Monday, August 31, 2009

The way we roll

Over the weekend we took a road trip to Lake Atitlán to celebrate our anniversary and while we were on the road it occurred to us that although we've blogged about all of the great places we've visited, we've never shown you what happens between destinations. Granted on this trip we were only in the car for a couple of hours in comparison to the days at a time that we endured before, but it pretty much looked the same (with a lot more stuff in the car) our entire drive through Mexico.

So for all of you who wish you were a fly on the wall of our vehicle, we propped our camera up on the dashboard, set the timer and settled into our "normal" routine.

Leaving Antigua - Happy Campers!
Enjoying the views....

Frequently laughing....

Forever singing....

more singing....

...and still singing (I could go all day)!

Map check

Snack break

Nap time

Thanks for letting me nap!

Almost there!

We made it!

More on our weekend later. For now, happy trails to you!

Friday, August 28, 2009

ceviche dreams

For a while now the ADU staff has been chatting about their collective love for ceviche. So when they decided to have an entire office outing for Thursday's lunch, and Ben realized I had to the day off too, I got invited to join them. Juan knew about a tasty cevicheria (ceviche restaurant) somewhere in Mixco, so we hopped in the cars and off we went.

Nothing fancy but definitely delicious,
Cevicheria Mar Del Plata made a lasting impression and I'm pretty sure the friendly owner hasn't seen the last of this group of seafood freaks! We stuck to the shrimp only - apparently someone had a bad experience with too much "land" in their mixto during a previous ceviche outing - and boy was there was an abundance of those little guys in it!

We ate like royalty for at least a full 30 minutes! Add in a dose or two of friendly office jesting and it turned out to be quite an entertaining lunch!

Before ceviche

After ceviche

Juan documents the event while
Dani continues working on a full stomach!

Cristobal - completely satisfied with the evidence to prove it!

Lety & baby "Marcos" - Pura Quetzalteca!

Thanks ADU Guatemala for allowing me to join you!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

fresh & crispy

Did you know that besides refrigerators and washing machines, dryers use the most electricity of all household appliances? Yes, it's the truth, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

For this very reason, here in Guatemala homes that have running water may have a washing machine, but most probably don't have a dryer. It's just as well though because the cost of electricity here is extremely expensive. Rather, most people hang their laundry out on the line to dry, which can be rather tricky during the 6 months of rain! Fortunately, I work close enough to home that if need be, I can make an emergency jaunt home during lunch to rescue the clothes from a 2nd (not so clean) washing.

It takes some getting used to the starchy feeling that the laundry has after drying au natural. While flipping through a copy of August's Martha Stewart Living that my mom left behind, I came across a tip that I'm anxious to try. Martha suggests adding a 1/4 cup of white vinegar or baking soda to the wash. Before hanging the laundry (and again once dry) shake each item firmly - you should hear a sharp snap. She swears that your towels will feel fluffier and that the vinegar smell dissipates during the rinse cycle. Guess I'll find out!

If you're looking to save a couple of bucks this summer & help the environment, try the line dry method. With the sun high in the sky and a slight breeze in the air, your laundry will be dry before you know it!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

5 years of BLISS

Five years ago today, August 22, 2004, we became Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin & Krista Lengacher. I know what you're thinking - 5 years! Did you get married when you were 18? Not quite - we know, we're getting up there, but we wouldn't trade this life for anything!

Despite our old ages, we still remember the wedding like it was yesterday, although at times it feels like so long ago. Soon after getting married, we made a plan that one day we would fulfill our collective dream of living and working abroad. While it took some time to finally come true, we're so happy to be celebrate this momentous occasion while living the dream! With any luck the next five years will bring about a whole different set of dreams.

Our wedding and reception were both held at Lauxmont Farms in York, Pennsylvania. The entire day was so personal and completely us. The ceremony was held down a long set of stairs, in a natural amphitheater around a simple aqua-colored fountain that overlooked the river below. Hors devours were enjoyed in a Japanese garden with the reception following on the grounds of the horse farm, complete with dancing under the moonlight. It was magical - a day we will both keep in our memories forever.

Here's a little photo stroll down memory lane........

And don't forget the honeymoon in Italy.......

.....with a romantic weekend in Paris!

Happy Anniversary Mr. Lengacher - Te Amo.

Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.
~Walter Winchell

Thursday, August 20, 2009

chilis & a road trip

Guest Blogger: Ben (we're hoping he starts making regular appearances!)

While I came to Guatemala thinking that there is an abundance of water and supplies are renewed every day when it rains (like now), I have to say that things aren’t as they appear. Yes, there is water and it is usually piped to homes or chorros (fill stations), the reality is it usually doesn’t flow 24 hrs/day, nor it is safe to drink. And when it does rain the drainage here is usually overwhelmed and sewers overflow, garbage is washed with it, and what flows to the river is a supply for someone else. We go to great lengths in the states to separate sewer water from rivers, pipe storm water and detain in ponds, and have extensive treatment systems to remove contamination. Here these systems don’t exist and clean purified drinking water is a luxury to most. That being the case, most Guatemalans boil water to purify it before drinking especially in rural areas. Storage tanks or cisterns are used to store water from the street or a chorro so that there is a consistent water supply for internal home plumbing (if it exists).

So a few weeks ago we (myself, Juan, & Dani from our office & another engineer Borys) went to visit 3 communities that have interested church partners in new water systems. We spent a lot of time driving to these communities to look at the building space available to install new water purification systems. The short of it is that without an Aguas De Unidad system there would not be a purified drinking water supply available locally without purchase of water bottled in the city and driven to the community for re-sale. The farthest community is 5 hours from the city if you have a Guatemalan driver and good roads…Juan our driver set out to make a speed record so we could go and return to the city in the same day.

What I like about the Healing Waters model is it supplies a need (water) to a community using a community resource (the church) with sustainability as the focus. Yes, we could use donor funds to build a large central bottling plant and deliver water to the communities, especially those that are in the city, but that would do little to empower a church partner to reach out to the community nor employ locals to run and operate the systems. We wouldn’t be able to sell the water either for the same price (Q5 = $0.60 USD for 5 gallon garrafon) since we would need to add a transport cost to cover gas for a truck and the driver to deliver the water.
So what may seem like an “underdeveloped” water system in comparison to US standards, actually works really well from a sustainability standpoint. The non-renewable energy inputs are minimal once the treatment equipment is purchased and installed. The untreated water supply is usually from the municipality or a pipa (water truck) that makes rounds in the community to fill household storage tanks. Most encargados (water system employees) walk to their job or live at the church, and community members usually wheel a stroller or cart to the system to fill their garrafones.

I was talking to Juan the other day about the enormous amount of energy (and regulations) that we have in the States for this same process: from storing large amounts of untreated water and piping it to reservoirs for treatment in advanced plants, to distributing it in extensive piping networks so that we as Americans can use to flush toilets, take showers, run dishwashers, wash our cars, and water grass. All this water is treated to drinking water standards but I am guessing that less than 1% is actually consumed or used for cooking.
Not to say that this isn’t what is good for the States, but I think we are going about it backwards – that is, expending a lot of non-renewable energy to treat water to such a high standard and using it to grow Kentucky bluegrass in Colorado.

To learn more about the communities where these ADU systems will be installed in Guatemala, stay tuned…below are pictures from the trip to Tejutla. We had to pass through Xela where Krista and I studied Spanish so I felt a little pride in being the guide who picked the breakfast joint, Cafe Baviera II, where we did our Spanish homework just about every afternoon.

Guatemalan breakfast before the trip: chile rellenos, fresh tortillas, and black beans

Water nerds!

Hanging in the park in Tejutla: me, Dani, and Borys

Ah, the stupid things we do to pass the time before another 5 hours in the car

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Must Have Lusts!

Living a “normal” life here in Guatemala (especially Antigua) isn’t that hard. Sure, attitudes, customs and things in general are different, but they just take a little getting used to. For the most part we get by just fine. Most of the things we need and want can by found – not always as easily as walking into the local Target, but they can be found. And for those that cannot, we can make do without. We certainly aren’t high maintenance – er, well, at least Ben isn’t. I on the other hand am only high maintenance about certain things and thus is why I planned ahead.

Before leaving Colorado I stocked up on a few of the things that I really couldn’t didn’t want to live without… (cue the dramatic music)…… my favorite shampoo & conditioner. After all, neither my stylist nor I would not be happy with me if I came back with unhealthy hair!

These ½ gallon bad girls should see my luscious locks through the next year! However my prima donna hair will just have to live without my Kerastase heat treatment and settle for something else – or nothing (gasp!). Not the end of my world.

Every once and a while though……just every once in an itty bitty while, there is that one thing that we (yes, Ben too!) really, really, really miss. And so we have decided to add a new sidebar listing (look to your left) and blog entry when we find ourselves seriously lusting for one of our comforts from home! (And just maybe the writing process will help us get over the lust!!!)

Krista’s current Must Have Lust
Emerald brand Cocoa Roast Almonds

They give me the slight chocolate fix that I need (even though I’m not a crazy chocoholic) plus satisfy my hunger. I can’t find these babies anywhere! I searched every nook, cranny and high-end specialty food store from here to Panajachel (seriously) and they are no where to be found. Just last week I caught Ben red-handed cracking the seal on my very last container (I loaded up at the Safeway 2 for 1 sale back in March). How dare he! I know how passionate he is about nuts (don’t even go there!). Luckily I was just in time to rescue my delicious treat and whisk it away to a place where he will never find it (work). Sorry honey, you better not get in the way of a girl lusting next time!

Ben’s current Must Have Lust
Smith Optics Interlock Polarized Sunglasses

Grated he’s lusting because his sunglasses are one of the things that he lost in the theft incident, but he honestly lusts for them. It’s sunny here a lot and he drives a lot, so he needs a good pair of sunglasses. You're probably are thinking that “designer” sunglasses are not a necessity, but for Ben they really are. For years (seriously our entire 5 years of marriage) he tried on various sunglasses at every sport/surf/optic shop we passed. Some of you may recall the Optic Nerve phase when every couple of months (after some biking or skiing mishap) we would head down to Wilderness Exchange for a new pair that they kept hidden in a random cardboard box of cheap sunglasses under the front counter. They were the only style he could find that fit the high bridge on his nose. Finally, last Christmas I broke down and got him the Smith’s. They were a fabulous fit with interchangeable lenses (just in case of scratches from more mishaps). At first he was worried about losing them and keeping them nice, but if I must say so myself, he did a pretty darn good job of taking care of those sunglasses…….until the incident (not Ben’s fault, I realize this).

PS: I hope you all took note that for once (probably the one and only time) it is Ben, not I, that has the more expensive taste!

Monday, August 17, 2009

words can't describe

This weekend we engaged in a bunch of good 'ole family fun - Guatemalan style. Friday night we headed to Guatemala City to meet up with Sergio & Cynthia Ortega, friends from Lancaster. We ate dinner at a great restaurant in Zone 5, that just so happens to be owned by Sergio's family, located on the same street that he grew up on. Well, we got to chatting and pretty soon it was well past midnight and Casa Lengacher had a spontaneous reservation for our 2nd ever guests, Sergio & Cynthia!

The following afternoon we invited Ben's co-worker Juan, his wife Nineth & their 2 sweet kids Alejandro & Daniela over for a lasagna lunch. Along with Sergio & Cynthia and our neighbor Dani, we had quite a crew crowed around our table!

After lunch we had a blast playing a miming game that Juan & his family brought along. Sin Palabras (Without Words), is a lot like Pictionary, but completely in Spanish with special Guatemalan vocabulary. What great practice it was for us! We're even thinking of picking up a copy of our own next time we're out and about. Divided into teams of girls vs. guys, we acted out and drew pictures to get the word across for a couple of hours. Alas, the guys won, but only because a lucky roll of the dice!

Look at all the fun we had!
Cynthia's Spanish blows mine out of the water!
Me trying to demonstrate Volcan Pacaya
Sin Palabras is a family favorite for the Colmenares family

It's bird, it's a plane - no it's just Ben being Ben!

Afterwards to took a stroll into bustling Antigua to get some ice cream which made this little gal, pretty happy. But then again what doesn't make her happy?

As for Alejandro, the ice cream made him so cold,
he had to cover up with whatever he could find!

Thanks for a fun day Colmenares family! Come back and see us again soon!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

blooms divine

Since arriving in Antigua I have become taken with all of the gorgeous flowers. This one in particular is my favorite. There's just something about how it dangles down so unassuming and carefree - it doesn't even need to compete with the rest.

I absolutely LOVE the way it looks hanging from this pergola at Casa Santo Domingo. It's like walking through a fairy tale! Sadly though, I have no idea what it is called. Please help me blog readers - I'm dying to have these blooms of my very own. They'd look so fabulous hanging from our 2nd floor terrace!

UPDATE: It's called
Tumbergia (or Thumbergia). Thanks Lisa! I'm on my way to the vivero asap!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Red Hot Heat

Guatemala has 66 volcanoes, but only about 33 of them can be seen - the rest are underground. Only 3 of the volcanoes are active. Santiaguito (remember that lookout from Santa Maria), Fuego and Pacaya. We're lucky enough here in Antigua to live close by 2 of the 3 (Fuego & Pacaya).

Pacaya is an active complex volcano which first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago. Since then it has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala.
After laying dormant for a century, it erupted violently in 1965 and has been erupting continuously ever since.

After engaging in a week of all of the traditional (and a few off the beaten path) tourist pastimes in Guatemala, we took one final adventure to Pacaya National Park with hopes of seeing the illusive lava! Ben & I first visited Pacaya back in October 2008. It was a nice hike, but we were seriously disappointed when we reached the top and there was no lava in sight. This time the hike was a lot more difficult - apparently the lava has changed locations on the volcano & thus the path also changed - but it certainly did not disappoint.

these lone rangers saddled up for the ride

happy hikers - halfway there

walking sticks are absolutely necessary when hiking on hardened, sharp lava

can you see it in the background?
the hairs were practically burning off my body!

The closer you get, the hotter it is -
like almost melting the soles of your shoes hot!

We were so close we could poke the lava
(yet another reason the stick is a necessity)

Want to experience it too?
Go put your head in the oven and then watch this.

Volcan Pacaya from Krista on Vimeo.

(information on Volcan Pacaya found at