Monday, April 2, 2012

First Week in Guatemala

We have been here 1 week now, and life is different here.  I guess in Belize we did not really go to the mainland at all, except for a couple of days in Placencia, which is a coastal town.  We saw a lot of the life mixed with tourist there.  Here, we see a lot more of rural life.  There are tourists here, along with the sailing community.  We see boat tours go up and down the river every day, but mostly we see regular Guatemalan life, well when we venture off our boat and out of the marina.


It is hot here.  Hot and humid.  We sweat all day, even just sitting.  Sometimes there is a good breeze, and that feels really nice.  The mornings aren’t too bad, and after 4pm as the sun starts to head down, it cools off a bit.  By 6pm it is usually nice and breezy, but the mosquitos start to come out so we have to close up the boat windows and doors before the inside has a chance to cool down.  We are not interested in getting malaria or Dengue.  This is when we turn on the AC. 

Once we left Puerto Aventuras in Mexico we anchored every night—for close to 3 weeks.  In the Rio Dulce we are at a Marina.  1. It is safer and 2. paying to dock at a marina is cheap, $275 for a month.  But we have to pay for electricity and that is expensive.  It ends up being close to the same amount if not more for the month as the dockage fee.  So we suffer all day with only fans on, windows open, and no AC.  At night we run the AC’s only in the bedrooms downstairs for 3 hours to cool them off, and then we turn the AC off for the rest of the night.  Usually by the middle of the night I am plenty warm and it can be hard to sleep.  But that may be the pregnancy too.  We haven’t run the water heater at all since we have been here.  Our dish washer makes its own hot water to clean the dishes, so we haven’t missed the water heater at all—even for showers.  With the hot weather we have taken to showering at night, and a cold shower to wash away my multiple layers of sweat feels really good.

On Saturday we rode the dinghy to the opening of Lago Izabel where the old Castillo or fort is.  It was built a few hundred years before to protect the villages on the Lake from the pirates that would come up the river and raid them of their supplies.  It was fun to walk thru the fort and check out the tunnels built through out to get from room to room, and of course the view from the top.  The park at the Castillo was filling in as the day got hotter and hotter.  Many come with friends and families to spend the day swimming and picnicking.DSCN2173

We are having a few projects done on the boat while we are here.  Labor is extremely cheap.  Today we had our engine room cleaned—it is oily and dirty—from the engines and heat and tools.  We paid $40 US total, for 2 ladies to clean for 8 hours.  Tomorrow they will be back to scrub down our dinghy and work on other household cleaning, removing wallpaper and such.  At Tijax marine, included in the price of dockage was a free boat wash down once a week.  Labor is cheap.  We have been trying to explain to our kids the differences in economy; it is a hard concept for them to completely understand. They don’t understand why people work so hard to make hardly any money.  And how there are so many people here that are so poor they are willing to work to get any money at all, even if it is just a little bit. 

There is a bridge here spanning the river.  Every time we drive under it in our dinghy, on the one sides of the bridge we always see several people with their laundry, washing their clothes in the river.  We always see them swimming and sometimes bathing, or a mom soaping up her little ones.  I so much would like to take a photo to share, to remind me and us of how much we have and that so many are without, but I feel like it is an invasion enough to have us pass by in our little boat watching them, that I can’t bring myself to take a photo.  And yet many of them smile at us as we pass by.  The kids swimming are laughing and having fun.  It is a memory I hope my kids will not forget.


One of the other boaters told us that on Saturdays workers from the orphanage come by in a little boat with food items for sale, meats, produce, yogurt or cheeses.  I had been trying to email the orphanage to see if we could come for a visit, so I was happy we could at least participate in their cause by buying food from them.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect maybe a boat load of food, but it was just a man and a woman in a small boat with a couple of baskets of food and a cooler with meats in it.  The boater that had told us recommended their pork chops, so we bought some of that.  They did not speak English, other than the names of the food they had to sell.  I learned how to say watermelon in Spanish, sandilla.  They had some fresh great looking asparagus that I could not resist, and some bell peppers that I had been needing.  I hoped that the Biocyde treatment I had bought and washing them really well would work good enough to kill anything lurking on the produce.  So far we have been fine and haven’t gotten sick.  Let’s hope it stays that way. 

One of the difficulties that we did not expect here was exchanging or using our US cash.  In Mexico and Belize you can easily use US dollars or exchange them easily at any bank.  Here we were sent away from a few banks saying they would not exchange the money, nor would any shop or restaurant take our US cash for payment.  We have come to learn that in order to exchange US dollars the government requires paperwork on where the money came from and rather than fill out the paperwork, the banks would prefer to just not take in any US dollars unless in very large amounts of more than a few hundred dollars.  Luckily Marina Tijax was willing to exchange a few hundred dollars for us at a little lower exchange rate.  If we had working ATM cards then we would just withdraw Quetzales from our home checking account, but again the fraud in Mexico has prevented us from doing so.

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