Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rainy Season?

Thanks Kim for asking about the rainy season. Be ready to be shocked. We are in the rainy season and have been for about a week. This is the crazy part....For the first 3 weeks we had about 15 seconds of a sprinkle. All of a sudden over night it switched. It has rained every night (well not sure about last night) but basically every night for the last week and it is rain like I have never seen or heard before. Our days are fairly cloudy with spots of sunshine here and there and the mornings are super duper humid - more so than Virginia ever has been. This humidity I am sure is caused by the nightly rain. It starts to sprinkle on and off in the early evening and then all night long it pours down really hard. We have a tin roof over our real roof so the sound of the rain is beautiful but the thunder is soooo loud! This will sound crazy but one morning early it thundered so loud that my skillet fell off the drainboard. May have been coincidence but it WAS really loud. I am loving the rainy season so far because it has only been a week and basically only rained while we are sleeping. But ask me again in a few months!

By the way we got good news yesterday. We can have stuff shipped to us in the vehicles being exported to Nathan. I immediately gave Nathan's Mom a list, bless her heart, brownies, frosting, peanut butter, tootsie rolls, my raw almonds, and shout spray because we have no stain lifter here and I have to wash everything in cold water so our clothes are clean but don't look it! Shout should help me out. If not I will have to hire someone to do my laudry because the women here in Guatemala are extra awesome stain fighters. Ingrid said she would teach me but she is so busy and I hate to take her away from her children when she is not working. I think that Stormy may be able to send us our PO BOX personal letters this way. We are going to test it this round and see how it goes.


The spanish is coming easier. I have to overcome my fear of speaking but the words are coming to mind more fluidly now. I'm sure the grammar is still crazy but my thoughts are being expressed. The kids are surprising me with how they are picking it up. Gabby loves to watch the rock n learn series I bought in the states and is learning it this way. I have to admit I have learned a lot watching it also. I definately recommend it.

Homeschool?!? Well - we do our school work in the living area from 10 to 1. That's about as long as I can keep the kids in doors for now but we will have to expand the time gradually. I was going to take an early two month summer vacation while we adjusted anyway, but decided that we need structure to our day or I go nuts. We do not test them. We didn't test them in Virginia either. I took out a religious exemption. In Guatemala kids do not have to go to school. There is no regulation because some of them are helping support the family at a young age. I think most children go to school though and I am very impressed with how smart they are. My older two kids are begging to go to school because they have heard of some different examples of gringo kids going to school and becoming fluent in Spanish very quickly because of the immersion in the language. I am really hesitant and we are debating it. Nathan really wants to give them a trial run, but I am having reservations... We'll see what happens. I guess a trial couldn't hurt.
I'm sure they will win out but we need to investigate it further first.

Mama, yes those were sister missionaries in the picture. One was from Guatemala City and the other from Panama. The one from Panama speaks English pretty well which was nice for me. They gave Nathan's friend the first discussion that day. It went really well. I hope the Jungle Medic doesn't hunt me down and eat me for lunch now!!! Just Kidding!

Kim - that story about Aaron is hilarious! Thanks for giving me a laugh today.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Castillo de San Felipe

This is a cool Spanish Fort on the other side of the bridge from our house. It was used to keep the British Pirates out of Lake Izabal. It has really beautifully landscaped picnic areas and a great swim area. When we were here on Vacation last year we went by the fort on a boat and I told Nathan I wanted to go there sometime for a picnic. We didn't do it this time and we didn't actually tour the fort yet. We will go back this weekend when Nathan gets a break from working to do the tour and have a picnic. We were just looking for a close area to snorkel. The kids and Nathan snorkled around and saw some cool fish. Gabby wouldn't go near the water. In some ways this bugs me but for the most part it is kind of a relief that she has no interest whatsoever in the water considering we live on it..... Our pool filter is temporarily down until Mr. Castillo brings a missing part tomorrow to fix it, but once it is fixed I will have her in the pool learning to swim. She is also terrified of the two guard dogs on the property which keeps her from going outside alone. Once she learns how to swim we will have to work on overcoming this fear.


What's one thing you would never expect to see on the river in Guatemala?!?

You wouldn't believe our surprise when we were going home and there was a floating pen (It was really wobbly and I was seriously worried the buffalo might end up in the water) full of shaved buffalo! What in the world!!

We also got a picture of a pelican. Sorry it's not very good we were kind of far away.

The other picture is one of the stations that we get our boat gased up in. There is also a shell that has so American food items that we raid every now and then.


Climbing the Coconut Tree

OK! OK! First of all Kelley, Joanne and Kim - there will be no pictures of me with or without being chased by a lizard!!! At least not until I loose those 30 lbs Kim promised would fall off of me these 2 months and my California babe tan comes to pass!! Just Kidding! I will have Nate get behind the camera on our next outing.

Dad and Diane, I am so glad that you are able to follow the blog! I have started shrinking the photos so that it would be easier for you to download and quicker for me to upload.

KJ - I am so sorry but I do not remember any rodeos from when we were kids(I'm sure they were fun but I have the worst memory unlike you), but I can bet that this one was nothing like them! It was pretty crazy! Nathan and Ammon were wearing red shirts and we were sitting close to the fence. One bull kept running around the circle and coming and ramming the gate where we were. It freaked me out. Also people were letting their kids climb up on the metal fence surrounding the rodeo (Diane and Mama - the kids asked but I said absolutely not!!!)

Joanne and Mama - The picture rocks! Thanks for working so hard to get it!

Oh by the way Joanne I saw your chicken at the rodeo. By the way you are totally an inspiration to me! I can't believe all that you do. As far as tv goes we can get satellite here but none of the companies we found have the networks so we are still searching.... We aren't really missing it though. At least not yet. I do miss seeing American Idol though. 7-11 - no but we have Shell and Exxon! Doctors - there are doctors in the area and most of them are trained in the US so they are good and pharmacies but you don't have to have a prescription to get the meds. The nearest big hospital is in Puerto Barrios which is about 45 minutes from us. We do have the Jungle Medic Mission here in town which is a US sponsored mission that brings docs and dentists from the states to help the people.

Ok - so we had the missionaries over to eat and they killed a pound of spaghetti and a ton of bread no problem. They paid us back by getting us 4 coconuts! Yeah! Our guard Eddy opened them for me! They were yummy! The green ones have soft meat and sweet milk compared to what we think of coconuts back in the states. The meat reminds me of a custard or a flan. I put the picture of them in the boat so you could see our new boat! As you can see 7 fills it up.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rio Dulce, Guatemala fair and rodeo

Well we had another really busy week. And the highlights are seen in these pictures. This week happened to be Rio Dulces annual town Fair. So the town was busier than usuall especially this weekend. The fair is topped off by a compietition between lancheros (boaters/jet skiers), a 4 days of rodeo and a cowboy parade. On Friday evening we attended the rodeo (our 1st ever) which was alot of fun (at intermission there was a mini concert by a Guatemalan ranchero singer, which is a spanish version of very twangy country music. Needless to say I counted it a blessing when the electricity went out during his 3rd song which spaired us of any further torture). Notice the pictures of the cowboys praying before the Rodeo began. This was with good reason. They got pretty banged up. The kids got some pretty sweet cowboys hats at the Rodeo.

We attended the cowboy parade of saturday morning which ended in the Rodeo corral where they put on a show. Mom you would of liked that.

The picture you see of a boat is our new/used lancha (boat) that our business bought this week. Don't know if we ever mentioned it before but the only way to get to out house is by boat. Having our own boat will now give us alot more freedom to go sightseeing, fishing, water sports etc. Plus there are alot of really cool rivers, marinas, reastuarants, hot springs, hotels, etc. that are only accessible by boat. The picture of us at a table outside is of us visiting one of these hotels/hostal/restaurants. We met the owners Gary and Jane. They bought basically a shack on a side river and built there hotel named Kangaroo Hotel y Reatuarnate. They are from Australia. They greeted us with open arms from the time we pulled up in our boat like we were long lost friends. We look forward to getting to know them better.

I met 2 families in town that are traveling the Carribean together with thier children. They are homeschoolers also.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Questions answered!


There are mosquitos but far fewer than we had in Virginia. I think between the 6 of us we may have had 3 bites in over 3 weeks. Now it's still the dry season, ask me again in the rainy season.....Our river has a little current that keeps things moving and I think mosquitos like more stagnant water ... so maybe that helps.


Yes, we have a real kitchen! It has a sink and a fridge and running water! We only had a gas stove top when we first moved in but Mr. Castillo sent us a gas oven/stove so I could bake. Yeah! I made him some brownies for that!

We do buy our drinking water in those big blue 5 gallon jugs. Our neighbor filters the water through a clay pot and drinks it and is fine but we are being safe. I drank store bought water in the states so I don't think I will start drinking tap water now! We do not have hot water in our sinks because there is no hot water heater, but our showers are hot because we have an attachment on the shower head that heats it as it runs through it. When we want hot water for anything we just go get it out of the shower or boil it or microwave it depending on what we need it for.

As for Walmart there are 3 chains in Guatemala that are partly owned by Walmart. They are good but anything from the states is super expensive. For example a medium sized jar of peanut butter is $8. We did find it a little cheaper in a gas station.

All of you,

I promise to try to make something really delicious and tempting for you out of the cacao to tempt you to come see me!!! I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

cacao pods

I should have taken pictures of the process because it will be hard to explain. When you open it up there is an outer layer that is sort of like a pumpkin or a squash consistancy. You throw this out. I wander if it is edible though.

The seeds are in a huge clump in the middle sort of like pumpkin seeds. They are covered in a really grouse looking slimy white fruit that is attached pretty firmly. Temio had us suck on the seed on the fruit and it was really yummy and sweet. YOu have to roast them to get the fruit off - the sun dries it up and leaves the nibs looking like almonds with a brown almond like shell on the outside. This is stuck pretty firm to the seed like the almond coating on an almond. To get this off you have to cook them in a pan until you start hearing a popping sound. Then you have to peal the outer layer off and you have the cocoa bean. Then you grind it up really fine. It was quite a process but fun and left me with a bowl full of dark chocolate.

I went ahead and did this process and then used some in a shake with juiced mint and frozen bananas. (Hannah taught me this one).

Next time I will do more research to find out how to prepare them raw. I don't know how you get the fruit and shell off anyother way. Maybe you know. The locals think you are crazy when you mention not cooking the nibs, so I need to google to find out how.

I can't find raw nuts anywhere either. They roast and salt them all! I will keep asking though.

I promise to let you have a turn in the hammock!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hot spring waterfalls near Rio Dulce (La Finca Paraiso)

Tina, The piano was the only piece of furniture we brought with us. It actually fit in the suburban with a bunch of stuff. Crazy huh?!? We went back and forth over and over again about whether we could fit it and poor Kim was told she could have it and then had it taken away and then given back and taken away......... I am so glad that we have it though it is my sanity along with reading. The funniest visual would have been Nathan, Stormy and Temio bringing it over to the house in the launcha (little blue boat). It's digital so it's a good thing it didn't get dropped in the water!!!

Mama, The Easter Bunny did come. The chocolate I brought with me did not make it to Easter - is that a surprise! So we had to go pay big bucks for some american candy at the Maxi Bodega. They don't do Easter bunny and hunts and stuff here so we didn't have access to any baskets or plastic eggs, so we just put the candy in a big pile in the center of the table and the family shared it. It went over really well.

Dana, The picture of the fish is for you. That was all caught in a few hours. The river is loaded with fish. You look in the water and you see schools and schools of them. Eddie and Ingred (our new guard and his wife) caught a bunch of minnows in a cast net and the fish were biting within a few seconds of cast. Crazy huh?

We took Temio and his family to the hotspring waterfalls near our house. We really enjoy this little family. They have 4 children also and they are really good kids. Temio and Natalia are super nice also. I still don't speak to them in Spanish but I do understand alot of the conversation so Nathan only has to translate when I have a question or comment about something because my grammar is way off. I still need alot more vocabulary but I'm working on it. Our guards little girl (Kimberly 7)is trying hard to teach me.

We went Saturday to the falls. It is about a 30 minute drive down a pretty bad road but they are paving it. This is definately a place we will take visitors. The waterfalls are super hot but the water they are falling into is cold so it makes it the perfect temp to swim in. The women were rubbing the mud all over their faces and body. It is sulfuric and supposedly really good for the skin. I should have rubbed some on for a false appearance of a tan. Ha Ha! Nathan and the 3 older kids are getting pretty dark but Gabby and I are still sunscreaning it.

The kids jumped off of a small cliff in the deeper area. I included pictures. People were diving off but I wouldn't let the kids. Ammon did it a few times before I caught him.

Gabby's knees finally healed up on Friday and she fell when we got to the springs so she wouldn't put on her swimsuit. She sat on a rock with her feet in the water and threw rocks so she still had fun.

She was pretending to be Tia yesterday and making Brigham be JOE JOE. She mentions everyone alot. She told me the other day she wanted to go visit Grandma Beenie.

Near the waterfalls is a huge Lake called Lake Izabal. The owners of the falls have a little beach with a restaurant on the lake that is super nice. We went over there and swam after and played basketball but I didn't get any pics. I was feeling sick and stayed in the car and napped. Bummer. Next time I will be healthy and be able to do better. We got home at like 5:30 and Nathan watched the kids while I crashed.

The fair is here in Rio Dulce right now. It is kind of funny because last year we were here in April during fair time visiting with the 3 older kids. If you would have told me then that we would be living here now I wouldn't have believed it. I will try to get some pics. We definately won't be riding the ferris wheel! I'll post a picture so you can see why. Come to think of it I don't think I have ever seen anyone riding the ferris wheel! Last year they had suped up bumper cars that the kids loved. They aren't up yet this year.

We are checking regularly to see if anyone is commenting so please keep them coming!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Inside of House Pics

Joanne this post is for you!

I am posting some pictures of inside the house. It is a very small house but it is perfect for this adventure. We haven't missed the spaciousness of our old house at all. (I have to admit I have missed my bathroom and bathtub though.)There is a picture of our living area. It is at the front of the house downstairs. It is our kitchen, dining room and living room all together. The table is in the center of the living room which I thought I wouldn't like but it has worked out fine. I was going to try to move it to the kitchen area but I kind of like having it by the doors so we can look out on the water while doing school or eating or whatever.

The bedroom with the two blue beds is downstairs and the bathroom shown is downstairs. Kim - I told you I would make the green toilets work!!! The other bathroom upstairs is exactly the same except the toilet and sink are brown. So I didn't post a picture of it. The blue bed bedroom we use for naps because it is cooler downstairs during the day. I did discover yesterday that if I open up all of the windows and the sliding door upstairs it keeps it really cooler than the ac does. At night the ac works great up there to keep things cool. This is our guest bedroom though so it is where you will all sleep if you come to visit. We also have a futon couch in the living room we can open up for our kids to make their bedroom available for visitors.

The upstairs is the kids room with the two bunkbeds and our bedroom and a full bath. We have 4 ac units in the house two upstairs and two down. We have had quite a few hot days close to 100 but in the dry season (now) it is not too bad. It cools down nicely at night. We have a nice breeze off of the water and a good shade on the decks. But then we have days like today where it is just pleasantly warm. I don't know how hot it is out today but it actually feels very nice. It may be in the 80's. During the rainy season I hear it can get pretty humid.

Sickness hit us. We thought we had got away with out getting sick, but it did hit the three older kids pretty hard. We are all well today though.

We had one day of school before the kids got sick and that was nice. Nathan has been off working all week so we have just had a layed back week of rest.

Temio is building me some bookshelves. I can't wait because I need my books unpacked. We have 3 huge closets with plenty of shelving and a nice big dresser in my bedroom so the shelves will finish things off nicely. I am so glad that we did not bring anymore stuff though. The stuff we brought barely fits. So thank you to all who helped take stuff off our hands during the purge!

Tomorrow Nathan is taking us to the hotspring water falls near here. I will post pictures on Sunday or Monday.

Thanks to all of you for keeping an eye on our blog. It helps us feel loved!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Swimming in the river.

First of all - If you haven't checked out the Semana Santa posts yet - DO IT! That's the last time I am going to tell you!

The Castillo family left us yesterday. My kids will miss them. They really had a great time with them. I especially miss having Doctor Kevin and his assistants here to doctor up toes! (I don't even know how many toes we have doctored these last two weeks. They fixed Xela up on her last cut. Eventually my kids will learn to wear their shoes!) We were very impressed with these youth. They were so nice, and had great manners and treated our kids very well. I don't know how often they come to visit. I think only twice a year but maybe we can see them when we go into Guatemala City.

Grandma, I hope you are still with us after viewing the bridge jumping pictures! Kevin Castillo and his friends scuba dived down and made sure the water was deep enough before they jumped. It is a short swim to shallow water with no current. Totally safe I promise. This bridge is over by the pool. It is where Nate and the kids like to fish the most and have the crabpot dropped.

The kids have been having alot of fun just swimming in the river by the house. They like the pool too but it is fun to jump off the dock. We are a little freaked after reading about the crocs and alligators. Temio told us he has never seen one around here in 15 years. He says that they are in the tributaries off the river. I hope he's right. If I ever see one there will be no more swimming in the river!

We have a new family living in the guard house. They seem very nice and have two children. A seven year old girl and 3 year old boy. The wife speaks English which is nice for me.

Today Nathan was working. I got caught up on laundry finally!

Oh - guess what!!!!??? Gabby is potty trained. She even wore underwear two nights in a row! Yeah! No more diapers! Ever!

It takes sooooo long to post a picture on this blog!! I will do the best I can to get as many as I have patience for on here for ya'll.