Our couch-surfing host, Julio, led us to the water’s edge outside his home-town in Virginia, introducing us to the rather bizarre local attraction at Smith Mountain Lake. A number of years prior, thousands of carp began migrating to the Smith Mountain Dock and Lodge when locals and tourists began feeding the fish rather unusual treats. Where my experience fishing in Ontario, (Canada) as a little girl always involved the use of specialized equipment like fishing lines and tackle, never in my life had I thought to use salted popcorn as bate. Why did my grandfather spend all that money on expensive lures when all he needed was Orville Redenbachers?
For those of us who were raised in the 80’s, the movie, “The NeverEnding Story” contains some iconic images that have been burned into our brains for life. For me, the heroine of this tale was Atreyu’s mighty Luck-Dragon, Falcor. I had countless dreams as a child where me and my white dragon-dog were soaring high in the clouds, fighting evil doers the world abound. Tell me he wouldn’t be the best pet ever?! Remember that scene at the end of the movie when he was chasing the bullies through an ally in New York? I can think of a few people I wouldn’t mind hunting down with a flying dragon. Can you?
I never really expected to find an actual live creature, who embodies all of my deep seated dragon fantasies, while road-trippin’ across the USA. I am happy to report that I had the pleasure of meeting a real Luck-Dragon in the flesh. As it turns out he doesn’t actually have the ability to fly and he is neither dog, nor dragon, but man, is he ever cute!
Karina and I were making our way through Virginia down the famous Blue-Ridge Parkway when we decided to follow a sign that lead us to a little alpaca farm called Peaceful Heart Alpacas. The owner Linda was kind enough to give us our own private tour of her property, and she even introduced us to a friend of hers who made my dreams come true. Continue reading
The first article in the series devoted to the Lent celebrations of Antigua, Guatemala introduced the Velaciones, honouring the Catholic icons within their church home.
This week, I explored the concept of the alfombras or carpets created before each procession. These elaborate but temporary works of art are some of the most beautiful displays that can be observed colonial Antigua and the surrounding towns on a weekly basis throughout the 6 weeks of Lent.
I took to the streets to learn how the long-lasting tradition began and why it continues to be important for local people.
What are alfombras?
Alfombras are large hand-made carpets normally created out of brightly coloured sawdust, flowers and vegetation.
When are alfombras the created?
Alfombras are expressly created prior to the arrival of a procession. Depending on the hour the procession will pass, people may spend an entire sleepless night preparing the alfombra.
The bearers of the procession’s andas (the massive display platforms) will then carry the image of Christ and the Virgin Mary over the alfombra, completely destroying it.
Who makes each of the alfombras? Who covers the costs and labour?
On the second Friday of Lent, we joined thousand of people making the pilgrimage to a hilltop church outside of historic, colonial Antigua, Guatemala. The church was packed with wall-to-wall parishioners who came to honour the ‘Venerada Imagen de Jesús Nazareno, Aldea Santa Inés del Montepulciano.’ We were calmly sucked into continuous rotation of Guatemalans trying to reach the pulpit. The altar has been replaced by an exquisitely adorned handmade ‘carpet’ of coloured sawdust, flowers, fruits and vegetable, a cultural staple of Easter in Guatemala. Above the carpet, a nativity scene is set depicting a story from the bible. They come to pray, to ask for forgiveness and to give thanks. And they come to take pictures of the stunning display this year. (Changes every year)
So there I sat, unhappily crammed in the backseat of a toaster-like sedan with three medium to large sized odorous mutts, all of whom were tremendously excited about their pending car ride. I contemplated asking their owner how much RedBull he had given his dogs before unleashing them on my lap, but I resisted my urge for sarcasm. The dogs bounced happily from window to window, scratching my legs all to hell, while periodically slobbering on my face. In my books pain, doggy breath, all combined with unwanted kisses, are the perfect recipe for disaster. However, Karina and I were both ecstatic to have been offered a lift to our desired destination, so there was no room for complaints. Obviously the dogs did not sense my overwhelming distain for their species and in all fairness, they did reserve their seats before us so technically, they had first dibs on the window seat.
Our bank accounts had run completely dry and debt was now the vacuous black hole in our lives, from which there seemed no escape. We felt trapped, stagnant, confined to our daily routines and miserable that we were unable to afford a plane ticket anywhere. Without having the funds to seek out a far-off distance land, we postponed traveling through space, and opted instead to jettison through time, accepting a friend´s invitation to an 80’s themed costume party. We eagerly strapped on our leg-warmers, snap-bracelets, head-bands, high-top pumps and tacky eye make-up, all in preparation for our leap backward in time.
It took some serious creativity to design those ludicrous costumes and of course, a sense of self-confidence enabling us to enter a party filled with complete strangers, Karina proudly sporting her side ponytail and me, pleased to be rockin’ a gold leotard. As we were getting ready for our debut, I fully admit to spending 20 minutes working-out to Jane Fonda’s Let’s Get Physical exercise video on YouTube, which seemed to be the logical course of action given how I was dressed at the time. Sue me for getting lost in the moment!