Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Year - and yet another new location: Antigua, Guatemala

First off - Happy New Year!  I'm a little surprised with myself that it really has taken me 2.5 months into this "new" year to post pictures, I'm not at the same time.  Sometimes you just need to go and live life and catch up on the other stuff later - I guess now is that "later".

In the spirit of the new year - my friend Cate and I pick a word of the year to focus on rather than doing new year's resolutions.  This year's word is gratitude, and I have to say, it is a wonderful and powerful word to me.  I am truly grateful for the life I choose to live and feel so lucky to be able to continue to do a job that I love each day and live in and explore many different countries and cultures along the way.  With each day, I am reminded what a lucky life I lead - and I am truly grateful for all I get to experience and the choices I have made that brought me here.

William - I stayed with him and his family for a week near Monte Verde, Costa Rica where I lived and worked on a coffee farm and learned all about Pura Vida - another form of gratitude for the little pleasures of life.
Well, there are no great excuses for why I haven't posted many pictures lately.  It is not for lack of taking pictures - so look out, there are many to come!  Since my last post - 3 months ago - I have volunteered on a coffee farm, traveled to different parts of Costa Rica with friends I met in Prague, and moved to Antigua, Guatemala (where I have been for nearly a month).  Yikes!  Lots to catch up on...but first, let me show you a glimpse of my new digs - the beautiful Antigua, Guatemala!  Antigua is nestled in a valley (still at about 5,000 feet elevation) between three volcanos as seen below.  The large volcano on the left is called Agua.  Then you see Fuego (erupting) and Acatenango in the distance.  Antigua is the glowing area to the far right.  It is a simply stunning setting with a lot of amazing and beautiful things going on here.
Photo by Documentary Adrenaline (Santi's Photography)
First off, last Sunday was the first volcano eruption I have ever seen.  And you could even see it from my living room!   Now there's something I never thought I'd say.  I couldn't get close enough pics, so I borrowed some by a local photographer - pretty darn cool!  And not to worry - we're a good 6 miles away and in no danger of its frequent eruptions.  Most days, you can see Fuego blowing off some smoke - literally, but to see an eruption is rare.  They say only about three times a year is it visible given the weather needed to make it clear enough to see it.

Photo by Documentary Adrenaline (Santi's Photography)

I continue to do the same job that I love - TEFL training and preparing people to teach English as a second language around the world.  I work for Maximo Nivel (where I have worked since July in all three of our locations - Peru, Costa Rica, and now Guatemala).  Our office in Guatemala is simply stunning...
Our courtyard - and yes we do have class outside at times using those dry erase boards 
The view from our courtyard - Volcano Agua in clear view
The view of our coutryard from the upstairs classrooms
I arrived in Antigua the day before Carneval - so one of the first things I did was partake in a Carnval egg fight.  We tossed and smashed painted eggs (yolks removed) filled with confetti in the park.  You know, as you do.  It was amazing...

My friend Karen and a new friend after the fight

You can't help but smile while crushing eggs on strangers...

Wow - literally a carpet of egg shells and confetti!
Antigua is also known for the Lent and Easter processionals.  According to Lonely Planet, Antigua is one of the top two destinations in the world for these types of celebrations.  Each Sunday, elaborate processionals are put together that last 12+ hours as they slowly wind through the town.  People put together carpets made of grass, flowers and even sawdust for the procession to walk through.  The procession consists of a huge float of Jesus before his crucifixion carried by no less than 75 Guatemalan men clad in purple robes.  They swap spots every few blocks, as this is a heavy task.  

The Roman soldiers

The men in black robes walk ahead of the parade and line the streets along the route

Then come the men wearing the purple robes

We caught them as they were about to turn the corner - a difficult though precise move.

Working very, very hard

The Virgin Mary carried by women

Preparing the carpets

Wetting them down so they don't blow away in the wind

It says "Diego"

The procession passed along again now once the carpets were made...

Lots of incense

After Jesus passes, a smaller float of the Virgin Mary is carried by women dressed in black.  There are marching bands playing somber music along the way.  It truly is quite a scene that even pictures cannot truly capture.  At night, generators go along with the floats and light the way.  It is a somber event and the streets of spectators are silent.  After the floats pass, a truck cleans up the remnants of the carpets and then the vendors pass by selling ballons and snacks.  Its an odd juxtaposition of events, but very interesting to watch.  One has to plan their trips around town around the processionals as all traffic stops and even walking gets difficult.  Even tonight, I had to take an alternate route home as the processional was nearing my house.  Life is never dull here...

A night processional (different floats from above)

Can you see the large purple stick to the right of Jesus?  They lift up the power lines, but the men carrying the float still have to lower the float a bit to get under - what strength this takes! 

And finally - a few shots around town...
Municipal building near Central Park (main part of town)

Around Central park - check out those treacherous cobblestones - everything is uneven - makes Europe look easy! I've never walked on such uneven roads/sidewalks but I'm used to them now!

A favorite hang out - coffee shop with two great pubs as well - everywhere in Antigua has these beautiful courtyards

6th Avenue (where I live and work) and a view of Agua Volcano

La Merced church

Market near the church on Sundays

La Merced

In the church - a carpet made of colored sawdust and fruit - amazing!

Monastery at La Merced

Monastery at La Merced

Two volcanoes from Monastery at La Merced

Central Park

Central Park

The Cathedral

Some things are the same no matter where you are...

Agua Volcano - a true landmark in Antigua

Central Park area

Arch street - looking up to La Merced Church

Volcano Fuego letting of some steam (left)

View of Antigua in the valley of the volcanos from the Earth Lodge

Enjoying some live music on a Sunday at Earth Lodge - a great spot in the mountains near Antigua.

The earth Lodge is on an avocado farm, so there are fresh avocados in everything. This is avocado chai ice cream - delicious!!

Volcano Agua from Central Park
So, when are you coming to visit?  Looks like I'll be here 6-12 months, so come on down!

1 comment:

  1. I love that picture of the two chairs. Very intimate.

    Well, I love all the pictures. Thanks for sharing.