I went to the Festival de Bariletes Gigantes in Sumpango, Guatemala last year for Dia de Todos Santos, and I was impressed. It was a good day.
But when Chris, Michelle, and I went today, it was one of those rare wonderful days that combined good friends, adventure, culture, spontaneity, new experiences, and laughter.
Michelle started the day off on the right foot by bringing breakfast burritos along for us to enjoy on the drive. Chris set the tone with good music in the truck. Even the fact that we spent probably half an hour stuck in traffic waiting to turn off the highway into Sumpango couldn’t get us down. When we got close to the turn-off, Chris rolled down his window and shouted to the gent' manning the parking lot across the street to find out if there was a spot. “Una!” came the response. “Para MI?!” Chris entoned enthusiastically. When the guy nodded “sure,” Chris popped the truck into 4 wheel drive, checked that there was no traffic coming in the opposite lane, and hopped the median to get us into the parking lot.
|So much traffic...|
From there, we walked leisurely in the direction the crowd was flowing, and eventually found ourselves in the cemetery where Guatemalans had come out to decorate the graves of their deceased in flowers and pine needles. A random stranger saw us stopping to marvel at all the colors and commented that he’d been up walking among the hills and had gotten amazing photographs and stories by stopping to speak with people up there, so we took his recommendation and trudged up the hill. We watched family members pour Coca Cola over one mounded grave, peered over the shoulder of another group arranging rose petals and marigolds in a pattern, and stopped to speak with another who asked if perhaps Michelle and I could be his nieces. Chris played that up and got a picture of Michelle with her “uncles” and the family grave.
|Michelle's new family? ;)|
As we wandered back towards the main road, we ran into a colleague who was showing around the professor of the masters class I’m currently taking. We walked with them a while, but as we joined the throng moving towards the area of the giant kites, they were swept away. (We met up with them again near the kites, along with many other people from the school).
|So many people!|
The kites were impressive as always, and as we stood watching them, the clouds even parted, revealing blue sky and bright sunshine. We watched a few of the smaller ones fly, snapped our photos, and then made our way back toward the truck.
On the way, we stopped at a shop selling machetes in hand-crafted leather sheaths, and Chris bought several on a whim. Shortly after, we got our first cat call from someone in a passing truck, and Chris and Michelle began postulating whether the whistle had been for him or us girls. I piped up that it was probably the machetes that did it, and this was generally regarded as the obvious answer.
To come home, we decided to take a back route and see a part of the country we hadn’t experienced before and have a little adventure. I love my friends, because they’re the type of people who pull over to the side of the road just to snap a photo of the way the sun hits that cornfield, or to try and capture all the shades of green on that particular hillside in a photograph.
|See? Not kidding about stopping to take photos.|
We took a detour to follow a sign pointing to “Laguna Seca” (dry lake), but it turned out to be just the name of a village. However, on the way there, we took a wrong turn and ended up buying ice cream from a man walking down the road carrying a cooler and ringing a bell (in the middle of nowhere, on a road about to dead-end). So it was that our directions to Laguna Seca, were we to ever give them to anyone else, became “you take a left, buy ice cream and make a u-turn, take another left, and drive up the hill.”
|Best ice cream sandwich ever? Wafery goodness.|
After that, the trip home was pretty uneventful. We made it back to the city by mid-afternoon under clear skies and light traffic. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.