Buenos dias, mes amigos! Como esta?
I am here in Guatemala and (obviously) learning Spanish. I can understand a bit of Spanish but can’t speak it at all so I decided to go along for the two-hour lesson every morning with our friends Benedicto, Maria, and all the other maestros at the Eco Spanish School in San Juan de Laguna – the prettiest town on the shores of Lake Atitlan.
We arrived here yesterday after a 3-hour flight from Atlanta and a long, interminable bus ride from Guatemala City, during which we traveled on a lot of roads still being rebuilt after the catastrophic floods last June. Guatemala is a very mountainous country, and roads have been cut out of hillsides that do tend to collapse in heavy rains (hola, LA!) Lake Atitlan is huge and captures all the water from the volcanoes that surround it, and its level rose 5 meters in the floods. That swamped the dock here in town, about 10 homes, and many fields.
But I’m happy to report that the town is getting its mojo back after almost a year of recovery from the floods and a precipitous drop in tourism. San Juan is home to a lot of women’s weaving cooperatives and artists, as well as organic coffee cooperatives and it’s picturesque beyond belief. All the women wear traditional Mayan garb and the children are adorable. But life is hard here because the people are poor, and that’s never very far from our attention.
Every two Oglethorpe students (and Larry & I) are staying with a different family – and although we all have running water and electricity (which is a luxury) it’s an education in itself to see how incredibly hard people have to work to survive, and what life is really like in the developing world.
Our families cook for us and we’re eating carbs galore since that’s what they eat. Every day Juana (Benedicto’s mom, who lives about 20 feet from Benedicto and Maria) makes about 100 tortillas and they’re stacked on the table in a beautiful basket the size of a carry-on suitcase. Many of the kids in town can’t afford to go to school, and it’s hard to overlook the fact that malnutrition probably plays a big factor in the tiny size of the population. (They kicked my 5’10” husband off their basketball league for being way too tall – which pretty much made his year.)
This afternoon we took an adventure walk over to San Pedro, the hippie town next door, to shop and experience life in the fast lane. I was the only one of the group to be offered some weed – which must say something about my clearly open-to-experimentation appearance. Either that, or my pipe vendor was too stoned to notice that I’m in my 50s… which almost made me tempted to buy that toker with the groovy mushrooms carved in it.
Now it’s sunset over the lake and we’re hoping for some lightning from the black-lined clouds moving in just to add to the drama of this incredible view. Last night, we watched the biggest full moon in 30 years rise from behind the mountains and it was awesome.
Tomorrow I’m going to escuela and then to visit my friend Bonnie who has a gorgeous house here (yes, that does mean I’m skipping the servicio proyectos – but only for one day). I’m getting a massage from Theo — a Dutchman with magic fingers – so basically, notwithstanding the total absence of alcohol on this trip, I’m in heaven.
And there goes the lightning! Adios, amigos & Feliz Lundi!