sábado, 15 de enero de 2011

Forget about TSA grabbing you

it’s rental car agencies that are after you (Alamo).

First, rent through Hotwire. You don’t know what company or what exact car but if you don’t care about getting airlines miles, which are a crock anyway, then it’s the best way to go. However expect extra harsh treatment at the car check rental counter, I mean you walk away thinking you just did something so dumb and even wrong for not upgrading to a Camaro (for an extra charge of $80 for 4 days) and not buying the full tank of gas at 13 cents per gallon less than the current gas station price (didn’t ask but it probably would have been like $45, we spent $18 on gas for the whole trip), and for not getting their full collision insurance, $12 per day.

I got a mid-size car which on Hotwire said would be an Altima size car or equivalent. So I was thinking Camry sedan size… wrong, that’s standard which on Hotwire would have been another $2 a day, which if you have more than two people you will need. Alamo had a Ford Focus and a Dodge Charger in this category available to pick. We went with the Dodge Charger which was horrible, but that’s another blog.

The lady at the Alamo counter was evil, but good, very good at her job. Started with small talk: --Where are you headed? --Bentley Village. --Sounds swanky. --It’s a retirement community. –Oh. She snickers. (All part of it). –Ok, so right now I’ve got you in a Chevy Cobalt mid-size class, no power windows, no power locks, no CD player, no sex (lie, lie, lie, she didn’t really say the no sex thing), but I you could upgrade for a small amount more to something a little sexier, er, sportier like a Camaro. –No thanks. Are you sure it wouldn’t be much more a day? –I’m fine, thanks. –It would be $80 more for the whole week. –I’m fine. –Ok what insurance will you be buying? She hands me laminated sheet. –I’d recommend the minimum here, 11.95 a day. –Do I have to buy insurance, I think I’m insured. –Are you sure that’s an extra premium on you regular car insurance, are you sure? It’s a pretty dangerous area you’re going to… --I think I’ll be fine thank you. –Are you sure? --Yes, I’ll be fine. –Ok, but you’re driving that car off the lot with nothing, no protection. –I’ll be fine, thanks. –OK. She sighs shaking her head.

It was the same story with the gas tank. Next time I’ll just bring a recording with me saying no on loop which I’ll turn off when she gives me my credit card back without running it.

Bottom line: Hotwire is good, $23 a day for midsize car at SW Florida Airport. Alamo, and probably everyone else, is the devil, but just be strong and remember your smart and not about to do anything heinous when you disappoint the evil lady behind the counter by saying no thank 50 times. In fact you’re smarter than most.

miércoles, 24 de marzo de 2010

I wish this was quotidian feeling*

Today was a great day. Virginia and I went to Tuisincé and hiked around doing house visits to check up on how the animals are doing.

Pictured somewhere around this text is Doña Maria's goat and her family. They received a goat through the Heifer International project with which I'm working. This female goat is going to have her young soon, and from the looks of it at least two, maybe three. They also have a pregnant mare, not pictured unfortunately, and the two have become good friends; inseparable really. To show us the goat they brought up the mare and the goat just followed right behind. They said they let them loose to go grazing together. Goats usually have to be tied or closely watched or they wander off but she just stays near the mare. So strange.

Anyways it was a great day. Animals are alive. People bought some vegetable seeds for their gardens.

* quotidian - 1. Everyday; commonplace
2. Recurring daily. Used especially of attacks of malaria.
(I'm studying for the GRE)

lunes, 22 de marzo de 2010

A year and three months

Much has happened in the last year and three months. I married Melina. We painted our home together. We applied for and were approved for two different visas. I extended my Peace Corps service for 13 months. Meli came to my home in the States for the first time over Christmas. My Spanish has improved tremendously. Meli's English has improved tremendously as well.

I have been working much more closely with my host country agency this last year and a half. More about that in the next blog.

All in all, life is good.

lunes, 8 de diciembre de 2008

Tajumulco, again

I climbed it again, for the fourth time. The first time I climbed it we had beautiful views all day long and I saw into Mexico and I faintly saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life. The second two times were horrid, cold experiences where we were lucky to see more than a hundred feet in front of us and to have returned with our ears, fingers, and toes.

This time Meli and I climbed it with 7 other volunteers, and it was beautiful. We went most of the way up the volcano and camped about an hour below the summit. At 4am we got up and hiked our way up to the top by flashlight. At about 6am the sun came up and we were the second coldest we had been in our lives, the most cold being the second time I went up Tajumulco with Meli. However it was a gorgeous sunrise, which almost immediately started to warm us. See pics on my flickr (upper right of page). Unfortunately, my camera battery died after only the first couple shots.

Last night they burned the devil again in the town park. They do that every Christmas and at Easter they burn Judas. I think this type of violence is something that the American church is lacking. It really unites people behind a cause, I mean who's not for burning Satan? And it brings out the holiday cheer.

viernes, 5 de diciembre de 2008

You're a Chub-a-tubs

Gordo, gorda, gordita, gordito that means “fatty” and “little fatty.” Awhile back my girlfriend, Meli, told me that that was a term of endearment and not an insult here. So I promptly started calling her that, but I couldn't do it. Because for me and my anorexic culture that is is just mean, or at the very least very ill put criticism; even though she is not in the least a “fatty.”

But she assured me it was okay, but at the same time I think she knew it wasn't my culture and I wasn't thinking endearing thoughts when I called her mi gordita because I couldn't say it without at least a smirk on face.

I think this common pet name may have to do with the fact that malnutrition rates are so high here. It seems that you're either malnourished or you're fat, but sadly many times you are both from a generous diet of corn tortillas and chicken, but you don't realize it until you can't give milk to your new born child or the milk you're giving isn't helping them grow, or a plethora of other problems.

Also, naturally going along with the pet name business, people will not hide their feelings about your weight, even strangers. I think it would go better for me if I was of a huskier build, because since I'm on the thinner side, I'm flaco or more kindly flaquito, “skinny” or “little skinny.” Unfortunately this is less of term of endearment than a reproach to eat more, especially tortillas and chicken.

I didn't even mean to write about this. I meant to write about how my dog was stolen, and how I was going to use that as an excuse for why I haven't written in awhile, and how I am tired of being robbed in Guatemala, perhaps another time. Sounds nice and uplifting, right?

However, I also want to mention that Lourdes, Meli's sister, had her baby like two weeks after I wrote the blog about the baby shower, and about a month premature, but it went well and may have been for the best because every woman that looked at her petite frame told her she was going to have to have a c-section, and that she should eat more tortillas and chicken. However despite all that, she had a beautiful red baby girl, Fernanda Delfilar Gonzales Abrosio. Wish I had a picture to show you.

domingo, 14 de septiembre de 2008

Beibi Shawer

That’s how you spell “Baby Shower” phonetically in Spanish. I went to my first and probably last baby shower the other night. I wasn’t sure if baby showers were a female-only event in Guatemala or not. I figured since I was invited they may have taken some liberties with the with the event and opened it to males, but I was the only one.

But it was interesting to watch and participate in to an extent. However, when I was “giving words” to the mother to be, my novia Meli’s sister, Lourdes also known as Luli and Negrita[1], I felt really awkward for two reasons. One, I had to do this meaningful thing in Spanish, and two, I had to do it while a match was burning out and felt like I was doing some “cultish” ritual in a Christian girls dorm, and I felt like a woman.

Luli said she was surprised by the shower but it didn’t look it by the outfit she had on. Her chocolate blouse, slacks and high heel shoes and olive green cardigan (same colors as the Bailey’s wedding), which accentuated her enormous stomach (she’s due in a month, and she’s 4’ 3”) seemed a bit weird to wear to a family meeting, which is what she was told she was coming to.

The games weren’t as suspenseful as they could have been since everyone knows she’s having a nena, girl, but miraculously that was always the outcome: dropping the egg, popping the balloons, blowing out the candles; got girl every time. Kinda wigiboardish, and again Christian-girl-dorm-cultish.

All in all it went really well. Everyone had fun during the activities, everyone got a least one piece of cake, and two chuchitos, directly translated: little dogs, they are like tomales, but smaller and always have chicken in them, and tea and/or Pepsi. And of course we sang “Happy Birthday” in English, Guatemalans do that whenever there’s a cake, seriously. It was a delightful experience.

[1] which is the Spanish name for my dog since Gabriela is kind of a common name here. So when people ask me what Gabe means in Spanish instead of Gabi I just you can say Negrita in Spanish. Mama Meli, my grandma here, still wants me to legally change her name.

sábado, 23 de agosto de 2008

I got a dog

I need to mention that I bought a dog three weeks ago. Her name is Gabe, which about a week ago I realized that I had subconsciously stolen from the Gate’s old lab, family friends. That was disappointing, but it’s done now.

She already know the name, and I love it because Guatemalans can’t say it. They don’t have the G sound, and nothing ever ends in a short “ba” sound either. So often they’ll be way off and say Kevin, or a bit closer and say Yabay. I give that one to them, especially if it’s their fith try.

She is a lab-boxer mix I bought from some missionaries that Seth was staying with when he was working here in Guatemala. She’s a great dog.

I think whoever said that imagination is what separates us humans from animals was full of it. So many times when I call Gabe and she’ll come running towards me then suddenly stop, stare intently at my shoes and begin to prowl slowly towards them like a cheetah approaching a grazing gazelle. Then she’ll pounce and vigorously try to break the neck of my shoe laces.

Now this is not the behavior that I wanted to see. I wanted her to come up to me waging her tail and perhaps sit politely waiting for my affirmation, but how can be upset with that? And you can’t tell me that isn’t imagination either. You can’t say that she thought my shoe or the rope bone was a unsuspecting mouse, she knew what she was doing and she was imagining.

Also, having this dog has drastically changed my daily conversations here in Guatemala. It used to go Buenos días, Buenos días, and usually nothing more. Sometimes a “how are you?” then how long have you been here? but most times they jump straight to the personal ¿Como halló aquí? which directly translates: “How do you feel here?” but how I like to think of it as: “Are you accustomed to the life here?” which may be more accurate. Then “Oh that’s nice, ¡Qué le vaya bién!” which means, poetically translated, May it go well with you!

But now conversations go: “What a cute little dog, buenos días. How much was he? Oh, it’s a she. They weren’t any males in the litter? (they’re quite sexist when it comes to dogs) Are there more? No? Vendamela. Sell me yours. No, come on, sell me yours. What do you feed her anyway? Just dog food! Hmm. She sure is a beauty, sell her to me.”

Or many times people just say ¿Cuanto? How much? or ¿Compro? Can I buy?

I think when she’s bigger this insistence on buying her will subside. It seriously happens 5 to 10 times a day. Reason being, that in a developing country where 2 in 3 rural children are under-nourished not much food gets down to the dogs. In a litter of 10 in normal for 2 or 3 to make it. That’s just how it goes.

So when they see an energetic, playful puppy that doesn’t have her ribs showing, they have to have her. Who cares if she’s not a macho, male. They like males because they don’t have babies nor go into heat. Spading is practically unheard of here.

Now many of my conversations end with: “Well, what are you going to do with her when you leave? When are you leaving, anyway? Oh, well, sell-her-to-me when you leave in a year and a half. ¡Que le vaya bién!