16722410_10158248774290501_1439403914849664656_oPlanning my trip to Guatemala in the fall of 2014, I figured I should nail down accommodations for over Christmas and New Years before maybe there weren’t any or they were out of my price range. I thought I would like to spend that time in Antigua, Guatemala and a World Heritage site. I found a place through AirBnB I believe, it sounded perfect but it said those dates weren’t available. I decided to send them a note anyways seeing if they might suggest other accommodations for that time. The owner got back to me, that since I was a single lady, I could stay there during that time any ways, she had booked it off as her child “Oliver” was coming at that time. Oh, I thought, and replied, maybe since this was such a special time for her I shouldn’t impose. Initially I understood by how she replied that she was pregnant and expecting her first child, so I offered to help in any way I could with cooking and cleaning at that time to help her. Then when she kept referring him to him as “Oliver” I thought maybe I misunderstood, maybe he was already born, and she just got to visit with him at that time. So I started telling her a bit about my children and how old they were. She replied then, that no he had not been born yet, and indeed was expected to arrive at that time. I had a place to stay. A wonderful family, and her Mom was going to be staying with them as well to help out and be there for the birth.

I felt like part of the family, the first day there I got to attend a baby shower at their church. I was there when the priest came to visit at their home prior to the birth. They were not yet married yet even though they had been together for sometime as there were problems due to Daniel being from Germany I believe. (Guatemala is very religious with something like 97% being Roman Catholic.) That was another question I was asked from place to place as I arrived, was I religious? My answer, “No”, but I was brought up Roman Catholic.

Antigua is a wonderful place to be around the Christmas/New Years holidays, lots of extra activities happening. There was the evening before Christmas when a procession went by at night, maybe a rendition of them looking for a room for the Virgin Mary, I’m not sure but the lanterns, etc were a nice surprise, and it was very small scale, intimate. Video of procession

Paola had been hoping to give birth at home with a mid wife, but just before Christmas, she learned that the baby was breech, the midwife tried moving it, but he was too comfortable, or big. Paola tried crawling around a bit as she was told this might get the little fellow motivated to move but it just wasn’t happening. Plan B, a doctor and hospital, to find one in a place that she felt comfortable in. That done, now the doctor was trying to encourage her to have it before Christmas, but she really didn’t want to, even though her husband was anxious to see the little guy. I thought the Doctor just didn’t want to be disturbed during the holidays? There was also the thought of schooling and where that would put him in the school year when that time came. Paola decided she would plan for Jan 2, if the baby decided it could wait that long. (Daniel had painted from time to time, images on Paolo’s growing stomach, the one I remember most, the cat’s back end, and  a cracked egg. They also wanted to make a cast of her stomach just before “Oliver” was born. I’m not sure if that happened, but I think so. Very creative.)

On Christmas Eve, which is the day they celebrate or on the stroke of midnight, Paola’s mother Isabelle, Paola, Daniel and myself all sat down to help make tamales, a Costa-rican version as that was where her Mom was from. Quite the assembly line we had going, and by the end we had made over 100.

Making tamales 

(Making cost ricin tamales for new years
Plantain leave, masa with garlic, salt and pork fat, then rice with achiote or paprika , spoonful of peas, pork slice and pork fat, 2 slices of tomatoes and carrot, 6 raisins,1 prune, 1 olive, wrap it all up and bake for 1 1/2 -2 hours at 325′)

Then there was Mass, which Daniel asked why I wanted to come if I wasn’t really religious, part of the experience I told him. A grand church, with a nativity scene that they had brought in dirt from the various areas around so that all were represented.. Then we went home for the meal and gifts, they even got me a journal, with a cover that had local weaving on it. Then I heard it, that strange sound… What could it be? I finally asked, “that rumbling noise, what was it?” It sounded, I said, like someone rolling a barrel of ice down the cobblestone hill. Her brother looked at me, curiously amused. “Only a Canadian would come up with something like that. It was fireworks.”…Okay, I have to admit that did make a lot more sense, and then we went up to the roof top to see. All over the city fireworks were being set off at midnight, not in just one spot, the whole sky was alive with them. I was told that they would set off fireworks at midnight, 6am, noon and 6pm, that’s a lot of fireworks!! I know how expensive they were back home so I asked about that there. Yes they said, they were expensive there as well, but everyone saved up to set off fireworks, rich to poor. On Christmas day I called home to talk to my son on Facetime just before noon, and I was up on the roof top showing him the view when the fireworks started, “Get down, Mom!!!” he shouted, as he thought it was gun fire, no I assured him, just fireworks.

I couldn’t believe all the firework debris along the streets. Then came the New Years celebration, the central street in Antigua was filled with performers, it was alive, and of course a big fireworks display.

The next day, January 2nd, time for “Oliver”, they told me the address of the small hospital, so when I thought enough time had passed, I wandered down, my Spanish not being very good, I managed to let them know what I was there for, and down the hall I went. Very different than our hospitals. There she was with little, or not so little, “Oliver”, one proud father, who I couldn’t believe how much this new born looked like!!!! He seemed all Dad and no, or very little Mom. A mini me, for Daniel. Also a very proud Grandma, and 2 brothers, her younger one was VERY excited even before hand and let Paola know, he already had a car seat so he could take him for rides.

So I was the very first person to hold that first born child, after the Mom, Dad, Grandma and Uncles, pretty special. Such a short time ago now, and he is such a big boy now at 3, (especially for that country, but there comes into play his German father), still looks the spitting image of his dad, who unfortunately, past away last year but will always be remembered, a kind caring person.

Sailing the Belize Reefs

While in Antigua Guatemala I saw a home made poster with tear off e-mail, Sail along the Belize reefs for 7 days, only $600 from Rio Dulce. Wow, what a bargain! I sent off an email when were they leaving? The company replied with various dates, I did some checking and it all seemed legit, so I sent off my deposit, I would meet them in about a month, how exciting, sailing and snorkeling along the reefs for a whole week!!! Life was grand! I couldn’t wait.

The day we were suppose to head off on the sail boat we were to meet at a particular bar. I was one of the first there. Of course I didn’t know any of the others but as they arrived and I kind of deduced they might be on the same boat and asked and introduced myself. We all looked out in the harbour trying to figure out which boat might be ours, none of us were sure. There were 4 other couples besides myself and another single man about 70 or more. Finally a little motor boat came to collect us, 4 at a time. When I arrived on the catamaran with my back pack they showed my to my sleeping quarters. I looked down the 2′ square hatch, and thought to myself, are you friggin serious!!!!!! It was the size of a coffin! and I am not joking, before I even realized it  I had voiced that thought out loud, the other ladies looked at themselves and then me, and said “Well we were certainly thinking that too, but we weren’t going to say anything”. Thanks, that makes me feel better. Next thought, how am I and my backpack going to fit in there? The crew offered to store my pack else where, but that first night I actually slept with it, don’t ask me how. The space was literally 3-maybe 4 inches wider than my shoulders at that end and by my feet maybe a foot wide and when I laid down if I stretched my arm out and made a fist, that was where the hatch was. It had a maybe 2 inch diameter breathing hole curved so rain water couldn’t get in. Well this was going to be interesting. That first night, I crawled in, managed to change and shut the hatch…….it was getting pretty stuffy in there after about only 5 minutes. Hmmm, I found my flip flop opened the hatch and propped it up with my flip flop. Air!. That was much better. The next night was even better as I did take them up on them storing my back pack else where.
Thankfully the others on the boat were wonderful, they all knew each other except the single elderly gentleman, George or so we called him the first few days. Then he told one of the husbands that that wasn’t his name it was “Charles” I guess someone had miss heard when we introduced each other. At the end of the expedition I asked everyone for their addresses, and he wrote down even another name, so not really sure who he was, but he never complained about sleeping in the other coffin, the pontoonsat the end of the boat.
My side of the boat was also where the solar shower was, and where everyone fished. One day when it was a tad cool, I was laying in my coffin reading as they fished. The cook then motioned to me that they were reeling in a fish and wanted to close my hatch, sure I said that would be fine. I listened from below and heard the slap slap slap of the fish flapping around above and then the thunk as they hit it over the head. Then they opened the hatch, no problem. A few minutes later they were going to bring in another, of course they could close my hatch, same noises, flip, flap, flop, thunk. Only this time someone sat on the hatch and didn’t get up. I waited about half an hour and then knocked on the hatch, please I would like to get out. They did open it no problem, they had just gotten busy and had decided to clean the fish after they caught the last one.
For that whole week we were only on land for about 20 minutes. They landed on one small island and we took a walk around the island and got back on the boat, all of the rest of the time we were anchored at various spots along the reef. The Captain would head off in a wet suite every morning to go spear fishing getting back before noon and heading off again just after. The cook and first mate stayed on board. They would take us out in the small motor boat and drop a few of us off at the reefs. I always wore a life jacket, I felt much safer that way, as we never knew when they were coming back to collect us.
The sail trip was not as I expected but it has definitely left me with a story to tell. The seafood meals were amazing and I got to know the 4 couples quite well, one even invited me to stay with them at their place in Northern Belize if I had the chance at the end of my stay, which I did and it was wonderful. If your looking for a possible retirement place in a gated Community theirs was called Orchid Bay, they were among the first there, it is still being developed. At that time you had to cross one river by a barge like thing that you hand cranked to cross from one side to the other, another experience I had never had before or afterwards.
What would you do if you found out your sleeping accommodations were similar to a coffin? Have you? Where’s the most unique place you have ever slept?

Sumac Champagne, Guatemala

I was off to Flors via taxi, to a public shuttle, crossed a river on a barge, told to transfer to a different shuttle, and then a small bus to Sumac Champagne. Reminded me of logging road, very steep, and buses that didn’t make it, down at the bottom, after many hours of driving in the middle of no where and dark, we stopped at one very small town and we got off but this wasn’t my stop, no. Next I was in the back of a truck, as the driver at one point shouted out a place, I wasn’t exactly sure if that was my spot but with some confusion with everyone involved, I got off. It wasn’t my spot but they had room, and I had travelled enough, besides the ride was gone. Did I mention that all this was done without speaking Spanish, on public shuttles., all except  the last “kind of” tourist bus, well one filled with tourists anyways.
I had seen pictures of Sumac Champagne and I was determined to see it, many layered waterfalls, I had seen pictures and my daughter had talked about as she had been a few years before. I hiked to it the next morning, quite a trek I was told there was a shorter route through the jungle but when I started on that path it was muddy and not a very visible path so decided to stick to the gravel road.
When I arrived then more hiking and I soon learned that when it said Miradora this way, that meant you were going to be going up, it was a place to check out the view. I met the odd person who was busy sweeping the trail or tending to it. Having lived on the prairies for several years my body wasn’t exactly accustomed to these elevations, and one worker, eyed me as I stopped from time to time to catch my breath before I continued on. He seemed quite proud of me or at least gave me an encouraging smile when I finally made it to the top and offered to take my picture, proof, that I had made it. Well I could see the waterfall now with all its shallow aqua coloured pools but now it was far below me. Off I started down the trail again, into the woods with the howler monkeys, at least this time I knew what those noises were, lol.
I finally made it down to where the waterfalls started, much easier than going up. There were several people there locals and tourists, playing in the shallow pools, sliding sometimes from one to the other, it was a wonderful day. I will post some pictures someday.
The road less traveled to a place you’ve dreamed about, where is some place you’ve taken on an adventure to get to a special place or person?


December 2014, I was starting my 2 month adventure in Guatemala. It was my walk about, I had had a couple of people offer to come with me for chunks of it, but I had just decided on early retirement and I needed this time for me, I had a lot to sort through.

It was an amazing adventure, I flew into Cancun, and took a night bus to Belize City, not a pleasant place to be even early on a Sunday morning, next a bus to Tikal in Guatemala. Actually the bus dropped me off and pointed me in the direction of a small town just south of Tikal. I had borrowed a backpack from my daughter-in-law, planning on hiking for a few days with a group around a volcano, that not so long but plenty long enough walk in to town, had me re-evaluating that idea really quick, not going to happen. I did make it into town though, found a place to stay and arranged to take a bus to Tikal for the sunrise the next day.
Up at 4 to meet the bus, it took us out to the temple. Dark and with flashlights we climbed up the side of the temple facing east, and as we had been instructed sat in silence and waited for dawn to waken the jungle.
I bit of mist was also about and as the sun-rose in amazing oranges, purples and red, the silhouette of other temples came into view, and the jungle most certainly came alive. As we sat in silence, little chirps of birds, and twigs cracking could be heard, but then next a horrific screaming started, I looked around to see what it was, no sign of anything. I looked to see if this sound had anyone anxious as it steadily grew louder and louder. Was our guide there? Was any one there to save us from what sounded like King Kong? I felt like maybe we were just sacrificial lambs waiting in silence on the side of the temple as the sun grew stronger and stronger. Finally some one said, it’s howler monkeys. Howler monkeys, what were they? How big were they? Had they eaten yet? Apparently, I was told they were really not very big at all, they just had a throat the created these BIG noises to scare off predators, it was very convincing. Now full of new knowledge I could again enjoy the spectacular scene unfolding before me. Apparently they came here to film a part of Star Wars, and also Jurassic Park, I can certainly understand that, it was a wonderful experience and just the start of so many more in Guatemala.
Have you ever been scared of an unknown sound, that you later found out was really nothing at all, or a shadow you mistook for something it wasn’t?

Chopping wood, building forts and more

My sister and I met with my Aunt yesterday. She was telling us how shocked her girls were that she knew how to stack wood. Stack wood she thought, I can fell a tree, chop it stack it, we had a huge boiler and wood stove to keep a wood pile for, there was never an end to work.

My sister and I remember visiting that house. As my sister said she always remembered that as a huge boiler, but maybe that was because we were small at the time. “Oh No,” my Aunt replied, “it was huge! You could put 1/2 a tree into it.”
Nancy. my sister recalled the drying rack over the wood stove. I remembered chasing or being chased by my Uncle, probably playing tag, and I fell on to some cleared shrub brush, off to the hospital for stitches, which came out on my 5th birthday, right after the party, what an ending. I remember my sister swinging on the Tarzan rope, she started to lose her grip and asked my other Uncle to catch her, but he didn’t realize she was losing her grip and didn’t, she fell and broke her arm or collar bone.
My Grandparents had a blue berry orchard there, kind of fitting that when I moved to Manitoba, I ended up running a 5 acre saskatoon berry farm for 19 years. I can understand the work involved with that alone, thank goodness I didn’t have to chop wood to heat our house and for the stove as well.
So glad we didn’t grow up in the “Good Old Days”, memories of others I hear don’t sound all that great. I am glad my children got to grow up at the family farm in Manitoba, in that they got to really run around and explore nature. I especially liked how they built forts. They had several, one long one nature provided in the tree shelter row, where the trees grew so close that not enough light could get into the bottom of the row so the branches died off and there was a long above ground tunnel with evergreen canopy, and a blanket of spruce needles at the bottom, a perfect place for bird nests as well. A magical place. They built some forts with scraps of lumber up in the willows by the slough, with horizontal scraps used to create a ladder so they could get up high. The creaking of the willows always making an interesting sound. There was another fort in front of the house near the saskatoons a good place to have a look out from. There was also the one they built, or dug down by the dug out, it was deep, big, quite a feat. Those forts sure kept them occupied for hours and days on end.
Snow forts were quite an adventure as well, when younger just shovelling and heaping up snow and digging into them, how many people could they fit inside? Quite a few, and it would be pretty cosy. Don’t think they ever slept in one over night but I know it had been the plan from time to time.
As they got older they advanced to using sheets of plywood for forms that they would fill with snow, amazing forts.
Then of course, there was jumping into piles of fresh heaped snow, just like jumping into leaves, the older they could the higher the piles and the higher they would jump from. Jumping off of the 2nd floor balcony. One day a friend was over and there was a big pile of snow over by the granaries. He decided to jump off the granary into the pile of snow……on top of that for some strange reason, he decided to do it in barefeet!!!! I was called after he jumped, feet first up to his neck practically and he was wanting out. Quickly we dug and freed him, he was fine but his feet hurt, go figure, sometimes snow crystals are almost like glass, add the cold and he was feeling a burning sensation. Silly guy, he didn’t do that again at our house that I’m aware of but he was (still is I imagine) coming up with interesting things to try, no lack of adventure there.
Out doors a never ending play ground and place to explore. Watching their cats hunt, the stealth, the patience, how close they could flatten themselves out to the ground and spring up in an instance to catch a bird.. Seeing how quickly a dead animal is cleaned up by nature, it doesn’t last long.
Nature is a wonderful class room, and such a rejuvenating place to be. I’d rather be going on a walk through nature any day than the concrete jungle. Good memories.
Do you have a favorite memory of building forts, or learning from nature?