Archive for June, 2010

27th June
written by Michelle

There have been times in the past few days that I feel Guatemalan, that is until I went to the grocery store.

I have been to Antigua four times previously and I know my way around more or less. I have a favorite coffee shop and favorite bakery. I know where to get free internet  and where to find the best smoothies. However, I was not  prepared for my trip the local grocery store: The Bodegona

For one, I do not understand Guatemala’s standard of organization or lack there of. Bananas, avocados and basil are grouped together and sold in large containers next to the bread, yogurt and baby diapers. Hmm? I wandered through the aisles looking for those staples you buy when you move into a new place: toilet paper, napkins, a broom, some spices, olive oil, vinegar, etc. And I figured while I was there I might as well buy some groceries.

First discovery: Milk sold in a bag. No joke. I opted for the milk in a carton. Can’t handle too much change in a week now can we.

Next: I wanted some wine and because I am usually a two-buck-chuck kinda wine girl I naturally looked for the cheapest wine they had. Only to find it was wine in a box! Yep. Vino en Caja as they say. Who knew? Milk in a Bag and Wine in a Box.

Final realization: After I checked out, bagged my own groceries, forked over too many quetzales for my first grocery run, I stood there holding juggling my three bags and realized I had to walk home!

Somehow in the chaos that is the grocery store I forgot that I don’t have a trunk to throw my groceries in or even a car for that matter. So, I started walking the half-mile home, fumbling with my bags trying to keep two on my shoulder, one in my hand and balance my purse in the other. I must have looked pathetic because about 1 block into my trek a tuk-tuk (see picture) pulled up alongside the curb. My hero. For a small fee, I eagerly hopped in and got a ride home.

In case you weren’t sure I am not Guatemalan. I am an American. And I shop like an American. Americans tend to buy big and buy more. We have Costco and SUVs and are used to buying bags of chips the size of small children and enough toilet paper to last 6 months. Well, I am quickly learning that is not going to work here.  I am going to have to learn to live a little more Guatemalan.

I have a feeling I am going to learn a lot about living on less. What does it look like to only buy what I need for a week? Not for an entire month? What does it mean to simplify? And to maybe buy just enough so I can walk home from the grocery store?

Michelle vs. Guatemalan Grocery Shopping  0-1

I lost. Rematch next week.

P.S. I found a great place to live. Pictures coming soon!

24th June
written by Michelle

You Know You’re in Guatemala When

the smell of exhaust becomes all too familiar. a mariachi band performs on the corner of central park. your point of reference for a new place is based on the color of the wall, rather than the actual address. Bunas dias is the first thing you hear every morning.

you forget that the little basket next to the toilet is actually where the TP goes. you can see the top of almost everyones’ head. tortillas, liquados y helados are sold on every corner. And even though you’re wearing sandals the boys in park still ask if they can shine your shoes?

you trip once or twice a day on the uneven cobble stone streets. seatbelts are obsolete.  the pace of life is slower. you wait in line and no one seems to complain or be in a hurry. behind tall, closed doors are enchanting gardens and fountains. And your heart is happy and content.

21st June
written by Michelle

Oh, Santa Barbara, I will miss you!

20th June
written by Michelle

When I was little people used to tell me, oohhh, you look sooo much like you’re father (emphasis added for accuracy of the statement). Well, when you’re a seven year-old girl with short brown curly hair, it does not do much to help your self-esteem when old, well-meaning women, tell you that you look like your dad. Because at seven all I knew was that my dad was a boy and I did not want to look like a boy.

Twenty years later I probably still look like my dad, but I am also who I am today because of him.

I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl. I remember Saturday morning breakfast dates, garage sale shopping and dancing in the backyard. He taught me that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and that you don’t have to finish every book you start. He taught me the art of driving on LA freeways and the art of driving on green golf courses. Sadly, I never took up golfing, but I can manage a golf cart just fine.

My dad is patient, resourceful and just downright positive. In the morning he whistles and sings (just because) and in the evening he usually watches Jay Leno and the golf channel. I learned from a young age to root for anyone playing against USC and that sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

My dad has a way of putting life in perspective. When I am excited about a 20% off sale his practical response is “You’ll save 100% if you don’t buy anything.” Growing up he rarely told me what to do, but he always said “Be wise.”

His current loves include golf, yoga and my mom. Probably not in that order. My dad cares about the  four of us kids well. He has supported us, prayed for us and been present in our lives. He still has a hard time remembering the names of our friends or where we went last weekend. I don’t think  details are his strong point. Sometimes he gets distracted in conversations, but he means well. We make fun of him for his love of binoculars, bad jokes and his inability to pronounce last names.

My dad is the first person I call if my car breaks down and one of the best huggers I know. If I have half of his confidence, faith and sense of humor I’ll be content.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

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3rd June
written by Michelle

Guatemala has been on my heart these past seven days. Maybe partly because I have friends who live there and people dear to me who lost loved ones in the mudslides. Maybe partly because I am moving there in two short weeks and these photos frighten me. Or maybe because disasters like this remind me just how fragile life is.

Besides the gigantic sinkhole in Guatemala City much of the aftermath of Agatha has not received much attention on the evening news. It always amazes me how quickly our sensationalized media moves on to something bigger and better. We tune in for the first breaking news coverage of Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti or the sinkhole in Guatemala, and then just as quickly we tune out and move on. But these families and people in the photos cannot just tune out. They’re living in it.

I read recently that the tropical storm Agatha has caused more damages in Guatemala than Hurricane Stan in 2005 or Hurricane Mitch in 1998. They are still getting more accurate information as the days go by, but currently the figures are 120 dead, 111,964 evacuees, 29,245 in shelters, 13 bridges collapsed, and many roads blocked by landslides or floods. One of my friends, who works building water filtration systems in the villages near Antigua, lost 4 of his relatives in a mudslide on Sunday.

I am not sure if the Red Cross has set up anything or if there is any international aid going there yet. I will let you know if there is a way to help. My friend emailed me on Tuesday and said right now they need volunteers to dig and move mud. Maybe I’ll spend my first weeks doing just that.

The photos were from a sobering sideshow found here.

1st June
written by Michelle

Yesterday we moved out of our Flora Vista House. I said good-bye to walks to mesa lane, late night roommate talks, and game nights in the living room. I might even miss our infestation of spiders, the subtle skunk smell that lingers in the living room, and the memories of finding a dead rat in the laundry room.

We’ve shared countless glasses of wine, hours of conversation, and two-and-half years of memories. Here’s to microwave beeps, the chore chart and the on-going saga of the internet. I’m going to miss you Flora Vista.

P.S. For the next three weeks I am lucky enough to reside in the Mumm household, where poor Jeff has had been inundated with a host of rapid-fire girl questions and conversation topics that generally center around finding jeans that fit, fashion trends and nail techniques (and not the hammer and nail kind). Read more about it here

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