Guatemala Part 1

We arrived in Antigua, Guatemala after a long day of travel. We had to wander around our hotel to figure out how to get to our room, and even though I was tired, I could see the beauty in it. The building used to be a convent, and that was easy to see, as the architecture and the greenery were spectacular. The next day we went around and looked at the ruins area of the hotel, which were pretty cool. They even had a little chocolate shop and a little candle shop. We later went back and bought some chocolates as gifts for people. Fun!

Later that night we went to dinner with a view of the volcano, which was an awesome thing to see while having a meal. We had a very cool conversation there, about me learning Spanish, my plans for the future, and over world history. I learned about as much Spanish in Guatemala as I did in Argentina 2 years ago, mainly because I’m finally ready for it and I’m making the effort. By listening in to strangers’ conversations and by taking the opportunity to read things like signs and menus, I’m learning how the language is used, deriving meaning not from translating but by examples. I’ve gotten a tiny bit closer to fluency. And I hope to get all the way there during my gap year between high school and college. Guatemala’s only the beginning. I have huge goals and I’m going to accomplish them all.

The South African Excursion, Part 1: The First People

It was early in the morning, with the first rays of daylight shining through the window, and the family and I were packing our bags. Dad had something truly special planned: a 5-day road trip through the South African countryside. On the first day, we reached a special place in the middle of the wilderness: South Africa’s San cultural center. The San are a culture native to South Africa (as well as most of its Southern African neighbors) and are as old as humanity.

We learned that they would have beautiful and entrancing dances and the village campfire to contact the gods. We learned that they would kill eland with poisoned arrows and then pray to the gods for their wonderful gift. We learned that they carried water for hunting trips in hollowed-out ostrich eggs and that they would return the shards of a broken water canteen to the village’s women so they could make jewelry. They cooked using tortoise shells, and they used hollow sticks with frizzled ends to drink water. It was amazing to see how they efficiently used the resources of their surrounding environment, and it was fascinating to see how their tools match ours despite not having the technology we’ve built our lives around.

Most San have assimilated into cities in their home country, but there still are San groups in Namibia and Botswana who live traditionally, who live the same way they have for the past 200,000 years. Despite hardships from the introduction of the Xhosa, the Zulu, the Portuguese, the Dutch (who later became the Afrikaaners), and the English to South Africa, the San have survived, but their culture is still recovering from the decades of Apartheid in which black South African culture and language was horribly suppressed. I encourage you to learn about their culture. Because it would be such a shame if we forgot our roots.

GIASCO Fundraiser

In 2015, when I was in Uganda, I met the GIASCO boys. Now, the organization that supports them is in trouble. Uganda’s under lockdown, like us, and food prices are way up. Also, many of their fundraisers have been canceled, so they’re having a hard time raising the money they need to support the boys. With your help through this online fundraiser we’ve created, we can support GIASCO and the boys through the months to come.

Will you join us in helping them? Together we can make a huge difference in the lives of these kids!

Watch this video I did with my mom giving more information:

The Scars Argentina Wears

Weekly march for the disappeared victims of the dictatorship

Argentina, just like any other place, is not all happy. There are sad things in its history, too. From 1976 to 1984 the country was ruled by a rightward-leaning military dictatorship, backed by the U.S. It disappeared people, taking them, killing them in secret through various means. It also banned some books, as seen by markings on the card catalog at one memorial. This memorial that we saw was beautiful, but also sad. It had the names of what seemed to be thousands of people, people who’d been disappeared. These were just some of the 30,000 people that were killed by the military dictatorship during its reign.

It wasn’t uncommon for the people taken to be tortured before being killed. Any name they said is another person who would be tortured and killed. Age didn’t seem to matter, and neither did whether or not they were innocent.

Thankfully, the dictatorship fell. One of the things that led to its fall was a group of mothers who would storm the Plaza de Mayo, right in front of the home of the leaders and spend all day banging on pots and pans. Some of them were arrested in the shadows, but opening fire on a group of unarmed, desperate mothers was a line that the dictatorship was not willing to cross. This group’s headquarters was in the center of the city, near what is now congress, and it featured pictures of some who inspired them. Some portraits were of people who fought in a peacefully way for equality, like Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela. Some people portrayed there were a little more radical, such as Fidel Castro, Karl Marx, or Vladimir Lenin. Obviously there were some more open to communism because of the right-leaning, horrible military dictatorship.

Energetic Empanadas

One night in Buenos Aires, mom, Lexi, and I went to an empanada cooking class, since I just loved them so much and they are a very traditional food in Argentina. We were shown the traditional style empanada, stuffed with onion, cubed beef, boiled egg, and olives, and helped make some ourselves.

The hosts, Adrian and Marcelo, fixed the ingredients to be stuffed inside themselves, then we took a break and had some snacks in an Argentine fashion. We talked about some of the politics of the country, and then finished making the empanadas. We put the ingredients in the dough and folded it, then one of our hosts fried it in sunflower oil, and voila! Perfect empanadas. They tasted pretty good, too.

Getting home from the class was somewhat disastrous, as the trains stopped halfway through, but we managed. Turns out the buses weren’t a bad transportation choice.

Empanada Recipe:

To prepare the dough:
Wheat flour
¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt
1/4 butter
1 egg
¼ to ½ cup of water (Add the amount needed until the dough is smooth)
Roll 6" discs to about 1/4" thickness
To prepare the filling:

1/2 kg Rump Beef, Cubbed
1 Bunch green onion (4 or 5 seddlings)
2 common onions
4tbsp oil
3 hard-boiled eggs
To Taste: cumin, salt, sweet paprika and olives

1) Cut the onions into small cubes.
2) Place oil in a bowl, add onions, coat and cook until tender.
3) Add meat, mix it with the onions and cook until golden, avoiding drying.
4) Add salt, cumin, sweet paprika, and mix.
Turn off the heat and add hard-boiled eggs, olives. Mix
5) Remove from heat and allow to cool.
6) Spoon filling into center of dough disc.
7) Moisten the edge of half the disc with water using your finger, fold in half, and pinch the edges together to close the empanada
8) Fry in a neutral oil (sunflower is best) until golden brown.
9) Enjoy!

Terrific Tango

One night in Argentina, my parents, Lexi, and I left for an exciting class about the wonderful art of Tango. The Tango dance had its roots in the late 19th century. Immigrants to Argentina would make songs about a few things, mostly homesickness. These songs eventually formed a dance, called the milonga, a dance centered around the embrace. Milonga slowly evolved into the tango dance we know today, with influence from Europe. This dance was taught to us in four forms, some easier to learn than others.

Learning to Tango

After a good couple hours mastering the dance (we’re not much better at it now than before we started) we had a traditional Argentine meal. Steaks and sausage and blood sausage were the food of the evening, as we talked with our hosts. Two of them, cousins, had Italian immigrants to Argentina in their ancestry, and the third was a Romanian woman who’d met her Argentinian husband while learning in a European dance school. After that amazing night, the group was taken to a tango place, while I was taken home and slept the night away. 

Amazing Argentina

The Devil’s Throat, as seen from Brazil

One Sunday in Argentina, a family friend from the U.S. by the name of Lexi joined us in the country. Our warm welcome was extended by walking around in the San Telmo artisan market for several hours. The market sprawled all around the neighborhood we were staying in, San Telmo. Staring at and buying jewelry was a common activity there. As if that wasn’t enough, we gave Lexi a grand tour of the city, including Plaza 7 de Julio, with a giant obelisk in the middle of it all. Sucked for me, but at least my mom and Lexi enjoyed the experience. 

The next weekend, we went north to see a waterfall in the jungle called Iguazu Falls. We saw the hundred plus waterfalls from a lot of different angles as there was a lot to see. On our first day, we took the longest hike possible and saw the biggest waterfall yet, a waterfall colored with white and green and yellow until it disappeared into the mist below. It was called “The Devil’s Throat”. The second day, we hiked two trails, one where we could easily see the top of the falls, and the other gave us a great view of the bottom of the falls. We crossed over for a day to the Brazil side for a better view on our third day. The Brazil side didn’t have a whole lot, just one trail that focused on a lookout point. The Brazil side also had a bird park, which wasn’t really all that packed. Well, it was sparse enough for us to walk around and actually enjoy the place. The bird park was made to protect endangered birds from the type of habitat around us. It had everything from flamingos to macaws. Well, we had a good time at Iguazu. If you went, you would too!

Amazing Amsterdam Part 1


The roller coaster started moving, and we plunged into darkness. The ride went around and around, slowly descending. Then it climbed up and descended again. Finally, it ascended, and we were back where we had started. Beforehand, we had ridden an incredibly goofy ride, which was kinda annoying, and a dizzying one that spun and spun and spun, and didn’t do much else. We ended with the Bobsled and an ice cream. The Bobsled was really fun, but the wait was long. We also went all over the park catching Pokémon, with the Pokémon Go app. We even caught a female Niordian, which are really, really rare. It was pretty exciting.

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As you may already know, we are renting an apartment for 5 weeks. We got a good deal on it, so now we are here! Catching Pokémon on a daily basis! Our best is a Fearow at level 439. Isn’t that powerful?








We also saw the botanical gardens. It was dense with plants. It had a huge, spiky water lily the size of a bunk bed. I’m not kidding. Its huge pads looked as if you could step on them – of course, I didn’t want to find out the hard way. That would probably end up with me getting spiked to death. I wouldn’t want that.


Finally, we went to the palace and Rembrandt’s house. In the palace, we learned about the rulers. William III became the King of England, since England’s former king had died, not leaving any heirs. Luckily, William’s distant cousin took the throne. Soon, Dutch independence was recognized by the Spaniards, a whole 69 years after it had been declared! Not cool. Although, the Dutch still have a king to this date. Cool, huh?
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As I mentioned, we also went to the Rebrandt house. They had some of his artworks in there (mainly reproductions). They also had diverse and interesting items in a large display room. The whole house looked just as it had back in Rembrandt’s days. Click here if you want information on Rembrandt’s life. They had been able to do this, because Rembrandt had to sell everything he owned. Interesting, isn’t it?
A Short Biography of Rembrandt van Rijn:
After years of good money off of his paintings, and marrying his beloved Saskia, the mayor’s wealthy daughter, he bought a lovely little house right on a canal for 13,000 guilders (a lot of money!), but the money came from the bank, not his pockets. Instead of spending his money on mortgages, he spent it on purchasing exotic goods. His social life was no better. Saskia had lost three babies, and each loss tormented her health. Fortunately, Titus would survive infancy. It all ran down to 1642, a disaster year for Rembrandt. In June, Saskia passed away. Also, Rembrandt plunged into debt, everything he owned being sold away, but that still didn’t cover Rembrandt’s debt. Somewhere in the mess, Rembrandt remarried and had a girl, Cornelia. He and his two kids, 17-year-old Titus and 4-year-old Cornelia, moved into a smaller house, bankrupt. Rembrandt painted until he died, a poor man with nothing but his clothes and art supplies, at the age of 63.