Más Español y Lago Atitlán

We had another great week in Antigua.  The kids have settled into their camp at the Eco Farm and adjusted to daily afternoon Spanish lessons.  They’ve been learning about traditional Mayan clothing as well as farming techniques.  They’ve also been doing a lot of art, from making clay pottery to carving their own stones.  The kids are all enthusiastic at drop off and pick up and it’s nice to know that they are outside all day exploring and experiencing so many new things!

James and I had three hours of Spanish lessons each day this week.  James was excited to keep propelling himself forward in his language skills, but I was definitely experiencing some burnout.  I had already decided that it would be my last week of fifteen hours of Spanish. 

On the last day of class (for me) all the students had to stand in front of the group and present a tropical fruit native to Guatemala, entirely in Spanish.  I chose to go first (to get it over with), but it was a fun experience listening to everyone’s reports as well as trying all the new fruits! Mine was Jocote and it is a delightfully small fruit, with a large seed, but the flavor of a mango.  James, of course, had the easiest fruit of all, watermelon!  Once we finished our reports and class for the day, I walked out of there like an undergrad college student who’d just finished exams—ecstatic!!

James with his teacher, Vicky

The Spanish school has great activities that we are able to participate in if we choose.  From salsa dancing to community lunch and more.  This week, they had a trip to the chocolate farm, again via the chicken buses.  James and Claire had a “daddy/daughter date” and went on their own. They came back with big smiles and huge bars of chocolate (mint and orange)! While they were out, the boys and I spent time crafting with all the materials we had purchased from the local dollar store.  It was nice to have a slow afternoon for once!

Our big outing for the week was a two-day trip to Lake Atitlan, located about two hours from Antigua.  The lake is beautiful and surrounded by volcanoes.  Unfortunately, the views were mostly obscured by all the smoke from the fires, which the lack of rain allows to continue.  We were dropped off at the largest city on the lake, Panajachel, and then negotiated our way onto a private boat for a thirty minute ride across to San Pedro la Laguna. 

Boarding our boat from Panajachel to San Pedro

Several small towns surround the like and each has a distinct personality.  San Pedro is known as the hippie/backpacking enclave and it was obvious as soon as we stepped off the boat! Several dreaded twenty-somethings were walking around and even approached us with a flyer for a community pancake breakfast!

The streets of San Pedro La Laguna

We checked into the Mikaso Hotel, along with our friends, the Gregorys. The views of the lake were incredible and we also saw the locals bathing, fishing, and washing clothes.  Our boat captain assured us that water was very clean but after seeing that, I’m not so sure!

Locals washing their laundry

Our friend, Laura, found a highly recommended pizza joint for dinner and I have to say, eating there was one of the highlights of the weekend.  The restaurant only served three different types of pizzas and could accommodate maybe fifteen people.  With only one pizza oven, the pizzas came out piping hot, one at a time.  Two men serenaded us in Spanish while strumming their guitars and the local expat hippies who’d made San Pedro their home, wandered in and out greeting their friends.   It was a night to remember accompanied by some vino tinto!

Entertainment at the local pizza joint

The next day, we took an all day boat ride around the lake with Captain Leo.  Our first stop was the nature preserve at San Marcos La Laguna.  We walked around the trails and then spent several hours jumping off rocks and swimming.  The water was crisp and refreshing, but the most exciting thing was watching Charlie and his pal, Max, jump off a 13 meter platform! They did it twice and said it was the scariest thing they’ve ever done—I can only imagine! After two successful plunges, it was time to do some jumps from so lower rocks.  All the kids, James, and I jumped off five meter high rocks into the lake. We spent some time swimming and basking in the sun before returning to our boat. 

Goose’s high jump from 13 meters!

We then rode across the lake to Santiago and ate the picnic lunch graciously packed by our host.  The feast included fresh fruit, tamales, and tortillas.  After, we shopped around the local market, visited the city center, and paid a visit to the local catholic church.  It was a good day and concluded with a stop for another swim before we returned to our hotel.

Tamale picnic lunch

That evening, we made our way to Zoola for dinner.  A hostel/restaurant, the space had a major “zen” vibe. All the dining tables were low and we sat on pillows while eating our burgers and pasta.  The major event of the evening however was when the giant paper lantern light fixture fell off overhead of the kids’ table.  James went to put it back on the bulb and the entire thing erupted into flames! We were yelling for the wait staff, but thankfully it burned out on its own except for the small space where the table caught fire (a douse of water solved that problem). We hightailed it out of there after paying our bill!

Dinner at Zoola, pre-fire

After a great night’s sleep, we had one more day on the lake, which we spent kayaking.  We paddled around the inlet taking in the sights of the locals bathing and washing clothes/dishes.  Unfortunately for our friend Lee and his daughter, their kayak hit a bit of a snag as it continued to take on water.  After paddling for an hour, the entire boat began to sink! They had to “abandon ship” and swam to shore.  Thankfully, everyone made it back safely and we all had a good laugh. We then spent the afternoon having a very leisurely lunch on “Guatemalan time” at the Clover Restaurant.

The kids wait for their parents, the hombres await their lunch

Our friends, the Gregorys, continued on at Lake Atitlan for another couple of days but we boarded a public boat back on Sunday to Panajachel to meet our Uber driver.  It was a rough ride across the lake this time with two to three feet seas that felt more like six on a small wooden boat on a lake! Nonetheless, we made it across safely and celebrated with mango popsicles before our three-hour car ride home.

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