Thursday, May 1, 2008

Where in the World?

Hello folks,

Well due to remote locations, rising internet costs and most of all just a bout of lazyness I haven´t written a thing in a long time! I do apologize and I assure you I am not dead. Have been some to some wonderful places since I last wrote, the best on the whole trip in fact. Soo, here´s my update.....

We are in lovely Costa Rica and we just finished living it up on the Carribean Coast in Cajuita, a small Garifuna town. This beach community is known for great Jerk chicken (heated with habañero peppers), coconut milk sauces, curries, red snapper, and gallo pinto. Not to mention fabulous mangoes, pineapples and raw coconut. All of which we found at Miss Edith´s, a famous carribean resteraunt where Miss Edith´s sister is the waitress and her kids run in and out slamming the screen door. It wasn´t cheap but it was really good.

Here in Cajuita we stayed right on the ocean and walked a couple minutes each day on the jungle trail that paralelled the beautiful white sand beaches as they curved into Cajuita point. On the jungle trail we saw racoons, white faced monkeys, Howler monkeys, three toed sloths, vultures, purple and orange crabs, yellow venemous snakes, and a boa constrictor. We also ran into a lot of mosquitos as we went deeper into the jungle so we would walk back out to the beach to pick up the fresh winds that sent the bugs flying.

We were back in San Jose today and it began to rain this afternoon. It is Labor Day in Costa Rica today so many things are closed. We made it to Alajuela just now and I´ve just heard there is no Veggie food to be found! Ugh.

Plan to go to Volcano Poas in the morning, then Mike leaves for home on May 3. Wow, our time is almost up.

My family gets in just after Mike leaves on the third and we will all be here until May 10!

I will be home on May 11, finally after 2 months and some change of travel!

Post more pictures soon--See you all then

Friday, March 21, 2008

I almost forgot about the Easter Bunny...

Antigua, Guatemala

There has been a lot going on in the city in preparation for Easter week or Semana Santa. Tradition here is very strong, and most everyone in the city comes out to view or be part of the massive processions that go through the streets every Sunday leading up to Easter and on all the special days like Good Friday. The men dress in purple robes and some as Roman guards. They recreate Christs march as he carried his cross to be crucified. There are hundreds of men in purple robes (and boys as well), they come to carry a huge wooden float on top of which is carried a figure of Christ and his cross. At night it is lit up with lights. These processions go on for 12 hours, all day long until 10 at night winding through the streets of Antigua. The people who can afford to make large ¨alfombras¨ or carpets out of colored saw dust, flowers, fruits and vegetables in the street in front of their houses. The procession walks around these carpets exept for the 80 people that are needed to carry the float, they walk over them. Incense is burned at the front of the processions in such quantities that it is hard to breath until they pass. The streets are packed and traffic is stopped on the streets where the preocesions walk. Huge bands play sad music behind the floats. The floats are so heavy and the people must trade off carrying them. There is also a float for the Virgin Mary and that float is carried over the cobblestone streets only by women all dressed in black. You can see the people sweating under the weight of the float as it sways back and forth and moves slowly down the street. The atmosphere is not all sad however, the streets are filled with vendors selling food and ice cream, balloons, and toys. At night the many churches in town take turns decorating themselves fully inside with the alfombras hosting the holy nights where everyones comes out to eat and view the churches in full tribute to Semana Santa. The city is full and will be until Easter is over. It is an interesting experience to be able to see how much energy is put into Semana Santa and how Guatemaltecans celebrate Easter week.

The inside of Iglesia la Merced while it was decorated with an alfombra and had a scene in adoration of the Virgin Mary.

The outide of Iglesia la Merced with indigenous women selling bouqets of dried palm fronds and flowers.

The wooden float depicting Christ and his cross.

One of Antigua´s main streets with an alfombra of pine needles and flowers.

On Saturday we went on a tour of Pacaya, a nearby volcano which you can climb and is still active. It is one of the more incredible things I have ever seen or done really. We took a bus an hour and a half to the village of Pacaya. Then climbed up a steep trail for almost an hour. The people from the village were following our group hounding us to rent horses to ride up. Everyone declined at first (mostly for pride) but the trail was seriously steep and as people dropped off they payed to take a horse up the rest of the way. It was a joke amungst the group guessing who was going next. At the top you could see the mist and foggy steam rushing up and out of the caldera. The volcano is lush and green but inside the cone was black and rocky, and you could just make the orangy red lava in the center. It was a great view, very cool we thought resting at the top, very cool. Until our guide then led us down into the caldera. And it grew hot, very hot. We walked first over dry grey black crust (remanants of previous flows) and we could just feel the heat from the center blowing over us at times. Then the dry, hard crust began to gain heat and we headed out with our walking sticks to balance us. Then we began using the sticks to check the strenght of the crust in front of us, and we started to see patches of florescent orange in cracks in the crust beside where we were stepping. The heat grew more intense and I admit, I was scared of burning to death. Especially when the english guy in front of me stuck his walking stick in the crust just to the right of his foot to steady himself and the bottom of the stick instantly leapt into flames. We freaked out a second, then he pulled up his stick and the flames went out. It was soo hot I was afraid my camera wouldnt work. When a gust of cold wind came over you it was such a relief. It was a very unique experience for sure.

Trying not to melt as we get closer for the picture....just a little further....

Sunday we went to Chichicastenango with the family we are staying with, the Ruiz´s. In case I didn't say they are Luiz and Patty, and the girls are Avi (9), Luisa(5) and Angelita (1 1/2). Now this was an interesting day as well. We were awoken at 5:30 am with ranchero music blaring through the house and intermittent fireworks in the garden (for Luis´s birthday). We got up, drank hot chocolate and didn't get going until 8:30 am for the trip. We all smashed into their Honda (Civic you say? I don't think so, its even smaller, must be the smallest Honda they make with 5 seats). We...well we had some additions. Patty´s father and brother came yesterday from El Salvador for a visit, so we had 2 more. So in front sat, Luis, Patty, (the grandpa) Caesar, Avi, Luisa and Angelita, and in back sat me, Mike, Caesar (the brother) and Tobias (the German student). 10 people! And they said they have fit 14 before...I don't know how! And the car dragged all the way... 3 hours to Chichicastenango. We were very much like sardines at the time. Can you imagine the fus we would have made at home?? But here no, the baby cried once or twice, but nobody complained and they played games and chatted the whole time. ¡Increible! But there are lots of speed bumps in Guatemala...the towns here love them and they are called topos. The car was soo heavy that we scraped (badly) every topo and finally we started all getting out of the backseat and walking over them then getting back in before the next one. Wow, it was a loong trip. Mike and I took a minibus back from the market so we didn't cause further damage to their car. But the market at Chichicastenango was awesome! Huge and full of the most beautiful textiles. We we will go back again if we have the time.

Luis trying on the masks..always the prankster

The main church at Chichicastenango

Luis, Angelita and Patty enjoying the market

Luis, Angelita, Patty, Luisa, Marissa and Ave after a game of soccer with the locals.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

San Cristobal and Chamula

San Cristobal is a beautiful city in the south of Mexico. It has colonial charm, traditional markets, a flourishing indigenous population, entertainment and variety. I´m not sure why I have yet to write about it when it was one of my favorite cities in Mexico - guess I was enjoying myself too much to stick myself in an internet cafe. I don´t have any pictures except from the small village of Chamula and our horseback meanderings along the way. San Cristobal was however very beautiful and picturesque.

Mike, atop his noble white steed

The group we went riding with on the small farm outside San Cristobal

Monday, March 3, 2008

Vamos a la Playa

Sunset over the break at Puerto Escondido's Zicatela beach.

So I know I said we were headed to Mazunte, and we made it there just fine-but we didn't stay even 24 hrs because it just wasn't what we had in mind. It was a beautiful series of cove beaches, it had palm trees, we had an awesome grilled fish dinner of Huachenango, but .... the rooms were grungy and more humid than a steam room, the prices were high and the beaches were over run with hippies and stray dogs. So it was with little hesitation that we sweated through 3 more taxis and one bus to get to Puerto Escondido, where we had no intention of stopping, and now I have little inclination to leave.

We found a perfect little place with a nice lady, Monica, that hangs out all day talking to her guests from the comfort of her hammock (she doesn't own the place but I'm pretty sure she likes her job). We bought groceries, we cook with the other laid back guests (many of them surfers come here for the gi-normous beautifully shaped waves), we read in hammocks and watch the sunsets from the public beach chairs and cabanas. It's the kind of beach that most people of any age could really enjoy- and they do. There are a lot of older travelers here, as there were in Oaxaca and seem to be in much of Mexico (it's not the Yucatan Spring Break scene). People that find places they love and keep coming back whenever they can.

We will leave however, maybe in another day or so. One guy staying at our place said he planned to stay two days, but that was 8 days ago...I saw him again this morning.

The beach at Mazunte, to walk from end to end it took about 10 minutes. Very beautiful place-the scene around it was just not my style.

Resteraunt/Cabana on the beach at Puerto Escondito. We are at a part of Puerto Escondito called Zicatela. If you order something here, they will bring it to your lounge chair.

Like Ceviche.....mmmmm. This made me sick. But it was worth eating anyway.

Now off to the beach...more pictures later.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Monte Albán

The ruins of Monte Albán really were amazing to see. We went on a nice day that wasn´t too sunny or we would have roasted for sure! The ruins aren´t spectacular like those of Macchu Pichu, but they are pretty worthwhile. They overlook the city of Oaxaca, way up on a hill.

Monte Albán was an early moesoamerican city, and the Zapotec cultural, policitcal and economic center for close to a thousand years (around 500BC to 500AD). Water had to be carried up daily to the preists and higher class people who lived at this ancient site.

Mike, resting in the shade of the ruins.

Marissa, posing on the top steps of a large staircase.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Yes, this is Oaxaca, and it´s hot here, as well as full of very beautiful and artsy courtyards. We have seen great street markets and I´ll soon be off to buy a large brimmed hat so I don´t colapse on the ruins of Monte Alban which we are off to see in the morning.

The food has been wonderful so far in Mexico - and in Oaxaca, people say especially so. So it is with some hesitation that I admit to dragging Mike to a pizza place our first night in the city. What can I say...I was dehydrated and needed something a little ¨calmer¨on the stomach than usual. And I was craving a good slice of pizza, which is exactly what I was great. Tonight is not my pick however :)


So we have been in Oaxaca for some days now. It has been nice and we are taking our time a lot more than in Mexico City. Today is a special saints day so they are giving out free jamaica in front of the churches and in the zocalo--but I want to give you some updates first.

Yesterday we went to a huge market, Marcado Abastos and bought our hammocks for the jungle in Guatemala. You need hammocks to sleep so the bugs wont crawl on you as much. Anyway, these hammocks are beautiful and made with such detail. The market was a maze full of food and fruits, vegetables, shirts, dresses, textiles, baskets, batteries, shoes, anything you wanted. They even had cages of rabbits (with space, water and food) small song birds, puppies (sold for pets), roosters with little leashes on their feet so they wouldn´t fly away, huge turkeys laying down with their feet tied, all sorts of animals hanging around. They had the meat market section with raw meat hanging everywhere on large hooks, and the seafood section (rows and rows of booths) selling fresh shrimp, fish, dried fish, all sorts of seafood of which I can´t recall because I couldn´t really stand walking through that section the smell of fish was soo strong.

Then we caught a bus to Tule, where the worlds largest tree by volume is said to live. It is in front of a very cute and whimsical looking church and you have to pay $3 pesos to go inside the gates. I don´t know about this ¨by volume¨business. Outside of Puebla we went to Cholula to see the worlds largest pyramid ¨by volume¨and it was really ugly and so covered with weeds you couldn´t even see the pyramid. The Tule tree was nice though.

After the Tule tree, located in the small town of Tule. We went to eat in another small market and shared a leyuda. This picture is only half of one. It is large tortilla the size of a mdium pizza, with beans, cheese, avocado, tomato, salsa and carne asada (if you want it). It´s a really great item.

Mike also ordered a nieve which is simmilar to a snow cone. He ordered a leche quemado or burnt milk flavor. Man, it tasted just like burn milk on ice! Mike loved it - I thought it just tasted burnt.

Ohh, and the other night we went out to a very nice resteraunt that specializes in more alternative Oaxacan food (Mike´s choice-dont look at me). It was great though, we had a nopales salad, and then I had white fish on a bed of salsa de piña (pineapple) which was all on top of nopales (cactus leaves). -- Really nice.

Mike ordered a pollo gordito, which was a piece of chicken, stuffed with flor de calabaza, cheese, and jalapenos, covered in a green chili sauce. Awesome.

This is the courtyard of the hostel we are at, Luz de Luna. It has chairs all around to sit in. Hammocks to relax in and a zoo of animals to make you feel at home. There are, I think around 6 dogs, and two sister cats. They roam around the hostel and get fed well.

The one dog up here, Pancho, is old old and sometimes snaps when you feed him (because he can´t see well) and gets stuck on the roof. He also barks a lot when anyone new comes by. Blue is friendliest and best trained. He´s a black lab.

This is the Iglesia Santo Domingo. It is the main church near the zocalo in Oaxaca. I am headed here now to get some jamaica and meet Mike and a friend of his from Oaxaca,Olivia for lunch.

Tomorrow morning at 9 am we have arranged a van ride to Puerto Escondido (6 hrs) and then its just a quick drive from there to Mazunta. Yes, we changed our plans and we´re heading to the beach! Good idea :)
Hope everyone at home is well!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Puebla, Mexico

We made the 2 hour trip to Puebla the same night after we had visited Xochimilco.

Puebla is a large, colonial city that is affluent and full of culture. It has a beautiful fountain in front of large church in the heart of the zocalo.

Mike and I began our visit by trekking to the zocalo from our hostel for amazing tortas. We ended a nice evening being serenaded by Mexican ballads while eating churros and drinking hot chocolates.
More on this later!


Ok, this is later, we´re now in Oaxaca-but let me tell you more about Puebla!

While there we had the chance to eat excellent cemitas, which is a larger, blown up and exploded with cheese version of a torta. It´s needless to say....excellent. The drink is mixture of milk and bananas which is pretty good. The juices here are my favorite however!

Also buenisimo was the Sopa Azteca, which comes with Avocado, torillas strips, cheese and chilies. MMMmmmm. Quite good, so far I am sticking to the vegetarian options. Check out Mike´s blog for the food with meat!

Ohh, and the best Quesadilla ever was made with Flor de Calabasas, chili, onions, mushrooms, cheese, cheese and more cheese. Wow - street food...I think it cost 14 pesos or about a dollar. So very very good.

On Sunday we went to the Casa de Cultura for a Ballet Folklorico production which was gratis (free) for the people. it was just beautiful and displayed music, costumes and dances from all the different regions of Mexico. It was really colorful and much of the community came out to sit and watch the show.

Marissa in front of the fountain in the zocalo. Balloons for sale in the background.

In Puebla we did a bit of resting and upodating blogs just for YOU! I admit, I think it´s fun to make and see the blogs. We left Puebla in the afternoon and took a 5 hour bus to Oaxaca city. And here we remain....for a couple days at least.