6.9… What?

At 1:30 this morning I woke to a rather loud banging sound coming from over my head and I looked around groggily in the dark to hit whoever was shaking my bed. It took me a few seconds to realize that the sound was actually the banging of wooden doors on the wall used for decoration. My bed was sliding back and forth and the chandelier overhead was swaying in time with the sound of the doors. Earthquake! When we were in Taiwan and an earthquake hit, I never knew whether to panic and run outside or wait it out to see if it was the ‘big one’.   I ran downstairs and found Marty still awake, Pilar heading to the bathroom, and Carmela following me. Carmela and I decided to go out to the courtyard and stand in the open. When the plants finally stopped swinging back and forth, we decided it was OK to go back to bed. I waited for the boys to emerge from their section of the house, but that never happened. There were a few aftershocks about 30 minutes later, but I finally was able to fall back to sleep around 2:30. This morning when the boys stumbled into the kitchen our conversation went something like this…

“What did you think about the earthquake?”

“What???? There was an earthquake and we missed it?”

“Yes, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake.”

“Aw man, my first earthquake and I slept through it. I hope it happens again.”

Um, no thank you.

Luckily it happened a few hundred miles away on the Guatemalan/Mexico border and there was only one injury and a slew of mudslides. Phew!

We spent our class time today at a local coffee farm and Mayan cultural museum. We learned all about the fascinating process of how coffee is made and other interesting tidbits of history and culture about the Maya. The plants on the farm were amazing and we walked out of there on a caffeine high. Good times!

The Mayan ‘Saint’ Maximon.
No color enhancers here. So bizarre!
If you put one flower under your pillow, it will cure insomnia. More that one flower and you will never wake up… as in you die. (Apparenly proven by many a disgruntled wife.)
A peaceful walk practicing Spanish among the coffee plants.

Salsa…. It’s Hot!

The idea of taking salsa-dancing lessons has been floating in the air for the past week and a half. The school we attend offers free salsa lessons Monday and Tuesday nights from 5 to 6:30 at a local dance studio called New Sensation Dance Company. I would be exaggerating if I said the kids on this trip were less than enthusiastic about the prospect of taking salsa lessons, but Marty and I said they had no choice and it was a done deal. However, we missed classes last week due to the newness of being here, and yesterday we made the mistake of coming home first. We got comfortable and of course the pouring rain did not help us in our attempt to rally. We told the kids that today was the day and they needed to mentally prepare themselves. To make it easier, we spent the afternoon in a local coffee shop on the Parque Central so we couldn’t talk ourselves out of going again. We lazily drank coffee and gazed upon the peaceful madness that is the center of town. The girls even made themselves at home by playing with local kids trying to catch bubbles.

At 4:45, we headed to the dance studio and waited outside for the magic to begin. Over the next 15 minutes, scores of other language students began to appear and before we knew it there were roughly 30 students outside of a very tiny studio made for about 10. Frank, our salsa instructor, didn’t seem phased and at 5:00 on the dot we all piled in to the small studio and stood around waiting. I wasn’t sure what we were waiting for, but it turned out to be…. more students. When it was all said and done, there were over 40 students and the word claustrophobic cannot begin to describe how I felt.   But have no fear, dancing was involved and as you might know, I cannot say no to dancing. Marty bowed out when the 42nd person showed up, declaring that he did not have enough room to fully express his talents. I, on the other hand, tried to make myself very small and vowed to stick it out. The kids were lost somewhere in the madness and I decided to let them fend for themselves and work it out.

Over the next hour and a half, we learned Bachata and Salsa steps, and we all ended up dancing with every single person of the opposite sex. Frank had us separate, men on one side and women on the other. Low and behold, there was pretty much an even number of both. Talk about working on your people skills! We danced with people from all over Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The girls had to dance with every male in the place, and it was quite the sight when it was time to dance with the 6 foot 8 man from England. Pilar was even called out as a volunteer to dance with the instructor as an example. She received a round of applause from the crowd. Of course, her proud parents took the credit for making her dance at all of those weddings and quinceañeras. When it was all said and done, the consensus was that although it was super hot, it was a great time and much better than they thought it would be… so much so that we might even take a private group lesson later this week.


Lake Atitlan & Chichicastenango

This past week of language school has been insightful and fulfilling. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see my students use their Spanish in ways I could never simulate in the classroom. I’m not taking credit, but they have some mad Spanish skills!

Wednesday morning Marty woke up at 5 a.m. to a loud exploding sound. He thought it must be bus backfire or fireworks, so he went back to sleep. He then woke up at six to go for a morning run with a couple of the kids. Halfway through the run he heard it again. He looked over his shoulder at the Volcano del Fuego in the distance and saw huge clouds of smoke shooting towards the sky. No one on the streets seemed to be freaking out, so they went on their merry way. For the duration of the day, however, layers of ash slowly fell upon us and covered what seemed to be every surface of the entire city. It was on our desks at school, on the furniture inside the house, and over every car in the city. There was even a layer of ash on my laptop that was inside a room with no windows. All of our teachers said it was a rare occurrence and it seemed to be the talk of the town. A tad disconcerting, I’d say. However, my teacher put it into perspective: Better frequent little eruptions rather than one big one. Yes, I’d have to agree.

Saturday morning we left on a weekend trip to the highlands: Panajanchel on Lake Atitlan and Chichicastenango. Lake Atitlan is a beautiful volcanic lake lined with small villages about a three-hour drive from Antigua. The bus ride (or 12 passenger van, rather) was very winding and a bit grueling. Non-stop twisting and turning through the mountains can be fun at first, but gets old pretty quickly. One of the other passengers almost threw up and I found myself lamenting the breakfast I had eaten an hour earlier. When we finally arrived, the driver dropped us off in front of our hotel and we eagerly went inside.  I had reserved a hotel room last weekend and was shocked that there were only a couple of hotels that were not booked solid on line. It was called Hotel El Chapparal and although it was not cheap, we were certainly roughing it a tad. (Well, I suppose when compared to the immaculate house we live in at the moment.) The large stark room was filled with six double beds with varying degrees of protruding springs and a bathroom with exposed wires coming from the ceiling. It was not bad really, just sort of uncomfortable and really loud. We were right on the street and when the American college kids returned at 3 a.m. with no end in sight to their evening, it got a little annoying. No worries, we were happy to stand outside of their room at 7:30 this morning and talk in very loud voices.

The view from our balcony.

After dropping off our things at the hotel, we found a boat to take us across the lake to Santiago Atitlan. When I was here in 1996, it was a tiny village that had but a few buildings and housed the beloved Guatemalan “saint” Maximón. He is revered here in Guatemala and appreciates offerings of tequila and cigarettes. Now, I hardly recognized the town of 32,000 people. The 30-minute boat ride cost about $3.50 USD and all was going quite smoothly until it stared to pour. The next thing I knew, we were flying over growing swells and getting soaked by a combination of rain and lake spray. At a whopping 63 degrees, it was chilly and I wondered what the kiddos were thinking. At that precise moment, one of them turned around and said,” This is awesome, the best thing we’ve done so far!” Go figure!


We then walked around Santiago Atitlan in the rain, sat in a coffee shop drying off, and then moved on to a restaurant for lunch. The towns around the lake definitely cater to tourists, and vendors and shopkeepers constantly bombarded us. We made our way back to Panajanchel on another boat and after the exhaustion set in, we went out for dinner before calling it a night. At the Italian restaurant we stumbled into, we were eventually flanked on either side by mangy stray dogs waiting for food. I would have expected the waiters to shoo them away, given the prices, but there they sat next to me pawing my back every few minutes. Why they did not bother any of the six other people at the table is beyond me.

So much shopping, so little time.

Our next stop was Chichicastenango, home to one of the largest markets in Guatemala. After an hour-long van ride, we were dropped off in a random parking garage and told to return four hours later. We were told by a seasoned tourist to leave our belongings in the van, and I am so glad we did. The phrase “Swimming in a sea of humanity” cannot begin to describe the claustrophobic shopping experiences that lie ahead. We literally waded through people, merchandise, and chickens (both dead and alive) for the next four hours. I think I pulled a personal all-time best for haggling by purchasing all of my items for at least half the price I was initially quoted. Loaded down with bags four hours later, we emerged exhausted, a little disillusioned with shopping, and the satisfaction of knowing that we probably won’t have to buy anything ever again. That is… until we pass by the coveted soccer jersey stall. Oh these kids (and one male adult) and their infatuation with soccer gear.

We returned to Antigua about 4 and finished the weekend by visiting McDonald’s.  No, it is not something I am proud of, but we heard from other foreigners that is was the most amazing McDonald’s they had ever seen and it was a must.  So…. we went and they were right.  We’re talking automated ordering machines, tropical gardens, immaculate fountains, and a barista style coffee shop.  So stinking bizarre!

Tomorrow we are on to week two of language school and salsa dancing lessons.


Language School and Other Surprises

I am not sure if it is because the sun rises at 5 a.m., or if it is because I am back in school and having to use my brain, but I am pooped. Sitting at the dining room table this evening helping three kids with Spanish homework, I found myself ready for bed at 7:30. Language school started yesterday and we all agree that it is pretty great. We have class in a lovely private garden filled with trees and flowering plants. At the moment there are roughly 40 students and their teachers. We all sit at individual outdoor tables under awnings, under trees, or out in the sun. There is a resident cat that makes his way from lap to lap each day and apart from the occasional mosquito, I’d say it is just perfect. From 8 am to 10am we sit one-on-one with our personal Spanish teacher learning and/or reviewing Spanish vocabulary and grammar. From 10-10:30 we have a break and head straight for the outdoor kitchen and buy amazingly cheap fantastic food. So far we have tried 2 varieties of tamales, tostadas, frozen choco-bananas, frozen chocolate covered strawberries on a stick, a form of arroz con leche, strawberry liquados, and flautas. Each item costs less than 50 cents and everything is delicious. We then head back to our teacher for another hour and a half of conversation. As for myself, I have jumped straight in to the complexities of the subjunctive tense and it is crazy difficult. I think perhaps the last time I studied this level of Spanish was that ONE semester in college when I MIGHT have slacked off a bit. It turns out that the subjunctive tense is used ALL of the TIME and I have just been conveniently avoiding it. The kids think it is amusing that I am struggling with my Spanish. Right, very funny.

After class lets out, we have been heading to lunch and then walking around town. Yesterday was quite entertaining. We made our way to the Parque Central where and were greeted by many official looking men standing on the street corners with machine guns. Now, while this is totally normal in many countries, we had yet to see it in Guatemala. Turns out, the Presidents of Guatemala and Mexico were about to arrive in Antigua, and we were in just the right spot at the right time. We all sat down on the steps lining the street to wait for the big arrival, when all of a sudden we heard yelling and horns blaring down the street. At first it looked like a huge procession, but as they approached, it turned out to be about 20 people pushing ice cream carts. They came down the street yelling and screaming and stopped right in front of us. (Little did we know that we were sitting in front of the city municipal offices.) They were protesting a city tax being imposed upon them and asking the alcaldeza (like the mayor) to lift it. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence that they chose the same exact day and time as the president was due to arrive, but it certainly added a bit of drama to the scene. It started to rain and we ended up leaving before the presidents arrived, but it definitely was exciting while it lasted.

Today after class we took a tour with our school to a macadamia nut farm. The farm was beautiful and we had a great time. I think the best part was probably our first ride on a chicken bus, where the boys had to stand for 20 minutes due to the extremely crowded conditions. The macadamia nut pancakes were quite good as well.


This is apparently they world’s most photographed bathroom. (Perhaps a slight exaggeration.)

We still have Salsa dancing lessons and cooking classes in store, so that should be entertaining.


Sitting on the curb of a deserted street at 5:45 this morning, I had no idea what the day had in store for us. I hired a shuttle to take us to climb Pacaya Volcano, but I had done little research in preparation. The only thing I read on-line was that if someone offered to sell you a walking stick, take it, or you would be sorry.

Hacky sack at 6 a.m. anyone?

The shuttle arrived around 6:05 and we climbed aboard a 15-passenger van. Our travel buddies for the day were three middle-aged people from California and a Harvard law student. For the next hour and a half, we snaked through winding highways flanked on either side by coffee plantations and small towns. The driving was a lot like India, minus the incessant horn blowing. Weaving back and forth down foggy roads, we caught the first glimpses of true poverty. Even though I see it each time I travel out of the United States, it still shocks me every time. We just don’t see poverty like that at home and I always try to pay attention, lest I forget how truly lucky I have always been.

And we’re off!

When we finally reached the parking lot to the park entrance, we were immediately bombarded with children trying to sell us sticks. I had already decided to heed the advice I read on-line and snatched up four for 5 quetzales each (about 75 cents). I think the other passengers in the van thought I was a sucker. I bet it wasn’t five minutes into our climb before they changed their minds. Honestly, it turned out to be the best 75 cents I have ever spent. For the next 2 hours we climbed and climbed and climbed. The trail was black volcanic rock and ash, with a considerable amount of horse dung mixed in. (People who don’t think they can handle the climb rent a horse.) Imagine trying to concentrate on walking straight up AND dodging fresh horse poop every 15 to 20 feet. Not an easy task, I assure you. Then of course, there were the dogs that accompanied us. I counted at least 10, and they make the trek with the guides several times a day.

When we finally reached the top, it was actually quite amazing. It felt like we were on the moon. You could see the distinct lava flows from 2010, 2014, and 2 ½ months ago. Steam was rising out of the fissures, and as an added tour bonus, we roasted marshmallows over one of them. In many places, the rocks were hot, and our guide said if we decided to walk around on the old flows, be careful we didn’t melt the bottoms of our shoes. It was actually quite spectacular, and we had a great time. The decent was easier for sure, but quite hard on the ol’ knees. The entire trek took about 3 ½ hours and by the time we crawled back in the van, I was pooped. Crazy enough, we were back in Antigua by 12:30.

Low maintenance marshmallow roasting.

Language school starts tomorrow. Let the fun begin

En Busca de Dinero

One of the MANY streets we traveled today.

When I rolled out of bed this morning I did not anticipate that my daily adventure would entail a very long, many mile search for money. It all seemed simple enough… we would head to the Zocalo to get cash, go by the school to pay for our classes next week, and then go to lunch. I chose to pulse out money for the school because using a credit card would incur an 18% charge, and my conscious just wouldn’t allow me to throw away that much money. However, the school payment wiped out my cash and when I went back to the ATM, I discovered that I could only take out money once a day. Sure, there were other ATMs around town, but all of the reputable banks were now closed and all that was left were shady ones at local establishments (Which is a traveling no-no).

We went to lunch at a rib and wing restaurant that happened to be showing the big European soccer championship game. Little did we know that it was a popular local sports restaurant and my, was it a fiesta. It was loud and the fans were feisty. I’d venture to say that we learned a few new Spanish curse words, which was exciting.  In the end, however, it turned out to be a cultural experience and all of the kids learned a valuable lesson. There were three American young men there who had WAY too much to drink. Mind you, it was 12:30 in the afternoon. One of them fell over a foosball table in front of the entire restaurant and sat under it for several minutes unable to move. Once he finally got up, he must have seriously injured himself because he could barely hobble out of the door on his own. The three eventually made their way out the front door, making a spectacle of themselves while all of the locals just shook their heads in dismay. The young men proceeded to sit on the curb outside the front door for the duration of our stay and were still sitting there when we left. I gladly used the opportunity as a teachable moment. “You see kids, always use moderation in everything you do and when abroad, don’t act like a stupid American. It’s people like these three men that give all of us a bad name.”

Please read the sign and then notice the mini dispenser in the background.

Then we were off again. I had to go all the way back to the house and get US dollars and another credit card as a back up. Turns out, there was only one exchange house open and just to exchange dollars to quetzals would have cost me $36 in a rate reduction (or hidden fees). So, we headed back to the only open bank in the city and I used a different pulse card to withdraw more money. Phew! Who would have thought getting money would be so difficult?

And we’re walking….


And we’re shopping…

We then headed over a few more blocks to a travel agency and set up a trip for tomorrow morning to the Pacaya Volcano.
I get the feeling that no one is too excited to get up at 5 am, but I imagine that when they roast marshmallows over a lava flow it will have been worth it. Vamos a ver!

And hacky sack!

Bienvenidos a Guatemala

Bienvenidos a Guatemala. We have been here for roughly 24 hours and it is amazing to me how I already feel at home. Perhaps it is because heading south for extended periods of time has become my June norm, or maybe this is just the part of the world that I feel more at home in. Regardless, here I sit after a day filled with walking around for hours and getting the lay of the land.

This trip is a bit different for me because I have brought along 3 of my Spanish students. I will admit that it is a new realm for me to be responsible for other people’s children outside of the country, but I know the power of travel and I am excited that the world will open up for these boys on this trip, as it did for me so many years ago.

For the past several years I have been using VRBO to find rental houses abroad, and I must say that I have hit the mother lode this year. I did not think that I could top the house last year in Oaxaca, but this house blows it away. As a quick example, we arrived late Thursday night to a home cooked meal by our maid Angelica and we ended Friday night surrounded by volcanoes on a roof top garden in the hot tub. I shutter to think that I am spoiling these children and setting them up for disappointment when they start traveling on their own, but it is cheaper than staying at a hotel and I since I am getting older and have roughed it most of my adult life when it comes to travel accommodations, two tears in a bucket. Besides, dividing the cost of a house by 7 makes it affordable.

On our way home this evening from dinner, we stumbled upon an artisan market and just popped in to have a look around. The next thing I knew, we were enveloped by catacombs of stalls that seemed to snake around for miles with woven goods, trinkets, bags, and art as far as the eye could see. The boys were easy targets for the merchants, but I stepped aside and let them barter and fend for themselves. When we finally met up 30 minutes later at the entrance, they were all carrying multiple bags and chatting excitedly about how they had been swindled. One of the boys actually bought three pairs of shoes. They agreed that they had been too nice, but couldn’t help it. However, they were also quite excited that they could actually communicate in Spanish and it came much easier than they expected. As their teacher, I must say that was pretty exciting. I look forward to seeing the deals they get three weeks from now. I suspect that the outcome will be quite different.

Tomorrow we shall traipse around town again and hopefully on Sunday we are off to hike the Volcano Pacaya. Until then…

Making Art and Waiting for the Revolution

As you may have seen in the news, the state of Oaxaca is encased in a bit of turmoil. The teachers are protesting reforms, and many others are joining in the fight against what they are calling a corrupt government. Daily protests are the norm and as of Sunday there have been upwards of twelve deaths, scores wounded, and many arrests. My family and I are living in Oaxaca for a month and although we have been surrounded by the protests on more than one occasion, we are completely safe and sound. It seems that this fight has been going on for many years and the months of May and June are typically the busiest as far as the demonstrations go. One never knows what will happen, for this is the first time the teacher’s union leaders have been arrested, AND this is the first time protesters have been killed by the police. However, daily life goes on and we are flowing right along with it. The education we are gleaning from this experience, however unpredictable it may be at times, is incredibly important.


While the fight goes on around us, we are spreading peace and love by making art. Well, that is a bit flowery… I guess you could say we are just making art. The girls are taking an Alebrijes class in the afternoons, and Marty and I are taking a linoleum cut printmaking class in the mornings.

IMG_9603 IMG_9605 IMG_9609

I imagine I don’t need to mention that this one is Marty’s.

Marty has us doing a daily workout regimen to combat all of the food we are eating and I am happy to report that this morning was the first time in a week that the girls and I weren’t too sore to make it down the stairs without wincing.

We have a little less than two weeks left and already the girls are lamenting our departure.

(They do however greatly miss their grandparents and animals.)


Peace and love!

So much political unrest… so little time

When I was in my early 20’s, I lived in Israel for several months. I recall one day my mother calling me with a frantic tone in her voice. Watching CNN, she had seen scud missiles being dropped on that tiny country and wanted to know if I was O.K. Earlier that day, I had been working at my waitressing job on the beach, enjoying the sound of the waves while schlepping hummus and drinks to the customers. I assured her that I was perfectly fine and had no idea that anything that alarming was occurring around me. I learned a very valuable lesson that day… media is often used as a tool to keep people in a state of fear, and while it was quite possible that a scud missile was dropped somewhere in a far corner of that country, it had in no way affected my daily life. While I am sure this view of the media is a generalization, I have seen it happen time and again during the past 25 years of my international traveling forays.

So, here I sit in Oaxaca, southern Mexico, in the midst of teacher protests that are growing more heated by the day. In the past, our family vacations consisted of traveling to several locales over the span of a few weeks. This summer we chose to stay in one place for a month to experience daily life. And experiencing it, we certainly are! In addition to sightseeing and getting to know café baristas so well they know our names when we walk in the door, we are also dealing with daily issues such as running out of fresh water and what to do with our garbage when we miss the weekly garbage truck. (As we discovered this morning, you just lug it to a busy street corner and dump it with the other bags.)

Regarding the mounting civil unrest, my first clue that something was awry was when I saw the piles of burning tires in the streets last Sunday morning. Then, of course, there was the astonishing amount of federal police officers with heavy weaponry at the airport. I brushed that one off as the police merely taking precautionary measures. Next came the staggering lines into the gas station that snaked down several city blocks. I recall telling Marty that I had a sneaking suspicion that something big was about to go down. Low and behold, the next day I read that the protesters were blocking the highway that led from the Pemex petroleum plant into the city, and gas shortages were a real possibility. Yesterday I woke to the din of incessant police sirens that seemed to last the entire day, and yesterday evening when we finally ventured outside, the streets were practically deserted. Our waitress told us it was due to a combination of being Sunday, and of course because of the teacher protests.

So now I am more paying attention. The news said that six protesters were killed yesterday in a small town outside of that gas plant and that if the blocking of the petroleum plant continued much longer they would shut down the entire plant. This of course would mean no gas in Oaxaca… and no jet fuel to get us home. Apparently there were rumors that the Zócalo was going to be cleared of protesters last night… undoubtedly using force. He said that with the rise in use of Twitter and Facebook, equal amounts of positive and negative information gets spread very quickly and most of it never actually occurs. As it turns out, the incident at the Zócalo never actually happened. I am trying to stay rational as really we have not seen any violence nor felt the affects of what is happening around us. Honestly, if I weren’t reading the news on the Internet, I would not really know what was going on. It’s just that I am a worrier by nature and I like to be prepared for whatever comes my way. I have already been strategizing possible escape routes if the proverbial excrement hits the fan. Other than riding out of the state on bicycles, I am sort of drawing a blank.

Talk about an amazing teaching moment for our children.

  1. Be thankful for all you have!
  2. Don’t take the sense of security you feel in the States for granted… be it real or not.
  3. Don’t undervalue how much everything relies on gasoline… from basic services and your own transportation to the trucking in of money, food, etc…. If you think about it, everything that is a daily comfort is at its core dependent on gasoline.

I am optimistic that all will be well and this thing will clear up soon. If I am wrong, we will deal with what comes our way and figure it out. Until then, we will continue our adventures and have one heck of a story to tell when we get home!

An hour later…

Ok… now I am freaking out a bit. Just after writing this, the language school had a mandatory meeting to explain the current political situation to the students. Turns out, the only way out of the state is by plane. They allayed out fears, and then we walked out of the hour-long meeting only to find a huge protest occurring just outside the school gate. The fireworks… I hope that’s what they are… are deafening and the gates are now locked. So at the moment, we are trapped in the school waiting for the protest to dissipate, which it doesn’t look like will happen anytime soon. The protest is simply a long parade of people yelling for justice and apart from the loud booms of the fireworks, it appears to be peaceful.  As I age, I think I might be getting tired of such adventures! Oh, and I’m ready for lunch. 🙂

Sorry Mom for freaking you out too.

Another hour later…

The protest has moved passed us, the gates are open, and it looks as if nothing ever happened.

¡Viva México!


Daily Adventures… On Mexico Time

My students and I generally watch this movie every year called Pulling Strings. It’s about an American woman working at an embassy in Mexico City. It is basically a rom-com, but I like it because the movie is equally in English and Spanish (It’s on Netflix). In one scene, the woman is asking a Mariachi singer why people in Mexico are notoriously late. He said that Mexicans are optimists. When they tell you what time they will arrive, it is more of a wish. They hope to be there at that time, but more than likely, they will not.

I was reminded of this today as I sat outside of a locksmith shop on a random street corner here in Oaxaca. Allow me to digress…

It all started Wednesday when I took Max to the airport. As our taxi drove in, we were a bit taken aback at the multitude of Federales standing in full-armed regalia at the entrance. Machine guns, rifles, clubs, shields, you name it, they had it. There were a good 200 of them then, and I hear there are roughly 5,000 of them now. The ten-year anniversary of the 2006 teacher strikes has added fire to the protestors cause, and apart from shutting down most of the major highways in the state of Oaxaca, there are rumors that they might march to the airport to try to shut it down. Great timing for flying out, no? Hopefully all of this will be resolved before we try to fly out in two weeks.

Needless to say, Max and I waited for 2 hours before finding out that his flight was delayed. About ten minutes before the flight was to take off, his own personal attendant escorted him through customs. I was told to stay at the airport until the flight actually left the landing strip, you know, just in case. Therefore, I proceeded to wait another 2 hours playing solitaire on the floor, as all 15 of the seats in the entire airport were occupied. When the departure screen finally said he was in flight, the collectivo bus/taxi line snaked out the door and rather than wait any longer I went outside to catch a good ol’ yellow taxi. Unbeknownst to me, taxis were no longer allowed past the airport gates and I had to hoof it a good mile to the highway outside of the gates. Apparently, yellow taxis were not allowed to pick up passengers near the airport either and there I was standing on the street corner with groups of people waiting for who knows what. After about 20 minutes in the baking sun, a shoddy maroon and white taxi (the ones tourists are told to avoid) pulled up and two indigenous looking ladies climbed in. Desperate, I asked if I could share the taxi with them. I had no idea where they were headed, but at this point I had ceased to care. During our trip around the city trying to find routes that were not blockaded by the protesters, I kept having flashbacks of my youth, traveling alone wondering if I would make it to my next meal.

About 45 minutes later, they were dropped off on some random street that looked vaguely familiar. I could see the domes of churches in the near distance and figured I was in the general vicinity of where I wanted to go. I told the taxi driver the name of a street near our house and he was happy enough to take me the extra blocks to my colonia. Little did I know that sharing a cab did not mean that I got it any cheaper. He gouged me for full price, and I grudgingly paid because I so desperately wanted the ordeal to be over.

When I finally walked in the door to our house, Marty was on the phone to the states trying to get a friend to hack into my computer to track me down, and the girls were upstairs planning what to do with the rest of their lives if I never returned. Yes, it was that dramatic. We have no cell phones here and apparently my telepathic messages never reached them.

My next little adventure occurred on Thursday while the girls were at school. Marty and I decided to walk to a different side of town and find the Starbucks. It’s not that we crave the overpriced coffee, it’s just that it is one of a handful of places here that I knew must have air-con and we were hot and sick of killing mosquitoes. Saying that we stumbled into the wealthy side of town would be an understatement. We’re talking fancy outdoor malls, Irish brewpubs, Nike stores, and froyo (frozen yogurt stores). ALL of the places had air-con here! It was super odd and other than the Churro Frappuccino (yes, a churro Frappuccino!) the Starbucks was just like all other Starbucks on the planet. I drank my chai and we got out of there as fast as we could.


As we walked back to pick up the girls, I was sort of hoping that my ordeals with taxis and long waits were over, but alas, any time you choose to leave the house, you should be prepared for anything…

If you know my husband well, you will know that he trusts everyone and feels little need to lock doors, widows, etc… Our house here seems to be in a safe enough neighborhood, but we not only have a door with multiple locks, but also a wrought iron gate in front of the door fashioned with a rather large u-lock. When we got here, we were told to make sure we locked both, even if we were home, but Marty, being Marty, found that excessive. Yesterday, he went out for a run and when he returned he forced the family to join in his workout. Afterwards, I opened the door to make sure the gate was locked, and found that the U-lock was gone. Apparently, he neglected to close it and it was stolen. Why anyone would want an industrial strength U-lock without the keys is beyond me, but for someone I suppose it held some value. I emailed our house manager and was told to purchase another lock and make 7 copies of the keys.

The next morning, I was about to head out in search of a locksmith, when the maid showed up for the week. I explained the situation to her and she sort of freaked out. Apparently, a lock had been broken off of the gate two guests ago and she was afraid to be there alone. That reassured me, of course. Now I had a new reason to hurry the hell up and find another lock. I had seen a shop earlier in the week, but at 9:30 a.m., it was still closed. Next door was a small stationary store and the man working there suggested I get the phone number off of the front wall and call the owner. I went back, jotted the number down on my hand, and returned to the school supply place to see if the shop owner would let me use his phone. I got through and was told he would be there in 15 minutes. Fifty-five minutes later, I was still standing on the corner waiting. I decided to give up and return to the stationary store to ask the man if he knew of anywhere else I could buy a U-lock. He was kind enough to write down the name and address of a store about 7 miles away. I left with the intention of taking a taxi, but when I walked out… low and behold the lock shop was now open. Feeling optimistic, I headed over and was dismayed to find out that they didn’t sell locks.

Next, I walked to the language school to tell Marty I was still alive, lest we have another incident like the day before. Of course, I found him in the courtyard making yard art with flowers, leaves, and sticks.  He was in competition with the man trying to clean up the gardens, and he had to finish his masterpiece before it was swept away.

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Before hailing a taxi to the other side of town, I decided to ask the people at the school if they knew where I could buy a lock. Luckily, there was a store a few blocks away, and this time I made Marty join me so that he could share in the suffering. We bought the lock, but unfortunately they did not make keys. By this point I was exhausted and I gladly let Marty go it alone on the key search. It seems that he headed back to the same place I went just an hour before, but it was closed again. How’s that for regular business hours? Knowing that he was to meet us in an hour, he hoofed it to the non-tourist side of town. Apparently, he found a guy making keys in a little street stall, but he also stumbled upon the red-light district and had a slight run-in with ladies of the evening working in the early afternoon.


Needless to say, by the time we finally met up at 12:30, we were both ready to call it a day. This, of course, gave us a solid excuse to spend the next few hours in cafés recuperating with amazing food and frappes. The girls successfully finished their first week of classes, and next week as they work through week 2, their father and I will be taking art classes at a little local studio. I sort of hate taking art classes with Marty, I mean, please. However, I will suck it up and go with the saying, “The couple that makes art together, stays together.”… or, they want to kill each other.

Vamos a ver.