Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lake Atitlan

The WiFi is a bit too sketchy. What can I say . . . It's a third world country. They've only had electricity for ten years here in Santa Cruz.

I sit here listening to insects using their wings as musical instruments. Fire-flies flit about. Joe just called me over to check out a caterpillar with a bright set of glow lights on its head and its tail. The waves gently break on the shore. In the distance we can see the lights dotting the shoreline telling us that we aren’t alone. Some people are talking quietly in the distance. It feels like a campground . . . where are we? We are in Santa Cruz de la Laguna, Lake Atitlan. A Mayan village on the most famous lake in Guatemala. It is an extremely deep lake, very clean, and enormous.

Our day started off in Antigua. It started off a little rough. But I digress, let me try and recap our crazy week. Do you remember me mentioning the guy who invited us to his villa? His name is Lex Cargo? Well it turns out that he is pretty famous in this part of the world. I just thought he was this really cool sweet guy, with an unusual style of clothes. I was impressed when he showed up in the main newspaper talking about the movie he is going to be in. He couldn’t wait to tell me about the article. You know, you just never know who you’re gonna run into in this small world.
Last Sunday was a big day for the Antigua firefighters. They got a new ambulance! All of the firefighters gathered at El Centro. Government officials showed up, got their photos taken, and then they backed one of the fire-trucks (donated from Japan) up real close to the ambulance. We waited to see what would come next. They pulled out the hose and baptized the ambulance with a blast of water. Do we do that in the states? I thought it was a pretty cool idea. Joe took off with the camera while I sat up on the Cathedral steps. I couldn’t see him anywhere, then Marvin said, “Look there’s Joe.” He looked like Forrest Gump walking right through the middle of the ceremony, head and shoulders taller and with his infamous cowboy hat. 
A couple we met at church invited us to their new home as their first guests. It was the first time I could envision living here. It was a great two story condo/hotel room, fully furnished, with a cleaning service for about 700 bucks a month. Had a guard at the gate with private parking. Super nice place and an even nicer couple. I think I may have been a little rude about eating all of her cheese though. It was rich and flavorful, with a side-dish of crunchy chocolate and a glass of local apple wine. When I found out he was a retired federal lawman for such departments as the Secret Service and Homeland Security, I was practically frothing at the mouth. I told him I wished I could just download his brain onto my computer like a little external hard-drive. He didn’t think I would feel that way if I knew everything in his head. Probably not . . . but still, it would save me a lot of research.
Mario, the man who is constantly trying to convince Joe and I to buy his flutes and necklaces, asked us to come over to his home for dinner. We said we would be leaving the next day. He asked when we’d be back. Maybe 4-5 years. Okay . . . when you come back, I want you to come to my village as my guest. Of course we told him we would be honored. 
Did I mention that September 15th is a national holiday here? It’s Independence Day. But to the Guatemalans it is a month long celebration.  It was not unusual to get stopped on our way home by a crowd of spectators watching a parade of school bands march past. We’d heard about the Antorchas (not sure on the spelling). This is a great unifying activity here. For about 3 days before Independence Day the locals arrive in groups of 10 to 50 people. In Antigua they have a torch burning. Each group goes up, lights their torch, and then takes off running to the village of choice. The groups of children stay in Antigua, but the older people run for hours. A bus follows them with lights flashing and horn honking. On the long boring stretches they climb on the bus until the next town. It is done to represent unification amongst the villages. Oddly enough, the people who are bystanders wait with buckets of water, water balloons, and hoses. The goal is to douse the flame, though I think it is more a chance to get everyone wet. We’d stopped at a beautiful restaurant for lunch before descending down to Panajachel. The waiters were professional and elegantly dressed. When we went out to the car we watched in amazement as the waiters hurled water balloons at the busses following the torch runners. They had a pretty accurate aim.  
So Saturday morning we began the next stage of our journey. We had a shuttle bus scheduled to pick us up at 8:00. It didn’t show. We called the tour agency at 8:45 . . . our shuttle had been in an accident. They would send us another shuttle at 5:00pm. Umm, no. So they sent a different shuttle five minutes later. I thought “that’s more like it!” Some things get lost in translation. Joe thought they said this shuttle would stop at another town . . . en route. But it just went to another town, period. I figured it out as we pulled away from our little safe barrio. This shuttle would take us to the opposite side of the lake! Think opposite sides of Lake Tahoe, or Lake Garda. Fortunately we have the little cheapy cell phone Joe bought. I called Lee from our destination house, who spoke to our driver (while he was driving), who agreed to let us off at the major crossroads that would take us to the other side of the lake. The driver pulled over to the side of the road an hour and half later and said “here?” It sounded like a question, but I didn’t know the answer, so we got off. We had a cup of instant coffee at a restaurant and waited.
After that it went smoothly. Lee took us into Pana to buy groceries for the week. Then he helped us negotiate a lancha fee (taxi boat). Twenty minutes later we squirmed our way out of the sardine can onto the dock. Lee bribed the boat captain to take us directly to our own dock. So back in the sardine can, with much less sardines and over to our dock 50 yards away. Later we took a walk along the shore over to the main dock and realized the bribe was well worth it! The path is treacherous. I can’t fathom dragging suitcases along the wooden walkways or over the creeks.
Now it is morning. I sit on our porch sipping a cup of coffee. The lake is amazingly beautiful. Right now it is like glass. Great for waterskiing . . . maybe that is why I miss my parents here. It reminds me of camping up at Trinity Lake or Lake Clementine.
We have a cat named Tigre. He’s a skinny and friendly version of our fat stuck-up cat, Locacita. Also there are three dogs.


  1. Speaking of movies, we watched El Norte last night - if you haven't seen it, I am sure you will like it and I would be interested in hearing your comments. It is about a brother and sister who escape a deadly situation in Guatemala to "go north."

  2. Loved Lake Atitlan! So beautiful!

  3. One of the prettiest places I've seen.