April 9, 2014

Vagabonding Field Report: The coast of El Salvador

el salvador beach

Cost/day: $55/day

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened lately?

Between my husband and my son, they were stung three times during the one week we were in El Salvador!

Describe a typical day:

We’re driving most days, exploring the coast and searching for a place where we could possibly rent a house. Stopping at towns along the way, such as El Zonte, San Blas and Liberia, we check out the beaches and rental prices.

The roads are windy along the coastline in the north, with cliffs that offer vistas of the sea. Sunshine reflects off the ocean. The breeze blows, the windows are down and our favorite tunes are playing on the radio. It’s great to be alive, exploring this big, beautiful world!

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

Like: There are no speed bumps! After being in Guatemala for so long and their countless tumulos it’s refreshing to be able to drive without slowing down for speed bumps.

The people are super friendly, and love the children. They are constantly coming up to us every time we stop and asking questions.

We also found a great little place to hangout in El Cuco… a great campground with a pool and a short jaunt to the beach.

Dislike: We’re shocked with the prices here — food is about 20% more than Guatemala (we’d heard it was cheaper), and rental rates are outrageous! Prices are high, but the ‘niceness’ of accommodations are not. This was not at all what we expected. We can only surmise that rates are being driven up because the coast of El Salvador is very popular for surfers.

Describe a challenge you faced:

We’d hoped to find a house to rent for a month or two, but all rental rates were outside of our budget, and even if they hadn’t have been, nothing we found would work for our family of seven (soon to be eight.) Given my condition of being 6 months pregnant, I was disappointed by having my expectations unrealized.

What new lesson did you learn?

Expect the unexpected. You never really know what a destination has to offer until you hit the ground. Besides, everyone’s desires are different, so it can affect what their experience is like.

Where next?

We’re heading to Nicaragua where we hope to find a house on the beach that we can rent for a few months.

See more family travel adventures, connect with me on Facebook, or learn how to fund travel.

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

March 20, 2014

Getting robbed and questioning connectedness

Hike Around Lake Atitlan

We turned the corner on the path and my heart immediately dropped. We had seen this man before. He passed us a while back, while we were taking pictures of our idyllic setting. Now here he was, standing amongst the corn, looking out over the lake, and waiting- for us. I knew something wasn’t right and I froze.

He mumbled one word: “dinero.” Aaron looked to me for a translation, not believing what was happening. “He wants your money”, I said simply. “Money, rapido!”, the man said. I registered, not for the first time, the machete in his hand, hanging at his side.

Everything I believe about people, about our connectedness, started to waiver and all I could see was that machete.

Aaron handed over his wallet and threw his hands up. I stayed frozen. I was hyper aware of every move, sound, and feeling but I did not move. The man approached me and I instinctively threw my hands up as well. He took the money out of my pocket, the machete still at his side, and ran off as soon as Aaron made a move towards us.

I exhaled and we took off. We practically ran over the thin path to the next town. Both of us were shaken and afraid that the man who had robbed us on a cloudy day on Lake Atitlan would follow us. He didn’t. He ran as fast in one direction as we ran in the other.

We felt angry, scared, and confused. Where did our beliefs about people fit into all of this? Where did our deep convictions on connectedness and the basic goodness of all people come into play? What exactly had just happened? We weren’t just robbed, it was as if our inner most thoughts had been exposed, challenged, and proven false.

We found a local cafe where we could re-group and I pulled my computer out of my backpack to work….. and stopped.

I had my computer, the one I had been carrying in my very visible backpack in an effort to search out a better internet connection in town. My camera, the same one the man who had robbed us had seen us using, was still dangling out of Aaron’s pocket. My wallet, holding an emergency 100 quetzales, was still floating around Aaron’s backpack. In fact, everything we had brought on our hike was still with us- minus the cash from our pockets.

I started replaying the event in my head. Thirty minutes ago I had been frozen in place focused on a man and a machete. Now I went back over the scene in my mind. He never raised his machete, in fact he seemed to forget he even had one, using his finger to point at us for emphasis. He never touched our backpacks; never reached for the camera whose red strap hand glaringly out of Aaron’s pocket. He never demanded more, accepting what was thrown easily in his direction. And when it was over, he ran. He ran as fast as we did.

Clarity started to overtake Aaron and I. We had just been robbed by a desperate man, likely out of work at the end of rainy season, not a career criminal. We had known enough to be grateful for our safety seconds after the attack, but what had eluded us in those first moments of escape was clarity and the ability to apply our connectedness with the man who had robbed us.

We will never know who that man was. We will never know his story or what ultimately led him to decide to wait for us on that path. What we do know, without a doubt, is that he never intended to hurt us- he just needed money. And ultimately, he needed that money more than us.

Understanding that even good people do questionable things when their backs are against a wall is a difficult lesson to internalize. The moment someone harms us, invades the sanctity of our space, or challenges our convictions, fear takes over and our instinctual response is to protect ourselves, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We make enemies out of men, turn the characters of the story into monsters, and delve into a realm of moral superiority that serves us in that moment. It separates “us” from “them”. It makes us feel better when we decide that the one who just attacked us or offended us was simply “bad”.

But what if the attackers aren’t “bad”? What if they are men and women with their backs against the wall and a family to feed? What if they are as scared of what they just did as the victims are? What if, in some situations, a closer examination blurs the line between “attacker” and “victim”? It’s an uncomfortable thought because it challenges the stories we create to protect ourselves. It also means that there might just be a day when that wall pushes against our own back and we do something we never thought we’d do.

There’s no way around it, getting robbed is no fun. But if travel has taught me anything it’s that our beliefs and our convictions cannot truly exist if they are never challenged and that every single situation, the good and the bad, are the puzzle pieces that make up the whole beautiful journey.

Sunset on Lake Atitlan

Travel is not always pretty. Neither is life in general. It’s the moments of clarity, sandwiched between the exceptional and the horrible, that make you think, for a moment or maybe more, that we are all just human beings at the end of the day and that we are all, truly, connected.

What might change and what might we gain if we stopped separating ourselves into “us” and “them” and started recognizing the common humanity we all share?

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Category: Central America, Ethics

March 12, 2014

Vagablogging Field Report: Extreme Bungee Adventure in Guatemala

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Cost: $22/adults $12.50/kids

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately?

Extreme Bungee!! Get strapped into a harness and shot into the air with up to 4G forces pressing against your body… basically you’re a human catapult. That’s extreme bungee.

Describe the experience:

We are picked up by Lionel who owns and runs Xtreme Bungee. He drives us a few minutes outside of Antigua where he has an incredible human catapult machine set up.

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One by one, all the members of my family (except for the two youngest and me, the pregnant mommy) take turns being shot into the air, reacting with screams and funny facial expressions while G forces press against their bodies and free falls turn their tummies. (The video is hilarious!)

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What do you like about the experience? Dislike?

I loved watching my kids and husband as they experienced something new and faced (and overcame) fears and uncertainties in order to create great memories, build confidence and have unexpected fun!

I did not like the music that was played at the site. It was in English and inappropriate for children. However, the owner has since stated that he will be more aware of that in the future.

Describe a challenge you faced:

Convincing my oldest son that he could not have more than two turns!

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What new lesson did you learn?

Giving children an opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and try something new is ultimately what travel is about. It helps their confidence to grow, and expands their minds.

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Where next?

Next we’ll be heading to El Salvador.

See more family travel adventures on my blog, or connect with me on Facebook.

Rachel Denning Lake Atitlan 500

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

March 6, 2014

Is there really such a thing as “us” and “them”?

As we travel around the world, one of our most important goals is to connect with people and find out what common threads exist that bind humanity together. It is so very easy to categorize people and to explain away the worlds ills with generalizations and dinner table chats on politics.

But who are the individuals who inhabit our earth? Who are the people we talk about dismissively during those dinner table chats, sandwiched somewhere between the main course and dessert? How are they affected by the grander conflicts of our world? What do we have in common with them?

Does the key to changing our worst behaviors as a species lie solely in seeing people as individuals who are very much like us? 

Mayan women in procession

Recently, I had the honor of meeting a woman named “Katerina”, who chose to share her experiences during a very dark period in Guatemala history- a period many have categorized as genocide. Her experience is her own and her perspective is uniquely hers, though many suffered in a similar fashion.

The period in Guatemalan history Katerina talks about is very recent history. It was a period of brutality fueled by politics that affected the lives of every Mayan, every Guatemalan, at the time. Out of sheer panic over the possible spread of Communism, the US played a now well-known role in the events during this period, supporting a brutal regime and fueling anti-indigenous sentiment in the country. Guerrilla groups cropped up (some backed by Cuba) and, in their zeal to fight brutality from government backed groups, often tormented the local populace in their own right. The results were catastrophic with hundreds of thousands of people killed or “disappeared” and many more tortured and brutalized.

I was barely alive when this all took place but, as an American, I cannot help but feel remorse and utter helplessness over the horrific experiences Guatemalans were forced to endure due in part to my country’s politics.

Katerina said, in part:

“They would come in the night. They would burn buildings and start fights. No one had arms to protect themselves but they would still come. They would kill men, women, and children- they didn’t care. It didn’t matter if they were guerrillas or military, they were all the same.

My family was one of the lucky ones. There were police in disguise all over our village but my family had no one with the guerrillas so we escaped much of the problems. People where I lived were always afraid. The military was always demanding free food that we could not afford to give. They would rape our women; kill people as they went about their daily lives. My mother protected us fiercely and somehow, none of the females in my family was ever raped. The guerrillas were always causing problems and they were not much better than the military and police officials.”

Can you imagine what she is saying for a moment? Close your eyes and imagine strangers coming in the night and killing your child. Now imagine those strangers are dressed in the military uniform of your own country. Imagine that the greatest achievement you reach as a mother for over a decade was in protecting your girl children from being raped. Imagine, on top of all of this, that you have absolutely no idea what is going on.

Mayan Child

“In Chichicastenango, there were military and guerrillas everywhere. No one knew where these people were from, they were strangers. The guerrillas dressed in the typical, local clothing of the Mayan people in Chichi and so the military was constantly coming after the Chichi people. But these guerrillas were not from Chichi, they were strangers who dressed like the Chichi people to fool the military. No one in Chichi knew who they were. It was very dangerous for the local people.

In the time of the guerrillas, there were still a few foreigners coming in and out of Guatemala. A friend used to drive these foreigners from Guatemala City to the Panajachel area. Along the highway between Guatemala City and Pana, you can often see sacks filled with crops, lining the side of the road, waiting for pick-up. One time when this friend was driving these foreigners, there was a stretch of road that had sacks upon sacks but there was not one single person around. The foreigners asked the driver what was in those sacks because there were just so many and the driver told them it was likely potatoes.

They dropped these foreigners off in Panajachel and turned around to head back to the city. On their return, they noticed the sacks were still there. They went on for what seemed like kilometers. The driver’s helper convinced the driver to pull over and see what was in those sacks. There were just too many and there was still not one single person in sight. When the driver pulled over, he opened the bags and discovered the heads of indigenous people stuffed into those sacks. Who knows what happened to the rest of the bodies of those people.

Why would anyone do this? It was political. It was always political. We had no freedom of expression. We were stuck in the middle of violence that wasn’t ours. It’s always the same but now the problems we see are different. There are really no more guerrillas now but extortion is a very real problem these days. But it’s always political.”

Why would anyone do this? How could they do this to fellow human beings? Simple. They stopped thinking of Katerina and her community as human. The perpetrators created a political problem, a threatening philosophy that happened to wear indigenous Mayan clothing. Katerina and her community became “collateral damage”. Today that political problem wears a turban and has a beard. Collateral damage still exists and lately, it seems to exist far too often at Middle Eastern weddings full of children and families.

I wonder sometimes what clothing our political problem will wear tomorrow? Who knows. 

“The guerrillas and the military were all the same to us. They all wanted something, they all did bad things. The military would tell us we had to have documents [identification] an then the guerrillas would come and tell us “no documents!” They were always fighting. They decimated us financially. We are still struggling to support our families after all the fighting. We work harder to earn [the equivalent of] one dollar. Kids to take care of, no land, no work. When you live like this, you end up with no love for life.”

When you sit sit across the table from a woman like Katerina, sharing a warm empanada, and listening to her story, it is hard to view her, or her community, as anything but human. They are not a political talking point, they represent no ideology. Katerina, her family, and her friends are people. People who woke up one day to torture, rape, violence, murder, kidnappings, and abuse around every corner.

Travel brought me to Katerina’s table and her face is the face I will always imagine when I here the words “those people” fall off the lips of someone discussing politics at a dinner party. Those people have names, faces, feelings, and terrifying fears because of political ideologies. We create enemies, reasons to wage war, and imaginary barriers that divide humanity into “us” and “them”.

But there is no “us” and “them”. The very concept is an illusion.

Katerina is, at her core, absolutely no different than me. There is nothing at all stopping the horrors she faced from showing up on my doorstep tomorrow….. or yours.

Travel creates space for clarity. It pulls away the curtain of political ideologies and forces us to think for ourselves instead of internalizing the agenda of our next “leader”.

It creates the space to see our own hypocrisy and to see the simple facts in those situations we make far too complex, in a never ending search for justification.

Travel forces us to look “them” in the eye to see if our justifications, political talking points, philosophies, and biases hold up.

It creates the conditions where a citizen of, arguably, the most powerful country (currently) on earth can sit across the table from a descendant of one of the most powerful civilizations in history and discuss the very simple fact that there is absolutely no difference between human beings- no matter what corner of the earth they call home or what period of history their society inhabits.

When our common humanity is illuminated and we accept that there is no “us” and “them”, it becomes impossible to ignore the “collateral damage” anymore. 

“Me, I am lucky. I like my work. I work everyday between my two jobs and I get one day off every 15 days. I don’t drink, not at all, for 9 years. My kids, my spouse, and my family are more important to me. But what about the others? They work in ways they weren’t meant to for money they do not care about. The kids are forgetting our culture. They drink to feel better. What about them?

We still have problems after what happened.”

Yes. We certainly do.

In memory of

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Category: Central America, Ethical Travel

January 21, 2014

Traveling Wisdom: NTAF

Chicken Bus

You can trust me when I say that any morning beginning with vomit and a side order of anti-diarrheals with breakfast for two thirds of the family is a harbinger of things to come. Add the words “chicken bus” to the breakfast conversation and it’s the perfect storm of endlessly horrific possibilities.

Every single chicken bus ride is worthy of it’s own blog post somewhere. I’ve yet to ride one in which I did not have a near death experience, sit within a whirlpool of humanity that just begged for comment, or just suffered enough to feel justified in a good rant; and that’s without giving time to the animal passengers that enliven the experience from time to time.

There really are no words adequate to the experience of being whisked aboard an old Bluebird bus, painted like a time machine, pimped out like a seventies low-rider and covered inside with enormous neon coloured stickers of the Virgin Mary and others reading things like, “God bless your entrance and exit of this bus,” “Please don’t mistreat the signs,” “Your children’s safety is our priority” (a Bluebird original) “Jesus is my co-pilot” or “Driving slowly saves lives.”

Taking a page out of the Mayan mujeres book it seems entirely reasonable to genuflect slightly to the Mother Mary sticker, cross one’s self and say a quick prayer to the patron saint of the slightly insane for deliverance from this necessary evil.

The bus up from Antigua to Chimaltenango gets a gold star for being the most harrowing thus far. I really did see my life flash before my eyes, and I was reminded of the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz as I, like Dorothy, watched the swirl of cows, bicicleros, old men with goats and numerous small cars whirl just out of the way of the flying bus. More than one expletive was uttered, in more than one language by the passengers and there was a muttered undertone, that didn’t need translation, as to the appropriate description for our confident driver.

Getting seven people ON to one chicken bus is one adventure. Making sure you get the same seven OFF at the same stop, is quite another. I confess, on our previous exchange in Chimaltenango, to actually chasing the departing bus down the main street shouting, “HEY!!  I’ve got one more kid on there!! Dang it!!” in Spanish before realizing that there were actually two kids, and Daddy too, being whisked away at lightning speed.

Tony was off circulating between the tiendas up and down the block looking for ginger ale with real ginger for Ruth and Ez, who were both feeling green, while the rest of us held down our piece of sidewalk with the crowd of hopeful passengers waiting for their next bus on the corner of Washington and Jefferson on the main drag when it happened:

Ezra groaned, threw back his head in his signature “Oh man!” look and announced, “I have a personal problem!” Which is quite an improvement from where he started at three, in Mexico when he had “a personal problem” and threw himself down in the Cancun airport shouting, “I’m POOPING TO DEATH!”

I rolled my eyes on the inside and asked, as cheerfully as I could, “I’m sorry, what it it?”

“Remember what Dad said about never trusting a fart… well…” 

I rolled my eyes on the outside as the news passed between the children met with varying degrees of guffaw and disgust while Ruth just laughed. Tony wandered by, without ginger ale in hand, and muttered under his breath, “It’s a party now!”

After several moments of drama and debate that I’ll leave to your imagination I found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with my red haired cousin, our backs to a niche in the concrete wall, giggling, uncontrollably.

“You know all those people that send us gushy e-mail, wishing they could travel and have our life? THIS is totally what they’re missing. EVERYONE wants THIS life!”

Ruth, also giggling uncontrollably nodded beneath her straw hat and we peered over our shoulders just in time to see Ez finishing his clean up with what was left of his underwear and getting back into his drawers, commando.

Emerging looking only slightly scathed he settled under his Dad’s big eyeball trained directly on his two little beady ones and they made the agreement, one more time: Never, NEVER trust a fart.

 

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Category: Central America, Family Travel

January 8, 2014

Vagablogging Field Report: Antigua Guatemala

antigua guatemala

Cost/day: $40/day

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

Sidewalks! Living in Latin America for the past year and a half, sidewalks are unseen and non-existent… but not in Antigua, they have sidewalks to walk on, even if they are skinny and crowded.

Describe a typical day:

In the morning we head out to walk around the city’s (cobblestone) streets. We explore the cathedrals and other colonial buildings, and gawk at the nicest McDonalds we’ve ever seen. Later, we visit the large local market to shop for produce and to eat lunch. In the afternoon we watch a procession celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I love the overall cleanliness of the city, and the colorful homes and buildings. Antigua takes pride in it’s city. I didn’t dislike anything about our visit.

Describe a challenge you faced:

Trying to decide whether to stay an extra day so that we could do some extreme bungee action. (We decided to stay.)

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What new lesson did you learn?

The city life can be a refreshing change after living in remote places for awhile. It’s good to have a mix.

Where next?

Next we’ll be heading to the border of El Salvador and Guatemala.

See more family travel adventures on my blog, or connect with me on Facebook.

denning family

 

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

December 25, 2013

Vagablogging Field Report: Christmas in Nicaragua

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Cost/day: $32/day

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

It’s ‘strange’ to observe the traditional celebrations of another culture as an outsider. Our family of seven is currently observing the holiday traditions of León, Nicaragua (and Las Peñitas, the nearby beach town.)

Describe a typical day:

The atmosphere in the city of León is becoming more festive as Christmas approaches. When we drive in (from Las Peñitas where we are renting a house), there is definitely and increasing hustle and bustle. Many weekends are busy with celebrations, starting with Griteria which is on the 7th of December. Shops are setting up selling fruit (especially apples and grapes), toys and other holiday trinkets.

Nicaragua christmas

leon nicaragua

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Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

Our family was invited to the home of a local Nicaraguan family, where we visited and learned about local customs and traditions. Some of them include making a traditional dish called pollo relleno (stuffed chicken) that has potatoes, carrots, and raisins (another Nicaraguan family shared this dish with us on Griteria and it was very good!)

Nicaraguans usually celebrate more on Christmas Eve, having a meal with family and friends, opening some presents, and perhaps lighting fireworks. Christmas Day may be spent at the beach. (We drove into León on Christmas Day to watch Frozen — in Spanish and 3D — and there were few shops or vendors out.)

The family we visited showed us much love and kindness, and even gave gifts to my unborn child.

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A typical Nicaraguan home

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

We love the colonial experience here in León — lots and lots of cathedrals and historical buildings. We love the beach and surfing (the family is just learning) in Las Peñitas. This is a great area!

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Not a lot that we dislike. Costs are generally cheaper here than in El Salvador or Guatemala (except for apples!) Housing is a bit more expensive however.

Describe a challenge you faced:

Not having enough time to practice surfing this week, before we head to Costa Rica. :)

What new lesson did you learn?

It’s often those with less that are the most generous and giving. Time and again we are amazed by the liberality of people in developing countries.

Where next?

Soon we’ll be headed to Costa Rica where we will be having baby #6!

See more family travel adventures on my blog, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

December 23, 2013

Tamales and Coffee

I spent some time talking with local residents of Monteverde, asking about the history and traditions associated with their Christmas holiday celebrations. Everyone got so excited that they started talking over one another, but I had a translator, so I think we captured everything they wanted to share with me. Here is some unique insight on Costa Rican traditions, and more specifically, traditions of Monteverde.

Festival de la Luz is a holiday festival held in San Jose every year. The people of Monteverde view the big city as a bit intimidating, especially with young children, so seven years ago, they adapted their own version of Festival de la Luz, naming it Monteverde Brilla, translated as “Monteverde Shines”. On the  first Thursday of December, the community celebrates culture, art, and healthy recreation for the whole family, with a parade made up of bands, floats, and performing groups. They hope every year to teach their children the history of Costa Rica, and form healthy traditions among children, families, and the local community. I heard school bands practicing everywhere I walked last month, as they prepared to play during this festival, and it is something Monte Verde is very proud of.

Costa Ricans have adopted a lot of American traditions, such as giving gifts to children from “Santa Claus,” and singing Christmas carols. But because this area is largely influenced by Quakers, who first settled in Monteverde during the Korean War, there are alternative traditions offered as well. The Monteverde Friends School recently built a new meeting hall where they hosted a beautiful holiday presentation by the children who attend the school. This meeting hall doubles as a place of silent worship. Quakers in the community hold a special yearly service where the whole community gathers, shares food, and trades cookies, after singing traditional carols.

Some Quakers and others in the community keep Jesus’ birth at the forefront of the holiday and teach children that Jesus wasn’t given gifts until days later when the Wise Men brought him Frankincense and myrrh. For this reason, some people do not give gifts to children until a week or two after Christmas.

At the beginning of December, families decorate Christmas trees and put out their nativity scenes. They do not place Jesus in the scene until Christmas Eve at midnight.

Families gather on December 22 and 23 to make tamales, which is a long-lasting tradition for them. During Christmas, they include various types and cuts of meat, rice, and vegetables. Tamales are also popular during Holy Week at the end of April, but meat is traditionally not included. In December, families cook and trade tamales, while drinking Rompope (their version of egg nog WITH alcohol).

At midnight on Christmas Eve, when families introduce baby Jesus into the nativity scene, they each eat a grape (I am told that some families eat a total of only 12 grapes, while others don’t have a particular number), and make a wish for the new year and the new season. They hug, and celebrate good things they are expecting in the coming season.

On Christmas Day, families gather with neighbors and friends, share food, drinks, songs, and gifts. I was told to look forward to eating tamales while drinking fresh coffee with them on Christmas Day. Tamales and coffee? I honestly cannot wait.

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A Monteverde family’s nativity scene before Jesus arrives

 

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Category: Central America, Food and Drink

December 11, 2013

Vagabonding Field Report: Giant Kite Festival – Sumpango, Guatemala

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Cost/day: $40/day

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

GIGANTIC kites made from tissue paper, tape and bamboo. Incredible and beautiful!

Describe a typical day:

Awoke this morning at The Homestead, ready for our trip to explore Guatemala before heading south to El Salvador. First stop? The Giant Kite Festival in Sumpango, in celebration of Dia de los Muertos. The atmosphere at the event was similar to that of a fair or carnival, with food stands and kite flying competitions, but the most incredible part was gawking with head bent upward toward the sky at the colossal, colorful kites.

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Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:

There were people from all nationalities and backgrounds in attendance at the festival… many Guatemalans, but also European, American and Australian tourists. Unfortunately, the only talking I did was to order food or ask for a bathroom… other than that I was gazing and taking photos.

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What do you like about where you are? Dislike?

I absolutely loved seeing the beautiful kites. They were works of art, and must have taken hours and hours to complete. What a labor of devotion and appreciation for a holiday that honors one’s ancestors. I disliked seeing them almost destroyed by the wind, after all the work that went into them. I wonder what they do with them after the event?

Describe a challenge you faced:

Our biggest challenge today was trying to decide which delicious food to eat. Ohh, and we did get stopped as we tried to leave town, by dancers in the street. 

What new lesson did you learn?

I learned greater appreciation for the artistic abilities of the Guatemalan people. In the past, I haven’t necessarily considered this culture as being ‘artistic’, but the kites were truly masterpieces.

Where next?

Next we’ll be headed to Antigua, Guatemala… one of my favorite Guatemalan cities!

See more photos and video of the Kite Festival, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Vagabonding Field Reports

November 27, 2013

Vagabonding Field Report: Largest Market in Central America – Chichicastenango, Guatemala

largest market central america chichicastenango

Cost/day: $40/day

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?

Ancient Mayan religious rites being performed in a Catholic cathedral… a unique blend of religions that tells stories about a part of the world with a conflicting history. 

largest market central america

(more…)

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Category: Central America, Family Travel, Images from the road, Vagabonding Field Reports
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Roger: Your camera technique looks really good and the colors are vibrant. What kind of...

Christopher M. Moore: Great blog right here! Additionally your web site a lot up fast!...

Ric: I have been seriously vagabonding for the past 6 years on numerous trips ranging...

laurent: @ Ani: My wife and I have house and pet sat on many occasions in California in...

Angela Laws: There are vagabonds of all ages and from all walks of life! Like Charlie...

Roger: “When one is tired of London, one is tired of life.” –Samuel...

Jussi: For Dengue: check out Youtube. Sorry to hear about your husband’s dengue....

Jussi: Baños in the case of the city, does not mean “bathroom,” it means...

Charli: Thanks for sharing details of the assignment you are offering Ani! Sadly...

Yves Potvin: A comment for Tom : Your are asking about an hotel in Herat. Il I recall...

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