Sunday 7/6/08 - Swimming at Lake Atitlan, Juan and Olga's New Baby

Yoselin, Yasmin, and Paola woke us up thus morning at 7:15 am. They threw open the door and came bounding onto the bed, Terry at their heels. Yasmin was much more like Yoselin this morning, sleepy and quiet. But Paola and Yoselin were both bouncing off the walls after getting to sleep "late". After we all enjoyed some morning time together, they went to get their goodie bags and brought the stuff into our room to play with. Aracely handed out butterfly stickers to each of us. Somehow, Craig and I each ended up with one on our forehead.

We all went to the dining room and had a fresh breakfast of scrambled eggs and a spicy salsa (huevos rancheros) and black beans. It was delicious. The kids were anxious to go to the lake, so we all changed into our bathing suits. The girls brought a basketball, and they bounced it back and forth to Humberto as we walked to the lake. We crossed a bridge that had been washed out in 2005 during Hurricane Stan, and had left a great portion of the region inaccessible. This was the first time that we had gone to this area. The bridge that we crossed today would have been deemed too unsafe by U.S. standards.

We ended up at Humberto's late father's land - and the house where Humberto's father had grown up. There was some very lush vegetation growing on the land, including coffee plants. I got a picture of the entire family in front of Humberto's father's house: Humberto, Paulina, the five girls, and baby number six in utero.

We continued toward the lake and stopped at a public basketball court. Paola and Humberto played against Craig and Vanesa. Yoselin and Yasmin climbed trees while Aracely kicked a small ball around. I picked up Aracely and put her in a tree for a minute. The weather was surprisingly clear given the rain that we had been having overnight. We could see the volcanoes and the view was absolutely surreal. As we walked, the girls picked flowers for us, and soon we each had a large bouquet in hand.

We continued on to find a place to swim. The first place was a stone boat ramp down to the water. But it was too slippery, and after one of the girls fell on her backside (eliciting endless giggles from the others) we moved on to find a safer spot. The water was chilly but it felt refreshing. I played with Aracely in the water. She seemed to completely trust me, and I held her hands while she balanced on a small pipe. Then I would swing her around in the water. She never got too deep, but enjoyed getting her legs wet and splashing around. The beach was littered with organic debris which had washed up on the shore. Vanesa, Paola, and Yasmin are becoming very competent swimmers. Yoselin still didn't go beyond her waist except for where the water was very shallow. Yoselin and Aracely got out of the water first. The each spread a towel on the beach, laid on it, and pulled a corner back across themselves like a blanket.

Bad weather started to roll in and we could no longer see the volcanoes. We decided that it was time to walk back, and we passed some boats on the shore. Paola and Yoselin sat on a WaveRunner and posed for a picture. It started to pour and we all took shelter under a market stall with a corrugated roof. Plastic chairs were set up around several tables with tablecloths. Mayan women were frying chickens on a converted oil drum and were making soup. Humberto assumed that this was a makeshift restaurant, and asked if we could have lunch there until the rain subsided. The women happily agreed and served up some of the best fresh fried chicken that we had ever tasted. The irony of the whole situation was that they weren't a restaurant at all - they were just an Evangelical group having a Sunday cookout by the lake. But they were happy to share their food and make a little extra money! That's just how things are in Guatemala...quirky, laid back, and anything but predictable. We enjoyed the fried chicken, tortillas, and rice with a salsa sauce, and we had Mirinda orange soda to drink. It was a throughly enjoyable impromptu lunch.

The rain subsided, and after paying for our meal we started to walk back home. We crossed another bridge which was even worse than the first, with railings gone on one side and holes on the surface. We saw a very interesting old house which was quite narrow and three or four storeys tall.

When we got back to the house, Humberto told us that we were all invited to Paulina's family's house for lunch. We took showers and changed our clothes. I played with Terry for a while, and Craig played catch with a Nerf football that we had brought with Luis and some of the neighborhood boys. Yoselin was also interested and joined them.

Then we walked over to Paulina's family's compound. Their property actually abutts Humberto's, but we had to walk down a parallel street to get to their houses. Paulina's sister Olga and her husband Juan had just had a new baby 15 days ago. On the 15th day, the midwives say that it is safe for the new mother to leave the house, so it is traditional to have a party to welcome the baby. When we arrived, Olga was feeding the baby and he was swaddled in a colorfully woven blanket. His name was Angel Eduardo and she immediately handed him to me. He was adorable, and I marveled at his little tiny fingernails. He was very bundled up, despite the warm weather.

There were family houses around the perimieter of the compound, with a large courtyard in the middle. Some of the houses were under contruction, and there were building supplies scattered in corners. The family immediately made room for us to sit at the table in the courtyard. We were seated next to Loren, nearly 4 years old, who was adorable in a blue and white checked dress and pigtails. She looked unsure of the gringos sitting next to her and kept looking around nervously. Loren's older sister Laisa looked a lot like cousin Pamela, and I mistook her for Pamela at first. Then we saw Pamela and realized our mixup. Pamela and her older sister Odilia were baby Angel's big sisters. Proud father Juan happily poured a beer for Craig. We were served a wonderful meal of beef in a spicy salsa sauce, rice, tortillas, and a cole-slaw-style salad. Vanesa took my camera and got pictures of the whole event. I was still holding the baby while trying to cut my meat when Humberto laughed and took the baby from me.

After eating, all of the little girls were playing together, and we could tell that Yoselin was very proud to be able to show us off to the rest of her cousins. We met Nidia, who looked adorable wearing traditional Mayan female dress, and Yesmy, who was wearing a Minnie Mouse T-shirt. Olga showed off the baby to Aracely, and Craig and I thought that soon Aracely would be welcoming her own baby sibling, and wondered how she would do with not being the youngest any more.

The girls were playing amongst the cement blocks and rebar of a house which was under construction. Aracely sat on one of the short walls with her head on a pillow and using Paola's sweater as a blanket. Pamela cooked some leftover tortillas on a little grill, and Paola helped her to put spicy salsa on them and serve them to people. Ducks, chickens, and rabbits wandered around the courtyard and under the tables. By now all of the girls were enthralled with the camera, and even Loren had warmed up to us. It was a great ice breaker.

We took some videos and when we played them back, Loren would wave and blow kisses to the kids on screen. The girls then used a pile of lumber as a slide, sliding down on bums and bare feet. They put gravel from the ground onto the wood to make it more slippery. Craig and I cringed, immediately thinking of potential splinters. Kids in the U.S. these days are never allowed to play amongst such hazards. Yet somehow here it all seemed right. These kids weren't coddled and they were allowed the freedom to explore their environment. They climbed staircases which didn't have adequate handrails, they scurried over cement blocks and rebar, and slid down piles of lumber. Nobody got hurt and they all had a wonderful time. It was rather refreshing.

We chatted with Paulina's dad and her newlywed brother Carlos. As it got dark, Carlos' bride Vilma joined the party, and brought out a tray of leftover wedding cake, which she served to everyone. We wondered how, as the bride, she had ever found the time to cook three wedding cakes herself! The cake was delicious, and we were happy to be able to have some, since we had left the wedding before it was cut the previous night. By this point, all of the little girls were all over us, and soon I was giving piggy-back rides to Loren and Yesmy, and having everyone sit on my lap.

If we had felt at all awkward upon first walking into this gathering, they had immediately put us at ease, and really made us feel like we were a part of the family. We were completely at ease sitting and chatting with the adults, playing with all of the kids, and celebrating the birth of little Angel Eduardo.

We played cards with the kids for a while (Vanesa and Paola had brought the deck of Galapagos cards with them) and then it was time to go home. It started to rain on our walk back. We had tea at the house and went over some English flashcards with the family. Yasmin did some of her homework, and we went to bed at 10:30.
Humberto, Paulina, Vanesa, Paola, Yoselin, Aracely, Yasmin

Humberto, Paulina, Vanesa, Paola, Yoselin, Aracely, and Yasmin
at Humberto's father's farm

Yasmin, Yoselin, and Vanesa at Lake Atitlan

Yasmin, Yoselin, and Vanesa at Lake Atitlan

Craig, Steph, Yoselin, Paola, Paulina, Aracely, Yasmin, Paola, and Vanesa eating fried chicken

Craig, Steph, Yoselin, Paola, Paulina, Aracely, Yasmin, Paola, and Vanesa eating fried chicken

Steph holding baby Angel Eduardo

Steph holding baby Angel Eduardo

Humberto, Paulina, Señor Chumil, and Carlos

Humberto, Paulina, Señor Chumil, and Carlos

Laisa, Paola, Aracely, Pamela, Nidia, Loren, Yasmin, Yesmy, Yoselin

Laisa, Paola, Aracely, Pamela
Nidia, Loren, Yasmin, Yesmy



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