5 Superfoods You?ll Find in the Antigua Market (and how to use them!)

One the best reasons for living in Guatemala is the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. The local market or ?Mercado? is packed with delicious, cheap produce, including a number of superfoods.

1. Chia Seeds

chia seeds guatemala
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These tiny seeds are packed with nutrition. Just one ounce of chia seeds has 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and a whopping 5 grams of Omega-3 fats. They?re also great sources of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and calcium.

Chia has been shown to lower blood pressure and help stabilize blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics. Legend has it that Mayas used chia to improve their performance.

Where to Find Chia: Head into the interior of the Antigua market and look for vendors with bags of spices and grains. Ask for ?chan.?

How to Use Chia: Guatemalans mix chia with water and lime juice for a refreshing drink. You can also mix the seeds into a smoothie, oatmeal or add them to baking. I’ve even used them to make “pudding” by mixing a couple of tablespoons into half a cup of milk, adding cocoa and sweetener and letting it sit overnight in the fridge.

2. Spinach

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Boring as it may sound, spinach is such an awesome superfood that it has to be mentioned here. Like all leafy dark greens, spinach is high in antioxidants and iron. It?s also full of magnesium, potassium and calcium.

Where to Find Spinach: In the center of the interior market in Antigua, you?ll find huge tables full of vegetables. Ask for ?espinaca.?

How to Use Spinach: Wash your spinach carefully, since it can harbor bacteria, then make a simple salad. You can also wilt it with garlic or toss a couple of handfuls into a blender with some fruit and yogurt for a delicious green smoothie. I often saute it with a little olive oil and garlic.

3. Ginger

ginger root in antigua
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Fresh ginger root is great for your digestion and can reduce flatulence. It also suppresses the appetite, boosts circulation and reduces nausea. It also adds great flavor to many dishes. A little ginger added to your soup works as a decongestant if you have a cold. If you need a boost in your love life, it?s also an aphrodisiac.

Where to Find Ginger: Inside the Antigua market, look for any large vegetable booth or a stand with dried spices. Ask for ?jengibre.? You?ll be given a fresh root, which is sold by the pound.

How to Use Ginger: You can peel and grate your ginger root into any dish that needs a little extra zing. It also makes a delicious tea when sliced, boiled, and sweetened with a little raw honey. You might want to try your hand at making homemade ginger beer or candied ginger, too. I use it in stir-fries.

4. Coconut

coconuts in guatemala
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Coconut is low carb, but high in fat and great for those who suffer from malnutrition. Eating coconut helps kill off fungi, viruses and yeast in the body and it even prevents tooth decay. Fresh coconut is useful in preventing high blood sugar and strokes, as well.

Where to Find Coconut: Follow the road through the market to the very back where you?ll see a pile of coconuts. Ask for ?un coco entero? to get a whole, peeled coconut with the water inside.

How to Use Coconut: You can also include the tasty flesh in both savory and sweet dishes, make your own coconut milk or cream, or grate it to use in baking.

5. Papaya

papaya in guatemala
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Papaya contains large amounts of Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as antioxidants. It?s also very low calorie, making it a terrific snack. If you?re diabetic, papaya is one of the best fruits you can eat.

The seeds are also supposed to be good for parasites. Blend them into a smoothie to get them down, since they are rather peppery!

Where to Find Papaya: The fruit vendors at the back of the market (follow the road through the market and around to the very back) sell papayas.

How to Use Papaya: Guatemalans squeeze a lime over the fruit before eating it, but you can also use it in smoothies and salads. I’m not a fan, so I generally hide it in a smoothie.

What’s your favorite Antigua market superfood find?

The Bagel Invasion

In the whirlwind of negative stuff that is happening around here lately, (far more than just the Guate-Publications thing) I’ve been baking up a storm, which resulted in a rather funny story.

I’d run out of yeast, so Irving bought me another bag. The first time I used it was to make some whole wheat bread and the kids and I ended up watching this stuff bubble and grow like a crazy alien lifeform. It was amazing. And very, very active. The bread turned out beautifully and I was thrilled.

The other day, I got an order for two dozen bagels and set to work making them. The first batch came out so incredibly puffy that they were more buns than bagels! I thought maybe I had let the dough rise too much or hadn’t put in enough flour. So I made some more.

They came out the same way! I was getting frustrated, since it was after midnight and I still had a bunch of writing to do. Making bagels is somewhat time consuming, of course, so I wasn’t getting a lot of writing done.

I chatted with my sister who suggested that I should try halving the yeast since it was so darn active. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

So, I cut the yeast by half and presto! Perfect bagels. I whipped up the rest of them and got to bed by 1:30.

The end result was a whopping 35 bagels that were so unlike bagels they couldn’t be sold. On the plus side, we have lunch for the next week!

Enemy Mine

I’ve recently added to my collection a brand new enemy here in Guatemala. The funny thing is that every single person that has turned out to be a real enemy here was the one who started it. I mean, sure, I consider my MIL to be an enemy and we fight quite often, but that is mutual. These other people . . . they’re just mad that I noticed they were doing something wrong and decided to make life hell.

The guy at Veridas was a good example. “Meg” was another. Apparently you’re supposed to just take what people dish out and ignore the wrongs being done if you want to live peacefully.

This latest debacle involves a rather tantrum-prone man who has threatened me with multiple lawsuits, including one for slander (which, as it turns out, isn’t even legal). He’s called me out publicly on his website, sent me scathingly irate emails, including one that simply said, “Your bipolar” (spelling his, not mine).

What caused this decision to destroy my reputation across Guatemala? Well, see, I did some work for him and he didn’t pay me. Wait, what? HE didn’t pay me and he’s angry about that? Yup.

Not only did he not pay me, he didn’t pay a lot of writers. In fact, only ONE person was partially paid, in all of my investigations. I have spoken to these people, we’ve all had similar experiences. In every case, he hired people to write, then came up with a number of excuses as to why payment was not forthcoming. One woman was told that he forgot to put the check in the envelope (she didn’t get an envelope anyway). I was told that his kids were sick, which is a perfectly legit reason, but that stretched into multiple excuses and finally there was a mass email saying that we were basically all stupid idiots for fighting over a few hundred dollars.

Here’s the thing. When someone does work like this, they’re doing it to support their family. When they do that work, they are taking time away from other work. Work that pays. It may be a few hundred bucks, but it’s a living. And not getting paid means scrambling to find the money elsewhere to pay bills and feed children.

This guy has basically intimidated everyone with his threats of legal action and unpleasantries. His bluster and threats have gone a little too far, however and there is now an angry mob of expats, including more than a few who never worked with him, ready to make sure he doesn’t pull a stunt like this again. Unfortunately, we discovered that this isn’t the first scam he’s been involved in and he has himself a bit of a reputation both here and in the US.

So, if you see a job listing for an online or offline news writing job in Guatemala, run far, far away. If you see anything to do with a Joshua Schmidt, run far, far away. It’s just not worth the hassle. I may have been stupid enough to fall for the scam, along with about a dozen other people, but that doesn’t mean he gets to keep making fools of everyone.


Back to School

Weird title for January, huh? Well, here in Guatemala, the school year starts in January, so we do the same, though we do school year round. We took a month off for Christmas and New Year’s and our new year started yesterday.

Dorian is officially in Grade 4 and Dante in Grade 3. I find it really hard to believe that I have children in these grades! Dominic is doing some preschool and some kindergarten work at the moment.

To kick off the new school year, we sat down and worked out some learning goals for the new year. Some were practical. Dominic wants to learn to write his name, read all the letters and learn about police and firetrucks. Dante wants to learn origami, how to do story problems, read a chapter book and learn about Hawaii. Dorian would like to illustrate a story, learn to work with big numbers and learn about Africa and Egyptians.

However, some of their goals were kind of funny. For example, when I asked what they wanted to learn in Science, all three yelled, “Potions!” Dante and Dominic want to earn some money and Dorian would like to learn to cook lasagna. All three want to learn to swim. We are also apparently on track to get a bunny and another cat!

This year is all about practical things and timelines. We’re focusing heavily on history this year, but we’re also going to be working on skills for the future. I hope that by looking at the past, the boys will have a better idea of what they want in the future. Since they are both reading quite a bit now, we’re also doing a lot of that this year. I’ve been ordering books through The Book Depository, which ships free to Guatemala, plus we added a reading corner to their room.

Irving built the simple book rack and we found some cheap bean bags for the kids to sit in. With their books facing out like this, they spend a lot more time grabbing books to read. We also put a mini shelf by Dominic’s bed for his books.

Spanish Lessons Online

I love that my kids have grown up in a bilingual household. They speak English and Spanish fluently and are able to communicate their feelings easily with both languages. Even if you didn’t grow up with the benefit of speaking two languages, there are quite a few options available, including online lessons.

One of my teachers and a good friend is offering classes online. She’s pretty awesome and is the main reason I don’t speak like the street kids I picked my Spanish up from. She’s also a work at home mom of two. If you’re interested in learning Spanish, she offers both online classes and offline ones (if you’re in Guatemala), so there’s plenty of options!

Online classes run $8/hour and offline ones are $4/hour, but she’s offering a free trial, so you might want to take advantage of that!


Playing Games

One of the games that I got for the boys for Christmas was Spot It, a game that looked like it would be fun and had tons of great reviews. My sister brought it down after I had it sent to her house and I saved it for Christmas.

The game was much smaller than I expected, but it turned out to be just the right size for playing. Each round card has a bunch of images on it, in all different sizes. There are five different games you can play and everyone here has their favorite. Dante and I really enjoy The Poisoned Gift.

To play this game, you each get a card and the stack is turned upside down in the middle. You have to match an image from the middle to one of your opponent’s cards and then put the card from the middle on their stack. The person with the fewest cards at the end wins. You have to be quick and super observant!

What I like about this game is that kids can play it without needing to read or anything. It’s all visual. In fact, it would work in any language because of this, too. Plus, it forces you to think quickly and process the information rapidly. I suspect this is even more helpful for adults than kids.

We all enjoy playing. Irving and Dorian are particularly competitive. Dominic takes his time, but usually gets a few matches in and is thrilled with his lot. Dante and I are a tad slower, but we hold our own and even win sometimes!

There are a bunch of other versions of the game, too, which we might just have to try out!

Adios 2014 and Hello 2015

Last night, we bade 2014 farewell and moved on to the new year. I know it’s just another day in the long run, but I always get excited for a whole new year, brand-spanking and shiny. Call me silly, but I love coming up with goals and feeling like it’s a fresh start.

2014 wasn’t a bad year, but it wasn’t the best either. Irving was diagnosed with diabetes just before Christmas in 2013, so the early part of the year was spent trying to get his blood sugar levels under control. However, we did well with that and he has been pretty stable.

We started the year off with a number of financial setbacks that made me want to throw in the towel on writing and just get a real job. Toward the end of the year, however, things really started to pick up and I ended up working right through Christmas! In fact, I have four jobs as we speak, so that’s not bad at all.

Irving and I had a rocky start to the year, as well, but our relationship has strengthened drastically over the past months. It wasn’t easy, but then again, relationships never are, right? It takes some hard work to make it all happen.

Two of my sisters visited this year, which was pretty awesome. My bakery got off the ground. My brother-in-law, Melvin, got married on the 26th. So in the end, we finished up 2014 on a good note.

Now, here we are, on the first day of 2015 and I find myself eager to get this party started. Irving and I have big plans this year. My sister is getting married this year. Dorian is going into Grade 4 and Dante Grade 3. We plan to do a little traveling in Guatemala this year, if possible, and take more field trips with the boys.

I plan to take the bakery to the next level this year and Irving wants to start his carpentry business. There is no shortage of enthusiasm and entrepreneurship this year, for sure!

Of course, writing will still be a big part of my earning strategy, but I want to add more of my own books and increase my prices a little so I can take the higher quality jobs. That will also leave me more time to teach the boys. Hopefully in the new schoolroom, which we are working on over the next two months!

I’m sure there will be plenty of ups and downs in 2015, just like any year, but hopefully it will be good overall for everyone.

How is your year shaping up? Do you have any goals or do you think the whole thing is stupid?