Stand and Stocks

This morning I enjoyed the fruits of yesterday's labours. The goat (we need to name her) wasn't able to pull her head out of the stocks and aside from a lot of kicking (which is normal) stayed in one position. I'd like to add a small board over the swinging part to add more support and I'd like to cut the left corner so it opens wider too. In time.

The platform serves two purposes: Keep her from kicking sawdust and poop into the milk and to raise her up for easier access to the udders. You'll notice that I have to tie her feet.



Well, I got my share of hammertime today. First thing this morning, I borrowed some powertools and bought some materials then built a stand and headtrap for milking the goats. I filmed the whole thing to use in my upcoming documentary For What it's Worth, Milk a Goat.

Then I remembered that our showerhead (aka widowmaker) had a meltdown on Thursday, so I picked up a new one and installed it. It's runs so smoothly and there's actually water cascading over my whole body now when I shower. Sweet.

Then I noticed that the kitchen tap was squirting in all sorts of wrong directions, so I took it apart and cleaned it out - cleaned the pipes so to speak. Now it runs smoothly.


"Some Months" or "Lad and Lass"

The Lass

The Lad

94. Own Goats and Milk Them for What They Are Worth

My 94th life goal is well underway. my buddy Rene and I scored some goats a while back for milking. We unfortunately ended up with 4 goats and only one of them giving milk (two are kids and one is carrying).

Their worth: We paid Q1000 total for all four. Subtract what we'll get for selling the kids (Q300) and the total price for each goat is Q350.

I am doing all the milking and only in the morning so that the udder will stay large. Each morning I get about 400 mL which goes for Q5 here in Tactic. That means 70 mornings of milking per goat. So far, I've milked 35 mornings. I haven't been able to use the milk on each occasion though - either a bad taste or the nanny kicks a lot of sawdust, mud, hair, and poop into the milk. Really, only the last week has been good milk and so we've severed our dependence on the milk man as of a couple days ago.


Independence Day Guatemala

This is the first time we've been in Guatemala for September 15, the date found on Guatemala's flag commemorating its independence from Spain in 1821.

Many people just run around, some carrying torches and blocking traffic for miles.

Others play LOUD sirens on BIG speakers all day long as they drive slowly around town and down the highway - just in case we wanted to stay awake and not listen to music or watch a movie. Often, one can hear up to 10 different sirens at the same time; kind of like being in a state of emergency after an earthquake or something.

Some of the private schools in town were asked to do the closing ceremonies in front of city hall. Our school sang a song.

It was cool being in town just before dusk. The lighting was perfect for photos during that 1 hour before sunset, so I just snapped heaps of pictures. A camera is a great ticket to climb on stuff and walk through events unchallenged.

In true Guatemalan fashion, the event started 50 minutes late. In Canadian fashion, we arrived on time.

Our Saturday night ritual for the past 2 months has been to buy churrascos from the central park for supper. It worked out great since we were already there for the flag lowering and the 10 minute national anthem.



Facebook has this great game from TravelPod where you are quizzed on world geography and you click as fast and as accurately as you can on the map. For me, it's completely exhilarating and I get a real rush out of trying to beat the clock and improve my score.

I've been wanting to learn a programming language to design a game similar to this to teach geography and incorporate other information on the world, but I haven't come around to it. I might end up just learning Flash really well and doing it through that similar to how these guys have.


Measured Feet

I'm not feeling well today - aches, a bit of nausea, zero energy. So what a better activity than measuring poor kids' feet? Last week most of the kids were measured, but there were about 80 that still needed measuring so I did those today.

Some of the kids were embarrassed to take their feet out of their rubber boots or very run down shoes because of the state of their socks or the filthiness of their feet. The process was very humbling and I noted this last week when a team of child sponsors measured about 500 (X2) feet. The measurer ends up handling their feet and pressing their toes down. The measurer doesn't dare smell their hands after a batch. I'm not too squeamish normally, but with my oncoming sickness, there were moments when odours reached my nose and I just had to turn away.

The ministry is giving 2 pairs of shoes to each child (runners and dress to the town kids and runners and galoshes/sandals to the country kids). I've got the distribution deal - in about 2 weeks. Should be fun.

Inauguration of Mocohan School

Last Friday, after 8 months of school, we officially opened school #3 (though 4 are operating) with a big to-do! I decided that I would film and photograph the event, though no one asked me to. Hey! It was better than sitting in the sun.

I actually enjoyed the event quite a bit. The worship time was cool because all the children from the four schools were gathered in one place - about 400 students plus teachers, local parents, dignitaries, and 8 folks from a mission team.

The sound from the singing was fantastic... and though the sun was really bright, I was thankful for the light. Normally, all the worship takes place in poorly lit rooms, so photos aren't well rendered.

The speeches were short and clear and well-intended.

And then the food. These are tamales. I'm not a fan, so fortunately, the adults were served a great soup with roast beef in it.

Great event though and it this school is a huge blessing for this community where there are hundreds of children not attending school because there just isn't room in the one public school. A whole other discussion is the parents' attitudes towards education.

Coin to Bill

After an eight year hiatus, Guatemala again has a 1 quetzal bill. People were melting the coins down and selling the metal, so the Gov't took action. The new bill is a polymer (plastic product).

So, in a time when Canada has moved from bills to coins, Guatemala is going the other way. GTQ 1 = 14¢ CDN. So, imagine bills in Canada now for $2, $1, 25¢ and 10¢. My wallet would be packed!


Under Two Nights


loafing giants with dandruff on their tuxedos
silently hunch, munching on pines
we can sneak up on them
we can sneak up them

their heads are clear
they're listening to god
they hum
they munch
God Gleams

we fade to feel
we fade to glow


The ground is wet and the goats
have a light mist on their coats
I can't see the mountains, but
I'm not claustrophobic, and
no one is out
just us
we are


Guatemala Votes

Today is election day which means only one thing to me: NO MORE PEOPLE CAMPAIGNING!

What is most fascinating to me is how little the leaders focus on platform. They just want to make a lot of noise and get their face on everything that a paper can stick to.

Here is an example of the triteness of this entire process. I was handed a letter with 2 posters attached from the Patriotic Party whose slogan is "The Hard Hand." The letter, signed by all of the people running for municipal offices, contained three points:
  • First, thanks for supporting our party.
  • Second, sorry if our campaign has been an annoyance.
  • Third, vote for us on September 9.
Then it went on to list it's four actions that it would accomplish if elected:
  • 1. Social and Cultural Development
  • 2. Productive Economic Development
  • 3. Urban Development and Environment
  • 4. Steps and Administration in Local Development with Honesty and Transparency
Wow! Revealing platform.

These are some of the parties:
  • Guatemalan Encounter (EG) headed by Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú. People don't like her because she talks the talk but has only profited from her notoriety by opening a pharmacy chain. She wants to boost indigenous culture.
  • Union of National Hope (UNE) Colom is their presidential candidate and is at the head of the polls. He's a Mayan priest so he's not going to get the evangelical Christian vote. Amber thinks he looks like Mr. Burns.
  • Great National Alliance (GANA) is the incumbent party (current president Berger who is not running again). It was a coalition of three parties.
  • Patriotic Party (PP) the one I described above. They are keen on increasing the number of police and army presence.
  • Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) whose party chief is Evangelical Christian and former general and president of Guatemala, Rios Montt. He was president in the early 1980's, the height of the killing during the civil war.
  • Union for National Change (UCN) the leader of this party is accused of embezzlement for his former roles in local government. His slogans are "Presidente Inteligente" and "Better Times."
  • The Front (F) "for the poor, for the united people of Guatemala." It's main focus is democracy.
  • Unionist Party (el Sol) This is the party of the sun. The leader looks just like Dr. Phil.
  • National Advancement Party (PAN) would lead the country away from the verge of collapse because of the wide gap between rich and poor. The local candidate is one of the richest men in Tactic (owner of a bakery, Pan means bread incidentally).
  • Guatemalan-Corn National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) is the political arm of the Guerrilla side of the civil war and signed the peace with the army in 1996. They are mainly socialist.
  • New National Alliance (ANN) another party promising major reforms.
  • Democratic Union (UD) this one has an advert you can watch on youtube.
  • Authentic Integral Development (DIA) this is apparently a leftist party, but it wants to firm up the death penalty, reduce taxes and strengthen the army.
  • Vision of Values (VIVA) was founded by the same man who founded one of the largest evangelical churches in the country less than two decades ago, the El Shaddai Church. They registered too late so he wasn't on the presidential slate.
  • Centro de Acción Social (CASA) the leader is a university professor (math and physics) who believes that with God's help, patriotism, and a focus on the poor, security and employment the country will improve.

Soon they will start whitewashing all of the stones on the sides of the highway and taking down all the banners and signs baring the various political symbols. And they'll stop going around in vans blaring music and political slogans. They'll stop blocking roads with their party parades. They'll stop dropping leaflets from airplanes. They'll stop flying helicopters overhead carrying candidates around the country. Everything will be back to normal. Well, normal for Guatemala.

The voting took place today, a Sunday, because employers wouldn't give their employees time off to vote.

This page has links to all the platforms and stuff. Colom won the first round. There will be a runoff between the top two presidential candidates.


Presidente Inteligente? Nope.

Huh? What's that all about eh?

This morning a plane flew over Tactic and unloaded a kazillion leaflets over the town. It's campaign time (has been for months). These leaflets do not contain any information aside from the names of the presidential candidate one of the local reps and the name and symbol of their party: UNC.

The presidential candidate is Mario Estrada: Presidente Inteligente. Also a former political official accused of embezzling thousands and thousands of dollars.

Now he can come over to my house and clean up his mess. Idiot.

In other news . . .

. . . Hurricane Felix was tamer than a light sun shower in our part of Guatemala.
. . . Bin Laden is coming out with a new movie.
. . . and Blaise still hasn't been potty trained - I mopped up a big big puddle-o-pee this afternoon.


Che's hair for sale

This piece from the CBC talks about a CIA operative who is going to auction off a lock of Ernesto "Ché" Guevara's hair along with other paraphernalia that was present at the revolutionary's death 40 years ago in Bolivia.
"It's time for me to put the past behind and pass these on to someone else," said Villoldo.
Yeah, and give his pension a boost.

If you're interested in the hair, or the fingerprints, a map, photo of Ché's body, and intercepted messages before his capture, the auction is in Dallas on October 25 & 26.


Church vs. Community

So, I was thinking tonight, again, how we can rarely have people over to our home in the evenings. We usually spend evenings alone as a family with the exception of Tuesday night when we have our church cell group. We watch movies or play games (Mariah does come over about once a week to kill us at Settlers of Catan). But church really hinders our relationships with others.

Many of our friends attend all or most of these meetings (many of them required attendance):
  • Sunday: Church 4 PM
  • Monday: Leaders meeting 7 PM
  • Tuesday: Cell Group 7 PM
  • Wednesday: School Staff Meeting 6:30 PM
  • Thursday: Prayer Meeting 7 PM
  • Friday: Young Adult Night 7 PM
  • Saturday: Worship Practice 7 PM
Granted that not everyone attends all of them, but are they going to want to go out on one of their two nights off? Probably not. Church culture here is very focused on meetings and not so much on being in the community. In fact, they are told quite strongly to stay out of certain community events for fear of temptation and church image. Some churches have a regular church meeting every night and then three on Sundays. The pastors really have nothing new to say, they just say it really loud and repeat it for an hour and a half.

So, I'm quite disappointed that so many of the nights are eaten up by official meetings (which I personally have no interest in attending). I'd be quite happy attending a church which formally met once a month. For an hour.

I got worms

Yeah, after a BM this morning, I saw this long white thing and thought "yikes, did I swallow a noodle whole?" So, it's no big deal. Everyone in Tactic gets regular worm treatments. For me though I've held on for nearly 2 years (though the worm was about a foot long, so who knows how long it's been in me). So, I got my Combantrin on and brought some home for Amber and Blaise. The best part of this whole thing is grossing Amber out with stories about people choking on worms and such.

Sorry, no photo.


Mmmm, Like a Small Deer You Say?

Our friends Erick and Gloria surprised us last night by whisking us off to Cobán and taking us to quite a nice restaurant. Up until now, our dining in Cobán had been limited to the food court at the mall where we do most of our grocery shopping. I wanted to try something I had never tried before and so "Tepezcuintle" jumped off the menu and onto my plate.

Erick explains to me that this is a wild animal. "Like the deer?" I ask. "Yes, but smaller" he answers. "Is it like a big rat?" wondering if he is describing a opossum. "No, it's not like that. It eats fallen fruit - avocados, zapote, etc. It's meat is the best wild meat in Guatemala." "So, like a small deer then?" "Yes." Erick orders the same. "They have some at the little zoo in Chamche, I'll take you there to see one some time."

It was in fact quite delicious, tenderized no doubt by the supple fat that comprised 40% of the small serving. It was in a nice gravy and had been roasted and stewed - like beef. I had to share a small piece with Amber. She liked it too.

So, now, it's 4:30 AM and I'm beginning to wonder why I had that cup and a half of coffee at 10 PM. I decided to get up and see if I can burn some of this energy off and why not, look up this mysterious beast online.
"The Paca (Agouti paca), also known as the Spotted Paca, is a large rodent found in tropical and sub-tropical America, . . . It is called paca in most of its range, but tepezcuintle in Mexico and Guatemala." Wikipedia

To explore the relationship between the ingestion of Agouti paca (AP) and human leptospirosis in Guyana, 19 febrile men who said they had hunted and eaten A. paca . . . Those found positive for anti-Leptospira IgM . . . serovars from three pathogenic species of Leptospira . . . a skin rash; lymphadenopathy; abnormal urine sediment . . . Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology

They live in my parents’ farm. I’ve shown these two to a couple of friends and they see them, with scorn, as big rats (the mom is about 60cm long and must weigh around 10kg)... I think they are absolutely great. jpablo's blog
Now, I know I'm making a big deal about this; people eat porcupine and rabbit all the time right? I grew up eating meat according to the Levitical laws (cloven hoof, chews cud, though not the official kosher bloodletting) so even eating a strip of bacon or shrimp is strange to me.

Cute, eh?

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Dasyproctidae
Genus: Agouti
Species: A. paca

Oh, and Rabbit Rabbit everyone.