Thursday, May 6, 2010

The maids have all the power

Maids (muchachas, empleadas) have the power to make or break your day.

Maids make your breakfast.

Maids wash your clothes.

Maids have the opportunity to rummage through all your belongings.

Maids prepare your lunch.

Maids fold your towels.

Maids take care of your kids.

Maids make your supper.

Maids can switch to decaf without telling you!!

Want to assassinate someone? Talk to his maid.

Want to rob someone? Talk to the maid.

Want to learn Spanish? Talk to the maid.

Be nice to your maid.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recently discovered in the Pais grocery store in Zona 15

Heard of chirmol? Now you've got chirmolito in a bottle. What's this, the new Guatemalan ketchup?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Violence in Guatemala

Living in the relatively safe section of Guatemala City that I we do, it's easy to forget the violence that plagues the country. I've lived in towns before that had 300-500 homicides per annum, but I saw a figure city this past March that Guatemala had over 6,000 violent deaths in the first quarter of 2010 alone.

The "good" news is that the majority of violent deaths seem to be hits targeting specific people (rival drug dealers, gang members, wrong end of a business deal, politically motivated, you name it). Also targeted are people with flashy cars or expensive cell phones. Point? There seems to be a point to most of the killing - it's less random than one might think.

So what do I do?

- My car is not fancy and I don't wash it much
- I hide my iPhone, don't use it when I don't have to, or even leave it in the car
- Limit night excursions
- Stay out of known dangerous areas

Additionally, if you speak Spanish fluently, you can try to appear less like a gringo by using Guatemalan Spanish when possible. If you learned Spanish in another country, you've probably noticed that Guatemala has a few unique linguistic traits that other countries don't - if you learned it here, it might not be so obvious. Your accent has to be pretty good to begin with, or you'll be labeled as a gringo anyway.

On the other hand, I know of a former Israeli soldier who has a security company here - in a presentation I was at, he made the statement that kidnappings are less likely to happen to foreigners because of the reluctance to get other governments involved. I haven't had enough experience with kidnappings to say for sure, but that seems at best to be a guess - something to think about, anyway. This wouldn't apply to robbery, though.

The point of this somewhat rambling post is that you learn to live with the violence. It's difficult to deal with when someone you personally know is gunned down (this happened recently) but you deal with it. Or you leave.