Culture Shock! And The Sorry Complex – Hong Kong

Welcome to the new series that basically named itself! We’ve just landed in a new continent that is about to challenge us in completely new ways. Some will undoubtedly be intriguing and funny little things we’ll have to adjust to. Others will surely be frustrating or beyond comprehension. Finally, there will be cringe-worthy moments certain to have us questioning why we ever left the comforts of home in the first place.

Each article in the series is intended to be an opportunity to learn, grow and share. It is our collection of observations and information from the different cultures we visit from our subjective anthropological perspective. We never intend to shame or shed negativity on anyone else’s way of life. Wherever we can, we will do our best to understand and explain how to respect and behave in a given place. Though sometimes, we may only be able to share on what NOT to do, as we figure out life as a local through our embarrassing mistakes and faux paus moments.

Pandamonium! Arriving in Hong Kong -- Karina's Extraordinary Life

Pandamonium! Arriving in Hong Kong — Karina’s Extraordinary Life

Culture Shock! And The Sorry Complex

To kick off the series I definitely want to poke fun at one of the most famous stereotypes we deal with as Canadians. Most have heard the jokes, especially if you watch ‘How I Met Your Mother’, about how apologetic Canadian culture is. That’s saying it nicely I guess. Most jokes state that you could punch a Canadian in the face and spill their beer and said Canadian would apologize for running into your hand and offer to buy you a drink! I’d be willing to bet that has never happened, but to a certain degree, absolutely, we apologize for everything. It’s more of a reflex than a heartfelt “I’m sorry”, and most of us may not even think about it, but that absence of acknowledging that you may have possibly, in some minor way bothered, obstructed, touched or dismissed another person has become a very loud silence since we arrived in Hong Kong. Not once have I been apologized to for anything here! Not even when the airline lost my bags!

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It’s Never Too Late To Become An Explorer

Dad and I in the parque central. Antigua, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Dad and I in the parque central. Antigua, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Adventures with my Dad were always kept pretty close to home when I was little. He would often help me collect gardener snakes to wrap around my neck as I played about in the woods nearby our house. He sat me on his lap when I was 9 years old and taught me how to drive our family van. When he was doing small repairs on the roof of our house, if my mother wasn’t looking, he would allow me to join him. To this day I will never forget the rush brought on by the impending sense of danger, as I hung my legs over the eaves trough and stared down at my friends on the ground below.

From the beginning he always understood the adrenaline junky in me.

Now the tables have turned and I am the one introducing adventure into HIS life. For just over a week my Dad joined Karina and I on a wild excursion in the tropical jungle of Livingston and the Rio Dulce, followed by our exploration of Guatemalan traditions in Antigua. We had the time of our lives together and in order to showcase our little expedition I created a 3 minute video summary of my Dad’s very FIRST backpacking trip.

He is living proof that it’s never too late to become an explorer.

~ An Extraordinary Story by April Beresford ~

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A Child’s Perspective on Semana Santa: Collaborative Project in Antigua, Guatemala

Some of the kids were visibly nervous at the beginning. Antigua, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega
Karina, April and Alex document the childrens' stories during a collaborative project in Antigua, Guatemala. Photo by Kerstin Sabene

Karina, April and Alex document the childrens’ stories during a collaborative project in Antigua, Guatemala. Photo by Kerstin Sabene

The idea behind embarking on this journey around the world had always been that the world is full opportunity. To find it though, we must be completely open to it. I don’t mean searching through a job site. I mean doing what you are passionate about. For April and I, it is travelling, writing, filming, learning and experiencing local culture. Since our arrival in Antigua, Guatemala we have found so much support for our work featuring local places, people and events. We’ve already had our articles shared on huge social media platforms, been on television and networked with amazing people who respect and admire our choice to put our faith in the universe. Most recently, April and I were invited to partake in a collaborative project creating a traditional alfombra with local school children from Escuela Luis Mena. The project, a yearly tradition sponsored by George’s Travel Club, is intended to educate and encourage participation of children. It also gave us an opportunity to learn a new perspective on the activity, normally a labour of devotion, gratitude and penitence. (More on the cultural understanding of alfombras here.) We teamed up with talented videographer Alex Jones for a new channel called Antigua Cultural. The mini-documentary will feature a complete birth to death time-lapse video of this temporary work of art by the children, through the moment where the single anda Santa Ines procession carries Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary over the alfombra offering. We also had the opportunity to interview the children and their teacher, Alejandro, about the meaning of their project and get first-hand insight into how their young minds attribute significance to this beautiful tradition.

Sponsor George Sansoucy with Teacher Alejandro and his students. Antigua, Guatemala -- April Beresford

Sponsor George Sansoucy with Teacher Alejandro and his students. Antigua, Guatemala — April Beresford

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The Charm of Street Vendor Culture: Antigua, Guatemala transforms for Holy Week


In the weeks leading up to Semana Santa, entrepreneurs from all over Guatemala have been eagerly anticipating the explosion of local and foreign tourism that occurs in Antigua every year during the Lent celebrations. As the population rises in Antigua with each passing day, vendors flock to the city in search of potential customers. With nothing but a small pile of charcoal, a rusty grill and a slab of cast-iron, women begin preparing food in the streets. Over open fire they make fresh tortillas, grilled meats, guacamole, rice and beat-salads which they market to passers-by from the side of the road. Observing the incredible resourcefulness of Guatemalans is nothing short of impressive.  Small cash businesses seem to emerge overnight as vendors flood the streets marketing heaps of textiles, elaborate rosaries, small toy sized replicas of the cucuruchos, and of course, typical Guatemalan food and candy. Continue reading

Feliz Navidad: Christmas Tradition in Guatemala

Merry Christmas eCard 2014 -- by Karina Noriega

Merry Christmas eCard 2014 — by Karina Noriega

The very best holidays wishes from your most consistently absent best friends 🙂

One of the hardest cultural differences for me to accept when I first moved to Canada was the ludicrous idea that kids didn’t open presents until the morning of the 25th. I was instantly threatened. If I had been any younger I may have questioned Santa’s dedication to Canadian children. Continue reading

Mercado Tradicional – Guatemala

This week’s film spotlights our experience at a local market.
Come explore Guatemala City’s traditional mercado, “La Villa” and travel like a local.

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Watch our ‘Quema del Diablo’

A clip of our small and personal ‘Quema del Diablo’ with my grandmother.

Read the story here

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La Quema del Diablo

Burning the Devil -- Karina Noriega

Literally translated, it means ‘Burning of the Devil’.

Every December 7th since the time of the conquistadors, Guatemalans all over the country collect items representative of sin and evil to burn when the evening sets in. It is a deeply ingrained tradition with elements of superstition and religion that are typical of this country.

“Hay que sacar al Diablo!”

My grandmother tells me we must exile the Devil. Throughout the year he takes up residence in old, unused items and dusty corners of your home. ‘La Quema del Diablo’ represents the cleansing of one’s home and soul. A means to eradicate all the negative energies and bad karma in order to begin the a new year with good health, good luck and a renewed hope. It is spiritual purification.

Getting ready for Dia de la Quema del Diablo, Guatemala

Getting ready for Dia de la Quema del Diablo, Guatemala

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I challenge you to find a more beautiful and exciting Christmas tradition anywhere.

What I just observed is unrivalled by any city in any country in the world! Perched up high above the city lights I witnessed the heavens come to life. When 4 million people simultaneously set off firebombs across the night sky it is a delight for all your senses. The smoky sulfur fills you with joy. The streams of whistles, bangs and every decibel explosions from far and wide rattle you deep in your core. The colours and sparkles spread across the atmosphere eventually mingling with the bright lights from a valley of homes and streets. You feel the tingle of amazement and wonder too know that all the souls in this place are sharing this special moment. From every single level of society, the mansions high above to the slums deep below, everyone; man, woman and child is experiencing this spectacular display just the same. Continue reading