Monday, September 27, 2010

Huracán Mateo

It was one wet weekend in Antigua this past weekend as Huracán Mateo -- Hurricane Matthew -- blew through. Or rather sprinkled-with-an-occasional-downpour through. With Mateo in town, our plans to head out-of-town to Lago Atitlán (a lake surrounded by volcanoes just west of Antigua) changed. Guatemala and rain and mountains equals mudslides and shut down roads. Instead, we entertained ourselves well in Antigua up until Sunday afternoon when we ran out of things to say to each other.

We visited the open-air market on Saturday morning.

We wandered the city in the rain.

We checked out an old convent -- Las Capuchinas -- built by Spanish nuns in the 1700s and later destroyed in an earthquake. I'm standing in one of their bedrooms or "cells."
Las Capuchinas was incredible -- I'll post on this later.
I went to Sunday morning mass at Iglesia La Merced. I was excited to understand nearly all of the father's homily (in Spanish). It's important to balance materialism and spirituality. And I'm positive I heard more of the homily than the lady next to me filing her nails.

We spent Sunday afternoon studying in a cafe. And this is where when we ran out of things to talk about. Tommy's just about had it with my camera at this point.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Guatemala is one of the few countries in the world to harvest jade. I've never paid much attention to the precious stone before here -- where it's sold on practically every street corner. It didn't take long for me to decide I needed something jade.

We visited a jade factory of our host dad's friend, Julio. It's a small operation out of his mom's garage. Here comes my highly detailed and I'm sure quite accurate description of how jade is made. It absolutely fascinated me so I feel the need to share.

Julio's shop.

Julio mines most of his jade in the mountains of the Zacapa region of Guatemala. It comes to him looking like this. A pile of rocks, nothing too pretty. We actually watched Julio's mom's dog relieve himself on the pile, apparently mistaking it for nothing too valuable. Umm, is that how the rare yellow stones get their color?!

A pile of jade.

Using this machine, he cuts of slices of the rock. Then using a few other machines he cuts the slices into specific shapes, then carves and shapes it further with other big machines.

The chain saw thing-a-ma-gig.

He then shines the piece until the true color comes through. Jade comes in all sorts of colors from green to lilac to black to yellow to translucent to red.

Unshined on left, shined on right.

This piece was amazing. A medium green when holding it in your hand -- translucent in the light. Guatemala is famous for its green shades of green.

After hours and hours of trying on all of Julio's jewelry (and asking Tommy which one made my face look fatter) I made my purchase. I fell in love with this gray and lilac stone -- and the organic shape of it. And salesman Julio said it matched my eyes perfectly. Doesn't take much to talk me into anything, really.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

La Antigua bonita

A few of my favorite shots of Antigua so far.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hiking Volcan Pacaya

With my fear of dying in a volcanic eruption -- my body preserved in ash seated at the kitchen table with a loaf of bread and bowl of eggs like in Pompeii -- tucked away I climbed to the (almost) top of an active volcano! I've never felt so proud of myself.

Tom and I almost at the top of Volcan Pacaya. Since it erupted last at the end of May it was too dangerous to climb to the top.

Tom and I hiking up to the top -- Volcan de Fuego and Volcan de Acatenango in the background. It was an incredibly beautiful (and incredibly hard!) hike.

Hiking the last leg to the top -- notice the steam rising from the lava.
Tommy found his happy place. We almost left him there.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mayan ruins in Tikal

We visited Tikal -- one of Guatemala's national parks. It's jungle and Mayan ruins. Absolutely incredible. The park has six ancient pyramids or temples. We hiked almost all of them. I don't think I've ever sweated so much or been so tired in my life (see third photo)!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dia de Independencia de Guatemala

September 15 is Independce Day in Guatemala. It´s tradition to start the celebration on it´s eve with a running of a torch -- La Antorcha. People across the country run with their tourches from one town to the next. Our school ran together from a little village atop Volcan de Auga (Volcano of Water) called Santa Maria de Jesus down to Antigua -- a jaunt of 10 kilometers. I put on my running shoes for the first time in Guatemala and did my best to look athletic. I almost made it the entire way, almost. Neither Tommy nor I fell, fainted or started our hair on fire -- a success!

My schoolmates and housemates before the run.

Tommy with the antorcha.
Me with the antorcha. (Wow, front on running photos are not attractive.)

We made it back to Antigua!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I´ve ditched the garden for a few weeks and am studying Spanish in Guatemala. I´ll be posting daily pictures of my adventures in this absolutely beautiful country.

A photo from my walk to school this morning. Volcan de Fuego (one of the three Volcans bordering the city of Antigua) was errupting. A perfect shot of what is Angtigua -- a volcano, a church, chicken buses (loud and crazy city buses) and a moto driving in between.