We were excited to visit the family again, 6 months after our previous visit. We chatted online with the girls on the days leading up to our visit. They wrote that Aracely said that only she can speak in English with her padrinos (godparents) during the visit. We were looking forward to hearing her newly acquired language skills. She had just completed her second year of English immersion at Atitlan Multicultural Academy.
Having gone to bed at 9:30 p.m., we woke up groggily at 1:45 a.m. Steve had generously offered to drive us to the airport at this ungodly hour. He arrived to pick us up and we left the house at 3:15 a.m. We got to the airport and got in line to check our backpack full of presents at the United counter. We quickly made it through security, and I bought us donuts, muffins and orange juice at a Dunkin Donuts kiosk near our departure gate.
We hadn't been able to choose seats for this flight until last night, and we ended up in row 37. That's really far back, and our connection in Houston wasn't overly long. It would be better for us to be closer to the front, which gets you off the plane earlier. They made an announcement asking if anyone was willing to relocate to an exit row. They said it when I was in line for Dunkin Donuts. Craig had to stay with our bags so we weren't able to get to the counter. We thought we had missed our chance. But when I got back to the gate I asked at the desk and they said they still had an exit row available, but the seats don't recline. I said that was fine. She told me she'd page me, and I thought that I heard her say something about an upgrade.
Sure enough, we were upgraded to 1st class. We were across the aisle from one another but the person next to Craig never showed up, so I was able to move next to him. I guess we didn't need that Dunkies breakfast after all! We got drinks while still at the gate and that was followed up by hot towels. The breakfast was scrambled eggs, fruit, sausage, hash browns, and cinnamon roll served on real plates, with real silverware, glasses, etc. This was the long leg of the trip, and we were happy to be comfortable. We listened to Led Zeppelin on the iPod. There's nothing like some good old loud rock and roll to drown out the jet engines.
We arrived in Houston on time. We were thrilled with United's service so far. Even though it is about an hour longer to fly through Houston than Miami, the switch from American to United seemed to be a good decision.
At the Houston airport, We bought some large bottles of water. It keeps us hydrated while traveling and a big bottle is good to refill and re-use throughout the trip. It's sometimes hard to find large bottles in Guatemala. Our gate was next to a Rosetta Stone cart, and it got me thinking about seriously buckling down to learn Spanish.
The flight was scheduled to take off at 10:23 a.m.. There was a no-show passenger, and his baggage needed to be removed from the already loaded cargo bay. This delayed us, and put us in a long line of planes waiting to take off. We ended up leaving the ground an hour and a half late. We didn't know if Humberto's family was traveling to Guatemala City to pick us up. If they had, they would be waiting longer than expected. We knew that our good luck had been too good to be true. Although this was an international flight, there was no meal or snack on this leg. Soft drinks only. We were glad we had our Dunkin Donuts coffee cake muffins after all to eat along the way.
As we landed in Guatemala City it was raining like crazy; huge puddles were forming on the tarmac. They didn't have the proper immigration entry forms on the plane so we needed to get the forms at the airport and fill them out quickly while in the immigration line. After that, we had to wait a few minutes for our checked bag to show up. Then we went through customs. By the time we got outside, we saw a driver holding up our names. His name was Sergio. It was a nice brand new van and we had it all to ourselves. We were relieved that Humberto, Paulina, and the kids hadn't comes to pick us up. Although it would be great to see them on arrival, it would have meant that they would have been waiting around for an extra hour and a half in the rainy city. Add to it the approximately 6 hour round-trip drive, and it would have eaten up their entire Saturday.
As Sergio drove us to Panajachel, there were downpours and even hail. We were worried about the condition of the roads as rain and silt on the road had caused us to spin out when we visited with our good friend Mukul two years ago. Luckily, we had a safe ride.
We arrived at their house at about 5:30 p.m. It wasn't as early as we had expected due to the flight delay, but we had pretty much known that our scheduled itinerary was too good to be true. Still, we arrived while it was still light outside.
Humberto was in the office and greeted us warmly. Aracely came running down the alley to meet us. We walked through the new bamboo gate to their property and went to our room, where Yasmin, Yoselin, and Paola greeted us. We noticed that Humberto had added a window to our room on the end of the building. This provided a lot more light, as the sun was mostly on that side of the house. We wouldn't need to turn lights on during the day in order to see. Humberto had also increased the size of the bathroom window and had made a set of freestanding shelves. Humberto and Paulina were sometimes renting the guest rooms to students at a nearby Spanish school, and the shelves were a nice addition for guests to organize their belongings.
Humberto had also made a nice grassy area in front of the house with a garden along the perimeter. It looked great. Humberto said that Eddy really liked all of the flowers.
Humberto told us that Eddy, Vanesa, and Paulina had gone out shopping for food for tonight. It's Humberto's birthday today, so we were going to have a nice dinner. Aracely asked if I had the old camera (the kids like to use it to take pictures and videos). I told her that we have a new camera and they can now use the blue one that I bought in Pana several years ago.
Aracely ran to get her pink Batgirl cape that her cousin Josue had given her. It had a mask attached and she looked like a Mexican wrestler. Humberto told us that Paola and Vanesa had moved out of the main house and were now sharing one of the guest rooms. Things had changed a lot over the past 6 months. He set some plastic chairs up in the hallway and we sat chatting and hugging the kids. Aracely was speaking to us in English. She said that she loved us and was glad that we came. She was much more confident in her English than she had been 6 months ago. We told her we loved her too and were very proud of her for working so hard at school.
Soon Vanesa, Paulina, and Eddy arrived home with groceries. They greeted us warmly. Eddy played shy for about a minute but soon was just as affectionate with us as the girls were. Humberto went to play soccer with friends while the older three girls helped Paulina prepare dinner. Paola diced onions and they cooked chicken on the grill. Aracely and Eddy asked me to sing the "cancion" (song). I knew that this meant "Rock-a-bye Baby." I had sung it for them once years ago and they all fell in love with it. I would sing it in English and the kids would always sing along, approximating the sounds of the English words. They all used the camera to take some pictures. I told them to be careful (none of us wanted a repeat of the time where it was accidentally dropped and we need to buy a new camera in Panajachel from Eddy's baptism ceremony). They would all religiously put their wrist through the strap, even Eddy.
None of the other cousins were around tonight. Aracely had asked if we had brought presents and translated for the others so that by the time we dug out the presents they were all buzzing with excitement. Eddy got a Tonka fire station, the girls got little pouches filled with lip gloss, a mirror, a hairbrush, and pens. We also gave them each shirts (floral for the girls and New England Patriots for Eddy). Eddy was so excited about his fire station that he was beside himself. Aracely got out the notebook we gave her in January and wrote in it with her new pens.
Humberto came home and we all ate dinner together: delicious smoky chicken in salsa, refried beans, rice with vegetables, and coffee. Paulina and the older girls were good cooks. It was so nice to be back with the family.
After dinner, Aracely asked about using my computer but I asked her to wait until tomorrow. They don't have cable TV any more, but one of the two channels that they get plays movies on the weekend. They watched Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider and then Batman. We had green grapes for dessert. Yoselin and Yasmin went to bed, and then Paola and Vani followed suit. We took this as our cue to call it a night and went to our room at 10. We had been awake for 22 hours, after all. A few minutes later Paulina knocked on our door to deliver two cold Gatorades which she had just bought at the neighborhood store. This was a tradition the famly has started since they know that we like Gatorade to stay hydrated. They buy us one each night as a gesture of hospitality. It is very sweet of them. We thanked her and then I wrote in the journal. We went to sleep at 10:45.
Craig enjoying our free upgrade to first class
Aracely as Batgirl, with Yoselin
Yasmin and Craig
Eddy and Steph
Yoselin and Eddy
Paola and Vanesa at the grill
Humberto and Paola