Sat Oct 23 was spent in the lovely city of Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua is a World Heritage Site and the former capital of the Spanish empire. It was also a former capital of Guatemala until the earthquake of 1776 when it was moved to Guatemala City where ironically the capital is now on a bigger fault line. DUH!! We actually got in on fri. night in time to eat supper at La Fonda where they serve a traditional chicken soup that is one of my favorites. On Sat.after breakfast we did a little walking tour of the city heading for Santo Domingo a former convent which is now a very lovely hotel and museum. The grounds are so beautiful and well worth a visit. Also on Sundays they do a magnificent brunch that is very inexpensive. We had a late lunch at Frieda's cafe where I recommend the margaritas and nachos. Then in early for a restful night and sharing a bottle of wine we brought with us from Pana. Then on Sun. morning we visited Fernandos Cafe for more coffee and chocolate. Then we headed for the airport for our flight to Ft. Lauderdale where we had to spend another night before we all got on Southwest Airlines headed in 4 different directions. All of us non-reved and with our full flights these days that was not easy especially for Donna who had to go the farthest..Portland,Or. We all did make it home with hearts full. Thank you to Donna, Amanda and Kara for being such a great team.
Fri Oct 22 was our last day in Pana. In fact we just had the morning, as our hired driver Marcelo, was arriving at three to take us to Antigua for our last two nights in Guatemala. We got out and on the move early to get those beautiful early morning views of Pana and Lake Atitlan. And there was breakfast at the Deli then there was that last minute shopping to do. We had coffee from Crossroads Cafe to pick up that we had ordered previously. We also discovered the best donuts in town. A lovely morning was had by all.
Thur. Oct 21 is the day scheduled for Chichicastanego (ChiChi) for the world famous market. First though we had another job to do. Lucia is a lovely little woman...and we are talking size here.... who is 23 and has a son almost three. She is on that street about 10 a day with Tomas in tow usually strapped to her back and selling scarves and stuffed animals made of traditional cloth which she has wrapped in a cloth balance on her head. I've added a picture of her with Ian from Shelter Box that I took the week before to give you a view of just how small she is. She rents a room back a very long and winding alley. She was given a hope chest made by Mayan Families. Her land lord decided that constituted furniture and doubled her rent. Previouly MF gave her a bed...rather than sleeping on a concrete floor....and had to negotiate for them to not raise her rent then. The same people she has rented from for the last five yrs and they did not know Tomas' name. So we proceeded to tote the trunk to our hired van and move it to her real home in ChiChi where she spends her weekends with the rest of her family. Again another small sq. block room which we reached by going through the cemetery in ChiChi. You can view how colorful the cemeteries are in Guatemala by viewing the Picasa site on the right of this page. We then proceeded to the main church where incense are burned on the steps in hopes for a good market day. To inter the church you go in the side door...never the front door. This church is built on a sacred Mayan mound and so out of respect you don't go up the stairs. Often people here crawl down the aisles on there knees. We had lunch then proceeded to shop for all kinds of things we didn't need but just loved and had to have. We arrived back at my place to Mathilda and her helper preparing for our dinner party that I throw for each group. Somehow I managed to not have any pictures of this for some reason. I thinks it's called tired!!!
Wed. Oct 20 we went to my favorite village...El Berranco. In fact this is the village I have chosen to work in with all future groups. It is a very rural village in the midst of farm land. My groups have now sponsored 12 children in the village. The children have been perfecting dance performances depicting their traditional dancing. They are grateful for any donations so they can purchase more and better costumes and musical instruments. I have seen great improvements over the last yr and a half that I have been visiting them. You can tell they love it. Thanks to my small group and the awesome sale Amanda found at Walmart for shoes we were able to hand out clothes and shoes to the children. Of course my former teams kids got to get in line first...at least those we could find in all the confusion that ensues at these events. Donna and Kara worked very hard to find shoes for all the children but if you have been a part of this process you know very well ther are never enough. I guess they needed a queen for the day so they picked me to be temporary queen. I did my best to reign well for that brief period. I thankfully don't have any pictures of me participating in the "monkey dance". They were looking for audience participation and someone had to start it. During all this Amanda found a wonderful little boy to sponsor. He is now the proud owner of an LSU football jersey as Louisiana is where Amanda is from. We were then able to visit his home and meet his mother. My camera died on that scene so not as many pics as I would have liked.
On Tues. Oct 19 we started out at the used quipil market and then we headed for San Jorge to install two stoves. We all....two teams...four stoves....and a steep hill caused us to have to back down the road with traffic coming at us until we reached a place where Oscar could get it in four wheel drive. We had to walk up the hill a bit then we all jumped in and away we went with a few more gray hairs. The first stove we installed was close by and THEN there was the second stove which was of course up a steep and rocky hill. It was all we could do to get up the hill without carrying anything. Women, children and a couple of men carried all the heavy parts up that hill. These are amazing people. the whole time the mother of the home was looking out for the three of us.
While we were waiting for the pick up to return for us we met the mayor of San Jorge then returned in time to greet Kara who was not able to come until then.
Monday Oct 18 Donna, Amanda and I along with Susie of Mayan Families as our interpreter hired a launcha across the lake to Santiago Atitlan. We hired a guide to tour the village and to see the Mayan god Maximon. After the tour we had lunch and shopped form the local artists. And then it was off to San Antonio Palopo on our launcha. This is the site of one of the worst landslides this spring which buried over 20 people. We visited the preschool that Mayan Families opened after the mudslide to give the children a safe place to play and learn. Mayan families sent a pick up for us but first we unloaded food to be distributed from the preschool. Mayan Families is the only ones to get food to this village when it was isolated after all the mud slides closed the road. They had to take it by launcha. Another group that has been helpful to the Guatemalan people is www.shelterbox.org. They deliver a home in a box which includes a tent, blankets, cooking supplies and the things needed to set up home. Look them up...they are a great group. They housed 10% of all the people of Haiti. Finally back to the condo in the back of a pick up with just a little rain.