Guatemala / Ecuador 2017

Monday 7/24/2017 - Vanesa's 21st Birthday, The Tolers Go Mountain Biking

Today was Vanesa's 21st birthday. She has grown into a lovely young lady who works in administration for family's tourism office, as well as always helping out with her younger siblings. We are extremely proud of her. As the eldest child, she has always had the most responsibility around the house, and she was already 10 years old when we first met her. We are happy that we were able to take her to Ecuador last summer, to get to know her as the lovely adult she has become.

In addition to nursing school on Saturdays and Sundays and English classes on several weeknights, this morning Paola started a full-time job working as a secretary in an attorney's office in Solola. We are so proud of her work ethic!

Kevin used to be a hard core mountain biker before his back and knees started giving him problems. Jenn and the girls still enjoy it. When the family found out that Humberto offers lakseside mountain bike tours, they were immediately interested. Kevin was a bit worried about his ability to comfortably ride on the bumpy trails. But he saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride in this beautiful location, so he couldn't resist.

At breakfast, Humberto showed them a map of Lake Atitlan, and outlined the route that they would take to two Kaqchikel Mayan communities: Santa Catarina Palopo and San Antonio Palopo.

Craig doesn't have the balance or stamina to ride a bike since being diagnosed with MS. I don't really enjoy bike riding, and I had work commitments. We have been to Santa Catarina and San Antonio on prior visits, so it was easy for us to sit this one out. I would work my regular schedule, saving my time away for activities that were more appropriate for us. It would also give the Tolers some time alone with Humberto, an opportunity to learn from his vast knoweledge of the area and its culture.

We said goodbye to them as they headed off. I got settled on the upstairs patio (next to the router) for my day of working remotely. While I was attending a meeting over Skype, Aracely and Ian came up to sit with me and observe what I was doing. My job isn't very much of a spectator sport, but the fact that Aracely knows English means that she could at least understand the words that I was saying. They seemed to think it was pretty cool that I had a video feed of my coworkers in the office.

Some rough trails, the mile-high altitude of the area, and the heat and humidity made it a challenging ride at times. Meghan actually fell on some rough terrain, but she was a trouper, shook it off, and kept right on going with a smile! The first stop on the mountain bike excursion was the community of Santa Catarina Palopo, three miles from Panajachel. The women from this village can be recognized by their distinctive blue huipiles (blouses).

They then continued on their bikes for another 3.5 miles to San Antonio Palopo, a lakeside village with a beautiful view. Jenn had read about a ceramics workshop here, and they were able to get a tour of the facility along with a demonstration. As an artist and art teacher, she is very knowledgable about ceramics techniques and was interested to see the local process.

Rather than retrace their path back to Panajachel (now in the mid-day heat), they opted to take a lancha (small motorized boat) back to Panajachel, bikes and all. They arrived back at the house in time for lunch, hot and tired but satisfied after a lovely excursion.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch of stuffed peppers, salad, and tamarind juice. Humberto emerged from the house wearing a football jersey. Despite just returning from the bike ride, he was heading off immediately to play football with his friends. The Tolers couldn't imagine having the stamina to do that. Now we know where Ian gets his energy!

After lunch, the family got a surprise visitor: their friend from Australia, also named Craig. He comes to Panajachel to study Spanish, and is very close with the family. We have heard about him for years, and it was great to finally meet him. We did laugh about the meeting of the two Craigs, since it is not an entirely common name (and a difficult one for native Spanish speakers to pronounce).

"Otra (other) Craig" told us that there was a feria (festival in honor of a patron saint) in Santiago Atitlan tomorrow. We had planned to visit Santiago on Wednesday, but this might warrant a change in plans. Catholic festivals in Latin America are colorful and interesting. We appreciated him mentioning it; we would discuss it with Humberto this evening. He then left with a promise to visit with the family again during his few weeks in town.

My Craig and I did the dishes while Paulina was otherwise engaged. We are not efficient at washing dishes manually in the three compartment outdoor sink, so when Paulina is in a hurry, she doesn't let us help. But we took this opportunity to clean a mountain of dishes in the sink plus every other item we could find. Paulina returned just as we finished, and she immediately started to wash a basket full of dirty dishes that had been squirrelled away somewhere, and that we hadn't even seen. So much for our attempts to prevent Paulina from having to wash the dishes this afternoon.

Eddy called me in to one of the guest rooms, where he was laying on one of the beds watching El Pastorcito de Otavalo Buscando El Dorado, a favorite video of the kids in Ecuador that he will be visiting next week. Aracely enjoyed watching it when she was in Ecuador, and she turned Eddy on to it as well. It is obvious that he is very excited for his first trip on an airplane to a foreign country!

We gringos took Aracely and Eddy for ice cream at Sarita. On their walk home from school, Yoselin and Yasmin passed by, saw us inside, and came in to greet us. We bought them ice cream as well.

We all chatted while enjoying our ice creams, and Julia and Meghan told Yasmin and Yoselin about their musical theatre and choral experiences at school. They showed photos of themselves in The Lion King (Julia as Timon and Meghan as Pumbaa) and in Peter Pen (in which Julia played Tinkerbell) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (in which Meghan played Reuben). Yasmin seemed particularly interested.

We walked home and found that Rodolfo was here. He and Vanesa will be leaving early ito transport clients to Rio Dulce tomorrow. This destination is on the Caribbean coast, making it a 17-hour round trip for them. So he will be sleeping here tonight rather than in his home in San Antonio.

We all sat around the outdoor table chatting. We asked Humberto about the feria in Santiago Atitlan tomorrow. He called a couple of colleagues to ask about logistics, and then said that we could certainly swap our Tuesday plans with our Wednesday plans so that we could attend. We appreciated his flexibility, as this was an opportunity we had not anticipated.

The kids wanted to hear Julia and Meghan sing. Although the girls can sometimes be shy, they kicked right into theater mode and performed a couple of songs from shows they have been in, as well as a song about a little volcano. They are very talented singers, and everyone was mesmerized as we watched them sing by the flikering candlelight of Yoselin's leftover party centerpieces. We were really impressed, both by their talent and their graciousness to perform willingly in front of such a large crowd of new friends.

To celebrate Vanesa's 21st birthday, the family ordered pizza delivery. By now, Paola was home from a successful first day of work to join us. The pizza was delicious and satisfying. We ate it the Chapin (Guatemalan) way: with ketchup, mayonnaise, and salsa picante on top. These condiments come direct from the pizza parlor inj plastic bags which they nestle into the pizza box.

Happy birthday, Vane! We love you!

Santa Catarina Palopo

San Antonio Palopo

Meghan, Kevin, Julia, and Jenn mountain biking (photo courtesy of Humberto)

Meghan, Kevin, Julia, and Jenn mountain biking (photo courtesy of Humberto)

Aracely and Ian keep  me company while I'm in a meeting

Aracely and Ian keep me company while I'm in a meeting

Eddy and Craig from Australia

Eddy and Craig from Australia

Ice cream at Sarita

Ice cream at Sarita

Yoselin and Yasmin

Yoselin and Yasmin

Humberto, Vanesa, Craig, Paulina, Yasmin, Julia, Meghan, Jenn, Kevin, and Rodolfo

Humberto, Vanesa, Craig, Paulina, Yasmin, Julia, Meghan, Jenn, Kevin, and Rodolfo

Vanesa's birthday pizza

Vanesa's birthday pizza

See all photos from July 24, 2017

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