Tag Archives: culture

“I’ll take my hot chocolate without the sacrificial blood, thanks.” The Conclusion of the Guatemala trip.

Continued from Five Nights in Antigua, Guatemala and What to Do in Antigua, Guatemala.

After an afternoon of exploring ruins, we got ready for the wedding which was held at the Porta Hotel in Antigua. Lili faced a major challenge in that she wanted a Catholic ceremony, but it was not being held in a church. Locating a priest that would perform it proved to be a challenge. Everything else was already in place and she had purchased a dress more than a year before, but she explained to me that in Guatemala it is considered strange to wear the wedding gown if you have a civil ceremony, rather than religious. Fortunately an old family friend turned priest was able to perform the ceremony.

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The next morning we miraculously rose early considering each table came equipped with bottles of rum and whisky. Semana Santa, or Holy Week, was approaching and we had learned that in the weeks leading up to it — Lent — there were processions on Sundays.

I had experienced Semana Santa in Spain several years ago. The processions were interesting, but after a solid week of trying to navigate around them to get anywhere in Sevilla (I was taking language courses for a couple months) it was wearing thin. I know I shouldn’t complain about getting first hand experience with an incredible cultural experience, but I need clear access to Zara and Promod at all times. Don’t you judge me! I was also late to class.

Our experience in Guatemala worked out perfectly. The insanity and deluge of Guatemalans and tourists from all over had not yet arrived in Antigua, but we still got to see the Catholic celebration. In fact, we got to see something even better — the preparations. The streets are prepared with beautiful alfombras, or carpets, of sawdust, flowers and pine straw before the processions arrive with the heavy floats carried on the shoulders of the men, or cucuruchos, who have been selected for this honor. Women in the procession are called Las Dolorosas.

From the cutting of flowers to the watering of pine straw to the use of power tools  and stencils to lay colorful sawdust, it was incredible to see hours of work, faith and dedication put into making something beautiful that would be trampled out of existence when the procession passed by.

If you’ve been bypassing my other photo galleries, please look through this one. Photos don’t do it justice, but it was really incredible.

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Chris and I had lunch at La Antigua Vineria. The pizza was delish and  authentic. To add to the ambience was a man — owner maybe? — watching an Italian news channel. Chris wasn’t able to enjoy it so much as his stomach was a little off.

IMG_4467We returned to the hotel so he could rest while I drank coffee and read. We ate dinner at the hotel again that night — this time with reservations so we were able to be seated outside.

Chris still wasn’t feeling great so he struggled to enjoy his risotto.

But we did have a lovely view of the small lap pool.

Asian pork ribs with soy sauce, ginger, star anise and sweet potato.
Asian pork ribs with soy sauce, ginger, star anise and sweet potato.

I wondered whether anyone ever really swam in it. Though pretty, it was literally a lap pool. Tables sat alongside it and a sign requested that guests refrain from swimming during restaurant hours.  For my amusement, I considered swimming laps like an Olympic swimmer as it would inevitably lead to diners being splashed.


IMG_4475Chris’s stomach issues did not improve during the night. Just the opposite. I was on my own the next day for the chocolate tour at Choco Museo. I participated in the chocolate making workshop which takes you through the history of chocolate in Guatemala and the chocolate making process.

The first thing we made was chocolate tea from the shells of the cacao beans. Then we made spicy and bitter hot chocolate as the Mayans would have — sort of. They would actually put blood in it. I was taking the class with another couple and when the teacher asked the husband to prick his finger, she was so deadpan, I actually had a moment of panic in which I actually questioned the possibility that I wasn’t going to get any hot chocolate because some dude from Massachusetts was going to have to donate DNA. My chocolate lust has often been known to cloud my judgment and  sense of reality. Instead we just used chili powder. We also stirred as the Mayans would have, pouring from jug to jug. One more thing I lack the coordination for as you can see from the progression of these photos.

IMG_4491 IMG_4492 IMG_4493
IMG_4510Next we made hot chocolate as the Europeans adapted it — meaning sweeter. And we ended by making our own chocolates to take home. While my chocolates cooled and hardened in the fridge, I walked back to the hotel to check on Chris. He wasn’t much IMG_4511interested in getting out of bed, so I got some coffee and read a book on the patio until it was time to wander back into town and collect my chocolates. I did some last-day gift shopping as well, including a colorful hand-made wooden mixer truck for Connor.

I made one last sweep through the markets before grabbing some lunch at a Korean joint. Yes, I ate Korean while in Guatemala. What can I say? I didn’t plan it — it just popped up in front of me.

Who can say no to bibimbap?
Who can say no to bibimbap?

As we left Antigua the next morning we saw our first clear shot of the volcano hovering above the town. It had been surrounded by clouds until that point, but the sun finally burned through. And then it was gone out of sight, our quest to get a picture unfulfilled.

We arrived at the airport only for me to become enraged that I was unable to take my big bag of tamales, chuchitos and salsa with me. In ‘Murica our signs just say no guns or explosives.


I burned through the last of our quetzales shoveling airport-hocked handicrafts into my bag.

Our final Guatemalan adventure was at takeoff. Just as the plane was nearly completely boarded, it was announced we had to get off as the airport had closed. This immediately triggered my anxiety. Airports don’t just close. Clearly there was a security issue and of course I was thinking of terrorism. Everyone began to file off and the flight attendants — who look nothing like the dolls Delta hocks —


were clearly unsure how to proceed. They began checking boarding passes, then taking them, then returning them and checking them again. We were alerted that the airport had closed due to a security issue on the other side. Someone somewhere made the call that our flight could go, but it had to be ASAP or we would be stuck. So everyone filed back on and we were cleared for takeoff. This is the kind of stuff that rattles me and it happened to be the same day as the Germanwings crash. Had I known about that at the time, I told Chris he’d probably still be clutching his stomach in Central America.

But the flight back to Atlanta was uneventful.

“Why does coming home make you so cranky?” Chris asked me as my mood had soured quickly upon landing.

The travel beast has been reawakened.



I’m nobody, but I’ll still tell you what I think about marriage equality.

I’m so baffled by  the people who oppose marriage equality because they say it will destroy the institution of marriage. Where is this traditional marriage-created utopia these people think they live in? Can we stop pretending that marriage has some great history? Tell me again…what is the current divorce rate? Doesn’t marriage actually have a pretty rocky background?

Marriage is like living at Disney World…

Marriage has been used historically to serve business and financial purposes (Hello, Downton Abbey) and so that men could be assured of paternity. Marriage has not typically been something that benefitted women. At various times and in various cultures women have been forced to marry much older men at very young ages, have been treated and traded like property, have been subject to rules that didn’t apply equally to men (death penalty for adultery), and have been denied the right to inherit their husband’s property and money. Women were expected to be virgins when wed, but society allowed men to do whatever they wanted.

We should ban Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian from getting married again if we want to protect marriage. Tiger Woods shouldn’t even be allowed to leave his house. David Petraeus, John Edwards, Bill Clinton…boy, did they respect the institution.

But the Bible says…

Marriages take place for a lot of reasons besides religious beliefs. The church doesn’t even have to be involved in a wedding. That’s optional. Two people can go to a justice of the peace and have a wedding that does not have one ounce of religion in it. Atheists can marry. People beyond the age of child-bearing, or simply medically unable to do so can marry, so there goes the procreation argument. Heck, for a while, in ancient times, the church preferred people not marry as it took their focus off God. Celibacy was ideal as it prevented distraction from God by family. But when the church realized that was a losing battle, they jumped on board the wedding train.

And let’s get real here. The Bible says a lot of things that don’t fly in 2013. Isn’t there something about stoning people? Oh and these? Or these! XI is my favorite!

Who wrote the Bible? God, many will say. Well, okay, but through people, yes? People never have agendas do they?

If marriage is sacred and holy to you, great. But let’s not pretend that’s the only reason why it exists.

But what happens next?

Perverted old members of NAMBLA will demand the right to marry little boys because they were born that way! Ummm…actually, no. That is not a marriage of two consenting adults. That’s child sexual abuse and nowhere near the same thing. People will want to marry goats! Well, if the goat learns how to sign legal documents and can communicate that it is a consenting adult, to the open bar I will go.

Homosexuality is not a traditional, acceptable lifestyle, some say.

Then let’s bar them from being in “traditional” committed monogamous relationships. That’s the solution.

But kids have a right to a mother and father!

Another of my favorite arguments. Because ALL kids have a mother and father now. I forgot that our utopian little world doesn’t have any single parents. I forgot that a parent would NEVER walk away from their responsibility. I forgot that a parent could never die. I forgot that a straight person would never, ever raise a child in anything other than the traditional family unit. Better only one parent, than two of the same sex, though.

What about the children?

Of course, there is the obvious point that if gay couples marry and have children, these children will be all messed up from growing up in such an amoral household. That’s a hard one to argue. Oh, wait, actually it’s not because I spent seven years in a public school classroom. You think sexual orientation has bearing on the ability to parent?  These are just a few of the sad things I’ve seen:

~a student told not to read by a parent because it was a waste of time

~homework blatantly completed by parents

~a parent demand I send home pencils for homework because they didn’t think they should have to buy any

~a student told by a parent that the reason he gets in trouble is because the entire staff is racist (but not because he’s disruptive, throws things, hits, or runs)

~countless parents that never show up to anything, whether it be conferences or events

~a student that wouldn’t attend a musical unless given a solo (via a note written by a parent)

~a female student not permitted to play any sport because she’s a girl

I could go on.

These all occurred in straight households of varying race and socioeconomic status. And they are not indicative of the “typical” families I worked with. But maybe being straight isn’t enough on the list of criteria.

For further examples, please see: Teen Mom, Dance Moms, and Toddlers and Tiaras. (Thanks Jon Stewart)

I’ve had a number of students over the years from same-sex households. Some of those parents volunteered in the room. And all were very involved with their kids. I’m not saying I always saw eye-to-eye with every one of those parents, but I can assure you, that if there was an issue, it was nothing that didn’t occur with a traditional straight family. Damaged children? I assure you not. I’ve taught damaged children. Trust me. One of my top students in my last year had two dads. She made straight As, read like a fiend, and made power points about pet care and animal adoption for fun. Quick! Somebody call DFCS!

The government wanted to get involved in marriage so now they can deal with that decision. There is no reason that two people who want to commit to each other shouldn’t have access to a loved one in the hospital with a medical condition, file a joint tax return, have a family medical plan, and all that other legal mumbo jumbo. Let’s stop putting marriage, as it has been, on a pedestal. Let’s stop reinventing a history where marriage has always equalled a world of Care Bears and Skittle rainbows. Some marriages are great. Some are awful. God forbid we give another group of people the opportunity to give it a shot.

To clarify, I’m not anti-marriage. My parents have been married forty years. I’m happily married. But in my opinion, while surely there have been great marriages throughout history, as an “institution” it has only become a good thing for women in the last few decades. In the past, sometimes the only thing worse for women than being married, was not being married. It was like voting in one of our presidential elections. Choose the lesser of two evils. Marriage has not always defined our culture in a positive way. So let’s try something new.