Archive for August, 2010

Traje, a bike race, and goats on the calle

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

I had to post this photo of a street in Solola because it shows a man in traje, the traditional dress of indigenous Guatemalans. Guatemala is divided into twenty-two “departments” or regions, and each department has its own unique design, a tradition developed hundreds of years ago. (My post on Nimpot showed examples of ceremonial traje hanging on the walls.) Although many Guatemalan women wear traje, not many men do; most dress in blue jeans or more contemporary clothes. In case you haven’t seen traje in person, here’s a photo.

Another reason I like this photo is that is juxtaposes the traditional with the modern. Especially in larger towns such as Solola, you see that a lot: a wide range of people, from school students in uniform, to farmers, to office workers. In Guatemala City, the capital, especially in restaurants and hotels, you could be in any large urban area where the men and women are extremely stylish. (I often feel underdressed, as I would in New York or Madrid.) (more…)


Lake Atitlán and Mayan Families

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

There is no bad view of Lake Atitlán. This particular vista is of one of the volcanoes surrounding the lake, Toliman, framed by white wispy clouds and an orange tropical flower. One morning while everyone else was asleep, I went onto the terrace of our hotel and a woman from England said to me, “You have to take this picture!” So I did.

In the second photo, you can see men repairing a dock in Panajachel that was wiped out by Tropical Storm Agatha and her recent follow-ups. We saw such repair occurring and necessary all around the lake’s perimeter. (If you look closely,  you can see a gushing waterfall in the foliage above.) One of the main modes of transportation around Atitlan is via lancha, or small boat, a favorite activity for Olivia and Mateo. To board our lancha, we climbed down a makeshift wooden gangplank and clambered over slippery wet sandbags. I would have taken more photos, but I was too busy hanging onto Mateo to prevent him from leapfrogging over the sandbags into the drink. (more…)


The road to Panajachel

Monday, August 9th, 2010

The worst of Tropical Storm Agatha had passed but on the road to Panajachel from Antigua, we could still see the devastation. Acres of mountainsides had loosened and slid, taking down stands of trees and boulders the size of Volkswagen bugs. The landslide in the photo above hadn’t been cleared by the time we came upon it, and our tourist van slowed to a crawl as traffic was routed around it. Whether we’d missed the slide by minutes or hours, nobody knew. Like everybody else safe in a four-wheel drive vehicle, we just counted ourselves lucky.

For us, the weather is a nuisance, but for the residents of the area, these storms often mean death. En route, we saw a crowd gathered around a body on the side of the road. A few days later, as we passed through the area, we saw a funeral procession carrying a wooden box. Olivia and Mateo are still talking about it. To my knowledge, it was the first time either one of them had seen a coffin.



Kirkus Reviews: Mamalita

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

My publicist at Seal Press, Eva Zimmerman, forwarded me this advance review of Mamalita  from Kirkus Reviews. The Mamalita publication date is November 1, 2010. To order your advance copy, click on the “Book” tab on the Mamalita site.

From Kirkus Reviews:

“‘I’ve never given birth,’ writes O’Dwyer, ‘but I know the exact moment when I became a mother: 10:00A.M., September 6, 2002′—the moment she and her husband sat in a hotel lobby, awaiting the infant girl they hoped to adopt. Yet this celebratory moment was soon overshadowed by the corrupt Guatemalan adoption system. The author recounts her initial naiveté, how she and her husband shelled out vast amounts of money to adoption facilitators and notarios in order to assist them in wading through the red tape of a foreign adoption. Yet nearly two years and thousands of dollars later, O’Dwyer and her husband remained no closer to their goal. Rather than continue her transcontinental flights, the author quit her job and moved to Antigua to focus on her daughter’s adoption full time. This decision led her into the dark side of adoption, a seedy terrain in which she was forced to weave through the barbs of a system set up to exploit the most money and resources from potential parents. Armed only with her elementary-level Spanish, she was forced to rely on a small band of trustworthy Guatemalan officials and potential American mothers struggling through the same experience. Her obsessive quest was constantly hampered by paperwork, signatures, DNA tests and countless other bureaucratic pitfalls. But despite the tragic circumstances, the optimistic author tells a hopeful tale in which she viewed every procedural misstep as a step leading her closer to her daughter.”

“A scathing critique on a foreign adoption system and the harrowing account of one woman’s attempt to fight it.”

Kirkus Reviews


Concert in the park

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Antigua is a town filled with music. A few years back, I was lucky enough to be here during Christmas, and every night an orchestra of some kind performed classical selections in the Square. On Sunday, Olivia and I heard marimbas. An afternoon or two ago, a big band played.

Olivia and I stumbled upon the musicians warming up on the steps of the Municipalidad, one of the grand structures that edges the Square, then joined the crowd in the park to listen. The conductor gave the signal, and the band broke into “Begin the Beguine.” The tune was not what I’d expected, and it transported me to my childhood, when my parents listened to Big Band on the radio and my father warbled along. Olivia swayed to the music, creating her own memory of the melody. I’m happy hers is a memory is formed in Guatemala. (more…)


Buses and a trip to Nimpot

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

One of the first things I noticed when I came to Antigua in 2003 was the buses. They are rehabilitated Blue Birds, the school buses I rode when growing up in New Jersey. But here, each is individualized, painted by a specific artist. When Olivia and I lived in Antigua, we woke every morning to the sound of the conductor calling all commuters enroute from Antigua to the capital, “Guate, Guate! Guatemala!” We came to love the rhythm of those words. The buses seem so emblematic of Guatemala, that I chose a detail from a bus painting by Oscar Peren as the banner of my blogsite.

The photo above is of Olivia’s favorite store, Nimpot. It’s located on Fifth Avenida, right past the famous arch. This store has everything: masks, huipils (embroidered blouses worn by Guatemala’s indigenous people), weavings, jewelry, carved wooden santos, and even mini-Maximons, the patron saint of bad habits. (more…)


International adoption statistics

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Being in Guatemala made me wonder about the statistics for international adoption. Adoptions are closed here, of course, although several hundred cases are still pending. I found this blog post by Angela W on an adoption website, Adoption Under One Roof. In it, Angela W analyzes the 2009 statistics—the most recent available— in a way that even I found easy to understand.

Adoptions from Asia continue to make up the largest percentage of international adoptions, at 47%, while adoptions from Africa are the fastest-growing: 21% in 2009, up from 9% in 2007 and 13% in 2008.  (more…)