This is the place for photos and reflections of my visits to Latin America beginning in 2012. Previous blogs are linked on the main pages of my photo collections on flickr. HAPPY TRAILS!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 San Pedro La Laguna Highlights

With too much awesome realness to spend overmuch time with an iPad, limited internet, and 1000s of photos to organize, I've decided to post highlights of my time in San Pedro now and add specific event-based posts from home in the coming weeks.

It was a painful joy to select down to the photos below - ¡disfruten!

San Pedro from the road to San Juan
Street near my homestay
I am charmed by so many people here, including this old guy
and the staff at the Cooperativa Spanish School, represented here by the gardner, Delfino.
This is the home where I'm living this visit, belonging to María, José, and their 7-year-old son Felix (both sides and the story below the black water tank).
The dining room and kitchen on the roof (note watertank for reference)
María is a fabulous cook; for those of you familiar with San Pedro, she's the cook at Nick's Place by the Pana dock.
The fam on the way to the kids' procession
I really love the Wednesday and Sunday markets for the gorgeous produce,
interesting people and interactions,
and rich colors.
A highlight of my week has been shopping for corte (fabric for a traditional wrapped skirt) to go with the beautiful hand-stitched huipil (blouse) I purchased from Beca student Rosa last week. Part of the fun was having the venders throw my huipil over the front of their own and model the options; sometimes their friends weighed in.
With comradery, advice, and negotiating advantage from my friend Andrea, I selected a beautiful multi-colored fabric with turtles; Andrea added the top edging and made an apron for me.
Here I am in my new traje after 6am Easter mass.
The true highlight of every trip here is time spent with the Beca kids and their families - nothing else comes close. Here you see Mynor leading the way to to the next house. With labyrinthine lanes, no street names or house numbers, and parents who speak only Tz'utujil, I would literally and figuratively be lost without him.
I enjoy sharing photos of my family, town, and favored activities with the students and their families. I also print photos to give to each student along with small gifts, an agate from Oregon, and an 8 gig flashdrive for their studies.

With Rosario and her mother
Lucia Adamari and her mother
Sometimes there are bonuses like Beca sponsors who are visiting,
(Adam and Lissa and daughters with Rosario's family, Mynor, and me)
and babies,
(Candelaria's mom and new brother William)
(the hand of Eneyda's baby niece)
and livestock gifts which I unfortunately must refuse. I love the look on Ana Petronila's face.
I also love seeing the kids and their families around town. Here is Petronila working in her aunt's shoe booth at the market,
Candelaria at her father's jewelry stall,
Emilson at the typing school,
María Concepción and her father,
acolyte Francisco in a night procession,
Miguel's great grandmother in the park,
and María Ujpan Tuch (left) launching a 3 pointer - swish!
I was overjoyed to visit the recently completed home of our very 1st Beca student, Andrea Guadalupe Navichoc Pacay. This is the 2nd home completed by the Cooperativa School's Kamoon home building project, an incredible upgrade from corn stalks.
I also visited the home of Petronila and her 4 kids; they are next in line for a new home and funding is nearly 80% complete.
I have loved the beautiful garden and rustic fixtures at the Cooperativa School since 1st studying there with my amiga Sylvia in 2007. In the next few weeks, the school will move to these gorgeous new digs.
There was not enough time this visit for a big all-in celebration dinner for the students and their families. Instead, I took the kids out for pizza, 1 group at a time. The groups were delineated by the school year the kids became Beca scholarship recipients: 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.
San Pedranos don't like ketchup on their fries but they love it on pizza (Pedro Abimael and Pedro Ixcamparij).
So that sponsors and I can communite via email with the students, I'm setting up email accounts for them with the information they provided over lunch (Julissa and Ana Marina).
Some of us who sponsor kids offered the opportunity to shop for needed items like shoes, sweaters, and jackets. It was a treat watching them sort through the options and decide what to purchase.

María Concepción and Paulina
Emerson with the jacket, Emilson with the jeans
Some sponsors also gave money to the families; here Ana Petronila's father leaves a store with 100 pounds of corn, Mynor on right.
With less than 2 weeks this trip, there wasn't time to visit every family as I have in the past. I visited the homes of each of the new students and invited the other families to meet me in the park Monday or 2sday evening.

José Antonio and his parents - note the new shoes
Juana Micaela and her family
The family of María Cecilia, in orange
Evelin Elena with her baby daughter, not so happy brother, and mother
Aside from the Beca Project, the big focus this week has been celebrating Semana Santa - Easter week.

Leaving the church after Palm Sunday mass
Workers decorating the church with fruit
Mynor explained to me some traditional games he played as a child. The woody husks of these palm pods house fragrant strands of seeds used in decorating
and make great sleds.
Here a group of boys plays a traditional game using bees wax while the local fife and drum guys provide the soundtrack.
There has been at least 1 Semana Santa procession every day and sometimes 2. Here's a station on the route of a night procession
and a dawn procession arriving at the church.
These women are transporting the fruit that will decorate the church and the streets around it
and these kids are participating in their own special procession, host kiddo Felix in white.
Sometimes watching the watchers is as interesting as watching the parade - lovely old woman with sweater that matches the decorated lamp post.
Beginning at around midnight on Good Friday, groups from the Catholic church decorated the streets of the procession route with alfombras (carpets) made of fruit, flowers, pine needles, and brightly-colored sawdust.
I got to help. :-)
The largest procession was the morning of Good Friday. Large andas (heavy wooden barges) are slowly carried by groups of church men and women along the parade route - slowly as in half an hour or more per block. Note the hanging fruit in the background; these arches decorate the procession route and require that the andas be lowered to pass beneath.
This is the worst ever job, worse even than manning the generator at the rear of the procession for 4 hours: using a long metal pole thinly clad in electrical tape to lift the overhead wires so the andas can pass. Every procession I saw a different man doing this; hopefully because they were taking turns and not for tragic reasons.
So after all the hours of work on the alfombras, it comes to this:
Long after the processions, the celebrations live on in the hearts of the kids - Felix and cousins make their own procession complete with a plastic representation of a swinging incense burner, overhanging fruit, and stuffed animals on a home made anda.
The celebrations will live on in my heart, too. Happy trails!