Guatemala / Ecuador 2017

Friday 7/21/2017 - Exploring Panajachel

We all awoke still feeling a bit drowsy after yesterday's long travel day. We had pancakes for breakfast. I worked remotely in the morning and late afternoon, taking advantage of the two hour time difference between here and home.

I took a break in the middle of the day to go for a walk around town. We wanted to get Kevin, Jenn, and the girls acclimated to the town. Eddy accompanied us, and was a very good tour guide! Aracely would have come too, but she was getting a cold and stayed home to rest.

We walked down to Lake Atitlan, which is a gorgeous crater lake ringed by three volcanoes. The lake is only a couple of blocks from the house. They have built two very nice new docks, and there is a colorful sign welcoming visitors to Panajachel. We saw the lanchas (small boats) which we will take later in the trip to visit other neighboring Mayan villages.

The weather was overcast, but it was probably for the best since otherwise it would have been too hot in the sun. Eddy pointed out that from the dock we could see the waterfall on the mountainside where we had stopped the previous day for photos.

Next we walked up Calle Santander, the main street lined with shops, vendors, and restaurants. We stopped at a little coffee shop where Kevin and Jenn got a cup of coffee. It is really nice that there are now many places in Pana where you can get local coffee, since it is of such high quality. Eddy enjoyed the fact that there was a tiny live turtle in a small terrarium on the counter of the coffee shop.

We enjoyed looking at all of the colorful textiles, paintings, and other items for sale along the street. Kevin, Jenn, and the girls quickly honed their Spanish skills for fending off vendors who approached us and tried to guilt us into buying things we didn't want. But good bargains can be found if you look for them and haggle effectively.

Kevin bought a belt and a styling hat, though both transactions required the vendors to search through their inventory to find a size big enough for an American. He always enjoys bargaining, so he was able to get himself a good deal.

As we walked up the street, I noticed Olga, Paulina's sister, packing up the stand where she sells fresh juice every morning, a business that she inherited from their late father. We greeted one another warmly, and we introduced her to the Tolers. School had just gotten out for the younger grades, and her son Chilo soon appeared, wearing his backpack.

We stopped at the bank machine, and I noticed a little girl looking up at me. It was Alison Margarita, Olga's youngest daughter. She recognized us and was waiting patiently to say hello. She has always been Craig's buddy since she was a baby, thoughtfully listening to everything he says, even when she doesn't understand the language.

One place that Eddy wanted to show Kevin, Jenn, and the girls was Sarita, the ice cream parlor. It is a favorite place for us to go with the kids. The ice cream is very good. With nine people in the family, it is too expensive for Humberto and Paulina to let everyone get premium ice cream on a regular basis. But the prices are quite affordable by American standards. Craig and I love ice cream, but don't often have it at home. So it is a nice bonding experience to take the kids to Sarita and let them get whatever they want.

Julia and Meghan gained confidence as they ordered their ice cream in Spanish. We got a selection of cones, shakes, banana splits, floats, and frozen yogurt with fruit. And not for the last time on this trip!

Afterwards, we did some more shopping. Julia bought a small woven purse, and I bought a wooden skeleton mask. Eddy wanted a slingshot, but we told him we couldn't buy that without his parents' permission. He laughed, and then turned his attention to a ukelele, which was a much more appropriate gift. We bought it for him, and he walked down the street strumming it like a busker.

We saw Humberto's brother Mario, who is a security guard at a bank, and said hello to him. Panajachel really does feel like a second home. After ten years and fifteen prior visits, we have connected with many people here.

By now it was around 2:30 p.m., and we headed back to the house. We had spaghetti with sauce and mozzarella, fresh tortillas, and homemade lemonade for lunch.

I did some more work, and then took the Tolers back to the ATM (they had taken the wrong card last time, so they needed a return trip). Craig wisely decided to stay home, since he had walked a lot this morning and needed to rest up for the next day's big party. Aracely joined us at the last minute, since she was feeling a bit better (and knew very well that the ATM is right next door to Sarita!)

Since she had missed out on ice cream this morning, I wanted to take her to Sarita. I hadn't planned to get something for myself, but when the Tolers ordered something, I joined in as well. Who can resist ice cream? Aracely and the girls sat at one table getting to know one another, and Kevin, Jenn, and I chatted at a neighboring table.

Meanwhile, Eddy and Craig were enjoying some quality time at home. Eddy is still shy about speaking English when in a group of people, but one on one with Craig he was obviously more comfortable, and the two of them had a very nice conversation about Eddy's upcoming trip to Ecuador. He sure is excited.

When we got back to the house, the kids' cousin Brittany came over. We all watched some videos we have made of the kids over the past 10 years of visits. Most of them have Tom Waits songs as the soundtrack, and it always warms our hearts when the kids sing along, or even hum or sing the songs in a completely different context. They love watching the videos, which capture ten years of their childhoods, and even depict some family members who have since passed away, including Humberto's mother and the kids' young cousin David.

Meanwhile, the older girls were busy clearing out their first floor bedrooms to to make room for tomorrow's party. Their mattresses and bed frames were stowed, and they temporarily moved all of their belongings into the two vacant upstairs guest rooms.

Humberto's nephew Juan Carlos, his wife Yolanda, their daughter Fatima, and son Junior came over to help with party preparations. We now had around 24 hours to get everything ready. Yolanda and Paulina prepared a delicious variety of food: fried chicken, tacos, chips and guacamole, and cabbage with lemon and vinegar. We all sat together chatting, enjoying the appetizers and beer.

At 10:30, Kevin, Jenn, and the kids went to bed. The family was just starting to decorate for the party with maroon and white balloons and streamers, to match Yoselin's gown. I was excited when I first heard that her dress was maroon. That was the color of our bridesmaids' gowns at our wedding. We knew from past experience here that the tape for these decorations would likely not hold until the party, but it was easier to get it all done tonight and make necessary repairs tomorrow rather than saving the whole job for the last minute.

Ian played dj on Humberto's cell phone. The kids enjoyed popping balloons, and the sound echoed like a gunshot through the empty rooms. We wondered whether the Tolers were able to get any sleep above us.

We helped for about an hour, mostly crimping crepe paper streamers (surprisingly much more difficult than it looks when Paulina is doing it). It got to the point where we hit the wall and needed to go to sleep. We knew that tomorrow would be a long day culminating with the big fiesta, and we were running a sleep deficit. The best thing that we could do would be to get some rest so that we'd be able to enjoy the party to the fullest.
Breakfast with Vanesa and Paulina

Breakfast with Vanesa and Paulina

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan

Eddy and Craig at the dock

Eddy and Craig at the dock

Selfie with Ian

Selfie with Ian

Ice cream at Sarita

Ice cream at Sarita

Josue, Eddy, Yasmin, Vanesa, Ian, and Yoselin

Josue, Eddy, Yasmin, Vanesa, Ian, and Yoselin

See all photos from July 21, 2017

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