Monday, October 21, 2013

Life at its Purest

our home for the weekend 
There’s something completely pure about the way we spent this past weekend.  I feel like each of us took joy in each simple moment we encountered, and we lived each of those moments to the fullest.  Whether we were running into the ocean fully clothed in our exuberance or swinging slowly in a hammock under the afternoon sun, we were fully present in each second.  

Five of us passed the weekend at a beach house in Iztapa, Guatemala this time.  We left straight from school on Friday at 3:00pm, picked up by Eddie, our private driver and host for the weekend.  Before leaving the city, we picked up William as well, our other guide and chef. 

Traffic was, of course, horrendous at rush hour on Friday night, so it was 7pm before we reached the tiny town of Iztapa.  We pulled up to the dock and unloaded our van in darkness.  From there we boarded a small lancha (boat) and floated slowly down the river to our dock for the weekend. 

After finding our bedrooms in the big wooden house, we scampered down to the ocean.  The waves on the Pacific coast of Guatemala are treacherous, so in the darkness we only waded in to our knees (and Jen and Rachel sat in the sand and let the salt water wash over them and their clothes). 

Later, William cooked us pasta and we spent the rest of the evening on the front porch, chatting and enjoying a spectacular thunderstorm over the ocean.  When it grew late, the peals of thunder and the crash of the waves lulled us to sleep. 

Saturday morning, we were up at 7am and in the ocean before the waves grew too rough.  Then, we spent time reading, lying in hammocks, sunbathing, and splashing in the pool.  

morning sunshine on the deck

our dock 
Around 10am, we once again left our dock and took to the river in the little lancha.   The trip had been eerily beautiful the night before in the darkness, but was even more breathtaking that morning in the sunlight.  We passed luxurious retreats with helicopter landing pads, and locals standing up in their boats and fishing.  As I’m realizing about so many places in Guatemala, it was an area of contrast.  And beautiful in its way. 

gas station along the river and some fishermen

These people have money. 

 We dropped Eddie and my friends off at a beach where they’d take a surfing lesson, and then William and I and Don Terese  headed to the dock at Iztapa, where we left our boat and took the van to the town pier to purchase fresh seafood for the next two days.  Right on the dock, we purchased 3 ½ pounds of jumbo shrimp, caught fresh that morning.  We loaded them into our cooler, then headed into town to a market.  We stopped at a little fish stall where William picked out 5 healthy red snappers, also caught that morning.  He showed me how to lift up the gill and check for the bright red color that means the fish is fresh.  It was.  After we’d selected the fish, the woman working there slapped them onto a wet wooden table and scaled them for us with a small metal tool.  Fish scales flew everywhere.  It was great.  Then she cut out some guts from below the gills, washed the fish, and we loaded them too into our cooler.  Our last stop in town was at a produce stall to pick up parsley, jalapenos, and olive oil. 

When we had everything, we piled back into the van to return home. 
Buuuut there was a catch.
There was a feria that day in Iztapa, and while we’d been at the produce stall, they’d closed the road back because the parade was coming through.  Drat.

Thankfully, Don Terese knows the area, and we made a wide loop around the parade route and tried to avoid it.  We still came upon the route, and eventually were met by the parade itself and were forced to pull over.  But now we were at the beginning of the route, so we had front row seats to the parade, and after it had passed in 15-20 minutes, we were perfectly positioned to get out of there.  Had we waited in town, we might have been trapped for up to two hours.

And even better, we got to see the parade!  It consisted of expensive Andalusian horses that seemed to dance down the street, ridden by their rich owners, and their body guards who followed close around the sides.  William told me about how prized the horses are, and that they come from all over the country for this feria (not a big one, but I’m sure any parade is a good excuse to show off your horse if you’re the type who takes pride in that).  I really enjoyed it. 

After we picked up the surfers (who had had a fantastic time, of course), we went back to the house for more relaxation, and eventually a supremely tasty dinner of baked red snapper, potatoes, and salad, with pineapple for dessert. 

That evening, we played our own version of volleyball in the pool, feasted on BBQ chicken and beef, baked potatoes, and roasted vegetables, and splashed in the ocean’s waves at sunset.  After the sun fell, the full moon peeked out from behind the clouds.  William got a bonfire going on the beach, and we sat around it swatting mosquitos and zoning out for a while, until Jordan suggested we move inside and keep our party moving. 

volleyball in the pool 

And then we danced.  For hours.  Jordan got it started by telling me to bust out my best dance move.
“I don’t have a good dance move.  You’ve seen me dance,” I told him.
“Yes you do.  But all right—give me your most ridiculous dance move then.”
And that was all it took.

I danced like I used to in elementary school, long before looking good had anything to do with dancing.  We all did.  There was a lot of jumping around and waving arms in the air.  I felt completely uninhibited, feeling the music, laughing as I twirled and hopped and spun and shimmied, not caring one iota what anyone thought.  Dancing in its purest form.  As it should be.

Somewhere along the line, the dance evolved into a game involving a water bottle and showing off bartending flair.  However, since among us Eddie was really the only one with remote flair ability, it eventually became a game of “demonstrate your best dance move with the water bottle, then toss it to someone else.”  Ridiculous?  Of course.  Fun?  Of course.

Our final day at the house, Sunday, we were all reluctant to think of leaving.  We drank in the view, dipped in the pool, sat about playing Jenga and reading.  Lunch was my favorite meal of the trip—our jumbo shrimp along with rice and roasted vegetables in a salad.  I could have eaten for days had my stomach not filled.  But finally, 3:30 rolled around and it was time to pack up.  So we collected our belongings and filled the little boat one last time, waving good bye to our oasis in Iztapa.  

Photo credit to Michelle
(her feet, not mine) 

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