Saturday, December 08, 2007

Figgy Pudding!

Okay, I've been telling people for years they needed to check out the annual Figgy Pudding Street Corner Christmas Caroling Competition in Seattle. It is a fantastic event! This year I could finally record some songs.
Sadly I had to chop them down to fit the MB size requirement of YouTube, but I'm sure you'll still enjoy them!

The Llew Crew's rendition of O Holy Night:

The Seattle Labor Union Choir's rendition of Angels We Have Heard On High:

Lastly, another rendition by the Labor Union Choir, to the tune of Hark, The Herald Angels Sing:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


It took two days to download these - even with a fast connection! I hope you all enjoy them. =)

Update: Some of you may have thought to yourselves, "wow, I went through those 289 pictures really fast!" That's because 89 of them were chopped out the album because of a glitch with photoworks. You can now go back and see the rest of the photos in my 'part 2' album. Enjoy!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Drum roll, por favor...

My last week has been interesting and full of activities - and speaking spanish! Okay, so I´m usually doing that, but I think I´m speaking and understanding more. I´m quite proud of myself.

Tuesday Juan and the other computer lab guys invited me to have some pizza with them at lunch. We sat around for an hour chatting and laughing and joking. In Spanish! I´m still amazed.

Wednesday night I went out to dinner with the Guatemalan director of Child Aid and the volunteer coordinator. Thursday I had lunch with the founder and director of Probigua and his wife and another couple. This meant a half day at the library since I had to take the bus back to Antigua, wait a half hour for everyone to show up, then travel to Jocotenango for lunch. It was apparently a typical Guatemalan meal. First they cook a chicken, a really tough little chicken, in the soup broth so it has the flavor of chicken. They take that out and serve it on the side, all dried out and tough, with rice. So you put rice and the chicken into your soup. But apparently most people don´t get chicken often. It was an interesting meal.

Today was my last day in the library. It was somewhat frustrating for me. The computer would not work this morning. I kept restarting it and trying everything and it just got to a startup screen and wouldn´t go any farther. I was disappointed to lose time cataloging, but I could wait for Juan to arrive. Well - Juan was really, really late today. He had been in the process of buying a motorcycle and he got the call this morning that paperwork had gone through and he could come get his bike. So he motored into work (literally wheeled the motorcycle into the library!) after 12:00!

While I was waiting for him to arrive and fix the computer I taught myself the numbering system in Kaqchikel then I watched the students out in the field next to the library. There were dozens and dozens of students out, rough-housing and playing games and cutting the grass.
Yes - they were cutting the field... with machetes. I think every person around here has a machete, big 2 or 3 foot long blades. They bend down close to the ground and hack and hack and hack at the grass and grass is flying everywhere.
Loud music was blasting out into the field - I could feel the bass vibrating in the library wall. Students were doing handstands, walking on their hands, doing cartwheels, playing soccer, salsa dancing, and playing hackey sack with soccer balls and bouncy balls. Every now and then some guy would go down and a dog pile would commence - with the last several guys taking running leaps and jumping onto the top of the pile. Then the guys would all go crashing down and the guy on the bottom would get up and go chasing after the guy on the top, running through the field, past the library, all through the campus.
I looked over to another side of the field and saw many students gathering up piles of grass and throwing it in a pile on top of another student. Three pretty girls in tight jeans and pink shirts walked by, chattering and swinging their machetes.

It was a sight to see.

Juan finally showed up and came over to help with the computer. I´m really quite embarrassed. A student had left a disk in the computer and that´s the only reason it wouldn´t turn on! I knew disks left in the computer caused problems - which I learned back in the age of the dinosaurs when I still used disks. I mean, come on - who out there has used a disk recently? Anyway, by the time it was fixed it was time for lunch. The two librarians and Juan bought lunch and we all ate together. We were all too stuffed to eat the chocolates I had brought for them - but I´m sure they´ll be enjoyed next week.

Anyway, now for the moment you´ve all been impatiently waiting for!

I finished today with 1,096 books.

Congratulations to Andi at OHCS who wins her very own chicken bus! This chicken bus comes complete with fruit and a chicken, but you´ll have to provide your own people. With approximately 3 adults and at least one child per seat and the aisle packed, you´ll need about 40 some people. Good luck!

I also decided to give a runner up prize. This prize isn´t for the next closest guess though. I realized I was having you all guess how many individual titles I was cataloging. But I´ve had to touch a lot more books than that because of all the duplicates. I´ve had to make sure they all had the Dewey number in them and had a codigo (spine label) printed. The total number of all books, with copies, is 2,108.

Congratulations to Phil, who wins his very own Quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala!

Thanks for playing everyone. Stay tuned and I´ll post pictures next week after I return home!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Last week my friend Jen found a little advertisement for the Quaker meeting near Antigua. I had found their information online weeks ago but the phone numbers didn´t work. I called the new number – which worked! – and arranged a ride to meeting this last Sunday.

Loren and his friend arrived just before 11 a.m. to pick us up. We bounced along through the streets of Antigua, past the market, until we came out onto the “highway” to Ciudad Vieja. The meeting is actually held in the home of one of the members, halfway between Antigua and Ciudad Vieja.

We arrived a bit late for the 11 a.m. meeting,, but Loren explained it was okay because the meeting was so small, the others would just wait for us. It was indeed very small: just three members last Sunday. And what an eclectic group they were!

Loren is an older man, tall, slim, and slightly stooped. He had a bit of a raspy voice and it looked like the years had been hard on him. He is a direct descendant of the founders of Mormonism. His ancestors trekked across the US following Joseph Smith. I believe his particular ancestors were part of the group that traveled without oxen or horses, lugging all their own belongings. I guess quite a few of them died trying to do this. But Loren is completely Quaker now. He comes to the meeting from Parramos, on the other side of Antigua, but only lives in Guatemala part of the year.

One of the other members, an older, jolly-looking woman, has been in Guatemala for 20+ years. She travels from Guatemala City for every meeting and is originally from the US.

Margaret, whose house we met in, is originally from Scotland. She is an older woman with long grey-white hair and kind eyes behind her glasses. She speaks slowly and precisely, with a wonderful Scottish accent. She was wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a brightly colored butterfly. Her house was amazing, with lots of tile and wood and windows and animals. Two dogs and a cat joined us for the meeting. Attached to the back of the house was an enclosed butterfly garden with a hundred butterflies fluttering around.

After a little bit of chatting the five of us settled down into cat hair covered couches and chairs for an hour-long silent Quaker meeting. It was very peaceful and quiet. For the most part. As you settle into silence you start to hear a lot of things.

Growling and gurgling stomachs
The rain
Children laughing and running out in the street
A ticking clock
People shifting in their seats
The dogs taking in deep breaths and sighing
Other dogs barking outside
The heat clicking on
The cat licking itself (and licking and licking with the most disgusting sounds a cat can make – cats always want to be the center of attention)
A bell somewhere out in town chiming the hour

After an hour one of the women took off her glasses, which was the sign I guess. We all stood up and held hands in a circle to close the meeting. Then we sat down around the table for a potluck and the three members of the meeting had a brief business meeting.

Margaret took Jen and me outside to the butterfly garden after lunch. As Margaret reached the back of the garden she exclaimed, “We have a birth! We have a birth!!” She opened a little hatch on the wall and I saw a big black and orange butterfly flopping and fluttering about, its chrysalis empty on floor of the little hatchery. Another bright green chrysalis was hanging nearby, promising a new exciting birth in another week or two.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Walking tour of sorts

I was considering taking a walking tour of Antigua today with Elizabeth Bell. She´s a well known character around here and knows everything about Antigua apparently. In the end I decided I would rather have my last Saturday to myself and not be "trapped" in a tour - even if it was good.

I went to the market and got the prize for the contest as well as a few other regalos.

I was leaving the market and as I came to the end of a block I heard the sound of drums. I love drums. If I hear a marching band, drum line, any sort of drumming, everything else in the world disappears. I came around the corner and saw a marching band coming up the street.

There were three girls dancing in the front, followed by guys with snare drums, trumpets, saxophones, trombones, other horns, xylophones, different unidentifiable percussion instruments, and bass drums (I think that´s what they are - the big ones!)

I took a video of them and as they passed I saw there was a great crowd of people with banners following them. Well, I couldn´t help myself - because of the drums - so I joined them! I walked with this random group of people, following the marching band, through the streets of Antigua for an hour and a half!

The parade spectators sort of appeared about a block ahead of us as we went and either joined or wandered off as we passed. Every few minutes the sound of the band was joined by the sound of car alarms, since the loud drums set them off.

A little boy became very interested in the band and started following closely. He was probably 5 or 6 and wearing a bright green striped shirt. His father tried to stop him but the band members encouraged him. For perhaps half an hour he walked along with the band, completely enthralled by the drums and brass instruments. One of the drummers gave him a drum stick so he could beat the big drums. Then later a trumpet player gave the little boy his trumpet and the little boy tried to play it. The trumpet was almost as big as this kid!

The parade of people was led by several people holding a big banner - which I never got a chance to read. Leading the pack in front of the banner was this crazy old lady. She looked to be 80 years old, about 4 1/2 feet tall, very wrinkly, and hardly any teeth. She was wearing a bright orange t-shirt, shiny black work-out pants, high heels, and a big floppy blue hat and carrying a big umbrella. Her grey-brown hair was tied back. When the music really got going she was a dancing maniac - twisting and shaking and shimying (is that even a word?) and sometimes some really risqué looking dancing. After a bout of dancing, she would bow and blow kisses to the crowd, turn to us behind her and shout out something and everyone in the people parade shouted back and blew whistles and laughed.

As we got close to Parqué Central two women started talking to me. They asked if I lived in Antigua. I said no I was just here for six weeks. They wondered if I was alone. I said yes, my novio is in Seattle. When I told them I was getting married they asked if they could come! They were being a bit silly I think. They told me that this was a big event put on by the government or perhaps it´s an election rally; I´m really not sure. When we got the Park there were tons of tents set up and stages with people singing - a huge fiesta!

Well, this was all before lunch. We´ll see what the rest of the day brings...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More tales from the chicken bus

An hour a day on the chicken bus has made me think that I could probably start a blog just about chicken buses!

The other day a woman got on and sat next to me. She had a baby on her back and was carrying another bag. After a few minutes I started hearing a funny noise and decided surely the baby was not making the noise. I realized the noise was coming from the bag she was carrying. I asked her about it and she told me it was a chicken. Then she opened the bag so I could peak in, although I only saw feathers. There really are chickens on the chicken bus! The woman proceeded to ask me where I was going and what I was doing. I told her I was working at the library at Pedro Molina and she thought this was very good.

Oh, I probably forgot to mention a few weeks ago our bus, despite sort of braking a little bit, hit a dog. I didn´t see it but I heard it. It was pretty awful. There are often close calls with all the stray dogs running around, but usually they´re paying attention and get out of the way in time..

Yesterday was yet another fun experience. The bus was a little bit late. When we got to one of the towns, perhaps Pastores, they decided to change drivers. So the driver got up out of his seat and the new driver slid into his spot. It was a really quick switch - just a few seconds. The catch is - the bus was still rolling! They didn´t turn it off or set the break or anything, just kept going while the switched!
I think the new guy was a race car driver. I started praying that we would make it safely to Antigua! He was driving so fast, passing semis on curvy mountain roads, trying to pass anything he could in fact. We almost took out a bicyclist as we tried to pass him and then had to get back in the lane when a truck was headed toward us. I heard the bicyclist yelling at the bus. And then I started feeling this weird thumping under the bus, like something was loose - perhaps they were racing back to Antigua and the bus lot before the bus fell apart? Who knows, but we did make it safely.

Yesterday I got on the bus in the morning and there was another American on the bus. I sat with her and we got to talking. She said she had seen me several times- but I had never seen her! She´s a nurse and has been here in Guatemala for 4 years. She´s teaching a number of Guatemalan nurses and does clinics and trainings all over the place. She knows the chicken buses pretty well - enough to even recognize the crazy drivers and not ride on their buses.
She said one time she was taking some visitors out to another town. They got on the bus and didn´t see the driver. When the driver got on Ruth recognized him as a totally insane driver and she wondered if they should get off. But they didn´t. The whole trip she was praying that they didn´t have an accident or die because the driver was so bad and so fast! Every now and then she would look back at her guests in the seat behind her and smile. When they arrived safely at their location she apologized profusely for the ride. But her guests said it was just fine. They were worried at first, but when they saw she seemed fine and didn´t look worried they thought it must be normal and okay!

A week or so ago I was getting on the return bus and was just able to fit in the stairwell. Now, this has happened a time or two before and usually the bus takes off with me hanging on for dear life. But this time the driver didn´t move. He started calling for everyone to move back and to make sure I got a seat. It was very nice of him. But at the next stop several women got on, with kids, and he took off with them in the stairwell. Perhaps they´re used to it and I´m more likely to go flying out the door on the curves.

Well, back to cataloging... =)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Weekend report

Last weekend was full of actividades!

The weekend started late Friday night when one of the candidates running for president had a little parade through town: starting about 9:00 pm. This consisted in a truck with loudspeakers driving through town yelling out all the reasons why people should vote for this candidate. The loudspeaker quality was so bad I couldn´t understand even a single word. There were also lots of horns honking and “bombas,” explosions of fireworks. I rarely see fireworks though. They just set off things that sound like bottle rockets or pipe bombs or something. They are really loud. Qué ruido! Then of course all the dogs around the neighborhood start barking.

There is a law in Antigua that election candidates can´t put up billboards (in fact there are no billboards of any kind in Antigua) so the candidates put billboards in their trucks and drive through town blasting obnoxious music or shouting out why people should vote for them. Or they put up “temporary” billboards just for the day – erecting huge scaffolding on the side of the road and hanging giant posters of the candidate – only to take the whole thing down at the end of the day.

Saturday morning after breakfast I met my friend Kristen for tea/coffee. She is the volunteer coordinator for Child Aid. We stopped by to see her friend Hector. He is preparing to open a new café here in Antigua. It is a very small restaurant with the kitchen and a couple tables all in one room. It is absolutely beautiful and Hector is building a lot of the furniture for the restaurant. Now I have to come back to Guatemala when the restaurant opens. =)

After lunch I went with my friends Scott and Jen to the market. They were looking for a few more gifts and for fabric. I was looking for a sombrero. After they bought a bunch of fabric I asked where we could find sombreros in the market. The man pointed in a general direction through the market.

Last year I talked about the outside market, for those of you who remember. We were in the inside market on Saturday. The inside market is a huge building of sorts, some open to the outside, some of it not. It is an enormous dark labyrinth of tight pathways twisting through scores of little shops selling everything you can imagine: fabric, fruit, nuts, vegetables, bras, tricycles, huge bags of spices and cooking ingredients (you scoop out what you want), cut flowers, clothing, shoes, toys, baby clothes, drugs (like tylenol – that sort of drug!), live plants, pots for plants, barrels, raw meat (chicken, fish…and other unidentifiable animals), dried fish, dried iguanas, candy, and more than I can even remember. I guess it´s like a Fred Meyer – only it´s kind of dark, the ceiling (when there is one) is very low, there doesn´t seem to be any organization to anything, there are no signs, it´s not very clean, and sometimes it really smells awful!

So, off into this labyrinth we were directed. The man had gestured with his arm straight and then left – directo y izquierdo. After some time we still hadn´t found sombreros. I asked another person and their answer: directo y izquierdo. So we hadn´t passed them yet! We kept wandering through the maze, always straight ahead and taking lefts when they looked promising. We kept asking people every few minutes and kept getting directo y izquierdo. At long last we found sombreros! We had lots of fun trying them on and posing for silly pictures.

We agreed to go out to eat Saturday night and give our host family a break from cooking for us, mostly because they had begun the moving process that day. The family I´m living with is moving! They were going to move on the 20th, but when I reminded them I was staying till the 21st, they changed their plans. Part of the moving process involves removing everything they added to the house. They had added on a whole section in the back for their rooms and they removed all of that and moved into one of the rooms that students usually live in. Things are getting interesting around here!

On our way to dinner we stopped at La Merced, one of the big churches. The International Olympic Committee was in town and they were having a huge final event in the ruins next to La Merced. I guess Guatemala is pushing for the Olympics to be held here in 2014.

We went off to a lovely dinner after that at some restaurant I can´t remember – sorry. But it was really old and had really great food. We always smell garlic while walking down this street and it turns out the garlic was coming from this restaurant. So we all ordered lots of extra garlic with our dinners.

Sunday morning I went out to breakfast with Scott and Jen at Café Condessa. This used to be a home for some Count back in the 1700s. The rumor is that one time the count came home early from some travels and caught his wife with the butler. It was said that he buried the butler alive in the house. This rumor was (perhaps) confirmed when the house was being renovated and they found a skeleton entombed in the pantry walls – standing up.

After that lovely breakfast we went to the ruins of Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza, Las Capuchinas. The convent was completed in 1736 but when the big earthquake hit about 40 years later the nuns abandoned the building for something safer elsewhere. Not much damage was done to the building in that earthquake though. Scott and Jen and I spent three hours wandering around the ruins and taking photos. We found one great room that was down a flight of stairs under the ruins. It looked like I was going into a deep black pit but when I got into the large round room it was light because of two vents cut at angles letting light in. The room had amazing acoustics. The three of us went into the room and attempted to hum Gregorian chants. It sounded pretty good…at times.

After a little plate of nachos, some ice cream, and a brief rest at home, we climbed up a hill overlooking Antigua. There is a huge cross up there and a lot of postcards and pictures of Antigua are taken from this hill. It had been a beautiful day but we could see clouds starting to come in. I saw several bolts of lightning around Volcan Agua, the volcano that rises above Antigua. On our way down the hill a person in our group heard a large boom or explosion. We looked to the west, to one of the volcanoes ringing the area and saw a column of smoke rising from it. Qué interesante! But we haven´t seen any more activity from that volcano.

So, that´s just an overview of my excellent and full weekend! And now it´s back to work…

Friday, July 06, 2007

Guessing Game

Well everyone, I´ve been cataloging away for three weeks now – two weeks to go! As I neared 600 books today, I had a brainstorm: why not let you all in on the fun by guessing how many books I´ll catalog before I go?

The person with the closest guess gets an authentic, made-in-Guatemala souvenir (it´s a surprise! – because I haven´t bought it yet…)

Some facts (for those of you who want to make this a math problem – hee hee: good luck!)

1st week: ended with 232 books cataloged (there were about 140 already in, but I went through all those records to verify them and add more info).

2nd week: ended with 363 books

3rd week (today): ended with 616 books

The fine print:
Leave your guess as a comment.
Only one guess per person.
I´m not splitting up the prize, so if a number is taken, choose another (or it goes to the first person who picked the number).
I´m not going to share my progress anymore after this point so guess any time.
I´ll post the final number and winner on July 20th – so please post a guess by 4:00 p.m. Guatemala time on the 20th!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Language & the rainy season

One of the interesting parts of this job is assigning subjects to books – in Spanish. Some books have these little info cards in them that say exactly what the book is about. I love those books! But sometimes there is no information and I have to skim through the book and try to figure out what it is about. This has actually gone well for me and I´m picking up all sorts of words that are totally unhelpful for every day conversation. Words like desarrollo (development), siglo (century), aprendizaje (learning), enseñanza (teaching), and idioma (language).

Speaking of language, other than Spanish there are somewhere between 20 and 30 indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala. Some are spoken by as few as 1800 people and others are spoken by nearly 2 million people. Since education has been improving (or the attempt is being made) there is more focus on bilingual (bilingüe) education so I´ve found several books in these Mayan languages. I can barely read Spanish to figure out subjects, let alone Kaqchikel or some other language! But usually the books are also Spanish.

Some of the languages spoken are:

Popti´ (Jakalteko)

And here are a few examples – just bits of titles from some books :

A´ sa k´uchax u jikla chusu´m ech sa ch´expu u qatine´
Chuck´al yol tuk´ vatzib´al u ixil/kaxhlan

Riqow etamanik kuk´ ri qa nan qa tat
Ch´iysel toj xnaq ´tzb´il ex xnaq ´tzb´il toj ch´iysel

Rujotay Kaqchikel ch´ab´äl
K´ak´a´ taq tzij richin retamab´alil kajulew

I don´t have the first clue how you pronounce any of that. There are some students here at Pedro Molina who speak some of these languages. A girl spoke Kaqchikel to me a couple weeks ago. I can´t wait to hear some more.

Now, about the rainy season. A couple weeks ago we (estudiantes) were all surprised when it didn´t rain for three days in a row. I thought this was the rainy season! Tomás explained that in the dry season they had rain too, but it might go 10 or more days without rain. In the rainy season it doesn´t usually go more than three days without raining.

And it rains hard here. It´s the most amazing, fuerte (strong) rain I´ve seen. I think it has now rained every day for the past week and a half. The day usually starts out sunny and warm and beautiful, then the clouds roll in and it starts pouring sometime between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. It´s amazing how predictable it is. (In fact, it´s raining right now, so hard that I can´t even hear the clicking of the keyboard as I´m typing, or the music the guys in the computer lab are playing!)

Sometimes it will also rain during the night. The rain is almost always accompanied by lots of lighting (I watch bolts of it streak across the sky as I´m walking through the streets of Antigua) and the most incredible thunder that often sounds like explosions and keeps on going and going.

We had a really hard rain on Sunday night. Monday as I was going to work and passing the cornfields, I noticed that quite a bit of the corn had been flattened. I guess this is a common thing – que triste! Then I noticed trees that had come down and lots of branches. In a couple towns there were mudslides with a couple inches of mud over the roads. Traffic continues on as normal of course. This morning they finally had a couple guys digging the road out with shovels.

Out in the mountains boulders fall on the road when there is a lot of rain. They don´t close the road – and who knows how long it will take for the boulder to be removed. People just honk and speed around, and hopefully don´t hit oncoming traffic!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Don´t I know you?

I was just thinking yesterday that I´m really getting comfortable (sort of) with things here. The routine and familiarity of everything is somewhat comforting.

Every now and then I see a Probigua student out in town, though I´m not sure how much longer that will last since people don´t usually stay for that long.

Just today I was coming home and saw, half a block ahead, Delcia and her kids. I caught up and said hi and talked with her for a couple minutes.

Saturday I was walking through town and Juan, the computer lab guy, was going the opposite direction on the back of a motorcycle. He called out hello. I responded ¨Hey!¨ and then shook my head a moment later as I realized ´hey´is not a word in Spanish. Tomás and I and the other students at the house had a good laugh about this.

I´ve been riding the chicken bus to work every day for 2 and a half weeks now. I think I finally am recognizing the driver and one of the helpers, not to mention a few of the people that get on the bus at different stops. Everyday after we´ve passed through most of the town, the helper guy comes through the bus collecting fairs. He usually says ¨Chimal¨(short for Chimaltenango) as he walks through, just to see where people are going. I usually nod or don´t say anything - most people do the same unless they´re getting off at Parramos. Then of course I always get up to be let off at Pedro Molina. Yesterday morning the helper was going through the bus as usual. He stopped at my seat to take money from the guy next to me and mumbled Chimal, then he looked at me as he took my money and said ¨Pedro.¨ Si! Gracias! So, now the bus helper recognizes me and remembers where I get off.

Today as I was returning home a woman came and sat next to me on the bus. She seemed very nice, but people don´t often talk on the bus. We were speeding along quite fast and there is this one little hill where it feels like we fly for a bit, if we´re going fast enough. We went over the hill and the woman next to me made a comment about the bus driver going fast. I agreed. We started talking and she said my Spanish was really good. Wow! Wow! It was so nice to hear her say that, since sometimes I feel like I struggle so much to communicate with people. So thanks Estela - much gusto!

p.s. for John Cz: El Domingo, yo compré un cuaderno sin lineas y un lapíz. =)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Amigos de la biblioteca (Friends of the library)

No ladies and gentlemen, I´m not talking about the kind men and women who set up shop at libraries and sell used books and other things. I´m talking about ratones - rats.

Two days this past week I came into the library to discover a little bag of creamer on the floor with a hole in it and half the creamer eaten. Hmmm... Friday I got started cataloging the reference section of the library. This is the last section of shelving over by the wall. As I looked at the books and the shelves I realized there was evidence of some sort of rodent (i.e. droppings) all over the place!

It really can´t be helped. The windows here don´t close well and there is a giant gap under all three doors in the library. It would be no problem for some small or even medium sized creature to squeeze in every night and make itself at home, snuggled up between stacks of books. Luckily, as far as I can tell, they haven´t started stealing pages from the books to make themselves nests.

We´ve found a total of 4 or 5 books that have been eaten straight through by some sort of mysterious bug that I have yet to see. The librarians are being good about disposing of these books right away.

It´s kind of a never ending battle to keep books in good condition here. It rains all the time, at least in the rainy season, and there are no temperature controls or humidity controls which can cause some books to get damp and mildew. And of course there is no stopping any sort of creature from getting into the library. It´s a very interesting experience after the temperature controlled, light controlled, humidity controlled, non-rodent, non-pest, quiet libraries I´m used to in the states.

Oh, this week I got help from a couple students from Probigua. They came in and stuck spine labels on books for 3 days, four hours a day. It was wonderful to finally see all that work complete. I really feel like I´m getting somewhere now. I have almost 400 books cataloged and still have three weeks to go.

I´ll try to keep updating you all on my adventures. It was hard this last week because the internet was down all week. A big rainstorm over the weekend took down some trees I guess. We have been having fabulous rain storms with huge bolts of lightening and never-ending rolling thunder almost every day for the last week. I love it!

Friday, June 29, 2007

There ARE bus stops here...somewhere

This afternoon I got off work and went to wait for my bus. It was starting to sprinkle and I was anxious for the bus to arrive. I finally saw one coming that I’m sure said Antigua on it. I’m sure it did. I jumped on and after a couple minutes the helper came to collect money. I asked for Antigua and he said no. This bus does not go to Antigua.

The bus came to a halt and I got off with some other women. I assumed this spot in the middle of nowhere was a bus stop. The other women climbed up the hill, to her home no doubt. I stood by the side of the road and waited.

Cars kept coming by and they were giving me funny looks – like it was kind of weird to see this white girl hanging out on the side of the road. At least one guy started slowing down like he was going to stop. I ignored him. I don’t even take rides from strangers in Seattle!

Finally I saw the right bus coming. I waved at it as it sped on by. Apparently I was not actually at a bus stop. Crap! I had no idea where the next stop was, since nothing is marked, so I started to walk. Up a huge hill around a sharp curve. And it began to pour rain.

I was really getting looks now. Guys on the side of the road and people driving by were saying things (I have no idea what) and whistling. I was in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but cornfields for as far as I could see, no sign of a town or anything. This could be a bad thing.

I kept looking back as I heard vehicles, hoping to flag down a bus. I looked back at one point and saw a police truck approaching. I’m sorry to say this didn’t make me feel better. Just this morning one of the students at my house was saying that violence is growing in Guatemala, and the police aren’t quite as corrupt as they used to be. They drove by and parked on the side of the road ahead of me. They were helping out some motorist. I walked by and kept on going.

I finally came to a possible bus stop. A concrete pad with four wooden posts and a corrugated metal roof. Good enough. I stood there hoping this thing was actually a bus stop (and praying like crazy!).
Then the police truck came by again. They pulled up right in front of me and rolled down the window. One of them (there were three) asked where I was going. I told them I was just waiting for the bus to Antigua. They nodded and paused for a moment, talked amongst themselves. Then they drove forward and backed up next to the bus stop. I thought they were just going to turn around and go back the way they came, but the driver switched off the engine. I just stood there like I knew what I was doing and there was no trouble at all. Best not to freak out until things really do get crazy.

Then the driver rolled down his window and told me there was a bus coming. I looked down the road, and sure enough! And it was even the right bus! I jumped on and shouted thanks to the policemen. And thanks to God as well!!

I settled onto the bus and looked around at the usual icons and signs: bugs bunny, winnie the pooh, and Jesus. And this great photo of a yellow school bus with about two dozen LED lights set into it that were flashing to the beat of the music.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Probigua Library Bus 2

Here is the other video!

Probigua Library Bus

Here is one of the videos that was taken on Monday. I don´t have sound here so I can´t hear it, but I´m sure it´s great!

Friday, June 22, 2007

moscas, cucarachas, and silverfish

This morning there was the biggest cucaracha in the bathroom, on the wall next to the shower. Sometimes a bug is so big, it ceases to be gross and becomes fascinating. At least, I kept telling myself that as I looked at the three-inch antennae swivelling about and its hairy legs and big beady eyes. I was going to take a picture but another student saw it and asked Tomás to take it away. Lo siento! Next time tal vez.

Moscas are flies and they are everywhere. I´m sure I don´t see a single one all day until food is served and then they are out in force. Have you ever seen someone sitting around with flies on them and they don´t brush the flies away? Now I understand why. It´s too much work! You would be constantly waving your arms and brushing them away and they keep coming back. You just give up after awhile (as long as they aren´t on your food anyway).

Silverfish are one brand of bugs that like to eat books. I have now found two books in the library that have been munched on. For the first book the bug must have eaten itself to death. It munched on quite a bit of the book but I don´t know where the bug disappeared to. The librarians seemed to think this was bad and they took the book away, but they haven´t disposed of it. I´m convinced they´ll put it back on the shelf once I´m gone.

I found another book today that had a hole straight through it and the bug had also eaten a line cutting the cover into two pieces. The librarians had taped the cover back together and put the book back in the stacks! Que horor!

I understand books are valuable and people don´t want to get rid of them, but if there is a chance there is a bug that can eat the rest of your books, I think it´s worth it to toss the books out. Different culture though.

Back to the books. And the bugs.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Chicken bus

Let me start this post by saying that I will (probably) NEVER complain about the buses in Seattle again!

I´ve seen a lot of chicken buses in the last week or so and yesterday was my first chance to ride in one. From the outside they are all old school buses from the 50s, some still yellow and black, others brighly painted with green, red, yellow, purple, white, and other colors. They often seem packed with people inside and packed with baskets and boxes of things on the roof of the bus. And they often seem to be in an incredible hurry - speeding through town and countryside at unbelievable rates, taking corners so fast it looks like they´ll tip over, and passing cars and trucks (especially around blind corners or in narrow streets or if other vehicles are coming at them).

There are no bus stops that I can see. People congregate alongside the road and if you see a bus coming that you want, you hail the driver or the helper. I know there is a name for these guys, but I can't remember it right now. There are one or two helpers per bus. They help the driver by letting him know if there are people who want to get on or off, by running ahead in towns to check intersections, by taking money on the bus, and by putting packages on top of the bus (and retrieving them later).

For my first experience, I had gotten directions to go to the corner of the park near my house and wait there. Buses kept coming down the street and I finally spotted one that said Antigua, Parramos, Chimaltenango. I hailed the driver. He stopped just long enough for me to get my foot in the door and then took off. The doors don't normally close because one of the helpers is always standing on the step hanging outside the bus.

I found a place a few seats back. After awhile the bus left Antigua, Jocotenango, and Parramos and headed into the country. The helper headed back through the bus collecting money from every who hadn't paid yet. Four quetzales and he gives change. We headed up a hill past a cemetery, then through farmland with lots of corn, down into a valley past a mustang ranch, up another winding hill road, more farmland, down into another valley past a fun park with a water attraction, then up another steep winding road and Pedro Molina Escuela is at the top of that. The ride is about half an hour.

The ride was fun and I had no troubles, but my adventures hadn't truly begun yet! That night when I left work I crossed to the other side of the street from where I got off the bus and waited for the return bus. I assumed it was a bus stop since there were several other people standing around. Eventually the Chimaltenango, Parramos, Antigua bus came into view. It was packed. I could see people standing all the way to the back, all the seats full, and people on the steps of the bus. Three boys at the stop decided to get on. Two were literally hanging outside the bus as it took off, one of them balancing himself on the front wheel guard so he didn't fall off. The buses take curves so fast I wouldn't be surprised if people went flying off the bus from time to time.

I decided to wait for the next bus.

It arrived with standing room only, but I was able to fit inside this time. Now, I'm sure the school buses I rode in grade school weren't this small, but I could be wrong. The aisle in the buses is about 8 inches wide, barely wide enough for most people to squeeze through sideways. During the busy times, you'll find three adults per seat, with other people somehow managing to stand in the aisle (even sardines aren't packed so tightly), and sometimes children sitting on laps as well. No - the seats are not wide enough for three people. The person on the end has one cheek on, one cheek off, and with your narrow aisle, that means the people sitting on the ends are, uh, cheek to cheek. =) So I don't know how people manage to stand in the aisle when it is so full like that! Lets just say you get really, really close to people.

Once I was packed on the bus, careening through mountains and valleys and countryside, I looked around at the inside of the bus. The drivers spend a bit of money on decorations and nice speakers and paint. At the front of my bus yesterday hung a big poster of Jesus. He was partly covering a large cross stitch that said something like "Jesus guards your entering and leaving, something-something now and forever." Hanging from the roof of the bus on either side of Jesus and the cross-stitch were two round dangling key-chain pictures of Mary. They were those pictures that change as you move the picture left and right. There were pink and blue tassles hanging off of these. Then there were two multi-colored rabbits feet hanging off the mirror. There was also a small wooden cross hanging off the mirror. Right in the center of the window was a big wooden crucifix with Jesus on it and half a dozen rosary necklaces hanging from it, all set in a bouquet of red and white flowers. On the wall behind the driver was a big sticker of the Tasmanian Devil.

I couldn't help but smile all the way home.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

libros! libros!

I was supposed to start my first day of work on Monday, but there was a change of plans. There was a videographer in town and they wanted to take her around to show her the different libraries and schools Probigua/Child Aid is helping out.

So first we went to Pedro Molina, the school in Chimaltenango where I’ll be working. This is a converted military base. Part of the agreement made at the end of the civil war was that some military spending would now go towards education instead. I guess the military took this to mean they could hand over bases as part of the deal (Guatemala spends an extremely small amount of their GDP on education, something like 1.7%).

I think the school is for grade school up to high school and there are quite a few students that board here. Some of the classrooms are in former barracks or other buildings. The library/computer lab is in the former mess hall.

I have no idea what it must have been like here during the civil war. Horrible probably doesn’t describe it enough. It is great to see this army base reclaimed for education and children. Where soldiers probably once drilled, girls were playing an uproarious game of soccer this morning, with friends sitting around the field cheering and laughing.

Our next trip was to visit the Bibliobus. It was parked at a school in another town. As soon as recess was over, two classes of girls came running over to the bus. They had about 30 minutes to sit on the bus or outside the bus on chairs and read books. The bibliobus librarian had placed brightly colored plastic chairs and tables outside the bus and had piled picture and story books on each table. As the girls were assigned tables they pored over the books available, trading with friends, looking at pictures, sometimes reading the stories too. At the table I was near I saw several versions of Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood, which were the favorites at that table.

Our last stop was at Melotto (I think that was the name of the school). The videographer talked to students in a classroom and then asked if the students could go to the library so she could film them in there. The kids were ecstatic! They jumped out of their seats and ran for the door. Their teacher dismissed them and they ran across the open field to the library building. We passed out stacks of books to the kids and they came to the shelves to exchange books they didn’t like for better books. After filming was done, we asked the kids to close their books and return them to the shelves. The kids were not happy. Three girls came up to me and asked if they could borrow the books, just for one day. I’m sorry, we had to say, not today. You see, most libraries here aren’t set up for lending books. They’re working on this but things are slow here.

In fact, at Pedro Molina the library is what we call closed stacks. That means no one but the librarian can go in the stacks. This makes it difficult since there is no online catalog or catalog of any sort for the students to look up books. I guess they just tell the librarian what subject they are looking for or particular books if they happen to know, and she gets the books for them.

My job for the next four and half weeks is to catalog as many of the books as I can so students can see what is in the library!

Monday, June 18, 2007


It took FOREVER to upload these, something like 5 minutes per photo, so sorry there aren´t many. I´ll keep working on it.

Antigua a Panajachel a Chichicastenango a Antigua!

Buenas tardes amigos! It was an extremely busy weekend for me.

After class on Friday I joined five new friends for a trip to Lago Atitlan. A tourist bus picked us up at 1:30. We were on the main highway for a little while but then our driver swerved off. He said there was road construction and lots of traffic so he would take us a different route: the back roads.

We were climbing impossibly steep roads up mountainsides and then down the other into deep valleys, swerving around hairpin turns, passing other buses and cars at breakneck speeds around blind corners, and having other vehicles pass us around blind corners as well! I don´t get carsick but after several hours of this I thought it just might happen.

And thanks to my mom who taught me to be prepared. We stopped in the middle of the mountains for some guys in the van who needed to use the bathroom. One of the guys cut his hand on a rock and came back bleeding all over the place. I quickly pulled out tissue for him to clean up and a couple bandaids. If only I had brought along Neosporin! =)

We finally made it to Panajachel around 4ish in the afternoon. We checked into our hotel (Hotel Regis) and went down to look at the lake. The lake is enormous. It is 5128 feet above sea level, 12 miles long, 6 miles wide, 1049 feet deep, with an area of 49.3 square miles. It is surrounded by the volcanoes Atitlan, Toliman, and San Pedro, as well as some other outlying ones I think. It is the deepest lake in Central America.

After taking a look, the six of us went back to our hotel which had two natural hot spring pools. We relaxed in the hot springs for a couple hours. I actually sat on the side along with another woman because we didn´t have swimsuits with us. That water was unbelievably hot!

Saturday morning we set off for a 7 hour boat tour around the lake. It was a bit cloudy, but still a beautiful day. At the first town we visited we only had an hour and a half which we took up with an incredible breakfast. We sat on an open deck looking out on a bay and the lake. It was gorgeous! Of course there are many differences between here and the US. For instance, the moment we sat down women and children began coming to our table with baskets of food and other items trying to sell us things. And there were also a ton of flies. Flies everywhere!

We left that town and moved on to the next. (sorry I can´t recall the names right now!) At this small town little chilren and old women came down immediately to meet the boat and start begging for quezales (money) or for us to buy something or to go on a tour.
We were befriended by a young boy, Pedro, who took us up to the church and showed us around town. He was an excellent guide. He kept track of all six of us and kept watch on the time to make sure we got back to the boat on time. He was also very respectful of the church even though he isn´t Catholic. He also showed us, we think, the home of their local god, who, as legend tells, saved the village from a sickness a long time ago.

We left Pedro with a big tip and travelled to the next small town. It being rainy season, and it being afternoon, the wind was starting to pick up a bit and there were white caps on the lack. It also started to sprinkle a bit. Most of the people moved down below on the boat, but several of us stayed up top. We had only a half hour in the last town, which was good. It was a very poor town and the beggars were quite insistent. They apparently called some of our group bad names when they wouldn´t buy things or give money.

I certainly, as well as others, began to wonder what we were doing. Are we rich white people coming to gawk at these poor people, take pictures of them, and then depart on our private boat back to our comfortable lives? It seemed a bit that way. The lake is beautiful and the towns are fascinating: clinging to the sides of mountains, with steep, steep streets winding up and up. The small houses painted in many colors: red, orange, green, yellow, white, mint, pink, and so on. The houses seem to be piled one on top of the other and the towns are full of roaming dogs, chickens, and men, women, and children selling every sort of tourist trinket you can imagine.

We left the last town a bit sad and overwhelmed. The rain had picked up so very few of us stayed up on deck. For our last hour or so boat ride home, the wind was stronger, the waves were higher, and it really began to pour! When the thunder and lightening started all but myself and Margy went below. I had to try out my new raincoat. =) Our little boat was rocking back and forth, up and down, as we motored through the troughs of the waves, water splashing over the front of the boat as we crashed down into each time. The sky was growing darker and the clouds were getting lower. It was very exciting!

We finally reached home and rested for awhile before heading out to find dinner. The streets were absolutely flooded with water. We had to wade across to a restaurant on the other side of the street. As we sat on the second floor looking out at the town, I thought for sure there would be no street left by the time we finished dinner. It rained harder and harder and harder. But the rain finally let up and we made it home mostly dry.

On Sunday morning we boarded a return bus. Our bus wound up and down the mountains and valleys again and stopped at Chichicastenango. This is a small town which has a humongous market on Sundays. They sell everything! Handicrafts, food, flowers, clothing, animals (dead or alive), machetes, carved wooden masks, medicinal plants, pottery, wooden boxes, candles, bags, tons of jewelry, blankets, pillows, and lots more. We walked through the market for about 4 or 5 hours and bought some things. =)
We had a nice lunch at a hotel nearby and eventually returned to our bus with our purchases.

As we neared Antigua the sickness began. One of our party said she didn´t feel well so we dropped her at home. A few hours later I began to feel sick as well as the other girl in my house. This morning we heard a fourth friend had come down sick in the middle of the night. Ugh. Two of the group seem to be fine so far, but, as they say, vamos a ver: we´ll see.
For me I think it was a combination of too much traveling on curvy roads, the food, too much sun, and my really bad sunburn I got on Saturday.
I´m feeling much better today, though still a bit funny.

I´ll be sharing photos soon!

Friday, June 15, 2007


Thursday afternoon I returned to the school for salsa lessons. There were several girls gathered at the top level of the school and the two instructors. (I was informed later that these guys are 'mangos' = hot guys!)

The girls formed a line and the lesson began. It's very easy, our instructors said. Tiene ocho partas - there are 8 parts. Right foot back, left foot steps, right foot forward = uno, dos, tres. Pause. Left foot forward, right foot steps, left foot back = cinco, seis, seite. Otro vez! uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete! (Yes, he skipped cuatro because that was a pause.)

Then we learned a sidestep move: uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete! Otra vez!

Then we learned a spinning move: uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete! Otra vez!

Over and over and over we practiced the steps. It was getting darker and darker as the clouds rolled in for the afternoon rain. uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete! Otra vez!

The salsa music was turned up on the tape player and the wind picked up. uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete! uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete!

Then there was a large crack of thunder and lightning lit up the sky. uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete! uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete!

It began to rain and the thunder rumbled. uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete! Otra vez!

There were three or four girls for each guy, so we all kept up the dance moves and the guys moved down the line, dancing a complete set with a girl, then moving on to the next. uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete! uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis, siete!

After 45 minutes, I think I got the steps down!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

papayas, mangos, y piñas

One of the estudiantes in my house is leaving after tomorrow. She had the idea of buying fruit from the market and making a giant fruit salad. During our break today, several maestras cut up watermelon (sandia), cantelope (melon), bananas, papaya, mangos, pineapple (piña), y oranges (naranjas). Then they served the salada de frutas with ice cream (helado) or yogurt. So much fruit!

We had piñas, papaya, sandia, y mangos for breakfast (desayuno) this morning, as well as bread and tea or coffee. Te for me!
Yesterday it was eggs (huevos), bread, and perhaps something else.
We´ve had lots of rice (arroz), some chicken (pollo), beef, beans (frijoles), cucumbers, green beans with garlic, tomatos, and always fresh made tortillas or bread. Most of the bread here is very sweet, pan dulce.

I just discovered a shop that makes crepes a block away from the school, I´ll have to try them out soon. The other day on my way to the market I saw a McDonalds, which I´m sure was not here last year. Tomas says there is also Burger King and Dominos, though I haven´t seen these. I´m more interested in the carts selling mangos y papays or the tortillas made fresh on the side of the street.

This afternoon I will try my hand at salsa dancing!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Robberies, earthquakes, and rain ~ oh my!

I had four hours of spanish lessons this morning. My brain can´t take much more!

Sometime around 10am there was a disturbance. Lots of students were gathered in the lower part of the school looking out to the hotel two doors down. (Our space is covered by corrugated metal and there are walls about 8 feet high, but is open otherwise.)

A woman was squatting on the ledge of the second story of the hotel. The story came to us that masked robbers (banditos) had entered the hotel and tied up the workers, but this woman had escaped and was hanging on to the outside of the building. The next couple hours were somewhat tense. For some time all the students crowded into the front of the school while the policia got into the hotel and looked for the robbers. We were never clear if there was one or more or if they escaped or not. I don´t know if they were found. Everything is back to normal now and there are police all around, so if you´re thinking about worrying, don´t!

Later in the afternoon, after lunch, I was sitting in my room and all of a sudden everything started shaking. I had a few seconds to think about what was happening, then I got up and went outside my room where the rest of the houeshold was gathering. We stood there in the courtyard for several more seconds as the ground kept shaking. It´s the strongest earthquake I´ve ever been in!

Tomas says earthquakes happen now and then, but not usually this big (muy fuerte). It was apparently 6.8, centered off the coast, and was felt as far as the border with Mexico. My first thought of course was the volcano nearby that is steaming, but I guess this is just an active area for this sort of thing.

As for rain, it has been threatening all day, but not much has happened, though I´m sure I´ve heard thunder a few times.



Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (and busses)

Hola from Guatemala!

I have had a long, long day of traveling but finally arrived in Guatemala city this morning at 6:30.

My travels began with a train from Seattle to Portland, then a bus from Portland to Salem. I visited my family for a few hours in Salem. After an interesting visit we drove up to the airport in Portland.

I went to check in my suitcase at the United desk and they informed me that my itinerary had changed and my flight had left three hours earlier - or it had been cancelled, I'm not quite sure what happened. They had record of leaving me a voicemail a month ago, but I never got it! So they booked me in for some other flights and I took off for the first leg which was about to start boarding!

I flew from Portland to San Francisco, San Francisco to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Guatemala City. All my layovers were about 30 minutes and I think my seats were upgraded along the way, so that was nice.

I settled into my window seat for the last leg with the intention of going to sleep. We were set to take off at 10:55. Sometime near midnight they informed us that there were troubles with the plane and we'd all have to get off and get further instructions on what to do next. As soon as this announcement was made the flight attendant got new information and told us to sit tight. A few minutes later he announced that the captain decided he would fly this plane after all and we would take off soon. How confident we all felt!

But there were no troubles with the plane and we arrived safely this morning. I was concerned whether or not my ride would still be waiting since I was an hour and a half late. But he was still waiting - thank goodness!

As we neared Antigua, on a steep, steep, switch-back road, he pointed out one of the nearby volcanos with a column of smoke rising from it. He said that at night you could see fire spitting out of it. Excellent.

I am spending today napping and settling in. Happily I am staying with Tomas and Delcia, where I stayed last year, so I know where everything is and how to get around town with no troubles. Tomorrow I begin a few days of Spanish classes!



Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Okay, so it's probably a bad use of the word, but that was the word going through my mind today as I did a few things to prepare for my trip to Guatemala!

I picked up traveler's checks at the bank and turned in a card at the post office asking them to hold my mail for the next six weeks.

I'll be flying to Guatemala on Monday, June 11th. I arrive in Guatemala City at 5:00 am Tuesday morning where I'll be picked up and we'll head for Antigua. There I'll settle in my new home, maybe check out the market, and brush up on some Spanish. I'll take language lessons Wednesday through Friday. For the rest of the five weeks I'll be working at a school library in Chimaltenango, a short 30-minute chicken bus ride away. On the weekends I may take trips to see different parts of Guatemala, or I may hang out in Antigua.

No matter what, I hope to update the Vicarious Travelblog with pictures and stories so you'll all feel like you're there as well!

I'm sure it will feel more real for me once I actually start thinking about packing... =)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I've already been to Mexicao and Kigali, and that was just over lunch.
Two sixth-grade girls and I walked to Lupita's restaurant in downtown Dayton through the cool sunshine. One explained how my horchata drink was made while I waited for my burrito mojado.
When I returned to school, the Skype icon on my computer beeped to alert me that one of my contacts was online. It was Chrissy in Kigali and she was still awake. Though awake, she was not alert enough to appreciate my helpful suggestions. Maybe she was merely distracted. Could be Chrissy is actually asleep right now and drooling on her computer keyboard while still signed-in to Skype. Could be that she is playing her 12th game of solitaire. Or could be that she is using an alternate font to decode a message from her informant in Uzbekistan. Makes you think. =)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Los Angeles!

Greetings friends,

I just had a hop down to LA for an extended four day visit with my boyfriend Jeremy's grandma. I'd only ever driven by or been in the airport of Los Angeles. We had a wonderfully relaxing time, lots of time chatting with grandma, and got to see a few cool sites. So, this will be more of a picture blog...

Jeremy and I arrived on Thursday afternoon and just had time for a brief walk around the neighborhood before dinner. The house is just off Sunset Blvd - so a beautiful area - and a wonderful old house. This is the front yard:

And some sculptures around the house:

On Friday we went up to the old Getty on the hill. The new Getty (the Getty Villa) requires reservations a month in advance! It would have been cool to see, but the old Getty was amazing...

They had a great collection of illuminated manuscripts:

There was a really interesting piece in the main entry called the 'uberorgan.' It was made of recycled bits and pieces and looked like intestines or something, but it was actually a musical instrument and played once per hour. The 'organ' is controlled by a 250 foot long loop of mylar painted with black dots and dashes that triggers light sensitive switches.

We managed to make it to the beach for a few moments amongst some other errands, and back to grandma's house for dinner and chatting late into the night.

On Saturday we went to LACMA - the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We only looked at a few exhibits, but I really enjoyed the Japanese pavilion. The interior of the building was just fascinating. Jeremy got a few shots of it...

After LACMA we went to Canter's for lunch. Canter's is a well-known, and humongous, Jewish restaurant/deli/bakery/bar. We had an excellent pastrami on rye and some matzo ball soup. Mmm, tasty!

Then we headed for a long walk on the beach. Now, I grew up on the Oregon coast and this time of year you bundle up and expect to freeze. Not in California! Though it certainly wasn't warm, people were still out in bikinis in the surf! I walked in the surf and the water was actually warmish. I still can't get over that. I was most fascinated by the birds...

On Sunday before we left we had just enough time to visit Venice Beach. Wow, what a crazy place!

I took several videos of these street performers. Unfortunately, I filmed sideways and can't get the thing to turn around the right way! Sorry about that. Here is one for now - turn your head to the left!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Boise to Omaha: Dec. 27-29, 2006

My trip was a God-sighting experience.

Johannan and I listened to the book "Redeaming Love" by Francine Rivers, on tape, from Idaho through Omaha. I heard how God wants to be our provider and hopes we will just obey him and trust him. The "obey" part bristled by hair at first like the part in marriage ceremonies where she promised to obey him. But God is not made in my image, so I'm wrestling with promising to obey, knowinig that God is perfect and good, reminding myself that God never asks me to do too much or too hard of things. He plans the best for us and calls us "Beloved." Beautiful and breathtaking.

And I saw God's provision at work. There were several places that I barely got through: waking up in Cheyenne with 9 inches of blown snow, avoiding a car sliding off the road behind us in western (COLD) Nebraska, finally getting to fly out of Omaha and barely making the connecting flight from Denver to Boise.
I finally relaxed, sipping hot water and lemon 1000 feet over the Rocky Mountains: surrounded by snow and low clouds, moonlight generously drizzled on their peaks and edges.

"Tirzah, beloved" God breathed.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Minneapolis to Seattle

Hey everyone! Welcome to another fun and exiting edition of the Vicarious Travelblog!

On December 26th at 1:00 in the morning I flew out to Minneapolis where my boyfriend lived. I hung out with the family for a day and helped Jeremy pack (for moving to Seattle!).

I've had a lot of moving experience so I took charge of getting the rest of his things into his new Honda Civic. There were a few things to keep in mind:
1) There were certain items that needed to be accessible, like suitcase/backpack/sleeping bags.
2) Things in the back seat couldn't go above the level of the top of the back seat so Jeremy could still see out.
3) Nothing could go on the floor of the driver's side, but the passenger's side was fair game!
4) And of course we had to be able to access drinks and snacks and maps.

The contents of the car fit together like a really tight puzzle. Each night we had to excavate Jeremy's suitcase from the trunk which involved removing a blanket and pillow and yoga mat and some other random pieces and then tugging the suitcase free. Each morning we'd squeeze the suitcase back into its spot then place all the other items on top and around. I'd squat down and hold everything to keep it from falling while Jeremy slowly closed the trunk. The trunk hinges had to avoid a table leg on one side and part of the suitcase and some other thing on the other side. Once the trunk was down (and my hands were out of the way) we had to apply a little pressure to get it closed all the way.

My backpack was wedged in the middle seat between a computer and some other box, behind another bag with books and maps, which was under a bag or two of groceries and a gallon of water. So that had to be excavated and replaced each night.

I know it sounds complicated - but it made the most sense!

We couldn't fit all the groceries between the seat so I sacrificed most of the floor in front of me to a bag filled with chips, bread, butter, water, dried fruit and nuts, some fig newtons, a six-pack of club soda and a few water bottles, as well as a singing bowl from India. It was quite cozy.

We hit the road on Wednesday just before noon and headed south on I-35 to Albert Lea where we met up with I-90 west. Our goal was to make it to Sioux Falls the first day and we made such good time that we went on to Chamberlain, South Dakota where we stopped for the night. So that was a little over 400 miles the first day.

I should mention here that both our families, especially the mothers, were worried about this wintery trip of ours. The snow! The ice! The blizzards! Etc, etc. Every few hours or so I was requested to send an update to my family about what state we were in, what city we were near, and the mile post we were passing. This was so that if I didn't make contact for a long while my mom would be able to tell the search and rescue team where to start looking. I'm not joking at all.
So I sent messages like:
"leaving Rapid City SD; m.p. 51; roads good"
"coming into butte...'
"30 miles 2 missoula!"
"Almost to cour d'alene - passes were ice-free & dry!"
All that texting - I finally figured out how to use the text functions on my phone!

Back to our travels...

Thursday we headed out, making a brief stop at Wall and passing through Sturgis, before crossing into Wyoming. There was a bit of ice and snow to deal with in Wyoming though it wasn't too awful. We did have to slow down a bit at points. We were debating whether to stop in Buffalo or Sheridan but we had time so we pushed on to Sheridan. That put us at 468 miles for the second day.

Our goal on Friday was to make it Missoula where my aunt lives. The weather and roads were fine and we made it to Missoula in the evening. My aunt actually lives in Darby, about 60 miles south, so we headed down to see her and got in around 9:00. That put our third day miles at almost 530!

We only had to make it to Spokane by Saturday evening, since we had some Quaker librarian friends to stay with there. We went through a pass or two and the mountains and trees were incredible! We racked up 193 miles and a stop by the lovely Lake Coeur D'Alene.

Sunday we headed for Seattle and the last 271 miles of our trip.

Other than the snow and dodgy weather in Wyoming, we had great weather and great road conditions. I kept Jeremy awake and driving by searching for obnoxious radio channels, reading aloud from a book we had brought, and making sure we took plenty of breaks for walking around - which was quite invigorating since it wasn't much over 20 degrees for most of our trip!

I think that's about it. For those of you brave souls who made it this far, you are rewarded by getting to see the pictures! Enjoy! (Oh, and click on 'full screen' for better quality.)

Until next time,