Yoselin woke us up at 7:15 a.m. hoping to see Craig give himself his shot. She had missed it all week while she had been in school, so he had promised her that she could watch this morning. She was intrigued by the process.
It had only been about 3 hours of sleep, and we were in serious need of hydration. I walked with Yoselin down to the corner store to buy two Gatorades for 8 quetzales each. Whern we got back, Craig and I got changed amd we met the family in the dining room for corn flakes and coffee at 8 o'clock.
We walked to the nearby Atitlan Multicultural Academy with Humberto, Paulina, Eddy, and Aracely for our 9 o'clock appointment. We met the secretary Nancy, Doņa Ana, and Irene (two of the mothers who had been involved with the school since its founding). Nancy gave Aracely a hug, and when she saw Eddy's bump on his head said withour missing a beat, "No more monkeys jumping on the bed!!" Humberto and Eddy looked incredulous. How did everyone know this song?
It was the first time Craig and I had been inside the building since it had been renovated from its previous incarnation as a hotel. They took us for a tour. On the main floor, we saw the office, a small computer room, and the library. Eddy was drawn right to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows among all the shelves of books.
We went upstairs and saw some classrooms, including Aracely's kindergarten classroom. It nostalgically reminded me of my old days teaching. Lots of fun school supplies, bulletin board displays, chore charts, etc. Every classroom had its own library stocked with classics and reference books.
Next we were taken up to the roof, where there were some high school classrooms. There was a beautiful view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes from there. It is a very inspiring environment.
We went back down to the lobby and spent the remainder of the hour learning about the school. There had been concerns that it might not open in the fall, or that it might be forced to merge with other area schools. But a group of parents whose children had graduated from AMA felt that the school is such a positive force in the community, that they were determined to keep it open to enrich the lives of other local children. They took over the day-to-day administration of the school and now it would open in the fall on schedule. Of course they are still in need but of additional students and donors, and they are actively promoting the school on the web and on Facebook.
The school is like a family; Paulina volunteers in the classroom, Humberto plays soccer with faculty and parents. We are very impressed with Aracely's progress that we were very relieved to see that the school was indeed going to survive, and that it was entrusted to some very passionate people. We are proud that Aracely will be continuing in first grade in September, and that Eddy would be starting pre-school.
After our appointment, Paulina and Aracely took a tuk-tuk to the market. We walked home with Humberto and Eddy. Craig was feeling overheated and dizzy, so he rested for a few minutes. I helped the girls clean up from last night's party.
We knew that we were supposed to go for a boat ride with the family at some point today, but we didn't really know when it was happening. We hoped that Craig would feel better so that he could enjoy it.
Soon Paulina and Aracely returned from the market with bags full of food. All of the kids were gathering things together in backpacks. Humberto asked if we were ready to go. The lake, okay...I quickly gathered a backpack with bottled water and suntan lotion, hats and sunglasses. I was trying to picture what we would need for a day in the Mayan villages around the lake.
As we walked down the alley toward the lake we met up with Blanca, Pablo, David, and Prisceda. Humberto led his mom down the alley and hailed a tuk-tuk. The two of them rode down to the lakefront, and we met them down there.
Shortly after 11 o'clock We got onto a private boat, or lancha, (named Heidi) and took a pleasant boat ride. Paola, Yoselin, and Vanesa sat in the sunny back of the boat with the driver. Paola had her sunglasses on and looked like she belonged on the water. The boat pulled away from the dock at 11:11.
Instead of pulling up at a nearby village, we docked at the Villas B'alam Ya. Humberto's nephew Victor and his wife Rosa are caretakers at these beautiful rental villas right on Lake Atitlan. They had invited the family for a day of relaxation there since none of the villas were currently occupied, and were kind enough to include us.
As you step off the dock, you step onto an inviting span of nicely manicured lawn. Victor, Rosa, and their kids Andrik and Neli were there waiting for us. We disembarked and they got Abuela settled nicely on the grass with a view of the lake and volcanoes. The kids changed into their bathing suits and prepared for a swim.
Neli, Victor, and Rosa gave us a tour of two of the four villas. We could tell that Neli was proud to be able to show off her access to this special place. First we toured the largest of the villas, B'alam Ya. It was a gorgeous mix of traditional and modern architecture. Paulina and Rosa were cooking the food that they brought in the fully-stocked gorgeous modern kitchen. Antique colonial furniture contrasted with modern art pieces. There was a jacuzzi tub and shower in the en suite of the downstairs bedroom. The living area had an open wooden staircase, a large leather sectional, a fireplace, large TV, and an ergonomically shaped chair carved out of a tree trunk. We went upstairs to another large bedroom which had a thatched roof. It had a carved wooden canopy bed. There was a balcony with a hammock and an en suite with a marble tiled shower and marble vessel sinks. Downstairs there was a nice patio with a lawn overlooking the lake. It was a beautiful villa, and we could easily imagine renting the place out and enjoying a relaxing luxury private getaway. It would easily accommodate a family or two couples.
Then Rosa led us up a cobblestone path to Casa Jade. She unlocked the large elaborately carved wooden door and we entered the perfect-sized romantic retreat for a couple. There was a gorgeous view of the lake from the bed. There was a TV in the bedroom, a wireless router, iPod dock, etc. It was very nicely appointed. We thought that it was a studio at first, but there was a fully stocked kitchen tucked away off the side. The bathroom had a claw foot iron tub and a beautifully tiled shower with glass doors. Pendant lights hung overhead. It was a lovely, cozy private getaway that would be perfect for a honeymooning couple.
We then walked back down to the water. The beautiful green lawn stretched all the way down to the water's edge. Humberto, Pablo, and the kids were swimming and taking kayaks out for a ride. Yoselin, Yasmin, and Andrik were swimming in life vests. Humberto was taking Eddy for a ride in a kayak, and then he took Neli.
Pablo and the kids urged us to come for a swim. Craig and I hadn't realized the nature of the place, and had left our bathing suits back at the house. Humberto offered us the two person kayak. It was a very nice hard shelled kayak and although we knew we would get our bottoms wet, we decided to go for it. Kayaking is always so fun and relaxing. Craig sat in the front and I sat in the back, and we paddled out onto the lake. The view of the volcanoes is absolutely stunning. It is really a breathtaking landscape.
A party boat filled with a wedding party was circling around the area and we could hear their music as the wedding party danced on the deck. We paddled around for a while and then came back to the shore. Our bottoms were wet and the kids were still urging us to go for a swim. The weather was sunny and humid. We were overheating a bit, so we decided to just go for it and swam in our clothes. The water was very refreshing and got Craig's body temperature back down to normal. Paola paddled around with Eddy in a kayak.
Humberto brought his mom up to the main villa, and we took that as a sign that we would probably be eating soon. We got out of the water and dripped dry.
We walked up to the house at around 2 o'clock and the women were grilling out on the grass patio overlooking the lake. They brought the large wooden dining table out of the dining room and set it up outside along with its chairs. We couldn't sit on anything nice with our wet clothes, but Victor kindly brought two wrought iron lawn chairs up from the lower patio for us. This worked out nicely.
We had tortillas, fresh guacamole, steak in salsa, and fresh pulpy pineapple juice. It was a wonderful picnic. We sat outside with Rosa, Victor, Humberto, Paulina, Prisceda, Pablo, Blanca, and Eddy. There were gorgeous flowers hanging from overhead at different heights and they looked like ornaments. [We would later find out that these are Thunbergia Mysorensis, also known as clock vine flowers or Mysore trumpetvines]. We had a good time chatting and getting to know each other better. Of course the view out at the lake was fantastic. Even though we were seated facing the house with our backs to the water, we could see a perfect reflection in the windows and sliding glass doors.
Abuela and some of the kids ate in the living room on the leather couch while watching TV. After lunch everyone relaxed. Prisceda took a nap on a wooden bench out on the patio. The guys brought a chair outside onto the grass for Abuela and she sat looking out at the volcanoes. She looked perfectly at peace. We chatted with Humberto for a while. The sun was warm and Craig started to feel a bit overheated again, so we moved to the shade.
The women left the kitchen in pristine condition, and we returned the furniture to its original positioning. It had been a wonderful day. The property was beautiful, and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a restful retreat in the Lake Atitlan area.
At 4:30, we all walked back down to the dock to take the boat back to Pana. We had a brief panic when we saw that our backpacks and shoes were no longer by the dock. Someone had picked everything up and brought it up to the house, so everything was safe and sound.
Victor, Rosa, Neli, and Andrik came back with us on the boat. They were done with their day of work. Everyone was quiet after a fun afternoon. The sun was low in the sky When we got back to the Pana dock, Humberto hailed a tuk-tuk and Paulina and Abuela rode back to the house. The rest of us walked. We said our goodbyes and thank you's to the various family members, as this was likely the last time we would see them on this visit. Everyone treated us like family and it was always emotional to say goodbye.
We got home and decided that, after swimming in our clothes, showers would be refreshing. We would be leaving tomorrow morning, so I started packing while Craig took his shower. Then when he was done, I took my shower. Fresh and clean, we walked down to the store to buy some Gatorades. As we walked back up the driveway we ran into Humberto's brother Mario, who was doing construction on his house. He had done some fancy plaster work on the ceiling and he invited us in to take a look. This was really the only time we had seen him during this trip, so it was nice to get a chance to chat for a few minutes. His construction skills are great (he had done most of the work on the guest rooms at Humberto and Paulina's, and it is all good quality work). Here he had taken the time to make an elaborate pattern on the plaster.
The kids were taking turns taking showers. We played with Eddy and Aracely. Neli, Josue, Yasmin, and David played with the netbook. We gave the kids a gift: a "penguin popper." This was a plastic penguin that, when you squeeze its tummy, shoots a ball out of its beak. It makes a very loud POP!!! sound when it fires. Paulina thought it was hysterical, and the kids took turns shooting it.
We also had some candy left over - some "Boston Baked Beans" (candy coated peanuts). Aracely really liked them and distributed them to everyone else. It turned out that Humberto really liked them a lot, too.
My boss had kindly given us some of her daughter's clothes that no longer fit her in the hopes that the girls would like them. The girls loved them and snatched them up excitedly, each picking out something they liked. Aracely liked the shirt that she got so much that she changed into it right away. We took a video of the girls saying thank you to my boss.
Humberto and Eddy were both napping. Tonight was our last night and we had promised to treat the family to pizza. When everyone was showered and ready to go, they had to wake Eddy up.
We all walked to Santander to the now-familiar Ricassoli Pizza Steakhouse. The girls were pretty quiet on the walk. Everyone was very tired after last night's late party, and a day in the sun at the lake. Add to that the fact that the girls usually get sad when we are about to leave, and the result was a rather somber crew. The last night can be bittersweet for us as well, as it is always hard to leave, knowing we won't see the kids again for another year. So in a lot of ways it probably wasn't the ideal night to go out for dinner, but we had made the plans before we had known the weekend would be so busy.
When we got to the restaurant, they put several tables together for us and we all got seated. Eddy was cranky, having recently been awoken from his nap, and Paola handled him well. The kids and Paulina each ordered a smoothie, and I had lemonade made with soda water. The drinks were served in huge, heavy glass goblets. Craig and Humberto got Gallo beer.
After studying the menu, Humberto ordered three pizzas: a Sicilian, a mixto, and the equivalent of a meat lover's. The Sicilian featured seafood: shrimp, crayfish, crab, octopus and calamari. Humberto loaded it up with ketchup, Guatemalan-style. Craig tried a piece and thought it was quite good, though ketchupy. The mixto had just about everything on it: spinach pepperoni, broccoli, pineapple, mushrooms, peppers, etc. It was very good, as was the meat pizza.
I had only had 2 slices by the time it was all gone, so we ordered an additional meat pizza. Pablo, Blanca, David, and Prisceda arrived at the restaurant and we waved at them as they were seated at their table. Craig and I ate most of the third pizza, but Paola had the last piece.
As we were leaving, we stopped to say goodbye to Pablo, Blanca, David, and Prisceda. As usual, David was trying to get my attention and said "Hola Stephanie!" repeatedly until I addressed him by name. Craig insists that he has a little crush on me, which is very cute.
We walked home slowly and quietly, stuffed with pizza. The family stopped to get popsicles at a small store. Neither Craig nor I even had room for something as small as a popsicle. Along with tehir posicles, they bought us our nightly Gatorades.
As we walked down their street it startle to sprinkle rain. It was now 10 o'clock, and we would need to leave fairly early in the morning. We didn't even go into the house; we said our goodnights outside and then went to our room. Yasmin said that she wanted to go to Guatemala City with us. They decided that she and Paulina would go with us. This would give us some extra time together, and would also allow them to do some shopping in the city.
Paola at Lago Atitlan
Vanesa and Yoselin on the lancha
Vanesa, Eddy, Craig, and Neli
Kayaking on Lake Atitlan
Rosa, Prisceda, Eddy, and Paulina at the grill
Eddy and Paulina with the reflection of the lake behind them
Eddy on the lancha back to Pana
Aracely, Paulina, Eddy, Paola, Vanesa, Craig, Steph, Yasmin, and Yoselin