Guatemala 6/28/2018 - 7/8/2018

Saturday, 6/30/2018 - Ceramics in San Antonio Palopo, Humberto's 47th Birthday Party

Today I didn't need to work, so we were able to all sleep in a bit. We ate a breakfast of pancakes with honey and fresh fruit, coffee, and juice shortly before 9 o'clock.

Humberto had slept in another village last night in order to do some tourist work early this morning. When he returned home, he surprised us by lighting firecrackers in the alley to announce his arrival on his birthday! Tyson almost had a heart attack, and we all got a good laugh.

We observed some more butterflies around the patio area as Ian Ivan and Eddy played on the hammock. We smiled at the fact that Craig's coffee mug had a photo of Yoselin on it. She has always looked great in photographs, even going so far as to win the Most Photogenic award at her school's Reina pageant last year!

Humberto asked if we wanted to go on a little excursion to San Antonio Palopo. This was a village that Craig and I had visited several times in the past, but we hadn't been there in quite a few years. Humberto offered to take us to a ceramics fabricator there. Humberto had taken Kevin and Jenn and the girls there when they went on a mountain bike ride last year, but we had never visited it ourselves.

Craig was not feeling strong enough to walk through the steep alleyways of the village in the mid-day sun, but encouraged us to go. He thought that Tyson should participate in as many different experiences as possible. He assured us that he would be fine at home, with Paola and Yasmin to help him if he needed anything

Tyson, Paulina, Aracely, Eddy, Ian Ivan, and I climbed into the van and Humberto drove us through the small village of Santa Catarina Palopo. The village is known for its traditional attire in shades of blue, green, and purple in zigzag designs. Many of the buildings are decorated in these colors and motifs. The village consists of a labyrinth of narrow amd steep alleyways.

When we got to San Antonio, we parked the car and walked down to the lake shore. Kids were fishing with fishing line wrapped around a soda can, and Aracely and Eddy were looking at crabs in the water. The view was absolutely gorgeous. Boys played soccer on a cement pitch overlooking beautiful lake vistas. I could only assume that they lose a lot of soccer balls...if they shoot above the goal, the ball will end up rolling down the steep slope to the lake.

We walked up the steep narrow alleyways of the town to go to a textile shop. Tyson bought a nice shirt, while Ian Ivan tried out the weaving loom.

Ian Ivan Weaving in San Antonio Palopo

We walked past the market where woman in colorful local traditional clothing were selling veggies, fruits, and flowers. We stopped to admire the whitewashed facade of Iglesia San Antonio, and admired the gorgeous view that its location provides of the blue water and blue sky, visually demarcated only by a hazy swath of volcanoes.

We then walked down more narrow steep alleyways to a ceramics fabricator. The cottage industry of ceramics was introduced to San Antonio by an American named Ken Edwards 25 years ago. He had spent time studying ceramics engineering around the world. In Guadalajara in the 1960's

Edwards is credited with inventing a form of stoneware ceramics that combines various techniques: the famous Tonolá hand-painted decorations, ancient Chinese technology of reduction-fired celadon stoneware and Edwards' original designs. - Revue Magazine

Edwards taught the locals how to use Mexican kiln-fired techniques coupled with modern techniques for firing and painting (without lead) to produce distinctive designs.

The clay comes from Huehuetenango. Pieces is fashioned via moulds and are fired several times at very high temperatures in the kilns. They are then sanded, painted, glazed, and fired again.

The pieces are decorated mostly in blues and greens, sometimes with pen and ink style black outlining. Other colors are also used, depending on the design.

When Ken Edwards was ready to move on, he left the business to the locals, who continue in his tradition to this day.

The artisans demonstrated the various steps in the process. Eddy seemed particularly interested in the painting process. He carefully watched an artist nonchalantly and effortlessly apply delicate detailing with paint.

After the demonstration, we browsed in their store. Everything was hand made, and the prices were marked on the items. I always feel more comfortable in a fixed-price store, where I don't need to haggle. It is always a little soul crushing to haggle over something that someone hand crafted.

We went into their shop and browsed through the wide variety of pieces for sale. I decided on a wall hanging of a sun/moon motif. It was not the typical blue/green color pallette, but I liked it for a variety of reasons. The sun and moon, in Mayan cosmology, are actually the Hero Twins. They were transformed into these celestial bodies after emerging from Xibalba victorious after a ball game with the lords of the underworld. Also, we had bought a similar ceramic wall hanging sun/moon in Guadalupe, Arizona when visiting Tyson. This would be the perfect companion piece, to commemorate another adventure with Tyson 14 years later.

Tyson purchased an octagonal plate depicting a resplendent quetzal surrounded by flowers. It used the traditional blue/green color pallette with the pen and ink-style black outlining. It also said (in Spanish) "Memories from San Antonio Palopo, Atitlan."

Tyson's quetzal plate

Tyson's quetzal plate

As we walked back to the van, we saw an area of laundry basins which the mayor installed for the citizens. While these stood empty, we watched some women and kids washing their clothes in the lake waters. Sometimes more modern isn't necessarily better.

We got back into the van and drove back to Panajachel. Craig was feeling a bit better and came outside with us. He told me that he had enjoyed some good quality time with Paola. She brought her laptop outside and she showed Craig photos from nursing school and her practicum, as well as course materials. We are so proud of her! She works in a law office during the week and goes to nursing school on weekends. She has just completed her third semester.

Paola had then left with Cristian to go to San Antonio Palopo (we caught a glimpse of them at a ceviche stand as we left town). Craig stayed outside for a while longer but then wanted to go inside where it was cooler to rest. Yasmin helped him to walk back to the room nd made sure that he was settled. These kids are so thoughtful, sweet, and helpful!

Cristian and Paola returned home, bearing birthday gifts for Humberto. They gave him a balloon (which Ian Ivan promptly popped) and a bottle of beer adorned with a tiny bow.

Tyson and Paulina also had a beer and toasted Humberto's birthday. Craig would normally have joined them, but with the way he has been feeling, he didn't want a beer. Instead, Craig and I had delicious tamarind juice. All beverages were frosty cold courtesy of the new refrigerator/freezer.

We gave the kids an Othello game and taught Eddy and Aracely how to play. Eddy is really good at stategic games, and he took to it very quickly. We enjoyed watching them play as well as playing against them.

Then we had a nice lunch of grilled vegetables, fresh tortillas, and homemade guacamole.

We gave Ian Ivan a Lego Duplo airport set and Eddy (who had traveled on a plane for the first time last year) helped him to set it up and taught him how everything works. The ever-smiling Brittany and her little brother Angel David who live next door stopped by to say hello.

Tyson and I took Eddy for a walk to catch more Pokemon by the lake. We ran into Paulina's sister Olga, her son Chilo, and daughter Allison Margarita. It was so nice to see them, and I greeted them with hugs and introduced Tyson.

I explained that Craig was back at the house, and that he was a bit under the weather. Craig would be disappointed again, as he has had a special connection with her since she was a toddler. As Paulina would say when we told her about this encounter: Every time we go looking for Pokemon, we find Allison Margarita.

We stopped into the book shop on Calle Santander. It is a wonderful independent business, specializing in English and Spanish books about local culture. Tyson and I each found some treasures here that would aid us in our research about the culture, folklore, and nature of the area.

We then walked back to the house where the family was busily preparing for Humberto's birthday party. Craig was playing Othello with Aracely. He has been feeling much better and we were happy that he was fully able to fully participate in the evening's birthday fiesta.

Yasmin sat with us and looked through the books that we had purchased. She struggled trying to figure out the English in one of Tyson's books, and laughed when I showed her that if she turned it over and upside down, the same thing was written in Spanish. That's a lot easier!

I played Othello with Eddy and he was really good. He was beating me, and I complained to Tyson that I was getting my butt kicked. Tyson replied, "Distract him! Eddy! Figo! FIGO!" in reference to our mispronunciation of the Spanish word for fig yesterday, which earned us significant teasing from Eddy. Alas, he was not to be distracted and he would beat me two games in a row. Ouch!

Paola and Cristian hung up balloons. When Humberto arrived, they lit off firecrackers and we toasted with glasses of wine. Humberto's sister Juana joined us from next door. We had nacho chips with black bean dip, chicken wings, and soup.

An outdoor speaker played an endless playlist of different versions of "Happy birthday" in Spanish. One was apparently sung by the Chipmunks, who are annoying in any language. We were laughing so hard! Aracely ran inside to get the Theodore Chipmunk stuffed animal she and Vane had bought for Ian in Ecuador. She pantomimed that the stuffed animal was singing the song. Our faces hurt from laughing so hard.

They brought out a cake and counted to forty seven in Spanish to mark his birthday. (All of those numbers don't exactly roll off the tongue for us native English speakers!) He blew out the candles and they sang happy birthday. They of course smashed Humberto's face into the cake, a beloved Latin American tradition. His kids made sure that he ended up with a faceful of frosting.

We had such a great time together, and we are so happy that Tyson is here with us to share the experience!

Humberto's 47th Birthday

San Antonio Palopo
Approaching San Antonio Palopo

Approaching San Antonio Palopo (Photo courtesy of Tyson Kreiger)

Ian Ivan, Paulina, and Aracely wander through the steep narrow alleyways of San Antonio Palopo

Ian Ivan, Paulina, and Aracely wander through the steep narrow alleyways of San Antonio Palopo

Eddy, Aracely, Humberto, Ian Ivan, Paulina, and Tyson at San Antonio Palopo

Eddy, Aracely, Humberto, Ian Ivan, Paulina, and Tyson at San Antonio Palopo

Ceramics workshop, San Antonio Palopo

Ceramics workshop, San Antonio Palopo

Eddy watches an artist effortlessly decorate the ceramics

Eddy watches an artist effortlessly decorate the ceramics

An elderly couple in traditional dress stands in stark contrast to the jet skis in San Antonio Palopo

An elderly couple in traditional dress stands in stark contrast to the jet skis in San Antonio Palopo

Salud to Humberto's 47th birthday!

Salud to Humberto's 47th birthday!

Juana, Eddy, Humberto, Paola, Yoselin, Ian Ivan, Aracely, Paulina, Vanesa, Yasmin, and Cristian

Humberto's birthday party: Juana, Eddy, Humberto, Paola, Yoselin, Ian Ivan, Aracely, Paulina, Vanesa, Yasmin, and Cristian

Humberto's birthday party: Steph, Paola, Yoselin, Ian Ivan, Yasmin, Eddy, Tyson, Aracely, Humberto, Paulina, Craig, and Vanesa

Humberto's birthday party: Steph, Paola, Yoselin, Ian Ivan, Yasmin, Eddy, Tyson, Aracely, Humberto, Paulina, Craig, and Vanesa

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