Friday, December 30, 2011

Guatemalan Postal Service and International Customer Service Win!!!!

Just before Thanksgiving we experienced our first, and hopefully last, equipment failure. Our SteriPEN, which is a device used to purify tap water with UV light, began giving us an error message meaning that the light bulb had failed. This bulb is supposed to be good for thousands of liters of water and we had only purified about 150. After some troubleshooting and email correspondence with the manufacturer, we determined that either the lamp had broken due to external shock, or some sort of microscopic manufacturing defect. The folks at SteriPEN arranged to mail us a new one, however given the somewhat inconsistent delivery schedules of the postal services in this part of the world, we decided to wait until we had enrolled in our Spanish school since we would have a permanent address for a few weeks. According to the tracking number that we received, it was sent from the US on December 13th. It entered the country of Guatemala about a week later on the 19th. We got it today, the 30th, perfect timing since we are leaving tomorrow! That said, now we can purify our own tap water and not have to pollute the world with tons of plastic water bottles.

In other news, we are planning to take an early morning hike tomorrow, Cerra Quemada. This area is known for occasionally being the place of armed robberies, so we wont be carrying anything of value. After our hike, we are hoping to catch a bus up to Lago Atitlan, an off-itinerary adventure, for a big New Year's party. As usual, we have no idea what we will do for accommodations, or how long we will stay, but hopefully we can find a bar showing the 49ers game on New Year's Day.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Guatemalan Christmas: A Nation Addicted to Fireworks and Rightly So

Last night was one of the most spectacular Christmas Eve's I have ever experienced!

We had previously been told that most people would go to church around 6-8 pm and that family dinner would be at midnight, along with opening of presents.  We should have expected fireworks, since kids light them in the street every night. In reality, Christmas here is like the 4th of July at Disneyland.

We spent the late morning in an Internet cafe, studying some Spanish, facebooking and enjoying some coffee.  Lunch was a little later and a little lighter than usual, and our Foster Mother, Paula, told us dinner would be at 9, then they would go to the park for fireworks, then presents at midnight.  I suppose they went to church around 6, but I wouldn't know, since I took a 4-hour nap to be able to stay awake until midnight.  I woke up around 7, and Matt and I headed to the Parque Central with Derek, another student living at the same house as us.  We had some Ponche de Leche, a warm milk drink with cinnamon, and Matt decided to buy some fireworks for later.  We wanted to light some sparklers in the park, but the wind kept blowing out our matches before they would light.  Luckily, there were some local kids, the experts, who were happy to help in exchange for a sparkler for themselves.  Not a bad deal for about 2 cents a pop (a pack of 10 cost 1.5 Q, each being 15 centavos or about 2 cents). 

Back at home, before dinner, we decided to light the Hanukah candles and also some fireworks with Paula, Byron (her husband), and Estafanie (her 11-year-old daughter).  The Cono is a cone that shoots sparklers up from the top.  There were also some that shot loud whistle-rockets and some traditional fireworks.  Of course, there were sparklers aplenty.  We used a candle to light everything since the wind prevented the matches from lighting.

Dinner was quite large and delicious.  There was chicken, Soufle de Arroz - a mashed rice and vegetable dish, cooked vegetable salad, a hot Ponche de Pina drink (sort of cider), coca cola, bread and tortillas, and Christmas cookies.  

After dinner, we had about an hour and a half to kill before presents, so we decided to head back to the Parque with Estefanie and Mio, the 4 th student living with us.  Mio is Japanese, but here in Guatemala, the locals think all Asians are Chinese (like Mexicans in LA?), so we call her la Chinita Japonesa (the little Chinese Japanese girl).  While it is usually okay with a large group, Paula was a little worried for Estefanie's safety and charged me with holding her hand to make sure nobody got away with her baby!  I guuess all mothers can be protective!  

We bought some more fireworks, including a Tank with wheels that moved when you lit it and helicopters that whizzed into the air.  We also bought something called "the machine gun" which sounds like the name as a string of crackers go off.  Our first Cono was a dud and we were very disappointed until another local park-kid asked if he could help.  He pulled a wick out of one of the machine gun packages and stuck it into the Cono and it went off!  He and his little sister, Juana, were happy to help us with the rest of our fireworks, enjoying our sparklers and all the fun.  Juana is 5 and her brother looked about 7.  At one point, one firecracker made a loud sound and Jauna sort of grabbed onto me for protection.  Being a little paranoid, I was afraid she was using it as an excuse to rifle my pockets.  But I quickly realized two things: 1) I was wearing my skirt, so my steelable things were higher on my body than where she was, 2) the things that I had in my pocket weren't of value (expired id, business cards), so I stopped worrying and we had a great time.  We headed back home for presents at midnight.  The family bought me a pencil bag made with indigenous weaving and Matt got a bracelet.  We bought the family a thermos for hot water, since their last teapot/hot water container broke and gave Estefanie a little Teddy bear mug filled with candy and a scarf.  

At midnight, the fireworks  really went off.  The whole town, nay the whole country, was lighting off all the good ones!  For a sold 20 minutes, there were huge displays in all directions from all over the city.  Just when we thought the last might be going off, a whole new batch would start up.  Some were very large, but being set off from the neighbors' back yards.  There was smoke in the air and the sounds of firecrackers, large and small, echoed off the walls for the better part of an hour.  Even after we had gone to bed, we heard the sounds of a few more fireworks being lit some where in the city.  I can only imagine this is what the 4th of July would be like if all sorts of fireworks were legal in Los Angeles.  It was just unbelievable - everyone in The city celebrating this holiday together.  It was truly unlike anything I'd experienced before.

Today, at noon, people set off more noisemakers, to celebrated Jesus's half day of life I suppose, and the celebrations continue.  Most of the city is pretty quiet and shut down, but luckily, the local Internet cafe and bar, el Cuartito is open as is a restaurant at the Shalom Hotel.  (no, it's not run by Jews - there are many businesses here with Hebrew names like "tienda el shadday" and "shalom hotel". The guatemalans are really into Hebrew, being good Catholics.  Israeli tourism has also had a noticeable impact here.  Many people have asked me if I am Israeli, when they discover I am Jewish, as they have never met a non-Israeli Jew!)

Well, Merry Christmas to all from Xela and happy 6th night of Hannukah!  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

¡Feliz Navidad!

¡Feliz Navidad! In case you are living in a cave, tonight is Christmas eve. As is tradition, we are going to eat a late lunch and then it looks like our host family is going to church until midnight when we will eat dinner and open presents. This morning we were accosted by a group of kids give out abrazos gratis, or free hugs, alhough aside from that it seems that half the city has closed down. Supposedly tomorrow the city will be completely empty, hopefully we will be able to find a Chinese restaurant to partake in the generations old Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas. For the moment Sarah and I are reading some Spanish literature to improve our grammar and general sentence structure. Sarah is reading Charlie y la Fabrica de Chocolate. I am reading El Paraíso Peridido. Although we have both learned a lot, it's pretty evident through reading that there's still a lot to be learned. Anyways, merry Christmas, happy chanukah, and we will see you next week on ShapiroAdventures!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Cuartito

The coffee shop and hot chocolating continues. Although Sarah has decided to drink tea today at El Cuartito here in Xela, the hot chocolate is good too. On Tuesday afternoon we went to a local village, Salcaja. They are known for having the oldest church in all of Central America. We also went to an artisanal distillery of Caldo de Frutas, an alcoholic fruit drink. They also infuse some of the local fruits with the alcohol which is very strong. We bought a bottle of the Caldo, which came in a re-purposed Johnny Walker bottle, for the BBQ our school is having on Friday. We visited a textile loom where women will work the loom for six weeks or so to make the skirts the indigenous women wear. Yesterday night we met up with a friend who we had met in San Cristobal. She is flying to Ecuador today, and will eventually head back to New Zealand down the road. Anyways, time to get back to the studying, Sarah is probably catching up to me by now.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Should You Find Yourself Lost in Quetzaltenango

On a rainy day, I would recommend the hot chocolate, or Chocolate Puro, at La Luna. This is quite possibly the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. Back to the studying...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Las Fuentes Georginas & Further Musings

Yesterday we spent the day at Las Fuentes Georginas. The Fuentes are water pools heated by the volcano near Zunil. After about 45 minutes in our Microbus Privado, we arrived at the Fuentes. There are two pools about 200 meters below the entrance that are very secluded and there was nobody there for the four hours or so that we were. We went with some of the other students from our Spanish school as well as one of the Guatemalan families who had cousins visiting from the capital. The water was very fresh and minerally. It was very soothing for the body and mind to sit in the hot water and relax. Apparently, the city girls weren't used to the altitude as one of the girls got a little sick after climbing back up from the lower Fuentes. We grabbed a quick lunch at the restaurant near the upper Fuentes and relaxed there for another few hours. One of those pools was really too hot to sit in. The water also had sort of an acidy/citrusy/sulfuric taste to it, not too surprising as it passed through a volcano on it's way to the Fuentes, which is why the water is hot. (the nearby towns have no problems with hot showers!) There are also some cabins near the Fuentes that you can rent out for about 160 quetzals/day per person and then have access to the pools at night. Coming home was quite an adventure as well, after coming down the mountain, we got hit by a big truck in an intersection in Zunil. Everyone was fine, and the damage was cosmetic, but auto insurance isn't exactly the norm in these parts. The driver ended up arguing with the other driver for about forty five minutes while we clogged up the only major intersection in town, and a crowd of about thirty people formed. After a while, the other driver seemed to give in, since he had backed into us, and we went on our way. We got home and were very tired, had some dinner and went to sleep. So here we are, refreshed, hanging out at a coffee shop with live music, studying Spanish for our upcoming week of classes.

On our way home from the Fuentes, a few of us had an interesting conversation. Here in Quetzaltenango, it seems the norm for middle class families to have a helper/maid/cook five or six days a week, yet that comes before other conveniences of daily life. For example, it's common to have a maid, cable, wireless internet, and hot water. However, despite the near freezing temperatures at night, the homes have no heat. It's interesting that here, having a maid five or six days a week is very affordable, the equivalent of a few dollars a day, yet the gas for central heat is much too expensive. It is almost the opposite in America where any home in a region that gets cold would have heat long before wireless internet, not to mention the daily help of a maid. Looks like we will be staying here in Quetzaltenango until new years, and then maybe hike to Lago Atitlan, so if you're interested, book your flight now!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Soft Drinks

Here you have it folks, a 3.3 liter bottle of Mega Big Cola, only ten quetzales, or about $1.30. This would be a Central American response to Coca Cola, much cheaper and reasonably tasty. Last night was a very busy night for the Quetzaltecos. It was a night of celebration for the Virgen de Guadalupe, which we learned is actually a celebration of a Mexican finding an image of Guadalupe in the mountains near his village 500 years ago. There was a procession through the Parque Central and enough fireworks to deafen the generation. The interesting thing about fireworks in Guatemala is that they are shot off from the middle of the street while everyone is standing on the sidewalk ten feet away. It seemed as if the trees were all going to catch on fire, yet the fire brigade was nowhere to be found. Luckily there were no mishaps and Sarah was very excited to be so close to the action. Before the fireworks we had taken a field trip to a very small village which is famous for its church "de colores." It is very brightly colored, and is the only catholic church decorated in this manner. Up the hill a little bit there is another church, but of the local indigenous faith, and it is decorated very similarly. After dinner and doing some homework we went to a local bar, Pool Y Beer, because a friend was heading back to Ireland.

This afternoon we got to teach English to a handful of children being raised by single mothers. It was difficult since they were all at different levels as well as different ages. I found it interesting that some of them were able to write but couldn't yet read. Regardless, we taught them numbers and a few key phrases, next week we might play bingo. Now it's time to get to my homework. ¡Hasta luego!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Room with a View

This is the view from our room in Xela. We are in Zona Uno, which is the good part of town, although Xela is generally a safe city. It is the second largest city in the country with about 150,000 residents. The family we are staying with just recently moved in, so they haven't yet set up cable or internet access, but it seems to be in the works. In the meantime we are doing some homework in a coffee shop next to Parque Central. The coffee is from local growers and is delicious. Last night we had a potluck with the other students and some of the teachers. Somehow we managed to bring plenty of (adult) beverages, and yet the only food was guacamole and popcorn. Eventually we wandered to a local bar and ordered some solid food to accompany our beverages. Sarah is studying irregular verbs in the preterite as well as learning some local slang like 'facebookear' while I am reviewing the difference between por and para as well as going over verbos reflexivos y cuasireflexivos.

It is a very interesting way of life here. For example, we are living with a middle class family, in a nice place in the good part of town, yet there is no heat in the house. Additionally, instead of using a water heater for showers or cooking, there is an electrical mechanism attached to the shower head that heats the water as it comes out. We had fun figuring out how to get it to work, but basically if you want cooler water you turn the pressure up and if you want warmer water you turn the pressure down. It is a much more economical lifestyle, and it appears to be more environmentally friendly. In the super market yesterday, there was cereal, but only the imported American cereals come in boxes, the local cereals come in the plastic bag that would otherwise be inside the box. Generally speaking there was much less packaging and things like mayonnaise came in bags that appear to be recyclable (though Sarah has some doubts of the air-tightness of this packaging that is not being refrigerated!). They are also a bit more relaxed about selling alcohol. For example, the last two days, after class, we have bought a hot drink on the way home, a ponche de leche. This is something like steamed milk with cinnamon, except made in a giant pot and sold in the street. Yesterday the lady asked what type of tequila we wanted in our ponche de leche; looks like liquor licenses aren't really an issue here.

Generally speaking it seems like the locals are used to having tourists and language learners here which makes sense since there are over 50 Spanish language schools. Everyone is very helpful with directions and will speak more slowly when asked (except for Estefani, the 11-year old daughter of the family we live with and who tells us to learn to listen quickly). The locals are also very helpful with advice about security and so forth, although I get the feeling that you'd basically have to be really drunk and simultaneously unlucky to have anything happen to you. Anyways, I should get back to my verbs. ¡Hasta Pronto!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In School in Xela

Life is a learning experience. We have had our first day of school, and I definitely feel out of practice. It has been quite some time since I was in school and today started off with something of a test to determine our level of Spanish knowledge. Then we launched right into it. Sarah has apparently created an agreement with her teacher where if her Spanish improves to the point where it is better than mine, she is going to bake him cookies. Needless to say, her competitive spirit lives on. It is very intense learning a language in a one on one setting for five hours a day, but it seems to be very effective as well. I guess we will see in a week or so. The school also has activities in the afternoon, today Sarah and I took a salsa class. Sarah thinks I did an excellent job salsa dancing.

We are living in the home of one of the women who started the school. Her husband and 11 year old daughter live there, as well as another student. It provides a good environment to be immersed, and her daughter speaks even faster than Sarah speaks in English, something that was prior thought to be impossible. We have our own room with a door to the roof so we could get a tan if we really wanted to. However, Xela is more of a mountain town. We are about 2300 meters above sea level, so it gets into the sixties during the day and gets close to freezing, if not below, during the night. We would put up a picture or two, but it seems we have lost the attachment to load pictures. If we can find one, we will put them online soon. ¡Hasta luego!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Relaxing in Guatemala

Here we are in Quetzaltenango. Yesterday we checked into our hostel, the Black Cat hostel. We had a few drinks last night and talked to some other travellers. We decided to come here before going to Antigua because Antigua is farther south. This morning we had a very hearty breakfast and went to a variety of different language schools. After "interviewing" several of them we think we have decided on a school called El Portal, it is run by two single moms and is a non-profit. They also have an associated organization where we can help local kids, etc. In addition, we stopped by an English school where we may try to teach some English during our time here. All the language schools have afternoon and weekend activities, so it looks like we will be doing some salsa dancing, cooking, weaving, going to markets, and visiting sihts with local guides. It also seems like some of them have weekend excursions to other cities so we may not necessarily stay in other towns after Quetzaltenango and just go for a weekend here and there. We will also get to stay with a local family near the school which should be a learning experience in itself. We also just bought a local SIM card for our phone and received calls are free for us, let us know if you want the number.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mexico by the Numbers

Well folks, tonight is our last night in Mexico. We have booked our shuttle to Quetzaltenango for tomorrow morning, already changed some Pesos into Quetzales, and will be saying "adios" to San Cristobal at 6:30 A.M. tomorrow. I figured it would be a good time to give a quick budget update. We left on October 26 from Los Angeles, and will be leaving Mexico tomorrow, December 5, so it will have been a total of 41 days. During this time we withdrew $2118 from our bank account. Our initial bus ticket from Los Angeles to Chihuahua cost $194, and we ended up using $68 to exchange at the border. This gives us a grand total of $2380. This figure, however, is a little misleading because it includes the cost of transportation from here to the border as well as onward transportation after we cross, but for means of simplicity I have included it as a cost for Mexico. In addition we have about 1000 pesos left, some of which has been exchanged already. Using a fair exchange rate of about 13.5 pesos to 1 USD, it means we spent about $2306 or $56 per day.

What does all this really mean? Our biggest expenses were by far transportation and then lodging. For example, our two tickets on El Chepe were nearly $150 US each! Hotels ranged from 145-300 pesos each night, with about 225 being the average. We primarily ate light breakfasts, and tried to avoid the super touristy, and thus overpriced, restaurants for lunch and dinner. That said, we ate plenty, and had quite a variety of foods. We used public transportation frequently and took night buses for the longer trips both for safety reasons and to skip a night's lodging cost. The real key though, is negotiating. In general we got anywhere from a 20%-60% discount on lodging by negotiating. Negotiation is also a must for cab rides, as well as with merchants. Had we really wanted to we probably could have kept our costs below $35/day, however we have come to enjoy things like hot water, air conditioning in hot areas, internet, etc. Anyway, I've had a touch of mezcal with my hot chocolate tonight, so if someone could check my math, that would be fantastic. See you in Guatemala!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Oaxaca and San Cristobal

Our last full day in Oaxaca, we went to the Museum of Oaxacan culture which is a former convent that has been repurposed.  The museum covered the many different indigenous groups that live/lived in the area going as far back as the 2nd century BC, including the Zapotecs who built the structures on Monte Alban.  There are still many mysteries about these peoples, such as why, in the height of their kingdoms glory, the great cities were abandoned and the culture suddenly disappeared.  I wasn't feeling that great, something I ate just didn't settle right, so we took it easy and walked around the Zocalo in the evening, enjoying the performance of some clowns.  On Thursday, we checked out of our hostel and headed towards the bus station, but since our bus was not until the evening, we stopped at the Textile Museum on the way, which exhibited hand-made clothing made by local people's from the 18th century though today.  The looms they use are very similar to the ones used by some indigenous tribes in Thailand!  I thought it an amazing coincidence.  We spent some time in a beautiful park in the north of the city then caught our bus.  You can read about the Mis-adventures on the bus in Matt's previous post.  The one advantage to the whole situation, to me, is that for the first time, we sat with and talked with several other backpackers from all over the world.  There's a bunch of Aussie's and folks from New Zealand, here on their summer break or doing a semester abroad and travelling at the end.  Also, some Russians who spoke little Spanish and little anything else!  Everyone was very friendly, trading stories - it was real fun, despite the huge delays and spending an extra 13 hours in transit.

Before the specifics of our day, I'd like to share my impressions of San Cristobal de las Casas, which are good.  The city is just quaint - in many ways, it makes me think of a small village in the Alps!  There was bakeries and coffee shops everywhere, as wells as wineries and restaurants, and many of the streets around the town square are pedestrian only.  The city is very international feeling, as there are Lebanese and middle Eastern restaurants, Italian, as well as traditional Mexican, all side by side, and many tourists from both inside and outside the country.  Mixed in are the indigenous people, speaking mixture of Spanish and their native language, Tzetzil, wearing handmade woolen skirts and wide belts around their waists.  The colors of the hand made crafts are bright and beautiful.  Even with all this, the town doesn't feel like a tourist trap.  Though there are signs in Spanish, English, French, and Tzetzil, everyone mostly speaks Spanish and prices, especially in the market, are some of the lowest we've seen yet.  Of course, there are some touristy restaurants that are more expensive and the tchatchkis for sale are set at prices for "rich" tourists, it still feels like a small village that we, and a couple other hundred (or thousand?) tourists popped into to, unnoticed.  Onto the details...

It's amazing how a good nights sleep can totally reinvigorate you!  This morning we woke up bright an early, and well rested, and headed to the Cafe Museo Cafe - the Coffee Museum and Cafe.  Where else can you sip your Cafe Chiapaneco (Chiapan style coffe with cinnamon syrup) as you stroll through the exhibits?  The museum is owned by a small coffee collective and it was very informative on how Europeans brought coffee to central America and how it re-shaped the indigenous life, unfortunately not always for better, from the 18th century all the way through today.  There was also a very interesting photo exhibit of workers on coffee farms - striking photos of the people and their lives.  The floor was covered with fresh pine needles, so the room smelt like Christmas!  It went perfectly with the coffee - you can see me enjoying it in the picture.

Next, we wandered north towards the central market which was amazing.  There are tons of fresh produce as well as plenty of LIVE chickens and turkeys which small indigenous women carry around for sale.  Unfortunately, not too many pictures of this area since many of the indigenous people do not want their picture taken and of course, we want to be respectful.  We ate lunch at a small stall in the market - we are at altitude here (2200 m/7200 ft) and while the sun is out and shining, it's still very crisp and chilly with mountain breezes, so we both got soup.  Matt has meatballs and I had chicken.  Even though this is not my Bubi's chicken soup (certainly no matzah balls), there is something so wholly satisfying about hot chicken soup on a cool day.  The fresh carrots, potatoes, and squash inside didn't hurt, either!  We also snacked on some fresh Macadamias and some other nut or seed tossed with chili powder and some coconut milk in a bag (Coco b'sakeet?) - all delish!

We continued north to the Mayan Medicine Museum.  It was a bit off the tourist path, but when we got there, it seemed a French couple and a large Israeli tour group were there also.  The museum is organized by a group who are trying to preserve their local traditions in healing in modern times.  We read about various animals and plants and candles that are used for their healing properties,including a garden that showed which plants were useful for what, as well as a video featuring a Tzetzil midwife discussing how she cares for a mother and baby before, during, and after the delivery.  There is some footage of her prepping the mother and cleaning the baby, but nothing too graphic.  Interestingly enough, the Tzetzil women (a direct line from the Mayan people) deliver babies standing on their knees with the father or a close family member supporting from the front and the midwife in the back, praying, using incense and heated rocks, pushing on the mothers stomach - a very different image of western hospital births - and very interesting to see.  Apparently, a breast-feeding mother should not eat avocado or onions for 3 months, according to the midwife in the documentary, as it will cause a baby's penis to swell (the video was about a boy baby).  Also, the father had to bury the placenta - face up if he wanted the next child to be a boy, face down for a girl.  

We headed next to the Mayan herbologist, to see what sort of curatives she had.  There was a local gentleman there and the two spoke in a mixture of Spanish and Tzetzil, which reminded me of Yiddish.  The Tzetzil language almost sounds like Russian to my ears!  I asked if there were any creams for scars (I am still very aware of the scare on my neck from my Mediastynoscopy in 2008), which of course there was and it is also good for burns, she said.  For less than $2 a got a small jar.  Matt asked what sort of remedy she may have for allergies.  She needed to know if it was skin or respiratory.  As Matt's allergies are respiratory, mostly, she gave him a cream also, to be rubbed on his chest or in his nose twice a day, also less than $2.  I think we're more worried that it WILL work, because if it does, we'll need to keep coming back to San Cristobal for more!  Matt then asked what kind of foods I should eat if I want to have twins, or triplets, or even quadruplets!  She thought this was very funny as did the other locals in the shop.  Though rosemary is often good for infertility, her recommendation for twins was to eat fruits that were also twins - the kind that looked like two but were stuck together - or an egg with two yolks.  When Matt pressed about quadruplets, she told him to make sure to stop at 8!! 

With our herbal remedies in tow, we headed down past the market and the zocalo to a church on the south west part of the Centro.  There were many stairs to climb up, which we took slowly, since we are at altitude, but the beautiful panoramic view from the top was well worth the hike.  (pictures on Facebook, soon!).  The churches in this area are not to be photographed, as many of the indigenous people still believe the camera may steal your soul.  It seems the locals practice a combination of their original belief mixed with Catholicism.  

We are now relaxing, taking a little siesta, but there is a Festival de Queso y Vino going on in the zocalo tonight, so we're definitely going to hit that up!  Tomorrow is market day in a nearby Tzetzil town, so that is the plan and on Monday - we cross into Guatemala!  Mexico is a very large country with so many different landscapes and peoples.  We've had a great time journeying through, and excellent first month of our adventure.  I can only wait to see what the coming months and countries will bring.  I believe we'll post some musings soon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Finally in San Cristobal de las Casas

We have finally arrived - more than 12 hours later than expected. I am too tired to tell you about how we spent the last few days in Oaxaca, but a brief update before we go to sleep. Last night we took the nine p.m, bus from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas, an approximately 10 hour trip. We had anticipated arriving here this morning and having a great time as they are having their wine and cheese festival this weekend. However, at about 3:00 A.M. Or bus lurched to a stop suddenly. I thought it was due to livestock in the road, which has happened before, but it turned out there was a bloqueo going on. Apparently a number of locals had rolled tires onto the road, and were sitting on them to block traffic. They were protesting some sort of grievance between Oaxaca and Chiapas. After waiting 8 hours for them to be done, we ended up getting off the bus, walking around them and getting on a different bus that was on the other side. It turned around and went to a small city in Chiapas called Arriaga. We were assured by the driver that we would be reimbursed for his fare by our original bus line(more on that later). When we arrived in Arriaga we had a few quick tacos and then waited for about an hour and a half for another bus to Tuxtla Gutierrez. Another hour layover or so and we finally caught another bus to San Cristobal. We are now experts in local geography, and needless to say we were never reimbursed for the trip to Arriaga, but our original bus line did cover our "transbordando" tickets to finally get us here. We will have to read the paper tomorrow to figure out what the bloqueo was all about.