Saturday, June 18, 2005

Guatemala Day Eleven

I've called this file day 11, but I really have no idea if it's 10, 11 or 12. I've lost track, as I appear to be counting down now to where I get to go home. That would be exactly one week from today, which is about all I'm sure of right now. That and the fact that I'm sure I want to go home. I was prepared for a rustic experience, but this truly is the 3rd world. By the way, if this is the 3rd world, and the US is the 1st world, what's the 2nd? Maybe it's someplace like Chile -- not quite as under-developed as a place Guatemala, but not the US, either.

As I write this, I am in my room at the Hotel Primavera in Panajachel, Guatemala. It sits on the main street of Pana, which I'm not sure really has a name. I am on the second floor, sitting in a window seat overlooking the busy one-way street filled with tuk-tuks, bicycles, motorcycles, the occasional car, and lots of pedestrians. There are, of course, vendor stalls filled with colorful wares, mostly textiles. I went out shopping with Dave, Mike and the other Dave. I got two blankets each for 200Q, some fabric for Anna that I hope comes close to what she wanted (115Q), a packet of 12 bracelets for 20Q, and a wonderful surprise for Wendy for 35Q. I really can't wait to give that one to her. It means I'm going home with my extra duffle bag being filled, but that's why I brought it.

Shopping is fun, kind of. You ask them how much something is and they quote you a price. You say it's too much, so they tell you to make an offer. You do so, but that's of course, too cheap, so they lower theirs a bit, and you try to stay firm, until some agreement is reached. Later on as I grew weary of that game, I would just walk out of the store if they wouldn't give me the price I wanted. That was the best method, I found. My last two purchases I was able to even pay less than what I had originally offered.
We were going to do a boat ride to some of the other villages here at Lake Atitlan, but got here at about lunch time, and where the winds rise in the afternoon, opted to just walk around and shop or do whatever here in Pana.

Of course one of the most glorious parts about this little R&R weekend is that I have my own room separate from Ceil. I also have a shower with hot water, where I have just finished standing underneath and getting truly clean, as well as shaving my legs. I even afforded myself the luxury of putting on some lotion afterwards, something that I haven't really bothered with except perhaps at night in Chocola, simply because it's just one more thing for the dirt to stick to up in the field. I also haven't had to use moisturizer once since I've been here as the humidity provides enough of its own.

Another benefit of getting away is that the electricity at our house in Chocola has not been working for a day now, and probably won't be even when we get back tomorrow. It makes it tough to get around when it's constantly dark with rain. Apparently some sort of tropical storm moved in and settled over Chocola as it didn't even stop raining at night last night. It was still dreary today when we left, and we had some rain all the way up here, as well as clouds that obscured what I'm sure is a marvelous view of the volcanoes and lake of Atitlan. It is now clearing up, so perhaps we'll have better views tomorrow on the way home.

Panajachel is a tourist area made famous by hippies and the drug culture of the 60s and 70s. Apparently if you wanted good, cheap drugs, this was the place to come. There is a lot of hostel/hospice type lodging for very cheap, and I have seen a fair amount of backpacking young (read, younger than me) people who look in serious need of baths and haircuts. We met a couple of lovely young ladies (boy, that makes me sound old!) who have been teachers in Costa Rica -- one for 3 years, the other for 1 -- who are here on vacation before heading back to the states next week. They anticipate some culture shock when they get back.

The thing that won't be very different from Chocola for tonight is the noise. Being right on the main street as I am, there is plenty of street noise, as well as the hotel noise of other guests and hotel workers, as these walls are not exactly soundproof. But there's a better energy here than there is in Chocola. Probably because at least here, although still poor and struggling for a living, at least they have the tourist industry to depend on.

In Chocola, they have just about nothing. Jonathon and the project is the biggest employer in town. He told us last night that Dona Maria once told him that God has forgotten them in Chocola. That's such a sad sentiment, but I can see how that conclusion could be arrived at when you've never known anything but farming to grow your own food and never having even one quetzal to spend on a treat for you or your family. It's a hard life all over, but is even more evident in a finca (farm community) like Chocola.
Last night's Guatemalan adventure included going to one of the 32 evangelical churches. yes, there are 32 evangelical churches and one Catholic church in Chocola. 95% of the town is evangelical. Victor, who works in the lab, invited us to attend with him. We told him we wouldn't be there on Sunday, and he said, "Oh, that's fine -- we meet also on Monday, Wednesday and Friday." We agreed to go with him. He promised a good experience, as it is the largest congregation in town, with an average attendance of 500-600. I must admit, I was a bit hesitant, but all in all, it was a lovely meeting. The people were gratified by the attendance of so many gringos, and made sure to recognize us as visitors. There were some games to get the congregation warmed up, then what was supposed to be a "short" message delivered by the pastor's wife, but which turned into 45 minutes, then some more games.

The message was pulled from Malachi 4:5-6 about the sealing power to be delivered by Elijah so that the hearts of the children would be turned to the fathers, and those of the fathers turned to the children, before the great and terrible day of the Lord. It was a bit different to hear it from the perspective of not the restored gospel. She did a very good job, though, of adapting it to Father's Day, which was yesterday here, and about how the fathers should treat their children better and with more love, patience and forgiveness so that family ties can be strengthened. She finished with Deuteronomy 6:6-9, with which I wasn't familiar, but had applicability with her sermon.

Then there were more games, including a potato sack race where they pulled Michael and Dave up to participate in. They were all impressed with the strong 2nd place showing Mike put in.

Afterwards, we chatted with the pastor and his wife for a bit -- well actually, Ceil and the others chatted with them with Ceil translating while I was introduced to a fair amount of children aged 9 - 12 or so by my new friend Jonathon. He had sat next to me during the meeting and kept asking me questions and telling me about his life and his friends' lives. He was a charming young man, and it was obvious that he was the envy of his friends as he was on a first-name basis with me and would introduce all his friends to me. I tried to talk to each one of them, and many of them would stare in wonder at me. I don't know why because I'm certainly not the first gringa to be there in Chocola, but perhaps I am the first one who has actually had occasion to talk with them individually.

Then it was back home to our dark house, in the rain, of course.

The bonus to the week is getting woken up at 1 and then again 2 in the morning with stomach cramps. Sure enough, it turned into diarrhea this morning, at which point I immediately popped some Immodium. The cramps have certainly calmed down, but I have since then taken 2 more Immodium. I am somewhat gratified to learn that Dave and Mike were also impacted in a similar manner, so at least it's not just me -- it has to be something that we ate last night, and I'm thinking it was the chow mein.

Tomorrow we're off to Chichicastenango to get a look at the Sunday market there, as well as hopefully catch a glimpse of the Mayan tribes' representatives in the main town square, or something like that. Not exactly sure of the details, but I'm sure I'll plenty to report on. I also am happy that I finished my main shopping today so that I can relax and enjoy the sights and sounds tomorrow, as well as concentrate on not getting pick-pocketed. I'm sure I'll still do some shopping, but the immediate need has passed. For now, I believe I will nap and read. Read and nap, whatever. I may even put on mascara tonight for the first time in 10 days!

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