On Friday the 13th, the staff of Maya Pedal threw us a Valentine´s day party. It was supposedly tailored to Palo´s need to leave early for livingston (8 hours on the bus). We were told it would begin at ten. But really what that meant was that they would show up closer to elven and have us help them get ready for the party. For three hours.
Palo left in a little bit of a huff somewhere around 2:20.
It was a fun event, full of festive decorations, confetti throwing, games and traditional food.
The food was really delicious, much better than the stuff you´d buy at a stand, it was even better than the stuff you get in local restaurants. But when i saw them preparing the food i new it would be a problem, they didn´t disinfect anything, and grilling didn´t seem like enough. But they threw us this party, and it was one of those say-no-and-you´re-a-jerk situations. Its really unfortunate because those of us with weak North American stomaches get forced into eating stuff that we really oughtn´t to. I´m going to try to gently tell Carlos and Johana that i can´t eat anything they offer me, i hope they understand.
We were all asked in advance to have two things ready for the celebration. The first thing was a game, but it turns out that this could also be a story, joke, or talent. In order to decide who would go we passed a balloon around the circle and when Carlos, who wasn´t looking, said stop, that person had to go. Anneliese was first.
Very nice bigote, Anneliese. When mustaches come back into syle for women, you´ll be leading the pack.
Erin caught ten raisins in a row in her mouth.
Palo did a hand stand for about thirty seconds.
Johana told us the story of Green Eggs and Ham in Spanish (from memory). No one seemed to catch it but me, not that i understood every word, but i got huevos verdes (green eggs) and jamon (ham). I had everyone play a game called king frog, where you make animal montions in order to become the enviable king frog.
Johana´s little girl, Anjelie, was a real mix of emotions all day long. She´d go from being really happy and laughing to screaming and crying. Sometimes it wasn´t even clear what she was all upset about, she´d just burst into tears. She´s a really odd little girl, none of us understand her. She´s very doll like, in her size and features, but mostly in the cold, unwavering stare that she normally gives. She´s shy, but not a run away shy, more of a i won´t show you any emotion kind of shy. I remember one day she was under a chair playing, i bent down to make silly faces at her and she just looked at me blankly. She didn´t move, she didn´t blink, just constant emotionless eye contact. It wasn´t until i left the room that she started crying. I´ve decided that she and i are going to be friends, which is actually coming along pretty well- i got her dancing one day, and she now lets me pick her up and tickle her. If i´m successful, i´m pretty sure i´ll be able to befriend any small child.
The second thing that we were all supposed to have for the festivities was a secret santa gift. Palo and i thought this meant it would be a total secret who the gifts came from, lending both of us a false sense of security in our supposed anonymity.
Anneliese and Erin got, respectively, lacy underwear with an awesome "flight of the conchords" inspired card (a funny new zealander acting/singing group) and then a Canada patch, fake rose, and cartoon super hero mask.
Carlos got a nice polo shirt. While Johana got a really cute heart crown (there was also one for Anjelie- who erupted again when it was attempted to be put on her head) I´m sorry to say i don´t have any pictures of this awesome pair of crowns.
I got a really awesome gift, probablly the nicest one in the whole group. Carlos gave me a sweet hand knit bracelet and belt. The belt won´t fit any of my north american pants, but i think its supposed to be more decorative anyway. They are amazing gifts, i really like them. In fact, i like them so much i put them away almost immediately. (So they won´t get dirty in the shop). If you´re wondering why i´m laughing above its because when i unwrapped the present, it was acutally a box of head and shoulders. To explain, i haven´t showered in... a while. My hair at this point can stand up straight, it even gets a funny elvis curl in the front. Clearly, i take water conservation very seriously.
Okay best for last. Or maybe worst. Here goes.
I took the secret santa thing literally. And was really hoping i wouldn´t have to own up to this one- it would have been a lot funnier when it could have been from any of us. But, in any event, i bought Chris some condoms- valentines day, get lucky, ha ha. But the funnier part was that there are these ridiculous Brahva Beer posters everywhere (i mean everywhere). They have these plastic american-looking women on them showing way too much skin. We happened to have one of these in the building, and i took the liberty to abscond with it and transform it into a box. Emphasis on the plastic.
I added the santa, mostly for its creep value, but also in the spirit of the gift giving. If you can´t read what he´s saying its, actually, if you can´t read it, i´m not going to write it out again.
It was funnier for everyone else than Palo and me (Carlos thought it was soooooo funny), frankly i think we were both a little embarassed. But he took it like a champ.
Inventing is actually 20 percent inspiration and 80 percent frustration. So far there`s been no sweating involved.
I came back to my perpetual project of trying to get grounds from the back of a bike, adding this time a smaller wheel. The first challenge was trying to find a new inner tube for a 12" wheel. None to be found in the shop, but there was a 14". At first i thouhgt that i would cut it down, glue it back together and be set. Palo thought this was a bad idea- just stuff it, he said, carefully.
I tried to wriggle the tube into the wheel, it really didn`t fit, it was full of kinks and i was positive they would keep it from inflating. I was wrong. It blew up perfectly.
One thing to keep in mind when doing this is that the tube may want to slip out and get pinched between the rim and the tire, and this, in Palo`s put-on gringo drawl, "no es bhwehno."
The way to avoid it is put the tube in, tire on, and "massage" the tire back and forth perpindicular to the rim. Like you would your lover`s feet.
The next challenge was that the hub and all of its accoutrements did not fit into the fork. Oy.
I really just wanted to replace a single nut on the bolt, but in the process of its removal i discovered some other problems with the innards and went for a full dismantle. When finally cleaned and re-greased i attempted to put it back together. I hadn`t been that careful about noting its postions, but so far these things are fairly straightforward- pieces that look like they fit together do. However, this was not the case this time. Several attempts and variations on construction proved futile. Finally i put the thing together minus two particular pieces, it spun beautifully, i couldn`t even tell the difference. I was about to go forward and i thought, no, do it right. You need to learn how this stuff actually works. So i waited for Palo, who turned out to be Carlos.
"Da me cinco cervezas!" joked Carlos, laughing in his gotcha kind of way. (translation- give me five beers) Carlos took what i had struggled with for over a half an hour and put it together in a way that it just worked. Of course it all looked very easy and straightforward under his hands. Honestly, i don`t know if i can even recreate what he did, but it was good to know that it was possible. And knowing is half the battle.
Once back together with a smaller nut, i stuck the wheel onto the fork- it fit perfectly. I tried to spin the chain onto the gear, but it wouldn`t. The gear which i had mistaken for fixed, was most definitely not. I`ll weld it. Done.
Back to the bike, try to spin the chain on, won`t go. So so tight. What is going on? I`ve got my concentration on the wheel, where the problem was not. When i look up its staring me right in the face. The wonky chain ring attachment that never looked quite right now looks very wrong.
At this point i acknowledged my 80 perecent frustration level and left it for the night. Really i`ll leave it for a few nights. There`s more important stuff to do.
A couple days ago i was wandering down our street and i saw an open door with a man sewing inside. Palo had told me that he knew the local tailor and commisioned him to make a saddle bag. He also said he had an amazing porfolio of work that he had done in the states- vampire costumes or something. As a hobby tailor myself, i was really curious to see what he was up to.
The man that i met was Adelso, a very friendly man with about as much english as i have spanish. Turns out, he worked in Albany for a while, and Hudson too- places i´d been hanging out in only a few months earlier. Small world. (Courtesy of fossil fuels).
He had several singers floating around, one with a motor attached and this one totally foot-reliant. I got pretty excited about it and he offered to sell it to me. I would love to put money into the Guatemalan economy and Adelso could definitely use the money, i´m just not sure it makes sense to try to lug a singer all the way back to the states. I´m tempted though.
It turns out he is not the only tailor in town, there is also his brother Jose Luis. The two of them have worked in the states for a variety of companies. I get the sense that Jose Luis is the more adept of the two, it sounds like his US fashion-scene experience is significantly greater than his brother´s- though Adelso was very clear that he can do anything his brother can.
I flipped through the booklets of the places where Jose Luis worked, the stuff was really impressive. I haven´t seen anyhting that he´s actually made, but he claims that he can make, and has made, everything in the catalogs he showed me.
Here´s some of it- This model reminds me a lot of my friend Alexa, She´s got some pretty sweet model shots i wish i could put up for comparison.
Apparently this model only looks good while scowling in her grandpa´s glasses.
And the crazy vampire stuff
Palo seemed to be particularly into this corporate vampire suit. I love the pale models they found for this catalog. I´d guess they are all actually into the whole vampire thing.
Jose Luis and Adelso are very interested in showing their designs to American companies. They asked me if i would be willing to do this for them, I told them that i don´t know any companies, but i can look for them while i´m in philly and see what i can come up with. I told them that i would post pictures of their designs on Flickr so that people could check them out, and that i´d be happy to try to facilitate some business deals. Here´s the website:
Their idea is to take these high end designs and use traditional Guatemalan fabrics to create them. It will be interesting to see how the designs translate with Guatemalan textiles. They told me they would make a few garments from each catalog and send them home with me. It sounds like a lot, but these are pretty motivated guys. I´m really excited to be helping them out.
Maya Pedal is an organization located in San Andreas Itzapa, Guatemala that designs and fabricates bici-maquinas (bike machines) for distribution to rural Guatemalan farmers and workers. The mission of the organization is to "contribute to the conservation of the environment, the health of the Guatemalan people and the productivity of the local economy."
Its a terrific place to volunteer at- we highly recommend it! To find out more about volunteering, please contact one of us. Our emails are listed below.
You can also visit their website for more information: