The 5 of us - Stacey, John, Cherie, Jennifer, and Susie - had 3 full days together in San Pedro La Laguna and packed them full. Here are some of the highlights:
We headed to the beautiful Cooperativa Spanish School for a cooking class.
Andrea very patiently walked us through the steps to prepare and wrap paches, similar tamales but with potatoes instead of masa (corn meal).
Paches are steamed, not boiled.
We filled the pot with our handiwork and an hour later returned to taste it. Absolutely delicious! Must try at home!
The next morning we attended the graduation at the local Catholic Primary school of Mynor and Josefa's 6-year-old, Antonio. He was the class speaker!
A nice family portrait: Mynor and Josefa with Antonio and Manuel.
That afternoon we went to the home of Josefa's mother so she and another friend, Maria, could give us a back strap loom weaving demonstration and lesson. They are both master weavers and patient as well - it is much harder than they make it look!
Next up was a visit to the home of Susie's Beca Project student, Karina, who will graduate from her Basico (like 7th/8th/9th grade) program on the 8th. We are so proud of her! It was an amazing evening.
The next morning we headed south on the lake to Santiago Atitlán.
We were met on the dock by Mashish, the same guide I've found on every visit to Santiago over the last 10 years. He's pictured on the left; 3rd from left is a local vendor wearing the traditional women's headdress of Santiago.
He carefully guided and herded us up the busy street - protecting us from passing tuktuks and trucks - and through a labyrinth of alleys and paths...
...to this year's home of Maximón, patron saint of alcohol, tobacco, and prostitutes (among other vices), represented as a wooden figure wrapped in scarves and ties, smoking a cigar. We paid a few quetzales each to visit his lair and a few more to take photos, although donations of cigarettes, cigars, and alcohol are also gratefully accepted; in this photo Mashish is kneeling with his back to the camera, in the throws of a lengthy prayer.
We also visited the Catholic church including the room where Oklahoma-born priest Stanley Rother was martyred during the genocide period for his efforts on behalf of the local indigenous population - a powerful story. In late November the Pope recognized Stanley Rother as the 1st American martyr.
The huipiles (traditional women's blouses) in Santiago are very unique - lots of embroidered birds in brilliant colors. The phoenix in the photo that I use for Beca Project letter heads and return address labels is a detail of a piece I purchased on a previous visit to Santiago.
Back in San Pedro, we ate lunch at a locals place just up the road from the dock.
In the afternoon we visited 2 of the 4 completed houses of the Cooperativa Spanish School's Kamoon Project including this home of our very 1st Beca Project student, Andrea Guadalupe.
Then we visited the Martin Quém family who will receive the next home when funding is complete. You can see before and after videos of these homes HERE.
That night we had a nice barbecued dinner on the terrace with Mynor and Josefa's extended family. Early the next morning John, Cherie, and Susie left for home and another chapter of our trip was complete.
Jennifer stayed an additional 4 nights with me at Ti Wachooch in order to enjoy Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) activities. First up was the 1st annual kite competition at the huge football (soccer) stadium on a hill above town. It included a variety of kites - mostly with cultural and environmental themes - which were judged by the local Teen Guatemala Princess (sparkly crown) and the local sports award winner (wooden crown).
We visited neighboring San Juan to check out their cemetery preparations and to enjoy lunch at a local place, Restaurante Dorka.
Since the San Pedro cemetery is just a few blocks up the hill from Ti Wachooch, I visited alone or with Jennifer half a dozen times over 3 days. During the 1st visit family members and hired artists were cleaning and painting.
As the days progressed more banners, flowers, candles, and pine needles were added. This photo features the same cross as the photo above.
I get up nearly every morning to watch the sun come up from the terrace and the morning of November 2nd I could hear a list of names being read over a microphone at the cemetery.
I walked up and spent an hour or so, missing beloveds and talking with local friends, then left as the 7am mass started. I wish I could share the strong fragrance of the copal incense that filled every row.
Jennifer and Mynor and I made a visit that morning to the home of her Beca Project student, Federico who will also graduate on the 8th - another happy, emotional experience.
In the afternoon Jennifer and I visited the cemetery again and Mynor and Josefa's nephew Antonio and a friend gave us a very thorough impromptu guided tour.
A highlight was the music.
This trio featured the dad of a beloved Beca Project student on acoustic bass guitar.
The mother of a friend of Mynor's makes an especially good fiambre, a vinegary meat and vegetable salad with its roots in the tradition of bringing favorite foods of the departed to the cemetery; they must have had eclectic taste as this dish contains 70 or 80 ingredients - unique and delicious.
Usually the evening is an especially lovely time to visit the cemetery on Día de los Muertos but the skies opened up and the streets ran like rivers - we were happy to have spent time there earlier in the day.
Jennifer and I had several nice meals out including this shrimp at Jack's Place
and Sunday lunch at Smokin' Joe's.
Her last night in San Pedro Jennifer took Mynor, Josefa, their boys, their homestay student, and me out for a nice dinner at The Clover.
The next morning Jennifer packed up and we headed to the dock. We sat and talked while we waited for the boat to fill up and head to Panajachel, the 1st leg of her trip home and the completion of another chapter.
You can find the complete photo collections for this trip HERE.