Birthday bashings

3rd birthday

Birthdays are a big deal here in Guatemala. If you’re a little kid, practically the whole village comes to your party and brings you a little present. Cake and piñatas (paper dolls stuffed with sweets) are the 2 main events of any party. With the cake, you blow out your candles and then your face is pushed into the creamy icing. I went to a little girl’s 3rd birthday last week. She wasn’t happy about the cake face part.

cake face

Everyone else had a good time though, with kids queueing very patiently for their piece of cake.

 balloon lady  DSC_1036

The piñata involves tying the doll to a piece of string, blindfolding the birthday girl/boy, then getting them to try and bash the doll until the sweets fall out. It’s actually pretty difficult though, as someone has the other end of the rope and yanks the doll away from you when you get near.

DSC_0952 DSC_0913

My friends organised one for my birthday and it was really fun. And I organised one for Carla’s leaving do.

my birthday my birthday piñata DSC_0426


Bathroom, bread, clams


A month ago, I commissioned the local builder, Jorge, to build me an outside shower and toilet from bamboo. Between us we came up with the design. I love it. I love looking at the stars at night from the shower.


I’ve also finished my palm fence to try and stop kids peering in all the time into the garden. My dog Cusca has dug her own dog entrance under the fence for private access. I’ve hung these 2 hammocks too, deliciously shaded by coconut trees. A little post-class sleep is always good.

my garden


my first loaf

I’ve started baking bread from scratch – a real act of love, patience and reward. El Paredon really needs a bakery as the bread that comes once a day is already stale, artificial, sweet. I’ve thought of selling it but it may be too expensive for the locals as  I would have to charge a decent amount to make any profit. I’ve started selling licuados (smoothies) and little ice creams though, and if I sell 10 smoothies a day it is enough to live on. It is quite satisfying ticking off the things I sell on my chart.


It is the clam season – plentiful supplies just a short boat ride away. The trick is to step onto the canal bottom and lift the clams up with your toes. They are delicious hot, fresh, with lime and salt. I just celebrated a year of being El Paredon. It is a joy to live through the seasons here of fruit, fish, storms. Mango time is here again – ripe yellow fruit falling like rain.



A new wind blows in


Yesterday I got up sprightly, with purpose – the first time in a long while.  My neighbor Griselda shouted through the fence that my offer on some homebuilt satisfyingly curved wicker furniture had been successful.  Armando and I went to her home to pick it up and place it in my living area where it looks as though it has always lived. It is impossible to buy furniture here so this was a lucky strike. £75 for 2 chairs, a sofa and a little coffee table.


The morning was spent as a homemaker. Arranging, rearranging. A tall Finnish tourist came round to use the internet and a couple of kids came to buy choco-watermelon I have started to sell with the massive profit of 5p per slice.  I made cinnamon scones from a photocopied Peace Corps cook book and painted the shop room white. The Fin helped me paint the top high bits.

Cusca, my beautiful, playful, faithful dog looked at me longingly, hoping for a crumb of bun. Guilt plagued me as her dog food has run out. 2 frozen hot dog sausages from Angela’s shop would have to do.

Broccoli pasta for lunch. All meals here have to be made from scratch and it takes up a lot of the day thinking about what to buy to eat, where. At least they have started selling street snacks again at night on the corners, outside peoples ‘ homes – empanadas, ticucas, papusas.

The surf is still big so I haven’t been out for 4 days. I miss it but it means I can do other stuff. I have a good session in the workshop with Frances, an English girl who has lived here for a month and is volunteering at La Choza Chula and making her own crafts which I am selling in the shop.

She has injected new motivation for me and the kids. Shown us new types of earrings , driftwood mobiles, dream catchers. The workshop looks full of interesting nick nacks. I am hoping she will stay longer and I can employ her in the workshop.

And Donna May came with her Guate boyfriend Mario and showed me her tin can geckos which has inspired me to create different creatures from tin cans and wire. I am getting into it. It’s important to have some time to create my own stuff, not just giving all my creative energy to the kids and teaching English and burning out. If I am good and nurtured and alive with creative ideas, it’s best for everyone.

The thought of going to El Salvador for Semana Santa has also reenergized me. Ideas are coming again – I want to have an exhibition with our new Choza Chula collection, do some paintings, open my front room as a gallery, sell licuados, get my house to a point I can rent a bedroom out, welcome more creatives to El Paredon.

It will come.

And the next post will have lots of photos, promise.

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