My work is pretty cool down here in Mexico - but sometimes you need to take your work to Guatemala for a week or so, and that is exactly what we did last week. Natik has projects in both southern Mexico and Guatemala, so we spent this past week getting to know our partners in Santiago Atitlan.
From San Cristobal to Santiago Atitlan you take a 12 hour bus/boat ride. It is extremely long, and not the most comfortable (especially for someone who gets motion sickness) but the long ride was definitely filled with some adventures.
In Mexico when people want to protest something they often block off sections of the road so no cars can pass on either side. We ran into one of these road blocks and had to walk about a kilometer and catch a cab to the Guatemalan border where our other bus was waiting for us. We had never been stopped by one of these protests, so it was kind of exciting for us. We even snapped a picture as we were walking!
We went to Guatemala to get to know our partner projects down there, Puerta Abierta is a library/learning center and Just Apparel is a custom ebrodary cooperative that specializes in fair trade merchandise, and then there is a secondary school scholarship program as well. Because these programs are similar to the projects we run in San Cristobal, Xunka, one of our partners in San Cristobal came with us to meet everyone and share ideas.
Us with Xunka at the Guatemalan border.
We got to Late Atitlan late in the evening on Saturday and couldn't cross the lake until the next day, so we didn't do much except eat and sleep. But Sunday brought new adventures as we crossed to Santiago Atitlan and started exploring and meeting all the projects.
|Before getting on the boat to cross the lake.|
To say that Santiago Atitlan is a paradise would be a bit of an overstatement, but it is an incredibly gorgeous part of the world. The lake is huge, and it took us nearly an hour to cross it on a boat (not a ferry, but an actual semi-fast boat). It is definitely tropical in the region, but also has a high altitude, so it is not blistering hot like in the lowlands.
One of our favorite activities was just to go down and sit by the lake and talk. We seriously spent a large part of our free time sitting next to the lake. It was good for our souls to be in the open space/nature that Santiago could provide for us.
There was a really cool Catholic church in the center of town that we went through. I love visiting Catholic churches. I don't know why, since I hardly understand anything about the saints, paintings, and images throughout the chapel, but I am fascinated by the architecture and intricacies throughout the spaces.
We stayed in a house down there. People all throughout the town rent out rooms to volunteers that come down. So rather than stay in a hotel or hostel, we had a family that cooked us two meals a day. This was the view from the upstairs loft-ish area.
The center of town is used as a market, basketball court, soccer field, and produce shipment area. Guatemala produces a lot of avocados and were were ecstatic to see the entire center filled with avocados one morning. These avocados are way bigger than the ones we have in the states, or in San Cristobal. We were so sad to see that they had trash cans full of ripe ones, and we even saw hundreds on the ground in different peoples yards since they drop when they are ripe and people don't care to continually collect them.
We spent a lot of time meeting with the partners, especially Puerta Abierta, which we fell in love with the moment we stepped foot into the building. Caitlin has a way with little kids, and although she cannot fully communicate with them in Spanish yet, she still had a herd of kids that wanted to spend time with her. She helped them make tamales and cookies since we were there for the last few days of the school. We even got to watch a talent show and see their preschool graduation ceremony!
Here is a view of the school, and me eating tamales in the backyard.
This was a park down by the lake that we spent many hours at. It had a gazebo and benches for people to sit at, as well as a few tables with benches (all made of cement). Women would be down there all day washing clothes, and nearby there was always a group of teenage boys swimming off a dock.
We also went and saw a really cool house (or compound type house) made of super-adobe. It was very artistic and intricate. We don't think we could live in this style of house, but it was really cool to see what people are able to create and make into a home.
They even have a tire playground for their daughter to play on. I especially loved the dragon.
The family also had many other types of buildings that they are currently constructing. They have a beautiful view of the lake, and they are such a creative family and have cool stories to go with every building, and why it is a certain way. They gave us the full tour and told us all about their future plans. We are excited to see how it turns out when we go back in February.
|My favorite picture of the trip.|
So if you want to come visit us for a while in San Cristobal, come in December and we can take you to Santiago Atitlan, or come in February or March and we may be living down there! What?! Yeah, I don't know if we have mentioned that before, but we are thinking that we may spend a few months or so down in Guatemala. Yay! We are really excited about that, so I'm sure there will be plenty more posts about Guatemala.