We thought we might accompany the girls on their walk to school this morning so we made sure to be awake before 7 o'clock, even though it had been a short night of sleep. Yoselin and Yasmin came to say goodbye to us. We asked if they'd like us to walk them to school and they said yes. We quickly got dressed and walked them to school. They held our hands as we walked. We had been prepared to drop them off a short distance from the school. so as not to embarrass them in front of their friends. But to our surprise and delight they held onto our hands until we arrived in front of the school, and they gave us big hugs before joining their friends in the schoolyard. They are such sweet girls!
We had been on the lookout for Paulina's sister Olga selling fresh juice on Santander Street, but she hadn't beem there. Thirsty nonetheless, we went into a tienda across the street from the school to buy some Gatorades. Paola came over to us and asked us to tell her mother something. We didn't understand the message so she went to get her notebook and wrote it as a note for us to deliver. (It turned out that she needed her school uniform).
We walked back to the house and Aracely came into the room to use the computer. She snuggled up in a blanket and seemed rather tired and quiet. Eddy came in wearing a hat that was previously one of the 7 points on the piņata. It was nice having some time with our godchildren. Craig and I took turns taking a shower while the other played with the kids. Craig let Aracely watch him take his daily injection.
Rocio and some of her friends were outside listening to music and practicing dancing together. We went into the dining room for breakfast of toast and coffee. Briseda and her parents, who had spent the night in one of the guest rooms after last night's party, were just getting ready to leave.
Vanesa hadn't opened her gifts in front of everyone last night. The presents were now piled on the dining room table, and Vanesa opened them with some help from Eddy and Aracely. She had received all kinds of girly gifts: blouses, perfumes, lotions, and a purse. She held up her blouses in front of her to model them. Eddy took a pink one and held it up in front of him. It was very cute.
At around 10:30, we went for a walk with Paulina, Humberto, Aracely, and Eddy. We walked over to Aracely's school, Atitlan Multicultural Academy. The building looked different than it had when they were just moving to this location a year ago. There was now a playground and the building was no longer the Hotel Los Angeles. It was closed since school was not in session, so we couldn't go inside, but we took some pictures of the exterior.
After that, we went down the street across from Chinimaya to check on Paulina's sister Olga after her bloody nose last night. She and her sister Estela were home, along with their kids Loren, Isidro, and Allison Margarita. We chatted for a while and made sure that Olga's nose was alright. We reminisced that the last time we had visited their houses, Isidro had been just 15 days old and they were having a party for him. Now things had changed, Paulina's father, who also lived in this compound, had passed away and Olga had taken over his business selling fresh juice on Santander Street. It was physical work moving the cart full of fruit, and she was under a lot of stress. She wondered whether this was to blame for her frequent nosebleeds.
After chatting for a while we continued on our way, this time with Loren and Isidro accompanying us. We walked over to Santander and followed signs down narrow alleyways to the Jardin de America Spanish School, where Mario was studying. Mario was on a break and showed us around. It was a nice little garden oasis that felt like it was miles removed from the bustle of Santander Street. We looked at their brochure and thought that we might consider taking classes here sometime. We could easily go to classes for 4 hours in the morning while the kids are in school, and then spend the afternoon and evening with the family. Mario had nothing but good things to say about it.
We let Mario get back to his studying and walked to Sarita to get ice cream with the kids. As usually happens any time we come here, the kids immediately ran over to the small plastic jungle gym and slide. They climbed up and slid down. Paulina got a banana split, the kids got small sundae cups, and Humberto got a float. Craig and I ordered dulce de leche ice cream, but they were out. So Craig got a vanilla frozen yogurt with strawberries in a waffle cone, and I had strawberry sorbet in a waffle cone. The kids sat at a table with us and we all enjoyed our refreshing treat. As soon as the kids were done eating they ran back over to the slide. We had to pry them away when it was time to go.
As we left the ice cream parlor, Loren rode on Craig's shoulders and Eddy rode on Humberto's. I carried Aracely. Paulina joked that nobody wanted to carry Isidro because even as the second youngest in the group, he was probably the heaviest. We returned Isidro to his house.
Humberto told Olga that Mario wanted to give her a follow-up exam tonight, so she should come to our house at 7 p.m. Loren got permissions to come back to the house with us to play with the kids.
Before we knew it, Yoselin, Yasmin, and Paola were already home from school. We rested for a while and the kids hung out in our room with us. We all then went into the dining room when it was time for lunch. We had rice with mushroom cream sauce and tortillas, fresh guacamole, and fresh lemonade. Now it was Yoselin's turn to open the birthday presents she had received at last night's party. Loren took pictures with the second camera. Yoselin got some new blouses and was quite excited.
After lunch Humberto and Paulina wanted to take us to see his mother's farmland in the nearby village of San Gabriel. It was difficult to get there because there had been a mudslide on the back road out of Panajachel. Aracely and Yasmin wanted to go with us. Paulina asked Aracely if she was sure she didn't want to stay home and play with Loren and the other girls. Even though Aracely gets motion sick when riding in cars and buses, she wanted to go with us, presumably because it was our last day.
Humberto, Paulina, Yasmin, Aracely, Humberto's mother (Abeula), Craig, and I took tuk-tuks to the market and then piled into the back of a pick-up truck, which took us to the road out of Pana. All of a sudden the road in front of us ceased to exist, it had been swallowed by the mountainside. We crossed a temporary steel cable bridge which had been erected. It had wooden floorboards that had holes in some places, so you had to watch your step. And the whole thing swayed back and forth as people crossed. On the other side of the bridge, cars were waiting. We realized how much of a disruption this was for folks who live and work in this area. There was no easy way to get out of Pana from the back side. Humberto told us that while they had been trying to fix the damage, someone had been killed when a second landslide tumbled his backhoe down the mountainside.
We got into a van that brought us part of the way to the fields. Craig and I sat in the front and I could feel the warmth of the engine under my seat. Locals were piled in the back. The van dropped us off at a bus stop and we took a chicken bus the remainder of the way to San Gabriel.
Chicken buses are old U.S. school buses (which have sometimes been decorated in bright colors) that locals use for cheap public transportation. They are called chicken buses because you are likely to see people riding with live chickens on their way to or from the market. They are usually in dubious states of repair and have bald tires and sketchy brakes. They are always an adventure for gringos.Aracely was afraid since she usually gets motion sick when she rides chicken buses, so Paulina sat her on her lap and laid a sweater over her eyes. They made Craig sit in a seat with two other people. Not even a whole cheek fit on the seat. There were three people in the seat across the aisle from him as well, and he and the women were squished together so that there was no aisle room between them. I stood for part of the way but when a couple of people got off I got to sit 3 in a seat with two others. I was lucky and had a full cheek on the seat.
After getting off the chicken bus, we walked to the corn field, which was easily accessible from the road. Abuela employs a caretaker for her fields and he plants his own bean plants on the land, and they grow in symbiosis with the corn. Sometimes Abuela likes to go the fields to check on things, and sometimes she has to do some physical work while there. It's hard for her to get there by herself, even when there isn't a landslide blocking the road, so sometimes Humberto sends Yasmin or Yoselin with her. It makes for a nice outing with their grandmother.
Humberto explained that the family harvests the corn on a single day in November, and it yields about 500 pounds of corn which his mother will use to feed herself and her chickens over the course of a year. They also have coffee plants on the land. They sell the coffee beans rather than processing them themselves. There was a small shed on the property, made of wood and corrugated metal, with a door painted bright blue. Humberto said that is where they seek shelter when it rains and they are working in the fields. When he was young, he and his father and brother would spend the night there sometimes. They could hear coyotes howling in the night. It was interesting to get an insight into this part of their lives. Though they live in a small city and most of their activities are urban, there is still a rural component to their lives which is integral to their being. Humberto finds solace in the fields and feels close to the spirit of his deceased father. We felt honored that he wanted to take us there and share it with us.
After walking around and admiring the corn and coffee plants, we walked to the road and started walking in the direction of Aguas Esconditas. We hoped to get a ride back to the bridge at the landslide. We walked to a tienda and sat outside on a bench, watching the road. The girls got some snacks at the store. A few pickup trucks went by, but they were all full by the time they passed us. Humberto thought we might have better luck in the nearby town of Aguas Esconditas. So we piled into a tuk-tuk and it drove us to town (only barely making it up some of the hills carrying so much weight).
As soon as we got to town a nice man in a pick-up truck offered us a ride. We rode with him and Paulina and the girls were very chilly and bundled up against the wind. The scenery was beatutiful. We had a view down at Lake Atitlan and its volcanoes from an angle we don't usually get to see. And in the other direction were mountains. The driver dropped us off at an intersection where we got into a waiting van. Craig and I once again sat in the front. The roads were all torn up and everyone drove like they were doing a slalom race. It sure took a lot of different modes of transportation to get back home. It started to rain a bit and the van driver sealed up the windows, which caused it to get very warm inside. The lack of air movement didn't help Aracely's tendencies toward motion sickness, and she began to feel ill.
The van driver dropped us off the bridge. There was a large exodus of people leaving Pana after the work day. The bridge was one-way at a time, so we had to wait quite a while for the flow out of town to die down so that we could cross on our way into town.
After crossing the bridge, we got into the back of a pick-up. I was sitting down so I couldn't see but Craig saw the sunset over Volcan San Pedro, with heat lightning flashes. The pick-up dropped us at the market, where Paulina bought a pumpkin for tonight's dinner. We took a tuk-tuk home and stoppeed at the cake bakery where they had bought the girls' birthday cakes. Apparently there hadn't been enough cake to go around at the party, and some of the family didn't get any. So they bought a supplemental cake for tonight's dinner.
When we got home, Olga, Yesmy, Loren, and Josue were at the house. Mario did a blood pressure check on Olga and then tested the whole family's blood sugar. We joked with Humberto how lucky he was to have a personal physician staying with him. But all kidding aside, it was wonderful the way that Mariio cared for the family. Having him there to take care of Olga's nosebleed last night was priceless.
The kids played Chinese jumprope. Everyone stayed for dinner: pumpkin soup with cake for dessert. There were so many people at the table that the kids ate in shifts, and Aracely and Yoselin each took a shift in Eddy's high chair. Josue sat on Mario's lap to eat cake. We still couldn't get over how much more outgoing Josue had become.
We had a nice conversation with Mario and with Humberto, Paulina, and Olga. We learned that Humberto's mother as well as Humberto himself have been suffering from gallstones. Apparently the hospitals have no funding so they need to try to schedule treatment during a time when surgeons from the U.S. go down there to donate their services. Humberto worries that he wouldn't have the requisite 3 month recuperation time to get the surgery for himself, but he is trying to get his mother on the list. We take for granted the availability of medical care in the U.S. The resources for that level of care are hard to come by in highland Guatemala. All the more reason Mario's help was so appreciated.
The kids had taken a lot of pictures with the second camera while we had been at the farmland. Loren and Eddy were frequent models in various photo shoots. The kids played on the netbook at the dining room table. Mario gave us a goodbye gift: pens embroidered with our names, one of the crafts done by the local folks and sold to tourists. It was interesting to see how our names were spelled by the artisans: Grig and Estephani.
After chatting for a while, Olga took Yesmy and Loren home. We said our goodbyes to them as we would not be seeing them again before we leave tomorrow. Humberto went to the store to buy us Gatorades and a final ice block for Craig's cooler of medication. We said goodnight to Mario, Humberto, Paulina, and all of the kids. Our last night is always bittersweet. The time with the family goes by so quickly. We hugged and kissed all of the kids goodnight and went to bed at 10:40.
Olga, Isidro, Allison Margarita, Eddy, Estella, Loren, Aracely, Paulina
Jardin de Americas
Aracely at Sarita
Loren and Eddy get shoulder rides
Bridge over landslide
Walking to the family farmland in San Gabriel
Paulina, Yasmin, and Aracely at the family farmland in San Gabriel
Abuela walks amongst the coffee plants at the family farmland in San Gabriel
The shack where Humberto used to spend the night with his father
Mario and Josue