Saturday, 30 June 2012

Adventures in Guatemala

Well, the changes foretold in my last post have occurred and we are now getting into the season of summer programs. One of the major changes that this entails is that I now live with nine other people instead of just two or three other people. It has been interesting to see the contrast between walking down the streets of Copan by myself, and walking down the streets of Copan with a group of people.Somehow we evoke a greater response from the corn husk doll venders and the jewelry sellers with their tables in what we affectionately call Gringo Alley. I also had to say goodbye to the kids at Camp Hope where I have been teaching English, and enjoyed reading stories to precious little Hector for the last time during recess. 

Being flung from my natural comfort zone of, you know, reading poetry and listening to depressing folk music in the solitary confinement of my bedroom has naturally occasioned much thought about my own introverted inclinations. As a way to prepare myself for the impending flood of community I decided to go on an adventure into Guatemala last week with the intent of spending so much time alone that I would be absolutely desperate for society by the time the summer began. I spent one night in Antigua and enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Kodee, a friend I met while making alfombras on the streets of Antigua during my trip there during Semana Santa a few months ago. From there I ventured out to San Marcos La Laguna in Lago Atitlan for three nights where I enjoyed solitude at my hotel while sitting in a hammock surrounded by hummingbirds and flowers at my hotel. I also enjoyed a variety of adventures, like taking a taxi (aka tuk-tuk) ride to neighboring San Juan where I discovered a local women's textile cooperative. Let's just say that if you throw me into an environment that combines my love for pastel earth tones, fabric, local industries and the empowerment of women, the money will most definitely be spent. I spent time kayaking on the lake and gazing up at the steep slopes surrounding the lake that are crisscrossed with terraced farm fields. I also had the chance to go on a tour of San Marcos with a locally run organization (unlike many of the tourist-geared businesses in the area) to learn a bit about the culture and history of San Marcos - and to enjoy the opportunity of wandering along trails that pass between avocado trees and coffee plants. Two of my favorite products of the earth in one place. Good times.

Traveling by myself at the lake was a rich cultural experience. I had the chance to experience the chicken bus of the boat world - called the lancha - while sitting with people speaking not Spanish or English, but the local Mayan language, the name of which I have sadly (and embarrassingly) forgotten. I had the chance to speak with a woman working for the local women's weaving cooperative to learn about weaving with traditional Mayan techniques and dyes, and I had the chance to speak with a talkative taxi driver about the struggles of the illegal immigrant to the States on the rather lengthy and bumpy ride to San Juan. Much as I love the taxi, my love for it diminishes when we are driving along pot-hole filled holes alongside of cliffs.

As you can probably tell from this description, I didn't spend quite as much time in solitary confinement as I thought. But it was still a rich experience that taught me that I can indeed have substantial conversations in Spanish and my vocabulary isn't quite as weak as I sometimes think, that humanity is beautifully and wonderfully diverse, and that maybe I like being around other people a little more than I sometimes think - at least if I have a little sitting-in-a-hammock-surrounded-by-flowers-and-humming-birds time in my vida.

And to help those of you living back home to get a taste of the beauty of both Antigua and Lago Atitlan, I have, as usual, some photos:

Exploring the plethora of fruit, souvenirs, secondhand clothes, technological products, pirated movies, artisan products and more in the market in Antigua. 


More fabric!

The past two months have not diminished my love for the crumbling walls of Antigua. 

The cathedral of San Francisco. 

More walls. sigh. 

The pilas in Antigua. I can see myself enjoying washing my clothes here. I like the colour scheme., yellow and greenish browns. Lovely.

I know that it is strange to include a picture of my hotel bathroom, especially given that it isn't even a very good picture. But this is just to communicate how pretty the art is in even the bathrooms in the hotel where I stayed - Hotel Aaculaax. Stained glass art is good for the soul. 

I didn't take too many pictures at the lake. I decided to focus on enjoying the moment rather than spending time fussing over my camera. These pictures are the result of this mindset. 

Baby coffee plants!!

This photo does absolutely nothing to show the beauty of the mountains covered with fields. 

Some of the paths close to the water in San Marcos. 


Volcano at night, with the lights of San Pedro below. 

And...back to Antigua. Did I mention that I love the walls there?

 An interesting exhibit about diversity in Guatemala. The photographs were beautiful. 

And last of all, a picture of me enjoying two of my favorite treats from Antigua: chocolate and coffee, united in the beauty of a mocha. Good times. 

Adios for now!


  1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed them!

  2. Wow Kristin, Sounds like you had an amazing adventure! I think you'll probably have to print some of these pictures when you get home and put them up as art. Looks like an amazing experience!