Sunday, August 9, 2015

When Old Friends Come to Visit...

I’ve been back in Guate for two weeks now, but both weeks seemed to pass in the flash of an eye, leaving me today, for the first time, with a chance to catch my breath and reflect on them.

There’s a reason I felt so occupied the first two weeks; I had a lot going on.  Two days after returning to Guatemala, my dear friend G-Money (of college marching band and Peru adventure fame) arrived to visit.  Unfortunately, her arrival coincided perfectly with my return to work.  While I scrambled to get my classroom ready for the arrival of my new students, G-Money spent her first two days in the country relaxing and exploring the area around my neighborhood.  She mastered ordering coffee in Spanish, visited the grocery store 3 days running (with different people each time), and explored Cayalá. 

On Saturday morning, my first day off, our adventure really began.  We set off before dawn to make it to Lake Atitlan as early as possible. 

The trip was perfect from the start.  We flew through Guatemala City with almost zero traffic to slow us down.  We made good time, passing through Chimaltenango (everyone’s least favorite town because of the bottleneck in traffic that it creates) just 45 minutes after leaving my house.  Just as we were starting to crave breakfast, we arrived in Tecpan to the wonderful surprise that one of my favorite restaurants was open and serving up fresh coffee and hot tortillas. 

Breakfast at Kappe Paulino's

As we snaked down through Solalá and saw our first glimpses of the lake, it was clear we had been gifted with a gorgeous day.  A bright blue sky illuminated the volcanoes beautifully with not a rain cloud in sight. 

At the dock, a boat worker told us his public lancha was leaving in three minutes, and he was true to his word.  Even though there were only 4 of us on the boat (which could have held 20 people easily), we pushed off in three minutes and were in Santa Cruz in no time. 

We enjoyed a leisurely, beautiful walk to our hotel, where we dropped off our bags (we were much too early to check in) and then decided on a stroll to explore the town of Santa Cruz proper, up the hill. 
View on the walk to the hotel

The trek turned out to be a serious uphill climb in nearly full sun, and while we enjoyed it with no complaints, upon returning, we both agreed that a cold smoothie sounded like the perfect reward.  My strawberry banana smoothie, coupled with a shaded chair and a view of the lake, hit the spot, and refreshed, we returned to our hotel.

The view from Santa Cruz

There, we discovered that the board game Ticket to Ride was available for our use, so we spent an hour before lunch playing the game with, again, a great view of the lake.  (I love Ticket to Ride, and G-Money and I used to play it in college.  Finding it in Guatemala was an unexpected treat). 

Lunch was delicious, and after it, we were shown to our room—a cabin high on the hill overlook the lake.  Now, we’d been warned that our room was pretty far up the hill, but I didn’t really know what that meant.  181 steps later, I was breathing a bit heavily and working to keep up with Carlos, who was showing us the way.  Still, the view was worth it, and a little bun-burning workout never hurt anyone. 

About the halfway point on the climb up/down

Next on the agenda was some time relaxing on the hotel patio.  I promptly took a nap in a hammock enjoying the cool breeze, the shade, and the view (until my eyes closed). 

The perfect spot for some serious relaxation

After that, we decided to see a bit more of the lake villages.  We took a public boat over to the village of San Juan, which has become a town of trade cooperatives.  We learned about the existence of the women’s weaving co-op, the coffee co-op, the artesan’s co-op.  We stopped at a few stalls, and the women were eager to tell us about their use of natural dies or to demonstrate how they craft the patterns on their looms.  After buying a pair of earrings made with flower petals, we strolled through town enjoying some of the murals.  Then, we took a tuk tuk to the neighboring town of San Pedro.

One of the murals in San Juan

San Pedro is a tourist’s town, and we walked the strip with me pointing out all of the restaurants I’ve been to.  (I’ve only been to San Pedro once, for a three day weekend, but apparently I ate my way through the town). 

Then it was back to Santa Cruz for the evening.  We dined family style at Iguana Perdida, a hostel nearby our hotel.  Dinner conversation was interesting and the food was delicious.  We fell into bed early and slept soundly. 

Sunday morning, we enjoyed a yoga class (again, like all things over the weekend, with a great view of the lake), followed by a leisurely breakfast.  Full and happy, we showered (again, leisurely), and checked out around noon.  We made our way back to Antigua, where we dropped G-Money off at her hotel, took a walk around, ate a mid-afternoon meal (lupper, if you will), and then I took to my car and braved traffic back into the city. 

G-Money spent the next day and a half in Antigua on her own while I went back to work, welcoming my new students and beginning a new school year.  While I wish she could have stayed much longer and that I could have taken time off to spend more time with her, I’m so grateful for the time we did have.  It was amazing to see an old friend (and it had been so long since we’d traveled together, I had forgotten what an AWESOME travel companion she is!  Can you believe that?!).  I’m really lucky to have her for a friend, and that she was able to make a visit to Guate work.  Next up: my visit to her in Asia!  Next summer.    

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