Saturday, November 15, 2008

barrilettes gigantes

Being in Central America long enough to see giant kites twice is pretty amazing. On 1 November, Dia De Los Santos the sky is filled with huge kites calling the souls of the dead back to earth. Though other pueblos also celebrate in this way the two best known places are Sumptango and Santiago Sacatepequez.
Last year I went to Sumptango and had my first taste of pollo pibil sitting near the kites in a dusty field. This year after a crazy morning of yelling at shady tour operators in spanish (no I won't pay $7 to be crammed on a chicken bus full of gringos) Alaina, Erica (alaina's mom) and I made it to Santiago. Unlike in Sumptango the festival itself takes place in the middle of the village cemetary. People walk on top of freshly dug graves of dirt, decorated by marigolds, families eat picnic on top of cement crypts painted garish turquoise, little boys pee on the backs of grave stones with their abuelos standing near by, cerveza Gallo is left below the wooden crosses as an offering. It is classic highlands Guatemala, busy, loud, chaotic, and gorgeous.
Families with 4 generations present watch the kites launch into the air. The crowds suck in a collective breath as the kite takes flight, exhales the same "ahh" or "ohh" as it suceeds or fails. Children fly smaller kites, running across the uneven dirt to get them started.
Some of the kites aren't finished until the late afternoon, all morning crews stand there glueing together the tissue paper to the thick bamboo skeleton. It is a thing of beauty, months of planning, thousands of dollars spent, all for one day.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

playing catch up

I know I have been a bit mia from the blog scene for most of october. I don't have so much of an excuse, unless having too much fun is acceptable. So I may stick with that. Mostly what happens is the choice comes down to tying myself to the tiny eee pc and writing about the stuff that has happened or going out and living life as it comes. But of course things have happened that are worth putting words to. So I will try and give you a quick and dirty sense of what october was all about...
place: seoul, korea
duration: 9 hours
mode of transport: airport shuttles, moving sidewalks, feet
Not being the most organized of travelers (a damning admission for a tour leader) I didn't realize that I was going to have a nine hour layover in Seoul until the last minute. Luckily the day before leaving Phnom Penh I had the chance to pick the brain of PCV whose family happens to live in Seoul. He mentioned there being a Kimchi museum in the city, so after checking out Korean culture at the Korean Culture exhibit in the airport and making a traditional paper dish, I jumped on a bus to the city. This of course was a far more complicated process which required talking to many a tourist office, bumbling my way through and atm, buying a bus ticket and finally escaping the airport. But I did make it out of the airport and all the way to some bizarre underground mall where all things Kimchi are housed.
The museum itself was kind of a let down. I mean I think I may have had unreasonable expectations including un montón de kimchi and maybe being able to try to make some myself. On the other hand you can pose yourself next to a mannequin so it looks like she is feeding you kimchi, but I didn't have anyone to take a photo of me doing it. I did learn about the health benefits of Kimchi and finished up the whole experience with a quick lunch of korean fried chicken and many a sauce at some packed mall cafe. Then it was back on the bus, and back to the terminal to smell every Hermes perfume I could find, and debate purchasing overpriced duty free goods.

place: marin county, california
duration: 6 days
mode of transport: gti, feet, mountain bike
It took me a couple of days to de-asia myself. Which meant washing out the Cambodian dust from all my clothes and eating sushi. I also did a ridiculous amount of online purchasing, and hung out with NAR NAR RAR! Oh and I voted. Just so you all know that, I did vote, Dan at the civic center hooked me up with a ballot and I got to practice my democratic right and darkened the bubble for OBAMA. And before I had the chance to unpack mary completely I was off again to...

place: Chicago, illinois
duration: 7 days
mode of transport: alex's merc, the L, feet, one van cab driven by a polish raver
Chicago was COLD. I spent most of my time fighting with Bubbe over how cold my feet must be, which resulted in the purchase of a pair of brown ballet slipper-esque shoes. Apparently you can't wear flips 12 months out of the year in Illinois. Alex showed off urban living mid-west stlyes, and I enjoyed my last tastes of life in the states. Things learned during my time in chicago: Milwaukee is banging, I hate urban driving, there is good mexican food in the middle of the eeuu, I should use "I" statements rather than forcing my political opinions on impressionable children, and one can make a delicious kuguel with rasin bran rather than corn flakes.

place: Antigua, Guatemala
duration: 2 days
mode of transport: taxi, foot
Upon arriving in Guate I found myself without Mary, which meant, no bag, no change of clothes and two days stuck walking around in my new shoes that at that point had caused my heels to bleed. The next two days I spent waiting for my bag, harassing taca, and eating Korean food. There is a korean restaurant in Antigua, run by a Korean guy. And there is KIMCHI. Holy hell.
Finally Mary showed up, flops were put on, and my smile was regained.

place: Xelaju, Guatemala
duration: 6 days
mode of transport: chicken bus, foot, taxi
Two chicken buses, a light coating of guatemalan dust, a quick taxi ride from Minerva to Las Flores and I found myself dancing in an embrace with ALAINA. Holy holy shit. Nothing like seeing a good friend in a bizarre location. The days were spent dancing to prince, madonna, and michael jackson, eating peanut butter by the forkful, telling stories in spanglish, practicing irregular verbs, cooking to motown, and laughter by the bucketful. Alaina, like me, is not so good with travel plans, we had to cut out of Xela a day early to meet her mom in...

place: Antigua, Guatemala again
duration: 4 days
mode of transport: chicken bus, microbus, foot
Back on the chicken bus to chetumal, than a chase for the bus to Antigua, a ramble to the hotel and we were back. Erica arrived late, but the next day we all reunited over a big fruit breakfast. Something that will forever have changed me is the perpetual availability of tropical fruit here. I get twitchy with out a frequent dose of pineapple, papaya, mango, and melon. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
My next trip started on Sunday so besides a jaunt to Santiago for the barilettes gigantes (which deserve their own post with photos) I was running from internet cafes to the korean restaurant to one of the hotels to queso y vino for most of my time back in antigua.
On sunday, the arrival day of my trip I came down with some g.i. bug. So the night before leaving for honduras Alaina held me as I shivered through the night. Big up to the Garries. I love you guys.

Time post Antigua has been mostly spent under the sea. Some of my friends out on Utila have convinced me that getting my dive masters may be the next step for me, I am pretty excited.

I'm in Granada, Nicaragua currently witnessing some pretty wild reactions to yesterdays Mayorial elections. Not quite the same as what just happened in the states. I was with my whole group eating red snapper and watching the states turn blue. It was a pretty amazing thing to witness. The most inspiring part was seeing the international reaction, I was with only one other American, and yet everyone in the bar was plastered to the tv. Change is coming man, change is coming.

More to come on giant kites, maybe some photos, and all the next adventures.