Guatemala

Thursday 7/02/09 - A Walk to Lake Atitlan, Quality Time with the Family

We woke up at 6:30 a.m. again, got dressed, and headed over to the house at 7. We said goodbye to Paola, Yasmin, and Yoselin as they headed off to school. We sat at the dining room table and chatted with Humberto, Paulina, and Vanesa. Today was market day in nearby Chichicastenengo, so most tourists go there and subsequently Humberto had no tours booked for today. Breakfast was frijoles parados (whole or “standing” black beans, but Craig and I joked that they were "beans on parade") with scrambled eggs.

Eddy and Aracely didn’t wake up until nearly 10 o’clock. Once they were up, we played with them. We got cleaned up and Paulina headed to the market alone. We walked with Humberto, Aracely, Eddy and Paola (just home from school) down towards the lake via Rancho Grande street. Humberto showed where he had temporarily housed his office (he had just moved it back near their house after 8 months in the other location). We met a couple of his friends who owned a shop next door, and he took us inside the office space. We got to see the office from which Paola had chatted with us on the computer over the last few months.

We really noticed the lack of tourists in town. And not just because a lot of the tourists were in ChiChi at this particular time. There were many market stalls which were completely empty and closed up. We then continued on down to the lake. Aracely wanted some watermelon, so Humberto bought a piece for each of us from a vendor. We sat on a wall overlooking the gorgeous crater lake ringed with volcanoes. Paola and Aracely went down to the water. Aracely got her pants soaking wet. Paola found some snails and put them into a Styrofoam cup. She presented them to me as a gift. Gee, um, thanks, Paola, but I can't really bring snails home. Customs wouldn't like it very much. We convinced her to put them back in the lake.

All of the vendors were trying to sell us things. They saw us with Humberto (a guide) and must have just assumed we were tourists. This doesn't usually happen when we walk through town with the family, but tourism was so low that they decided to take a chance on us anyway. Eddy started to get cranky. He was hungry and tired and missed his mom. Paola took him from Humberto and was really good at calming him down. We walked back and Humberto bought some small bananas ("bananitos") from a vendor. We all ate some, including Eddy, who took the entire thing into his mouth in one bite. The girls went to use the public bathrooms and a young Mayan lady selling things came over and asked Humberto about our relationship with the baby. She had thought that I was the mother. We explained that we will be his padrinos (godparents) and she looked at us curiously, not quite sure what to make of it, but very interested.

The girls came back and we resumed our walk. Humberto bought us Gatorades at a little store, and Aracely wanted ice cream. She sure can eat! Humberto couldn't resist his youngest daughter and bought her an ice cream. As we walked down the street to their house, we passed Humberto's nephew's newly established restaurant: Restaurante Cafeteria Yulex. We looked inside and saw the girls' cousin Neli, who was a lot bigger than the last time we had seen her. We almost didn't recognize her.

When we got home all of the girls were home from school, including Rocio. Yoselin remembered that I had sung Rock-a-Bye Baby to them last time and she said “Cancion!” and made me sing it and write the words down for her in her notebook. Rocio gave me a really beautiful blue beaded necklace. It's obvious how much the girls appreciate the small gifts that we bring them, and they try to reciprocate whenever possible. It really warms our hearts.

Paulina had prepared a very tasty spaghetti with meat sauce for lunch. After eating, we played with the kids while Paulina did laundry. In their bedroom, Aracely tied the strings on the back of my shirt to the bed. They all climbed all over us. Craig and I tried not to rough-house too much, as someone would inevitably get hurt (more likely one of us adults than the kids).

Like clockwork, it rained buckets at 3 p.m. It was so loud as it drummed on the corrugated metal roof. Water came in under the front door, and Paola got a photo of the gathering puddle. At 4 p.m., the girls turned on the TV to Una Familia de Diez, a Mexican sitcom with the volume turned up to 11. The characters all speak very loudly at one another, and a laugh track follows every punch line. The girls became glued to it and would only interact with us during commercials. Craig took the opportunity to have some good bonding time with Eddy.

Rocio gave me some of her Mickey Mouse stickers. She gave me one featuring Daisy Duck and I told her that Daisy has been my favorite since childhood. Thoughtful Rocio then looked through all of the stickers and found some more Daisy Ducks, and stuck them on my camera as decorations. The weather had cleared up by now, and we played for a while outside and in our room. Eddy was getting tired. I sang Rock-a-Bye-Baby and rocked him until he fell asleep in my arms, and then I covered him up and laid him on Paulina and Humberto’s bed for his nap.

Paola appeared with a bag of ice which she bashed repeatedly with a hammer. The girls prepared a concoction in plastic cups and then brought it to us. It was apparently a "lemon slush". Craig and I each took a bite and our faces immediately involuntarily scrunched up. It was incredibly bitter and sour. The girls got a great kick out of this. They told us that it was ice, lemon juice, and salt. Wow, was it acidic. It tasted as though it was corroding the spoon. It was like touching your tongue to a 9-volt battery. We couldn’t finish it, but the girls happily ate our leftovers. We made Craig "take one for the team" and take another bite so that we could photograph his facial reaction. Rocio conceded that it was a little heavier on salt than it should be, but Paola insisted that it was fine. Craig and I thought that maybe a little sugar instead of salt would have rendered it more palatable to us.

The girls were playing animal charades in one of the unfinished guest rooms, and Yasmin got down on the floor to do a breakdancing snake impression, and managed to bonk her forehead hard on the tile floor. They all thought this was hysterical, Yasmin most of all. The girls then relocated to our room, rough-housing, bouncing on the bed, etc. But they spontaneously tidied up the sheets on the bed when they were through. Things then got a little out of control and Paola squirted some water in the room. We decided it was time to leave our room and go back to the main house.

Vanesa got home from school at 6:30 p.m.. The girls sat drawing pictures at the dining room table. Rocio was very sweet and wrote us a note saying that she loves us. Not to be outdone, the others wrote notes to us as well. Yasmin wrote a poem but we couldn’t understand it (but neither could Humberto). Yasmin also wrote us a note which read, “I love you but don’t forget my party” (an obvious reference to the fact that her birthday card got lost in the mail earlier this year.) D’oh!

We had our daily bread and coffee at the dining room table. We always cherished this time of day, when the family reconvenes after an afternoon of scattered activities. I fed Eddy some crumbs of bread. He was wearing a fleece sweater with little animal ears on its hood...he looked like the little boy in Where the Wild Things Are. We all enjoyed one another's company. Rocio went home prior to dinner. Paola handed me a present wrapped in a note and told me to save it until after dinner.

Dinner was served: black beans (mashed – not "on parade") and a slab of the tasty cheese that we always enjoy in Guatemala. It was delicious. After dinner Paola told me to open my gift, and I found it to be a mint with chocolate inside. As the adults chatted, Paola and Yasmin were clearly up to something. After some preparations, Yasmin presented us with a fairly heavy small box tied in ribbons with a religious picture stuck onto the front. She told me not to open it until Craig and I went back to our room, so we set it aside. We all watched some TV together. Aracely was fussy because she wanted watermelon (even though she hadn’t eaten her dinner due to all the snacks she had eaten earlier). Paulina decided that watermelon would make anice dessert, so she sliced up a watermelon and passed a slice to everyone.

After we finished eating the watermelon, Paulina was literally falling asleep at the table, so we decided to call it a night to let everyone go to bed. We went back to our room and found a nice bowl of fresh fruit waiting for us, a thoughtful gift from Rocio's mother Juana. We opened the box that Yasmin had given us and it was a woven string bracelet and – wait for it – a bag of purified water. This was a “broma” or practical joke, quite typical of Yasmin's sense of humor, and we were quite amused. We went to bed after 11:30 after sending Steve a text and writing in the journal.
Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan

Aracely, Craig, Humberto, and Eddy enjoy watermelon by the lake

Aracely, Craig, Humberto, and Eddy enjoy watermelon by the lake

Craig takes Eddy for a walk

Craig takes Eddy for a walk

Yasmin

Yasmin

Yoselin, Craig, Steph, and Eddy

Yoselin, Craig, Steph, and Eddy

Craig and Vanesa

Craig and Vanesa

Eddy

Eddy

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