A few thoughts on CA as we ready to set sail for South America
01.05.2009 - 11.07.2009
Some notes to wrap up the Central American experience.
On traveling with Ariel and Jordan: I must say they are really amazing travelers and healthier than I. Jordan's main focus throughout the trip are the bugs quite simply, any bug. Ariel is still more impressed with shiny fancy malls, and fabulous hotels than anything else so I guess I have raised a princess. In that case I hope she takes me along for the ride once she is able to afford the extravagances. She does love all the animals both domestic and wild that we have seen along the way. She has also done a good job writing in her journal and reading everyday. She is doing well and Spanish and can communicate with shop and hostel staff. If anything stands out it is how comfortable they are in these foreign environments including mix bag of hostels we have stayed in. I worry about school as it is really difficult to study and focus on assignments in small rooms, buses, and hostels surrounded by people. Hopefully I will do better in Colombia. Or maybe I won't and I was not cut out for teaching.
Every country is different from the culturally distinct Guatemala to the polish and vibrance of Costa Rica and Panama. And they were all safe to travel through although I must admit I received less males gazes when the kids were right by my side. So in fact a woman traveling alone is better off with children.
The gastronomic experience: Started high in Mexico but slowly declined until we hit an all time low in Panama. As we moved south we noticed less fruit and vegetables being used. Strangely the fruit and vegetables section of supermarkets is really small and sad even though we are in a region where it can be grown abundance.
The scenery: Extraordinary and taking the bus is a great way to view it. Live and extinct volcanoes dot the country side amidst think jungle. The patterns of blown up volcanic tops leaving distinctive crater bottoms behind become familiar. The oceans are never too far away and where you have oceans you have beaches.
The climate: It's hot and dry or hot and humid. Then occurs the strange phenomenon of air con abuse. A long distance bus turns into a refrigerator so bundle up once on board. This goes for rooms, stores and restaurants, sometimes you have to stand outside to warm up while you order a meal. No wonder is hard to acclimatize!
People: They are helpful and kind everywhere, this place has a bad rap it cannot shake. And just when you thought it was safe someone throws in a coup for good measure. Thanks Honduras!
Hostels and backpackers: We meet the same people along the way in different hostels and countries. It's interesting watching the highway of backpackers of all ages. Tourism is down, they say due to the world economy, but this crowd is like a colony of red ants marching along steadily, a path up and down the continents. They are honest, cooperative, frugal, and accepting of conditions. The point of the hostel is not necessarily the comfort of bed and sheets, space or cleanliness. It's the cooperative of information, space, camaraderie and tools in a low key mature environment without hangups.
Money: It's more expensive than I imagined but then again there are three of us to keep equipped, fed, housed, moving, healthy and entertained. I hope I have done the right thing with this year rather than fix the house, buy a better house, invest in something, go to school. I hope the kids can draw on this experience in a healthy way when they are older. I hope they respect and understand why I did this and do not resent that I may be jeopardizing a year of their education.
Driving: I won't be biking in Central America any time soon so let's hope things are a tad better as we move south.
Architecture: Old and new, well preserved and crumbling but always more interesting than anything in Alberta. We loved looking at the architecture in different towns and cities.
Locals and foreigners: Locals treated us way better than foreigners that owned business that we used such as budget hotels and restaurants. To a local children are not a reason to put the price up, to a foreigner it is an extra person and the price goes up. The attitude is often up and looking down on many. That's not to say it was always the case but it was often enough that the kids noticed! Colonialism is not dead just changed.
Pictues of people: Why don't I have good cultural pictures of indigenous people or the everyday interesting person along the way? Well, a lot of people don't want their picture taken, it's intrusive and zoolike. It's also quite rude to snap a persons picture without their permission. Imagine yourself walking down the street in Canada and someone snapping a shot of you! I would love to have shots of the women in Guatemala and Panama in their everyday clothes that are quite cultural. I may at some point post a blog entry with downloaded pictures as they would do quite well.
Love to hear comments or requests for more and different pictures.
I might think of a few more musings when we settle down and have time to reflect.
If anyone is interested in acommodations I have kept a list of places we have stayed.