Friday morning in Hanoi

It is 7:15 am on a very rainy and windy Friday morning as I begin my taxi ride to school. I really must remember to but an umbrella. I bought a rain poncho in Canada as I figured, correctly, I would not be able to get one in my size in Asia. While I have it stuffed in my bag I have difficult with the concept of covering myself with plastic and then getting into an air conditioned taxi.

I love watching the people on motorbikes in the morning but especially when it is raining. Everyone is covered with a rain poncho in a variety of colours, types of materials and occasionally advertising. Some people choose to wear their hoods over their helmets while others do the opposite”

What is very interesting are the different shapes under the ponchos, Children very seldom have their own rain gear or a helmet. They seem comfortable as they snuggle under the large one not knowing where they are going but trusting they will get there.

The day was starting off well until we turned on the street where I worked and I reached into my bag to get my wallet and I couldn't find it. I quickly realized that it was sitting on my sofa at home. Now what do I do? Well, I was able to borrow the cab fare from one of our security guards who was there to cover me with an umbrella and then I borrow money from a teacher to pay the kind guard. She also gave me money to get home.

All in all, not a bad start to a Friday morning.



On Thursday morning I am going to Antigua to celebrate the Easter weekend. I have had my hotel reservations since the end of October.

I found a magazine that gives an outline of what happens during the Processions. I am writing it here so I will always have the information.

Statue -usually a life sized religious statue displayed in a church, sometimes year round and sometimes just during the processions.Usual figures include Jesus carrying the cross or lying in a glass coffin, the Virgin Mary, St. John and Mary Magdalene. Many of these statues were made during the Spanish colonial period and can date back as far as the mid 17th century.

Velación- a display of a parish’s statues in front of or near the main altar of the church. Usually there is a backdrop and a biblical or allegorical scene created using the image of Jesus, other religious statues and additional props. In recent years many of these have become more elaborate incorporating soundtracks and timed lighting displays.

Huerto- many times at the foot of the display of the image and diorama created for the velación is a vibrant handmade alf ombré made of brightly dyed sawdust, edged by a garden, made up of a combination of flowers, fruit,vegetables, bread, candles and other colorful items.

Procesión- each procession follows a planned route from the parish church through the city returning to the church up to 12 hours later. Processions generally begin with men dressed as Roman Centurions leading the way, followed by by incense carriers and banner carriers. Behind them comes the central attraction of the procession the anda bearing the parish’s statue of Jesus set among lavish decoration. This is followed by a professional ban d playing funeral dirges.

Anda – a large and very heavy sodden platform, usually lavishly decorated which has as it’s centerpiece the parish’s statue of Jesus. The anda is carried on the shoulders of the penitents. Some andas weigh up to 7,000 pounds (4,150 kg) and require up to 100 (50 per side) cucuruchos (penitents) to carry.

Alfombra – elaborate and artistic carpets made of brightly colored sawdust or wood shavings, along with pine needles, flowers and even fruit and vegetables are constructed along the route during the hours beforehand. The alfombras are made by residents along the route of the procession who invite friends and family to help with the construction. As the procession passes over the alfombras is is destroyed by the shuffling feet of the cucuruchos leaving nothing but a pile of debris which is quickly cleaned up by the. I I ipad. Leaning crews following the processions.

Cucuruchos -the anda is carried on the shoulders of the cucuruchos who wear purple full length tunics I the processions until 3:00 PM on Good Friday, then they change to black after that. Each cucurucho carries the anda for specific distance and then a new group takes over. The members of each turn are determined by height to ensure the anda is level and balanced.

Cargdora/Dolorosa – both terms are used for the women and or older girls who carry a smaller anda with an image of the Virgin Mary. They follow the main anda and the funeral band. They also take turns throughout. The women wear black skirts or dresses and a mantilla usually of lace.

Well, that is the basic outline of what has been happening each week during Lent and everyday since Semana Santa began. On Thursday there will be three main processions and then Good Friday there will be many starting at midnight and going all day until midnight and it becomes Saturday. Then more on Saturday and one or two on Easter Sunday afternoon.

I am really looking forward to this experience even though I know the crowds will be horrendous.

More later as I actually get there.


Chilly here in Guate

I am almost afraid to write this post when my family and friends to the north are really cold make that freezing.  I spent most of my life in the north though the area I am from in Ontario is considered the south. 🙂  Regardless,of the fact I have very clear memories of chilly, cold, freezing and frigid.  The weather to the north is frigid.  Let’s face it when schools are closed in Minnesota it is cold!

With that as the basis I am not really cold though it certainly feels like it this morning when I seriously wish I had worn socks to school.  For the uninitiated, Guatemala City does not have heating or air conditioning indoors.  That means if is 58 degrees F outside that is what it is inside also.  Usually that is not a problem except for about a month out of the year when getting out of warm bed in the morning or taking a shower is the hardest part of the day.

Right now I am sitting in my classroom with my light weight winter coat on, a scarf around my neck and really wishing I had worn the aforementioned socks.  My feet are cold and soon I am going to wrap my scarf around my legs and feet.

The weather took a real turn to chilly yesterday when clouds rolled in and the wind really picked up.  It has continued into today. After walking to the bus stop this morning it was lovely to find the school bus heated when I got on.  I am seeing a lot of different teachers and classes today as work is being done in my iLab instead of outside where they usually work.  It is nice to be in touch with everyone. When I was in doing homeroom this morning I noticed a number of students sitting at their desks with earmuffs, hoodies and scarves on.  I did need to remind one of the girls she had to take her gloves off so she could do her school work. It was cute.

Regardless, of this time of year there is something special about Guatemala including these pictures of the sunrise over the school as I got off of the warm bus this morning.


A Year Has Gone By

It is hard to believe that a year ago today I arrived in my new home of Guatemala. I am so glad I made the choice to come here.

I remember some things very clearly. I remember how tired I was when I arrived after not sleeping for over 24 hours. I remember coming through the doors at the airport and hearing my name called. There were so many people there to welcome us. It was overwhelming but also so heart warming. I remember the beauty of the campus.

Our trip to Antigua on the Saturday was wonderful. It was a terrific idea to have a Scavenger Hunt and helped establish relationships. We were treated so well. It was wonderful to be treated with such kindness and respect.

I remember all of us going to Walmart on Sunday accompanied by members of the admin. The support was great. I remember loading all of our shopping including tv's, microwaves, furniture and tons of hangers into the back of the yellow school bus. It was so funny to watch. I bought a microwave, fan and a dehumidifier plus a ton of other things.

The pre service sessions were varied but also full out and I was tired still. It was strange not having a classroom to decorate but I was thankful and did not miss it at all. It was nice to have a small office.

So the first year is over, summer vacation is almost over and on Tuesday I return to start another exciting adventure. I am glad the first year is over.


Today we all loaded into three vans and the 43 of us plus all of the Admin took a trip to the incredible city of Antigua. What a beautiful and unusual city. It is 180 degrees from Guatemala City in look and feel. Antigua used to be the capital city of Guatemala but after the massive and destructive earthquake in July 1773 the capital was moved to Guatemala City. The amazing cathedral in the middle of the center square was completely destroyed though another one was built on the site though it is much smaller than the original one. The ruins at the back are incredible when you realize how massive the earthquake was.


We did a walking tour on the cobblestone streets. It was a great time. We were divided into teams of six with a couple of admin and we went on a treasure hunt to find locations and take pictures of our group in front of the assigned locations. It was a lot of fun. Each group had their own list so other than seeing each other in markets we took different pictures. All of the assigned pictures are going to be put into a photo story that will be used to introduce all of the old teachers to the new cohort. It is a wonderful idea and one of the side benefits of this project is that the new teachers will be shown and taught how to use the school's photo site.

We then went off to the beautiful Casa Santa Domingo Hotel which has been created brilliantly from the old Santa Domingo monastery to eat our meal. A delicious four course meal was served and we all enjoyed immensely. It was an opportunity to get to know each better. While we were eating the inevitable rain poured down and added a melodious sound to the conversation.

The ride home was very quiet as everyone was exhausted but happy for a great day of adventure.


Beginning the Transition

There are 38 teaching days left in this school year. In one way that seems like a lot but in another it brings on a huge number of emotions ranging from panic, sadness, excitement accompanied by a huge amount of stress.  I am excited about my future in Guatemala but in order for that life to begin I must bid farewell to a life that for eight years has served me well.  I am ready to leave China but not necessarily ready to leave everything behind.

One of the huge decisions was what to take with me and what to sell.  Huge because I have bought an extensive number of things while I am here.  I bought a lot of custom furniture.  China was the first place I have ever lived where I was able to have new furniture and to design my own living space.  It took a while to get into the swing of things but I finally found what I was comfortable with and began to design from there.  I never really thought about what was involved in shipping things as I always figured I would just bite the bullet and ship it all.  That is not how it is turning out as the shipping costs have sky rocketed.  I have about 8 square meters worth of things that I am shipping back to Canada to put into my storage unit that has been faithfully sitting there for the past eight years. (Don’t ask!)  Someone suggested that I should look at the cost I have paid as a small rent as I haven’t paid rent for the past eight years and won’t be for the next two at least.

So I put together my list of things to sell and it is eight pages long of just the furniture alone.  Wow…..Then, of course, I am going to have an apartment sale of all the other things plus helping my landlady rent my apartment for when I leave.