We woke up at 7 a.m. Like yesterday, Paola, Yasmin, and Yoselin came in several minutes later to say goodbye before heading to school. At 8 o'clock we went over to the house where Vanesa and Paulina were making pancakes. We had fresh orange juice which had been prepared by Paulina's father ("Abuelo", grandfather to the kids) at his juice stand on Santander Street. Eddy was carrying his tiny wooden chair with him around the house so wherever he was, he had a place to sit down. It was very cute. I fed Eddy some of my pancakes.
Friday is market day in neighboring Sololá, and Humberto suggested that we could ride a “chicken bus” to get there. These are decommissioned U.S. School buses, some of which still bear the name of their former school districts, which are often festively painted and which transport locals for a cheap fare. They get their nickname due to the fact that on market days, locals can transport just about anything on these buses, including live chickens. Shortly before 9 o'clock, we walked down Santander Street to get to the bus stop. We stopped briefly at Abuelo's juice stand to say good morning to him. Then we saw Paulina's sister Estela, who came over to greet us and meet Mukul. Panajachel is really starting to feel like a second home, the entire family is so welcoming to us.
We got to the bus stop and saw a chicken bus emblazoned with the name "Estefany" (sic). However, this was not our bus. Our bus was not one of the fancily decorated ones. It was just standard yellow and black. Craig and I sat together and Humberto and Mukul sat together. We said buenos dias to ther folks sitting around us, including a very cute little girl in the seat behind us. We wondered how we were ever small enough to fit three kids in one of these seats back when we were at school.
We got off at Solola and walked around the market. Sololá is not a tourist market; it is a market where locals buy and sell food and other necessities of life. We only saw a handful of other gringos there. It was a bustling hive of activity. We felt much more comfortable in the crowded atmosphere than we had the first time we had been there six years previous. Saying buenos dias to the locals was really a good icebreaker, and everyone was very friendly if you take thde initiative to address them.
There were really a variety of things for sale, from dried fish to Colgate to plastic toys to fresh fried tortillas to pineapples to plates and cups, to furniture. We walked down one "aisle" that was all wooden furniture. There were a lot of nicely crafted bureaus with mirrored doors. Humberto said that the bureaus at their house had come from here. A man walked by with one of those large bureaus hanging from a strap around his forehead! We saw chairs including very tiny ones like Eddy has. Craig and I lost ourselves in daydreams of living out the rest of our days in Panajachel, furnishing a little apartment or house with local wares... We sat for a while in a small park enjoying our view of the clock tower, which, with its yellow, pink, and white paint, reminded me of a wedding cake. A woman let Craig taste some small yellow plums, and we wound up purchasing a small bag full.
A woman named Rosa approached us and tried to sell us some textiles. I liked one of her embroidered pieces and I tried to bargain with her. She tried to bait and switch me with another of her textiles. Her English was very good and she was very persistent. A cateract clouded her right eye. She followed us out of the market down the street toward the cemetery. Mukul eventually bought a different textile from her and she left us.
We continued on to the cemetery which has a gorgeous view of Volcan Toliman. As we walked through the cheerful brightly painted above-ground crypts, we couldn't help thinking that this wasn't too shabby a place to spend eternity. Some of the crypts were bedecked with flowers. Humberto drew our attention to a surname painted on one of the tombs. He said that used to be his family's surname. At one point in time, the family was undergoing a lot of bad luck. They consulted a shaman and he found their surname to be the cause. He recommended that they change it. They did so, and the bad luck stopped. Humberto then said that it is bad luck to remove dirt or stones from a cemetery. He also told us the supernatural take of when he and his brother encountered a ghost on their walk home.
We walked back up the hill to town. It was warm in the mid-day sun, and we were all sweating. Humberto had us sit in the shade on the sidewalk while he went back to the market to buy some Gatorade and snacks. Who should we meet on the street but Rosa again! We all laughed and we chatted with her. She kept saying that my husband should buy the textile for me. She had a really good sense of humor, and eventually we agreed on a price and I bought my textile.
Humberto came back with the food and had found a pick up truck to drive us to a picnic spot. We hopped in the back of the truck and rode to the overlook at San Jorge. The roadside rest stop had a gorgeous view of the lake, with Panajachel easily discernible in a small rounded peninsula. We laid our spread out on a bench: ranch chips, tostada chips, bananas, miniature bananas, and Gatorade. Two boys were trying to be of service to tourists, putting rocks behind car tires when they were parked on the slope, etc. They were obviously interested in us, and they watched us from a safe distance. They were eyeing our food, so I offered them some bananas. The older boy thanked us in English. Humberto spoke to them in Spanish and learned that they are brothers. Mino was 12 and Alex was 5. I took their photo and Mino picked his brother up for the camera.
We wound up giving them more food and some Gatorade. They led us down a steep path and we stopped in at their house. There was a traditional, separate kitchen building in which their mother would cook on a fire in a hearth. Everything was covered in soot. Chickens wandered through the buildings.
Then we climbed down to Nimaj Ay ("The Great House"), a large cave whose mouth overlooks Panajachel and the lake. There was a Mayan shaman here performing a ceremony with a client. It was a large cave with a wide mouth, and we walked inside and could easily stand up.Small stone altars were set up in various places. Lighted candles stood next to crosses carved out of the black volcanic stone. Flowers stood on top of small cairns. One special rock looks like a skull. It is believed to be the god of the underworld, Pascual. Humberto explained to us how the Mayans believe that caves are the entrance to the underworld. If someone is sick or in need of guidance, people will hire a shaman and come to this cave, and perform a ceremony. We saw a Mayan shaman here now, performing a ceremony for a woman. Humberto said that his family at times has had ceremonies performed in caves like this in the past if the children were sick.
We walked back up the path to our picnic spot, and boarded the next chicken bus that arrived there. This one was painted creatively, and had a Tweety Bird decal on the door. We noticed that Paulina's dad was in the front seat of the bus, and greeted him. The bus was packed and we had to stand in the aisle crushed up against other passengers. It was a wild ride, and you can see just how many people would be injured if there were an accident. The bus raced around corners and we could smell the brakes. These buses are notorious for bald tires and after our little scare on the road to Pana, let's just say we felt a little more safety conscious than normal. We were more than a little relieved to arrive safely in town.
We walked back to the house. I was filthy...my feet were muddy from walking the trail to the cave in flip-flops. I took a shower and then we played with the kids. Rocio and Aracely stayed close to us and the others came and went. Rocio was giving Craig, Mukul, and me neck massages, and soon Aracely and Yoselin got in on the act. I would play blind man's bluff and give horsie rides to the girls and Eddy. When I would get too tired and hot, I would sit down and Aracely would massage my shoulders and neck for 10 seconds and then ask if I was ready to play again.
We all played with Terri the dog. Paulina served us jello in plastic cups. The girls put Eddy's hair into a ponytail. Josue came over and we even convinced the normally shy kid to pose with us for pictures. Aracely's tooth was still aching, the poor thing. I would sing rock-a -bye-baby and Eddy was once again transfixed the moment I opened my mouth.
Dinner was enchiladas - shredded beet and cabbage enchiladas, with a sprinkle of cheese, onion, and salsa on top. They were a deep purple color, and Eddy was purple from head to toe by the time he was done eating. For a drink we had "caliente" or "ponche", a hot fruit punch. We went to our room at 10. I wrote in the journal and fell aSleep at 10:30.