Guatemala 7/3/2014 - 7/8/2014

Monday 7/7/2014 - Earthquake, San Juan La Laguna, Basketball

Craig and I each woke up 5:22 a.m. with the sensation that someone was slightly shaking our beds. Then it changed to a violent forward and backward motion. "Earthquake!" we both shouted. It seemed to last a while, and all went quiet while it was occurring. The beds would shake and then would lurch forward, shake a bit more, and then lurch back. You could totally picture the tectonic plates moving below you. Craig was very attuned, listening for cracking sounds that might signal that we should run for a doorway.

When the earthquake finished, it was as if someone had un-muted the volume. We suddenly heard the commotion of dogs barking, roosters crowing, and people talking. I checked the compass on my bag and noticed that the motion had been east-west. Craig looked out the window and all seemed ok.

We were grateful for the proper construction of our building, done by Humberto's mason brother Mario. We had seen the building under construction, and had been impressed by how thoroughly he had reinforced the cinder block walls with rebar and concrete. We were thankful for this, as we had been on the second floor.

Craig couldn't see anyone from the family outside, so we laid back down, but couldn't go back to sleep because of the adrenaline. I texted Steve to tell him about it. He looked it up online and sent us the info (Humberto's router is off at night so I couldn't connect myself). It was apparently 6.9 in magnitude and the epicenter was 60 miles west of us on the Mexico/Guatemala border. Wow - that's close! We wondered if there was any volcano activity, or if the shifting plates would cause the high lake water to recede.

We went downstairs at 8 o'clock. All of the kids were buzzing about the earthquake, except for Aracely who had somehow slept through it (!!?) I guess sharing a bed with a hyper 5-year-old brother makes you immune to shaking like that!

There was no school in the entire western part of the country because of the earthquake. Apparently there were landslides blocking some roads, and they needed to check the safety of the school buildings before students return to classes.

We had breakfast of coffee, fruit, and toast.

We were going on a lake boat tour today, and now that the older kids suddenly didn't have school, the whole family could go. We were very happy to be able to spend the last full day of our visit with all of the kids. Humberto said that we may go swimming as part of the day's activities. I had gotten a bit of a sunburn yesterday at the lake, and didn't want to expose my skin to the strong sun any further, so I didn't bother bringing my bathing suit. Neither did Craig, who wanted to quit while he was ahead.

At 9 o'clock, we walked down to the lake (the whole family plus Josue) and got onto a boat called Heidi. It was another gorgeous clear day and the volcanoes were completely visible. The water was still high and some docks and homes were submerged. The boat ride was beautiful. We went to San Juan la Laguna, where we had been when Mukul came here with us in 2010. We walked up the steep hill, stopping in to various cooperatives run by the Tzutzujil Mayan community (Humberto and family are Kaqchiquel Mayan).

Our first stop was a textile studio. Humberto explained the natural materials that are used to dye the threads: bark, flowers, minerals, and even insects.

Next we stopped in at a painting studio. We chatted with one of the artists. He was working on his first large painting. He specialized in the local "birds' eye view" style of paintings where Mayans are depicted from above, doing traditional work such as planting corn, picking coffee, etc. The family had presented us with two of these paintings two years ago. There were all different styles of paintings, including pop art, portraits, religious icons, and landscapes. Some were even done in a pointillism style, or a mosaic style which is best viewed at a distance. Our previous conversation about Monsanto was brought to mind when we saw a painting of an ear of corn being injected with a syringe and subsequently turning the kernels black.

Next we went to a textile cooperative where a Mayan woman in traditional dress demonstrated how to clean seeds out of organic cotton. The kids tried it and took home a couple of seeds. We wondered if we would find cotton growing in Humberto's garden on our next visit. The woman then effortlessly spun the cotton into thread on a spindle. When the strand broke, she easily spun the fibers back together between her thumb and index finger and continued the process.

There were murals around the town, depicting various aspects of traditional Mayan life. Humberto explained a mural which showed a traditional bonesetter treating a patient who was anaesthetized by aguardiente liquor. Humberto said that bonesetters were believed to have supernatural shamanic powers. This was a familiar mural to us, as we had studied it with Mukul four years ago. There were also carvings of the Mayan calendar which were installed as part of the celebration of the end of the 13th baktun on December 20, 2012.

Next we went to a farm which grows medicinal plants and coffee. They sell natural remedies, shampoo, and candles. Humberto bought me some natural aloe lotion for my sunburn.

Before heading back to the boat, we stopped at a little shop and we all got cacahuete popsicles (Craig immediately recognized the word: "Peanut!"), which were very tasty and refreshing in the heat.

We walked down the steep hill to the dock and got back onto the boat. On our way back to Panajachel, we stopped near some rocks off of San Marcos, and Humberto and the kids jumped into the water for a swim. Yoselin stayed on the boat with us and Paulina. We enjoyed watching and taking photos as the kids swam and dove off the rocks. Humberto did some flips into the water which I caught on video. The water was a beautiful turquoise color here, and it was relatively calm. They swam back to the boat and the captain helped to pull the little ones back aboard.

As we made our way back to Pana, in the bright sunlight with the wind in our hair, surrounded by loved ones, Craig commented on what a perfect moment it was, and how he didn't want it to end.

We arrived back in Pana shortly after noon. We walked back to the house. We gave the kids some notebooks. We gave Aracely a maze book and Eddy a wooden Tonka helicopter model kit, with screwdriver and screws included. Yoselin helped Eddy to assemble 90% of it, and Yasmin joined in to construct the propellor. Both sisters were really into it. It turned out to be a very solid, nice toy.

Humberto cooked churrasco (thin steak) on the charcoal grill and we enjoyed it for lunch with salsa and picante, salad, and fresh watermelon juice. Eddy and Aracely painted the helicopter blue and yellow with tempera paints while Paola was doing the laundry by hand. Neli and a little girl came over for a visit. The little girl came up to Craig and me and gave us each a hug. I asked her name and it turned out to be neighbor Gisele! She had grown up so much and it had been a while since we had seen her. She was carrying a little purse and was absolutely adorable. We distributed Starbursts to the kids.

At around five o'clock, we walked with Paulina, Humberto, Josue, Junior, and all the kids (except for Yasmin) over to the community fields for a family game of basketball. When leaving the house, we saw Josue's little niece Brittany in the alley. She looked a little scared at first but when I called her by name she smiled and said hola. She is such a cutie. She grew a lot in 6 months!

On our way to the field we ran into the kids' cousin Laisa and said hello. It was nice to see her, as we hadn't had a chance to visit Paulina's side of the family on this trip.

We arrived at the field where there were soccer goals on each of the four sidelines. Multiple games were going on at once, as families and friends enjoyed a pleasant Monday afternoon.

Eddy and Josue played soccer while two teams of three (Humberto, Paulina, and Vanesa vs. Paola, Yoselin, and Junior) played basketball. Aracely mostly stayed with us as we took pictures on the sidelines. I think that she wanted to maximize time with us since we would be leaving in the morning. The basketball game was pretty competitive, and they were all good players. It was fun seeing normally demure Paulina getting aggressive and in her kids' face, stealing the ball away.

After the basketball game, they broke out their new water bottles, rehydrated, and then started to play soccer. The sun had come out and it was quite warm, and we wondered where they all got the energy. Aracely, Eddy, and Josue also joined in the soccer game. Occasionally Eddy would come over and give us hugs. The sun started to set behind the mountains. The moon was visible. Eddy pointed out the planet next to the moon as "el planeta cerca del moon". We thought his insertion of the English word "moon" was very cute.

After the game, Junior and Paola disappeared and returned with a bag of frozen fruit dipped in chocolate. Humberto made a joke about the fact that the family is constantly eating. Craig and I each had a piece of frozen pineapple dipped in dark chocolate. It was very good. We walked home at around 7 o'clock.

We took showers and reconvened at 8:15. The kids were dressed up, and Paola was wearing a pretty dress with rhinestones on the front. We gave the kids their last presents - necklaces made by my Mom, and they put them on. Eddy had fallen asleep, but he was awoken with the promise of Tic Tacs for him and Aracely. We also gave him an American football plastic ring.

We walked down to Calle Santander and took a left. We went into El Bistro, a nice Italian restaurant established in the '70's by an Italian, but now owned by his local protegee. There was some live entertainment (a guy with an acoustic guitar playing sleepy music, which the kids thought was lame).

Craig and Humberto got Gallo beers and I got a fresh squeezed lemonade with soda water served in a heavy glass chalice. As an appetizer, they brought plates containing small slices of wheat bread and bowls of molten cheese - delicious! The cheese was so gooey that as the kids dipped their bread into it, they ended up with long cheese strings attaching their bread to the bowl. At around this time, the music ended, and the kids were relieved and immediately became more animated.

We had four pizzas - one with all vegetables, and the others with various meat and onions. They were absolutely delicious. We put hot sauce on them (Guatemalans are known for putting condiments on pizza - we forewent the ketchup but the hot sauce seemed appropriate, and was quite tasty!)

Even though everyone was tired after a busy day, it was so nice to all be together on our final night! Since we don't have kids of our own, these are "our" kids, and we love them with all our hearts. We are eternally grateful to Paulina and Humberto for their hospitality, and for sharing their lovely family with us.

We walked home and Paola gave us a nice hug goodbye, and then went to our room at 10 p.m. Craig went to sleep instantly. After writing in the journal and sending a text to Steve, I went to sleep at 11 o'clock.
Vanesa, Yoselin, Yasmin, Paola

Vanesa, Yoselin, Yasmin, Paola

Paulina and Yoselin

Paulina and Yoselin



Ice cream!

Ice cream!



Swimming in Lake Atitlan off San Marcos

Swimming in Lake Atitlan off San Marcos



Returning to Panajachel

Returning to Panajachel

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