On Sunday morning we slept in after our late night. We woke up at 9 a.m. and went over to the house at 10 o'clock. All of the kids were already awake, eating dinner party leftovers for breakfast. Paulina made us scrambled eggs served with rice. As a drink we had warm ponche, a sweet fresh fruit cider.
All the kids were together, sitting side by side at the table, and we were struck by how much they had all grown. They don't all play the way they used to; they have matured, and our relationship with them starts to change as well. They seemed to notice it now as well, as they watched videos from prior trips and laughed at their younger selves. We gave them some gifts: notebooks, rubber stamps, and ink pads. They played with them until around noon, when it was time to embark on a family outing.
At around 12:15, the whole family and Neli headed down to the docks on Lake Atitlan. It looked like many of the docks had been replaced since last year. You could walk on them without fearing that you would fall right through. We boarded a lancha (small motorized boat) called the Linda Palopo, which Humberto had hired for the afternoon. Humberto told us that we were going to Cerro de Oro to swim. We hadn't been there before, so we were not quite sure what to expect. The weather was beautiful and sunny, and we all enjoyed the boat ride with the wind in our hair. The scenery was gorgeous, with volcanoes and mountains ringing the crater lake. The family is so lucky to live in a place of such amazing natural beauty.
After a very pleasant 25 minute ride due south from Pana, the boat pulled up along some rocks in front of a nice grassy area next to the abandoned remains of a house. Humberto explained that a couple had started construction on a large lakefront home here, but the husband passed away in the early stages of construction. The wife left it unfinished, with just a foundation, some shells of walls, staircases, and patios. We could imediately understand why they chose this location for the house - it was absolutely gorgeous!
We hopped out of the boat onto the rocks, and then walked over to the grass. There was a shallow place where the little kids could swim, and a deeper place near some large rocks where the adults could jump in. The water was quite cold at first but was very refreshing. We enjoyed swimming around. After a while my core was actually cold and I needed to get out. This was a rarity; I am usually hot and sweaty all the time in Guatemala.
Aracely and Neli collected some snail shells for us and also picked us flowers. Paola, Aracely, and Neli led me around the unfinished house foundation, up and down staircases. When everyone was out of the water and had started to dry off, we had lunch. It was a picnic consisting of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas, peaches, and strawberries. It was always so nice to eat local, fresh food when we come here. It was so nice to have the entire family together, enjoying one another's company.
After lunch we packed up and hiked through paths between farmland toward the road. We walked through fields of tall cornstalks delineated by walls made from vocanic stones. The area was incredibly lush and fertile. The homes became more modest the further you got from the water. We crossed a field which had two levels. There was a short stone retaining wall that we stepped down from. When Vanesa went to step down, the rock beneath her feet came loose and tumbled off, almost causing her to fall. This elicited many giggles from the rest of the family. We passed people tending to the farmland and they smiled and greeted us with "Buenos tardes." We must have made for a curious sight: seven Mayan kids, two Mayan adults, and two gringos. We passed a marshy area where there were about a dozen small wooden boats on the grass.
We emerged at a dirt road and followed it up a hill. The kids stopped for a few minutes at a playground with old-school metal slides and monkeybars. We then continued up the hill to San Francisco church, which had a gorgeous view of the lake. We immediately saw a memorial to Father Stanley Rother, whose story we knew from previous visits to the area. Father Rother was a priest from Oklahoma who served at several Tzutujil Mayan parishes around Lake Atitlan, including here in Cerro de Oro as well as Santiago Atitlan. His churches were places of refuge when the Mayans were being persecuted during the genocide of the early 1980's.
In July of 1981, Father Rother was shot to death in the rectory of Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apostol in Santiago Atitlan. Though he had received death threats, he had insisted on staying with his parishioners, some of whom had been kidnapped or murdered during the violence of the civil war. Families would spend the night sleeping in the relative safety that the church provided.
Father Rother had learned the Tzutujil Mayan dialect. He conducted Mass in the language of his parishioners, and also translated the New Testament for them. He had been preaching around Lake Atitlan for 13 years, and had intended to serve there for the rest of his life. Though his body was brought home to Oklahoma for burial, at the request of his parishioners, his heart was buried behind the altar Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apostol in Santiago Atitlan.
Here at the Iglesia San Francisco in Cerro de Oro, there were several nicely carved memorial placques with his life details in English and Spanish, as well as a photograph. The church building itself seemed large compared to the size of the community. Maybe the people here are particularly pious, given what they underwent during the genocide.
We took some group photos in front of the church; they had a nice view of the lake in the background. It's rare these days that the entire family is together in one place, so it was a nice opportunity to update our group photo. The girls bought frozen chocolate covered bananas at one of the little nearby stores. These were refreshing in the afternoon heat
As we walked downhill on the stone roads toward where we would rendezvous with our boat, we noticed all of the lush vegetation growing right on the side of the road. Paola boosted Vanesa up to pick a pitaya fruit from a cactus vine. Pitaya (dragonfruit) is a delicious seasonal fruit that we really enjoy. The first fruit she grabbed was too overripe, and wound up disintegrating in her hand. She threw it to the ground and then picked a second. This one was ripened to perfection. She cut it into wedges with the picnic knife, and everyone got to have a taste. It was delicious! This is as fresh as it gets.
As we walked toward the water, the stone road turned to dirt. We walked past some very pretty areas which have been choked with water lilies. The reflection of the white puffy clouds on the water with the white flowers and green leaves was beautiful. We walked to the docks and took the Linda Palopo lancha back to Pana. The late afternoon sun was low in the sky, setting the mood for a relaxing ride. Everyone was satisfied and tired. Paulina nodded off on the boat, and the younger kids were very quiet.
We came home and Paulina served us some fresh papaya. We took showers (unfortunately the lake is polluted, so it is always a good idea to shower after a swim). Just as we were getting ready to emerge from our room, there was a knock at the door. It was the kids' cousin Rocio! We had not been able to be there for her quinceañera (15th birthday) in April, so we had brought her some gifts now. It was really great to spend time with her, as we don't always get to see her on every visit. She is growing into a lovely young lady. She told us that on Friday she had come in second in a regional science olympiad, even competing against a college student! We congratulated her and told her how proud we were of her.
We asked how her mom Juana was doing. Rocio told us that she was home, would we like to say hello? Of course we would! Rocio and Juana had previously lived in a house with Humberto and Juana's mother, who had passed away almost a year ago. Since then they had moved across the alley. It was our first time into this house, which shares the exact footprint of Humberto's house. Aracely went with us and helped to translate, and Josue joined us as well.
As belated quinceañera gifts, we gave her two blouses. we also delivered a small gift from a dear friend of ours who happens to share Rocio's birthday. Rocio was thrilled and very grateful. It has been a rough year for Juana and Rocio, suffering the losses of three separate people who were quite close to them, and it was nice to see them smiling. Rocio wanted to give us something in return, so she presented us each with a small stuffed animal. What a sweetie!
When we got back to the house, Humberto and Paulina were watching some of our Ecuador videos on my computer. They asked us some questions about Antonio and his family, our compadres in Morochos, Ecuador. This led us to think that it would be fun to some day get Antonio's family and Humberto's family together to meet one another. We think they would enjoy learning from one another's cultures.
After 8 o'clock, we headed right around the corner to Paulina's sister Isabela's restaurant on Rancho Grande. All six kids attended, along with Humberto, Paulina, Craig, and myself. Isabela's restaurant had been in this location for just over a year and was doing a good business. There were two other tables of people dining, and a couple of people at the bar. We had to pull a few tables together in order to fit all of us, and we wound up taking over the majority of the restaurant. We had loved Isabela's tacos the last time we were here, so we wanted more of the same. A lot of the kids ordered hamburgers, a novelty for them that they don't always get a chance to have.
Isabela was alone in the kitchen, so Paola graciously volunteered to help her. She went back into the kitchen and helped with food preparation. Craig, Paulina, and Humberto shared a couple of large bottles of Gallo beer. The girls had fresh strawberry smoothies, and I had a Coke.
Paola emerged from the kitchen to serve the food. The tacos were delicious, just as we remembered them: soft corn tortillas filled with chicken, carmelized onions, picante, and all the fixin's. We stole a couple of fries from the kids' burger plates and they were excellent as well.
It wouldn't have been a proper night out if Yoselin hadn't fallen asleep in her chair. After rousing her, we took the short walk back to the house at 10:30 with full bellies and full hearts.
Yoselin on the lancha
Yasmin and Paola
Craig, Paola, Yoselin, Yasmin, Neli, Eddy, Humberto, Paulina, Aracely
Paulina, Humberto, Vanesa, Paola, Yasmin, Yoselin, Eddy, Neli, and Aracely
Paola and Vanesa
Boarding the Linda Polopo
Humberto and Yasmin on the lancha
Tacos and Burgers at Isabela's: Vanesa, Yasmin, Aracely, Eddy, Yoselin, Paola, Steph, Craig, and Paulina