Antigua

Antigua is a beautiful little colonel town outside of Guatemala City - if you're going to stay anywhere in Guatemala on your first visit, definitely stay there! As I was based there for work I spent most of my time walking about in the evenings, but I did manage to snap a few photos of the craft market that is set up in the afternoons to sell locally-made goods. Well, almost all locally made - some bits and pieces I'm pretty sure are imported...

Antigua itself is all cobbled streets and beautifully coloured buildings. It's very touristy, but sometimes that's nice. Restaurants are easy to find and the town itself is easy to navigate, there's no chance of you getting lost and for me that's an added bonus as I'm always getting lost.

You still have to be guarded though, it may be a tourist town but we still witnessed the aftermath of a mugging and it did not look pretty. That's not to say it isn't safe, you just need to be careful. But there is tonnes of shopping to do and little bars to explore, I saw singes for an avocado martini that looked tempting... but sadly I never got the chance.

Happy One Year Anniversary Molly-Loo

nishaantishu

photo by Rory Wylie

Can you believe it’s been over a year since we brought Molly home? She’s such a big part of our everyday life that it’s impossible to imagine what we ever did without her.

I thought I would write a post about our experiences with rehoming and owning a dog in London, how we went about finding Molly and what our first year with her was like – both the ups and the downs.

We first decided to get a dog when our landlords offered us the option, we had both grown up with dogs and we missed having one in our lives, it just felt like the right time. We always knew we would get one and there didn't seem like much point in putting it off.

At first we tried Battersea Cat and Dog Home, who were really lovely, and we met so many fantastic dogs, but we couldn't find the right one for us. Either they were too young, or had too many behavioral issues for us to handle, or they were a bull breed mix which is banned in a lot of other countries (like Canada for example), or they would not be happy to be left for a few hours each day. Also, needless to say we decided a puppy was a bad idea because a) we knew puppies would easily be rehomed and we wanted to give an older dog a chance, and b) we couldn't possibly give a puppy the time it needs for care and training. We've both had puppies before and wow, they are hard work. We did try other rehoming charities but either they didn't have any suitable dogs or they were really unhelpful.

We did come close to finding our perfect dog a few times with Battersea and their amazing rehoming advisors, but each time we discovered something that meant the dog would have a hard time fitting into our home. The whole process is pretty heart-breaking but it was so important that we found a dog we could get on with, jumping into a decision could have been difficult for us, but disastrous for the dog. Having exhausted every rehoming organisation we could find, I decided I would try through Gumtree. I spent a couple hours each day searching for dogs to rehome and finally I came across Molly! I love poodle crosses and I couldn’t actually believe that we had found a labradoodle (which is a really popular and expensive breed) that needed rehoming. I was convinced there would be something really wrong with her because why would her owners be getting rid of a pedigree dog with papers? but we made an appointment to go and see her at her home in Lewisham anyway.

Meeting Molly for the first time was weird. She wouldn't let me touch her, and she would barely let Adam near her. When she did approach him she stayed about three feet away and her head and tail were tucked so far under that you could tell she was terrified. From what her previous owners said, it sounded like she lived very much at home all the time, spending most of her days in the kitchen and back garden.

She reminded me a lot of my first dog who was shy and under-socialised, in him this resulted in being aggressive with other dogs but he was from a puppy farm so that’s hardly surprising. I’m no expert in a lot of animal behavioral issues, but Molly’s were some that I was familiar with so we decided to give her a chance.

When we brought her home she was afraid of everything, she cried all the way home in the car and it nearly had me crying too. Even now, a year later, she’s still a bit nervous but has come into her personality so much. She didn't turn out to be aggressive, just very submissive. She can still be naughty and moody but she mostly just wants to be cuddled. We have a dog walker come in every week day who walks her for an hour minimum, most days she just keeps her out for as long as she’s able to. Our first dog walker charged £8 an hour and our new one charges £10, split between Adam and I we find it affordable.

Everyone always asks if we find her a burden or if we find our social lives restricted because we need to go home to walk her or feed her. Truthfully, we rarely ever find it a problem. And if we really need to be out we just ask the dog walker to stop by and take care of her – but this hardly ever happens. She has brought so much love into our lives, she gets us out into nature every day, and her goofiness is infections - all of which more than makes up for any time I'm forced to miss after work drinks.

We came to the conclusion that she very rarely went out in her previous home. She wasn't really leash trained and has no idea that cars need to be avoided. But on the bright side, it has been so amazing to see her run through the forest or on the beach for what we assume is the first time in her life. It’s hard to describe her overwhelmed excitement when she goes somewhere new. Where at first we could hardly get her in the car, now it’s hard to keep her out! Her old owners said she hadn't traveled in the car for about a year, and she was only two when we got her, so it did take some getting used to for her.

But I have to admit there are downsides. I would never recommend getting a dog off Gumtree. It didn't occur to me how stupid of an idea it was at the time, but now I look back I realise how lucky we were to end up with the dog that we did – even if it turned out we weren’t all that lucky. Molly came with a whole lot of medical issues. If you have a pet and they aren’t insured, run to Petplan, do it now! We of course asked her previous owners if Molly had any medical issues and they said no, and maybe she didn’t with them (although the number they gave us for her previous vets had no record of her ever having visited their practice), but a few months after we brought her home she was SO ill to the point that we were told she may have to have surgery. The vet did every test he could and eventually admitted he had no clue as to what her problem could be. I work with a team of vets and even after passing her x-rays around the office and explaining her symptoms, they all agreed that the next step was to refer her to the Royal Veterinary College. At this point my credit card was pretty much maxed out while we waited for our claim to come through, and even now she’s on pretty expensive specialist food.

One day, however, she just stopped being sick. She had become a bag of bones she was so thin, but her weight started coming back and her energy too. To this day we still don’t know what was wrong with her, or if her illness will come back, but we can only hope that she stays happy and healthy like she is now. It just goes to show that when you get an animal off the internet you never really know what you’re getting, but if you rehome from a rehoming center like Battersea then at least your dog will have been assessed by medical and behavioral specialists.

If I could go back in time to before we got Molly, knowing what I know now of how she would turn out, I would still have brought her home. But I’m convinced we just got lucky with her. Her shyness and fear of everything could have turned out to hide some really bad behavioral issues that we may have found too much to handle. Her illness could have turned out to be fatal, and who knows how it’ll manifest in the future. We didn't know her old owners and some of what they told us turned out to be true, some of it not.

For anyone who thinks they could give a previously owned dog a home, I would say go for it. It has been such a joy taking on Molly, even in the difficult times. Owning a dog in London isn’t impossible, but it is a big responsibility and there aren't many dogs that would be happy being left alone, even for short periods of time. I would never recommend getting a puppy unless you work from home and have a lot of time to commit to it’s care and training. And if you are going to rehome, it’s a good idea to go to somewhere like Battersea to have a chat with them, see if you can fit a dog into your life – they’ll give you their honest opinion!

I have never once regretted bringing Molly home. I’m pretty sure she’s the best dog there is.

Homecoming and Darjeeling 2nd flush

I'm finally home. After almost two weeks of solid work, travel and long days, after a day and a half without sleep, three flights, and one nearly missed connection, I'm back!

As excited as I am to go off adventuring, I'm almost equally as excited to be back home again. Dingy hotel rooms, quick meals grabbed on the go, hours spent in the car along roads that can barely be called a road at all and make the car feel like a washing machine - these are the things that make up real adventure to not often visited parts of a country. I love it. But there comes a point where I think, if I have to eat any more frijoles con tortilla, profavor, I'm going to lose my marbles.  

So when I finally got home yesterday at 7am the only thing I craved was just a cup of tea. A cup of really good tea. That's when I remembered that a few weeks ago JING kindly send me some of their finest quality black teas. I spent all of Sunday alternating between naps, cups of Darjeeling and cuddles with Molly and Adam. Flights and airports make me feel gross, and there is something very purifying about a moment of calm with a cup of good quality tea. Followed by about a gallon of water because, why is flying so dehydrating?

I'm home for three weeks and then off to Bermuda! With only a month and two days left until the wedding I think I've entered into a state of shock. Hopefully my dress fitting tomorrow will shake me out of it so that I can start on my to-do list which has been so neglected lately. 

Guatemala

Finally I've managed to find some time to edit some photos and write a blog post! It's been a busy trip and when I haven't been working I've been trying to catch up on sleep. I have been in Guatemala for a week now but it feels like it's been much longer, until now I've lost track of what day it is. But I always lose track of time when I've got a camera in front of my face and a job to do. 

These are just a few photos that I've managed to catch in between what I'm gathering for work. Sometimes we have to hang around for a bit in-between community visits and it allows me some time to take a few portraits. Every country is different when it comes to photography, in some places they love to pose and then see the photos you've taken, in others they run away or get angry if you ask to take a photo. It's been a mix here, some people have flat out refused to have me take their photo and while it always makes me embarrassed for having asked in the first place, I of course respect what they say. And my desire to take photos is at constant war with my shyness.

Yesterday a grandmother was walking past me with her granddaughter, both carrying heavy loads of sticks on their back. A puppy was following along behind them and the sun was setting, it was a perfect photo! I asked the translator (who was translating a Mayan dialect) to ask them if I could take their photo and they said no, the reason they gave was that they were afraid I was going to sell their portrait and not give them any money - it was their photo after all. I put my camera away and instead tried to have a chat with them, they were really friendly and let me play with their puppy. But their reaction wasn't unique and their extreme aversion made me a little sad. 

It's made me think a lot about respecting other cultures, which I've always been mindful of when I travel, but specifically I wonder how people feel about some girl walking around with expensive equipment snapping away - I wonder if they agree with what I'm trying to achieve or whether they think it's a bit of an indulgence compared to their life priorities. I wonder how they feel about it. Whether they resent it, or whether they think I'm just crazy. Maybe they don't even care. In my mind I don't see different people, I just see different lives - in the end we're all the same. But I wonder if that's an opinion I can afford to have because I didn't have to carry my own firewood every night at the age of six. It's hard to know other people's minds, but I hope I'm making friends with the people I'm meeting along the way, and not leaving them with a bad feeling about people trying to take photos and profit from their lives.

Paris for the Weekend :: TWO

Never in a million years would I ever have thought I would be sitting on a bed, in a hotel, in Guatemala at 7am blogging about a trip to Paris! But don't you just love how life is so strange that way?

On Sunday, after a trip to the Louvre to check out their Islamic wing, my mum and I made our way back up to the Sacré-Cœur to check out the views and have a small lunch before heading back to catch the Eurostar. We had a glass of wine and some escargots (which I'm trying really hard to teach myself to like, I really am) and some moules mariners which were delicious and I devoured in about five minutes flat. I ate so fast because they were so good, but also because I couldn't wait to have a crepe!

I always opt for the traditional lemon and sugar, and although I'm often tempted by the nutella and banana I just can't give up on an old favorite. It was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend spent with my mum, and we're already planning what to do the next time we visit.

Also, side note about Paris, they have the friendliest taxi drivers!! My mum has an injured foot so we took taxis pretty much everywhere and only once did we have a driver who wasn't chatty, the rest were only to happy to play tour guide. So there you have it, Paris by taxi is pretty fun.

I only just arrived in Guatemala last night and it was really late, so I can't tell you anything about my first impressions. We're in Antigua and I've heard it's beautiful so I'll share what I can as my work schedule allows. And I know it's a long shot, but I'm really crossing my fingers I get to see a sloth while I'm here!

Paris and sloths... I blame the jetlag.