26 de Mayo
Bikes Fixed: 19
Bicimaquinas Built: 0.5
But here’s a bicycle-related photo just for good measure.
So I realize I’m hinging on overdue for another blog post, and for that, I apologize. I’m fending off sickness, which I sort of expected right about now (new food, new climate, whatnot). Additionally, it’s been really rainy all the time. I didn’t bring any raingear (and won’t need any once the rain has passed), but in the mean time, the rain is kind of controlling my daily schedule.
Also, before I begin, I have some corrections to make. A previous volunteer has been reading my blog and noticed some misconceptions of mine. Namely, the gunshots I thought I was hearing are actually fireworks. Really loud fireworks… but fireworks. Apparently the people here love them and use them to celebrate just about anything. As I said, I didn’t think people were getting shot, nor did I feel unsafe because of it… but fireworks.
So I’ve wanted to (and had a request to) do a post on food for a while now. Food is generally one of the more interesting parts of any trip, as I think it’s something we all have preconceptions about. Aside from the whole “other cultures!” part of things, I think food can make or break your day, or your trip.
That being said, I’m happy to say that the food here is pretty good. There’s quite a variety of it depending on where you look, and you do have to be a little picky, but I haven’t had anything I’ve really disliked yet. I think a lot of this stems from the fact that… well, I’m still in America. I’ll probably write more about this in a later post, but in many ways (especially after having just spent three months in India), Guatemala is very similar to the US. That’s not to say they are the same by any means, just that there are numerous similarities… maybe more than I expected. Anyways, the point is, Guatemalan doesn’t live off of roti and dal, they live off of maiz, and so does the United States (most of us, anyways – even if we don’t realize it).
So first I’ll touch on what I have for lunch, and then I’ll talk about what I eat at home. The reason these are different is because during the week, I’m invited to have lunch with Carlos. BiciTec is run out of his house, so I can smell lunch as it’s being cooked, and the kitchen (where we eat – there are bicycles in the dining area) is about a five second walk from the shop area. So for lunch I have, well, whatever Carlos has. I think it’s safe to assume this is authentic Guatemalan food… since Carlos and his family have spent their whole lives here.
I mean, once you add the towel-wrapped tortilla basket, you’re pretty much good to go.
For starters, the staples are corn, beans, and tomatoes. There are usually other things thrown in – chicken, for instance, makes frequent appearances – but for any given meal you can bet you’ll get one or more of those three things.
Corn, I would say, makes the most frequent appearance; in addition, it is the most well disguised. It’s pretty hard to disguise tomatoes (they are either chopped or in salsa), but I’ve had corn tortillas as often as I’ve had… well, a lot of other things I don’t know the names of.
Chicken in corn broth.
Rice makes surprisingly few appearances. It could be it’s out of season (being it’s always available at your local Really Huge SuperMarket (TM) in the states, I’ve never had to bother knowing what the season is for rice), but I’ve only had it once so far, and that was for a side.
But beans are around all the time.
Also, cheese makes disappointingly few appearances. This makes sense, given the lack of refrigeration, but I was hoping I’d be able to binge at least a little bit during my time here – no luck (for those of you who don’t know, cheese is my favorite food). The cheese we do have is queso fresco. This is cheese that has the consistency of feta cheese (though smaller crumbles, perhaps), and tastes just a little alcoholic. I assume the alcohol (though I’m not sure if it’s actually alcohol) is a preservative, again because of the lack of refrigeration.
The only other thing I can think of to mention is eggs. We’ve had eggs twice now, both times with tomatoes. It seems like they take eggs from the ducks and, when there’s enough for a meal (keeping in mind Carlos has a family of 8), they cook ’em. The first time we had hard boiled eggs under salsa (surprisingly good); the second, scrambled eggs with tomatoes.
I’ve stayed for dinner twice – once we had Dominoes pizza (to celebrate unloading the trailer), the other we had bread. Lots of bread.
Which is the perfect segue into what I have to eat at home.
My two staples thus far are bread and eggs. I’m going to try to eat fewer eggs. I think they are good, but not something I want to have every day. Perhaps unfortunately then, they are easily acquired. Every store has cartons of them, and I they are cheap — about Q1.50 each ($0.18). Oh, and bread. Bread is also available almost everywhere, and it’s cheap, too. It comes in serving-size portions that are usually less than Q1/piece (about $0.12).
All the bread.
The thing is, there’s about ten or twenty different kinds of bread, and they all have different names. When you go into the panaderia, the panadera will ask you what kind you want, and if you don’t know… well, you find a nice panaderia where the panadera is patient enough to walk you through them. So far the only three I have memorized are coronas, conchas, and… uh… it’ll come to me (hey, I’m working on other words okay?).
So aside from bread and eggs, I’m trying (and so far not succeeding too well) at getting in my fruits and vegetables. See, the only place you can buy these is at market. Market happens every day, but the “big” market happens only on Tuesday and Sunday, and remember, there’s no refrigeration… and remember, I work on Tuesday… but I think I may start getting up early and going before I leave for work. Anyways, market (the “big” kind, anyways) is one of those places where the author says you can get “anything.” So far I’ve only bought fruits, vegetables, and pasta, but there are people selling many things, from clothes to toys to hardware, etc. Anyways, fruits and veggies are cheap, too (you know what – everything is cheap). Most sell for 1Q/kg ($0.12, or about $0.24/lb).
This is my kitchen:
Who needs more than two burners at a time, anyways?
By the end of the week (like yesterday, for instance) I’m usually out of food, so I make a point to visit a restaurant. Itzapa is rather small so I haven’t found that many, and unfortunately, it seems like most places are “burger and french fries” places. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with a burger and some fries every now and then, but… it’s just not always what I want. Maybe I should teach them to cook Italian.
In short, it’s an experience… but I miss cheese.