Monday, April 19, 2021

Guatemala February 2021

This is my third trip to Guatemala in the last 18 months. You can read about trip one and or trip two at

I want to thank all those that donate much-needed items that I will be taking to Nuevo Reto. Nuevo Reto is a school in Guatemala filling a void left by the Guatemala public school system.

I collected over 350 pounds of donations which include 18 iPhones / iPads (for remote learning), more Barbies than I can count, lots of clothes, educational games, school supplies, backpacks, children’s books, over 50 pounds of toothpaste, and lots of toothbrushes to go with the toothpaste. I don’t want to forget the extra-large suitcases that were donated to make one last one-way voyage to Guatemala.

To everybody that donated a big “Thank You”. Please, please, if you get a new iPhone in the future think about donating your old one. As long as it is an iPhone 5 or newer we will find a good home for it.

I thought I would describe traveling internationally during a pandemic. In October, I took a short domestic flight to Lexington, Kentucky. The purpose of that trip was to get a taste of traveling during a pandemic and see if I was ready to travel internationally.

You can read about that trip click here.

This trip will be a bit different, not only will I be traveling internationally I will be lugging along five, 70 pound, oversized suitcases, plus personal items.

Step one, find someone with a big enough car to fit all the luggage to get to the Airport.

For this flight, I am departing from Philadelphia airport. The airport was a ghost town, the check-in process was seamless. American Airlines has a 70-pound weight limit per oversized bag. My bags weighed 68,67,70,71, and 70 pounds. Either the 71-pound bag was not noticed or it is cumulative weight. Either way, I was off to security. They only issue at security, a fruitcake I had with me. No, not Margarite, a real homemade fruitcake. It set off the alarms, must have been all the bourbon. Once the fruitcake was squared away, luckily without having to give the TSA agents a sample, I was off to the gate.

My flight connects through Miami. As empty as the airport was our gate was full. Not an inch of space to even stand, no pandemic at this gate. I kept walking and found an unused gate and waited there. American Airlines did not seem to have any special boarding protocols due to the pandemic. They boarded by group number allowing everyone to crowd together. In October, I flew United, and they boarded one row at a time starting at the back of the plane. This kept everyone spaced apart, and it appeared to speed up the boarding process.

As I boarded the American flight attendant handed me a bag with pretzels, a bottle of water, and a Clorox wipe. Similar to my United flight to Kentucky this flight was full.

During the safety announcement, they mentioned masks were required and if you did not wear one you would no longer be allowed to fly American. Yes, never, ever, ever allowed to fly American again. When the pilot introduced himself, he reiterated the mask-wearing rule.

The flight was none eventful, no anti-masker situations you see on TikTok. Upon landing they announce the process for deplaning would be row by row starting in the front of the plane. This is how United deplaned. The big difference between United and American is United actually followed their process, American only announced it. Once the cabin door opened the pandemic was over and the passengers all crammed together to deplane. I waited until the coast was clear to get off.

My second flight was similar to my first with the exception that it was half full or half empty depending on your perspective. Entering Guatemala during a pandemic is a bit different from during “normal times”. A couple of things Guatemala has done to control the outbreak.

1. They completely shut all borders and airports from March 2020 until mid-September 2020. This reduced down the number of infections entering the country. The only real cases brought in were from ICE planes not telling the Guatemalan Government that the passengers had COVID-19 in fact they said they did not.

2. Once Guatemala reopened the borders and airports they required anybody entering the country to show a negative COVID-19 test, as well as fill out a health screening form for contract tracing.

3. Mask wearing over your mouth and nose is required and a fine of about $300.00 (a king's ransom) if you don’t wear one anytime you are out of your personal residence.

All these measures have kept the case count very low per capita compared to other more developed countries such as the U.S.

After deplaning and before to reaching immigration all our COVID-19 paperwork was checked. From what I understand if your COVID-19 paperwork is not correct you are immediately deported back to where you came from. I passed with flying colors cleared immigration and went to pick up the luggage.

As we arrived at customs I saw our flight attendant, he made a snide comment, “I see you are traveling light!” Hahaha!

Guatemala has strict rules on bringing new items into the country. This is because they have fairly high tariffs on imports and people try to circumvent the tariffs by smuggling items as personal items. One item restricted even as used are phones. We had 18 iPhones, plus the 2 each we carry for a total of 22. Each bag must go through an X-ray. The question will the phones show up. Bag One no issue, Bag Two no issue, Bag Three gets flagged to be inspected. Bag Four and Five no issues. At least that is what I think.

I am asked to open Bag Three, so they can visually inspect the bag. Luckily I speak fluent Spanish, but I act like I don’t. I am asked if I have any electronics such as phones in the bag. I act like I don’t understand but when they start to empty the bag I show them the oldest phone I knew was in the bag. Remember, I think all the other bags are clear.

The custom agent looks at the phone and sees how old it is. She asks if I have 3-4 phones like this in each bag. Now I know the X-ray picked up all the phones she just picked this bag to inspect. I explained that all the phones were old and to be donated to a school for remote learning. She explains the rule about one phone and then told me to go on my way. Yes, with all the phones. I guess my friendly smile worked. No! I had a mask on.

I rented an SUV to get the bags to the house I am staying at.

This is where we will be staying for the next month.

Casa Bella - CLICK HERE to check the house out.

It has been a long day but relatively easy day. I would not be afraid to travel internationally during a pandemic. Be cautious and take responsibility and follow the proper protocols. With that said I won’t know if I picked the bug up for several days.

For the next several days I will be isolated as much as I can to ensure if I did bring the virus with me, I do not spread it. I did visit the local market to stock the kitchen, but wore two masks and kept my distance.

Today I did a very early walk/hike to get some exercise. I wanted to get out before everybody gets going to make sure I was able to distance myself from others.

One negative of wearing a mask, and having to distance, Antigua Guatemala has great street vendors, some of the best food I have ever eaten. It is hard to grab a quick bite with a mask on while keeping a safe distance. Taken the mask off and getting close puts everybody at risk.

You probably won’t hear much from me until I feel comfortable I am virus-free and start to do some activity. One of the first activities will be to deliver all the donations I brought with me.

For those getting all the snow, it is 75 degrees and sunny here.

“I” vs “We”, many of you asked if Margarite is with me on this trip? The short answer yes. The long answer, I used “I” instead of “We” in the first update, because I was not sure if there would be a “We” on this trip.

Over the last 15-years, Margarite and I have visited over 60 countries and done some stupid activities some might even say insane activities. Margarite never hesitated and in some cases came up with the idea. Whether biking up Mont Ventoux in France or a four-day mountain bike trip through the jungles of Zimbabwe, Margarite never said no. We lived with indigenous people in the Amazon, both in Colombia and Ecuador, Margarite never said no. We traveled desolate rivers in Madagascar, we biked down steep rain-soaked roads in Bhutan, white water rafting in Nepal, Margarite never said no. We did a four-day trek to the lost city in Colombia, slid down ice glaciers in Chile, Margarite never said no. We hiked to one of the largest caves in the world in Vietnam where we spent the night, Margarite never said no. We ballooned over Namibia, took an overnight train in Vietnam, Margarite never said no. We climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, we sailed down the Nile in Egypt, Margarite never said no. We have zip-lined in numerous places without hesitation, hiked the Norwegian Fjords and still, Margarite never said no. This is maybe 10% of the stupid things we have done traveling the world.

You can imagine my shock when I saw the hesitation in Margarite’s eyes when I suggested we spend February in Guatemala, a place we had been to twice before. The issue I realized is controlling, all the crazy things we had done, Margarite had a bit of control, she could train, learn, and then execute with limited risk. This trip was different, she would be dealing with something she had no control over, a “virus”. For that reason, I was not sure until we got to the house and Margarite was still with me, that this trip was going to be a “We” and not an “I”.

Since arriving we have been walking the town seeing what is still open and what is not. We are in the town of Antigua, which is in a valley surrounded by volcanoes a few that are active. From our deck, at night we can watch bright orange lava flow from one of the volcanoes.

Most of the shops are open, but before you can enter require a temperature check, then have you step on a mat soaked in disinfectant, and then soak your hands in hand sanitizer. I see the biggest thing these checks do is keep everybody aware of the virus and behave appropriately. And as I mentioned before, mask compliance is close to 100%.

We got to spend some time visiting Luis. Luis is Margarite’s Spanish teacher. If anybody is interested in learning Spanish, Luis is an excellent teacher and can teach anywhere in the world. We were lucky and got to visit Luis’s lovely family. Let me know if you are interested in Spanish lessons, he charges $15.00 an hour USD and has great references.

We had our first food item outside of our own cooking we stopped at Amanecer Juice Bar & Coffee and had juice smoothies. We got to-go cups, as we are not comfortable eating inside at this point. The smoothies were excellent as usual.

Today we are heading to Nuevo Reto. This is the school we collected all the items for. The school is located in the town of Villa Nueva about fourteen miles from Antigua but with traffic a 45-min. drive.

You can see from the pictures the gifts were well-received. The school is running on limited occupancy and much like the US student do classes via Zoom.

Unfortunately, the school only has three computers. The phones, which many of you donated are already making a big difference for the kids.

Before coming to Guatemala, Margarite and I made a donation to help with clean water and food. Both are big issues for the families of Nuevo Reto. While most homes have running water. The water is not always clean and bacteria-free. This can cause bad stomach issues.

Nuevo Reto, working with a manufacturer in Antigua, Guatemala, has developed a low-cost, $47.00, low- maintenance solution. The company EcoFiltro has a very simple water filter system. You simply pour tap water into the filter and clean water comes out the bottom. We had the pleasure of giving out the filters to the families we purchased the filters for.

With COVID-19 shutting down the country for seven months many people are out of work. Unlike in the U.S., the Guatemalan government cannot print money and mail it to people out of work. Here folks must rely on their family, neighbors, and community organizations.

It cost $37.00 to provide food for a family for a week. Nuevo Reto has come up with a food bag that has all the nutritional needs for a family for a week. We got to give the food bags we funded to the kids whose families are in dire need.

I normally would not solicit donations and I understand everybody has their own issues right now, plus there are many needy in each of our own home countries. But if you have extra money and all looking for a worthy cause, I can attest, Nuevo Reto is the real deal. If you would like to donate CLICK HERE.

You can enter the amount you would like to donate and then add a note explains (after you hit the donate button) what the money is for. For example, you donate $74.00 please put a note “For two food bags”.

The donations go through a U.S.-based organization called Guatemala Service Project. Guatemala Service Projects Inc is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation based in Wisconsin.

We also donated two bunk beds. Here is a short video of the beds being delivered. 

For the next few weeks, we will be walking around town and enjoying the awesome weather. There is a good chance you won’t hear much from us unless someone shows up and asks us to show them around, or we decided to do something stupid worth writing about.

One observation, as we walk around town, we notice every once in a while someone is standing waving a white flag. I asked what was the purpose of the white flag. The flag lets neighbors know the family waving the flag is in dire straights and needs food. I meet a nice man waving a white flag. We were able to help him out, and it was much appreciated.

Stay safe and enjoy life, you only get one!

Volcanoes maybe the issue not COVID-19

We woke up Sunday, Valentine’s Day to a normal very clear sky. At 10:00 AM the clear sky was gone all the cars were covered in volcanic ash, and we got the following alert from the United States Embassy in Guatemala City. Luckily we never leave home without our GO BAG.

Natural Disaster Alert: Event: Volcanic eruptions

FUEGO VOLCANO: Since February 12, the National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) noted a change in the Fuego volcanic activity (frequency and direction of eruptive patterns, lava flow, and ash). This morning (February 14, 2021) INSIVUMEH reported that the activity is evolving to a state of eruption with a dense, fast-moving flow of solidified lava pieces, volcanic ash, and hot gases (pyroclastic flow). These flows are moving towards two canyons on the Volcano (Seca and Ceniza). Ash has also been reported in Alotenango, El Porvenir and Finca La Reunión, and in municipalities of Sacatepequez.

PACAYA VOLCANO: Pacaya volcano monitoring reflects an increase in eruptions starting at 11:45 am today. Volcanic activity is still at high risk. The Mackenney crater continues to generate and erupt incandescent material up to 250 meters. This activity may generate new eruptions in the next hours or days. The direction of the wind may change to expel volcanic ash in many directions, which may affect communities surrounding the volcanic area and potentially flight routes of International Airport La Aurora.

CONRED issued public alerts for neighboring communities of both volcanoes to monitor communication from local authorities in the event preventative evacuations are needed. Review household response plans and have a 72 hour go bag ready should an evacuation be necessary.

Actions to Take: Review your personal security plans.

I said no updates unless something crazy happened, I guess duel volcano eruptions are crazy. The last time Fuego erupted was in 2018, 165 people died. CLICK HERE for details. 

The last time I was this close to a volcano eruption was when Mount Saint Helens erupted in May of 1980.

What have we been doing? Mostly enjoying the great weather walking around town and having ice cream. 

We found the most expensive ice cream in all of Guatemala $5.00 and not worth a quarter of that price.

We had Luis and his family over for dinner. From left to right, Karen, Diego, Luis, and Sandra, Joselyn had homework, so she could not make it.

Yes, I got a COVID-19 test. It was a bit different from the test I took before coming to Guatemala. The best part is the doctor comes to your house, the worst part the Q-tip is twelve inches long instead of the six inches used in the U.S. Rather than waiting for your results you get your results immediately. I still felt the Q-tip in the back of my throat for a good four hours, yet the test lasted only ten seconds. I failed the test and was negative.

The big reason for the COVID-19 test, friends coming for Valentine’s Day with a newborn. We would not be happy if we got mom, dad, or child sick.

If we are going to have company, I must make my world-famous cheesecake.

It was great catching up with Ana, Juan Luis, and their new addition Nicolas.

I thought I would pass along a conversation between Margarite and a friend we sent the volcano alert email to.

Joe’s response “Holy crap. Where do you run too?”

Margarite’s response “A bar and order a volcano because ordering a hurricane would not seem right. ”

Joe’s response “I don’t know what’s in that drink but I would be in favor of that. ”

Margarite’s response “Joe, I looked it up, and it seems as though there might be a couple of different versions. This version seems to be pretty crazy, I guess as you would suspect.

CLICK HERE for the recipe.

Buena suerte mi amigo,”

In light of a natural disaster, you can see Margarite has kept her sense of humor.

We finally convinced some unsuspecting visitors to join us, they are arriving today. We have kept them in the dark about the pandemic and volcanoes erupting. Hopefully, all will go well, and we will do some fun stuff during their visit.

Update from the U.S. Embassy on the Volcanos in Guatemala:

Location: Guatemala 
 Event: Volcanic Eruptions

The National Institute of Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) reports continued high activity at Fuego and Pacaya volcanoes. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) notes volcanic activity, while elevated, is decreasing. However, high levels of ash continue to disperse from Fuego throughout Sacatepéquez Department and Guatemala City.

The U.S. Embassy has advised U.S. government personnel based in Antigua to protect their airway and use HEPA filters if available. The Embassy has also discussed the possibility of temporarily relocating affected personnel away from the area. Embassy operations are otherwise normal, and we continue to closely monitor all bulletins issued by INSIVUMEH and CONRED (National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction).

Actions to Take: 
*Use masks to protect airways 
*Clean roofs as ash build-up 
*Avoid outdoor activities due to ash 
*Cover storage tanks that carry drinking water and food 
*Follow precautionary measures issued by local authorities 
*Review household evacuation plan and ensure 72-hour evacuation bags for household members are ready 
*If necessary, evacuate to the closest shelter in your community

Also, the U.S. Embassy recommends U.S. citizens in the area to: 
*Wear masks (N95 ideally) when outdoors 
*Close windows and use air filters if available when indoors 
*Consider temporary relocation from affected areas if experiencing negative respiratory symptoms due to prolonged exposure to volcanic ash. 
*Review your personal security plans 
*Monitor local news for updates

Good for us, we still have our Go Bag ready, and we always wear masks, since we are in a pandemic.

Laney and “I am Kyle” showed up today. They had a long day so relaxed and caught up.

Now for the fun stuff today we schedule an Antigua Villages Tour with Simoon Tours. Our guide Jose will be taking us to the surrounding villages of Antigua. Not only did we see the different towns we toured a museum of Guatemala traditional clothing, a chocolate shop, a Jade factory, we also had lunch at the Earth Lodge it was a fun day for all and the burger at the Earth Lodge was huge.

Other things we did this week, walk around town eating street food, please don’t tell Margarite. We visited Pastores, Guatemala, Pastores is known for its custom boot shops, click here for the history.

I had biked through Pastores but never stopped, this was a new adventure for all of us. They had at least a dozen boot shops each with its unique style of boot. Each boot is handcrafted to the highest quality.

After Pastores, it was time to visit Valhalla Macadamia Farm. We had a tour of the farm, the ladies got macadamia nut oil facials, and we had awesome food.

The ladies continue to workout on our rooftop health club.

We continue walking around town eating street food and sampling the ice cream.

Lunch was at Caoba Farms a true farm-to-table restaurant.

We had rain showers for a very short period which cleared a lot of the ash from the sky.

Yes, we continued to eat street food and sample ice cream. Tomorrow we head to Lake Atitlan for a couple of nights. More on that later.

FYI, Margarite saw the weather back in the states and demanded we extended our stay. Not sure when we will be returning or even if we will!!!

Today we head to Lake Atitlan. I am guessing 90 kilometers by the way the crow flies, but a three-hour drive based on the roads.

While the rental car company suggested, for good reason, we rent a four-wheel-drive we opted for a Toyota Minivan. Why spend a dollar per day for the safety of four-wheel drive on dirt-rutted roads when you can save a dollar and have the comfort of a Minivan. In hindsight, the dollar a day might have been a dollar well spent.

Lake Atitlan is a crater lake formed from erupting volcanoes. A beautiful majestic place.

We will be visiting friends that live at Lake Atitlan. 
* Bob - The band leader, fairly sure he is EX-CIA. 
* Holly - The real band leader, but to protect Bob’s ego we tell everybody he is the bandleader. We are fairly sure Holly was Bob’s handler when he was in the CIA. 
*Gaby - The most stable of the bunch, she is an architect from Guatemala City. 
*Jochen (Yo-han) - He is the idea guy, a civil engineer by education, and a restaurateur by experience.

Gaby and Jochen own and operate a Glamping Lodge called Picnic. Picnic is in the town of Tzununa.

As we arrived in Tzununa, being Sunday it was market day. The first shock was no masks, not one person had a mask on. We learned there are zero Covid-19 cases Tzununa. While people will put a mask on when they go into shops or close quarters, outside in open spaces no masks. It felt strange not to have masks on.

While I would recommend taking a boat to Tzununa, we drove and Gaby arranged parking for us. Upon arrival at Picnic, we had lunch, the choices were filet mignon, chicken, or schnitzel. I had the schnitzel, Margarite had the chicken, Laney and “I am Kyle” had the steak. All the dishes were served with roasted vegetables and homemade fried potatoes. Everything was Gourmet. For dessert, Gaby and Jochen made us individual Oreo Cookie Cakes.

After lunch, we were shown to our cabins. They call this lodge a Glamping Lodge, we were told that Glamping stood for Glamorous or Luxury Camping. While I agree with the Glamorous or Luxury part Picnic has nothing to do with camping unless you want your friends to think you are roughing it while you are actually being spoiled.

Currently, there are three cabins with the fourth to be finished shortly. Each is built into the side of the cliff/mountain with a nice distance between them for privacy. I would compare the cabins/rooms to the best accommodations in the world. Plenty of space, high-quality amenities, and very, very comfortable beds. No windows as you never want to miss the scenery and there are no bugs to bother you. The best heat and air conditioning you will find, 70-80 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night for a perfect night's sleep, and no humidity.

Each cabin has an en-suite bathroom, The cabins are made of natural stone and local wood all meticulously hand-made with great detail.

The restaurant which also has a fully stocked bar is run by Gaby and Jochen, yes they operate the lodge and are great chefs as well. If you are visiting Lake Atitlan and want luxury accommodation, gourmet food, and have your friends think you are roughing it, Picnic is the place to stay. I almost forgot to mention Picnic also has a very cool outdoor theater.

It has been a long time since we had seen our Lake Atitlan friends, it was great to spend the afternoon catching up. Then it was time to have dinner, another great meal.

After an awesome breakfast, we headed out to the lake for some kayaking. Before we left for kayaking Jochen asked what we would like for lunch, we suggested he surprise us. I noticed the kitchen had a kitchen aid mixer and suggested I teach Jochen how to make Dug’s world-famous cheesecake. I was half-joking doubting they would have all the secret ingredients in stock, but to my surprise, Jochen and Gaby did not disappoint. It was decided, cheesecake baking lessons at 3:00 pm.

Kayaking was picture perfect, “I am Kyle” and Margarite went for a swim after kayaking.

Our surprise lunch was a taco bar, everything was super fresh and very tasty.

Now cheesecake time. Jochen was a quick study, but he may need to make some adjustments with the baking time and temperature to have the perfect cheesecake at this altitude.

Even though not perfect the cheesecake did sell out as the dessert special that night.

Dinner was Jochen’s special hamburgers.

After another great night of sleep and breakfast, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Antigua.

We got the news that the CDC changed the rules on quarantining after international travel if you are vaccinated for Covid-19. No longer is a seven-day quarantine required. Since Laney and “I am Kyle” had taken an additional seven days off from work once they returned they decided to extend their stay an additional seven days.

Once back in Antigua, we had planned to hike the Volcano Pacaya. Unfortunately, the eruptions and lava flows have shut down the hiking trails. We decided on an alternative hike.

Before the hike, we had to get an ice cream pop!

Leaving at two in the afternoon we picked up Rolando the super guide, Luis our Spanish teacher and friend, and drove about an hour to the base of Volcano Acatenango. From there we hiked four miles, climbing over 3,200 feet in elevation. This took us a bit over four hours, yep, one mile an hour! Steep!!!

Volcano Acatenango is a dormant volcano. From Acatenango’s peak, you can see Volcano Pacaya’s lava flow, and Volcano de Fuego erupt.

As we climbed the temperature dropped and we went into the clouds. When we finally reached the peak the sun was setting, and we were above the clouds.

We hung around for about an hour watching the eruption, Rolando built a fire, we roasted marshmallows, as we watched the light show.

Hiking down the steep trail in the dark was a lot of fun, NOT. Everyone took a turn falling on their butt at least once except “I am Kyle”. “I am Kyle” had some very graceful stumbles, but always remained upright.

Tomorrow’s big adventure is visiting Romeo at the Classic Barbershop.

When you have been away for a long time, it may become necessary to get a shave and a haircut. If in Antigua, Guatemala the best place for a shave and a haircut is “Classic Barber Shop” the barber and owner, Romeo is by far the best.

Both “I Am Kyle”, and I got hair cuts and shaves. “I Am Kyle” splurged for the hot towel treatment.

Now that we were looking good, it was time for more street food, Chevere hot dogs, there is nothing better, as far as street food in Antigua.

“I Am Kyle’s” biggest concern taking this trip was contracting or spreading Covid-19. Even though, “I Am Kyle” has been vaccinated he was still concerned. This is understandable, we all know vaccines are never 100% protection, especially during a pandemic. “I Am Kyle” never thought about “street food stomach”, in fact, he threw caution to the wind and enjoyed street food wherever he could find it.

Being “I Am Kyle’s” first true international trip he had never heard about “street food stomach”, let alone thought he would succumb to “street food stomach”. What is “street food stomach,” you ask? “Street food stomach” is when you eat food that is contaminated with bacteria or parasites, either because the food was not prepared properly, the food was not stored properly, or the person preparing/serving the food has not washed their hands properly. The results can show up within minutes of consumption of said street food, or it might take as long as 24 hours after consumption. The symptoms usually manifest themselves in having anything you consume being expelled from either end, usually within minutes of eating or drinking.

Once you have “street food stomach” the best treatment is to take a course of powerful antibiotics and staying within a few feet of a toilet. After many years of getting “street food stomach,” you do build an immunity to “street food stomach” thus my constant enjoyment of street food, without getting sick!

After the Chevere hot dogs, we stopped at Helados Exóticos, Sobremesa for Ice Cream. After sampling well over twenty ice cream shops in Antigua I vote Helados Exóticos, Sobremesa the best, located at 4 Avenida Norte #5a just a half block from the main square.

Today we are off to Casa Santo Domingo Museum. “I Am Kyle” has decided to pass on this outing, something about not being too far from a bathroom, yes he caught “street food stomach”. To get to Casa Santo Domingo Museum you hike up a long steep hill. At the top is a restaurant, museum, and sculpture garden. I do not recommend the restaurant, I have eaten there in the past and it was not worth writing home about. The grounds and sculpture garden are well worth the walk and the views of Antigua are a bonus. This year we found an herb garden and coffee plant field.

Once we returned to the house, Laney spent the afternoon nursing “I Am Kyle” back to life. Luckily she is a nurse, and I never leave home without powerful antibiotics (Thank you, Dr. Bob).

The new normal, Covid-19 test before you fly. Doctor Erik showed up as expected and sampled both Laney, and “I Am Kyle” with his 24 inch Q-tip. Not sure Covid-19 resides in your esophagus, but that is where the end of the Q-tip collects the sample.

“I Am Kyle” had recovered quickly from “street food stomach”, thanks to Nurse Laney and some powerful antibiotics. Since “I Am Kyle” and Laney would be leaving the next day we went out walking the town. Of course, we had to stop for ice cream.

After the ice cream, for dessert we got a crêpe stuffed with white chocolate, and topped with ice cream at San Martín Antigua Guatemala.

Someone asked, “Are you concerned with getting fat eating all this ice cream and street food?” My answer, “I hope so!” The reason I am trying to get fat, in the United States for some unknown reason they are rewarding obese (fat) people with the Covid-19 vaccine. Think how stupid this is. A Person takes care of themselves, by eating right and exercising. They then get penalized and their life is put at risk by being put at the back of the Vaccine line. But if you eat bonbons all day, never exercise and basically do not give a sh%t about your health or life. You get rewarded by being placed at the front of the Covid-19 vaccine line. How stupid is this, penalize the people that keep our healthcare costs down and reward the people that drive up the cost of our healthcare. Only in the United States. I guess fat people are a larger (no pun intended) voting block than healthy people!

OK, I am off my soapbox, but that is the reason I am working to gain weight. The other option is to start smoking, but that would not be as enjoyable as eating ice cream.

We have a few more days in Antigua before we have to head back to the U.S. Another beautiful morning.

We heard about a farm on the edge of town that had recently opened. The farm has a brewpub and a restaurant on the grounds. The restaurant is similar to a food truck without wheels.

The farm is beautiful with different crops, and coffee plants. Throughout the farm are sitting areas with fire pits. There is also a large area with picnic tables set up like a beer garden. We order food, which was very tasty, and we order a sampler of beer. What a great addition to Antigua.

A visit from the past. Audrey joined us for dinner. You may remember Audrey, at 87, she still travels the world. She summers in Fargo ND and winters in Antigua. Her profession was a Fargo Police Detective, in fact the movie Fargo was based on Audrey.

I continue to eat my way through Antigua, hoping on my return I have gained enough weight to qualify for the vaccine.

We decided to walk to Casa Santo Domingo Museum again, Luis, and Sandra joined us. I am concerned all this walking is counterproductive to my goal of gaining weight to qualify for the vaccine.


If you have seen this person, please contact the Antigua Police.

Today it is Margarite’s turn to get her Covid-19 test. Though she lucked out. Dr. Erik shows up with a five-inch Q-tip instead of the 24-inch one he has been using. Apparently, the testing kit has upgraded their test and no longer needs a sample from the person’s esophagus.

We both passed our Covid-19 test. I guess all the studying paid off.

After passing our Covid-19 test, we had to go celebrate. We picked Audrey up and headed to San Martín Antigua Guatemala for milkshakes. Why not kill two birds with one stone. Celebrating us passing our Covid-19 test and continue my quest to obesity.

After 40 days in Antigua, I have to say international travel during a pandemic is worth doing with a few caveats.

  • Always, and I mean always, wear a mask!! 
  • When in crowded places where social distancing is not possible, double mask. 
  • Carry lots of hand sanitizer and uses it generously. 
  • As much as possible when around other people stay outside. 
  • Keep physical contact to a minimum, if at all. Margarite liked this rule!!!! 
  • Restaurants - avoid unless they have outside seating with tables well spaced apart. 
  • If you go in a car, windows down, masks on. 
  • Get tested, get tested, get tested. Remember the test only tells you your status at that moment in time.

With this trip being a success so far, we avoided Covid-19, we did not die from a volcano eruption, we thought we would test our luck one more time. Fly home on a Boeing 737 MAX 8. Wish us luck!

A quick calculation and I realized my BMI (Body Max Index) was not high enough to qualify for the Covid-19 Vaccine. Being fat is harder than I thought. I need to give fat people more credit. It is hard work getting fat. I guess I need more ice cream before we head home.

While returning from the Ice Cream Shop, I ran into the Mad Hatter.

Margarite was getting a little jealous of me and all the ice cream I have been eating, so she stopped in for a smoothie. She ordered a detox smoothie. Margarite must have thought she was the one eating all the ice cream and street food, not me.

That is it from Antigua. Our next trip, if we can pull it off is in May, it will be to a new country, not yet visited, Bolivia. The highlight of the trip will be mountain biking down the most dangerous road in the world.


All Pictures are below

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