How to buy a car in Guatemala.

Here’s how to buy a vehicle in Guatemala:

1. Find the vehicle you want.

First do your research to get a feel for what you need and what is quality.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I going to be in the mountains, the city, or where?
  2. Do I need a truck, 4×4, van, car, etc.
  3. How many people will I need to carry?

Here are some good resources to check or keep in mind:

  • Research
  • Key words:
    • Rodado = brought down from the U.S. (often had some sort of accident)
    • Agencia = made in or for Guatemala (often has speedometer in kilometers) (often valued higher than Rodado)
    • Tramitador = a person who helps with paperwork for various legal ranglings
    • Taller de mechanica = a mechanic shop
    • Frenos = brakes
    • Llantas = tires
    • Aciete = oil
    • Oxido = rust

Continue reading

How to Make Brown Sugar

My husband loves cookies, but most of his favorite recipes call for brown sugar. Here in Guatemala we haven’t found a good source for brown sugar that is like what we could get in the states. Oh, they have brown colored sugar that they sell in the Dispensa Familiar for about US$1.60 for a bag but it’s not the same. Recently, we discovered that we can make brown sugar on our own!

First you have to find molasses. We asked around and found two sources:
1) Guatemala City

There’s a little baking supply shop in San Cristobal in the shopping center located on the opposite side of the boulevard from Burger King/Cemaco. I don’t have the name right now, but I’ll try to add it later.

They charge by the pound for the molasses (about Q15/lb.) but that’ll make a bunch of brown sugar!
2) Quetzaltenango (Xela)

The Bake Shop is at 18 Av 1-40, Zone 3. Hours are 9am-6pm, Tuesday and Friday.

I’ve heard they have molasses but I don’t know the pricing.

Molasses and a cup of white sugar ready for combination!

Once you have your molasses on hand here’s the recipe:

1 cup of white sugar (non-sulfurized is best but you can use regular granulated sugar)

1 tablespoon of molasses

Mix these together. (You can add more or less of the molasses to have darker or lighter results.)

I found that the molasses kinda balls up in the sugar but a fork will mash it against the side of the bowl and mix it in really nicely!

Pour one tablespoon of molasses into one cup of sugar.

 

Use a fork or mixer to mash the molasses into the sugar until it is well mixed and fluffy!.

After you get the mix you like, store the fresh brown sugar in an airtight container, place on top of oatmeal, or mix up your next batch of cookies!

Fluffy new brown sugar on our oatmeal cereal breakfast!

 

I got this idea from Joy the Baker!

Speciality baby supplies in Guatemala

I found a place to get speciality baby supplies (including breast pumps) in Guatemala! They continually have a variety of products and can ship items across the country very quickly!

Check it out at Babby Place (sic) on Facebook and get the baby items you need! You can email them at babyplacegt@hotmail.com to request something if you don’t see it on their Facebook site.

After my baby was born at a natural childbirth clinic in Guatemala City, I found that I needed a breast pump and they’re not easy to find in Guatemala. Thanks to La Leche League leaders in Xela, I found out about Babby Place and was able to have a shipped to me in just a few days! I paid through a money transfer at a local BanRural Bank. Just be aware that the shipping is sent as a pay-on-delivery so it cost about Q40 to receive the package.

If you’re looking for a good connection to specialty baby products and you’re in Guatemala, give Babby Place a try.

Here’s another source of baby/kid supplies and accessories that I found in Guatemala City.

GPS maps for Guatemala

Driving in Guatemala with my GPS in action.

Getting around in Guatemala can be tough. Finding a good road map of the capital or this nation that is roughly the size of Tennessee is difficult as well. That’s where Global Positioning Systems (GPS) come in handy.
We have a Garmin Nuvi 1350 that has great maps of the U.S. but a very rough and, frankly, inaccurate base map that shows some highways in Guatemala but when I drive the highways the basemap proves to be , the highway . So, I went in search of GPS maps that I can download and I found a few options:

 

Guatemala Screen shot from GPSWORLDNET

I found a number of negative comments on GPS Travel Maps so I had to go with another option…GPS World Net and I’m very glad I did. They have maps for all of Central America, (though I have only tested the Guatemalan one). I have found GPS World Net’s GPS maps to be accurate and very useful in the field. Not only that, I once had a Garmin Nuvi that I had loaded the GPS World Net maps on but it disappeared.  I had downloaded my points to  Garmin’s Road Trip so I was able to save those!

 

I had already paid the $80 for the map specifically for my first Nuvi. I thought I’d have to re-purchase the map, but when I contacted GPS World Net they graciously provided me with the download of the map for my new Nuvi and it’s working great! Two thumbs up to GPSWorldNet.

 

Here are key reasons I like my Guatemalan GPS map:

  • Accurate maps of Guatemala City, Villages, and local roads.
  • Lots of local points already loaded (though more pool halls than I could ever want!)
  • Easy functionality with Garmin devices. (Just follow the simple instructions to load the map on the device!)
  • Maps function for Windows Symbian and Android as well as Garmin devices.

 

If you’re looking for a good map I recommend GPSWorldNet for all of Central America.

 

Polaroid’s Pogo Instant Printer

When I found out how much people in other countries enjoyed getting an actual print of themselves, I decided that I wanted a quick and easy way of printing images when I’m traveling or in a market. The Polaroid Instant Pogo Printer is a great and fun way to get prints of your favorite pictures when you’re on the go. (You can buy your own Pogo Printer here.)

With some tweaking, I got my iPhone 3GS to print images straight from the Camera Roll to my Pogo printer. Here’s a link on how to get your iPhone to print on the POGO using a free Dropbox account. Personally I use iBlueNova or Celeste’s Bluetooth File Sharing program to get a straight Bluetooth connection from my iPhone to my Pogo printer. I can’t print from every photo program, but when I save it to the Camera Roll it seems to work quite well.

At 18 to 23 cents apiece, the 2″x3″ prints (they double as stickers too) aren’t cheap, but the mobility of these ink-free prints are pretty great. The ZINK photo paper says that it expires, but I’ve read enough reviews that it doesn’t seem to make much difference whether it’s new or old.

I’m looking forward to using my rinter to get some nice prints to hand out in Guatemala. First, I need to find some good deals on Polaroid Zink Paper so I can keep this cool tool in my camera bag!

Note: Here’s an entry on how I’ve been using my printer in Guatemala at a special needs school!

 

US Citizen born in Guatemala = Paperwork

If you’re an expatriate and you’re having a baby in Guatemala, be ready for some paperwork. It takes work, but it’ll be worth it.

As new missionaries in this beautiful country, we moved to Guatemala while we were pregnant and started getting all the advice we could on what paperwork we needed for our baby. Here are some of the things we learned…

Step 1: Schedule a US Embassy appointment

If you’re anywhere within three months of the birth go to the US Embassy website and set up an appointment for a couple weeks after the due date.  (UPDATE: As of(May 2014 the US embassy in Guatemala  now only opens appointments about one month prior to the appointment date. So you’ll have to check in about a month ahead of the date you want.) These appointments fill up and it can be very difficult to get in if you don’t get something scheduled early. You can change it if you have to, but better to have the appointment scheduled than to find out you can’t get an appointment for two or three months after the baby  is born when you may be wanting to travel.

TIP: I think you could probably have your spouse sign up so you have two dates to chose from. Then just cancel the appointment you don’t want! Continue reading

International Health Insurance for Expatriates

We live abroad and we want international health insurance for our family. While companies that provide international health insurance are many, we wanted something that provided some key options:

  • Reasonably good coverage (of course!)
  • Maternity coverage
  • A track record of good service to customers (see reviews)
  • A high deductible option,
  • Coverage inside and outside the U.S.,
  • Inexpensive, money-saving rates

We searched around, talked to fellow expatriates and discovered some options. Below is a break down on what we found.

(UPDATE!) After reviewing a number of options, we chose to go with IMG  but after a good year and a half of using them they increased their costs for the maternity rider by some 60%. So we dropped them and switched to a Guatemalan insurance that includes coverage in the States for when we visit. Now we use Seguros GyT.

International insurance options we checked out:

 

 

Global Medical Insurance from IMG (International Medical Group) Continue reading

Residency papers for expatriates in Guatemala

As new missionaries in Guatemala, we needed to get our residency papers so we didn’t have to leave for Mexico every six months and still be legal in Guatemala. Here are some of the things we wish we had known when we were going through the paperwork process for residency after we moved to Guatemala.

U.S. Paperwork prep

Read on, but get the following papers together so you can impress your lawyer and get things moving quickly:

  • Complete copy of your passport
    • Yep, even the blank pages and the full cover
  • U.S. Embassy validated copy of passport at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala
    • WARNING: This may be the U.S. Embassy but validation takes time. Get there before 12 noon and you can probably get it at 2:30 that afternoon. Get there in the afternoon and you’ll have to go back the next day. Oh, and each validated copy will cost you US$50. They do accept credit cards if you don’t have the cash.
  • Criminal background check (This must be less than 6 months old when you turn it in and will require you to get things done in the U.S. so plan accordingly.)
  • These may not be necessary but are recommended to have ready:
    • Birth Certificates
    • Marriage Licenses
  • Legalize it all…

NOTE: If your US passport is going to expire in the next year, I recommend that you get to Guatemala and immediately apply for a passport renewal BEFORE you start this process. (It only takes about 10 days to get your new passport from the embassy.) I had to go back through part of the process since my passport expired shortly after we got the permanent visa stamp. Keep your old passport to show the entry date to the immigration office.

Guatemalan Residency Visa Options

According to our lawyer  and other sites there are three main long-term residency visa options (not including student, diplomatic, etc.) Since we just had our baby here in Guatemala, we opted for the Parents of Guatemalan child option. While others are available, I have listed three main options here: Continue reading

Natural childbirth in Guatemala

 

Chrisi at the Chichicastenango municipal sign

Pregnant and moving to Guatemala

On January 28th of 2011, we moved to Guatemala to serve as missionaries when we were six months pregnant (about 25 weeks) with our first son. We wanted to have our son naturally, and we very quickly found out that this would be a bit difficult. With C-section rates at 80% in the private hospitals in Guatemala, we realized that we needed an alternative in order to have the birth we wanted.

For months we’d been preparing, reading and learning about giving birth

Download a free book on Healthy pregnancy (52 Brilliant Ideas) from Amazon!
Other books we found helpful as we prepared for our little one are:

Ok, Back to Guatemal…we started checking our options. We were studying Spanish in Xela so we checked out an APROFAM public clinic that has a birthing center, but it still wasn’t what we were looking for.  We did have an ultrasound and bloodwork done at APROFAM and every thing was looking great!

BabyBjorn Travel Light

Preparations

In Xela we prepped the baby’s bed by buying 5-inch mattress foam and cutting it to fit inside our BABYBJÖRN Travel Crib. We used three pieces and had them covered with regular sheet material we had purchased at Megapaca. A sastre or sewing guy, made the mattress cases with a zipper for us so we can change them as needed. The new mattresses gave 15 inches of lift to the modified play pen so our baby would be at a bassinet level and we can lower it as he gets bigger. Continue reading

The midwife option for natural birth in Guatemala

 

 

Family at clinic

Centro De Parto Natural

While Mayan midwives or comadronas are common across the countryside of Guatemala, finding an English-speaking midwife in Guatemala can be difficult. As best as we can tell, we found the only American-trained, English-speaking midwife in Guatemala City when we found Hannah Friewald at the Centro De Parto Natural where she specializes in water births and has one of the only, if not the only, water birth centers in all of Central America.

Hannah’s Story

Initial newborn exam

Hannah is from Germany where home births are the norm. She has been around it her whole life and also speaks perfect English. She trained in the States through Maternidad La Luz in El Paso, Texas and is also certified in Guatemala (which can be an important thing if your international medical insurance only gives coverage for certified medical care).

Hannah has worked as a midwife for years and has attended some 1,400 births as of May 2011. She said that she has never lost a baby and even told of a couple breech babies she has delivered and some v-bac babies she has delivered, along with a couple emergency situations. She has delivered babies for the ambassadors of a couple different European countries here in Guatemala and seems to keep a full schedule. Continue reading