It had been a full year since our prior trip to visit our godchildren and their family in Panajachel, which is far too long; the six children grow quickly and we like to see them as often as possible. So we had been looking forward to this trip for a while.
The trip got off to an inauspicious start on the 4th of July. Our flight was at 8 a.m., and I planned to set our alarm for 3:45. But somehow I miscalculated in my head and set it for 4:45. We woke up and took our showers and got ready to go, only realizing that we were an hour late when it hit 5:45. I realized that we had meant to arrive at the airport in 15 minutes! It is about half an hour's drive and we weren't ready to leave yet. We immediately panicked. The weather was very hot and humid, and Craig suddenly felt very overwhelmed and overheated as we finished getting ready as quickly as possible.
We got out the door at 6 o'clock. We were so flustered by this that Craig missed the exit on the drive to the airport. Luckily he was able to take the next one without losing much time. We arrived at Logan Airport at 6:30 a.m. Not too bad, considering that we had made up half an hour.
We had checked in and printed our boarding passes at home the previous night. But since we had a bag of presents for the kids that we needed to check, they made us check in again at a kiosk. Craig was completely overheated due to the combined effects of the weather and the stressful morning, so much so that an airport employee suggested he go outside to get some air. As we were in the throes of a 6 day heat wave (over 90 degrees), and the air at the curb in front of the airport is usually choked with vehicle exhaust, we decided that wasn't the best idea.
There was a very short line at security, and we made it through quickly. We arrived at the food court at 7 o'clock, 30 minutes before our boarding time. So we got some breakfast sandwiches at McDonald's (which we only do when in airports) and some large water bottles at Cosi, which we would be able to refill and reuse during the trip. We still made it to our departure gate in plenty of time. What a relief!
We took off a few minutes before our scheduled 8 o'clock departure. The flight was uneventful except for the antics of our seat mate. She was a pretty young woman from Germany, who rested her bare feet on top of my water bottle, and foldled its mouthpiece with her toes. Seriously. Then she proceeded to spill a cup of Sprite on my lap. Will this bad luck ever end?
We arrived in Miami at around 11:15, and took the Sky Train to gate D3. During our short layover, we got sandwiches at the Cafe Versailles (a chicken salad croissant and a jerk chicken wrap). We boarded the plane at noon, and we were soon on our way to Guatemala City. Before we knew it, the plane was coming in for a landing, still a few minutes early.
When we landed, immigration went fairly quickly, but our checked bag seemed to be one of the last off the plane. That was ok; we just wanted it to arrive safe and sound (I don't even want to think about arriving at the house with no gifts for the children if it didn't.) So we were just happy that it arrived at all, but it still slowed us down a little. This delay allowed a big customs line to form, which slowed us down even more. Luckily, after this point, things turned around for the better. The familiar and friendly Adrin, who had driven us several times before, was there to pick us up at the airport in a large comfortable passenger van. The road was in good shape despite some intermittent rain, and we made it to Panajachel in under 3 hours.
When we arrived, it was just before 5 o'clock and it was pouring rain. Aracely was sitting in the office playing on the computer and she ran out to the street to meet us. She greeted us with big hugs telling us in English how much she loved us and had missed us. At first glance it was remarkable how much she looked like Yoselin had at her age. Aracely was now almost 8 years old. She had grown taller and her hair was now a lot longer. She also had a beautiful smile, showing off her adult teeth to us for the first time. She led us back to the office to sit down.
The kids' cousins Julisse, Andrik, and Neli came over with Eddy in tow. Eddy is such a little man! Aracely had called Paulina and Humberto, and they arrived at the office to greet us. Yoselin and Yasmin showed up, both looking much taller than they had last year. In fact, they were almost as tall as Paulina now. The kids' cousin Rocio stopped in to say hello, and it was the first time we had seen her in about a year and a half. She was telling us that she would be competing in a science olympiad tomorrow, and we told her how proud we were of her.
Vanesa arrived home from tourism school, looking very professional and grown up in her uniform which consisted of a navy blue blazer and pencil skirt. Aracely was patiently waiting for gifts, and suggested several times to take our bags and go to our room to speed up the process. But we were all enjoying chatting and catching up and before we knew it, a couple of hours had passed effortlessly.
When we did go to the room, we walked down the alleyway and passed through the bamboo gate. The gate opened to reveal paver stones leading to the house and guest rooms. Humberto had installed these since our last visit, and they looked fantastic. we went into our room, which we noticed now contained an additional table and chair. There were Mayan huipiles (embroidered blouses) being used as tablecloths. Each time we visit, Humberto and Paulina have always made more improvements to the property and the rooms. It is a very comfortable place to stay, and they now operate as a bed and breakfast with private en suites, as part of Humberto's Lago Aventura Tours. We highly recommend it for anyone looking for a homestay experience.
Yasmin and Yoselin have moved into one of the guest rooms since our last visit. Now only Aracely and Eddy sleep in the main house with Paulina and Humberto. We got settled in and then headed over to the main house. The kids were gathered around the dining room table watching TV. The orange color of the walls had been changed to cream in the dining room. It brightened up the room (especially now, at night) and looked very nice.
Paola got home from school and now all six kids were home together. This is more and more rare now that the kids are so muuch older. Everyone is usually on a different schedule. But tonight, all of the kids were home together, and Humberto and Paulina were both home as well. These are the times that we really treasure, and suddenly all of the trials and tribulations of a long day of travel melted away as we immersed ourselves in the embrace of the family.
We had a very tasty dinner of chicken in a salsa sauce with rice, carrots, and squash. Since everyone was together, it was a good time to give some gifts. We gave the girls quilted purses and headbands, and we gave Eddy a Cars-movie-themed pencil case, pencils, and erasers.
There was a lot of chatting and laughter going on as we re-connected after a year apart. Aracely wrote us notes in Spanish and passed them to us across the table. Eddy even wrote "ABC" on a note, and he was very cuddly. Eddy had just finished a year of English immersion preschool at Atitlan Multicultural Academy, where Aracely had just finished first grade. Humberto and Paulina told us that since finishing the school year, Eddy had not wanted to get up or eat at normal times, saying he was on his "vacaciones."
The older girls were still in school (their school year runs from January to October), so we needed to let them get to bed. Humberto told us that he and Paulina would be taking us, Aracely, and Eddy to Quetzaltenango tomorrow to visit an animal market. This was an unexpected treat. We had not been to that area before, and we had not been to an animal market in Guatemala. We went to our room at 10:00, and I wrote in the journal until 10:30.
Steph and Aracely
Craig and Aracely
Aracely, Craig, and Yasmin in our room
Dinner: Craig, Vanesa, Humberto, Paulina, Yasmin, Aracely
Yasmin, Aracely, and Yoselin
Eddy and Humberto