Thursday, December 29, 2011


Over the years, I’ve made hundreds of resolutions to ring in the New Year and have somehow managed to break almost every one of them and usually by no later than Valentine’s Day! However, I no longer make resolutions that I know I am unable to keep, save for one single resolution I make every year and I always manage to keep it. I’d like to share that resolution with you, and perhaps you’d consider making it one of your resolutions for 2012, and always.

My single resolution is:

“I promise myself to perform a random act of kindness.”

That’s it - plain and simple. I hope you will add my resolution to your list.

On a slightly lighter note, a new year is time to reflect on life and find inner peace. A dear friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail that I would like to also share with you about inner peace. Many thanks to MR for sharing this with me.

I'm passing this on because it worked for me today. A Dr. on TV said to have inner peace we should always finish things we start & we all could use more calm in our lives. I looked around my house to find things I'd started & hadn't finished, so I finished off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of Chardonnay, a bodle of Baileys, a butle of wum, tha mainder of Valiuminun scriptins, an a box a chocletz. Yu haf no idr how fablus I feel rite now. Sned this to all who need inner piss. An telum i luvum

Here’s hoping that 2012 will prove to be one of your best years ever and may you find that inner peace we all so desperately seek.


Sunday, December 11, 2011


For all of you with any money left, be aware of the next expected mergers so that you can get in on the ground floor and make some BIG bucks.

Watch for these consolidations in 2012:

1. Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

2. Polygram Records, Warner Bros., and Zesta Crackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.

3. 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood.

4. Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa.

5. FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.

6. Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.

7. Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: Poupon Pants.

8. Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!

And finally.....

9. Victoria 's Secret and Smith & Wesson will merge under the new name: TittyTittyBangBang


Friday, November 18, 2011


If you are in Merida and are driving on the sole road that leads to Sisal or Celestun, or one or more of the pueblos in between, you will pass by a lonely roadside sign with a pyramid and an arrow pointing down a dusty, stone road. I had passed that sign many times and curiosity finally got the best of me and I decided I would  take the challenge and head for the ruin.

As soon as I turned off the paved road, I found myself wishing that my vehicle was four-wheel drive or that I had a pick-up truck! The road is pretty much unattended, full of pot holes and very difficult on your tires.

It seemed like a forever drive down that long, dusty road, in and out of pot holes, but finally I saw some people moving around, a few houses, some farm animals, and even a tiny pueblo (of sorts). There was a very old hacienda that offered its services for parties and social events. I wondered who in the world could find the place!

The road dead-ended here and there were no other indications of any Mayan ruin to be had, so I asked one of the locals who gladly told me to turn to the right. Following his directions, I continued my journey.  Ahh! Finally! I saw an archway with the name of the ruin, and I decided that I had hit pay dirt and found it.

I parked and quickly noticed that I was the sole motor vehicle in sight. As I approached what appeared to be the entry way, I saw that it was blocked off with a gate made of galvanized aluminum fencing. There wasn’t a soul to be found.  It looked eerily deserted.

I began yelling “bueno”, which is the local way and custom of saying hello, anyone home. (I should readily point out that the word “bueno” is used in several forms of communication here in the Yucatan, although in literal translation, it means "good".)

After several very loud “buenos” a small, elderly Mayan man peered through some bushes and proceeded to the gate to greet me. He had been cutting some of the over-grown shrubs and he proudly announced that he was the caretaker. I asked if the site were open and he said no, the owner wasn’t here.

Owner, I thought? No one actually owns an historical archeological site. They are all owned and operated by the Mexican Government, save for some cenotes that are on privately owned land. I questioned him further and learned that the only time the site is available is when the owner is on premises. It seems that there are some cabins or lodges or some such similar habitats back in the over growth, and the owner does not permit anyone to enter unless it is under his supervision. Weird, really weird I thought.

I offered the caretaker a tip, well actually it was a bribe, to see if he would permit me to enter and take a few pictures and he cordially and politely absolutely refused as he feared losing his job. I understood his dilemma, thanked him and gave him a tip just for his time. He was grateful and went about his chore of cutting back some of the abundant shrubbery that seemed to be taking over.

I did take one picture and it is the one at the top of this post. I have no idea what lurks behind those man made arches, down the winding and overgrown pathways and through the woods, but I don’t think I will ever find out as I am not inclined to go back there for a second try, at least not in the very near future.

So, if you are in the area and manage to visit the ruins of Sihunchen, let me know what, and how, they were.   Until then, I will remain forever curious!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


It was just about this time last year that I published this post about aguinaldos for mail carriers and employees, be they part or full-time.  I believe it is worth publishing again as a reminder to all of us living in Mexico.  So, here it is again:

Yes, it is definitely that time of year. It all starts with the mail carriers who have their special day on November 12, Dia del Cartero. In your mail box, they will leave a card with a return envelope, preprinted with their name on it. (Convenient, huh?)

You simply insert your “gift” as a token of appreciation for their service for the past year. I think they must like me because I actually participate in giving, partially because I have always given to my mailman when in the States in appreciation for the services they provide, and partially out of fear that if I don’t give, I may never receive another piece of mail as long as I live in Mexico!On the other hand, I readily give generously to my housekeeper who works for me fulltime, year round. She is an integral part of my adopted family that I have been fortunate enough to have for 23+ years now. She is a single mother and has two children and a small house that she supports on the salary I pay her. In addition, any special needs that arise, I take care of plus I help whenever I can throughout the year. Her Christmas bonus is above and beyond the norm, and includes several gifts for both her and the children. I do believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive and this is one way I can give back to the community that I have chosen to live in. Something I think we all should do.

If you live in Mexico and you have an employee such as a housekeeper, gardener, cook, driver, or just someone who stops by to help you with chores every now and then, you should consider paying an Aguinaldo. It is customary to do so here in the Yucatan and throughout Mexico as well. There are even formulas on the internet to ascertain the amount you should pay!

Basically, from what I have seen from others living here, the Aguinaldo is considered the “Thirteenth Pay”. That is, one months’ salary for either full or part time help. In addition, to the monetary part of the Aguinaldo, a gift, or gifts, are often given as a token of appreciation for loyal service and/or longevity of service, or both.

Aguinaldo’s are usually paid in Mid-November up to the first part of December and often represents the total “Christmas” the family will have, including food, drink, and gifts. Often, the children in the family will receive some new clothing as their gift and are absolutely delighted to do so! (Unlike some children “north of the border”.) Let’s face it, the people that work for us are generally poor and do the best they can with what they have. It doesn’t hurt to help. It feels GREAT!

You don’t have to give until it hurts, just give until it helps.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


By now, I suspect everyone is familiar with and/or for determining whether information received via email is just that: true/false or fact/fiction. Both are excellent sites.Advice from VERY IMPORTANT!!

1) Any time you see an email that says "forward this on to '10' (or however many) of your friends", "sign this petition", or "you'll get bad luck" or "you'll get good luck" or "you'll see something funny on your screen after you send it" or whatever --- it almost always has an email tracker program attached that tracks the cookies and emails of those folks you forward to. The host sender is getting a copy each time it gets forwarded and then is able to get lists of 'active' email addresses to use in SPAM emails or sell to other Spammers. Even when you get emails that demand you send the email on if you're not ashamed of God/Jesus --- that is email tracking, and they are playing on our conscience. These people don't care how they get your email addresses - just as long as they get them. Also, emails that talk about a missing child or a child with an incurable disease "how would you feel if that was your child" --- email tracking. Ignore them and don't participate!

2) Almost all emails that ask you to add your name and forward on to others are similar to that mass letter years ago that asked people to send business cards to the little kid in Florida who wanted to break the Guinness Book of Records for the most cards. All it was, and all any of this type of email is, is a way to get names and 'cookie' tracking information for telemarketers and Spammers -- to validate active email accounts for their own profitable purposes.
 You can do your Friends and Family members a GREAT favor by sending this information to them. You will be providing a service to your friends. And you will be rewarded by not getting thousands of spam emails in the future!

Do yourself a favor and STOP adding your name(S) to those types of listing regardless how inviting they might sound! Or make you feel guilty if you don't! It's all about getting email addresses and nothing more. 

You may think you are supporting a GREAT cause, but you are NOT!  Instead, you will be getting tons of junk mail later and very possibly a virus attached! Plus, we are helping the Spammers get rich! Let's not make it easy for them!

ALSO: Email petitions are NOT acceptable to Congress of any other organization - i.e. Social security, etc. To be acceptable, petitions must have a "signed signature" and full address of the person signing the petition, so this is a waste of time and you are just helping the email trackers.

So, effectively immediately, I will no longer forward any of this junk so please don't send it to me.  In the past, I have always felt slightly guilty if I didn't do it, but not any more.  So, I guess that means that Jesus will no longer love me because he thinks I'm ashamed of him, I won't be rich in three days, the issue won't be recognized because I didn't sign the petition, I don't really love my country, good luck will never knock on my door, and my genitals may fall off.  Life can be difficult, for sure, but I say to hell with spammers and I hope you will too.


Sunday, October 30, 2011


Although unverified, some of this stuff rings true.  In any event, it's fun!  Find your home State and see what you think.  For my readers from other than the US, learn some interesting things about the United States.

ALABAMA .................. Was the first place to have 9-1-1, started in 1968.  (Probably to get fast medical aid to injured football players and fans!)

ALASKA ..................... One out of every 64 people has a pilot's license.  (And that's probably because they couldn't pass their driver's license test on those icy roads!)

ARIZONA ................... Is the only state in the continental U.S.
that doesn't follow Daylight Savings Time.  (I wish other States would follow Arizona's lead!)

ARKANSAS ................ Has the only active diamond mine in the U.S.  (I know some women who'll move there after reading this!)

CALIFORNIA .............. Its economy is so large that if it were a
country, it would rank 7th in the entire world.  (I think California should be a separate country!)

COLORADO ................ In 1976 it became the only state to turn
down the Olympics.  (There's got to be a good reason for this, but I sure can't think of one!)

CONNECTICUT ........... The Frisbee was invented here at Yale University.  (Now who who would have thunk that!  A flying saucer, maybe, but a frisbee?)

DELAWARE .............. Has more scientists and engineers than any other state.  (The question begs to be asked:  WHY?)

FLORIDA .................At 874.3 square miles, Jacksonville is the
US's largest city.  (And, from living in Florida for many a year, I'll add "and is the birthplace of the Early Bird Dinner Special!  And is lovingly referred to as the land of the newly wed and nearly dead!")

GEORGIA .................... It was here, in 1886, that pharmacist
John Pemberton made the first vat of Coca-Cola.  (I recall reading somewhere that the original batches actually contained cocaine and were sold for medicinal purposes.  No wonder everyone liked it so much that it became the number one selling beverage in the world!) 

HAWAII ..................... Hawaiians live, on average, five years
longer than residents of any other state.  (Could it be because they get more leys than the rest of us?  Nahhh, it's got to have something to do with the weather or the volcanic ash!)

IDAHO ....................... TV was invented in Rigby, Idaho, in 1922.
(And the world went downhill from there.)

ILLINOIS ...................Has a Governor in jail, one pending jail & is perhaps the most corrupt state in the union.  (And we elected a President from that State!  Makes you wonder.)

INDIANA ...Home to Santa Claus, Indiana , which gets a half million letters to Santa every year.  (What do they do with all that unfowardable mail?)

IOWA .............Winnebago get their name from Winnebago County .  Also, it is the only state that begins with two vowels.  (Has anyone from Iowa ever won a spelling bee?)

KANSAS .................Liberal, Kansas , has an exact replica of the
house in The Wizard of Oz.  (Who lives in that house????)

KENTUCKY .............Has more than $6 billion in gold underneath Fort Knox.  (GOOD GRIEF!  Don't remind the politicians because they'll want to tax it or spend it!)

LOUISIANA .............Has parishes instead of counties because they
were originally Spanish church units.  (Only one out of 50 isn't bad.  I guess they march to the beat of a different drummer!)

MAINE ...................... It's so big, it covers as many square
miles as the other five New England states combined.  (If you look at the tiny size of the other five, that's not that big of an accomplishment!)

MARYLAND .............. The Ouija board was created in Baltimore in 1892.  ("Oui" being French for yes, and "ja" being German for yes, I would have guessed Europe!)

MASSACHUSETTS ....... The Fig Newton is named after Newton , Mass and where the first chocolate chip cookie was created.  (Is this also where Wayne Newton was born?  Probably not.)

MICHIGAN .....Fremont, home to Gerber, is the baby food capital of the world.  (One has to wonder how many babies they have fed since their inception.  I'm guessing eleventeen gazillion.)

MINNESOTA ............ Bloomington 's Mall of America is so big, if
you spent 10 minutes in each store, you'd be there nearly four days.
(In the middle of a Minnesota winter, it may take you four days to just drive there!)

MISSISSIPPI ............. President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear here .... that's how the teddy bear got its name.  (Good for you, Mr. President!  I'm pretty much against hunting myself.)

MISSOURI ............... Is the birthplace of the ice cream cone.  (I knew there was something I really liked about this State!  Show me the cone!  A chocolate one, please.)

MONTANA .............A sapphire from Montana is in the Crown Jewels of England.  (I SAY LET'S GET THE DAMN THING BACK HOME WHERE IT BELONGS!  And any jobs that went along with it, too!)

NEBRASKA ............... More triplets are born here than in any other state.  (Good grief!  I'm glad I never lived there!)

NEW HAMPSHIRE ...... Birthplace of Tupperware, invented in 1938 by Earl Tupper.  (A true All-American invention that helped change the world and made it a better place.  Thanx Earl!)

NEW JERSEY ............ Has the most shopping malls in one area in the world.  (Guys, if you can't find your wife, mother, or daughter, try looking somewhaere in Jersey!)

NEW MEXICO ............ Smokey the Bear was rescued from a 1950 forest fire here.  (Weird.  I never knew there was a real "Smokey The Bear"!)

NEW YORK ................ Is home to the nation's oldest cattle ranch,
started in 1747 in Montauk.  (I'm sure there are tons of Texans who'd dispute this one!)

NORTH CAROLINA ..... Home of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut.  (God Bless America, and especially NC and Krispy Kreme.  Amen!)

NORTH DAKOTA ....... Rugby , North Dakota , is the exact geographic center of North America .  (Who measures this stuff?  And what kind of a ruler do they use?)

OHIO ......................... The hot dog was invented here in 1900.  (And I'm sure there are lots of New Yorkers who'd dispute this one!)

OKLAHOMA ............... The grounds of the state capital are covered by operating oil wells.  (How pretty is that!?!)

OREGON .................... Has the most ghost towns in the country.  (Now that rings spooky!)

PENNSYLVANIA ......... The smiley,  : )  was first used in 1980 by
computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.  (Gee, is that all they could come up with?)

RHODE ISLAND ......... The nation's oldest bar, the White Horse
Tavern, opened here in 1673.  (God Bless America and especially Rhode Island and the White Horse Tavern.  Amen!)

SOUTH CAROLINA ..... Sumter County is home to the world's largest gingko farm.  (Wow!  How did I make it this far without knowing that!?!)

SOUTH DAKOTA ....... Is the only state that's never had an earthquake.  (Given the Law of Averages, watch out South Dakota!  The next rumbling you feel may not be from your neighbor's snow blower or tractor!)

TENNESSEE ................ Nashville's Grand Ole Opry is the longest
running live radio show in the world.  (And without a doubt, the best, too!)

TEXAS ....................... Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco back in
1885. The Hamburger was invented in Arlington in 1906.  (Now this tidbit of information is really strange - Dr. Pepper and hamburgers?  Two things I wouldn't immediately associate Texas with!)

UTAH ........................ The first Kentucky Fried Chicken
restaurant opened here in 1952.  (Hmmmm,  I would have guessed Kentucky!  Makes more sense to me than Utah!)

VERMONT ..............Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald's.  (Way to go, Montpelier!)

VIRGINIA ............Home of the world's largest office building...The Pentagon.  (I never thought of the Pentagon as an "office building" before!)

WASHINGTON...............Seattle has twice as many college graduates as any other state.  (Perhaps that's because there is absolutely nothing else to do in Washington?)

WASHINGTON D.C. .... Was the first planned capital in the world.
(And it worked.  Well, it used to work.)

WEST VIRGINIA ......... Had the world's first brick paved street,
Summers Street, laid in Charleston in 1870.  (A dubious distinction for this Blue Ridge Mountain state!)

WISCONSIN ............... The ice cream sundae was invented here
in1881 to get around Blue Laws prohibiting ice cream from being sold on Sundays.  (God bless America and especially Wisconsin and the ice cream sundae.  Amen!)

WYOMING .................Was the first state to allow women to vote.
(No comment!!!)

Note:  A special thanks to my friend MR for sending the original
e-mail to me.  I took the liberty of adding comments  in parentheses.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


If these don't make you groan, I recommend doubling up on your meds and asking your therapist for more weekly sessions!  :-)

Groan away:

1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.  He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in LinoleumBlownapart.

8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

11. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

12. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'

13. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'

15. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

17. A backward poet writes inverse.

18. In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.

19. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine.

20. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

21. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says,"I've lost my electron." The other says, "Are you sure?" The first replies, "Yes, I'm positive."

22. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh.  No pun in ten did.

If these didn't solicit a groan, go ahead and moan!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


(And NO, I did not check any of this out with Snopes, the Internet Nazi!)

Q: Why do men's clothes have buttons on the right while women's clothes have buttons on the left?

A: When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left. Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid's right! And that's where women's buttons have remained since.

Q: Why do ships and aircraft use 'mayday' as their call for help?

A: This comes from the French word m'aidez -meaning 'help me' -- and is pronounced, approximately, 'mayday.'

Q: Why are zero scores in tennis called 'love'?

A: In France , where tennis became popular, round zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called 'l'oeuf,' which is French for 'egg.' When tennis was introduced in the US , Americans (mis)pronounced it 'love.' (Ya gotta "love" those French!)

Q. Why do X's at the end of a letter signify kisses?

A: In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfil obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous. (I wonder where the "O" for hug came from?) XOXOXOXO

Q: Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called 'passing the buck'?

A: In card games, it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility of dealing, he would 'pass the buck' to the next player. (I know people like this.)

Q: Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?

A: It used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would only touch or clink the host's glass with his own.

Q: Why are people in the public eye said to be 'in the limelight'?

A: Invented in 1825, limelight was used in lighthouses and theatres by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant light. In the theatre, a performer 'in the limelight' was the center of attention.

Q: Why is someone who is feeling great 'on cloud nine'?

A: Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares. (I know people like this, too!)

Q: In golf, where did the term 'caddie' come from?

A. When Mary, Queen of Scots went to France as a young girl, Louis, King of France , learned that she loved the Scots' game 'golf.' So he had the first course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment. To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her. Mary liked this a lot and when she returned to Scotland (not a very good idea in the long run), she took the practice with her. In French, the word cadet is pronounced 'ca-day' and the Scots changed it into 'caddie.'

Q: Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?

A: Long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of a dense orange clay called 'pygg'. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as 'pygg banks.' When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a container that resembled a pig and it caught on. (Leave it to the English to get i confused!)

Q: Did you ever wonder why dimes, quarters and half dollars have notches (milling), while pennies and nickels do not?

A: The US Mint began putting notches on the edges of coins containing gold and silver to discourage holders from shaving off small quantities of the precious metals. Dimes, quarters and half dollars are notched because they used to contain silver. Pennies and nickels aren't notched because the metals they contain are not valuable enough to shave.

So there! Now you know! Thrilled?

Monday, September 26, 2011


If you guessedChristmas”, you’re correct!

The first week of SEPTEMBER, my favorite super market, Mega, started putting out their Christmas displays. I was, and still am, appalled. If you do the math, that’s approximately 4 months before Christmas! Other stores are following suit, or even leading in the pursuit.

I understand the retail side of this story, but unfortunately, I’m not convinced that the retailers understand the other side. Growing up, I was taught both the religious and “retail” aspects of Christmas. Gift giving was always from the heart, not the wallet, and certainly didn’t start the day after Labor Day! We actually celebrated the birth of Jesus. Family and friends were always at the top of the list of priorities, and fond memories of family gatherings still linger in my heart and soul. I don’t think many people do that anymore and they have lost sight of the real meaning of Christmas and they have taken Christ out of Christmas.

I’m not being over-zealous here, and I’m not preaching, honestly. To each his/her own and I won’t sit in judgment of your personal beliefs. I guess I’m just ranting about going to the store to buy some fruits and veggies and having to pass by Christmas displays in September when it is still in the 90’s here in Merida! I'm thinking "air conditioning" not Christmas decorations. I think it is too early to get into the Christmas Spirit, even from a retail point of view. I honestly try to keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year long. Sometimes, I fail miserably and other times I am quite successful at doing so. But, I do try.

I just don’t need to be reminded in early September that Christmas is “only” 4 months away. Do they think I don’t have enough time to shop? Do they think I jmight just forget? Do they think I’m actually going to buy Christmas ornaments in September?

I wonder how early they’ll start next year? It seems like every year it is earlier and earlier. The retailers will coninue to display their Christmas items and I will continue to rant.


Sunday, September 18, 2011


Let me take a step back before proceeding. After I did my research on line, booked and paid for both the flight and the hotel, my good friend Lin D. offered to lend me a copy of her Travelocity Guide Book on Guatemala. She had visited there a few years ago and purchased the book then, so it was rather up-to-date. She enjoyed her short stay there and had no problems. I readily accepted her offer and began devouring each page, eager to learn more about my vacation destination. There were some of the same warnings regarding travel and safety that I found on line, including ATM scams and fraud. This didn’t really bother me because this sort of thing goes on in every city, world-wide.

The guide book was touting inexpensive lodging and meals, neither of which I found. In fact, I thought everything in Guatemala was way overpriced for an emerging third-world country in Central America. (If that statement hurts anyone’s feeling, sorry, but that is my personal opinion.) I base this on the fact that I do consider myself an experienced traveler, not a tourist. When inquiring about restaurants and the like, the good folks at the hotel told me of some rather inexpensive restaurants, but cautioned me not to go to that part of town, day or night. They provided some acceptable alternatives even though I found the prices were a bit out of line with the overall environment and quality of food.

We settled on one of the restaurants the hotel recommended and they called a taxi cab for us. It was just getting dark and traffic remained heavy. We arrived at the restaurant and I was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of dishes on the menu. I was also surprised to find an armed guard at the door and one roaming around the restaurant while you tried to enjoy your evening meal! We ordered a platter for two consisting of some local sausages, some beef, a small potato and a few trimmings. Tortillas were served with the meal. Not to my liking as they were small, very thick and quite chewy. The bill, including beverages, was almost $40.00. The atmosphere and food quality did not equal the price. We had the cell phone number of the taxi and the restaurant gladly called the same driver to pick us up.

We decided to stop at a small store to pick up a few snacks and soft drinks to have in the room as the hotel offered nothing except the two-egg breakfast. The driver took us to a store just a few blocks from the hotel, but we couldn’t go in! We could approach, walk by the scrutinizing eye of the armed guard, and order through heavy metal bars protecting the workers, the stock, and the cash register. I found the same thing at a nearby drug store. This was weird I thought. Nevertheless, we got our goodies and off we went. I had also noticed that even the trucks that delivered bottled water, or any other service vehicle for that matter that collected money on its route, had an armed guard. Sawed off shotguns and automatic weapons were the weapons of choice.

The next morning, it was the two-egg breakfast, and off to the bank to change US dollars into Guatemalan Quetzels. Mexican pesos are not accepted. The hotel arranged transportation and the taxi took us to the bank, parked and agreed to wait for us. Entering the bank was probably tantamount to entering Fort Knox. Locked doors and armed guards both in and outside of the bank actually gave me an uneasy sense of false security. After doing all the paperwork including showing your passport, making copies, etc., and so on, we stood in line at the teller to get the Quetzels. ( I’ll inject a personal note here. My entire stay in Guatemala was a state of confusion when it came to money. I was continuously converting Quetzels to US dolalrs at the rate of 7.5 to one, and then converting the dollars to Mexican pesos at the rate of 12 to one, to get a feel for the price of things. I’m not exactly sure how all that worked out for me and I didn’t really stay around long enough to find out or care for that matter.)

I changed $400.00 US dollars into Quetzels and wound up with a whole bunch of paper money of varying denominations. I was grateful that it all fit into the security pouch I carried around my neck and I put about $50.00 worth of Quetzels in my pocket. It was back to the hotel to unload some of the money into the safe in the room and re-secure our passports. We then decided to go to the local market to search for treasures. Again, the hotel staff arranged a cab for us with warnings about safety and security in the market. Again, I found this a bit un-nerving, but heeded their warnings.

I read in the guide book about the markets and the warnings about pickpockets and thieves scouring the market places for unsuspecting tourists. I was surprised to learn that the children also practiced pickpocketing! I also found a reference to the US Embassy web page that posted warnings about travel and crime in Guatemala. Having exhausted most of my research, I decided to go to this web page, and was absolutely in a state of shock with what I found there. After reading just a few entries, I knew that I would not have gone to Guatemala had I read this first. It was too late to cancel as it was already paid for. Mind you, this comes from the US Embassy and not just opinions of tourists and travelers. That web site is:
(Note: you may have to copy and paste this into your browser)


Now, I was actually afraid for my safety and reviewed my travel plans accordingly. While in Guatemala, there were definitely two things I wanted to do. One was to see Antigua and the other was to experience the market in Chichicastenango. We managed to do both but opted for private transportation via one of the taxi drivers from the hotel, which meant spending a lot more money to get there and back. All other travel plans were cancelled, and with no regrets. After reading the US Embassy’s web page, it became quite apparent to me why banks and stores looked like mini fortresses, well-armed and overly guarded.

You may find this boring, shocking, a little over the top, or unnecessary, but I am copying the entries just for the first three weeks of August 2011, from the US Embassy web page for your review:

08/20/2011 Guatemala City, Zone 14: Unknown individuals broke into a resident’s vehicle and stole a briefcase.

08/19/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: Two knife-wielding men stole a tourist’s purse.

08/19/2011 Carretera a El Salvador, Santa Elena Barillas, Guatemala: At approximately 7:30pm, a pickup truck with five men pulled in front of three tourists’ vehicle and forced them to stop. Three men exited the truck and fired shots into the air. The armed men forced their way into the group’s vehicle, drove to a deserted country road, and raped two female tourists. The assailants later stole the tourists’ money and departed.

08/18/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: At approximately 12:30am, on the corner of 6a. Avenida Sur and 5a. Calle Poniente, a group of assailants traveling in a pickup truck slashed a tourist with a knife and robbed him.

08/18/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: At approximately 12:15am, on 3a. Calle Norte between 3a. and 4a. Avenida, a group of assailants traveling in a pickup truck approached two tourists. The assailants stabbed both tourists with a knife and stole their belongings.

08/18/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: At approximately 11:30pm, on Calle del Arco between 5a. and 6a. Avenida, a group of assailants traveling in a pickup truck approached a resident. The assailants stabbed the resident, cutting off a piece of his ear, and stole his belongings.

08/18/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: At approximately 11:00pm, on the corner of 4a. Calle Poniente and 6a. Avenida Norte, a group of assailants traveling in a pickup truck robbed two tourists. One of the tourists was slashed with a knife during the robbery.

08/18/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: At approximately 8:00pm, in front of La Merced church, an assailant stole two tourists’ belongings and slashed them with a knife.

08/17/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: Two armed men assaulted a tourist who was riding a chicken bus. The men forced the tourist to remove his clothes to see if he was carrying anything of value.

08/16/2011 Livingston, Izabal: An unknown individual stole a tourist’s belongings at a hostel. The stolen items included $300 cash as well as the tourist’s driver’s license and passport.

08/14/2011 Livingston, Izabal: Three assailants boarded an anchored boat at around 8:00pm. The two tourists aboard were tied up and threatened; the intruders stole their diving gear, boat equipment, watches, cell phones, credit cards, and passports.

08/14/2011 San Juan La Laguna, Sololá: An unknown individual stole a tourist’s backpack while the tourist was swimming in Lake Atitlán. Although the tourist reported that she was only in the water for five minutes, the thief got away with her possessions, including her passport.

08/12/2011 Puerto de San José, Escuintla: At approximately 11:30pm, unknown individuals allegedly stopped a car belonging to a married couple. The husband tried to escape the assailants, who then fired several shots into the vehicle. The husband escaped on foot but the wife was shot dead.

08/12/2011 Tecpán, Chimaltenango: Residents have received several blackmail threats demanding 200,000 quetzales in exchange for not harming the couple’s child. The threats have been delivered to their home and their relative’s home via phone calls and letters.

08/08/2011 Chimaltenango, Chimaltenango: Two men on a motorcycle approached a tourist in his car. The men pointed a gun at the tourist and took his belongings, including $500 cash.

08/08/2011 Guatemala City, Zone 10: An American Embassy employee was walking on 7a. Calle when he noticed a car following him. In response, he crossed the street and ran away. From a distance, he saw three men get out of the car; one of them was carrying a gun. No one was injured in this incident.

08/05/2011 Guatemala City, Zone 13: An unknown individual stole a tourist’s money belt at La Aurora International Airport.

08/04/2011 Panajachel, Sololá: An unknown individual stole a tourist’s passport from her purse while she was leaving a bank.

08/03/2011 Panajachel, Sololá: A tourist reported that someone stole his passport while he was waiting inside a bank.

08/03/2011 Villa Nueva, Guatemala: A resident reported threats ordering him to pay 10,000 quetzales or face harm to his family. He has received a dozen anonymous phone calls regarding this threat.

08/01/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: A tourist reported that he attempted an ATM withdrawal and, although the withdrawal was unsuccessful due to a supposed ATM problem, the funds were still withdrawn from his account.

08/01/2011 Antigua, Sacatepéquez: An unknown individual stole two tourists’ passports while the tourists were dining in a restaurant.

You may also want to check out the August 26, 2011, letter from the US Embassador, entitled EMERGENCY MESSAGE TO US CITIZENS. The letter warns of the dangers of traveling in Antigua, Guatemala. The web site is full of such incidents and continues on for pages and pages. As I mentioned earlier, had I known beforehand, I wouldn’t have gone. Now, you may have a better understanding of why I high-tailed it out of Guatemala!

Personally, we were very fortunate although we did have a few scares. While I was in the market in Antigua, Luis noticed someone was following me and staring at the pockets in my pants. I figure he was trying to determine how hard, or easy, it would be to pickpocket me, or who knows what. However, that is conjecture and not supported by fact, but given the factual statistics, it is a definite probability.

One afternoon while in the hotel, Luis decided he needed a second trip to the local market and went off on his own while I stayed in and rested. When he returned, he rang the doorbell to the hotel and while waiting for the staff to open the door, a man approached him, asked for a light, and was fumbling with something in his pocket. Luis said the guy tried to pull whatever it was out of his pocket, but (luckily) it was stuck and he couldn’t get it out. Was it a knife, a gun, or? Again, not fact but high probability. Luis told me at that moment he thought his life was through. Thankfully, all this was interrupted by Luis running into the middle of the street and the staff opening the door. Th would-be assailant exited stage left, and very quickly.

On the way home from Chichicastenango, there was some commotion in the other side of the divided 6 land highway. There was a small crowd and two bodies on the side of the road, but no visible signs of an auto accident. That evening on the news, the staff at the hotel told us of two guys that went to a bank, withdrew some money and were followed, shot, killed and robbed on the same road we travelled. Had we been just a few minutes earlier on our return trip, we would have been witnesses. Too close for me!

All this, coupled with the Embassy web page, confirmed my decision to return early. I changed our tickets with Interjet and we left in the early morning of September 7th, after having just arrived on the first of the month and cuting the vacation short by 9 days. There was no way I was staying in a country that I did not feel safe in, couldn’t walk the streets day or night, and had to cope with armed guards while buying a soft drink, an aspirin, or trying to enjoy a meal in a restaurant. Not my idea of a good time or a vacation, that’s for sure. It seemed like everything we would choose to do would include an inherent risk factor and the wrong choice could result in serious consequences.

On a happier note, what I saw of the countryside was impressive, the weather was wonderful, and the hotel staff was super. And that’s about all I can say on a positive note. We never made it out of our hotel to travel to any other destination other than day trips to Antigua and Chichicastenango, and then only with a private driver, and that is probably a good thing. As much as I wanted to see and do more, I am perfectly content to be home safe and sound. I never took my camera out of the room safe, and never clicked one photograph; thus, no photos to post!

I hate to speak poorly of a place just because I personally did not like it, but I make an exception for Guatemala because of the possible dire consequences of travelling there. BEFORE YOU TRAVEL TO GUATEMALA, PLEASE, PLEASE, CHECK OUT THE WARNINGS FROM THE US AMBASSADOR TO GUATEMALA. DON’T JUST TAKE MY WORD FOR IT.

If this post saves just one person the grief of being robbed, raped or otherwise molested, or even killed, then I am pleased. I know there are those of you out there that will take exception to my findings and opinions, but I’ll stand by my post, my personal experiences, and the word of the US Ambassador to Guatemala. Please don’t write and tell me how very safe and wonderful Antigua is when the statistics show just the opposite.

I do hope that things will change there and one day it will prove to be a safe place to visit as the country has much to offer. In the interim, I will choose other destinations for my travel.

Stay safe wherever you may travel.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


You’ll immediately notice the conspicuous absence of photographs in this post. There is a very good reason for it, and I’ll explain why later on.

I wanted to spend my 65th birthday someplace different and decided to give myself a present by going to Guatemala. Luis traveled with me as I no longer enjoy traveling alone and I am so grateful he was there. I studied the internet for days and mapped out where I wanted to go and what route I would follow, and which hotels and restaurants I thought would serve my purpose. Guatemala is a relatively small country, but I figured 16 days would allow me more than sufficient time to see and do it all.

I booked the flight and paid for it, including a small mom and pop posada (hotel) in Guatemala City for $55.00 US per night ( The place was satisfactory and the staff was wonderful. They have only 10 rooms, and only two, one being mine, were being used while I was there, and then the other, only for a day or so. We basically had the place to ourselves, which I thought was a bit strange. We flew from Merida to Mexico City, and then on to Guatemala City via Interjet Airlines. I can highly recommend this airline. It far surpasses Continental in every aspect and I will use them every chance I get.

Arriving in Guatemala City was no problem. The airport was clean and modern, and almost empty! Immigration and Customs went very smoothly, and the luggage didn’t get lost! (Thank you Interjet!) We were greeted at the airport by a taxi driver hired by the hotel to take us directly to our room. I had prearranged this when I booked the hotel for what I thought was going to be only two nights in Guatemala City.

The ride from the airport through the city was uneventful, save for a few traffic jams and lots of weaving in and out. I couldn’t help but to notice that the city actually appeared a bit dingy to me, especially when compared to Merida. One part of town we passed through had some interesting architecture, but not interesting enough for me to even inquire about it with the taxi driver. I saw most of the NOB chain restaurants along the way including McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and the like. I have to tell you though, I was absolutely shocked to see a Taco Bell! Absolutely not one of my favorite places. In fact, I do not patronize any of those places, ever. Not even when I’m in the States.

The hotel was located on an unassuming side street, away from the maddening crowd. There was a heavy duty door with metal bars (just like a jail) as the front door, and then a heavy duty wooden door with a few heavy duty dead bolt locks. You had to press a bell and then the staff would come and let you in. I later learned that there was also a security camera, 24 hours a day, so the staff could see who was ringing the bell!

The room was somewhat small, but comfortable. The building was erected in 1873, and had some obvious updates, but definitely needed more. The bathroom was very small, and had one of the smallest sinks I have ever seen, but it served the purpose. The shower had a sky light of sorts and the wood trim and ceiling was being eaten away by termites as evidenced by their droppings and dust accumulating in the shower floor every morning. The courtyard had room for two tiny metal tables, each with two small metal chairs, but it was sufficient. The heavy wooden furniture in the lobby area had seen better days, and was very uncomfortable even with cushions that desperately needed some attention. The mattress on my bed was old and lumpy and failed to provide a good nights’ sleep, but again – it was OK. I had to question the value of the place though for $55.00 US per night. Breakfast was included and it consisted of coffee, juice, eggs, a tablespoon of beans, and toast. Again, acceptable but not the best.

The hotel was also sanctioned by the Guatemalan Government as a museum and had several Mayan pottery pieces on display both sitting out in plain view and in glass enclosed china cabinets. It made for an interesting “look”. The thing that really made it all OK was the excellent staff. They worked hard to keep the place clean and provided us with lots of good information regarding where to go and where not to go, what to do and what not to do. It was as if they were giving us warnings. They called taxi cabs for us and used drivers that were familiar to them and the hotel. It helped make us feel a bit safer in what I soon learned to be was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. I should have known something was up when I saw a notice posted on the bulletin board saying not to wear any of your jewelry if you go out! Good grief I thought! This sure isn’t Merida, and it wasn’t.

(More to come in part II)