Saturday, July 23, 2011

Las Cafeteras y La Canicula

One month ago I was sitting in the airport in Atlanta after flying from Charlottesville, VA.  I had no idea what I was going to find in Antigua.  I was apprehensive and excited all at once.  In some ways, it feels like that was a lifetime ago.  In others, the time has simply flown by.
Coffee plant with greenberries - harvest season
is November/December here in Antigua.
This past Thursday we visited the Azotea coffee plantation.  It is a working farm, as well as a museum which explains the process of coffee from start to finish.  We learned that Guatemala is ninth in production in the world… but third in quality.  Of course, other countries might argue about that! 
Our guide also told us that the best coffee in all of Guatemala is from… Antigua!  I love the fact that folks here are proud of their city, of things made in Guatemala, and of their Mayan heritage.
Red on the outside, opening up to a pretty yellow flower.
In Spanish, the machine used to brew coffee (in the U.S. a ‘coffee-maker’) is called a cafetera.  A person who can’t start their day without a cup of coffee is also called a cafetera.  Those of you who know me know I’m just a bit of a cafetera!  The Panaderia (little bread shop) close to our house has delicious cafe con leche (coffee with hot steamed milk) and serve it with a yummy little cookie!  A great way to get ready for school!!

Along with the coffee museum was a music museum where we learned about the different instruments used by the Mayans before the Spanish came.  Most were percussion, using animal skins, turtle shells, even the jawbone – with teeth intact! – of a horse.  We also learned about the instruments introduced by the Spanish, like guitars.  Our guide spoke slowly and clearly, and I was able to understand pretty much everything she said.  It felt great to be able to do so!
Almost looks like lobster claws!
Walking through these was way more fun
than those old 60's beads!
Love the Birds-of-Paradise!
The grounds of Azotea are filled with the coffee plants, but also other gorgeous plants and flowers.  I snapped lots of pictures, although I didn’t get the names of them all.  The colors and shapes of the flowers here are amazing.  Exotic is really the only work that fits. 

I especially love the ‘Birds-of-Paradise’ which earn their name!

this one was nicknamed 'pico-de-gallo'.
these flowers looked awesome...
but were kind of smelly. 
This is actually from Dona Cristi's patio.
To me it looks like a bird in flight.
I’ve finished one month of Spanish class.  I feel pretty good about my progress, although at times I just want to stop learning new things so I can ‘digest’ what I’ve been taught.  Dona Cristi’s daughter, Cristina, says she has noticed improvement in me since she got here two weeks ago.  Some days I feel like I’m doing great, and others I cannot remember the simplest of regular verbs in the present tense, so that was encouraging to hear!  Next week I’ll start with a new teacher, which will be challenging, but also good for me. 
This morning Haley, Lisa (my other housemate) and I went to the big market on the outskirts of the city.  It is filled with vendors selling everything from dried beans to toothpaste to gorgeous roses to bootleg DVDs to cell phones to all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables.  It was very hot and crowded, but I loved walking around and seeing the different people there, many in their traditional dress.  It reminded me a bit of walking in Toronto as a little girl with my mom.

I bought a sweet pineapple for 7 quetzales, and a giant mango for 5q.  (The exchange rate right now is 7.7q/$US1.00.)  It’s a bit sad because we aren’t supposed to eat anything with edible skin.  Walking past the strawberries, blackberries and peaches was awfully hard!  I was told if I soak the fruit in pure water with a few drops of chlorine bleach I should be okay.  I’m hoping to try it one of these days!
Even though we are not technically in the southern hemisphere, the rainy season (right now) is called winter.  For the past few weeks the temperature has been pretty consistently in the 70’s, with downpours most days.  I actually had to wear socks to bed a couple of nights last week.  Believe me, I’m not complaining!  :O)

This week, however, the weather has been fantastic.  We haven’t had rain (except a passing shower) in nearly five days.  The temperature has been in the 80’s with bright sunshine.  The people here call this weather ‘canicula’ which means ‘dog days’ or midsummer. 

Speaking of nice weather... time to wrap up and head to the park with Las Cronicas.  The four kids just stumbled back into the wardrobe and are about to meet the Mr. and Mrs. Beaver!!

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