Sunday 7/1/07 - Tour of Lago Atitlan, Mass in Panajachel, Pizza

I woke up several times during the night due to unfamiliar sounds, such as the ticking of the clock and crickets outside. At 3:30 & 4:30 am, we could hear a rooster crowing. Today was the day that Humberto had said that his family and friends were coming over to lay concrete for the new building. At 5:00, they arrived and we began to hear them work. We stayed in bed, dozing on and off for the next hour or two. The girls woke up and played quietly in their room. It seemed like they had been told not to bother us until we were awake. They would steal a glance through the crack in the door every once in a while, and it was obvious that they had been excited that we had stayed all night and were here for another day. They were very careful about giving us our privacy, but every once in a while they would peek in to see if we were awake yet.

Once we were up and dressed, Vanessa, Yasmin, Paola, and Yoselin came in to sit with us on the bed. Aracely emerged from Humberto and Paulina's bedroom carrying her new purse with the unicorn. I sat on the bed writing in my journal about our trip so far. They got their new notebooks and pens and sat next to and on top of me, drawing pictures in their notebooks. Yasmin, wearing fuzzy Hot Wheels pajamas and carrying the teddy bear, put a sticky note on her chin like a hot pink beard. Aracely sat with me on the bed. Paola asked if I liked orange juice and then she was given some quetzales and disappeared for a short while (I found out later she had made a run to the store for juice). The girls were so excited about the camera. They were running around squealing. They were very loving, wanting to be close to us.

Craig went outside with Humberto for a tour of the construction operation. Like a well-oiled machine, around 20 men were mixing concrete and handing it off in classic bucket-brigade style. Rented wooden beams were shimmed into place to make the forms for the concrete. The bags of concrete piled on the porch were rapidly dwindling as the workers progressed.

The girls were very interested in what I was doing. It was hard to concentrate on writing because I was so caught up interacting with them. Paola remarked that I wrote fast. They were all climbing all over me. Yoselin and Aracely were playing with the heart necklace we had given to Yoselin. She was trying it on Aracely as they climbed on the bed. The necklace eventually fell underneath the bed. Yoselin immediately went outside and came back with a broom. She used the broom handle to fish the necklace out from under the bed and then promptly brought the broom back to its place. They were teasing each other a bit with the new toys, but all in all they were getting along remarkably well, sharing and having fun.

Paulina called the girls and me to breakfast. We had bowls of corn flakes with toast and strawberry marmalade. Some of the girls put sugar on the cereal, but most ate it as-is. Aracely dipped her finger into the sugar bowl when she thought nobody was looking. Aracely is a very clean eater. She always has a napkin handy, and is always wiping her hands and face. She seemed to be playing a little game with the corn flakes. She would drop a single piece of ceral onto the table from her bowl, pick it up, and put it into a napkin that Paulina was holding. A few minutes later, Craig and Humberto returned, and ate their breakfast. Humberto announced at breakfast that we will all go to Mass together and the girls got very excited, with Yoselin shouting, "Si! Si! Si!"

Humberto had another tour today. It would be the same itinerary as yesterday, but he only had two clients. We decided to go along again. We had enjoyed it very much yesterday, and now that we were rested and prepared, we felt that we would be able to absorb even more. As we got ready for our excursion, the girls stayed close, especially Yoselin, who tried on our hats and showed a renewed interest in my sunglasses. Then someone else would take the sunglasses and disappear outside with them. But I never had to worry; they took great care of them and brought them back to me before it was time for Humberto, Craig, and I to leave for another daytrip on the lake at 9:00.

We walked to the office with Paola. Humberto and Paulina put lunches together in office. We met Michael and Debbie, today's Australian clients, outside of the office and introduced ourselves. Paola and her young cousin sat in the bed of a pickup truck which was parked in front of the office. She gave me lots of hugs, and we introduced her to Michael and Debbie as well. We gave her a hug goodbye and walked down to lake. It was another beautifully sunny day. We could see mudslides down mountains in distance from devastating Hurricane Stan in 2005.

We boarded a boat and headed to our first stop, Santa Catarina Palopo. The man driving our boat stuck closer to the coast than he did yesterday, and Humberto pointed out the hot springs where locals were bathing, along the side of the lake. We docked at Santa Catarina. Along the cobblestone street, we admired white bell flowers and palm trees silhouetted against the bright blue sky. We walked up the street, stopping so that Humberto could explain the weaving. He held up a pair of traditional men's pants and asked one of the girls working ath the weaving stand to please hand him a belt. He modeled the clothing and said that most Mayan men no longer wear these intricate woven pants because they are cost-prohibitive. We realized that we hadn't bought anything in this village yesterday, so we looked around at merchandise while Debbie and Michael were doing the same thing. We chose a brightly colored embroidered table runner. The woman who had made it was very sweet, and she posed for a photo with her backstrap loom.

As we walked further up the street, a girl tried to sell us hats. Craig and I pointed out that we were each wearing hats, and didn't need another. The shrewd girl didn't give up; she noticed that the hat she was selling had snaps on the side and mine did not, so she tried to upsell me. Michael kept trying to sell the girls his hat for 10 q and that shut them down quickly. Children were also selling embroidered postcards. We passed a small soccer game, and a man carrying around 10 cement blocks on his back suspended back from his forehead. There seemed to be a lot of construction going on in town, and it required quite a bit of manual labor to transport the materials up the narrow, steep, labyrinthine streets. We stopped at the house of the same elderly Mayan woman as we had the prior day, and Humberto pointed out her cinder block Mayan sauna.

Humberto spotted a pitaya fruit growing on a cactus, and we walked out onto a small cinder block ledge to better inspect the fruit. Right next to it there was a cactus sporting a peach-colored flower which Humberto identified as a nopal cactus, which we had eaten in Playa del Carmen several years ago. We looked at a meat market, where various cuts of meat and sausage were hanging next to a scale. We asked if we could get a picture and the butchers were very friendly and allowed us to. Then Humberto stopped into a tienda to buy us bottles of water to go with our bag lunches, and we headed back to the boat.

We then visited San Antonio Palopo. A woman approached me at the dock and I immediately recognized her as Maria (from yesterday) by her sales schtick. I told her that I had bought two pieces from her yesterday and her friend recognized us. They immediately tried to sell us even more. I just laughed and said no thank you. We ran into a large soccer match and had to cross the impromptu pitch. The lake and volcanoes made a stunning backdrop for the game. We stopped at a weaving co-op. Women were weaving on backstrap looms, and there was a young girl weaving bracelets on a smaller scale loom. We bought a weaver doll. As we walked up the street, we saw a woman kneeling on her floor grinding corn with a grinding stone. The house was very dark inside but I could make out a small infant being held by a woman in the back of the room. Humberto explained that corn used to be ground by hand like this for making tortillas, but now theu reserved the technique for grinding up corn for baby chickens, who were scurrying and scratching around. We asked if we could get a photo of her grinding the corn, and she agreed.

We walked up the hill to the church. A woman kept trying to sell Craig some textiles, and kept repeatedly draping them over his shoulder. When that didn't work, she did the same to me and tried to convince him to buy the pretty color to go with my eyes (which were totally obscured by sunglasses). When we got to the church, there was no chicken bus parked at the viewpoint, so we had a nice unobstructed view of the beautiful blue water and surrounding volcanoes. I took some photos with a statue of a cross in the foreground and the lake and volcanoes in the background that were very pretty. We could see the soccer game still going on down below. As we walked back down the hill, we got some really nice views of the juxtaposition of blue lake water, blue skies, and silhouettes of volcanoes with rusted corrugated tin roofed buindings in the foreground. Corn was being dried in baskets on rooftops, and there were small children sitting on a roof deck below us.

We stopped once again at the little compound of Juan and his wife Juana. Juan (75 years old) weaves lake reeds into mats and fans. He was dressed in a bright woven shirt and a woven black and white checked skirt and a Panama hat. His wife Juana weaves textile, and at this particular time was spinning thread using soda cans as spools. Lake reeds were drying in the rafters of one of their buildings. Humberto showed us inside their adobe kitchen. The corner poles were made of trees, and bamboo stalks held together with mud and straw formed the walls. Other found objects such as plastic bags were embedded into the walls. Humberto showed us their traditional means of cooking, which involves three stones on the floor with a smoldering fire in between. Three is a number which represents woman in the Mayan tradition. Humberto said that waving cat or dog food over the fire three times is protection against the pets running away. Hens and roosters were wandering around the compound.

Debbie and Michael were interesting in seeing some ceramics, so we browsed in a few shops. We got back into the boat and ate our bag lunch on the way to Santiago Atitlan. When we arrived at the village, there were some rustic wooden boats filled with dried corn husks. As this would be our third time in Santiago Atitlan, we decided to let Debbie and Michael have Humberto to themselves while we relaxed in the Restaurante de Pescador. I had so much to write in my journal already about this fantastic trip, and it was difficult to find the time to write when we were at the house because my attention was always on the girls.

We planned to meet them back at the docks at 2:30, and Craig and I headed to the Pescador. We wanted to sit in the open air, so we went to the upstairs patio (near the bathrooms we had used the previous day). We sat at a nice table underneath a pergola covered in moss, which gave some nice shade. I ordered a sangria, and Craig ordered a Dorada beer. we enjoyed some papas fritas while I wrote in the journal. We ordered another round (this time Craig tried a Monte Carlo beer). A boy whom Craig had met on the way to the bathroom came over to the table to introduce Craig to his little brother. He was very friendly and asked Craig where we were from. The boy and his family were on vacation from Guatemala City. It was nice to see that locals as well as foreigners spend leisure time in this beautiful location.

We walked back down to the docks and passed a political rally procession. Two pickup trucks decorated with green and white streamers, balloons, flags, and posters drove by. The backs of the pickups were jammed with people, and men spoke over a loudspeaker. The front pickup truck had "Regalo de Dios" emblazoned across the windshield. As I took a photo, one of the men in the back flashed us a peace sign.

We met Debbie, Michael, and Humberto at the docks at 2:30 and took the boat back to Pana. We had a nice conversation with Debbie and Michael, and said that hopefully we'd make it to Sydney one day and could look them up. Humberto got a photo of the four of us when we were back in Pana. We said our goodbyes and then walked happily back to Humberto and Paulina's house, eager to see the girls after spending the day apart. As we passed Humberto's office, we took a photo of him standing outside. He joked that his hair was all messy. We laughed and said that we hadn't showered since 6:00 Friday morning, and that if anyone needed to worry about how they looked, it was us.

The construction workers had finished at around noon and had gone home for the day. As we approached the house, we saw Aracely leaning against one of the support poles for the new construction. It was bath time. The littlest kids were taking baths in the outdoor sink, while the older girls took showers in the bathroom. They emerged squeaky clean with wet hair, and that made us feel all the more disgusting. After her shower, Vanessa had changed into a white T shirt with a picture of a kitten and a rose. It had fringed sleeves and bore the words "Hampton Beach, New Hampshire." What a small world! Hampton Beach is around 45 minutes from our house, and we often go to concerts there and we used to take our nephews camping there every September. We had to laugh at this coincidence. And, as anyone who has ever been to Hampton Beach will know, that is a quintessential Hampton T-shirt.

Neither Craig nor I were particularly hungry, as we had eaten our bag lunch and papas fritas, but Craig couldn't resist having some of the lunch that Paulina had kept warm for us (soup and tomalito, which is similar to a tortilla but cylindrical and solid) while I took my shower. Then Craig showered, and we both felt much more presentable. There was no hot water, but it wasn't necessary. Showering at this time of the day, after walking around the lake in the heat, the cool shower felt quite refreshing.

Yasmin and Paola started fighting about toys. We had only known the girls for a day (before that they had been names and cute faces in photographs) but we were already starting to really get to know their personalities. I went into their room and tried to cheer up Paola (who was sulking) and Yasmin (who was crying) but they didn't need intervention and soon got over it themselves. Yoselin came in though and we sat on the bed while she did her notoriously cute "Una foto? Ah? Ah? Ah? Si? Si? Siiiiiii?" routine. We noticed a picture of Paulina's parents on the wall. Paulina told us that her father is still living and sells juice on the streets of Pana. Paulina brushed their wet hair, putting it into ponytails. She commented that Yoselin usually cries when she has her hair combed, but she was putting on a brave face for our benefit.

We went into the living room and all sat on our bed. The girls put the unicorn on Craig's head for a photo ("Una foto? Si? Si?") and that became the newest style. They started laughing hysterically and soon everyone modeled the unicorn as headwear for a photo op. Yoselin kept "attacking" Craig with the unicorn while shreiking "Eeeeee!" Craig "beeped" the noses of the yonger girls, and soon they were doing it to him as well. The girls tried on our hats and seemed enthralled with everything.

Now that we were all showered and refreshed, it was time to leave for church. Humberto packed his new backpack with jackets for the girls, and some of them brought their knitted gift bags. We all walked to Mass holding hands and dodging tuk-tuks, bikes, and traffic. The girls were hyper and jumping off of things, climbing up anything they could. Yoselin and Paola held my hand. Yasmin held Craig's. Yoselin asked if I liked pizza, and we remembered that when we had met Humberto in 2004, he had told us that pizza was the girls' favorite meal. We saw where Paola and Vanessa went to school.

Later Yoselin pointed out Yasmin's school. Craig recognized the store front which was the former site of Union Travel, where Humberto used to work before he started his own business. There was a lot to see along this route, including many vendors selling all kinds of wares. But we were so engrossed in the girls that we didn't really see any of it. Humberto put Aracely down and she walked for a while. This tired her out, and when Humberto picked her back up she just passed out, sound asleep. We got to the church and while waiting outside, Yoselin was spinning around and having fun then fell down and started crying. We sat in the plaza against the outside wall of the church until the church bells started to chime, and then we went inside.

San Francisco de Asis is a gorgeous 16th century colonial church. We took seats in a pew on the right hand side. The church had wooden ceiling beams painted with black flowers. Lace panels were draped from the ceiling. There were statues behind the altar, and paintings of the stations of the cross on the walls next to our pews. There was a choir loft in the back, and the choir was accompanied by guitar and accordion. Before Mass started, the girls asked me to read them the church bulletin, which I did. They repeated the Spanish words after me. Paulina commented that my pronunciation was very good. I didn't know the meaning of what I was reading, but it was nice to know that I was at least pronouncing it well enough that the girls could understand. The Mass began, and though it was, of course, all in Spanish, it still followed the formalities of Masses I was accustomed to at home. I ended up murmuring some of the prayers in English, because I knew the right time to say them, but not the Spanish equivalents. At Communion time, the choir played what sounded like a waltz. The girls hadn't noticed me getting in line for Communion, and when they saw me up at the front of the church they got very excited and started saying "Stephanie!" and pointing. Paulina had to settle them down. When it came time to shake hands, everyone was very effusive. Everyone seated around us made sure to shake hands and wish us peace. Altar boys came around with nets on poles into which we put an offering.

The Mass lasted an hour and was very beautiful. Aracely slept in Humberto's arms the entire time. Yasmin was seated next to me. When people were exiting the church, we stayed seated. A woman came by and kissed all of the girls. Humberto and Paaulina introduced her as the godmother ("madrina" in Spanish) of the four eldest girls. Humberto started to explain the importance of godparents in their culture, and caught us by surprise by asking if we would consider being Aracely's godparents. We were stunned and honored. It was such an unexpected offer. We gratefully accepted. Our only concern was how and when we would be able to do it. He and Paulina had been talking about it for a while, but had wanted to ask us in person rather than via email. So they had waited for our visit. It was their hope that they would be able to set up the baptism within the next few days, during our stay. We were so honored to be asked to be a part of this beautiful, loving family. Craig and I were almost speechless, and it brought a tear to our eyes. Humberto said he would go to the parish the next day to make inquiries.

After the church had emptied out, we got up and walked out. Vanessa realized that one of her sisters had left their knitted bag under the kneeler, and ran back inside to get it. That was a close call! It is a good thing that Vanessa is always looking out for the younger ones, because it would have caused many tears if they had lost the gift that night. It had gotten dark outside and I was able to get a photo of the exterior of the lit up church.

As we walked home, the girls asked if we could have pizza. Humberto asked if that would be ok with us. We said certainly; we would love to take part in the girls' favorite meal, especially now that we felt we had the upcoming baptism to celebrate. We went inside Ulsan Pizza and got a table in front of a television. The girls were enraptured by Discovery Kids, and sang along with the songs and commercials. A group of people were playing cards at a nearby table. It was definitely a local hangout rather than a tourist restaurant, and we were happy about this. Craig used the restroom and came back telling me that I didn't need to use it. I got the hint! Aracely sat in the booth with no high chair or booster seat. Paola started to campaign for a "mixto" pizza (which contained vegetables and meats). Humberto ordered a large mixto and a large mushroom. He also ordered a bottle of Coke. Craig ordered a beer.

When the pizza was served, the waitress put bottles of ketchup and mayonnaise on the table. The 2-liter plastic Coke bottle was shaped like a traditional glass Coke bottle. The waitress took a picture of all of us. Although Aracely uses glassware at home, Paulina asked for a styrofoam cup for her at the restaurant to prevent any breakage. The entire family squirted lots of ketchup and mayo onto their slices of pizza, which was something we had never witnessed before. The pizza was really tasty and it was a good bonding experience with the family. Yoselin totally shut down after she finished eating and she fell asleep in her chair. It was really cute. When we left, Paola noticed that it was raining and immediately got excited. The bad weather combined with the fact that Humberto was carrying a limp, sound asleep Yoselin, inspired them to hail two tuk-tuks for the ride home.

Vanessa and Paola climbed into the front of one, and Paulina, Aracely, and Yasmin got into the back. They called my name and I joined them, while Humberto, Craig, and Yoselin got into the second one. Craig was a bit disappointed not to get to ride with the girls who were awake, but he was placated by the fact that his and Humberto's tuk-tuk was #42. It was a fun bumpy ride back to the house. Aracely sat on Paulina's lap. Yasmin got Aracely to give her kisses in the tuk-tuk. She then tried to coax Aracely to give me a kiss and Aracely looked mortified. Paulina and I had a good laugh. We got back to the house at around 9:40. Craig and I expected the tuk-tuks to drop us on the street at the end of their alleyway, but the manouverable little vehicles bounced right down the alley and came to a stop right in front of the house.

Humberto deposited Yoselin in bed. She had never woken up since we left the restaurant, despite the bumpy ride. The rest of us chatted for a few minutes. Vanessa carefully put her necklace into her jewelry box.

We all went to bed at around 10. Yasmin was playing with unicorn and teddy bear in her bed. She peeked through the door, saw Craig, and put the unicorn on her head and smiled, in obvious reference to the fun they had with the unicorn earlier in the day. Aracely then took her unicorn and purse in to bed in Humberto and Paulina's room. It rained for a bit and it sounded soothing as the raindrops splashed on the tin roof. I wrote in the journal and went to sleep at around 10:45.
Humberto and Paulina preparing the bag lunches

Panajachel docks

Humberto modeling traditional Mayan menswear

Weaver in Santa Catarina Palopo

Lake Atitlan from Santa Catarina Palopo

Approaching San Antonio Palopo

Football game, San Antonio Palopo

View from Iglesia de San Antonio

Juan, 75-year-old Mayan man, San Antonio Palopo

Juana spinning thread, San Antonio Palopo

Humberto at Lago Aventura office

Vanessa in her Hampton Beach, NH, shirt

Steph and Craig with Yoselin

Steph and Craig with Aracely

Craig sporting the new fashion of unicorn headwear

San Francisco de Asis

Ulsan Pizza: Paola, Steph, Yasmin, Aracely, Paulina, Humberto, Vanessa, Craig, Yoselin

Sleepy Yoselin at Ulsan Pizza

See more pictures from this day

Previous Day Trip Overview

Back to Craig and Steph's Vacations
Next Day

Read our guest book   Guest book Sign our guest book
Please send any questions or comments to
All photographs and text copyright 1996-Present except where noted.