Saturday, May 30, 2009

Life in Xela

It's good to know that Burger King is alive and well here in Guatemala. It's just what the people need to eat. That, Coca Cola and Lays Potato chips. Truth be told, Lays makes a chip that has less fat than the locally made chips, a tick in their favor.... But Burger King? McDonalds is here also. They have a great marketing a hamburger and some french fries, and get 30 min of free internet. For this area, it's a brilliant idea, I can't say the same for what they're serving though.

Half the people here, especially the rural dwellers, seem to have half their teeth (if that makes sense). This in part thanks to the corporations that push the suger, Coca Cola mainly, but there are others just as

Monday, May 25, 2009

Across the Border and into Guatemala

Moving along in the the last post, Michelle and I were leaving Tiscao hoping to make it to a hotel on the outskirts of the park before dark (a nice cliff hanger... glad you liked it Candeye!). The short story is that no we did not make it before dark, but it did all work out. We caught the last collectivo of the day, and by the time we got out of the park it was getting pretty dark and it was difficult to see places as we flew by on the highway. Sure enough, the driver stopped at the turnoff to the ruins, which meant that we had missed the hotel I was hoping to find. We paid the driver and cut the umbilical cord that connected us to the outside world and turned to face our predicament. We were on a single lane road with no shoulder, it was dark and we were in the middle of nowhere with basically farmland all around us except for the tienda at the corner and a restaurant that looked closed. Barely being able to see where we were walking at this point, we quickly got off the road and asked at the restaurant, and also at the tienda at the corner, if there was a place for us to stay the night. There was some dialoge about an owner of cabanas who was there in the daytime but not there now, and they tried to call him, but he wasn't home, etc. etc.... Additionally, no one seemed to be familiar with the place I was looking for called Doña Maria Cabanas. It was really strange for us because in Mexico everyone seems to know where to find whatever you need, almost to the point of amazement, but in this situation the name did not ring a bell with anyone. At this point I was getting a little stressed, I have to admit, and that only made

Friday, May 22, 2009

3 Days in Lagos de Montebello

So, where to much has happened since the last post but I'll do my best to give some justice to the last 2 weeks, most likely posting the info in increments starting with the oldest.

After leaving San Cristobal, we caught a collectivo bound for the town of Comitan. The drive was beautiful, and we were able to see the terrain change as we descended in rolling waves of terraced landscapes, as we went from the highlands of San Cristobal to the lowlands of extreme southern Mexico which stretch to the border with Guatemala (where the mountains very abruptly begin again). In Comitan, we roamed the streets in search of another collectivo bound for Lagos De Montebello, and as every experience in Mexico has taught us, it's easy to get just about anywhere via public transport. Sure enough, we found another shuttle, and were off within the half hour to the lakes. Our challenge in the second part of our journey was to figure out where to get dropped off, because supposedly the (many) lakes were kilometers apart, and there was conflicting info in the guide book as to what area would work best in terms of a base camp for us. Reinforcing this challenge was the fact that most people do this excursion as a day trip through local tour companies because of the difficulty in getting between all the lakes. We asked around before leaving Comitan, and went with our best guess as far as where to get out of the know, there's the whole language barrier thing. Just as the sun was setting (we barely made it before dark), we arrived at a small village named Tsiscao where a joven (teenager) offered to take us to some cabanas that he knew of and we proceeded on a 20 min walk with our loaded packs to the location which ended up being right on the banks of one of the largest of the lakes in the area. Food was a little hard to come by as we quickly discovered and we ended up eating a meal provided by our cabana host comprised of eggs, beans and tortillas, which sounds good, but

Monday, May 18, 2009

Adios San Cristobal

We are leaving our beautiful casa in San Cristobal at this very moment to head to beautiful Lagos de Montebello and then to Quezaltenango (aka Xela, as the indigenous people call it), Guatemala. We will arrive in Xela by Thursday and will enroll in one-on-one intensive Spanish language school for five hours per day beginning in exactly one week. We also hope to live with a Guatemalan family in order to fully immerse ourselves in the language. We are planning to be there for about a month so make your travel plans now to come and see us.
Mark & Michelle

Friday, May 15, 2009

If You Build It, They Will Come.

I know...I have to stop referencing movies. It's almost like I'm obsessed. Maybe it's because of our inability to see a good flick where we are living. The release of Wolverine has been postponed due to the Swine Flu, and the only other movies playing here are Mall Cop and Fast and Furious which has been dubbed over in Spanish.....painful.

Anyway, there is some relevance to my title. About a week and on half ago, San Cristobal was practically a ghost town. Our theory was that the tourists who come through here are typically on trips where they are just passing through for a day or two on a total trip of 2 to 3 weeks for example. Due to the Swine Flu, our suspicion was that those trips ended (some abruptly), and the new wave of tourists did not continue to come. As a result, the streets around town were very quiet at night, and many businesses were closed. Michelle and I started trying to look for tourists, and it was rare to find one. On the RARE occation that we would see one, we would point and say, "look a tourist", as if we are not one of them, and then we would laugh, realizing how ridiculous it was to say that.

The slump in Tourism has been hard on this area in many ways. Many people here, especially the indigenous, live hand to mouth. With no tourists to buy their trinkets and shirts, etc. (that were made via microcredit loans), they very possibly

Friday, May 8, 2009

Some Down Home Culture.

It's good to know that some things are translatable from one culture to the next. For example.... a midget in a mask kicking a large guy, also with a mask in the groin is just funny, no matter how you look at it. Apparently it's also funny in the Mexican culture. Enter the world of Nacho Libre, or Lucha Libre as they call it here. After receiving an invitation from some of our friends to attend this event, we couldn't pass up the opportunity. Especially after seeing the movie with Jack Black. We had to see if this thing was for real. On top of our curiosity, it's also really important for us to explore the culture of an area when we're travelling, and we only have so much time. We had to pick between several museums, or a walk through a protected ecopark, and, well.... we had to prioritize - Nacho Libre came first that day! By the way, the man in the suspenders on the outside of the ring had a stage name of EL GUAPO, or "handsome". I hope you enjoy the video.

In other news. Michelle has become a Market buying specialist. Market meaning the flavela type shacks that house tienda after tienda after tienda of different products, mostly food. If you saw Slumdog Millionaire you got a taste of what a flavela is, only here, people don't live there, it's just a market. She is so good at finding all the right herbs and vegetables, and even bought a cute little market basket for her trips there. She has also perfected a recipe that she picked up during our time on the farm in Zahala which is mashed up bananas with wheat flower rolled up into a ball with a little chunk of Oaxacan cheese inside. These are baked or (cooked on range top) to perfection and are soooooo delicious. (we've kind of dropped the Vegan thing here, but still no meat) Fun stuff. Thanks for visiting!
Ciao for now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Our site visits from the US are in the shape of a heart

I think if we took a poll and had people guess who has the most patience between Mark and Michelle the consensus would be that MARK is the most patient of the two. That is why he has been in charge of the blogs--I'm not very 'into' computers at the moment. I think the last several years of school have cured me for a spell. But, Mark is studying en la casa right now so I'll share a couple of brief observations.

1. The visitors to our blog from the US make the shape of a little heart if you look at all the dots just right (especially on the flat map). I think that's pretty neat.

2. For the first time in my life I was able to smile and