Weather: Sunny and breezy, in the 70s (F'heit). Lows in the 50s.
Today's topic: How to ship stuff and cars to Guatemala from the USA ... and visiting the Gators locker rooms.
I recently spent Thanksgiving in Northern Florida; Gainesville's whereabouts, to be precise. In attendance were people from Indiana, Australia, Canada, Guatemala, and Louisiana. Food was the gel cementing us all together. It was nice to eat the traditional home-cooked fare: Smoked turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, casseroles, pies. Much to be thankful for.
I didn't cook. I was only required to bring bread and sodas. But then, I don't think I am the best person to be asked to cook anything. I know how to make 2 or 3 things well. None of those are considered Thanksgiving material.
The venue was Tim & Carla's house in rural northern Florida. It's in a tiny town outside Gainesville called Archer (one street light!). The area is dotted with beautiful, typical century-old Southern houses. This house is newer and has a front porch, a screened back porch, and a deck.
It is so rural, in fact, that their backyard is a forest. And it's Autumn. How much more prettier can a forest get? As opposed to South Florida, where I have lived for over a decade, and Guatemala, where I live in a valley high above sea level, northern Florida does have the full four seasons.
I got to see a live, wild deer. There are also foxes, rabbits, possums, squirrels, wild turkey and, I am told, cougars, though those are an extremely rare sight. I just loved walking by myself in the forest, breathing in the chill, aromatic air. Despite it being fall, it wasn't cold at all. Nice enough to wear a t-shirt, yet not quite hot. Big yellow butterflies, too. Lots of yakking birds.
At night, the stars are intensely visible and bright, and there is a big quiet. No silence, since one hears the breeze and night birds, but it is deliciously quiet and I love to sit in the back porch and just read. Beautiful.
Despite the pleasure to be gained surrounded by nature, I must confess that I can't imagine, for the life of me, having to actually live there. I mean, seriously. You want to go to Starbuck's or Chipotle's Grill, for example? That is like 40 mins away! After a while I'd miss the urban cacophony, I'm sure.
Prior to Thanksgiving, we spent a few days in South Florida. I met with my dissertation committee as well as friends. I also got my driver's license, voter's registration and library card renewed. Let me tell you, the new security regulations to get a driver's license renewed mean that one spends close to 3 hours in line to get it! Are we becoming a police state?
Finally, I spent a couple of days of intensive shopping. It's impossible to bring all the stuff one buys in suitcases, due to weight constraints at the airlines. Therefore, we use a company called Medrano Express which ships whatever one wants to ship to Guatemala. The system is efficient and the best I have found up to now.
Medrano Express provides different-sized boxes, which they will deliver to your doorstep. You must use their boxes. Each box size has a different price. One can fill it up with whatever, and no matter the weight--there is no weight limit!--the box's price remains standard. (One should also purchase insurance for the box). Medrano's will pick up the box at one's doorstep and ship it. They deliver it to one's doorstep in Guatemala. Love it!
By the way, Medrano's has offices all over the USA. Another company which provides this service is Zuleta's. I haven't used them, but I know people who have, and like them.
The telephone for Medrano Express in Miami is (305) 642-1119 and (305) 889-2926. If you google it, you might find their national 1-800 number. The phone number for Zuleta, which manages the same type of system, is (305) 644-1090. As I said before, I know they have offices in different cities, so in case you plan to ship something, it is a very inexpensive way of doing it.
I am not advertising for them! Just thought that it might be useful information for anybody living in Guatemala or planning to.
So, what did I ship? I will list some of the items, so that you might have an idea of what items are not easily found here or else, are too expensive to get comfortably.
I packed several pounds of pre-cooked wild rice from Trader Joe's, for example, as well as bagloads of black-eyed peas and pinto beans. One cannot find any sort of beans in Gautemala except pedestrian black, red and white beans. This may be peculiar of me, but I do love my black-eyed peas. I also shipped decaf flavored coffees, because one cannot find decaf coffee at the supermarkets here. Some spices, such as Cajun seasonings and good curry. That's it for food.
If you like high quality sheets--I do!--bring them from the USA. Here you will only find the pedestrian kind, useful and serviceable, but not necessarily the nicer stuff. I buy 400- or 600-thread on sale in the US (Ross had some really cheap ones), then just ship them over!
Also, books and magazines, of course, and as always, several bottles of my shampoos and conditioners, which either cannot be acquired in Guatemala or are triple the price. I can do without a great many things, but I have Jew-fro hair, so I must have my shampoos! In Guate you can find, like, Pantene and such, but brands like Aveda or Redken are more of a problem.
Finally, I also shipped holiday gifts for friends, colleagues, hotel employees, and what not. This was a big box, quite heavy, and it cost me only US$150, insurance included. You can look the sizes & prices up at MedranoExpress.com.
I am shipping a car in a few weeks, and the estimate is US$700, delivered to the Port of Santo Thomas, where one must go pick it up. I am shipping a used Hyundai; it's a smallish car. You must take it to their offices in the US, with the car's title and loan satisfaction. The business takes care of the rest of the remaining paperwork.
Other way of getting a car to Guatemala is hiring people who will drive it down for you. Or else, you can drive down the car yourself in a caravan. I would not recommend sending a car here for which you will have trouble finding parts.
One of my favorite things to do in the US is go to the Public Library bookshops, where I can buy recent bestsellers for US$1 each. And that I did! My husband walked out with several recent paperback thrillers. I also bought some used children's books, because here they are ridiculously expensive. Some I buy for the illustrations, some to give away.
Talking of books, I got the latest pocket-size Sony Reader, which holds up to 350 e-books at a time, be it in PDF format and Nook-friendly as well. At BJ's, only US$99 (listed for US$140 at the Sony website). Sony's e-book store isn't as good as Barnes and Noble--which serves the Nook reader--or Amazon's, which services the Kindle reader. But it is good enough, and I downloaded close to 1,000 books from Scribd (free!) to cover me for quite a while of reading.
This is particularly useful for lengthy stays in Guatemala, where recent books are outrageously expensive and hard to come by beyond a limited variety (at least compared to what one is used to in the USA). US magazines cost around US$10 or more here. E-book readers allow one to purchase recent books and periodicals online and download them unto the computer and/or reader. Otherwise, it is difficult to get recent publishings.
The Gator-related photos here are illustrative of the extent to which The Gators are sort of an intense religious experience in Gainesville. There is no God in Gainesville, there are Gators! Gator stadium, Gator arena, Gator laundromat, Gator bars ...
The lamp above is in the lobby of an important law office in Gainesville, which we visited, and the viewing room below is furnished with a huge screen. I couldn't believe that a law office would have such a kitschy thing at its lobby, but there you have it.
We got to see the Gators' private locker room is amazing and the guys were quite impressed with the fancy viewing seats, where the Gator athletes get to watch and analyze games and plays on the big screen. Alas, I have been told I cannot publish those photos, so a picture of the arena will have to do.
Other things we did in Gainesville, besides big Thanksgiving dinners full of people and walks in the woods, included going to Gator City Bar to watch the Saints' game on a giant screen.
We were treated to a drink that includes vodka and Red Bull--NEVER shall I try that again!--and we had the usual fare, chicken wings, smoked fish dip, nachos. Meh! Mediocre, as would befit food that serves to satisfy college kids.
I couldn't care less about the games, the same as I couldn't care less about soccer madness in Latin America, but it was nice to share the evening with our children, nieces and nephews.
Now, back to daily life in Guatemala. The photo above is a class session for the series of workshops I coordinate for the governments of Guatemala and Spain. It is mainly on community-building via training neighbors, artists and activists on development through arts and culture. They are a great group, very enthusiastic.
The instructor that day, Julio Solorzano, is a historian and well-known arts promoter with long experience abroad--the US, Russia and Mexico--managing dance troupes and arts venues. His mother was Guatemalan and he is spending some time in Guatemala, working on developing operas based on local legends and with local artists, so we were lucky--very lucky!--to have him.
The season is busy. I recently went to the yearly Manifestarte festival, which is a famous local festival highlighting Guatemalan street artists and filmmakers. It is on the historic Cerrito del Carmen hill, an ancient park that houses the oldest church in the City.
Tonight I am going to Handel's The Messiah Oratorio and tomorrow I am one of the panelists presenting at a forum on Hip Hop. So, swinging from Hip Hop to Baroque, I guess. As Whitman said, I encompass multitudes! (or something like that)
It is the case that the Guatemala Hip Hop troupe won the Central American and Mexico competition, and represented the region--Mesoamerica--in the most important Hip Hop competition in France this year. The dancers are part of the panel as well, and the presentation will take place at the premises of the Alliance Française of Guatemala.
I am so very glad to have been invited to be part of this!
That is the fun part of the work I do here, the festivals, concerts and openings. Not-so-fun parts include faculty meetings for my thesis advisor work, but I cannot say that these are disagreeable. I like the people I work with at the university, so it is pleasant work. Still, revising thesis work over and over, does not make for fun. However, it does beat many other jobs.
On Thursday I have 3 gallery openings, and on Friday, a concert by friends who play modern Cumbia at a local pub. I plan to go to all and all of this is taking place right here in downtown Guatemala. Downtown is where the cultural ferment is happening on a daily basis, before it takes over and migrates to other areas of the country. In that sense, living here is exciting.
Overall, life doesn't suck in Guatemala, let's put it that way.
No wonder I keep meeting expats. The most recent were Dwayne and Maureen, who owned for many years Bar Europa downtown (still in business, very quaint), and have now retired to a farm. Very interesting people! It makes one feel a bit of "home away from home" to get to speak in English every so often. In general, people who venture to live abroad their countries will tend to be more adventurous than most, hence, quite interesting.
I will leave you for now with a photo of an artist friend--he is a well-known Graphic Designer--painting a Graff mural on one of the walls of the inn. I hope you found the shipping information useful!
Bed and Breakfast - Parking
In the Historic Center of Guatemala City