Wednesday, April 25, 2007

April 25, 2007

April 25, 2007 on Wednesday at 5:41 pm

Thank goodness for Bill Gates and Microsoft and all of their research. My
computer kept crashing and coming back. It did not crash at all today. The
last message was that my computer had a major problem but that windows had
fixed it. I hope so.

One of my readers pointed out today that I had not reported on the leaving
of my Japanese housemate. Could have to do with the crashing of my computer

at the same time. Her name is Aki and her daughter is May. Aki is 29 and
May is 3. They were with me for one week. She had been at the school for
two weeks and would take her daughter to all of the classes. Aki was from
Tokyo and was going to New York from here. She actually leaves Guatemala
City at the same time as I do so I might see her at the airport. She could
speak Japanese, some limited English and some Spanish. She was very shy and
not forthcoming about herself or her life. I sat next to her in the
computer room and she had a handheld computer with a camera and was doing a
face to face talk with her mother in Tokyo. It was excellent quality and
sound. May was on her lap and was in the picture also. Aki and May left
here to go to Antigua for a week. Antigua is the first capitol of
Guatemala. It was devastated by an earthquake in the 19th Century and the
capitol was moved to Guatemala City where it remains. There is still an
active volcano in Antigua.

Speaking of volcanoes. There is a dormant one almost in town here. It is
called San Pedro of all things. This morning Estella said that there were
tremors around midnight last night. I did not feel a thing. I might look it
up on the internet later. They publish a world map of all of the reported
tremors each day.

I have two days of classes left. Seems like I just got here. In my mind I
left last weekend so I have been mentally packing my suitcase since then.
If any of you ever want to do something like this I can give you some great
suggestions. When I went to Mexico for two months it was like going to
Arizona or California. Not much of a culture change. Here it is a
different story. You need to think very simple. What are the bare minimum
things you truly need. Don't pack what you use every day. Pack like you
might have to carry everything on your back for twenty miles. That is what
I mean by bare minimum. You do not need to make a fashion statement. You
need to be warm and dry and that is it. No one cares what you look like.
Sounds silly but it is true.

I don't want to sound too grim. If a person wanted to you could come to San
Pedro and stay in a very nice $200 a night room in a very nice hotel with
television and internet and just about anything your heart desired. It
would be the minute you stepped out the front door of that hotel that
reality would hit you square in the face. The smell of urine and feces is
the first thing and once you got used to that the vinegar smell from the
coffee bean processors would be next. The great smell of clothes fresh from
the dryer would not be one of those smells.

There must be 500 loose dogs here and none have collars or tags. They
really seem to do well on their own and do not cause too many problems other
than their droppings everywhere. I would say on the sidewalks but there are
no sidewalks.

Of course it still takes me aback when I see a grown man urinating in the
middle of the street when he is stone cold sober and there are women and
children around. I have asked a lot of people about that and they say it is
because there are no public toilets.

I also asked about the huge amount of trash piled up on the streets. I was
told that there were trash barrels everywhere recently but the Mayor had
them removed because he thought it encouraged people to go to restaurants
owned by foreigners. I have actually seen a list of locally owned
businesses with a admonition to only shop in those businesses because all
outside businesses were just taking away from the community. I guess they
never heard of Wal Mart.

The two things I have missed the most are mouthwash and hot water. Can't
bring hot water but I could have brought a gallon or two of mouthwash. A
very small bottle here is about $10. They don't use it and the stores don't
carry it. Another thing is gum. If you can't have mouthwash you need to
have gum. Nine pieces of gum is about 50 cents. I get the 65 piece can of
orbit gum at Wal Mart. My son Matt suggested it sometime ago. The
container fits in your coffee holder in the car and has a removable wrapper
for your desk or kitchen counter. My goodness. I sound like a commercial.

Saw that Colorado had snow again. It was actually cool here this morning
but it warmed up later. Saw a beautiful crane and several other birds I had
never seen. Of course my camera was in my house. I will take it tomorrow.

Noticed that the stock market set a record of 13,000 today. Maybe I should
stay out of the country longer if that keeps happening in my absence.

Rosa my errant cook and landlady decided to open a restaurant today here at
the house. I am not kidding. Maybe she will sell chicken backs and necks.
The really good news is that she will have to keep the kitchen open all day
so getting me a meal will not be such an effort. She is really a nice lady
but a tad like Edith Bunker.

Her restaurant is called "Rancho de Rosa" which is a little strange in that
her "ranch" is about one small US building lot. I guess it is in the mind
of the beholder. She put out her menu on boards near the entrance. I
checked it out and she is not serving the public any more or less than I am
getting. Enough said.

I am leaving San Pedro around 2 pm on Sunday by taxi for Guatemala City and
the airport. I will arrive there around 5 pm and am planning to stay at the
airport during the night until my flight to Houston leaves at 6 am. I had
thought about taking the Chickenbus that left around 2 am from San Pedro but
I was more interested in seeing the rest of the country on the drive east.
When I came in on the 2nd of April I was in a shuttle and I really did not
enjoy the trip. The only good part was driving around Guatemala City
picking up the other passengers. That is a very beautiful and modern city.
Not like Mexico City at all. Traffic is heavy but in control and there is
some design to streets and intersection.

I just heard my landlord speak on his experiences as a prisoner of war and
his subsequent escape and return to San Pedro. Guatemala was in a 37 year
civil war that just ended in 1996 with the Peace Accords. I have read a lot
about the event and it is very difficult to understand. Christians were
fighting Christians. Mayans were fighting Mayans. Brothers were fighting
brothers. I guess all wars are hard to understand.

Dinner is at 7 and it is now 7:11 pm. Maybe nothing has changed. I will
let you know.

There is a graduation at 10 pm on Friday and each graduate is supposed to
give a speech in Spanish. Thanks to my computer translator that will not be
a problem. I can rehearse the pronunciation and make sure I smile in the
right place.

You can stop holding your breath. I was served rice, black beans and fried
bananas at around 7:40 pm. I will live another day.

I normally write these the evening of one day and sent them the morning of
the next day. I started this on Wednesday evening and should have sent it
on Thursday morning but, lo and behold, the power company for some unknown
reason decided not to provide electricity today (Thursday) until 4 pm. I am

on batteries right now. It also means that the internet is down in the
entire town. Interesting.

This morning I had the usual fruit plate with bananas, pineapple and mango.
Mango just came into season and they are delicious. For lunch today I had
chicken. A chicken back of course. Oh well. Rosa has her restaurant open
but I have not seen any customers yet. We need to change the name to
Restaurante de Gary.

Beautiful day again. I am getting a low battery signal so I will end this
and try to send it ar 4 pm if and when the power comes on again.

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