18 years working as journalist and editor for the main Guatemalan newspapers and several local magazines. My fields: art, culture and history.

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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Don’t “peas” me off

A European tongue probably finds that Mexican and Guatemalan food share many ingredients and recipes; cooking some dishes is even very similar. As far was possible for me I promised not taste Latinamerican food abroad Guatemala.  But after two months and a half living in Galway I broke my pledge.

NZ was visiting Dublin from Italy. When we met he told me he took the first bus to Galway once he left the Dublin’s airport.  “I’m not the only one crazy about knowing the west of Ireland”, I thought.

It was the first time we talked in life but knowing him was like spending time with an old friend. I became his tourist guide the weekend he stayed in town, the last days of November.

The first day we just walk around and we visited some iconic places: Mc Donagh’s (fish and chips), Tigh Neachtain (for the first pint of Guinness) and Carroll’s (for some traditional irish music, and more pints). He went early home because a trip to Cliffs of Moher was waiting for him the next day. When he returned we had a meal in The Front Door / Sonny Molloy’s.

I went later to The Blue Note. But what I did there is for a long and different story. Let’s keep the good memories this time and join us for dinner.

I think NZ ordered a sandwich and I chose “nachos” from the menu, a light course, I thought because I knew the size couldn’t be bigger than Guatemala, where you can have a 3 pounds personal dish or nachos.
Super Nachos from Monoloco, a restaurant located in Antigua Guatemala.

I was curious about taste that famous mexican snack cooked in an irish restaurant. I must say in my country is a very popular snack too; a perfect dish when you going out with friends and your intention is getting drunk.

Nothing bad, 8/10 stars. The irish nachos were well but I missed some latin flavours, like tomatoes mixed with spices and some pieces of chicken or beef spread over the food.

Something funny happened when I took a little container with something green inside. “It’s guacamole!” I said, but some seconds later my tongue realised my mind was wrong. It wasn’t avocado. That evening I confused guacamole with mushy peas that obviously I found terrible at the beginning.

That reminds me another “food incident”. I was in The Arans enjoying a Guinness beef stew when I asked to the waitress for my pint. Her question mark face was a sign that I probably misunderstood something. “Oh no, it’s a Guinness stew because the beer is one of the ingredients in the recipe. The name doesn’t mean there is a pint with your meal”, said her. 

That evening was the last time I saw NZ, he came back to Dublin next day and then to Italy. I’m sure we’ll meet again in Ireland, NZ next time remind me please order something without peas.

Friday, 9 December 2016

A ticket bus to Dublin

When you write for living, being journalist, the last thing you want to do after work is keep writing once you got home… that´s the reason I avoided use a computer in my journey and also explains why I don’t post so often in this blog. Add, dear reader, that I need to switch my mind from Spanish to English to satisfy my inner editor voice and proof writer side.

But I have a memory to share today.

I needed going to Dublin Airport from Galway’s Bus Station to solve a problem with my return ticket flight that I couldn’t change online. One day before traveling to the East, for logistic reason, I thought will be easier to get my ticket bus. I bought one in the ticket vending machines inside the bus station. When I finally got one in my hand I realised I didn’t choose the right day. I think it was Monday or Tuesday and I had planned my trip for Wednesday.

Immediately I bought other, with the right day, obviously. But, what would I do with the wrong ticket?

I remember I waited 15 or 20 minutes there, looking all the people getting out from the buses walking with their suitcases and backpacks. Some of them were hurry, others seem no worried about time or even life. My plan was giving the ticket to “someone who needs it”.

Suddenly I saw a young guy; well he was almost a teenager. He came out from the bus, and once inside of the station watched the departures board, check out the time in his clock and started thinking in the middle of the crowd, with a concerned face.

-Hiya, I said him after one minute and added: “I made a mistake buying this ticket to Dublin; it’s for the next bus, in maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Do you want it? Are you thinking going to Dublin?”.

He smiled, took the ticket and said “thanks, I must to go now”.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A story written with blood


AG, a Guatemalan opera singer living in Paris, visited Dublin some days to take part in a competition in the last days of January. She won one of the main awards, by the way.

When we met for lunch, I had one month living in the city since I moved from Galway.

-Ok, see you soon, she texted me.
-Sure, I’ll be in front of Dublin Castle, I said her.

I did my best showing her the town. After have a meal in Powerscourt we took a long walk from George St. to Grafton St. and some areas over the Liffey. Our second stop was in The Boar's Head for a pint of Guinness and because we were in the middle of an emergency.

I opened the door in a violent way, asking for a doctor, yelling under the rain. A storm came from nothing and a thunder was heard in the distance in the right moment we appeared in the door. People inside saw AG, next to me, bleeding; her hand was wounded.

I’m lying.

We get inside the pub because AG, trying opening her umbrella, cut her right thumb and needed a bathroom to clean the wound. The storm, I mean, the rain was real but it was a light fall.

After a surgery with Doctor Arthur (Guinness) we bought the medicine he prescribed us in the bar, and we left the Emergency Room to take again our walk.

The Luas was very useful to complete the tour. We did the last part by foot from Thomas St. to Trinity College, where AG had some voice exercises at 4pm.  

We said good bye in the Front Gate. AG was the only one Guatemalan I met in Ireland. It was so nice to see a fellow citizen and talk Guatemalan slang.

That night, at home and tipsy, I opened a limoncello bottle but I did it in the wrong way and I cut my right hand. I swallowed some shots, took my keys and in the middle of the cold night I opened the door in a violent way, once in the street I was asking for a doctor…

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A new ride


After my adventure with P in Croagh Patrick I was ready for a long ride. One day I rented a shuttle service and a bike and I rode it 42 km from Achill Island to Westport.

How was my experience?

I loved it.

I took me seven hours to complete my tour. I made it with no hurries, enjoying the sights.

More than one year has been passed since that trip. It was the last time I rode a bike. I miss the West side of Ireland, I never found the courage to ride again when, later, I stayed in Dublin.
*All pictures taken by Braliem Jousc


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The day that I almost call to 999

You two have two options: a) I will invite you a dinner when I return from the West, or b) I’ll cook for you”, I said to A and K the night we had a dinner in an Italian restaurant close to the Parliament. They didn’t let me paid.

They looked each other for one second and they answered (almost synchronized) taking the second choice and, three weeks later, I was on my way to Dublin by bus, ready to be their chef.

The day I returned to the city I had two clearly thoughts, the grocery’s list for tonight’s menu and going to the airport to change my return ticket flight to someday of December.

Until now I don’t know what it was easier.

I will tell you, dear reader, about my adventure at the airport later and how, walking next to The Blackwater River, in Fermoy, Cork, I decided to extend my visit in Ireland.

Let’s back to my duties as a chef.

I remember I walked from Dublin 8 to Fallon & Byrne, the store that A and K recommended me to find all ingredients I was looking for. The most difficult part it wasn’t buys the herbs, spices and seeds that are used in Guatemalan gastronomy, because I have in mind to cook some dishes from my country.

The hard part was to find the place, because I got lost. I was spinning around. Now I can laugh. Maybe I wasted time, but it worthed because I knew better the area between Grafton and George streets.

When I left Fallon & Byrne I realized the backpack I brought up with me wasn’t enough for shopping. It was so small. My second stop was Dunnes, across the street, where I completed my list. Walking back to home, with a backpack and an extra hand bag it wasn’t a good idea. Besides, I only had 4 or 5 hours to cook at least four different courses. So, I took a taxi just in front of Dunnes.
J was barking when he heard people opening the door. He was a nice company and he witnessed my panic and drama moment at the kitchen when, in one second between chopping green vegetables and smashing black beans I noticed the place seems a sauna. The windows were fogged and I swear the smoke detector was close to beeping. I even imagine myself giving explanations to a fire brigade while A and K were watching me on breaking news from their offices.

But I solved the problem opening the windows.

I was cooking, well overcooking, “tostadas”, (the origin of my fire fears). A tostada is a fried tortilla, it’s similar to a Mexican nacho but is not triangle shaped, the Guatemalan tortillas are circled, seems like a burrito tortilla but are smaller and crunchy. To avoid more problems (time and fire) I cooked this time a tortilla snack version.

When A and K came to home only J knew about the smoke incident.

I served first the snacks. A tortilla spread with smashed black beans with a white cheese.

Then a black beans soup flavored with herbs and sweet corn. Followed by a “churrasco” (a Guatemalan BBQ), in other words: grilled onions and corn, beef and “chirmol”, a kind of sauce made it with smashed grilled tomatoes, herbs and spices.

The main dish was and Irish / Guatemalan recipe invented some days before (fusion cuisine?). I used the famous fish and chips but I added the green sauce that in Guatemala we use to cook a thick soup named “Jocón” with green vegetables, chicken and rice. (I hate rice, so I didn’t serve it).

We finished with a salad, a regular one, with a blackberry dressing. And we drank two different beverage of hibiscus, the first one was like a tea (but flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar) and using the same drink, I added to the other pineapple juice and some shots of “Quezalteca”, a Guatemalan rum.

I was so focused working in the kitchen that I forgot to take pictures of all served courses but we had a nice dinner and, most import, a home to enjoy our meal, because we could spend the night in a Garda or Fire station, sharing just burnt tortillas.
This is a "churrasco". Is not the meal I shared with A and K but is similar. I cooked it for all staff and people staying at The Old Mill Hostel. Pic: Braliem Jousc

Monday, 12 September 2016

He confessed me he really doubted that I could get the summit

A sight from the top. Pictures by Braliem Jousc

I said that ride a bicycle was easy. I also mentioned P was a sporty guy. I’m not one.

Everything was ok with me the day I was in front of Croagh Patrick. I didn't have any problem with the first part of the mountain until I felt really exhausted. After one hour walking side by side with P, I started walk slowly. And he noticed.

 -Are you feeling right?

-Don’t worry. I’m just out of shape. But I’ll get to the top. Don’t stop for me. Keep going, I will see you ahead.

-I can’t leave you here. You don’t seem….

-I’m fine. I only need to take a short breath.

-No, you must keep moving. Make a stop is the worst thing for your body now we are finishing the first part.

 Just for the record, I climbed the right mountain! Pictures by Braliem Jousc
P was really concerned. He stayed with me some minutes while I was drinking an oral rehydration solution.

-See? All I needed was to take a breath.

-But you’re shaking! Look at your hands!

-I’m not getting cold. Don’t worry I will survive. Believe me; I’m getting well just give me a moment and I will walk again.

I was right. I couldn’t walk beside him like the beginning. In fact, he completed the round walk in three hours. It took me almost four to come back to the line start.

Almost in the middle of the mountain. Pictures by Braliem Jousc
In the middle of the mountain there is almost a flat part, once I reached it, everything turned easier for me, even dealing with the rocky and semi vertical area, the last one before to see the little church built in the summit.

I found some sheep around, a wonderful sight, and a place where the tradition says St. Patrick prayed and passed a night. I can’t forget the way that weather suddenly changed from a regular day of September (remember we are talking about Irish weather) to a really windy and so cold conditions. But, in spite of everything, I was a really lucky visitor because it wasn’t a rainy day.

I stayed on the top 15 or 20 minutes.

More crazy people in the back. Pictures by Braliem Jousc

I saw P coming down when I still was climbing the last part of Croagh Patrick. I reunited with him again some hundreds of meters before the gate used as a fence to mark the point when you are really starting to climb the mountain.

Before to take again our bikes we had a coffee in the local gift-shop, the place was decorated with old pictures, some taken in the past century. Some images really astonished me: bare foot people going up, not wearing special clothes for the climate.

After take a break we return to Westport. We gave back the bikes before the sunset. On time! I think the next day P return to Dublin for his last weekend in Ireland and that’s the last day we saw each other.
A view from the summit. Pictures by Braliem Jousc

I tried to visit him, some months later, when I traveled to Spain but it was not possible to meet him again.

Almost one year later, when I wrote to P telling him I will write about our adventure, he confessed me he really doubted that I could get the summit but he said he was proud of me too. I had a really heavy weight over my shoulders: not all the days a Guatemalan un-sporty guy flies nine thousands kilometers and cross Ireland coast to coast to fail in his try to climb the Paddy’s sacred mountain. 

 More images. Pictures by Braliem Jousc


Sunday, 11 September 2016

The magical people from Galway

Pictures: Braliem Jousc

The wind whispered me again some words. I was walking close to Latin Quarter, in Galway, when following a hunch I turned to the right that evening of September. I left the main street with its famous bars to find, almost hidden, a closed shop named Elements. I was attracted by its energy.

Didn’t happen that evening, but eventually, that place let me know the most interesting people that I could ever meet in Galway.

For some reason the 80% people who I met in Ireland were related with arts and culture scenes: writers, singers, musicians, actors, dancers, artists and a museum director plus girls and guys with a sensitive soul for all this stuff. I think I couldn’t escape at all from my Guatemalan background as an art journalist.

But Elements let me know magical people. And it’s not a metaphor. In Ireland I finally met not one, many people with a Wicca or Druid beliefs.  I’m Wiccan and I never found others like me in the place where I born.

Pictures: Braliem Jousc
For first time I practiced and celebrated some emblematical rituals in the “pagan” calendar, like Samhain. The flame I fire up last October still is burning my past. Maybe my winter will be longer that I thought but I know a new kind of spring is coming up.
M, P and J, know you guys, is one of the best gifts that Galway gave me. Before writing more about my days in Ireland I have to say thank you for let me be part of your magical world. 

Pictures: Braliem Jousc

Friday, 9 September 2016

I was a little scared

Pictures by Braliem Jousc
P, a guy from Barcelona that checked in by the morning in The Old Mill Hostel, spread quickly in the atmosphere his smile, sporty spirit and energy.
He told me about his plans to visit Croagh Patrick, the sacred mountain of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. And reach the top of the mountain also was one of my main goals in my “things to do” list. Why not make together this trip?

We rented two bikes. P was my guide; no one really knew the way, we asked for directions a couple of times to some drivers and after 8 kilometers enjoying the sight of the west of Ireland we were ready to climb the mountain.

Pictures by Braliem Jousc
I must confess something. I chose the wrong bike; maybe a smaller would have worked better for me. I fell down at least 3 times, don't laugh, that was just in the first 15 minutes of our journey. I simply was rusty because the last time I rode one was, maybe, in 2000 or 2001. And the time before that, I still was a teenager, when I was aged 15 or 16. Now I’m my late 30s.

But I survived. Ride a bike it was the easy part because the really hard one was beginning. I was in front of Croagh Patrick with its 764 meters. Guatemala, the place where I born, is a land of mountains and volcanoes but I never before had climbed a mountain from the bottom to the top.

I was a little scared.

 Pictures by Braliem Jousc
  Pictures by Braliem Jousc, except this. P took it.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

I was wrong

Pictures by Braliem Jousc

I had not had the opportunity yet to taste (sober) beers like Smithwick's, Galway Hooker, Hop House 13, and a lot of craft beers. Not mention foreign brands like Carlsberg or Tuborg. I still was obsessed with Guinness’ pints. So, that’s all I was ordering every time I was getting close to the bar in Matt Molloy’s pub.

Inside, I loved its different atmospheres. In the first area I enjoyed the evening with live traditional music. According with locals, I was so lucky listening one of the legendary musicians of The Chieftains playing with friends and invited musicians a kind of Irish jamming for almost two hours. The pub has his name, Molloy born in a very well-known area for its talented flutists.  

I took some pictures and recorded short videos of that night. Unfortunately most of the files are stuck now in the Gmail account I used with my Irish mobile to create a backup of my WhatsApp chats. I just recovered few.
Pictures by Braliem Jousc
I stayed in the traditional area a couple of hours. Later, I moved to the second part, a modern one, with a contemporary music. There was a local band playing. (I can´t remember the name). I was tipsy, and one year after my visit I only can remind a table with 4 or 5 persons where I was invited to have a place. I talked with all of them but particularly with a white-dressed girl. She told me they were friends visiting Westport just for the weekend. She was a Spanish teacher in a closer town.

Place was full. At least two bachelor parties and a gay birthday celebration were taking place at Matt Molloy’s. I was having a really great time.

The next day, when I woke up, I assumed I spent some cash in my wallet and after some pints I went to bed.

I was wrong.

Pictures by Braliem Jousc
In some point of the night I got out from Matt Molloy’s, under the rain, probably straight to the Old Mill Hostel. But I saw an ATM and my drunken mind said: Let’s have a last round of pints. So, I returned to the pub and then a really blackout came to me.

That was my second alcoholic-awkward moment in my trip. A couple of days before, in Dublin, K and A invited me to take a walk. We visited Glendalough.  On our way I was in the middle of a hangover, trying to think in English when I barely could have a thought even in Spanish. So K, A, guys, that’s the reason why I was so quieted on the road. Well, in Westport I was feeling worse than that day.

I had a remarkable night, a perfect way to begin a new week. But I promised to myself stop drinking like a thirsty camel after passed the Sahara. I kept my words, until the day I was a tourist guide for an Italian new friend, in Galway an evening of November.
Pictures by Braliem Jousc

Friday, 2 September 2016

The Old Mill Hostel

Photo credit: Braliem Jousc


-I got a reservation. I’m still in the train station and I’m just arriving. Can you please give me some directions to get the hostel?

-Sure. We are very close; someone answered me on the phone.

-After you left the station walk until you see a river, follow it to the end of the road, then turn on your left and you will find us after a Centra.

-Thank you, I’ll be there soon.

The call just took me one minute, maybe less. The 12 or 15 persons travelling with me in the train have someone else waiting for them outside the station. When I hang down the phone, I was completely alone and it was raining, lightly. After 3 minutes the weather gave me a truce and I started to walk.


Photo credit: Braliem Jousc 

My main and heaviest luggage was in Dublin, with K and A, and J. (Soon you will know them). I was travelling with two regular size backpacks.

Once I saw the river in the middle of the town I immediately felt inside of a living puzzle: a picturesque scene from a European place with ancient buildings, several similar houses and a river decorated with flowers and small bridges.
Photo credit: Braliem Jousc

I walked slowly, to appreciate the sight, making a mental map of Westport. The rain stopped and came again twice. I arrived wet to the hostel, everybody inside maybe thought I fell down to the Carrowbeg.

-It’s Ireland, you can have the four seasons in the same day, said T, the guy who answered my call.

-Four? We only have one. Here rains all the time, added A, making us laughing. T and A are part of the hostel’s staff.  

T gave me the code for the rooms’ door. It was the first of several codes that I tried unsuccessfully memorize. Once I got my room I changed my clothes and I started to walk around, mapping the town.

When I passed in front of Matt Molloy's pub something in the air whispered me “come later”.  There I got my second remarkable hangover in Ireland. And it was just the first of 10 nights I spent in Westport.
The Old Mill Hostel / Photo credit: Braliem Jousc