And how do we get all the "wow" we´ve felt into this tiny little blog? Admittedly, I'm not so inclined to sit in an internet cafe all day when in Guatemala with all the Guatemalan things to do, but can´t wait to share what we´ve done and seen so far. We´ve been in Guatemala since the 10th and in San Pedro La Laguna since the 12th. San Pedro is a tiny little lakeside town full of narrow walkways and "streets", as well as lots and lots of dogs. You can pretty much see Lake Atitlan at any moment and there are amazing views to be had - especially from our veranda! We´re staying with a local family, Cecelia and Antonia Gonzalez. They have 3 girls: Ruth is 14, Marielena is 10 and little Hannah is 18 months. Talk about adorable. They´re all super sweet and are trying to help us learn and speak Spanish as much as possible. We don´t have pictures of everyone yet, but here are some of Marielena and Hannah.
I know! They´re so darn cute and smart as all get out too. Here´s where we live: This is the view from our room - it´s on the 3rd floor (the family's rooms are on the 2nd) and looks out onto a terrace where the girls play and hang their laundry. I love me some hammock time! Our room is on the left and our baño privado ("private" bathroom) is behind the curtain. ¡Hola Tara!
We´re taking Spanish 4 hours a day, each with our teachers (Estella for Laurel and Elena for Tara). The school is essentially a terraced garden that descends down to the edge of the lake. We study under little grass huts and stumble over our parablas as the breeze off the lake sweeps up the hillside. This is Tara standing under one of the study spots. Life is rough!
Our first outing was to the largest market in Guatemala, held in Chichicastengo (Chichi for short). It was a looooong trip there due to road work, but we finally made it and spent hours meandering in and out of the crowded streets, checking out all the wares. These are the steps to the church in the middle of the market. All of the vendors selling stuff by weight had these old school scales and weights that fit together like Russian dolls.
Our other big outing thus far was a hike to the top of a mountain called "Nariz del Indio". It started with a ride on a chicken bus to the nearby town of Santa Clara. Chicken buses are not, as their name implies, full of chickens, unless you count the tourist who are about to pee their pants as the bus barrels up and down hills, screeching around corners as the driver´s assistant blows the air horn. We have video of the harrowing ride, but I´m having trouble uploading it - perhaps in the next entry...
So after that fun (and it was fun!) we got to walk around the Santa Clara market for a bit stopping at the fountain in town. As always, Tara with Coca Lite in hand...
Then the ascent to the nose of the indian. On the way up: And at the top! That´s Lake Atitlan in all its glory behind us. San Pedro is a little to the right, but you can´t see it well in this picture, but you could see it better on the way down. San Pedro is the town to the left on the peninsula and San Juan is on the right set back a bit from the lake. All the lush green is coffee trees. This is our guide, Julio, who is also a teacher at our school and teaches English in two public elementary schools in the mornings. He told us all about how coffee is grown, picked and processed. Once he learned what I do, he shared with us that the local belief is that if a child is born with physical disabilities, it is because its mother walked at night when she was pregnant. If the child has difficulty speaking or thinking, it is also because its mother walked at night and the child´s brain and thoughts got too cold.
Most recently, we took a lancha (boat) across the lake to Santiago, to visit the market there, as well as the Mayan deity, Maximon. He takes on different forms in differnt pueblos, but here, he is a wooden man with a big hat, lots of scarves and a fat cigar. Locals from all over come to pray to him for health, wealth and work. Apparently, he really likes cigarettes and rum, as well as BINGO cards. We also stopped by the Catholic church where we saw tons of different Jesuses, as well as wooden deities, each with its own specialty, and slot for donations.
After visiting Chichi and Santiago two Sundays in a row, we did as we love to do: sat at the lake´s edge with a beer in hand. This is at our favorite little spot called La Puerta, which is so appropriate as it´s the door to the beginning of our adventure in Latin America.
Now you know where to picture us when you´re wondering what we´re up to! Much more to come!
L & T