Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Casa Puerto Barrios

This is where we live (pic at left). Note the iron gates and barbed wire. We need three keys to get into our house and four keys to get into the office. We also have an alarm system (in a town where many people live in wood shacks).

I have my own room upstairs. Norma and Luz are our housekeepers (pic of Norma sweeping at right). They shop, cook our food, wash our clothing, and clean the house and office. We have six bedrooms, three bathrooms, cable TV (in Spanish), a garden with a hammock, and a fridge full of food. I am told that our quality of life is much better than most MSF missions. The only drawback is the occasional scorpion we find on the kitchen or living room floor

In addition to our meager yearly salaries, MSF pays us a per diem for food and expenses. Out of that perdiem, each ex-pat puts 800 quetzales (about 100 dollars) each month into a pot for food and household expenses. We spend the rest of our per diem on drinks, snacks, personal items, and weekend travel.

Norma and Luz cook delicious meals. We usually eat eggs, toast, juice, and pancakes for breakfast. I always hog the coffee. For lunch, we have all forms of cow, pig, bird, and fish either alone or in soups, stews, or empanadas. We also eat salad, steamed vegetables, rice, tortillas, and sometimes beans or pasta. We drink fresh-squeezed orange, papaya, or pineapple juice or milkshakes.

I am not sure how much we pay for rent here in Puerto Barrios, but I am certain that it is considerably less than I paid for my overheated one-bedroom apartment in Upper Manhattan. In NYC my fridge only had horseradish, beer, frozen York peppermint Patties, and chocolate covered pretzels (on a good day).

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