Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'Tis the Season to be Festive!




JANUARY 1, 2010


LIGHTS LIGHTS AND MORE LIGHTS

Mexico has it’s Z√≥calos (public squares), and every town in Guatemala has a Central Park. The Central Park of Antigua (Parque Central) is one of the most beautiful in all of Guatemala. And it is the epicenter of the action down here; a focal point for couples, friends and families to meet, hang out and to watch the world go by. The park is one square city block and is in the center of the city.


Here is a typical scene in the Park; a band from South America playing music from the Andes:



Here is the park on a Sunday afternoon late in the day, but with a special twist, since it is all lit up for the holidays (2 parts):



And here are some photos I took which feature the pretty lights; this one is one side of the park looking down the "main street" of Antigua:










Yours truly by the main fountain




AL FRESCO CONCERT IN THE PARK

On one side of Antigua’s Central Park is the stunning Cathedral; originally built in 1670 and then rebuilt after the great earthquake in 1773. On a normal day, it looks like this:


And at night it looks like this:


But, this one particular night about 2 weeks ago, something special took place. It was the annual Christmas Festival performance by Guatemala’s National Symphonic Orchestra; and they were accompanied by the Modern and Folkloric Ballet Troup. You have to admit, with this backdrop, it is a pretty splendid setting to see a concert - al fresco, amidst the beautifully lit ornate Cathedral. And it was especially nice because it was free ;-) And, since I only live 5 blocks away, it is a very convenient location - I didn't have to arrange any transportation or deal with any parking hassles!


Here is an overall view of how it looked that night. Yes, that’s right, the tiny little guy at the bottom in red is….. you guessed it… Santa was conducting the concert!


Here is a close-up of our friend from the North Pole:


Here are the dancers:


At the end, this guy lit himself (rather his “wings”) on fire and danced around (this is a tradition down here):


Here is a really good photo of what these on-fire “Wing Men” look like up close:

http://revuemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Revue2009-12Cover5.jpg



THE DEVIL BURNS

Speaking of lighting oneself on fire, I attended the annual “Burning of the Devil” festival here a few weeks ago. Devils are big down here, and so is burning stuff (especially firecrackers). The belief is, that just before Christmas time, everyone burns things (specifically Devils) to make way for a safe holiday. So people will buy small versions of the devils and cast them out on the street in front of their houses and burn them. Or they will just look around their houses and gather up stuff from their junk drawers and burn that. Many towns in Guatemala have some sort of Devil-burning celebration, of course Antigua is not without its own.


I couldn't get up close to photograph the Devil very well nor have I been able to find online photos or a video of the actual Devil in Antigua this year, but here is a good photo of the Devil from last year's burning in Antigua:

http://revuemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/24-holidays-f1.jpg


And this video will give you an idea of what an actual burning is like. I think this Devil burned in the Capital (Guatemala City):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4BUimcTMD0


Here are some photos I was able to take - I took this of the crowd so that you could see the surrounding scene:


Here are 2 photos of the Devil burning that night -kind of wimpy if you ask me! But I am a burning snob since I've seen the "Burning Man" burn twice in Northern Nevada!























And here is some random guy who was ‘lit’ on fire (same sort of “wings of fire” like I mention above in the Concert section) and he was running down the street:


All in all, given that they light this Devil on fire on a residential street between 2 gas stations and therefore are prohibited from making a really big explosive event (no pun intended), I would say that it was a fun and festive evening!



WELCOMING IN 2010


For New Year’s Eve, thousands of people gather in Antigua’s streets, congregating in two main places: the Central Park and around the famous arch. There are multiple stages with lots of entertainment (a huge variety of different musical groups and dancers) or some of the action is just taking place in the street, like the ever-present “wing-man” on fire, this time he is more like a dancing human firework launching station:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnb-Mr7yn-k


I couldn’t really find a good video or photo which shows the scale of how many people were in the streets, but at midnight they launch tons of fireworks and here is a mediocre video which kind of shows this. If you watch the whole thing you can see that every now and then they will pan down to show the park where the fireworks were launched:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsmNkiFEiyw





Sunday, December 27, 2009

Scenes from my life in Antigua




DECEMBER 27, 2009



SCHOOL

A few weeks ago, I decided to augment my classes with my private Spanish teacher by taking some classes at a ‘proper’ Spanish school. I think it is one of the prettier schools down here plus they also have a great reputation for the quality of instruction. Here is a link to my school's website:

http://www.sanjoseelviejo.com/index-2.html


I thought you might enjoy it if I gave you a tour of it so I took some videos (3 parts):


HOME

And here you can (finally!) see where I live. This 10 minute video gives you a little tour of the complex I live in, Olgas’s house (where I have my meals), and my cottage (casita).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W34C7AUo_lo


Enjoy!



Monday, December 21, 2009

Infrastructure




DECEMBER 21, 2009


Often time my life down here will be humming along and then something comes along that reminds me, “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.” People in third world countries are often incredibly resourceful with things they repair, build and/or create. Frequently, laws, rules and regulations don’t exist for constructing things like the way we are used to back home in The States. I thought I would share some of these ‘creative’ infrastructure examples with you.


Here are some interesting electrical configurations - you see these ALL OVER HERE. I can only wonder what the electrical ‘code’ here is supposed to be…that is, of course, if there is one:




























So many of the outlets I have seen are old and out-of-date. And most don’t really accommodate plugs very well; you might actually have to tape them in so that the plug doesn’t fall out! I saw this interesting group the other day:




And here is an extension cord I brought with me. Obviously the old electrical system fried it!




Many stores/families use their roofs as exterior storage areas like this example which I saw in Alotenango:




Here is my shower. Most showers here are electric. You can see how they’ve taped my wires down:




And here you can see how the path of the wires is kind of makeshift; on the left it goes out through my window: