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!

Monday, March 30, 2015


Hi, all!

A highlight of each of my trips to San Pedro La Laguna is the opportunity to visit Beca Project students in their homes. With nearly 70 students now and many whose homes I've visited year after year, we decided to limit the visits this trip to the 15 students who just joined us for the 2015 school year which started in January.

Mynor always organizes the visits based on geography and we would - literally and figuratively - be lost without him. Some students live along the streets and labyrinthine paths of town while others live in the country; we mainly walk but occasionally take tuktuks or Mynor's motor scooter if it's just the 2 of us. Sometimes we require guiding and flashlights and hand holding to find our way through forest paths and coffee fincas. Addresses with number and street or road names aren't common here; how Mynor keeps all of them straight is a testament to his dedication and intelligence.

Also, without Mynor we would be unable to communicate with most of the family members. The native language here is Tz'utujil, one of nearly 2 dozen Maya languages. The kids learn Spanish in school but few of the parents speak Spanish because they were unable to attend or continue in school long enough to learn it. Mynor serves as our translator for both language and culture.

These visits, like the families, vary. Sometimes the visit includes multiple generations, cousins, and neighbors while other times just a parent and student or even just the student is home when we arrive. Some students have 2 parents while others have just 1 or are being raised by a grandparent or someone outside the family. Some kids have no siblings and some 6 or more; it's not uncommon for grown siblings to live in the home with their own kids.

The homes vary, too. Some are built with cement block or adobe and many have dirt floors and corn stalk walls. One family of 7 shares 2 tiny rooms, 1 for sleeping and the other for cooking and eating. If there is inside space it is generally a bedroom, which you'll see in the photos. Electricity is limited so the rooms are often really dark, especially for evening visits; the camera flash makes them seem unnaturally bright but without the flash the photos are useless. I've included 1 flashless photo (following another photo in the same room) for a touch of realism.

Some days we are offered food at home after home: tamales, bread, rice, coffee, pop, or atole. We joke that more food is offered on days when we have just eaten a big meal before heading out on visits; what we don't eat we must, by custom, take with us. Many of the families live on the equivalent of just a dollar or 2 a day so these offers of food are incredibly generous.

In each home we are greeted warmly, hosted graciously, and thanked over and over. We leave with several rounds of hugs and warm hearts. I hope these photos - generally 1 per visit with a few extras thrown in - give you a sense of what this process and these people mean to me.

Mike is 5'9" for point of comparison.

You can find the complete photo collections for this trip HERE.

Happy trails!

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Hi, all!

What a busy, full, fun week! This is a patchwork post that I hope will give you a sense of our time here in San Pedro La Laguna.

Some of the most precious moments for me - and they happen every day, a lot - are when I run into Beca Project kids and family members in the street or when they're checking in at the Cooperativa Spanish School. I don't usually take photos but here are a few.

I also enjoy seeing other friends on my wanderings, like Delfino, the Cooperativa Spanish School's garden artist with Lorencito and Elena, the 2 youngest kids of our friends Lorenzo and Andrea.

We have spent about an hour each visiting this year's new Beca Project kids; this deserves their own post but here's a taste.

Also meriting a separate post are the Semana Santa - Easter Week - celebrations which are just getting started. We enjoy seeing Mynor and Josefa and their boys in the processions and look forward to more, beginning at 5am Sunday morning.

We happily spend quite a lot of time shopping for and preparing food - such a joy in a place with beautiful, interesting markets.

Generally we prepare our own

and sometimes we get help from the banana bread lady 

or my friend Cecilia - a Beca mom - who makes tortillas for nearly 3 hours every evening.

We are enjoying our apartment, our Ti Wachooch - such an amazing space which is becoming more homey as furniture is completed and delivered and we add gifts from Beca families and folk art, plants, and pots from local markets.

We spent our weekday afternoons at the Cooperativa School, enjoying the staff, fellow students, the beautiful garden, and our classes with friend and awesome teacher, Antonio. 

The school offers some very cool activities. I had to pass this week on salsa lessons due to Beca home visits but enjoyed the demonstration at a local weaving cooperative that uses natural dyes.

I also learned how to make the mats called 'petates' - using hands and feet - from reeds that grow along the lake, a specialty of the nearby town of San Pablo.

And on Friday night the school put on a dinner - good company and good food.

Mike has joined the local gym again (40 quetzales or about $5 for 2 weeks) and likes to run. He has discovered some wonderful roads and paths and took me on a hike this week.

Those are coffee beans drying.

We have tv with cable but the sports on offer include soccer, soccer, and more soccer and no US college basketball. Mike has listened to several games on his iPad and has watched a few at a local bar with a wealth of channels.

On Wednesday I headed to the dock early and crossed the lake to Panajachel with a shopping list with traditional fabric for curtains at the top. I met Diane, a friend of a friend of our Antigua to Panajachel driver, Alfredo, and she introduced me to a man with a storehouse of fabric bolts (thanks!). 

Here's what I came home with, very pleased:

I was able to find a woman from Santa Catarina Polopo whose huipiles (traditional blouses) I have purchased 3 times beginning in 2007; I had copies of photos from 2007 and 2012 to give her and purchased this 1 for Ti Wachooch and for wearing with my blue corte (wrap skirt).

I also visited Beca Project sponsor Laure (on right, with a coworker) who has moved with her husband from the east coast to Panajachel to be the administrator of LIFE International School.

An absolute highlight for me was catching up with the school's lovely secretary, our beloved Beca student Maria Elena. She started with the Beca Project as a very shy, very bright student in 2009 and we watched with pride as she spoke with confidence at the graduation ceremony of her Bilingual Secretarial college last November. She has landed this wonderful job and I was pleased to hear both that she loves it and that she rocks it. So proud of this young woman! I don't think we've ever made a better investment.

Here are a few random shots from around San Pedro. Window cat doesn't mind having his or her photo taken.

Roof dogs don't like it.

Kid relays in the municipal/market area.

In the park by the Catholic church.

Neighborhood and Volcán San Pedro to the south from our terrace at dusk.

And, finally, this happened: at 4:40 in the morning hundreds of firecrackers erupted in the street by our house, followed by an hour long serenade by a local marimba band. Happy birthday to the next door neighbor!

You can find the complete photo collections for this trip HERE.

Happy trails!