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.

New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
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Sunday, November 29, 2015


We have had a show this evening, what with some brilliant activity from one of the local active volcanoes; Fuego by name (Fire). And fire it is this evening, with lots of brilliant sparks and hot material belching from the maw. Lava is flowing down one side, seeming to reach two-thirds of the way down the mountain.

I tried a few snapshots, both with the IPhone and the IPad, but it is too far, and the resolution not good enough for clear photos when expanded. Nevertheless, it is a pretty and fiery sight. Vesuvius or Pompei is isn't---at least not yet.

I am suffering one of my bouts with sinusitis. Woke up the last two mornings with a sore throat and a whiskey tenor voice, worse this morning. It will run its course in a week or so, but in the meantime, I am sniffling around, blowing the reddening nose, and issuing occasional coughs and sputterings.

Tomorrow, back to work. I'm hoping fútbol is on the agenda. Makes for a quicker day.

The weather is quite nice. About 65 to 70 during the day, with nights and early mornings around 50 degrees. Loverly! 

6:52 pm mst          Comments

Friday, November 27, 2015

Wash Day

The last day of my fourth week flew by. I spent it hanging clothes. There was a mountain of wet wash, and Margarita asked me to hang it. They do have an electric dryer here, but I am not sure that it works, and besides, with the high electric costs, it is much better to just hang it all. Have I mentioned that Guatemala privatised the electric generation years ago. Same for water---you cannot drink it. It too, is expensive.

Speaking of expense, today I read an ad for groceries that showed carne asada at over $7.50/Lb, USD. They are also starting to use "Black Friday" as a marketing gimmick, just like home. Sell, sell, sell. Don't have the cash? Put it on your shiny new credit card. 

So, there I was, happily hanging clothes of all kinds, tiny socks, knit hats, wee little jeans, dresses, blankets, pillows, sheets, baby bibs, all manner of baby clothes, teensy T-shirts, coats, vests, towels, the whole shebang. It did remind me of my mother and her clothes lines, except she used those old-fashioned wooden clothes pins. Here they are not in evidence, and the tias often hang the most precarious items by wedging them between the strands of the woven rope (plastic) lines. When they run out of line, they spread a blanket on the grass and strew things out across it.

Then comes a rainstorm, and there is much scurrying to get things out of the wet and under the open terrace, roofed but wall-less. No rain today, so by the time I left at least the thinner garmenst and sheets had driec enough to do some folding. For Ruth---I wish I had paid better attention to your efforts to teach me how to fold fitted bottom sheets. Mine wind up in a sort of a wad.

So, it was to-go time before I knew it, and I wedged myself aboard a very full chicken bus and stood for the twenty minute very wild ride by a very rough driver. His right foot must have had a tic, because his braking was rough and jerky. Reminded of some pilots I have ridden with...

Got to a bank and withdrew some Quetzales on my credit card, as I need to get my room and board paid and done with. It was easier than I remembered, and my rehearsed speech seemed to work well enough so that I got the requested amount fairly quickly, although the young lady who assisted me took pains to write down the amount after I asked for it in plain Spanish. She wrote the figure down, passed it to me, and said, "Correct?" So much for clear enunciation and diction.

After dinner, I helped Mary dry dishes. Hadn't done that since I was a kid either. 

Thirty for now... 

9:07 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Here, it was just another day at the office.

Spent the AM folding clothes, hanging wet ones, moving furniture, and playing a game of fútbol with a couple  of 7 year-olds on the grounds within the orphanage walls. Tiring for an old geezer!

When I arrived, shortly before 0900, Wendy, the over-all daily OIC (officer-in-charge to you civilians), was about to launch a sack race with the kids. She challenged me, and how could I refuse? She is built like an NFL line-backer, and had me whipped from the starting gun. The "course" was the two concrete automobile tracks that lead from the front gate to the patio---about 150 to 200 feet. She met me coming back, I ran out of gas on the back-stretch and had to walk to the finish, panting like I had just finished a marathon. Got to do something to get into some  kind of condition! Whew!

I had lunch  with the kiddies, and got back to Casa Mary at 1320. Juana, the maid/cook informed me that my new abode was ready, I made haste to get settled. I had only been in the room a couple of times, years ago, and had forgotten just how nice it really is. It is a large BR en suite, and the bath (nice tub/shower) has a low-boy, oval commode almost a dupe of the one we have at home. A tiled interior, with a very nice sink washbasin and WOW! HOT WATER at the tap! Finally a shave with hot water!

The apartment floor is Mexican-style (Saltillo), but glazed and laid in diamond pattern with square borders. It has nice armoire, desk, television, WiFi, and large french-like 7 foot high windows opening onto a view of tiled roofs and distant greenery.

I am sorry Hilde has left us, but this apartment is veddy nice! I did promise again to see Tono often and have conversations with him.

After dinner, William (Suardo) Mary and Salva's son came in and told us of his new mini-van. He made the deal today, right at the deadline before his $10K price reduction disappeared. He took me to his garage next door, that he rents from the neighbor, and showed me the car he has sold to his uncle as partial payment on the new Hyundai van he ordered. The sold one is a '77 Datsun pickup. He has fully restored it, over 4 years---new paint, brand new engine, new wiring throughout, even new rubber at the windshield and windows. It is in beautiful shape, including a working dashboard clock. He sold it to his uncle for $8KUSD, and I think the uncle got a great deal.

Wm will use the new rig for his tour guide business, and it is bound to provide his clients with first-class transportation. The van is air-conditioned, diesel powered, auto tranny, fog lights, electric windows, the works. Heretofore, he had rented at $125/day, and it makes sense that he bought this van, as it cost around $35K USD, and the interest is only about $800/year. He can make that back easily over the year, and his business should bring him some increases in revenue and gross profit. 

Oh, yes. Jackie, one of the tias at Patricia told me yesterday that a bus driver on her bus route---San Fernando to Antigua, was shot by an extortionist gang yesterday because he would not pay their demands. The other drivers went on strike out of fear (no kidding!) and that the line was shut down.

Today, we happened to take the same bus from Antigua to San Lucas, and she said that TWO were shot and killed yesterday; the driver and his helper (on his first day of work at his new job), and that the gang has so far escaped capture. She is pretty sure they came in from Guate. I did not watch the news last night, but I doubt there was much notice.  I am told that if it is not someone important, it does not rise to the level of "news."

Maybe William is right to be packing heat...

Did I mention that the penalty  for packing without a license is 25 years in prison? 

8:04 pm mst          Comments

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Antigua Wins! NOT

No the home team did not win, but neither did they lose. They fought the bad guys from Guate to a 0-0 tie, and thereby apparently are not out of the running.

The game was a grand affair, with a nearly full stadium, and lots of support for the Verde (green). Los rojos (the red) had a man ejected mid-way through the first half, apparently for unsportsmanlike conduct. He argued about a call---one yellow card. Then he either pushed, punched or threatened a referee, and that was the second yellow and therefore a red and expulsion. So the baddies hung on for a tie with only 10 men on the pitch. Antigua just could not put one into the cage, although they came quite close on several, and did bag one which was denied because of some obscure (to me) infraction.

I imagine the stadium holds around ten thousand, and was nearly full. We had a very good time, booing the Rojos, the referees, and in general living it up. Salva bought a couple of "I support Antigua" floppy-brim hats, and I proudly sported one for the whole game. Later, on the way out, Maurice bought a long-sleeved Antigua team jersey, purple color. I wanted one in the team color, green, but they didn't have a Medium size. Maybe tomorrow I can find an authentic on in town. Q200 ($26.00). A bit pricey, but nice material and good woven-in quality, but sprinkled with adverts.

Dinner tonight was a nice get-together, with Hilde, Lorna, Salva, Mary, Maurice, Ralph and me. I may not have mentioned Ralph, another German. He was here the first week I was in town, but left for a week to stay with another family in San Pedro, not far. He is a man about 60, a former teacher. He is fairly fluent in Spanish, and of course, English. He has some experience in teaching English in Latin America---here, Ecuador and Cuba. He and Hilde are leaving tomorrow, so they got special dinner of traditional tamale, which I think I mentioned earlier. They are very tasty. Mary says they are the traditional Christmas dish, and in earlier days, they ate tamale as a regular fare. I look forward to having more of them as La Navidad approaches.

Hilde said that my new best friend, Antonio Ramirez, was very sad that she was leaving, and she asked me to stop by the hospital often and to talk to him and take him to coffee or maybe even Pollo Campero for some fried chicken, Guatemalteco style. I promised. 

8:00 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A New Level

Today is a bit of a segue. 

What kind of a country do I come from? The Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave ain't what it used to be, or what I used to think it was.

We now have people at the level of presidential candidates who fit the very definition of demagogue. They play on aroused fears and repressed hatreds, advocating no Muslim should be president, Muslims should be prohibited from entering the country, only Christians from the MidEast should be considered for entry, Muslims---Muslim Americans should have to register, and every site that promotes anything I do not like should be restricted.

What is this, Nazi Germany redux? WTF is going on that so many Americans are apparently going to vote for any candidate that promotes hatred. Trump said that the black man who voiced protest at one of his rallies and was beaten and choked "probably had it coming." This is the kind of obscenity that came from Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 30s and 40s. Yes, yes, it is all too often that comparisons with or references to Hitler and his gang are used, but this is difficult to ignore. Thuggery was rife in Germany in the thirties, and thuggery seems to be part of the bigotry and hatred that surround the candidacy of just about every Republican in the race that has the slightest chance of being the nominee.

I barely recognize my country anymore. We continue to sink further and further into a morass of immorality and raw hatred, fueled as referenced above, by fear. What happened to the "...home of the brave" part? Brave? I think not. We Americans are afraid of just about everything: AIDS, Ebola, terrorism (especially from "them Ayrabs"---not so much from the home-grown kind), innoculations, socialism, "Big Gummint", black youth, marijuana, drugs, GMOs, China, Russia, ISIL (IS, Daesh, whatever), Iran, crime (on the decrease, BTW), lawyers (unless we need one), science, secular humanism, pediphiles, homosexuals (most pediphiles, BTW are NOT homosexual), Muslims, "somebody's going to take my guns", black helicoptors, IRS, too many regulations, speed control cameras, Mexican immigrants, Latino immigrants, just about any non-white Christian immigrant, home invasion, what did I miss? And how did we arrive at this sorry state? Could it have been media wall-to-wall 24 hour, 7 day bleating and whining, keeping us riled up over the latest horrible, bloody, murder, auto crash, disease outbreak, war, whatever is selling papers (who reads papers anymore---too much work), getting viewers (more like it, just pick up the remote and scroll through for the disaster of choice),

Yeah, we have reached another low level on the downhill slide. Our national morality is mirrored in our voting, our celebrity worship, and our "I've got mine, and you can go eff yourself" attitude. 

Stop the world, I want to get off. 

8:52 pm mst          Comments

Monday, November 23, 2015

...and a chicken in every pot

We were just about to leave for the football pitch when visitors arrived. They were Americans who had years before adopted children from Guatemala, and were back to sample some local culture, led by an American woman who has herself adopted a couple of children and who lives in Antigua part-time.

It turned out that one of them works for Delta---an office person, and he had started his airline career with Republic. Small world---his "Delta" T--shirt was the conversation starter.

A small army of helpers arrived soon after, with a moving van, and we shuttled aboard 32 brand new double bunks, spring frames, and mattresses, for distribution among underprivileged families around the area.

Then came lunch. I declined today, as I had a previous date at Casa Mary---one which I am very happy not to have missed, because they served Jacón, a rich stew of chicken and veggies in a steamy brown, seasoned sauce. ¡Que rico! as they say here. ¡Muy sabrosa! 

The orphanage lunch was a chicken-rice soup. I helped serve a few bowls, then paused to watch part of the contingent scarf down their fare. It was not David Copperfield. The soup looked quite good, but I was surprised to find a couple of bowls with---wait for it---a complete chicken foot---toenails (claws), skin, and all, right up to the knee-joint. A bit of a shock to see that thing lurking just beneath the murky surface. The two lucky recipients were happily gnawing on the remnants as I made my escape.

By the way, "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" was a campaign slogan during The Great Depression; the campaign of---Herbert Hoover. We may be getting back to the same state.


7:50 pm mst          Comments

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rainy Saturday

Up and at 'em at 0730 today. After breakfast, Hilde took Maurice and self to the hospital where she works as a volunteer. She has done this work when in Antigua for over about seven years. She is leaving this coming Thursday, and I will be sorry to see her go, except that I covet her room, and will get it as soon as she departs---mixed feelings!

So, this hospital is in a former church hospital, and for the present is a care facility for impaired persons of all ages. At the entrance she greeted Antonio, a man of indeterminate years, probably well past sixty. He was sitting near the entrance with his blind man's white cane, and at the sound of her voice he greeted her cheerily in good Spanish (as opposed to poor grammar street Spanish). She introduced us, and the four of us walked into the facility, with Antonio slowly shuffling along on what appears to be a stiff left leg. He is totally blind, one eye squinted fully closed, while the other, the right, is yellowed over without iris, lens or white.

Hilde took us around the different wards; for the older men, older women, boys, girls, the vegetative, the anxious, the wheel chair bound, the infants. Not different from many other like facilities the world over, except that these seemed to be quite well-cared for, considering the massive amounts of money and work involved in such an enterprise.

This facility was originally started by a Franciscan Priest who began with one-on-one works with street children and it gradually attracted some money support and has evolved into the current care hospital. Just walking through is both daunting and encouraging, because despite what appears to be hopelessness, there is care and caring. Example. Most of the residents are impaired and hence incontinent. Disposable diapers are much much too expensive, so they use the old-fashioned kind---the kind my then wife and I used with our two children over fifty years ago. Imagine the enormous amount of work and the compassion it must take to clean all of these over and over again. This place houses somewhere in the vicinity of 130 residents! Do your multiplication!

After the brief tour, we three went to a very nice little restaurant; La Luna de Miel (The honeymoon Restaurant) for crépes. Mmm! We all had savory rather than sweet.

Of course, it was drizzling most of the morning, and now at 1500, it is raining fairly hard. But, as is ometimes said here regarding the rain, "Yo no estoy hecho de azúcar" (I'm not made of sugar---I do not melt). But if if keeps up I am going to have to buy a brolly.

Just spoke with Hilde as she left for a massage. Antonio (Tono, or Toño) is 67. He was a campesino for years, then later he sold peanuts on the street and in the local mercado central. He was an alcoholic, and at one point fell through a window, injured himself somehow that resulted in slow deterioration of his sight and finally, complete blindness. He lived with friends for awhile (I think he said he has one son, but he never visits), and finally had to be put into some kind of rehab and finally to this place of respite.

He and I did have a lively conversation while Hilde and Maurice did some more touring of the place. Toño asked me what I used to do, asked all kinds of questions about what kinds of airplanes, how many passengers they carried, how much money I made, how much I make in retirement, how long I have been retired and so on.

As I conversed with him, he corrected my Spanish---I cannot say how much I appreciate this---and we had a grand time. Hilde says that he loves to talk and I can get permission to take him out for coffee sometimes, so I am definitely going to do it. Of course I have selfish motives, because it is improving my Spanish, but aside from that, I enjoy this man's conversation and company. He benefits from the attention and the interaction with someone other than fellow residents who very often are incapable of any social intercourse at all. 

One needn't come to Guatemala to learn this: Religious or not, thank the gods, your God or a lucky star that you arrived where you presently are in the condition you now "enjoy," and I do mean ENJOY.

Raining like mad at the moment. Dry season? Hah!

2:10 pm mst          Comments

Friday, November 20, 2015

Music That Soothest The Soul

The fin de semana, at last! But, today was football day, and the morning was happily spent watching the kiddies practice techniques and ending with a couple of games of fútbol. Then three-quarters of an hour with the girls and a Zumba class. I greatly fear that before this is over, the kiddies will be dragging this old form out to do some Zumba, and it will be a moment of humility as the kiddies, ranging from 4 to mid-teens, will very pointedly show me up. I might as well face up to it.

Last evening, four of us went to a band concert, held in what was once a monastery. I don't have the name at hand, but it was a large cavernous cathedral room, with high vaulted ceilings. The religious artifacts and trappings had been removed, and the acoustics were a bit wrong for a twenty-piece military band. They would have been much better off outside. But it was very nice. It consisted of trumpets, clarinets, trombones, flute, tubas, bass horn, French Horns, drums, Etc., Etc..

They opened with The William Tell Overture. It was great, given the location. Before the start of the music, several city dignitaries spoke, and Hilde told me that these guys have been robbing the treasury ever since they took office, but they have the nerve to stand in front of 150 or so citizens and spout encomiums about the band, their 46 year history, blah, blah, blah.

They did several other classical pieces, the names of which I do not know, being the ignorant, uneducated pilot that I am, and then there were some medlies, one of which was Christmas songs: Winter Wonderland, Silver Bells, of course, Jinglebells, Merry Christmas. I had never heard these done by a mostly brass band, and it was a bit startling if not quite loud. No matter, a good time was had by all, and a reception was held after---all free!

The band was all in dress uniforms, and the conductor was straight and proper. A diminuitive man, not more than 4'8", he was nevertheless quite imposing up there on the dais, moving his pointer authoritatively and wringing the utmost from his group. We all enjoyed it---Hilde, Maurice, Lorna (another guest, a Guatelmateca who has lived in the US for many years, and this old man.

Yes, even loud (but melodious) music does in deed soothe the soul... 

5:05 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Foot Fetishist

The morning at the office went well. Tia Jackie needed a bit of help in sizing childrens' feet for the next year's shoe order. They will apparently get them from the US via a charitable organization.

So we set about tracing 36 pair of footsies. We are suddenly at 36 tiny bodies, don't ask me how the count went from 23 to 36, but that's it now. We were to increase each foot measurement by one finger-width, to allow for future growth. I think I understood that the new shoe batch would be for two years. Of course, my wrinked old forefingers are considerably thicker than those of Tia Jackie. No matter, for my portion will have more room to grow.

We also tried to catalogue just how well current footwear fits and also the sizes of said shoes. The sizing, however, depends upon which country made the shoes. There are US sizes, UK sizes, European sizes, Korean sizes, Chinese sizes and Guatemalan sizes. Sometime a seven-year-old boy's shoe would be US size 2, whiie a little bit later a smaller boy might have on a pair of US sized shoes that read 12. Who knew? Neither of us did. We dutifully traced, sometimes one on a right foot and the other on the left. Results in this case might startle whomever ultimately looks at the tracings, because mine were inevitably larger.

Having fit the ambulatory, not without some screaming an wailing amongst the toddler group, we launched on  the  babies, not always an easy task, as it takes at least on to hold them in a stance whilst somehow keeping the tiny foot from wriggling around, throwing the tracer into wobbly and inaccurate measurement and leaving a shape more a Rorschach blob than that of a human foot.

Task completed, the clock neared 1300 Hrs, and i took my leave and bussed my way to Antigua and a lunch of Quiche (ham and cheese---tasty!) and a Blood Orange Pellegrino Soda.

HIked to the lavandería to pick my duds (Q35 for about 8 Lbs.= $4.55USD). Then Spanish class, now at 1500 with a new Teach---Margarit---and some more help with pronoun objects, direct and indirect. Then she had me read aloud a short story---about one typewritten page---by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. That will by my homework for tonight; to mark all of the direct and indirect object pronouns, identify the people in the story, describe them, and tell what was the outcome of the tale. She is strict! When mis-identifying a DO or ID, I got ¡NO! loud and emphatic. No fooling around with this maestra. I suddenly felt like nine-year-old in Catholic School, facing a nun holding a three-cornered ruler. Whew! Pressure! I fear tomorrow that my knuckles might suffer blows.

Later in the afternoon, Salva took Hilde and me to a nursery/restaurant for a snack and soft drink. He had to buy a couple  of pots for a cactus for his granddaughter, so we made a treat of it. I had been to this nursery before with him. I  think it is called "La Colonia." and very large, covering several acres, with  thousands of flowers, plants, trees, the whole shebang that makes up a full service nursery.

We had pie and soft drinks, and a nice conversation, most of which, the parts between Hilde and Salva, I understood little of, sadly. Words here and there, but usually a gist that goes shimmering away like a brisk breeze.

Every day, poco a poco. 


8:54 pm mst          Comments

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Good Day

Spent the morning watching the boys train and play fútbol. They have an interesting program, wherein young coaches lead the children in exerecises, run the field perimeter a few times, then do some ball control exercises, such as dribbling, maneuvering around traffic cones, footwork exercises, and finally, a football game. As there are enough kids for two games, they play two. The coaches seem very dedicated, and are helpful, especially to the barely-past-toddlers who are there to train and play. Several pairs of parents came to watch, typical of little league games back home. One couple brought lawn chairs to sit in, and also brought the family dog. BTW, I see a lot of dogs here, and most appear to be cared for. Pets (mascotas) are pretty popular. We have a pair of kittens that roam around the orphanage.

incidentally, there is a large  sign  directed at parents  advising them not to shout, curse the coaches, act badly,  and to behave them selves  so  it  looks  like parents  in  the  US  are  not unique in their  sometimes  overly  exhuberant  support  of their  children. 

So, during the event, one of the niños (boy) had to use the bathroom (#2), and neither of the two toilets on site had TP, so I trooped down a block or so to una tienda and bought a roll of "papel higénico"---2 Quetzales, or 26 cents US. I am good for something!

I left early again, as I had been invited to Sandra's house for lunch. Her oldest son, Marcello (20) picked me up at the Parque Central with his Suzuki 125 motorbike, and I clutched him 'round the waist as we cruised the 10 or so kilometers to the house. He was a pretty good motorcyclist, although I chided him for not wearing a helmet.

It has changed a lot since I was last there. They have a very nice inner garden, behind the walls and gate that separate them from the street. Their plot is probably 75 feet by 35 feet, with the house and rooms along the wall farthest from the street. The garden is filled with fruit and avocado trees---oranges, limes, and a sweet fruit about the size of a ping pong ball, the name of which escapes me (nipro?). It is quite sweet, and we ate several right off the tree before sitting down to lunch, which was delicious. She served chiles rellenos (stuffed green chiles), Guatemalan style, with rice and tortillas. Tortillas here are a bit different from what we are used to in the USA and Mexico. They are a bit thicker, and only about four inches in diameter. They are made from corn flour, which I much prefer over wheat flour. The food was very good, and i manged to cram in two helpings. It was followed by coffee, como te gusta (as you like it) and galletas (cookies). We had a very nice time, and I threw caution to the winds and conversed reasonably well in Spanish, with a few words of English to help Sandra and Marcello with their English. Sandy is a good maestra de español, and I think I will take some extra lessons from her on the weekends. I think we'll do a one hour lesson on Saturday and again on Sunday.

They have also added on a couple of new bedrooms, which they rent out to visiting Spanish Language Students. There is a language school there in San Juan, so they have access to them. Two young women, one from Germany and the other from Switzerland just departed yesterday. I think they were smitten with Marcello and he  with them, because Sandy told me the girls cried when they had to say adios. 

Marcello got me back to Maximo Nivel School just in time for my Spanish lesson, only to find out that the hour had been changed from 5 O'Clock to 3. My error. They sent me an email yesterday that I scan-read and missed that little morsel of information. 

Thus, as Kurt V. said "and so it goes..." 

8:07 pm mst          Comments

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mission Accomplished

At precisely 1100, Mary and Hilde appeared at my front door to sweep me away to Casa Mary. We made a clean escape, and after a quick stop at the supermercado, arrived at the house and I settled in. ¡Que bueno!

Mary and Salva's middle son, William, made lunch and a fine one it was. He is quite a cook. The routine here is that house guests get their meals five days a week, and breakfast on Saturday. Weekends are for family +Hilde and me. Quite a complement, and I greatly appreciate it. They have a regular cook during the week, but weekends are a family dining affair.

They have gone to great lengths to make me welcome, and William was most gracious in welcoming me, and said it was his great pleasure that I am staying here.

Lunch was lively and congenial, and they invited the young German to join in. Lots of banter and stories back and forth across and around the table, most of which I at least, and I think Maurice missed. I get words, but the gist is most often way over my head. Most discouraging. Hilde speaks Spanish like she was born here. Once in awhile I manage to bumble my way through a sentence or two, but that's about it.

The chicken bus passes up 7th Avenue on the way to Guate, about two blocks from the house, so my daily walks are cut a bit. I'll leave Hogar de Amor early tomorrow, as I have a lunch date with Sandra Mendoza and her family in San Juan, about 9 Clicks down the road. Her son Marcello is coming to the main plaza at 1300 to pick me up on his 125cc Moto. Should be fun!

 That's 30 for today...

8:57 pm mst          Comments

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Plop plop, fizz, fizz. Oh what a relief it is!

Whew! The deal is done. Tomorrow I'll be moving to La Casa Mary, and will be with my old friends Salva (Salvador) and Mary Lopez, where the food is very good, the friendships are better, and where they are more than eager to help with my Spanish struggles. They are very quick but kind to correct my most egregious errors. The scarcely can correct all of them, or I would be stopped at every other word, so the let the least of them pass and concentrate on the more serious ones, like the time I mistook an umbrella for a windshield. The word for umbrella is "paragua," the word for windshield is "parabrisa." I used it in Costa Rica once, and the respondent looked at me like I had lost my mind. I told him that I had left my windshield in my room.

So, things are looking up. I lunched with the Lopez today, and had quite a nice conversation, two conversations actually, with two of the guests there; Hilde, a young woman from Belgium, and a new arrival, a young man from Germany. Hilde is very fluent in Spanish, Maurice, not so much. He is worse than I. We conversed in English, however. Hilde is also fluent in English, Flemish, French. Maurice speaks very good English, with a distinct British accent, as he studied for two or so years in England. 

Yesterday, at the orphanage (am I repeating myself here? I have a feeling that I am) I had it pretty easy, as I went with Tia Jackie and 10 of the older kids to watch the boys play and train at fútbol (soccer to Americans), and the girls to dance Zumba. Zumba, as near as I can tell, is a dance-cum-exercise. The participants, led by a lively and bouncy young woman, move in unison with different dance steps and moves, all in one large group. This is not ballroom dancing. It is sort of like health club workouts with lots of movement to sauce  (salsa?) music. 

Not much else. Spanish eludes me. I spend a lot of time internalizing phrases and sentences before delivering them, and then stumble all over myself when vocalizing. Concretes are not so hard, but abstracts are nearly impossible. I start out with some concept and linguistically roam through the language's roads and byways, usually coming to a dead  end, failing to have made anything clear except my lack of  facility.

Two steps forward, one step back (now I know I am repeating myself)!




4:34 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, November 12, 2015

No Drama---Yet

This is my second attempt at a post today. The first one went glimmering away somewhere in inner space.

Today was shorter. I slipped away from Hogar Amor de Patricia early, as I had a lunch date with my former hosts (from two trips 8 or 9 years ago) at Casa Mary. We discussed a possible move from my present habitation to their house. I have cleared it with the managers at International Volunteers HQ and Maximo Nivel, the school which acts as their agent. I stipulated that I will forfeit my prepaid fees as long as my present host gets her pay for the entire time as though I were staying with her for the whole two months. 

Mary, Salva and I will discuss it further on Saturday. They have to be sure their calendar for other guests is clear for them to add me, and also, I have to see how much six weeks at their house is going to cost, because I don't have enough cash to cover it, and I am not sure my Desert Credit Union Debit card is going to work in any local ATMs. The only alternative will be to use my Bank of America Credit card to draw cash. I did this one time in Venezuela when the ATMs rejected my card. Then I have to rush-rush-rush to go online and pay the credit card in full before interest piles up, and it does it heavily and quickly. 

7:14 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rainy Season Is Over...

Cloudy this morning. I left "home" without a jacket, and by the time I arrived in San Lucas, the place for my appointed tasks, it was not only a bit coolish, it was also drizzling---more a  heavy mist. I stopped at a just-opened tienda (shop, store) and paid $625 Quetzales (about $29USD) for a Zip-up Adidas hoody. I scarcely need another (non-rainproof) coat, but it was comfortable.

By the time 1300 rolled around, it was raining heavily, although it turned out to be merely one of the day's several rainshowers. There was another later in the afternoon just before departing mi casa for the Spanish lesson. I borrowed the house brolly, and the rain ended about half way through the walk to Maximo Nivel School offices.

Another day in the life... 

6:49 pm mst          Comments

Sunday, November 8, 2015


It's Sunday, The Sabbath. Why aren't you in church, or just resting? That's (latter) what I'm doing...


8:19 pm mst          Comments

Saturday, November 7, 2015


I repeat, whew! Saturday at last! I do admit that the week went by rather quickly. It only seemed like a month.

I took a few photos with my cell phone Friday before I left, forgetting that sending from here is expensive if sent by  cell phone. I can send by IPad (I think) for no extra charge, so will snap a few shots of the kids next week and try to put them on this site. If not, I will email them directly to your email addresses.

Went to lunch with my former hosts today. They invited me over, and Mary whipped up a grand lunch, especially for me. Fish, which Salva refuses to eat. If it doesn't move on legs, he won't touch it. Too bad, because it was delicious, served sautéd with boiled new potatoes, freshly sliced cucumber, and a strange but very tasty vegetable of some kind. They told me the name, but with my incomplete command of español, I missed it entirely.

They are very kind, and I am quite sorry that I am not staying with them this time. I am thinking of having a chat with the powers at Maximo Nivel, Jettisoning the money already paid here, and renting from  Salva and Mary for the balance of my time here. The food in comparison to what is served here, is heaven. As a matter of fact, the food at La Casa Mary stands up to just about anything I have had. ¡Es muy buena!

I mentioned that I had instant coffee for breakfast today, and they nearly threw up. So did I. Hey! I am not complaining, but the contrast is stark.

Cool today. I estimate in the high 60s and very low 70s. Lovely! 

9:06 pm mst          Comments

Friday, November 6, 2015

What I Wrote Yesterday

Re-read yesterday's entry. That's pretty much it.

But, after almost 40 years in a field I really loved and 21 years as a retired bum, it is interesting that this interlude is making me a clock-watcher. I have not done that since before I went into the air force, and that was a long time ago. I worked at Albers Mills for a summer, loading freight cars with sacks of rice or grain or something,  and another summer for a short time in a paint factory (came home every night higher than a kite from paint fumes, but that is another story). Also was a box-boy at Albertson's Grocery store in Seattle for several seasons, and they all were jobs that made one long for; morning break, lunch, afternoon break, and most of all, quitting time. Every subsequent job I had was so much fun I never longed for the day to be over. Of course I watched the clock pertaining to schedule-making and other things, but not in the sense just used. 

I do have to say though, that today was pretty good. I checked  the clock at about 0945 and thought, "Oh God, when will it be over?' But the rest of the stint went surprisingly fast, and 1300 was there almost before I knew it.

Time flies when you are having fun, and sometimes when you are not...

Check that. I did enjoy myself some today. Chaos can become the norm.


6:28 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Day four---or is it three?

It depends on how one counts. Day four here in Antigua, day three in the orfanato.

It started well. I made the right stop, there right opposite La Torre Supermercado. Things are improving!

We began right away with a game of "La Loteria," which in this case is a kiddies' game of bingo, but instead of letters they use pictures of different things, like a frog, a bird, a tree, a palm tree, a fish, and so on. I was beaten by a five year-old, but I did learn a few new nouns.

The 14 year-old young lady resident, named Soliya or Soyila, not sure yet which, after the Bingo game dissolved into utter chaos, with the dried black beans (frijoles) used as markers scattered far and wide, and kiddies scrapping over which card, got our a very basic book of English phrases and led me in a Spanish lesson, wherein she also enlarged her English vocabulary. It was mutually beneficial, but I think I got  more  out of it than she.

After that it was: play with the children, feed the children, sweep the floor, and then, when a little van arrived with foodstuffs, I helped unload and then put them in the storage room. There were several 50 pound bags of corn flour (for  tortillas), a 100 Lb. bag of rice, a bag of black beans, and at least 25  pounds of dark sugar---not brown sugar, but, I guess what we call raw sugar.

This delivery was from a  NGO called Orphanage  Resources International. They mainly  supply orphanages in Guatemala monthly. The young people who staffed the van said that they currently supply foodstuffs to 149 orphanages in the country, none of which are state funded. The state cannot afford to take care of its abandoned and homeless children.

After that, feed a kid or two,  and it was lunch time for the bigger kids. Lunch was offered me, I have and will continue to decline, as their resources are limited,  and they do not need another mouth.

Wild ride back to Antigua was per usual, and I stopped for lunch at La Condessa, located  right across from the Plaza Mayor---center point in the city.

Back at la casa after my Spanish lesson, we had a pleasant dinner of quesadillas (Guatemalan style) and conversation with la ama de Casa, Telma. A very pleasant lady, and Carol, the fellow from Quebec, she and I came to very quick agreement that cell phones at the breakfast or dinner table are bad form, but what one expects these days from just about any age. Antonio told me this afternoon that there are nearly as many cell phones in Guatemala as there are people---14 million. The fascination we see in the US is not unique. They are ubiquitous, persistent, and as Antonio said, make users good targets for robbery. Absorbsion in a phone marks one as a good prospect  for a holdup, he told me. They also appear to be a place for locals to dump their Quetzales. Consumerism is flourishing!

Big thunderstorm late this afternoon. I got caught, but no hay problema, because I don't melt. 

6:43 pm mst          Comments

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Flying Solo

Day three. Missed my stop again! The morning bus was PACKED to the rafters. I could not find a seat, and stood almost all the way. Finally got a seat nearing my stop, but the aisle was full and I could not see through the standees to see the landmark glass-fronted building announcing my stop as the next one. The bus stopped.  I thought the stairs to the overhead crosswalk looked familiar, but just as I was able to see La Torre Supermercado across the boulevard, the bus lurched into motion. Not knowing how to say "Stop the fucking bus!" in clear and unmistakeable Spanish, I shouldered my way to the front and de-bused at the next stop. I need the exercise. But, tomorrow will be different!

The older children were taken to a dance class soon after my arrival, and all that remained were two nannies, a cook/bottle washer, and a nursemaid---along with 10 or 11 diapered tots, ranging from two months to about one year.

I sat on my can for a few minutes, then asked Jackie how I could be of help. She suggested I sweep the floor of the area outside the sleeping rooms and the day room/kitchen. That done, I watched and (sort of) helped the gardiner (Eddy) replant some grass along the driveway margins that had been eroded by errant car wheels. OK, so I carried a couple of pans of water for him.

Then I fed a couple of the in-arms babies their bottles, did a bit of "sacando aire" (burping, in English). Later I spoon-fed a couple of six-month olds some really disgusting baby food. I could not help but muse that it won't be that long before someone is feeding me that way.

Left the rest of the school supplies I had brought with the Administrator, and bid my goodbye for the day.

Walked back to the bus stop, caught a waiting bus, and wormed my way to the very back---standing of course.

And away we went, screaming  around the cloverleaf 270 degree turn at warp one, with every passenger straining to keep from being hurled to the left side of the machine by strong lateral G load. We straightened out on the highway to Antigua, careered down the mountain, wildly whipping through the turns like Juan Fangio (boy does that name date me!).

From the back of the bus, it was quite amusing to watch the 60 or passengers, seated and standing shift simultaneously to one side in a turn, then  as if choreographed, swing back to normal stance and seating as the roadway straightened. The next sweeper produces the same results---mass surging to one side, then back to center again as she straightens out.

These busses have 9 rows of seats, two to a side, divided by a fairly narrow aisle---they were designed for children remember. That makes, if I have figured in my head correctly, 36 seats. It is remarkable how many passengers can hang one bun on the edge of a two-butt seat that has two butts in it already. The seated ones scrunch over a bit, and the new sitter plops a cheek on the edge---right or left depending on the side, and dangles there for the length of the ride.

Add to these, usually eight to ten bun-hangers, twenty or so jammed into the aisles, and you have your basic chicken bus load. The driver has his helper who helps with parking, getting fares on and off, and collecting tickets. After the bus has left the congested stops and the road is open (wild curves, steep grade), the helper wriggles down the aisle, taking money. When he comes to me, my morning word is "San Lucas" and he takes 5 Quetzals (about $0.71US). Come the next stop, more people get off and on, and somehow the helper knows who has paid and who has not. He writhes down the aisle again, taking tolls from new riders. Going in the mornings, the helper shouts "¡Guate Guate Guate!" meaning of course, "This is the bus to Guatemala City, fools!"

Incidentally, the Quetzal is the name of the currency, taken from the name of the beautiful bird which is the national symbol.  Sadly, there are no more Quetzal birds in Guatemala. I think there are some in some other Central American Country, but alas, not Guatemala.

I have pretty well decided that my role is give the kiddies a few English words for a short while each day, but the majority of my presence will  be to do whatever needs to be done. I envision changing diapers sometime soon. Should I prove ineptness,  thereby absolving myself of that task, or should I suck it up and do it right, sentencing  myself to two months of dirty bottoms?  

Can you believe that Zury Rios-Mott, daughter of the infamous President Rios-Mott, responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of mostly indigenous people, has the gall to run for president? She is, or was married to a US Congressman, one Jerry Walt, who left congress due to pending charges of corruption regarding some money dealings  he had with, yes, President Rios-Mott. Rios-Mott, incidentally was charged and convicted of massive theft and crimes, including mass murder. His darling daughtere paid huge sums (allegedly) that got him freed and out of the country and the arms of justice. Maybe American politics are not the only ones... 


6:48 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Day One In The Pit

So, there I was, riding the chicken bus for the second day. I had forgotten what an exhilarating experience it can be. Jammed almost literally cheek to jowl---in some cases the seated ones are jowl to the cheek of the person standing by his/her side, jammed up against one another like pigs in a chute. Most  of these busses are old school busses or Bluebird chassis with diesel engines. The drivers herd them through the narrow cobbles of Antigua with great abandon, slowing almost to a stop for the speed bumps (which, due to the condition of the pavement are scarcely needed), then lunging forward, careening through the streets madly. 

When they get out of town, on the road to Guatemala City, they throw any caution away and lurch along at warp speed, careering through the many curves recklessly. I have wondered how an evacuation might work, what with no escapes save for the door through which most of us entered, and the emergency doot at the very rear which is often used for "normal" entrance and egress. With upwards 70 people jam-packed into the enclosure, a rollover would be definitely a singular event for survivors.

Jammed in as I was, I was unable to see the main landmark that announced my forthcoming stop (on the left, an expanse of two-storey, glass-fronted building. So, I missed it, and had to walk back half mile or so. No problem once I found the proper overrhead cross-walk, just opposite the Torre Supermercado.

Another half-mle saunter, with a short stop for a cup of sweetened black coffee, and I was at the orphanage. It is called Hogar el amor de Patricia, as noted before. A knock at the steel sliding door soon brought Ceci, one of the nannies employed by the home. Kiddies swarmed around, and I was greeted warmly by one and all.

I conducted a little class in numbers and colores with the most advanced of the bunch. They were a group with a 14 year-old at one end, and five or six others ranging from four to seven or eight. They had had some exposure before, and one lad in particular, Antonio, was quite adept at calling out numbers and colors in English. The poor fourteen year-old girl was pretty bored by it all, as she has had English instruction at school, which by the way, is out for the season. This apparently is their "summer break." The home pays for instruction at private schools, ,as the state schools are sub-par. Most parents who have the means send their children to private schools. I think the charter school movement in the US portends a similar situation if things do not change. Money for public schools will be siphoned off, and they will become poorer and poorer academically as well as funding.

Afte awhile that broke up and a teacher who is not one of the nannies took several of them to make baskets out of twisted newspaper which is then coiled into a circular base  upon which other twisted paper ropes are glued, one on top of the other until a basket emerges from all of the paper, spilled glue, paste, dirty hands, runny noses,  smiles, cries, fighting, running around shrieking, and other chaotic activities.

So, as I quickly learned, my role is to be a baby sitter who may (or may not) add to these unfortunate childrens' life experience. I am told that the exposure to a male figure and a non-Spanish-speaking voice and cadence is going to be of some (vague) benefit. It is not for me to judge, but I am struggling to know how I am going to be able to keep up interest for TWO MONTHS. 

It was a loooong four hours, and I departed at 1300, worn to a frazzle. Walked back to the bus stop and wedged myself into another Toad's Wild Ride back to Antigua.

I also discovered back at the "office" that I am the first volunteer to be assigned to this particular site, so I am the guinea pig. There is much to learn, and that goes for me as well as the kids. 

Tomorrow looms... 

6:53 pm mst          Comments

Monday, November 2, 2015

íPor fin!

This site is driving me crazy. I have been trying to sign in so that I can make some entries for 30 minutes, with little success until now. I had better press on before it crashes on me.

I dropped the ball badly (again) on the previous entries regarding the trip to Baja California. It is no longer pertinent, and has been relegated to history.

So, I am proceeding with current events. I am in Antigua, Guatemal, where I will be for the next couple of months. I am volunteering at a NGO that provides services for local people. I have signed up to "teach English," although I am not a qualified teacher. I know my own language pretty well, so perhaps I will be of some value to the people who are the subject of my efforts.

I arrived here last evening, via Delta Airlines. Decided not to ride the bike down this time, and already I regret that I finked out and took the easy way. And, believe me, it is a LOT EASiER! However, I see motorcycles hereabouts, and long for mine. Oh well, I am unhorsed for the nonce, and so be it. My choice.

I am staying in a private home, with my own room and a shared bath. Not ideal, but better than the normal with this organization, which is dormatory living---not an area of interest for me, to say the very least. So, the accommodations  are acceptable. The ama de casa is a very nice woman,  and so far the meals (breakfast and dinner today) have been good.

I went to the International Volunteer HQ today. It is run locally by Maximo Nivel, an English language school. They gave us (four  of us) an orientation, and since I have opted for private Spanish lessons daily, I took a Spanish exam, which consisted of reading, writing, listening, and finally, speaking. It was a bit humbling, as it brought clearly into focus my weakness(es).

After a short walking tour of La Antigua, my "minder" took me on the rather long bus ride to my place of work for the next 8 weeks. It is called Hogar el amor de Patricia. That roughly translates to the home of Patricia's love, meaning her love for abandoned and otherwise homeless children. The site houses currently 22 children, ranging from just  a few weeks to 13 years of age. I will be trying to help them with their Spanish words as well as introducing them to some basic words in English. Hardly "teaching English", but nevertheless of some value, mostly because it exposes them to an outsider, some different lingual tones and cadences, and perhaps most of all, it gives them a chance to interact with a male figure who is not threatening, abusive, or violent. These niños have had a very rough time, and anything I can do to help them begin their lives will be worth it.

One of the smallest today was merely weeks old, had been abandoned, and was malnourished. Such a tiny thing! It reminded me of the tiny babies Ruth and I brought back from India years ago.

So,  mañana, I will head out at 0800 and wend my way via "chicken bus" to San Lucas for a few hours tending to small children.

I did have a Spanish lesson this aftenoon, and it was quite valuable. My instructor, Antonio and I carried on an hour long conversation. He did most of the talking, and kept it at a volume and speed that I could pretty handily comprehend. I was encouraged by the encounter, and in the meantime learned a good deal about the history of regimes in Guatemala, including the horrible war that was fought here for 36 years. Sadly, the USA was involved in some of the events that precipitated the war, namely, fomenting and supporting a military coup and minor revolution that deposed the democratically elected president. We backed the leader imported from El Salvador, flew airplanes against the sitting administration, and generally mucked about and brought about a nearly four decades internacine war that murdered some 250,000 Guatemalans before it was over. It was brought about by a land reform President Arbanz proposed which would have taken some of the United Fruit (bananas) land to parcel out to the campesinos. He was branded a communist---a very effective ploy in the Red Scare days of the McCarthy fifties, and Eisenhower and his minions came to UF's rescue by implementing a "revolution" that was arguably not popularly supported.

As Antonio said this afternoon, "It's our history." As if to say, "what's done is done, and we have to go forward."

The lesson was valuable, and I think that If I can keep this up for 8 weeks, I may actually progress in my feeble attempts to learn español. ¡Ojala! as they say here---a word that arises from the Arabic N'Shallah---God willing.

That's it for today. More on the morrow. 

6:12 pm mst          Comments

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Our New Best Friend, TRES

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

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