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We have returned safely home from our trip to Wisconsin for the funeral of Phil's grandmother, Romayne. There was (just our) family cabin time and snow and more travel and funeral and funeral ham with cheesy potatoes and then the kids besieging their teenaged cousins and (extended) family stories and drinking and family gossip and very poor sleep (because my three-year-old has been waking--and staying--up at 3 AM, and also that hideabed was awful) and the most country kitsch motel I've ever seen, let alone stayed at.

Today there was a lot of driving home. The kids had predictable we-hate-traveling meltdowns and less-predictable we-hate-chicken-nuggets meltdowns. We made it home, hitting the beginning of rush hour traffic. Then I found and cleaned up all six places the cats had puked and pooped around the house, changed the cat litter, and wrangled the kids through dinner and homework and baths and bed.

And nobody killed anybody.

And I am all disoriented due to travel and missing work/school days and daylight savings time starting, so I thought today was Wednesday and I was going to save this to post in Small Victories Wednesday. It is Tuesday. I am still very proud of this victory, though, so. Posted.
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While going through and cleaning up my Circus of Brass and Bone notes, I found this partial travelogue, from my visit back to see my parents right after they returned to the States. Yes, at times I do just type whatever into whichever document happens to be open on my laptop. Usually, these snippets get properly relocated a bit sooner than this, though!

...

The Greyhound station in Wichita, KS was moderately horrifying, but I rather expected that. I arrived early to get my ticket, as per instructions. There were power outlets in the back of the room, though none within reach of seats, so I sat on the floor, leaned against the wall, and worked on the read-aloud draft of episode 3 for The Circus of Brass and Bone. Nobody had cleaned that floor for quite some time. Cockroaches and dirt ringed the floor. I choose the cleanest place I could find. Generally, the station wasn't well-maintained. There was a clumsily handwritten out-of-order sign on the water fountain, and another on the handicapped bathroom specifying that it was for handicapped people ONLY. An old codger followed me to the back of the station and kept trying to talk to me, asking if I was in college. I guess it is the season for college students to be migrating, but nobody's thought me to be that young for a *while*. I said I was out of college, and he said, "Gosh, I thought you looked sixteen!" (Note: strange old men should not try talking to 16-year-old girls, either.) I guess I've just been hanging out in the wrong circles.

Then the Greyhound arrived. The driver gave a very long speech emphasizing that we should please stay on the bus except at the designated dinner stop, please, because every week people hopped off the bus and were left behind, and please, she didn't want us to be left behind, so please don't.

Ah, Kansas. Riding in the Greyhound across hours and hours of rolling plains. Hay bales and cows and small oil wells and yellow furze. The smallest variation becomes interesting. The water reservoirs (septic?) outside a countryside McDonald's, with a dozen geese enjoying a break on their flight south. A square mile or so of incongruous, out-of-place lake dotted by tree skeletons reaching up to the endless blue sky. A yellow sign warning not of deer, or pedestrians, or even Amish, but of thick clouds of black smoke (don't try to drive through them).
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From a NYT.com article about Belize:
I quickly come to understand why Marie Sharp is a national hero. It’s hard to image Belizean cuisine without a few shakes of her ubiquitous brand of carrot-and-habanero hot sauce, a small white bottle of which decorates nearly every restaurant table. It is the best hot sauce I’ve tasted; mellow, not palate killing, but flavorful and very much there. (If you take only one thing away from this article, make it this: order a bottle online.)


Damn straight. That was one thing we definitely took away from our visit to Belize--we still mail-order the delicious stuff whenever we run low. So very worth it.
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* My count seems to have gone off early on.

Friday was a non-existent serpentarium, a hotel that comes with its own tourist attractions, another jade factory, some shopping, some more ruins, and the groom's dinner.

Read more... )
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Betcha thought I was done with the long Antigua updates, didn't you?

You were wrong.

Phil was feeling better by Thursday, so we went to an entirely destroyed convent, a textile museum, a jade factory, and a saint's tomb.

Read more... )
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For the end of Tuesday and all of Wednesday, there was much lying in bed and not feeling well for Phil. He did manage to finish reading Vicesteed all the way through! For me, there was much reading of the books I brought (the last ever Harry Potter book, Peter F. Hamilton's Fallen Dragon and Pandora Star) and playing of Ashen on my free n-Gage. Because really, I would have felt bad seeing the sights without him.

In the morning I went out to check on the internet and to get laundry done. Laundry involved taking everything else out of one suitcase, cramming it full of dirty laundry, and hauling it up the street to a convenient laundry store, where they weighed out my laundry and gave me a receipt and told me to come back in five hours. I meandered back to the hotel room, stopping in to try and catch up on my massive backlog of emails and to see that the foundations of Minneapolis hadn't crumbled in my absence. While I was doing this, apparently Phil's digestive issues had led to a no-pants sprint to the "private" bathroom that was across the open courtyard. When I returned, he told me that he had been very quick and nobody had seen him. He was, he averred, a "no-pants ninja."

Phil managed to hobble to Kafka's for lunch, figuring that it was close enough he could sprint back to the hotel room if necessary. Fortunately, this was not tested. He carefully ate a cheese sandwich, and I devoured a plate of pasta with mushroom sauce. The combination of cheese sandwich and Cipro gave him a nasty case of heartburn, so he lurched back to the hotel room after we'd eaten and did not move until I asked him to show me where the French bakery was that he'd bought croissants at for breakfast a couple of days earlier.

The French bakery was a good discovery. For about 20 Quetzals, or $2 and change, we could get three croissants. And when I went there, I discovered they also had pan du chocolat. Antigua was a real melting pot of cuisines. You could easily get American comfort food, from hamburgers to pasta y queso Kraft, there was a good variety of European-style cooking, mostly French-influenced, there were pizzerias, and of course there was Central American/Guatemalan cooking.

P.S. Expect your laundry to shrink a bit.
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Urf. So now I get to try and write up the last part of our trip in Guatemala way after the fact, just because, well, we got lazy and/or busy.

On Tuesday, Phil got sick, and we saw a colonial museum and the ruins of the convent attached to La Merced.

Read more... )
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Going through the paper paraphernalia of our trip to Guatemala, I was amused to stumble over this brochure for tours in Antigua.


Eight different tours
to know & enjoy more
your stay in La Antigua
Guatemala

Terraces
spiritual
earthquakes
artistic
gastronomic
fotografic
museums
shopping


www.alacartatours.com
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On our last day in Guatemala. We fly out tomorrow and will be home super-late Sunday night. Most of today was spent running around shopping for Christmas and wedding presents for people. Soon we´ll be off to the wedding that was our reason for coming here. Tomorrow morning early we´ll be driving into Guatemala City to the airport, and then it will be home again, home again, jiggity jig. We´ve had a great time and seen a lot of interesting things and taken a lot of very good pictures, but it will be good to be home. Mmm...home. Cats, laundry, our own bed, our own pantry and food and fridge (I´ve missed our fridge).

I´ll probably be posting about our trip to Guatemala for a couple of weeks after we get back - pardon the typos, the keyboard here doesn´t match what´s actually being typed. Oh, and since I´m now (pre-wedding) at maybe 1,100 photos, there will be many pictures being posted. Or you could all come over for a slide show and get the pain out of the way early!

We look forward to seeing the Minneapolitans among you soon!
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Today is Wednesday, day 6 of vacation, day 4 of Antigua, another 4 to go.

Photo count: 779 (the photo speed is slowing down now that a) Phil is illin', and b) I've already taken pictures of most of the common sites)

Aii. So much to write up. The documenting may be getting a bit wearisome, but it is important for me to be able to keep a record, something I can look back at later, to remember.

Phil is feeling quite poor, but he's determined to still go and see sites. Day trips are pretty much out of the question, so no volcano trip or coffee plantation tour until he's feeling better or it's the last couple of days we're here, in which case I may go without him. He's been sick for about two days now, and last night he finally caved and started taking Cipro. So far it hasn't helped much. In the last two days, he's eaten some packaged biscuits, plain white rice, and a banana. He's trying to be a trouper, and I feel really bad for him, while being very grateful for my continued good health (knock on wood).

Also, I have told him about the Timberwolves trade, on the theory that his bowels would distract him from this pain. It seems to have worked!

We are definitely at the mid-point in the vacation - we've needed to take our laundry to be done, we're missing our house and our cats, and we're a bit overloaded. Well, that's the nature of vacation, isn't it? Going to an exotic and interesting place, experiencing a bunch of new, fun, interesting things, and being reminded how much you like home!

On Monday, we took a day trip to Lake Atitlan, a vast lake formed in the caldera of a volcano, with Brent's family.

Read more... )
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Day 5 of vacation, day 3 of Antigua, another 5 to go.

Current photograph count: 729

It will probably take me months to go through all the photographs I've taken here. Well, that's the downside of getting a digital camera, I suppose.

Sunday, we got ourselves oriented in Antigua, went to the ruined cathedral that in front of the main market square, and visited an abandoned cloister.

Read more... )
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Photo count: 334

Count does not include "bad" photos that have already been deleted.

Then we saw Brent´s workplace and went to Antigua.

Read more... )
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Made it safely into Guatemala City. Having trouble with different keyboard keys and spacing, but yay for internet!

Dallas-Fort Worth´s secret main terminal is D, for those who wander/wonder. Six hour layover means we walked the length of the airport, which is rather impressive as it has many terminals and much much space. Also, I now have a ¨Queen of the Cowgirls¨ t-shirt. We ate at the ¨"Tacos and Tequila", which is a local place that has absolutely delicious tacos and quite good margaritas, at a reasonable price (for airport). That seems to be something they´re good about - getting local restaurants in. Gives it some actual Texas feel, though the number of Irish pubs was odd.

The airport in Guatemala City was in the process of being expanded, so when we got off the plane we walked through acres of concrete and I-beams, with construction workers dangling from the ceiling and the strong smell of paint and solvents. We were also the only flight in the whole place, and none of the shops were open. Decidedly creepy. It was easy getting through customs etc., though there were a large number of soldiers with automatic rifles and dogs to sniff out those terrible people smuggling drugs into Guatemala.

Brent and Mirza took us to a fabulous restaurant whose name I cannot recall, and then to a bar called Cheers where lots of expats hang out. I must say, bar drama is the same everywhere - was giving me flashbacks to the CC. The restaurant was a hollowed-out 3-4 story building that had been turned into 3 stories, lit by dozens of those huge stained-glass star-shaped glass lights hanging in clusters from the ceiling, from two feet to six inches large. Glorious. The chandelier was a huge rust-colored ring with a dozen red ones hanging from it at different heights and with different sizes. Food was very tasty. I had pork with a tamarind-tequila sauce and it was very, very tasty.

Friday night in la Viva Zona - crowds thronged the street, everybody drives like maniacs, and there were lots of soldiers - tourist police, I assume - on every corner. Saw a lot of the French-inspired street layout and parks. Nicely surreal.

Last night stayed hereÑ http://www.hostalvillatoscana.com/

It´s a very nice, clean, sunshiney place run by a friendly family. Ended up leaving our money and passports and luggage here in our room yesterday on Brent´s advice, despite not having a lock on our door. Or rather, there is a lock, but the last person took the key with them when they left, so we could only lock ourselves in at night, not lock it while we were away. I was a bit nervous about that, but turned out A-OK. The furniture everywhere is lovely, heavy carved wood with decorations that are fantastic. Of note - if the toilets in Guatemala have a small basket next to them, that´s where you´re supposed to put your toilet paper. Not flush it.

Breakfast this morning was fried plantaines, scrambled eggs with ketchup, bread, coffee, and cookies. I wonder if I may get my fill of fried plantaines this trip. It seems unlikely - ten days is not enough time.

Today we see where Brent works and go to Antigua, where we´ll be spending most of our time in Guatemala.

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