I am a French Canadian living in Guatemala, but currently weekending in Honduras, reading a British news site about the death of a Pakistani politician who was assassinated by her own countrymen or Saudi Arabs based in Afghanistan who used to be funded by the American CIA.


Midnight Clear

This was our Christmas Eve moon. We saw it rise over the mountains as we got home from a Christmas program at church (we left early as it started 1 hour late). We ate some traditional Christmas food (lentil-chicken wraps), opened some gifts from my old school in Spruce Grove, and then watched 2 Wonder Years Christmas episodes.

The local bars kept us awake (some, we were pretty tired) with loud music and other neighbours had firecrackers and gunshots going into the early hours of the morning.

Acadia woke us up this Christmas.

I'm currently waiting for Blaise to finish bathing so we can get to the rest of the presents. I have 3 DVDs under our little tree. I've already opened some new underwear and a Macworld magazine. Blaise has to bathe because he has scabies and so we have to cover his little body with poison at night and wash him good in the mornings.

April, Amber's sister, is here for the holidays. We picked her up from Guatemala City on Saturday. It's good to have some family with us this year - especially one who will help with the diaper changes and dishes ;)

¡Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noël! Merry Christmas!


Game 7: Oilers vs. Flyers

After waiting 9 days of patiently downloading 160 MB each day, my iTunes purchase arrived: 1987 Stanley Cup Final - Game 7 - Philadelphia Flyers vs. Edmonton Oilers.

I was in grade 5 and a new fan to hockey. My favorite players were (and continue to be)
  • Glenn Anderson (9)
  • Esa Tikkanen (10)
  • Craig MacTavish (14)
  • Grant Fuhr (31)
  • Kevin Lowe (4)
  • Craig Muni (28)
  • Jari Kurri (17)
I haven't as into hockey since the core of this Oilers team disbanded over the following years. Watching them play again was quite a trip. The game is completely different today. Back then it was wide open and the passing and skating was incredible. They almost always carried the puck into the zone, only dumping it in when there was a line change.

Aside from the thrill of seeing the amazing plays by the Oilers and the great saves by Ron Hextall of the Flyers (he won the Conn Smyth even though the Flyers lost the Cup), it was interesting to watch from a historical perspective. The fans were pretty unruly and ignorant throughout most of the game too. They booed Hextall when he got the Conn Smyth. They threw garbage on the ice frequently throughout the game. The worst came at the end. When the cup was presented to captain Wayne Gretzky a bunch of Edmonton fans already flooded the ice - tugging at the cup and at the players. It completely ruined the moment for the players and you can read their lips as they yell at the fans to leave the ice. After watching that, I can't blame Gretzky for moving to L.A. a year later.


with my eyes . . .

I spent the past week delivering and installing stoves in the communities of Chicoy, Mocohán, and Purulhá. Throughout the week, I kept my eyes open to the surreal adventures at every turn.

. . . I see a street still blocked by a landslide five months old. There's not much money in Purulhá and so a clean up just may not happen for a few years.

. . . I see a woman nursing her toddler while seated on the ground under a tree in her yard. She looks exhausted.

. . . I see a tractor trailer surrounded by emergency vehicles and non-emergency vehicles. There are cans of cola everywhere. A big mess.

. . . I see down into the stovepipe into a kitchen that will no longer be filled with smoke. I get to cut lots of holes in people's roofs and then I get to seal the pipe with instant gasket silicon.

. . . I see bright pink flowers in the trees as I drive home crossing the departmental lines between Baja Verapaz and Alta Verapaz.

. . . I see a dead piglet still tethered in its yard. Its feet are almost pointed straight up.

. . . I see brilliant white cliffs on the mountain that walls in Mocohán; the clear blue and the textured green.

. . . I see fast fading photos of a recently deceased father. The photos are in a frame with broken glass. The man is in his army uniform and he's firing a machine gun.

. . . I see women quickly put their weaving down to show me how they've set up their stoves. I'm sure they are grateful for the interruption. The weaving itself is always bright, though I see a girl weaving on black for the first time.

. . . I see black cobwebs hanging from low rafters. They are thickly covered in soot as are the rafters and aluminum sheets composing the roof.

. . . I see sunrays exposing dust and smoke in a kitchen.

. . . I see a widow smile. She's ecstatic about getting her new stove. She's torn apart where she used to cook and she gratefully presents me and my helper with a glass of juice.

. . . I see an outhouse all alone in a field. There isn't much of a door. There isn't a door. Who am I fooling?

. . . I see cheap china piled on a wooden shelf in a kitchen where I'm working. I'm sure the family saved up to buy these pieces over time because many of them don't match.

. . . I see a rather stout woman lathering herself as she wears only her corte (traditional skirt). She doesn't care that I'm walking right in front of her on the path. I don't stare.

. . . I see a pot of madly boiling maiz in a blackened pot over an open fire.

. . . I see chickens and chicks scratching around inside a kitchen. I restrain myself from telling the family how unsanitary this is. I guess I don't want to tell them because my assumption is that their assumption is that I could be arrogant and bossy.

. . . I see a modestly beautiful garden. The mom and a few children are weeding while I'm there. It's the mint that really catches my eye. They call it "hierba buena" (good herb) and use it in soups.

. . . I see a mother pulling up her child's pants on the side of the road. It's refreshing to note that it isn't a man urinating on the side of the road facing me this time.

. . . I see a baby girl with Down sydrome. I can only pray that her life will not be defined by abuse. She is a sweet and happy baby while she is in front of my lenses.


Movie News!

Peter Jackson is going to make The Hobbit. How awesome is that? There had been a dispute that is now resolved between Jackson and New Line Cinema. What is a little confusing is the fact that they are making 2 movies from the 1 book that is 1/3 of the size of one of The Lord of the Rings books (which are in fact 6 books put in 3 volumes). They should have made 6 movies for The Lord of the Rings. The One Ring reports too.

In other movie news, I rented 5 movies on DVD for 5 nights from a store in Cobán (30 minutes away). I've hesitated renting from there because I don't go too often and I don't want to get slammed with their heavy fines. You can keep the movies for as many days as the number of films you rent and they actually have a pretty decent selection. You can see which ones on my movie review blog. (I'm finishing the last one tonight withe Amber: The Secret Life of Words)

To Complete Exhaustion

We delivered 25 stoves today in Chicoy, Mocohan, and Purulhá. I was proud when we delivered 14 stoves in one day on December 7. Each stoves weighs in at 700 lbs (320 kg) and it comes in 30 pieces (some very large, some tiny). We got a late start because my hired pick-up truck delayed me so long I looked for another. So from 9:20 am through til 5:15 pm I worked loading and unloading with a couple guys without a break for lunch.

I haven't felt so tired in a long long time. Almost every part of my body is sore and I could barely pick my 2 1/2 year old son up tonight. My fingertips hurt, so I'll stop now.


ups, downs, and straight across

We install the stovepipe in this woman's home. While I am working though, it is like working over a campfire because she has her old fire going and the new stove lit too. But she only has one stovepipe attached and no hole in the roof. What is funny is that the cap for the chimney is on the stove, so the stove looks installed, but completely indoors.

We get the hole in the aluminum roof and seal it off with silicon and she insists we have a coffee and sweetbread. I ask my little helper José to take my picture because I don't have any pictures of me installing a stove. This is as close as I've got for now.

This family lives 1/2 way up the mountain and the view is incredible. It's dusk and the sun is very bright in the west.

I look down and I can see where we transported a stove (all 700 lbs). Normally, we leave it to the family to do this as we don't have time to do all their work and they get more of a sense of ownership is they do it themselves. The family at the end of this path isn't home for one. Secondly, the family consists of an elderly aunt and her two young orphans.

I check into that very home the next day and all the pieces are still there and so are the two kids. The girl tells me that the aunt doesn't want the stove. She wants a bigger one. (ha ha ha). (this family is destitute, with barely enough money to eat). (they also don't speak the local language nor Spanish very well, but rather Q'eqchí, so the aunt didn't understand much during the training session).

This is what they currently cook on. I do my spiel and convince the two kids who I hope will persuade their aunt who is out working. I add too that they don't have to pay for the stove. . . this is a real selling point I think.


Greek to me

alpha beta gamma delta epsilon zeta eta theta iota kappa lamda mu nu xi omicron pi rho sigma tau upsilon phi chi psi omega

I'm trying to learn Greek. Not modern Greek. Greek of antiquity. I'm trying to gain an understanding of it so that I can ultimately read the New Testament in its original language. We'll see.

So far it's pretty tough, but I can effectively read it out loud, albeit in a rudimentary way (I have yet to learn all the accents and vowel combinations). I can recognize some words too like adelphous (brothers, as in phil-adelphia).

I've made some neat discoveries too. The tribe of Judah in Israel is the same word as Judas. I wonder why they decided to write it as Judah? And the first word of the New Testament is Biblos.

62 Stoves

My recent days are dominated with identifying needy families to receive the gift of a stove, the training of how to use, care for, and install the stove, the order and delivery of the stoves, and ultimately the door-to-door delivery of the stoves and the installation. Once the stoves are installed I still need to photograph them and write the thank you letters to the donors (you can be a donor too!).

It's been a saga! I'll skip the boring details of having to do half the training myself because HELPS International did not effectively communicate with me or the fact that the truck going to pick up the stoves in Chiquimula was delayed on the highway because of a tractor trailer crash that stopped traffic for 6 hours on one of Guatemala's busiest highways (single lane nonetheless) thus ruining all the plans I had for unloading the truck in daylight that same day. Ah! My suffering!!

Each ONIL stove is put together with 11 concrete blocks (35 lbs each), 3 large cement pieces (230 lbs), 8 piece iron griddle (40 lbs) with a tool to remove the pieces, 8 ceramic tiles for the combustion unit, 2 metal interior pieces, 6 part stove pipe unit, two small wooden wedges to keep it steady and a tiny envelope with incidental wires and nails.

After the lengthy and exhausting process of unloading the 62 stoves (not the 682 concrete blocks - we make those locally), I get to deliver the stoves to each home - mainly so that I can know exactly where the house is, ensure that the stove is properly installed and get photos. The homes are scattered among 6 buroughs in Tactic (29 stoves) and 6 far flung villages (33 stoves).

I find myself with 3 unsolicited yet motivated helpers. The smallest offers his services first. He's 10. I agree thinking he can help load and unload the incidental pieces (the light ones) and I can pay him a little for that. He goes directly for the 140 lb concrete piece. Then his two cousins show up mid morning wanting to tag along. Hmmmm.

So we deliver 9 stoves yesterday morning and I dismiss the lads for the afternoon as I know there will be plenty of help in the village I'm going to and the regular workers where the stoves are stored always help load the hired pick-up.

We barely make 2 trips to San Antonio Panec as the hill is very steep and the vintage Toyota 1/2 ton has trouble climbing the mountain with either of the loads (2100 lbs and 1400 lbs respectively). We have to unload some blocks at the bottom and come back for them each time. I try phoning 3 of the recipients but I get giggling women at the other end, so my plan is thwarted once again. 2 families aren't home, but we leave the stoves anyhow.

The chauffeur picks passengers up on the way back to Tactic earning more income. He drops them off in the centre of town and asks if it's cool if he loads up some produce for his next trip before dropping me off 1/2 a km down the highway. Sure.

I watch resignedly as 2 young guys toss 300 cabbages from 1 pick up to ours for 45 minutes.

I spend some of that time waiting in the cab and staring at some of the bling hanging from his rear-view mirror and listening to the radio. The radio in this country really deserves its own blog post.

I should mention that it is unusually hot this day. Amber helps me out with some aloe vera (savila in Spanish).


Die Duck Die

Blaise's stuffed toy duck used to say a prayer when you squeezed it's foot. The voice is a scary child's voice, half whispering. Sometimes in English. Sometimes in French.

Amber washed the duck. Now, when you squeeze it's foot, nothing happens. But every now and again, the duck comes alive and just starts praying. On it's own. Without provocation. At 10:45 tonight, from Blaise's room we heard Now I lay me down to sleep . . .

I snuck into the room. Found the duck. And threw him outside.

Say your prayers ducky!!


Guatemalan Canadian Bank Note

I happened to glance at one of the new one Quetzal polymer bills on my desk this morning and was very surprised to see "CANADIAN BANK NOTE" printed on the bottom left corner of the front of the bill.

I did a quick search and discovered that the Canadian Bank Note Company does a lot of production of international secure documents ranging from currencies, passports, postage stamps, and various licences, certificates and tickets. I remember now that when I was in Ukraine in 1993 we were using a Canadian printed temporary currency called the Coupon.