The second eldest daughter of our compadres Humberto and Paulina celebrated her fifteenth birthday on January 4. It is an important rite of passage in Latin American culture, and we wouldn't miss it for the world.
We awoke to the beginnings of a large snowstorm in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, January 2. Luckily, we were able to fly out of Logan Airport with only a slight delay for de-icing of the plane's wings before the bulk of the storm hit. We made our connection in Miami and arrived in Guatemala City at 11:30 a.m.
After a three hour van ride, we arrived at the house in Panajachel at 2:45 p.m. It was so nice to see all of the kids again! They all grow so quickly! As usual, Humberto had completed many more improvements to the property since our last visit 6 months ago. An extra bathroom is now hidden behind a Mayan tapestry under the stairwell. With the family now running bed and breakfast services as well as hosting clients in Humberto's office, an extra bathroom accessible from the outside is quite handy.
The rooms on the second floor of the guest house are nearing completion, and these rooms will be used as the venue for Paola's party. We climbed up to the third floor roof terrace. There were no hand rails, so Craig, unsure of his footing due to his MS, had to be very careful. As the quinceañera party would be on the second floor, Humberto was going to have hand rails installed the next day for safety during the party.
From the terrace, we could see Lake Atitlan several blocks away, and its surrounding volcanoes. Humberto showed us the fire pit where they had a fire to celebrate Christmas. Several guests were staying in the first floor guest rooms. Yoselin and Yasmin have moved their bedroom back to the main house to make additional rooms available for guests.
|Eddy, Aracely, and Craig|
|Brittany, Yasmin, and Yoselin|
|Paola and Loren making decorations|
Vanesa's quinceañera, two and a half years ago, had been a low-key family party. Vanesa doesn't like to be the center of attention. Paola, on the other hand, has been mentally planning her big day for years. She planned to go all-out, inviting family and friends to celebrate in her rite of passage.
|Josue and Brittany|
|Yoselin and Steph|
Paulina and the women were cooking in the kitchen while the guys and kids put up decorations on the second floor. Paola and Junior filled the piñata. The piñata was Belle, of Beauty and the Beast. It stood taller than Brittany! The kids filled it with hard candies and lollipops.
|Yolanda, Juan Carlos, Craig, Olga, Paulina, and Humberto|
After a couple of drinks and some good laughs, everyone returned to their duties. Humberto gave the kids bags of green pine needles to spread on the floor to infuse the air with a lovely pine scent. The kids blew up gold and silver balloons. Humberto's niece Sandra brought over a beautiful arrangement of yellow roses. The walls were decorated with gold ribbons. At around 11:30, we called it a night. Juan Carlos' brother Victor arrived, and we capped off the night with a little more rum.
The day of the party dawned with beautiful sunshine. Paola's actual birthday wasn't until the next day, but the family had elected to hold the party on a Saturday night. Humberto went out to do some errands and arrived home in a tuk-tuk carrying three "party packs" of XL light rum. He also brought home 12 pineapples, 6 watermelons, and 6 cantaloupes for a home-made rum punch. Humberto, Juan Carlos, and Junior started an assembly line to process the fruit. Sandra and some of Paola's friends started constructing a balloon arch.
Paulina and Paola returned after picking up Paola's dress and jewelry. We went to the market with Paulina, Eddy, and Aracely to buy the two youngest kids some new clothes to wear to the party.As we were running behind Paulina's schedule, we took a tuk-tuk there. This was probably good for Craig. Tonight's party would last until the wee hours and we didn't want him to tire himself out too early. Craig's MS sapped a lot of his strength lately.
After each child picked out an outfit, we stopped at the barber shop to get Eddy a haircut. Despite his intense and rambunctious nature, Eddy always sat stone-still in the old-fashioned barber chair, so much so that the barber could use a straight razor to finish off the edges.
|Craig and Aracely|
They served everyone a bowl of corned beef and cabbage for lunch. Then, as we took showers and got dressed for the party, everyone disappeared. Paola and Humberto took Paola to get her hair done, and the neighboring relatives went to their respective houses.
Family friend Letti and her daughter Nidia arrived with the cake they had baked and decorated. The cake had three separate tiers, though they were not stacked. She placed a doll wearing a gold gown on the center tier. All of the rented plastic tables had been transformed with white table linens and centerpieces. Everything was perfect!
|Julisse, Paola, and Vanesa|
Juan Carlos and Yolanda met us, and their daughter Fatima was dressed like a little princess in a sparkly purple gown. Humberto set off firecrackers as we walked down the alley toward the road. We took tuk-tuks to the San Francisco de Asis church in time for the 6:30 Mass.
|Paola walks in the opening procession at church|
|Yolanda, Humberto, Paola, Paulina, Juan Carlos|
|Yolanda, Humberto, Paola, Paulina, and Juan Carlos|
|Paola arrives at her party with Paulina, Humberto, and Aracely|
Aracely, Yoselin, and Yasmin handed out favors: small roses made of gold ribbon, on which was printed Paola's name and the date of her quinceañera. The girls pinned these onto everyone. Paola was introduced to the crowd and a toast was made in her honor. She was absolutely beaming.
|Paola and her piñata|
We went back to our table, and Humberto and Paulina sat down with us. Olga's 5-year-old son Chilo came over and asked to use my second camera. He is usually very shy, and I was happy to let him use it. It got him to come out of his shell a little bit as he took photos of the various guests.
|Paola, Steph, Humberto, Paola's godparents, Paulina|
We saw Paulina's sister Estela, and her daughters Laisa, Yesmy, Loren, and Michele. Laisa looked all grown up, very pretty in a traditional huipil (blouse) and skirt. Blanca introduced us to her baby Dulce Natalie. Olga's youngest, Alison Margarita, was enthralled by Craig as always. Rosa and Victor had come with all of their kids: Julisse, Alex, Andrik, and Neli.
|Blanca and Dulce Natalie|
|Craig, Alison Margarita, and Olga|
Yoselin asked Craig and I to dance, and we danced with her until we all got tired and needed a rest.
Paola danced the night away with her friends. The younger kids also really enjoyed dancing with one another.as well. Eddy ran around like a wild man. Aracely asked me to dance with her and when we went into the disco room, Rocio joined us.
Everyone had a great time and the party ran until 1:30 a.m. At that point, the music stopped and everyone except the teenagers went to bed.
|Rocio and Juana|
|Michele and Alison Margarita|
|Neli and Rosa|
|Estela, Michele, and Laisa|
At lunch time, Juan Carlos, Yolanda, Fatima, Junior, Victor, Julisse, Alex, Andrik, Neli, Josue, and Brittany arrived for lunch. We had leftover chicken in mushroom sauce and rice. Juan Carlos made a cabbage cole slaw and included some hot peppers straight from the garden.
|Vanesa, Fatima, Neli, Julisse, Eddy|
|Aracely and Paulina|
|Fatima, Aracely, Yoselin, and Josue complete the world map puzzle|
|Victor, Rosa, Juan Carlos, Yolanda, Paulina, Humberto, Craig, and Alex|
|Gathering around the fire: Junior, Juan Carlos, Yolanda, Paulina, Humberto, and Craig|
|Yasmin making bracelets|
Humberto had to go to a meeting, and he and Paulina announced that the rest of us would be going down the street to her sister Isabela's restaurant for tacos,. Yum! But Eddy crashed and fell asleep at the dining room table before we could go. So instead they decided to get the food as take-out. Paulina and the kids made a list (many of the kids wanted burgers and fries instead of tacos), but when they tried to order, they realized that the restaurant was closed today.
Paulina didn't want to make food, so we assumed that they would order pizza delivery instead. A few minutes later, she told us that Rosa would save the day by preparing the taco order herself. This surprised us and we wondered how she could prepare so much so quickly, with no notice.
We watched Gravity Falls on TV with the kids (quite funny, even dubbed in Spanish) and soon dinner arrived...plates of tacos, plates of burgers and fries, large bowls of frsh guacamole, salsa, and picante sauce. How could Rosa prepare so much so quickly and professionally? Then it dawned on us. Victor and Rosa own the Yulex restaurant next to Humberto's office. Though they have been working at some nearby villas and haven't had much time for the restaurant lately, Rosa had the food and equipment to make a complete dinner for ten on the spot. We slathered our tacos in salsa and the delightfully hot picante sauce. They were different than Isabela's tacos, but just as good! Chicken, onions, peppers, and cheese. Yoselin and Aracely shared their fries with us. Everything was delicious!
It was very windy during the night and we were constantly reminded of the fact as we slept. We were awakened by a crash which turned out to be the empty 750 liter water tank took flight from the third floor terrace of the guest house, smashing down onto the corrugated metal roof attached to the main house. It made quite a dent in the roof, but luckily didn't cause any permanent damage to the tank.
The next morning, we woke up early to continue packing. We met the family for breakfast at 8 o'clock, and then said our goodbyes to godchildren Aracely and Eddy as they headed off to school. Our van arrived at 9:30, and we said goodbye to the family and headed home. It had been a wonderful visit, as usual. And we had a little surprise waiting for us in our luggage: Yoselin and Yasmin had wrapped up two small stuffed animals for us and hid them in our bags as a surprise.
|Saying goodbye to Eddy and Aracely|
We have been a part of the family for six and a half years. We have seen children growing up into young adults as other new babies are born. Every time we visit, there are new family members to meet. Life is a continuum, and this family is ever-changing. We are lucky to be a part of it.