Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Cost of Living

So the Aussie dollar is extremely strong right now. Up about 7 cents against the Canadian dollar in six months. This 7 cents makes a big different when it feels like lately all I have been doing is whipping out my credit card. I am loving the new apartment but all the new apartment expenses have certainly become a drain on my bank account lately. Furniture (even if it is the most basic ikea offers), security deposits for gas and electricity, phone, internet. Plus it doesn't help that everything in Australia is mad expensive. When I was home in December I kept having happy surprises when I looked at price tags. Nearly everything was cheaper than I expected. Of course coming back here has meant the reverse reaction. Today for example I was on the search for my handcream. If I recall it retails for $6.99 in Canada and today the price was $13.99 AUD. Needless to say I left the store without. You don't need to be studying economics or have an understanding of PPP (purchasing power parity) to know that dollars of any type just don't go quite as far on this side of the world.

Produce is shockingly high for a country with a tropical climate. I know most of you heard my banana rant over the holidays. Luckily the price of bananas has fallen from its high cost of $12/kg to $3/kg. For those unaccustumed to the metric system that is about $1.50/lb which is still about twice as much as they are sold for in Canada. And mangos which are grown literally up the street from the grocery store are about 3 times as expensive as Canada. I would seriously love to understand the reasoning beyond these prices. But for now I select my produce very carefully and count the days til I am back in Canada with its truckloads of cheap produce imported from Central America.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lago Atitlan and Antigua

I was really quite sad to be leaving Xela. I generally don't travel back to places that I have already been. I find it hard to stop myself from comparing things to the first time. But my four weeks in Xela were fantastic but that didn't have to mean that they were better and worse than my previous stint in Xela. They were just different.

It is easy to feel settled in Xela. So many great cafes, cheap yoga classes, a variety of restaurants and of course all the lovely people that I had formed new friendships with (or rekindled old ones). But I had but two days left in Guatemala and I really wanted to visit Lago Atitlan and Antigua. One of the biggest regrets of our travels through Guatemala the first time around was the lose of our camera which included pictures of the lake and Antigua. (Also Semuc Champey, but there was no way I was getting that far on this trip). So armed with my new camera I set forth on a journey of wild chicken bus rides for two days of travel and picture taking.

The morning I awoke in Panajechel I headed down to the lakeshore while it was still dark. The sunrise was both behind me while facing the lake and none too spectacular but the peacefulness I found there was well worth the early hour. Staring at the two majestic volcanoes rising up out of the far side of the lake I was reminded of my first impression that this lake felt set in a land of giants and mythical creatures. Slowly as the surrounding villages awoke the lake became a bustle of boats, touts calling the names of villages tourists might wish to visit, ladies walking about with satchels of handicrafts and of course tourists of all ages from the unshowered types with long dreads to the older couples just off their airconditioned tour buses. Panajechel is the place to visit in Guatemala so it is brimming with tourists. But even with all the commerce going around it, the lake never loses its mythical charm. It is places like this that are the truly special places on this planet.

My time in Antigua passed by quickly as I ran about trying to do all those last minute things before flying out first thing the next morning. Unfortunately I felt that Antigua was just completely over run with tourists which totally detracted from the beauty of the colours. I did snap a few pictures of the pretty buildings in the little daylight I had while there.

And that was it. The next morning I awoke at 3:30am for a shuttle to the airport. 3:30 is pretty much the worst time. It is too late to be late at night and too early to be morning. Although I suppose the group that stumbled in drunk right before I boarded my shuttle would disagree with my analysis. But I spent the final day of my trip in an absolute stupor just wanting to be home in Canada before starting my next long journey back to Australia.

Enjoy my pictures of Lago Atitlan and Antigua.

Last Days in Xela

In my final days in Xela I was busy busy busy running about buying souvenirs, making Guacamole, hanging out with friends and climbing a volcano with beautiful lake in the centre. On my last night in Xela we sat drinking beer and eating pizza for five hours and it cost us each less than $10 cdn by the end of the night. I am going to miss many things about Guatemala and living on the cheap is but one major one.

My pictures are here.

Good Friends, Cheap Drinks

Monday, February 12, 2007

Babies are Cool

In the short time I was home I was super happy to have the chance to meet the newest addition to the newly formed Stedman clan, baby Lydia.

Here are a few pics from my brief visit.

Lydia slept quietly in my lap for nearly an hour and then just when we go to take the picture she starts crying. Go figure.

Kelly and Lydia

Tim and Lydia

I have pics and stories coming from my final days in Guatemala. Soon....I promise.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Xela Cemetary

I visited the Xela cemetary last time I was here and I think I posted pictures as well. But I had to post a few more because I just find the place so fascinating. With all the colours. The large family tombs that look more like small houses. The mix of fresh and dying flowers. And the views of Santa Maria. It is just so inspiring for photos

At the entrance of the cemetary there is a sign hanging that says Por el recuerdo del vivo, hace la vida de los muertos or something like that as I am going on memory. It means (loosely) by the memories of the living the dead live on. This sentiment can certainly be felt as you walk about the grounds. A sense of reverence.

Here are the rest of my photos.