Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas to Us

This year for Christmas, James and I gave each other a trip around Guatemala. It was a BIG trip, so the posts will be coming in parts. 

After getting up at 4 a.m. and driving for 11 hours, our first stop was the beautiful island of Las Flores. 


James fell in love with the town right away. The island is small enough that nearly every building has a water front. The whole island is surrounded by a stone walk way and beautiful piers. This was the view from our $10 hotel the first night we stayed in Las Flores. 


The hotels also had a look out on top of the building. The weather was wonderful and I loved laying in the hammocks and listening to the birds. 


That night we went on a boat ride around the island and were able to climb an un earthed Mayan watch tower that one of the kings had built. 



Monday, November 29, 2010

Salcaja

This weekend James and I went to see the Church of San Jacinto, the oldest church in Central America! It's very close to Quetzaltenango in a town called Salcaja. The church was built in 1524 and still looks pretty good for its age.




The town is also known for cloth weaving. I heard that 5 out of 10 houses in Salcaja have a cloth weaver. This is a great place to buy traditional Mayan clothing. Much of the clothing is elaborately hand embroidered. Since it's almost completely cloth, it's really a beautiful market. The great thing about this market is that it's not catered to tourists. All of the weavings for sale are meant to be worn. I took a quick picture of one vendor's merchandise to show all the different colors, patterns, and styles of the Mayan cloth.




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mexico

A few weeks ago James and I realized that our Guatemala visas had expired. We were illegal aliens. Luckily, all we really needed to do was apply for an extension, which just means they give us another stamp and authorize us to stay in the country for another 90 days.

There are two way to do this...

1) We can go to Guatemala City, hand over our pass ports for a week, pay a fine, and go back to the city to retrieve the pass ports.

OR

2) We could leave the country for 72 hours. 

Taking a trip sounded like a lot more fun. We only live about 2 hours (if your driving in a car) from the Mexican border and the beach is only 30 to 45 mins past the border, so we decided to go the a beach for the weekend. 

Unfortunately, taking the chicken buses may have saved us $75 but extended that 2 1/2 hour trip to 6. We made it to the border but still had a long way to go.



HOWEVER - after 5 buses, 3 taxis, and a lot of walking we made it to the beach! We found a nice hotel for $20 a night and the next morning spent our time soaking up the sun on this pretty little number ...


The beach was VERY long and we had it all to ourselves, except for a fisherman. The water was a great temperature but was a little difficult to swim in because it was so strong. 
We decided that our time would be best spent building a sand castle. I must say, it turned out quite well.


After the beach we took off to see the city of Tapachula. In the afternoon we visited a small ruins site called Izapa. 






That night we ate a nice dinner, walked around the central park, and watched an outdoor movie about the life of Central American immigrants as they make their way through Mexico. The morning brought us to a church service in Tapachula and then the long journey back to Xela. Over all it was a pretty good trip. We are currently legal!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kite Festival 1 - Giant Kites!!!

Last Monday, Megan and I traveled to a small town called Sumpango Sacatepequez to visit a festival of kites. During the All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead, kite flying becomes super popular all over Guatemala. People told us that is in an ancient Mayan tradition of communicating with one's ancestors.

The festival was spectacular. The festival takes place in a dirt soccer field on top of a hill. While climbing up the hill, we saw hundreds of small kites in the air.



We bought a couple of small kites and spent a while flying them. At the top of the hill we found the main attraction, Los Barriletes Gigantes, or giant kites. The small ones were about 10 feet wide, and the largest were around 60 feet!!!





Kite Festival 2 - Kite Details

There were probably about 50 giant kites on display. Each was very unique with an incredible amount of detail. The colors and patterns come from small pieces of tissue paper. The frames were typically made of bamboo. 


Each kite had a specific message. Some were environmental, others human rights, and others political. 

(Pride in indigenous culture)


(The riches of our beloved Guatemala)

(Pollution)

They were very beautiful from far away, but even more beautiful close up.

Kite Festival 3 - Giant Kites Flying

The grand attraction was the flying of the giant kites. Megan and I got really good seats on the edge of small cliff. 


As you can see, there were a lot of people, and they didn't leave much room for the 100+ pound kites to fall. There were some close calls

video

Most of the kites flew for 20 or 30 seconds, but were too heavy to stay in the air. However, one smaller kite (a mere 10 feet across) got up pretty high and stayed there for more than an hour.

video

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crazy Market Road

Today, we had to drive through one of the markets in Central Quetzaltenango...

It was a tight squeeze.



Monday, November 8, 2010

Crazy Dirt Road

A few days ago, my team and I were out doing interviews up in the mountains. The view was amazing, but the temperature never got above 50 degrees. I decided to shoot a video of part of the drive along a dirt road. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera that day, just my laptop with built-in camera.



View Aldea La Cumbre in a larger map

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Alfombras

To celebrate the day of the dead, alfombras (or carpets) are made with colored saw dust in the streets of many towns in Central America. We were lucky enough to get to see some of the alfombras in Xela. All of the alfombras were extremely beautiful and detailed. Because this is a religious holiday, they also have religious themes of scripture or picture.




The saw dust is laid while damp so that it is able to keep shape. The shapes are made with stencils or by creating shapes by hand or with knives.




Here are a few more examples of the types of alfombras we found in Xela. 


This one was our favorite ...





Sunday, October 31, 2010

PJ PARTY!

The night before our ward had our big service activity for EFY, I had a slumber party at my apartment with some of the young women. We had a lot of fun. I taught them how to make carmel corn, we listened to music, and played the peanut game.





Friday, October 29, 2010

Tour d'Guatemala


Today while I was out surveying in a small town, news came that the bike race was going to pass through town. I had no idea, but Guatemala hosts a cross-country cycling race every year. This year was the 42nd. I was a little skeptical, expecting that 'Team Guatemala' would look something like this...


I was actually pretty impressed. Once the cyclists went buy, I could tell it was a pretty well-managed event. The only drawback was that spectators thought it was helpful to throw confetti in the cyclists' faces as they rode by.


They even shut down traffic to let some of the smog clear. I did get worried a few times when a stray dog would wander across the road or a 6 year old shoe-shiner wouldn't pay attention to the traffic as they combed the crowd for customers.


Props to Guate for pulling it off.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guatemala EFY 2010!


Hey Everyone!

As many of you already know, this year will be the first year that the youth in our Guatemala ward will be able to participate in EFY. They are all extremely excited to go!

We are currently holding a "fundraiser" to earn the money for the youth in our ward to attend. I know that I have already mentioned our sponsorship fundraiser to many of my friends but we are still a few donations short of our goal and are looking for anyone who has not yet heard and would be interested in participating.

Here are the details of the fundraiser.

It works like this....


The sponsorship is a $25 donation. The youth in our ward and stake will be earning their $25 sponsorship by participating in a large-scale service activity and will also be writing a letter/e-mail to the person that has sponsored them. As a sponsor you will also receive a picture of the specific youth to whom you have given your donation. Hopefully, I will also soon be creating a blog with pictures of the service activity and EFY week.

My mom in Indiana is gathering all donations and will be depositing them into a bank account so that I can access the money from Guatemala. The money will be donated to the church and will then be payed directly to the church educational system for EFY payment.

Unfortunately, we will be needing the money pretty soon. The money will be deposited on October 19th because all EFY payments are needed by October 23rd for participation.

If you are interested in sponsoring a youth, let me know and I will send you an e-mail with my mom's mailing address and any other information that you might need inorder to participate.


Thanks for reading! If you have any more questions, please ask


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cerro Quemado

James and I went for another hike this weekend with our friend Mario. It was a bit longer than our last hike. It tok us 3 1/2 hours to get to the top and about 2 hours to come back down.

This hike was very foresty, green and beautiful. Since all the hikes are in Xela are through inactive volcano cites, we always get to see lots of natural vents.


One part of the hike is called the "Chimney" (or at least that's what James said it was called). Basically you climb upwards through a narrowish cave to get to the peak. I'm not a big fan of heights and so two particular rocks gave me a little bit of trouble. We had to climb up onto one rock from the other, which is situated a little lower and to the left. What is in between these two rocks you ask? Only a hole with 20 foot drop to a floor of jagged rocks! That was a little dramatic, but remember, I do not like heights. Also, my poor little Newey legs weren't quite long enough for the crawl over the giant hole. I would get my entire body all stretched out and would still have a few inches to go before I could plant a foot. I made it up ok by myself but needed a little assistance getting back down. James went first and just lifted me right over the hole. What a gentleman.




The view at the top of the hike was beautiful. You could see the city and all the surrounding lava rock fields. On this trip I brought dental floss to catch a lizard. Mario and I had a deal that if I went hiking and caught a lizard, he would touch it. He had never toughed a lizard and was very excited to find out they are not slimy.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Nerd Stuff

Here is a little update on my nerdy activities. The CDC does respiratory disease surveillance in 2 areas, Quetzaltenango and Santa Rosa. From that data, I can figure out a crude rate of influenza infections in each of those areas. Using some of the formulas below, I extrapolate that information to the other areas of the country. The result is a pretty map with some colors, which should be taken cum grano salis.







Obviously, there can be some serious problems with extrapolation...


Source