Was a true gift!
What could have been a tumultuous trip for some turned out to be an amazing dive into Latin American & Mayan culture. I began my journey by missing check-in for my Copa Air flight and thus initiated a typical April day (for me). However, I was not going to let that stifle my already fun packed spring break (VA Beach & Richmond was an amazing treat). So, I hopped on the later flight and arrived in Panama City around the same time I was scheduled to board had I taken my original flight.
This was a fun flight due to my engaging conversationalist of a row-mate. His name was Alexander and he's a seventh grader (ironically I teach sixth) that goes to an international school in Guatemala City, His English was impressive and we entertained each other through the entire trip. Once I arrived I passed through security with my camera bag and duffle bag full of rolled clothes stuffed like pieces of crab meat in a can. Once I made it outside of the terminal I met with my friend AnaLu and we traveled to her family's beautiful home.
It was pretty late when the flight touched down therefore I was unable to see much of the skyline or surrounding (volcanic) landscapes. As exhausted as I was I passed out with so much anticipation for the next day. Only... I had the slightest idea of what entailed in tomorrow's adventure. AnaLu explained to me that due to her busy schedule and my erratic behavior to do things without much planning she arranged for me to see her country through her friend. All I knew was that I had to be ready by 9:00 AM for fun and adventure. Where I was resting my head was in the middle of Guatemala City, so I hoped it was someplace where I would be surrounded by space and an unobstructed view of where the clouds roll in from. I woke up anticipating something but honestly had no clue what to expect, which is kind of how a lot of things happen in my life.
I was first greeted by my friend's amazing father who extended his home space for me to rest my head and eat with the family. After preparing for my day I was welcomed by a stranger with a smile. This young man happened to be about my age and as the day progressed we found out we're very similar in thought and approach on life. I had no agenda or itinerary so the trip was totally up to Eliezer, which was fantastic. The three hour drive west from the capital city through Chimaltenago arriving in the town of Panajachel. From here we parked, took some time to walk through the area and even to the waterfront. From this point you can see the three volcanos: Toliman, Atitlan, and San Pedro outline the landscape like silent giants observing a small occurrence. All throughout the trip I would just gape at the titans that looked down on me. We parked the car in a car hotel, armed myself with my camera and ferried across Lago de Atitlan. After catching a few shots the dangers of the water sprays had me find shelter for my camera. Once we arrived in San Pedro my smile grew wider as it seemed as if I arrived in a mini paradise. The tuk-tuks zoomed by and the storefronts were not shy but even after getting a block past the ferry-dock I was surrounded by an awesome Mayan culture. Eliezer did a great job! The mountains, volcanos, the lake and the people were just what I needed. The perfect getaway and prescription for peace was traveling here and I was immersed in the soul of the country.
I had the option of staying in a hotel that overlooked the lake and provided opulent services for their patrons or I could do a home stay at a friend of Eliezer's. My eyes widened the moment he mentioned the word "home stay" and we boarded in the middle of this quaint town. From the rooftop of their home you can see the hundreds of other rooftops trying to all peek over each other to get a glimpse of the beautiful Lago de Atitlan.
The next day we woke up early to see the sun creep over the surrounding mountaintops and fill the cloudy blue sky with radiant light. With calls from roosters and morning birds, it was a peace that had me without urge or assessment. It felt good to just enjoy that without the cries of the world.
We set out to walk the streets of San Pedro (had I had more time in the country I would have toured Santiago, Santa Cruz, and San Pablo). Everyone was headed somewhere: young kids in their uniforms smiling endlessly with friends while they are headed to school, teens riding in tuk-tuks to their high-school , while the men set off to work. Then you turn the corner to see a flock of women head to church. The city has a daytime liveliness.
We headed up the side of the volcano and stopped a uniquely placed building that turned into an overlook stop for visitors. It cost about .50 c each for us to get a higher perspective on San Pedro and the lake. The owner was slow to wake from his resting place but was kind and greeted us by stowing his loyal guard dog. His name is Lorenzo
Walking down the side of the volcano was pretty awesome with the sounds from the forests, farmers working in the distance, and occasional passersby it was an unexpected treat.
Later we made our way to the market where colors of fruits were not the only visually vibrant things in the local market.
The trip continued to be an amazing adventure where I absorbed the beauty and charm of the Country of Guatemala. Leaving San Pedro was the last thing I wanted to do, but it also meant there was something next. On the way back from the lake we veered to the right and headed toward Antigua. It was beautiful that day, pretty much perfect and although the city was bustling with a plague of tourists and tourist attracting shops. The architecture and Volcan de Agua or Water Volcano was stunning to see and capture. We walked a bit and ended up eating and feeling exhausted from the full day. Besides...I needed rest for the next day I had the opportunity to teach kindergarten and pre-kindergarten english and math class! (I did not bring my camera to work, ha!)
After an impromptu mother-daughter portrait session I rested a bit and went to AnaLu's college Rafael Landivar University where I just meandered around the campus and watched the sports teams practice in the cooling evening. It reminded me of the college days of glee and goodness (which could easily be ignorance, ha!)
Shortly after her class ended and the sunset we went over to Cayala to have drinks with friends.It was my last night in town and I spent among great people with laughs 'til tears formed and smiles that stretched cheeks. I will be back because I have more to see, I will be back because I want to see the people I have initiated a friendship with and I want to come back because I love Guatemala.