornstarch?

Cornstarch is called Maicena here and it isn’t in the baking section. You can get it at any supermarket and most corner stores, but it will be in the drink section. Be careful to get plain . . . it also comes in banana, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavors, as it is used for making a hot drink.

Interestingly enough, if you boil water and cornstarch with a little sugar, you have an excellent home remedy for diarrhea. Something to keep in mind if you end up with amoebas.

Where should I buy meat?

You can get meat in the market, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The hanging cuts are exposed to flies, heat and, well, it nearly made me ill the first few times I walked down the meat aisles in the Antigua market.

Carnicero

Some smaller shops carry meat, you can ask. The Bodegona in Antigua is probably your best bet for variety, but they don’t always have things available and it can be confusing to figure out which counter to go to if your Spanish isn’t great.

I buy my meat at the Paiz supermarket in San Lucas, about 10 minutes outside of Antigua, going toward Guatemala City. The meat is fresh (something you have to be careful of here, even in supermarkets) and they let me buy my chicken frozen so I get it home without thawing. If you ask for Tyson chicken breasts, they can give you the whole frozen package, which is usually 10 lbs. Also, if you go on Wednesday, they always have a sale on Tyson chicken. I just learned that tip last week, when the chicken breast fillets were on for Q15 (just over $2) a pound. I’ve never had bad meat there and they also have rabbit, duck and a wide range of seafood.

Is it safe to eat produce from the market?

Yes, but you should wash it first. I fill a large bowl with filtered water and add several drops of bleach and a tablespoon or so of baking soda. Add the veggies (if you’re doing cauliflower and broccoli, cut them so the water can get in between the branches) and let sit for an hour or two. Rinse very well before serving.

You should wash stuff you buy in the supermarket, too. There’s no guarantee that it’s decontaminated.

I think the market vendor is giving me gringo prices. How do I negotiate without being rude?

First of all, it’s not considered rude to offer a lower price, so don’t worry about that. I’ll do a post on negotiating at some point in the future, but for now, I highly suggest checking the supermarket for prices before heading to the market. You’ll know what things are worth and you shouldn’t pay more than the supermarket price.

If you want multiples of something, let the vendor know. For example, if she says a carrot is Q2, ask if you can have a better price if you buy a dozen. If the cauliflower is Q3 a head, offer Q5 for two.

vendor 3

If you REALLY don’t want to haggle over something, just say something like, “Wow, expensive.” (“wow, muy caro.”) and see if the vendor lowers the price. If not, just walk away slowly. They will often call out a much lower price, particularly if it is later in the day. You can get some good deals later in the day! Also, if something is nearly finished, such as a basket of potatoes, you may be able to get a discount if you buy all the remaining produce.

Another way to get good prices is to wander around, looking uninterested, but listen to people haggling. When someone gets a good price, you can pop in and say, “Two pounds of strawberries for three q? Yes, please!”

Finally, having a regular person that you visit in the market is very helpful in getting good prices. They will eventually give you the best price right off the bat. Don’t be afraid to try different vendors until you find someone who clicks.

What’s that weird fruit in the market?

It all depends. If it looks like this:

dragon fruit, pitaya

It’s a dragon fruit or “pitaya.” Get one, they’re good. They’re fluorescent purple inside, sweet and taste like a mild kiwi.

If it looks like the red fruit in this picture:

jocotes, jackfruit

It’s “jocote” or jackfruit. These have yellow, tart flesh inside with a HUGE pit. I’m not a fan because they make your teeth feel funny, but kids love them.

If they look like this:

Rambutan
Image source

They are “lychee” or rambutan. You peel off the hairy outside and they are delightfully sweet inside with a pit. They have a similar texture to grapes.

If the fruit looks like this:

Caju, Anacardo, Cashew
Image source

It’s “marañon”, or cashew fruit. That wonky curved bit on top is a cashew nut . . . now you know why they are so expensive. These make excellent smoothies.

If it looks like this:

Noni fruit
Image source

It’s noni fruit. Supposedly able to cure cancer and whatever else might ail you. I’ve never tried this one, so test it and tell me in the comments what it tastes like!

If they look like this:

nispero

They are “nisperos.” This is a tasty fruit that is like a really juicy mini peach. They have 3-4 large seeds inside. You can get nispero wine and preserves here, too.

These are just a few of the questions I’ve heard recently. Do you have a food/market/shopping question? Leave it in the comments and I’ll see about doing another installment.

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Episode 78

Dominic stubbed his toe and came crying to me.
Dominic: “Mama! Eepital! Epital!”
Me: “What? I don’t know what you want.”
Dominic: “Epital!” points to the computer screen where there is an operating room (I was watching Call the Midwife). “EPITAL!”
Me: “You mean hospital?”
Dominic: “Si! Hospital. My foot have owies. Hospital!”
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Watching the Incredible Hulk and they showed a poor town in South America.
Dorian: “This looks like such a boring town. Like, I don’t even see any shopping. Do they have shopping in this place? Because it just looks really boring.”
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Dorian: “Are you about to cry, Mama?”
Me: “Yeah. This show is really sad. The baby is going to die.”
Dorian: “Don’t you know you shouldn’t watch movies with dying babies? They always make you cry. Stop watching stuff like this!”
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Dorian: “Dante, you give me the geezles!”
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Me: “Who is this?”
Dominic: “Supanan!” (Superman)
Me: “And this?”
Dominic: “‘Mericaman!” (Captain America)
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Dominic: checking my temp with the ear thermometer “Ninety-eight. You’re fine!”
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Dante: “I wish I was a mama so I could make lots and lots of dolls. But, when I’m a man, I’m going to learn how to sew so I can fix dolls for my kids.”
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Dominic: “Chips! CHIPS! CHIPS! I want chips!”
Looked up to see his brothers peeking around the doorway with eager expressions on their faces. They’d sent the baby to do their dirty work.
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Dominic: “Goo-night, Mama.”
Me: “Aw, you’re so adorable. Why are you so CUTE?”
Dominic: “I don’t know.”
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Dorian: “If we spell of with an F, why isn’t oven spelled ofen?”
later . . . “Why is it for and four? Why don’t we use the same word for both? The U makes no sense!”
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Dominic: getting up in the night “The lights were gone. A rocket, poosh! Lights out. I get up.”
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Dante: “Mama, look at these street lights I made in Minecraft!”
Me: “Those are pretty cool!”
Dante: “Yes, they are, because I made them.”

Hot, Hot, Hot: Weather in Guatemala

weather in Guatemala

It’s been really hot lately in Guatemala. I know, tropical country, so duh, right? Well, in the winter months, it’s actually pretty decent around here. The nights are so cold we have to pile on extra blankets and some places get frost, hail or even snow. Keep in mind that in Guatemala, the houses are unheated and drafty, so if it’s 10° outside, it’s not much warmer indoors.

The rainy season is the opposite, but it cools down every afternoon when it rains. The mornings tend to be warm, with it clouding  over around noon and the rain chilling things down perfectly around 3 pm. It often rains into the night. I’m a big fan of the rainy season for this reason.

Right now, however, it’s just in-between these two seasons. The days are stifling (today is 73°F/23°C, tomorrow is going to be nearly 10° hotter) and there is no rain to cool it down. With a tin roof, things get pretty hot inside the house, so we retreat to the breezeway until the sun starts to set and things cool down a bit. I am missing our pool right now (it has a number of tiny holes in the bottom). It was nice and deep so we could all fit in there if we wanted to!

Homeschooling On Facebook

I’ve been active on Squidoo for seven years now and recently was given the title of Happy Homeschooler Contributor. That basically means that I’m in charge of growing the homeschool niche on the site, promoting lenses, etc. To help with that, I built a Happy Homeschooler Facebook page and have been having a lot of fun with it.

This blog carries a bit of expat life, a bit of homeschooling info, a touch of cooking and a whole lot of parenting/personal stuff, so I find myself focusing on specifics on other forums, such as my Gourmet Mama site and Facebook page and now the Happy Homeschooler page. There may or may not be a homeschooling blog in the future to go with the page. I’m still working on getting a little balance in all of this.

If you’re homeschooling, feel free to pop on over and give the page a like! I share fun activities, homeschool resources and link to other pages and blogs on homeschooling there.