A Few Observations
Trip Start Nov 05, 2007
10Trip End Nov 29, 2007
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"Forty quetzals," she replied (about $5.33).
"Okay, thank you."
"Wait - for you, I'll give it to you for 35 quetzals," she implored.
"But I can't buy a chicken! I don't know how to kill it."
"Oh, just like this," she said, demonstrating with her finger where to cut the chicken's throat.
"I don't want to kill a chicken! Better to buy one already dead."
"You can take it home with you," she insisted.
"My roommate won't even let me have a dog - I can't imagine what he'd say to a chicken!"
"Only if you buy the chicken," the woman countered. So much for that idea!
Here are a few other prices, just in case you should find yourself in need of some Guatemalan livestock. As I said, the hen cost 40Q, but roosters are a little more, at 65Q (about $8.67). Chicks are just 2 for 25Q (about $3.33). You can buy a big pig for 450Q (about $60) or a cow for between 1800Q and 2000Q, depending on its size ($240 - $267). Want a puppy? Get a purebred for 100Q ($13.33) or a mutt for just 5Q ($0.67)! Itching for something more exotic? A friendly green parrot can be yours for just 300Q ($40).
Chicken Busses: I've mentioned these before, but then I was only assuming they were called that because of the chickens that sometimes accompany the passengers.
"But how do they fit through the door?" I asked.
"People carry them," she replied, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Now, before you get too incredulous, rest assured that the next woman I asked reminded me that many of the indigenous people speak only a minimal amount of Spanish, and that my informant had probably misunderstood me. No, the cows ride in the back of pickup trucks, not in the aisles of chicken busses.
Food: Many people are naturally interested in this very important topic. I'm happy to report that the food has been, for the most part, both tasty and free from the sorts of things you might find in, say, Thailand, where beetles and worms are both accepted parts of the diet. A typical meal consists of some sort of meat (usually chicken in my case - I've had to give up vegetarianism in Latin America), rice, beans, and lots of warm, fresh corn tortillas. My favorite meal is breakfast, which also tends to include fried plantains. That's in the restaurants, that is - at home, families eat much more simply. I was surprised to look in my host family's refrigerator and find it completely empty!
Tortillas, it should be noted, come with everything. Locals, it seems, can't imagine a meal without them. Last night, for instance, I had a small meal of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, and tortillas with a new friend (who shall be introduced in a couple of entries). The tortillas ran out first.
"I'll order two more," she suggested.
"That's okay; I can eat them plain," I insisted. "In the U.S., we don't eat with tortillas."
"Really!? How do you eat, then?"
As anyone who has traveled to the tropics has probably experienced, there are also a number of fruits unbeknownst to the majority of North Americans. One of the most prevalent here is a zacote, which someone described as being a bit like an avocado, only sweet. The skin is quite avocado-like, though the fruit itself is bigger, stringier, and oranger.
Unfortunately, I've recently learned that pesticides and chemicals are quite prevalent in food here, as in the U.S.
Showers: I mention these here partly because I want to take one, but I can't seem to get the shower heater to work. Xela, being in the mountains, is quite cold in the mornings and at night. To make the showers hot, you flip on a switch, then turn on the water just a little, until you hear a sound (that's the water heater), often accompanied by a dimming of the lights. If you're fine with a trickle of water, you can get it quite hot. But if you prefer water pressure, you'll have to choose between the two.
Be sure to check out the captions by clicking on the photos to read about some other random observations!