Handicrafts are a major industry in Guatemala
Saturday, December 26, 2009 - Puerto Quetzal (the port for Antigua), Guatemala.
We traveled about one hour on the Pan American Highway to our destination, a working coffee plantation. Our hosts (grandmother, son and two college student granddaughters) welcomed us to this 80 year old farm which they have owned for three years. . Located at about 4000 ft on one of Guatemala’s volcanic mountains the property was owned in the 1940’s by the then dictator of Guatemala.
The setting was beautiful, our hosts gracious but there was clear evidence that Guatemala is still a third world country. The house had an outdoor kitchen and the coffee cups we used were being hand washed by a worker. No dishwashing machines or subzero refrigerators anywhere in sight. In the living room, we were shown a current somewhat professionally produced video about the Guatemalan coffee industry. The television set was a very old 24 inch set.
Guatemala has been a democracy since mid/late 1990s. Today they have compulsory education to age 12 but still have a high national illiteracy rate.
Monday, December 28, 2009 - Puntarenas, Costa Rica
What a difference a few miles makes. Costa Rica compared
unorasted coffee bean
to Guatemala is night and day. One is a third world country working hard to education it’s new generations so they bring commercial agriculture, tourism and other enterprises to Guatemala. Costa Rica has museums, a health care system, an educated population, national parks, functioning commercial agriculture and developed tourism.
We have a political history lecturer on board who suggests one of the major explanations for these differences: At the end of the colonial era (about 100 years ago), Costa Rica’s early governments gave land grants thus creating small farmers and a soon to develop middle class. Guatemala on the other hand placed the political and economic power in a small elite group which spawned several generations of revolutions followed by new dictators.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - The Panama Canal
We woke up early this morning to a full moon illuminating our “waiting room”…. the Gulf of Panama. From our balcony we counted 16 ships also awaiting their turn to transit. We began our 52 mile journey about 7:30 am and complete it eight hours later. It seems odd to describe an eight hour 52 mile trip as exciting but even though a slow motion trek there
Coffee plants grow on hillsides sheltered by tall trees. Quite lovely.
is quite a lot of action.
On other trips we’ve made through the canal the locks have been full of ships. Today we were often in the locks without other ships in the neighboring slots. Thus far we’ve not found out if this is due to the world economy or merely the traffic of the day. We will be coming back through the canal on January 18 so perhaps we’ll have an answer by then.
Check us out January 18 on the Canal’s webcam: www.pancanal.com/eng/multimedia/index.html
On Board Entertainment-
There is a lot to keep us entertained on board but we think there have been two stand outs thus far. First was a James Bond Martini Party complete with Bond trivia and song/dance performance to many of the Bond theme songs.
The second was a dinner and lounge show for passengers who have cruised more than 100 days with line. The guest entertainers “The Unexpected Boys” (very Jersey Boys) will perform again on New Year’s Eve for all the passengers.
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