We haven’t caught up on here much recently for a number of reasons. We’re in a routine now so there’s not too much to say; we haven’t got internet on tap; and we can’t upload photos, which makes for a rather dull blog, I feel.
Anyway, we’re still in Panajachel, working in the herb garden in the mornings, amusing ouselves in the afternoons, shopping in the supermarket and cooking our own food. Our flat is 10 minutes walk from Lake Atitlan, the deepest lake in Central America and 18 km across. It’s surrounded by volcanoes and very beautiful.
The weather is mild to hot but sometimes clouds over – very comfortable. The small town is 10 minutes walk, or 3 minutes in a tuc-tuc. We’ve been across the lake twice: the first time to Santiago, which had an interesting church and men wearing some interesting trousers – cropped and striped, blue on white. Sean was looking to buy a pair but they seemed to be the only thing not for sale. Possibly a narrow escape!
The second trip was to San Juan to visit a cooperative that is connected to the NGO we’re working for. The women (and some men) there do back strap weaving. The ends of the loom are literally hung from a tree at one end and wrapped around the woman’s back at the other. This makes the weaving as portable as knitting. The cottons used for weaving are either bought in artificially dyed or are dyed naturally using leaves, seeds and bark collected in the rainforest. The town was very well kept and was full of shops selling items made from the traditional weaving in beautiful natural hues. The only trouble is that it’s so overwhelming that it’s difficult to choose any one thing over another so we ended up without anything. We had lunch in what was billed as an organic cafe but turned out to only serve pizza and, as Sean had his back to the kitchen, I gave him a running commentary on the stages of preparation. They’ve started to roll the dough. She’s getting some assistance while she checks which toppings to put on. She’s just yelled out the back window to her daughter to bring her some matches. She’s now lighting the oven. Needless to say the pizzas were some time coming but at least the cafe had WiFi.
Then we got the boat back. I’m sure Sean will describe this better than me. A small boat with an outboard motor, a heap of suitcases covered with a tarp in the front, us, a boatload of American do-gooders who had been helping to build a house. (Why it makes any kind of sense for American pensioners to do this when there is a local population of able-bodied, young unemployed men is beyond me!) Although it’s a lake it gets very choppy in the afternoon and this for me was the boat ride from hell. Like a roller coaster, right up the wave and then dropping into the void on the other side. I don’t get seasick, just terrified!
Edgar is our boss in the garden, allocating us work such as weeding, sweeping and . . . weeding. Oh and sometimes watering. It’s stunningly beautiful, with all the usual tropical flowers, butterflies, birds (no parrots, but humming birds), an array of familiar herbs and one or two unfamiliar ones. Possibly the best thing about working there is chatting with Edgar. We’ve talked about the garden, his hopes and dreams: he’s going to university to study agronomy but wants to come back to Pana to build a house and find a wife (in that order); about politics, his family etc. It’s really great to be able to meet someone like this. Beatrice also works in the garden as a volunteer. She’s Italian but was educated in England. She came here to learn about medicinal uses of herbs but has been a bit disappointed that there are not more indigenous plants being used. Beatrice is incredibly brave, independent and tenacious. She has taken herself off to a village to try and find an expert who can teach her. I’m sure we’ll keep in touch.
We’re here in Pana for two more weeks and then we’re heading to California. Travelling to Chile has proved prohibitively expensive and we wanted to do some more helpxing, as well as go to some of the national parks. We’ve been in touch with some great hosts there so it looks as though things are working out. And we still have to plan what to do with the rest of our time in Guatemala!
P.S. Better photos once I can upload from my camera again.