Sunday, November 02, 2008

Santiago Sacatepequez

Since I've hardly touched this blog in a while anyways, I've decided to rewind time to one year and one day ago. I was in Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala for a Day of the Dead festival. Here are some pictures from that day. 

Friday, October 03, 2008

You Betcha!

Thanks M. for passing this along. 

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Guatemala Trip: Part 1

I'm posting some emails I've sent about the trip so far so I when I come back, I don't have to recall everything I've done since I have short-term memory! Just come to this blog and read about it for yourself!

Oct. 25

Safe and sound in Antigua, a pretty colonial city 45 minutes from Guatemala City. Lots of students here to study Spanish for cheap. I have a cold! Snotty nose and everything, but other than that, everything´s good so far. Buenos Noches!


Oct. 27

Flight was good. Hiked up and over to an active volcano (Pacaya) yesterday, saw the lava flowing and was RIGHT THERE! Perfect weather for hiking, overcast and cool, yet nice. Someone on our tour brought along a pack of marshmallows and toasted them in the volcano fires, I got to eat one. No stitches this time, even though the volcanic rock was a lot sharper. Went dancing in a little club last night called La Casbah, danced to Reggaeton and House music.

Today, beautiful weather, clear skies and very warm. Taking a shuttle bus over to a town called Chichicastenango to get there a day early before their huge market on Sunday. Snotty nose is getting better.

- a

Oct. 29

Made it to Chichi. Small town, but with a huge market. Got there the night before to see it all set up and woke up early to see the place being transformed. Followed loud music in the street in the evening and we ended up at this little place where the locals give alcohol and money to a god called San Simon, or Maximo, a cigar-smoking, alcohol swigging deity. They invited us inside. 4 guys playing a large xylophone, two drunk guys dancing and several people in the small room eating and drinking. We gave them 10 quetzals, well, to Maximo, $1.25 total and they brought out dishes of rice, beans and beef , homemade tamales, a white drink and a shot of alcohol. It was really cool to see. We were the only non-locals there.

Market was great, the main church, a beautiful white building, is where they have shamans burning incense, piles of flowers and a ton of people resting on the stairs leading up to it. Hills like San Francisco. Mayan women all in their traditional, colorful skirts and shirts. They carry loads of things on their heads and there´s an area where they sell live chickens and roosters.

Then we took chicken buses (local buses) crammed full of people over to Fuentes Georginas, a natural hot spring place set in a jungle-like setting. The ride up there was gorgeous, right at sunset with valleys and mountains all around. It was great because we got there just in time for dinner and then had all of the hot spring pools to ourselves for the night since only people who are staying there can use them in the evening. Not sulphorous smelling at all, and we stayed in a rustic cabin there with a wood fireplace. Stopped in a town called Zunil briefly, a very authentic Guatemalan town set in the valley, and then on to Panajachel, just got here tonight.

It´s a touristy, yet cute town right on the shore of Lake Atitlan, considered by many to be the most beautiful lake in the world!

- aubrey


Nov. 2

So my $400 digital pocket camera was stolen (we think) at the hot springs place... I'm so bummed about that!

When we arrived to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, we took a boat over to the lakeside village of San Marcos La Laguna. A very small village with a very hippie vibe. There are holistic centers, massages, tarot readings and so on. We stayed the night there in a cool hotel, like a big cozy cabin. Went kayaking on the lake in the morning and then back to Antigua. We are planning on returning to the lake at the end of the trip.

Woke up early the next morning for this big kite festival in a nearby town's cemetery. It was Day of the Dead. The town's called Santiago Sacapatequez. The kites are handmade of bamboo and colorful tissue paper and there were some as tall as 3 stories high. A lot of the kites were crashing to the ground too, and then everyone would run or get hit by a kite. It was a spectacle! The streets were filled with vendors, games and taco stands. Rode on the rickety ferris wheel there too, pretty scary, but very fun since it was going fast.

Woke up this morning to catch a 4am shuttle bus to Copan, Honduras, a 5 hour ride away. We went and saw the Copan Ruins today, the remains of a big Mayan city. There were colorful macaws and weird creatures that looked like giant, tail-less rats, but cuter, at the entrance to the ruins.

Tomorrow we are taking a bus over to the beaches of Honduras on the Carribbean side.

- aubrey

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Going to Guatemala!

I had a trip all planned out…for Mexico. I was going to go on my first solo trip, stay in the lovely town of Oaxaca, take day trips from there to visit the ruins of Monte Alban and the surrounding villages, take cooking classes in the “land of the seven moles,” try grilled grasshoppers, drink mezcal, stay in hostels that I had pre-booked and catch a bus down to the beach.

I was planning the trip around the Dia de los Muertos festivities. I wanted to see the elaborate altars and cemeteries covered in candles and offerings. I wanted to capture on camera the haunting visions that I had imagined would appear to me.

There were signs everywhere telling me to go to Oaxaca, a city that I had never even heard of before (but apparently it’s been in the news within the past year or so because of teachers’ union strikes…shows how often I read the news…and it’s pronounced “wa-HAH-kah,” by the way):

I was at Safeway to pick up a sub sandwich and a small display of smoky Oaxacan sauce was on sale for a dollar in the corner of the counter. I bought two. I opened up my University of Miami School of Communications newsletter and a photo of my teacher from the one photography class I ever took (yes, I got an A) had a caption next to her saying that she had just come back from being an editor at a National Geographic photo workshop in Oaxaca. Okay, well there were only two signs…but I couldn’t get the thought of the place out of my mind.

I spent weeks reading through guidebooks and researching online. I had racked up enough miles for a free plane ticket through Continental and I was ready to book it. But THEN I figured out that my miles would also take me to Central America. So I decided that I HAD to go to Guatemala instead. After hearing of my roommate’s wonderful time there and reading up on it a little, I knew I would get there soon, but I didn’t think it would be THIS soon.

So my friend who was considering going to Mexico with me suddenly received an e-mail from me saying:

“Forget Mexico, come to Guatemala!!! I just realized that my plane ticket will take me to Central America too (and the Carribbean or Hawaii/Alaska). I already have some awesome places picked out along the shores of Lake Atitlan, considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world (a trio of volcanoes make for a great backdrop) - but you probably already know that. Villages surround the whole lake and you can take boats or hike along the shores to different ones, and each village has a different vibe. Guatemalans also celebrate Day of the Dead...and on Nov. 1 there's this great kite festival in one of the towns closer to Guatemala City. I REALLY want to go here! Come on!!!”

My friend then sent me a link to all-inclusive resort deals in the Caribbean.

I thought…hmmm…the Caribbean would be nice, and considered it for about two seconds. Soon after we put plane tickets on hold and we were potentially booked for a 10-day trip to Guatemala.

But then I read on Lonely Planet online about flooding throughout the country.

And then I went to and looked up various cities and there was a 60% chance of rain every day during that timeframe throughout Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

And then I panicked and proposed other options in a frantic e-mail including a week in Bali (I even called up a travel agency to get specific details about their RED HOT deal they advertised online) or a shorter jaunt across the Pacific to Hawaii.

I eventually posted to the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum to see how the floods were affecting things in Guatemala and got reassuring responses. So we booked the tickets for a 10-day trip.

BUT…my friend JUST found out that a project at work is finished. So we JUST turned it into a 3-week trip.

Instead of exploring only the Western Highlands, we have time to crisscross our way across the country. The ruins of Tikal, crowded and colorful markets, the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey, bat caves near Lanquin, the mesmerizing region of the Ixil Triangle, breathtaking hikes around Xela, mysterious Lake Atitlan and more await!

The tickets are booked - there’s no backing out now. The dates are set: October 25th-November 15th.

Now I’ve found someone to come with me on my former “first solo trip.” Now instead of having everything mapped out, I’m going with the flow.

So what happens when you suddenly change your plans and ignore the signs, however small they may be?

We’ll see…after all…“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Monday, October 08, 2007

Take My Breath Away - Class of '87

Red, Gold and Greeeeeen

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

I Got Asian Barbie...and Cruella de Vil

Jen's Blinging it Back

The School Mascot

With Corey Haim, a.k.a Frenchy #1

Belting Out the Best of the 80s

Pretty in Pink and Pearls

A Little Tipsy and a Whole Lotta Tulle

...And it's not even Halloween yet...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Paint: The Next Rogaine

I was reading "A Longtime Shepard of Korean Fashion”, a New York Times article that chronicles the rise and longevity of Andre Kim, South Korea’s most famous designer.

He’s known for his evening and wedding gown collections, his white space suit, thick makeup and painted on “hair.”

I wanted a closer look at Andre Kim’s painted head, so I Google Image searched the designer, which led me to this Yangpa article: “Andre Kim’s Revolutionary New Cure for Baldness: Paint”.

Browse around the Yangpa site. It’s pretty funny. And buy stock in Sherwin-Williams.

Here's the article for those of you not registered with the Times:

The Saturday Profile
A Longtime Shepherd of Korean Fashion

Published: September 15, 2007 SABUK, South Korea

ANDRE KIM’S fashion show on a recent Saturday evening ended, as his shows always do, with wedding gowns and “Ave Maria.” The models then all lined up on the outdoor stage to summon Mr. Kim, who appeared on the runway, triumphantly, in his trademark all-white space suit.

It was another successful show for Mr. Kim, 72, still South Korea’s most famous and powerful fashion designer, some four decades after he made Western dress popular among Korean women. An instantly recognizable cultural icon because of the futuristic suit he has chosen to wear for 30 years, and a favorite of consumers and comedians alike, Mr. Kim threatened to overshadow his own collection.

The applause continued. After bowing several times, Mr. Kim stepped off the stage and shook hands with the Koreans and foreigners sitting in the front rows. But he was hardly done for the day. He and his entourage had left Seoul in the morning and arrived here in this former coal mining town, now a gambling resort with Las Vegas-style hotels, after a three-hour drive across the peninsula.

“Pardon me, pardon me, I must leave immediately,” Mr. Kim, famous for working seven days a week, said in English. “I have work in Seoul early tomorrow morning.”

With that, Mr. Kim began making his way through the crowds. His suit’s baggy pants made a rapid swishing sound. People grabbed their camera phones, some not fast enough. Mr. Kim, like some costumed superhero, had already disappeared in the late summer evening’s darkness.

SUCH is Mr. Kim’s power that everyone from the most sought-after actresses to the wives of ambassadors posted to South Korea have modeled in his shows. In recent years, he has lent the Andre Kim brand to cosmetics, sunglasses, golf equipment and interior design, as well as washing machines, refrigerators and other home appliances manufactured by Samsung.

But it is the clothes — usually baroque, in bright, bold colors, with Byzantine or Renaissance motifs — that have made Mr. Kim. They exude a Western sensibility, sometimes loudly, as with his collection of dresses featuring prints of paintings by Rubens, Ingres, Michelangelo and Raphael.

“Fashion should portray grace, intellectual and artistic beauty, youthful energy,” Mr. Kim said. “Not too classic. I don’t like ‘old.’ Even though I was born in 1935, I don’t feel my age. I feel like a teenager who is 10 or 15 or 20 years old — fairy tale, fantasy, young and brilliant.”

In the early 1960s, when Mr. Kim began designing, the country was still recovering from the Korean War, information from abroad was scarce and very few Korean women wore Western-style clothing.

Yang Sook-hi, a professor of textile and clothing design at Sookmyung Women’s University, said that while female fashion designers also took up Western fashion in the early 1960s, Mr. Kim popularized it through fashion shows and the mass media.

“Andre Kim contributed in a way that greatly appealed to the general public, and he was very proactive in this,” Ms. Yang said. “He became known to all South Koreans.”

Although Mr. Kim grew up in a farming village outside Seoul, his earliest memories revolve around clothes. During Japan’s colonial rule, he said, he remembers hearing of privileged Korean women, called modern women, coming back from Japan dressed in the Western fashion already popular there. When he was in kindergarten, he remembers, he was deeply impressed by the sight of a bride during a village wedding.

“Since an early age I was into art,” he said. “I started by painting landscapes, but then I started to draw Western dresses as if I were dressing women. But the reality at the time was that women were still wearing traditional Korean dresses.”

Before anyone else here did, Mr. Kim also grasped the importance of creating an image — in his case, one that dovetailed with a domestic longing for the West’s imagined luxury and sophistication. He started by jettisoning his first name, Bong-nam. At the suggestion of a friend in the French Embassy, he reinvented himself as Andre, which sounded “poetic” to him. He sprinkled English words — “elegance,” “romanticism,” “fantasy,” “intellectual” — into every other sentence.

“I love the Oxford accent — it is very dignified,” Mr. Kim said. “I love America very much, the citizens, the government, the politics, the culture. But I love the Oxford accent. I feel it’s more intellectual.”

Over time, an Andre Kim dress became part of the closet of many well-dressed women here. Mr. Kim was invited to design the dresses for the Miss Universe pageant. He received cultural awards in Europe.

“I grew tremendously,” Mr. Kim said, “in line with the South Korean society and economy.”

EVEN as his dresses changed with each new collection, though, Mr. Kim settled on the white space suit for himself.

“I used to wear regular tailored suits until 30 years ago,” Mr. Kim said. “But because I don’t exercise, there came a time when I could no longer wear tailored suits in a way that satisfied the style. The suit I designed is not only futuristic, but it covers the figure I lost by not exercising.”

He keeps more than 100 copies of the suit, changing two or three times a day. The white space suit has become a fixture of every important social event, where he invariably occupies the best seat or table. Only the ever thicker makeup on Mr. Kim’s face, and the thinning hair he covered by painting his head boldly in black, betrayed the passage of time.

Yet, as South Korea opened up in the 1980s, Andre Kim seemed, especially to the young, a vestige of a long-vanished country.

On top of that, a few years ago Mr. Kim was forced to reveal his real first name, Bong-nam, in a court appearance. Many howled that the man known as “Andre” actually had a name that sounded old-fashioned and country-like.

Mr. Kim was unfazed.

“When I watch television and see comedians mimicking me, I feel embarrassed,” he said. “But when I go out and meet the public, I’m popular. People ask for my autograph. They take photos of me or together with them. I see that as the public’s love for me.”

Su-hyun Lee contributed reporting from Seoul, South

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dreamy Lunar Eclipse

Take a nap RIGHT NOW, even if you’re at work. Start drinking espresso around midnight and then scout out a place to watch the total lunar eclipse, which begins at 12:52 am PDT, August 28, 2007. We West Coasters will have the best view in the world so when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, don’t let it pass you by. You probably won’t notice anything spectacular until the visible change in colors occurs at 2:52 am PDT. The metamorphoses will then last for 90 minutes. During this time, the moon will turn from gray to sunset-red. So grab a bottle of wine, and drink to the moon.