2 Wheels To Adventure

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Alaska/Canada Trip--2006
Two "Adventure" Bikes

Ride boldly, Lad,  fear not the spills! (From "The Man From Snowy River," by Banjo Paterson) 
 
I'm not the man I used to think I was. (RBW)
 
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"
(William Butler Yeats)

For a looong discussion on motorcyling in general and Adventure riding in particular, see the archives (or scroll down) for the first post on September 28, 2006.
It gives some opinions and ideas, along with a bit of philosophy; one (old) man's view of the world of 2 wheels.

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New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
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Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Home Sweet Home

We got to the airport in Guatemala City at about 10:00, fully four and a half hours before ETD. Check-in was almost as streamlined as in the US, and by 10:30 I was able to find a seat in the main terminal and have a cup of coffee.

Got through security fairly fast, and boarded right on time. Flight to ATL was perfect, and we arrived a bit early.

I was fairly quick getting off the plane and into baggage claim. My bag came off quite early for once, and I went through the automated Custom/Immigration and out onto the main terminal in less than twenty minutes.

This system is the most efficient I have ever seen. Put your passport into the machine, pose for a photo, get a slip of paper for the officer to compare your snapshot with your passport photo, collect your bag, and give the slip to the exit officer---quick and painless. BTW, the allowance now is $800 USD duty free.

I than had a couple of hours to kill before my flight to PHX. Could have caught an earlier flight, but decided not to take it, because my one checked bag wouldn't arrive until my originally scheduled flight anyway.

Flight home was also perfect. Bag collection took about 20 minutes, and Presto! I was outside waiting for Sweetie-Pie to pick me up.

Absolutely amazing! It is like magic. At 2:00 in the afternoon, I am in Guatemal, and by midnight, I am standing outside the Phoenix terminal 3, waiting for my Dear Wife to take me away home. After all those years doing this sort of thing, I am amazed at how easy it has become---security issues aside. That is one thing in ATL I found a bit annoying. We had gone through good security in Guatemala, prior to departing. It was as good as any security I have seen, except for the profile scanner, which they lack there.

But, we had to go through security again in ATL, and they do have the scanner, which I do not wish to go through. I opt out, and go through the pat-down procedure, along with the very careful briefing by the inspecting individual, who outlines exactly what he is going to do before every move. Inside the collar, inside the waistband of the trousers, up each leg into the groin, each arm into the armpit, and sweeping the entire front and back of the body. No problem. I was clean, and passed along to get dressed again. Belt, shoes, pockets re-filled, watch back on the wrist, back to a more dignified persona.

The saga is over for now. I hope any perusers were informed and maybe entertained. I'll let this blog simmer for a time, but will be back now and again to throw in a few more observations, ideas, rants, and generalities.

Ciao for now. 

2:10 pm mst 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Scorpion (El Alacrán)

Last full day. Beautiful weather. Sun, mid 70s, a bit of a breeze. I am going to hate to leave, but will be glad to get back to the USA, whatever the state of affairs there. It is home, has always been my home, and it always will be such.

I'll make my final visit to Antonio this afternoon, say "adiós," or maybe just "Que nos vayamos pronto" (We'll see each other soon).

I found a scale here, and WOW! I knew that I had lost some weight, but not this much! I am at 146.5, and that is with clothes on, including my hiking boots. I can safely take a couple more pounds off that number, and call it 145. I haven't weighed that since I can't remember when. That is at least a 10 pound loss in these two months here in Guatemala. This life has been something completely different, with lots of walking, and very little in the way of sweets like candy and ICE CREAM. I have sneaked (no, not 'snuck') some chocolate bars and a couple of times had ice cream cones, but this is unexpected and welcome!

Maybe three moderate meals a day contributed. I normally do not eat breakfast, and that probably leads to overeating at lunch or dinner. While here, I have been partaking three meals a day; fairly light breakfast, big meal at lunch, then lighter fare for "la cena" (dinner). Have not been snacking. At home, I snack throughout the evenings after dinner, sometimes right up until bed time. Cheese, ice cream, cookies, whatever is available. I can go out for ice cream, come back with several pints of Ben & Jerry's, or Haagen Daz, and often finish off one or more of them. If there are goodies in the house, they do not last long. Got  to stop that!

Now, if I can just keep this regime when I get back to PHX. Will have to take a grip on the self-control and promise myself to quit bringing goodies home from the grocery store. NO SUGAR! NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS! That's the secret, that and WALKING! Lots of walking. I think I am back to a 30 inch waist, and I haven't been there since high school, sixty-four years ago. 

On the down side, I am more than ever looking like a shriveled up old man. My paternal Grandfather was a smaller version of my present persona. I think he was about 5'6", and probably weighed 115 Lbs. Thin and wiry, and as I remember him, feisty and opinionated. I come by it naturally. I'm like the scorpion hitching a ride across the river on the frog's back, having promised he would never, never sting. Mid-river, he stung the frog, thus dooming them both to die, him by drowning, the frog from the poison sting. The frog asked, "Why did you do it?" and he replied, "I can't help it. It's my nature!" 

1:47 pm mst 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

8:57 pm mst 

"The End Is Near"

Friday was the last day at Hogar Patricia, and it happened to also be Christmas Day, so there were gifts, a grand lunch, and then I made my goodbyes as best I could in my fractured Español.

Lunch was almost American tradition, with roast turkey, done to perfection, a very nice fruit salad, with grapes, apple, raisins, and of course, steamed rice, gravy, trimmings---sans cranberries however---"black" tortillas, followed by fruit punch and postres (cake).

Then to Antigua, where I had told Mary I would be for lunch. By the time I left Hogar P., it was two O'Clock, and I fully expected lunch at Casa M. To be over. But, arriving at 1430, I found that it had not yet begun. There were ten or twelve people present, including Boris, their youngest son, and his wife and two small kids.

Lunch began at around 1500, and was more roast pork---the second leg from the night before---Guatemalteco tamales, mashed potatoes, gravy (I hate gravy, but eat it at TG and Christmas. This was dark, like the giblet gravy my mother used to make---no giblets here---and quite delicious.

After lunch, I escaped upstairs to take my accustomed nap. No visit to Antonio, because he had been invited to dinner at the casa of "una Gringa" that he knew. He went with a couple of other residents of the hospital, and today when I visited him, he said that he had a very nice time, with a dinner of roast pork, salad, rice, and postre.

After my visit today, I spent a few minutes in the Plaza Mayor, enjoying the pleasant afternoon and viewing the fountain and the beautiful buildings surrounding the park. An Indigenous woman came along and sold me a couple of tapestries that could be used for wraps, or maybe for a tablecloth center runner. Quite pretty, and only cost Q300 (about $20 apiece). I dickered a bit with her, but she took my first offer of Q300, Q50 below her "best price". I cudda dun better! But, she needs to make a living, and another $5 would not have made much of a difference on my end. And our little conversation made it worth a bit more. She told me that her mother had died just last Saturday. She has four children, the oldest at 15 years. As Spanish is likely her second or third language, she spoke quite clearly and slowly enough that I had no difficulty understanding her. Progress!

 Tomorrow: Final Day

7:15 pm mst 

Friday, December 25, 2015

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas---In America.

Christmas here in La Antigua, Guatemala is just about over, and the interesting thing I found about it is that it is considerably more like Christmas in America than I remember from my last visit here in 2006-2007.

Mercantilism is surging, and the rituals are less about the birth of Jesus than about gifts, turkey, decorations, Christmas songs (mostly American imports, sung in English more often than Spanish), Santa Claus (an import from America via Germany or some ancient pagan worship), and the rest of the trappings we Americans revere as the real "Christmas."

I have, for many years, wondered just how the Christians square their religion with all of this materialism and clearly non-religious clap-trap.

Thursday there were a lot of people at the orphanage, visiting and getting some pleasure from holding babies, playing with children, and celebrating "La Navidad." Except La Navidad was little examined, and the emphasis seemed to be on goodies, presents, decorations, and "stuff." Not much sentiment paid, at least that I could see, on the birth of a savior.

One of the visitors was a young German woman. She turned out to be a pediatrician, and we had several very interesting conversations regarding MaximoNivel, volunteerism, voyeurism, among many others.

She wondered, since I have been around Hogar Pat for a couple of months, what I thought of the idea that people like her come in for just a couple of days or weeks and then go, leaving perhaps, the children with another series of losses in their young lives and experience. When she first broached the topic, I answered gingerly, because she had not yet given out this potential negative effect. I responded that I thought perhaps it was worthwhile in that it gave these children, somewhat sheltered from the outside world by the four walls and locked outer door, exposure to different looking, sounding and cultured people. In that, it seemed positive.

Then she brought up the negative, and I admitted that it had been in my thoughts, even including myself, and probably more so, because my tenure here developed some kind of bond with the children, and now suddenly I was going to be gone, leaving them with that separation that has been such a large and negative thing in their lives.

This woman was very thoughtful (spoke beautiful English, BTW), and added that she wondered just how much real good some volunteering does, when often the volunteer him/herself gains a false sense of altruism---"I spent two days/weeks/months and made these little lives so much the better for my 'sacrifice.'

It brought out my cynicism, and I had to agree with her, and said that we could only hope that the benefits of whatever volunteers do outweighs the self-indulgence and self-congratulations. She is very interested in coming to one of these countries and contributing, but is wary that she may come as a "white person dictating to 'them' how to live their lives." She has a skill that is sorely needed in many of these places, but the paternalism she fears is certainly a factor, and her sensitivity and intelligence that many could apply to their own motivations.

Later, we had a conversation with another visitor, a Guatemaltecan now living in New Jersey, where he has been for over ten years. He is an employee in some capacity with Hasbro, the toy maker, and we had a lively discussion regarding the toy business, during which Hanna showed some polite disagreement regarding toys and their affect on children, and the lucrative nature of the business, which Mattel, Disney, and Hasbro dominate entirely. I moved physically and conversationally into the center in my often pusillaminous retreat from argument, but I am clearly in her camp. The conversation did not delve far, and the subject changed to something innocuous before any feathers were ruffled.

I mention this because William Rivers Pitt has a column today, which can be found online by Googling his full name and December 25 (I hope). Harsh, biting, but very incisive, it is well worth a read, because I think that the toy world has exploded into meaningless plastic junk that robs developing minds of imaginative and creative ideas. When I was a boy, lo, those many, many years ago, we had toys,  but most of us made do with sticks and imagination. A forked stick could be a gun,  a tree limb six feet off the ground the cockpit of an airplane, or an old rowboat, high and dry, a steamer on the high seas. Now it is all done for them, and imagination is stunted.

Besides which, as Pitt notes, the plastic toys, soon shunted into the toy box and forgotten, are gained at the expense of underpaid workers from countries like---Guatemala. Go figure. 

But what do I know? I could be wrong... 

 

6:14 pm mst 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

T'was The Night Before Christmas...

and all through the house was the sound of Spanish conversation. Mary and Salva's younger son, Boris and his wife arrived with their two children. Boris is working in Honduras as an architect, but they are here visiting, staying in Guatemala City with Boris' in-laws. They came by for an afternoon and evening with his parents. 

We had a fine dinner of roast leg of pork, mashed potatoes, salad, and trimmings. It was very nice, and the pork was excellent. Salva arose at 0600 to take the leg(s), seasoned and stuffed with green pimento olives, to a nearby panaderia (bakery) where they have a wood-fired oven large enough to accommodate two (2) fifteen to nineteen pound pork legs (bone in). Cooked for eight hours, it came out succulent, sweet, and just right, with a nice crusted outside. ¡Fue muy buena!

 That was at 2000. Now, we will take a bit of a rest until la media noche, when we'll have traditional tamale and poncho. (Fruit punch, warm, with Apple, raisin, coconut, prunes), along with some gift opening. 

And, to all who travel these blog pages, Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! 

8:45 pm mst 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Donations---Not Too Late!

Not much new for today. Salva and Mary delivered me and the sack of presents to the orphanage shortly before 0900.There were quite a few people there already; the new director of MaximoNivel, Colin, and some visitors, about eight people in all. Then a couple of vans arrived with local people, all loaded with supplies and gifts for the children. They all had a grand time, holding and feeding babies, playing with the children, and getting acquainted with the operation.

Everyone I have talked to who has come to the site agrees that it is very well run, and that the staff are all quite dedicated to the welfare and to loving these tykes.

Which brings me to this suggestion for anyone who is so disposed to make a late 2015 donation, or for that matter a donation at any time to a very worthy cause: Go to their website: theloveofpatricia.org    Any donation made through PayPal or credit card sends ALL of the money directly to Hogar de Niños del Amor de Patricia, something that a good many charities fail to do. It takes money to run charities, and staff need to be paid, but in this case, there are few middle men. The money will go for essentials. Of course the staff are not there strictly for their own health. They have to make a living, and they need to be paid. I am sure a lot of the cash donations are for general upkeep and expenses such as staff salaries, but it is really one of the charities where your money, should you decide to donate, will not go to supernumeraries or others who profit from altruistic donors.

I mention this as an on-site observer who has seen, every day for two months, excellent and loving care for unfortunate children who deserve this chance to have a decent life. Your money could not be better spent. 

 

8:07 pm mst 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Shopping

Yesterday, Salva and Mary picked me up just outside Maximo Nivel, where I take my daily dose of Spanish and also where International volunteers HQ is based in Guatemala. They were kind enough to take time to take me to the Central Market, where Mary negotiated my purchase of 27 little Christmas gifts for the niños at Hogard del Amor de Patricia. We had a list of names given me by Tia Yaki, with ages noted. It took awhile, and negotiations were heavy, but we got 'er done, went back to the car, unloaded, and then sallied back into the market for a few things. 

Mary wanted some grapes and apples for the "ponche" she will make for La Navidad, but while there she picked up a couple of fresh papaya, and some other fresh produce items. The market is just overflowing with old-fashioned groceries, the kind that my paternal grandfather had in his grocery store back in the thirties in Visalia, California. Fresh everything. Barrels of nuts, grains, rice, condiments, and bins full of bananas, papaya, mango, apples, pears, grapes, along with just about every vegetable you can think of plus a lot of local veggies that none of us have ever heard of, but are delicious when presented in typical Guatemalan meals.

There were also beautiful flower stalls, with an abundance of cut flowers. There are several large flower growers in the Antigua area, but most of those are for export (to the US, mostly). A lot of our cut flowers in the supermarkets in the US come from Colombia, but we get some from here in Guatemala.

After that, a trip to the supermercado for goodies for baskets for the daughters of the López' former maid, Tea. She has three daughters, one of whom is Juanita, the present maid. This family is of indigenous origin (they do not use the word "Indio" here, as it is viewed as a racial slur). They are indígenas. Salva and Mary made up very nice baskets with foodstuffs, a few toys and goodies for the three daughters' families.

When we finally got home around seven, we grabbed a bit of dinner, then Salva set to work to wrap all of the presents. We had discussed it, and I thought it would be too much work, favoring just dispensing the presents by name, but Salva insisted, saying that the kids really love to rip open packages---he is quite right of course. It was very kind and helpful of him and of Mary to do the buying for me.

He spent a good hour and a half expertly wrapping each package---dollies for the littler girls, a couple of diaries for the older girls, toy cars for the little boys and little watches for four of the older ones. The sixteen-year-old boy (who visits, but is not a resident) gets a T-shirt with a Superman "S" on the front. 

Incidentally, the supermarkets here are very much like the ones we know, except for a lot of local types of processed foods instead of our usual---but there are lots of those as well. They are a cornucopia of "stuff," and when you enter one here, they are just enough different to give you a new perspective, seeing it in another light---many, many things begging to be purchased, promising whatever it is you want to believe they can deliver, be it slimmer profile, better looks, good health, happiness, or success in life.

My current Spanish teacher, Evelyn tells me that many US holidays are creeping in, like Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine's Day, and maybe, others. Tourist and expatriate influence is powerful. Antonio, my amigo from Hermano Pedro Hospital says that many young people flock here from Guate and other cities around about to drink, go discotequeing, and live the wild life. These imported "holidays" are but an excuse to carouse. Not that Antonio disapproves carousing, but merely his observation, to use a term that does not apply strictly to a man without sight. 

To return to the mention of Indígenas, racism here is alive and well. Indígenas are treated with varying levels of prejudice, from overt to subtle, not unlike our own brands. I think that a good many non-Indígenas here, if not all, look at them as people with limited education (largely true), and therefore lacking the capacity to understand, to learn, or to prosper. Their background certainly is against them, but my untutored opinion is that, given the chance they are every bit as capable as any of the rest of us. A good example of an educated and forceful advocate for Human Rights, especially the rights of her people, is Senora Rigoberto Manchú. She presently holds a position in the Guatemalan Government. She is bright, articulate, and fearless in her quest for equality.

During the 36 year Civil War here, many Indígenas resisted, sometimes with force, and were dealt with summarily by the various governments, most especially the three-year reign of dictator President Rios Montt, a particularly nasty man who encouraged large scale ethnic cleansing. The US was involved, but never brought to answer for our role in supporting these governments. It was all done to rid the country of "communist elements" that threatened to undermine law and order. Over the period, at least 250,000 people were killed, most of them Indígenos. 

The US backed the World Bank and other International lenders in granting over $5 Billion for a large hydroelectric dam, a dam that heavily impacted indígenos land. Resistance was futile, and more than a couple of villages were completely erased by Rios Montt's government, including all of the residents---men women and children. The dam was built, never mind the human suffering,  and forget that the United States of America looked away. Not our problem... 

7:53 pm mst 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ah, There's Joy In Mudville Tonight!

We left shortly after 0800 this morning, the three of us, Salva, Maurice, and me, for the fútbol game. It was scheduled to start at 1130, but in view of our hour-and-a-half wait in line last time, and the fact that this game is the final for the championship, we wanted to beat the crowd.

The line was huge, spiraling back for several blocks, but, true to Guatamatecas, we cut the line without a murmur from those behind (try this in America!), and were through the gates in about 20 minutes---only to find the stadium nearly full already. We got seats just about mid-field, but on the first step above ground level. This sentenced us to standing for most of the game, as the people sitting at ground level had their view blocked by people passing in front, along with, by game time, people standing at the fence separating us from the pitch itself. So, to see any game play, we had to stand, as of course so did every tier behind, clear to the top, about twenty or thirty steps up.

The game started almost exactly on time, and the home team, enthusiastically supported by over 9000 screaming, horn-blowing, flag waving, noise-making fans, scored a goal in the first five minutes, bringing the roar of the crowd to a ear-splitting level that barely diminished for 85 minutes.

The two teams, Antigua, the Green Monster, against Guastatoya, in brilliant yellow, were pretty evenly matched. This from my expert judgment, having watched all of three matches live, a few during the last World Cup, and my granddaughter's high school team in Buhl, Idaho. Looked pretty even to me.

Second half: scoreless until 25 minutes in, and Los Verdes scored again, making it 2-0, the exact number of goals Antigua needed to win the championship. Knuckles were gnawed for the last 20 minutes, but the line held, helped mightily by the home town crowd, and Antigua prevailed. If I understood Salva, this was their first national win in about 45 years. The crowd was delirious. Well, they were delerious-er, having been just delirious throughout the game. Good sportsmanship prevailed after the game, and as the losers made a circuit of the stadium, they were applauded by the happy Antiguans. A bit of a difference from the game itself, when the Yellow was cursed roundly from time to time with shouts of "¡Va, Puta!" "¡Chíngenles todos!" And other words along with many, many extended middle fingers---universal disapproval. The curse words are mere approximations, because my Spanish does not yet reach the fluency level required for thoughtful and heartfelt cursing.

After the game, we stopped at a street cart for really yummy tortillas; barbecued beef slices, guacamole, fresh tomato and lettuce or cabbage salad, around which we wrapped fresh, piping hot corn tortillas. Yeah, yeah, fresh veggies at a street vendor are risky,  but Salva showed no hesitance, so, following his lead, I pitched in and gobbled mine down in my usual record time (it is now 1740, and no adverse affects yet). Friday I accepted a glass of delicious strawberry punch at one of the poorest houses which we delivered bunk beds to, and held my breath, but it seems that at least up to now, my Gringo estomago is withstanding any ravaging ecoli. 

Mary and Salva have gone to 6:00 Mass, and will stop by after to pick me up for a walk to Doña Luisa for an evening snack. 

4:46 pm mst 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Speaking of Haircuts...

Today, around 0900, José arrived to cut the boys' hair. They were pretty excited, and he had a large selection of hairstyles pictured on his cell phone. He let the boys sort through them to decide what cut they favored, and then he set to work.

I don't know if he was there as a charitable barber, or if he was paid by the foundation, but he toiled away for over three hours, and gave each niño careful and undivided attention, as though they were important clients. He cut, shaved, shaped, primped and pampered. After each cut, he blew the cuttings out of their hair and clothes, applied pomade (the style here is sort of spiked without being extreme), and powder.

Some of them had sideburns squared off, and others, depending upon their choice of cuts, tapered to a fine point. He treated these kids like paying customers and was calm and controlled, even with the two or three little ones who were terrified of the clippers and the feel of the straight razor against their skin. He was gentle, kind and understanding.

After the boys, he did me, for which I paid him---the charge---Q15! That's between $2.00 and $2.95! I tipped him another Q20. He did a good job on me as well, trimming all needed areas---mustache, eyebrows, Etc.

The kids were thrilled with their cuts, and we told them they were different people afterwards.

Around 1245 I said my goodbyes to Debbie and Phil, the couple from Delaware, along with their son Christian, and made my way back to Antigua and lunch at the house. They will be leaving Hogar Patricia to spend a week or so with Guatemalan friends in Guate before heading for home.

Afterwards, a stop to see Antonio at the hospital  (Obras Sociales de Hermano Pedro---Google it for more information), and a short chat. I offered to take him for coffee again tomorrow (Saturday), but he allowed as maybe not, as the last visit there was a bit taxing, causing him loss of breath and a pounding heart, so we agreed that I would stop by at the same time as today, and we would have time for a longer chat.

Then, off to Spanish lesson at 1500, home at 1615, and ready for the weekend---BIG fútbol game on Sunday for the championship. Antigua has to score two goals, or win by one goal. If they score two, apparently they do not have to win. They are playing Guastatoria again, the team that beat them 2-1 on Thursday. It should be a real thrillah, and Salva says we will leave the house at 0800 so as to get there in time to get good seats. At a brisk walk, it is about 30 minutes to the stadium. I expect that the line will already have formed, so let's figure 30 minutes in line: 0900. Game starts at 1100. Has every indication of being a long day.

Salva somehow picked up tickets for face value---Q80 (about $10.00) Scalpers will be all over the place, and I hesitate to find out how much they are going to get.  

7:48 pm mst 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Day-by-day

Yesterday I took Antonio for a haircut. He wanted it before I took his picture. The barbershop was a little far for him to walk, so we took a tuk-tuk. That is a three-wheel motorcycle (two in back, one in front), with a cloth enclosure, complete with side curtains. It is a cheap if rough way to wend through the cobbled streets of Antigua when one is not disposed to Shank's Mare. Now there is a term that is dating! Said haircut took all of seven minutes, and cost a grand total of Q30 (about $4.00US). Guess I'll have to get one before I leave.

Today, there was a big delivery of bunk beds to poor people. The Patricia Orphanage has been receiving and storing these very nice beds, complete with springs and mattresses all along, and I got a chance to go along today. We went in Lesley's nice Toyota Van, ten or so of us, mixed between adults and niños. We drove first to Lesly's gated community to pick up her two kids, then another hour or so to San Jose Piñula, a suburb of Guatemala City. This was out in the sticks, and we stopped at another orphanage, also privately run, to pick up the beds. It was a beautiful site, with a large lawn and several new and modern buildings. It looks very well funded and staffed, with a large contingent of volunteers, mostly from the US.

We followed a loaded pickup to the delivery site and pitched in, unloading and then hammering together the bunks in the various houses chosen as recipients. Now, these were beyond "modest." Very crude buildings,mostly open to the out of doors except for roof. They did appear to have running water and electricity, but no plumbed bathrooms were seen. I do not know if they rely on outhouses, or if there are plumbed toilets. The last one we went to had dirt floors.

Many children were around, and the women (no men around, I presume they were out earning a living), mothers, aunties, and grandmothers, were most appreciative. The beds are quite nice, but the fitting of the springs to the head and foot boards was not exactly finely finished, and a good amount of pounding with hammers was required. This was definitely a case where "get a bigger hammer" applied.

I think that the organization supporting Patricia gets the money for these beds. Since I came, there have been several deliveries to and from.  I estimate that fifty or sixty bunks have come and gone in the last seven weeks, so I presume that they are finding good homes. 

But, the work took most of the day, and I missed my lunch at Casa Mary, my 3:00 Spanish lesson, and a date with Sandra and her family to go to San Juan, where they live, and distriburt Christmas packages to poor kids there. This bed business was worth it. Oh yes, and I got another blister hammering beds together.

On the way back, Lesley treated everyone to late lunch at---wait for it---McDonald's! In my best Spanish, I thanked her for the lunch, a "typical Guatemaltan lunch." 

It was a very nice day. 

8:44 pm mst 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Some Very Nice People

Yesterday, Monday, when I arrived at Hogar de Patricia, there was a couple there from Delaware, along with their nine-year-old son. They have been to Guatemala several times, and acquired their adopted son, Christian here when he was just nine months old. Unfortunately, none of them speak any Spanish, a situation I find most unfortunate in that Guatemala is his heritage. But, it is difficult when living in the USA, raising a child as an American, with little incentive or opportunity to learn a foreign language.

They first came here eight or nine years ago with a Christian mission, working in some medical setting, assisting with patients in some way. They are very nice people, and we got on quite well. When Debbie asked me my religion, there was quite a shocked look on her face when I told her that I am an atheist. She had trouble accepting that, and gave me the usual Christian pitch about how I might be living a good enough life, but the hereafter would be closed to me without accepting Jesus. As politely as possible, I told her that I had given it serious consideration for many years, and this is my conclusion, and will remain so until someone or something presents me with solid evidence contrary to my un-belief.

Today, arrived another couple, these were Guatemalans, friends of the couple from Delaware. We had a pleasant conversation, getting to know one another, and they flattering me with my "buen español."

Then things turned to religion. The gentleman is a pastor in some Protestant denomination---a former Catholic, of course, being a Guatemalteco.  But on one singular occasion, he had what I can best describe as an epiphany, and "saw the light." He became a member of that religion, and has apparently been ordained a minister. Asked my religion, once again I caught the shocked look of disbelief---not unlike my American acquaintances when they find out the awful truth regarding my apostasy. 

This was my first experience of receiving the "hard press" in Spanish. I didn't get it all, missing a few phrases, but the gist is pretty much the same as in English. I am doomed if I don't accept Jesus. I told the gentleman that I have lots of doubts about a lot of things. He, when asked, said that he had absolutely no doubt that not only does God exist, but that there is a reward awaiting him at the end of this current life. He said, again when queried, that nothing would ever change his mind.

I told him that I await solid evidence that God does exist, and should it be made available to me, I am ready to change my mind. I need evidence.

These are all very nice people. I would not insult them in any way. Their faith is pure and unshakeable, and I am not interested in changing peoples' minds even if it were within my power---it is not. I have never convinced anyone to change their mind about anything.

However, were it possible to do so without offending anyone, readers of this blabber included, I would offer this: Only a fool has no doubts. Only a fool is so certain that NOTHING will change his/her mind.

And I must put myself in that class, as I am sure of one thing: I am going to die. Nothing contrary will change my mind on this. As to afterlife, who knows? I surely do not, and neither do you. 

Oh, yes, before I left for the day, the pastor said, in accented English, "You are a very good person." 

8:16 pm mst 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

¡GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!

Thanks to William's connections, he got us four tickets at face value to today's semi-semi-final; Antigua against some team from Guate---they were the ones in the yellow jerseys, the ones roundly and soundly booed when they took the field.

We left the house shortly after 0900, the four of us: William, Salva, Maurice and me. We trudged through town to the soccer stadium. A line a mile long awaited. We entered, and stood there, inching forward toward the two (2) entrance gates, where everyone was perfunctorily checked for guns, knives, bombs, drugs, poisons, had their boletos (tickets) checked, and entered the stadium, already---now 10:55---nearly full. An hour and a half in line.

We found seats at the far end, near the Antigua goal, and gently simmered in the sun waiting for the kickoff (whatever). The place was jammed, and the noise incredible. Horns, drums, screaming, yelling, green smoke (signifying Antigua's team color), bedlam!

And then the teams entered. There may have been loudspeaker announcements, but who could hear? Bedlam became BEDLAM. So, it began, and the heat crept upward. Sitting there on concrete seats (steps), fully in the sun, I was glad I had worn long sleeves and the ¡Yo Apoyo Antigua Cien por ciento! (I support Antigua 100 %) brimmed hat Salva had bought me at the previous game. We were not in the best place to watch most of the action, low on the tier, so that people on the next level down, striving to see over the people passing at ground level and standing most of the time blocked even more of our view unless we too stood, thereby blocking a couple of rows behind.

Up, down, up, down, most of morning, striving to see the field of play, shouting when the crowd shouted, and outraged when our team got penalized for fouls.

Half-time, and no score. Then, forty minutes into the second half, a header into the net by a green jersey clinched it for Antigua with the first and as it turned out, only goal in the game.

¡Antigua ganó! The wild crowd went wild.The home team won, and their place in the semi-final next week is secure. By some arcane calculation, they do not have to win either of the remaining games, but have to score as high as possible. Apparently, as near as I can tell, having had it explained in Spanish mixed with some English, is that the championship will be determined by total goals scored either in the playoffs or for the season. It all escaped my ken. And a very good time was had by all (Antigua supporters). 

We get to do this again in another ten days or so. Maybe it will rain this time. 

5:05 pm mst 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Pleasant Day

Spent the AM in a one-on-one Spanish lesson with Mary's Sister, Sandra. Three hours of conversation, exercises, and corrected grammar. She is a good teacher, very gentle with the corrections, the better to bolster my bruised ego.

Then, lunch, just the four males. Salva, Maurice, Ambrosio (an Italian gent whom I had met several weeks earlier when he stayed here) and me. Ambrosio is just back from a side trip to Huehuetenango, and is leaving for his  home in Verona on Monday.

Then it was off to the hospital/care center to meet with Don Antonio and walk the two or three blocks to Doña Luisa Restaurante for some conversation and repast. Tono has some difficulty walking, and he took my right arm, his cane in his right hand tap-tapping along the sidewalk and cobbled street surface like beginning telegrapher. Tap-tap, pause, taptap, tap, pause, tap-tap, along the street, sending a metallic note along ahead, telling of our coming.

We paused after a block or so, as he was working hard, shuffling along hesitantly even though I was there to warn of craters and other impediments along the way. We both noted that we were certainly not in a hurry, and had plenty of time to enjoy the walk and the pleasant day, bright with warming sunshine, but not hot enough to be uncomfortable.

We made it to Doña L. in pretty good time, found a small table alongside a tall palm in the central atrium, and ordered: a Coca Cola for Don Tono and iced tea for self. He prefers Coke over Pepsi, and says that he can tell the difference, because Coke is a bit sweeter. He then had a grilled ham and cheese sandwich---it looked delicious----I abstained, still full from the bachelor lunch of chiles rellenos, fresh vegetable salad, tortillas, wieners (no, not spelled weiner!) and the nearly ever-present guacamole---very good spread on a Guatemalan corn tortilla.

We had a nice chat, and I was either able to understand it all from Don T or get it when he repeated, slowly and with careful enunciation. Progress? Maybe sí, maybe no.

For dessert we had coffee (con leche for him, negro for me) and shared a piece of tasty carrot cake. 

Back at the entrance to the hospital, we waited a few minutes for the Saint Guadelupe procession to pass, with a phalanx of children clad in white coverlets, something like worn in choirs, a catafalque of the Saint herself, carried by eight or so sturdy shoulders, and followed by a brass band playing dirges of some sort. The procession is held annually, on December 12th, I am told, to honor The Virgin of Guadaloupe, who had a vision (I think I have this right) in Mexico a couple of centuries ago. It is a much bigger event in Mexico, of course. A large group of worshippers and believers came with the pageant, streaming along the sidewalks on either side of the street. I did my best to describe for Tono what I saw. Inadequate, but my best effort.

So it was a charming day. Did I mention that Tono has lived there for 23 years? I sneaked a picture with my cellphone while we were watching the procession, and will try to post it here later.

Ciao for now... 

9:05 pm mst 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Woodsman, (don't) Spare That Tree

I actually put in some work today. Around 10 AM, out back, there was Wendy, the day boss and the cook (cannot recall her name), each with axes, working at splitting a log about five feet long and four or five inches in diameter. It looked like an old fence post---very dry and very hard, with several nails still protruding. 

Of course I had to swing into action, taking the cook's axe and starting to chop away. Wendy and I kept at it for a quarter of an hour or so, but then other priorities took her away, and I stayed at it for another three quarters of an hour, whittling away, bit by bit until I finally hacked it into small enough pieces to use on the outside grill where the tortilla lady hand forms and cooks tortillas nearly every day. The grill is large enough to handle eight or ten at a time, and I think cooking them over an open fire probably gives them a better flavor.

By the way, I did manage to work up several blisters, as my hands are soft as a baby's from years of no workee. I expect that by tomorrow I will have stiff shoulders and arms. 

As noted earlier, Guatemalan tortillas are smaller in diameter and thicker than Mexican ones, about three inches in diameter, the size of a large drink coaster. Here they use corn meal almost exclusively, which suits me, as I much prefer corn torts over wheat. Mexicans often use a tortilla press to get theirs evenly thin and perfectly round. Here, it is very common to hear the slap, slap slap of a woman (almost always a woman) forming and flattening tortillas. They pat them repeatedly until they are the right size, shape and thickness. They are then cooked, either in a pan or on a griddle. In the case here, they are laid on an open grill. They come out toasted a bit, piping hot, wrapped in a cloth to keep them warm, and are used by folding in half and filling with guacamole, beans, greens, soft fresh cheese or whatever else is handy.  They also are used for wiping a bowl clean and popping the results into the mouth. Sometimes the diners tear them in half or thirds and use them as we might use bread. They are quite tasty.

After lunch at Casa Mary, I walked down to the hospital for a few minutes chat with Don Antonio. We decided to do coffee tomorrow afternoon at around 2:30, and went to the ward supervisor for a permit to leave, easily enough obtained.

Before I left, I asked Tono if I could take his picture, but he begged off, saying that it would be better to wait until next Wednesday, after he has a haircut. I was somewhat amused that a blind man, sixty-seven years old, would still want to look his best for a photo. He is always quite nattily dressed, with a pressed dress shirt, nice trousers, and polished shoes. He wears a ball cap most of the time, but on occasions when he removes it to wipe his brow I am surprised to see a thick head of salt-and-pepper hair. I should have such a healthy head of hair!  I rather imagine that Tono cut a pretty wide swath with the mujeres back in his day---maybe even now!

Ahhh, the weekend! I am appreciating how much 9-to-5 people look forward to that two day break. 

7:52 pm mst 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The End Is Near...

Tomorrow makes it just two working weeks to go. I am going to have mixed emotions about packing it all in, as the children at Hogar de Patricia are engaging, to say the least. As I have said repeatedly, I don't do much, but I guess my presence as a foreigner and a male as well, gives them a little different aspect on what the world outside their four walls might be like. I still don't understand much of what they say to me, and I am sure that my mangled Spanish leaves even the toddlers wondering what kind of strange things this ancient old person might possibly mean.

Often, I just sit and hold one or two of them for awhile, until their normal impulses have them charging off to some other point of interest. They seem to long for someone to just hug them and show them some silent attention, though often they are quite interested in my moustache, which hold their attention a bit.

I have been seeing Antonio Ramirez for a few minutes every afternoon. We have a short chat right after lunch, and since my Spanish lesson is at 3:00, I have to slip away by 2:30. He almost always thanks me for stopping by, and is quite helpful in assisting me with Spanish phrases and construction. I still haven't been able to find time to take him to coffee, and now that time is running out, I have to find a way to make it work. We tentatively have it set for Saturday afternoon this week.

Even though the Chicken Bus is routine, this afternoon I managed to catch the wrong one---again. I thought the sign said "Guatemala-Antigua," but evidentally it didn't, because we sped right on past the cloverleaf exit to the Antigua Highway, and I struggled to the front to get off ASAP. The walk back to the right highway wasn't more than a kilometer or so, and what the hell, I still can use the exercise.

Thirty for today... 

7:46 pm mst 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Little Bit of America...

After my daily Spanish class; this week from 1500 to 1600, William took Maurice and me to Guate, shopping. I remembered this from before. We drove into a huge (full) parking lot. Things began to look familiar, not just remembering my previous trips here, but also remembering similar scenes in just about anyplace in the USA that I have been recently. We parked after some waiting---right in front of our first target; PriceSmart. That's right, PriceSmart, in English. People with carts full were exiting, while others eagerly stormed the entrance.

Instant transformation from Guatemala to the good old US of A. CostCo by a different label! Other than occasional signs in Spanish, it was CostCo exactly, to the aisles loaded with mega-sizes, sales on this and that, variety as wide as the US counterpart, and checkout exactly the same.

William used his membership and credit card to pay for the ten or twelve large boxes of diapers we bought, since he got a discount as a PriceSmart member. The main difference being that Costco does not accept credit cards, only cash or debit cards. We also bought three cartons of baby wipes, all of this for the Hogar De El Amor de Patricia.

After, we re-parked in underground parking, just like home, and went inside to another instant transformation into Miraflores Mercado Comerciál, a clone of just about any up-scale shopping mall you have ever seen in the USA. Hugo Boss, Perry Ellis, Levi, Samsung, Coty, all of the big names seen in high end shopping areas at home. Polished tile or marble floors, glittering shops, bright lights, escalators whizzing happy shoppers up and down and around. It was very familiar, indeed.

So we spent a couple of hour doing a little Christmas buying---a present for Mary and one for Salva, a bottle of a  liqueur similar to Bailey's Cream for William.

Then off to the orphanage to deliver. We were greeted warmly, as I had expected, and a  good time was had by William and Maurice, meeting Wendy, Margarita, and those niños still up, which were most of the walkers. W and M were quite impressed with the operation and the children. I am quite glad that they got to stop by and meet  the group.

Stopped at Frida's Mexican restaurant in Antigua, on 5th Avenue for a very, very nice combination Mexican dinner with real Mexican tortillas, guacamole, tomate con cebollas, spice and very spicy salsa, chicken, pork, beef, and  what appeared to be ground beef or (maybe) lamb. All the trimmings, a beer for Maurice, and some kind of drink for William, non-alcohol I think. Mineral water for me,  and the whole thing was only 323Q, or about $50. Not bad for three hungry chaps. And Antigua is higher priced than just about anywhere else in Guatemala.

All in all, it was a very good excursion to the big city. Traffic was still a  bit heavy on the return, at least until we cleared Guate proper. Great evening, thanks to William. He got us discounts on just  about everything, showed us around, and was a most excellent guide. 

9:32 pm mst 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pearl Harbor Day

Happy Pearl Harbor Day! Wait. That is not appropriate.

How about: Remember Pearl Harbor! I remember that slogan well. My memory of exactly where I was or what I was doing when I heard is pretty vague, but give me a break, I was only seven-going-on-eight. I remember that no one really knew what or where Pearl Harbor was. It was a beginning of a great geography awakening for Americans. They (we) were soon to know the locations of many places: Clark Field, Manila, Guam, Wake Island, Guadalcanal, El Alamein, Libya, Tobruk, The Crimea, Midway, Pelelieu, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Saipan, Stalingrad, Dieppe, Normandy, Dunkirk, Sicily, Monte Casino, and many, many more.

We lived in Seaside, Oregon, and a day or two after the debacle at Pearl, the Japanese allegedly shelled the Oregon Coast up around Gearhart from a submarine. We lived in a house about 1/2 block from the Prom (the promenade), which was a concrete sidewalk atop a retaining wall that ran from the turnaround in downtown Seaside for some distance up and down the coast. Chuck and Anne (I was in that phase, where I called my folks by their first names) woke me up at some late hour, and we watched from the front porch, where we could see the muzzle flashes from the deck gun on the sub (if it was really that). Unfortunately, I remembered and still do not remember anything of it. Guess I was still asleep, because it did not register and all I do recall is my mother telling me about it.

A blackout had been immediately ordered, and the prom and all lights of town were doused. People even had to be careful to turn the inside lights out before opening the front door, because "Wardens" were appointed to make rounds and chastise or possible do worse to people who let the slightest sliver of light peep out.

There was very much fear in the air, that the Japanese were going to land troops on our shores. My father worked as a dental technician for a dentist in town. Dr. Fouts had some cabins right on the beach that he had rented out to tourists and others from Portland. He was in one of these one night not long after the attack at Pearl, and early one morning, well before dawn, he heard something above the noise of the surf. He threw open his front door, flooding the beach, some fifty or a hundred feet away, and saw what he at first thought were soldiers wading ashore in the pitch black.

Turned out they were Christmas trees being washed ashore, covered with crude oil. A freighter, bound for  Hawaii, had turned back at news that we were at war, and missed the mouth of the Columbia by about five miles, ran aground, and was breaking up several hundred yards offshore.

I vividly remember the next day. It must have been a Sunday, because there were thousands of people, driving and walking up and down the beaches, with the ship in the background, plucking newly found treasures from the pounding surf. All kinds of things were washed ashore, such as crates of dressed turkeys, crates of butter, condiments, crates of jewelry such as watches, even a couple of cars, stranded in the surf just beyond reach.

Of course, just about everything was coated with the thick oil that had powered the boilers of the steamer, and most of the treasures were fools gold, because of the exposure to that and to the seawater.

Several cars became stuck in the sand and added to the debris and losses from the ship. It was quite a sight, one that stays with me today, albeit somewhat faded by the years and the quirks of memory, which often embroider reality and make a good story, if not better, less accurate.

My father, too old and with a health issue could not get into any military organization, probably the biggest disappointment of his life. He was cursed with the only service he could get, and that was as a Civil Air Patrol observer, standing watch on a building roof in downtown Seaside several weekends  for months, looking for Japanese bombers. I remember the silhouette posters of all the known aircraft, friendly and enemy, and stood several watches with him on cold and dark Sunday mornings. Most of the planes we saw were Lockheed Hudsons, a two engined very light bomber/patrol plane that never saw much real action.

It was all part of the war effort. Part of the effort to involve all citizens in the good fight, and to make sure that everyone was in some small way, helping "Defeat the Japs," Crush the Huns," and other more offensive slogans.

We had rationing, paper drives, tinfoil collections, gas stickers of varying influence to buy fuel, and of course a spate of movies designed to ignite patriotism and get everyone into the fray.

It all worked. We won.

So, Remember Pearl Harbor! The day that will "live in infamy" according to FDR.

But it passed today with barely a notice. Remember indeed! How long will it be before we forget 9-11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kabul, Mosul, Bagdhad, and all the rest? 

8:37 pm mst 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Just a Quickie

Running late this evening. Bedtime. 

But first, this short report.

Had a very nice weekend. Saturday afternoon went to the giant Mercado Central, down across Sta Lucia Blvd.

If you have never been to a Latino or Asian outdoor market, you have missed a great experience. Maurice, the young German went along for his first look. These places have just about anything you could want, and the prices are not high, compared to the 5th Avenue shops in Antigua.

We saw every kind of toy, trinket, hat, coat, T-shirt, electronic device, including watches, cell phones, laptops,  radios, all of  everything that you could imagine. Then there are the food stalls: great produce, vegetables, verduras, frutas, meats, chickens, pork, beef, unrecognizables, pig heads, complete with ears and eyeballs, grains, rice, legumes, the whole shebang. Avocados are dirt cheap---about 3Q for a large one---papaya, mango, nispero (a yummie tree fruit, sort of like a lychee only different), squashes of many types and I presume, flavors.  Yes, a veritable cornucopia of goodies. Once inside (it  is not all out of doors), one  quickly becomes lost, wandering through the aisles gawking left and right, pausing now and then to inquire the name of an object, just as quickly fogotten. But, sooner or later, outside sunlight points to an exit, and you take  your leave, your senses alive with recent sights and smells.

I recall when Sweetie and I took my daughter to a similar market in Guadalajara years ago---can it have been that long ago?---she was just thirteen or so, and quite self-conscious about her rapidly developing body, and as we wound our way through the maze of tunneled aisles, she felt like an eye-magnet. Everyone was seemingly staring at her, and when we lurched through the fresh meat area, the bloody carcasses,  hanging chickens, reeking fish trays, and the unmistakeable aroma of fresh blood just about did her in. Mexico was, at that age, not a delight!

The trip was not an unqualified success. Maybe later recollection was more pleasant for her, and maturation  did bring her to a  new appreciation of exotic cultures, sounds, and sensory perceptions.

The head nods, the eyes droop. I'm off to sleepy-time. 

9:50 pm mst 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

NRA, Gun Crazies Vs The Rest Of Us

OK, so the NRA plays the pipe and mis-guided gunzies plus majorities in both houses of congress dance to the tune.

So, what can the rest of us do? Not one hell of a lot. If I belonged to the NRA, I could quit in protest, as one life-long member and lawmaker did just the other day.

Now there is an idea. It is said, and I do not verify the accuracy, that 70% of NRA rank-and-file members favor some kind of gun legislation. What if they cared enough to do something' about it, like resigning from the NRA?

Sure, the organization would continue to exist, supported financially by the gun and ammunition manufacturers and vendors, but the wind would go out of their sails (and maybe their sales), and they would be clearly marked for what they are: a powerful lobby that does not represent any kind of grass roots majority. Only Big Money and rabid gunzies would be supporting them, and their agenda would be much clearer to everyone.

Would this change Wayne LaPierre? No, nor would it end powerful gun lobbying. But it would put their agenda out in front, and their motives, along with the support of the gunzies would be started on the way to isolation from general attitudes vis a vis guns and the unbelievable slaughter that we in America allow to continue.

Do I want to see legislation like what happened in Australia, with the removal of most guns from citizens' hands? Most certainly not! Do I want to see the Second Amendment changed to eliminate the right of Americans to own guns? No again. I do want to see some legislation that mandates safe and responsible firearm ownership and operation, along with background checks on everyone who owns or buys a gun.

Will it stop gun death and misery? No, but it will reduce it. What we have now is beyond belief, yet it is right there among us, right around the corner. More blood and gore await our failure to act, however small or seemingly insignificant that act may be.

If you say or do nothing, you are part of the problem. You bear some guilt. 

7:52 pm mst 

For future use

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Our New Best Friend, TRES

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My Hero, Uncle Pete, two days short of his 90th birthday.

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Meet Mort--- Mortem "mors me cum equitat"
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The view from 50 feet up the mast
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The Old Guy At The Helm Of "OH MISS"
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Adventure Bound
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The Old Guy, Back Home Unscathed
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2005 BMW K1200LT, long gone to bike heaven
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"Der Klunkenschiffter" at age 4, 102,000 miles