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Say no to Monsanto in Guatemala

Anti-Monsanto flyer in Panajachel.

Anti-Monsanto flyer in Panajachel.

When I walked to the post office today I saw a new flier posted on the wall near correos. The positive side is that someone/some organization recognizes the GMO problem and is raising awareness. Specifically, the last part of the flier says

La Agricultura Tradicional Guatamalteco todavía mantiene muchas familias. Es casi el ultimo parte del mundo en que se ve esta riqueza natural y comida familiar. Vale defenderla, y la economía rural, local y regional. El idea de gran comercialización va como siempre a beneficar las corparaciones, no a la gente.

Besides good news, there is bad news.

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Now What?

What does a smart teen do when she finishes school here?

What does a smart teen do when she finishes school here?

I am not a local and I am not a teenager. I love it here and I see a lot of happy people including the locals. It took a conversation with a smart 16 year old for me to start thinking about this issue. Now that I have, I would like to think about what we could do to address it.

First, let me state the problem. Kids finish their basic education at 16. Some will be able to go off to a university somewhere, many will not. There is no local university so your opportunities are really limited by what your family can afford. Because of the tourism and resident Gringos here the local population is doing a lot better than in many other areas of Guatemala. But, in general, that doesn’t translate to teenagers being able to go away to college.

That leaves them with some less than exciting options:

  • Go to one of the trade schools and learn how to work in an office
  • Get married (all too young) to someone who can support you
  • Do what your mother did which usually means working as a maid, maybe a waitress or selling things to tourists

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Looks like cacao but isn't.

Looks like cacao but isn’t.

This post is mostly about why you would want to go to the public market with a local — even if you have been going there regularly for two years. The trip today was with Rocio, the 16 year old daughter of Juanita, a person who cleans our house twice a week.

About 10 AM we headed for the market with a reasonable shopping list. Most everything was well-defined except I wrote fruit. Normal as what I buy in fruit is usually a function of what is fresh and cheap. The first fruit purchase was where I tend to buy my vegetables. She had strawberries which looked great for Q4/lb.

After a few other inside purchases we headed out to the sidestreet which is usually the best place to get fresh fruit.

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Nothing special

Just kids in a tree

Just kids in a tree

I was looking through the photos I have for some to use in the new business we are starting up and ran into this one. It’s from 11 months ago. It’s nothing special if you are here but it does seem special if you are not.

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What’s it cost?

Pineapples are cheap right now.

Pineapples are cheap right now.

I just sent some email to tell a friend what some things cost. While I was thinking about food, I figured I could turn this into something that was both useful and funny. Let’s see how it works.

The number I want to work with is 5 quetzales or 5Q as we would typically say or Q5 as we would typically write. That works out to about 65 Gringo cents. Here are the easy ones.

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Getting your drivers license

Motorcycle driver's license for Guatemala.

Motorcycle driver’s license for Guatemala.

I just got a first drivers license at the jornada going on in Pana. The story is up at http://a42.com/site/pg/cedi/misc/1/3/63/73/336/596 and includes why you might want a first license.

Note that while this is a motorcycle license, they all look the same except the letter in the box in the lower left.

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It has been sunny all day — into about 1630. When the output of a PV micro-inverter went from 130W at 1630 to 30W at 1700 I knew something was up. Heavy clouts and all.

2o minutes later, we are having a hail storm. Not a mini-hail storm but fair sized hail. From 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch. Is this normal?

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Chipilin — the plant

Not a tamale but the plant.

Not a tamale but the plant.

I wrote about tamales of chipilin in a previous post. All indication is that chipilin is nutritious but, beyond that, it just tastes good. My friend Keith has gone as far as to say that he doesn’t normally eat things with green stuff in them but those tamales are really good. Two (at a total cost of Q6) makes a pretty big dinner.

A few days ago when my part-time maid Juanita was leaving she asked me if she could have some chipilin. I was confused. There were some chipilin tamales I had just bought which were to become dinner for two. Did she want one? Nope. She wanted some leaves.


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How high is the lake?

I think this used to be a useful structure. Now it is just a lake level guage.

I think this used to be a useful structure. Now it is just a lake level guage.

In a word, high. It is the rainy season so it will be higher than in the dry season but it seems seriously high. I was first in Pana in September 2012. That was still the rainy season and I remember a lot more of this structure being out of the water.

I was in Santa Cruz a few months back and the lake was just a few inches below the level of a building right next to the pier. If I remember right about this building, that building must be a bit under water right now.

I am not the expert with long-term experience here but all indication is that the water is higher now than at least any time in the past few years. If you know more than I do, please speak up.

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Using Western Union

DO NOT use this choice.

DO NOT use this choice.

While Bitcoin will be the universal way to send and receive money, we need a solution in the mean time. Western Union is expensive (more than you first think) but it works. This post is about how it works in Panajachel — offering two distinctly different choices.

The photo at the left is of the bank you want to avoid for doing a Western Union Transfer. The good news is that a good choice is less than 100 meters away at BAM.

This bank is a bad choice because it takes forever to get it done. There is all too much manual “copy from here to there” and “manually fill out this form” going on. In addition, both times I tried they had a person who knew how to do the transaction there offering clues to the person who had to do it. Sorta depressing.

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