Sunday, July 13, 2014

Spending Time with the Family in Panajachel, Guatemala

Craig, Aracely, Eddy, and Steph
We just returned from our 12th visit to stay with Humberto, Paulina, and the kids since 2007, and our 13th visit to Guatemala overall. Although the flights started out a little rough, and we experienced  a 6.9 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter 60 miles west of us, all in all, trip #13 was a great success.

We woke up at 4 a.m. on Thursday, July 3, got ready, and fed our two new cats, Inca and Maya. This was our first trip since adopting them, and Steve would be taking care of them while we'd be away. We left the house at 5:24 a.m.   We checked two bags and went through security quickly. By the luck of the draw, we were able to go through TSA Pre-Check security line, so we didn't need to take anything off or out of our bags. We went to McDonald's for breakfast, something we only do while traveling.

We boarded at 7:30 for our 8:00 flight. The flight seemed very empty, though the flight attendants had warned us of a full flight.  Come to find out that the computer system had gone down after we checked in and many passengers had to be checked in manually. This same thing had happened 4 years before when we traveled to Gautemala with Mukul. We hoped that we wouldn't miss our connection this time, like we did then. When finally all of the passengers had boarded the plane, we were in a long line for takeoff due to Hurricane Arthur; apparently the whole eastern seaboard was affected.

We took off an hour late at 9:05. We were supposed to have an hour and 40 minute layover in Miami, so this did not bode well for our ability to make the connection. We hadn't requested a wheelchair as it isn't usually a problem on that direction, but we didn't know if Craig would be able to move that fast to make a 49 minute connection.

We were nervous on the flight, as I realized that Humberto had gotten a new cell phone and I didn't know if his number had changed. I had an old one. So if we missed the connection, would we even be able to contact him?

We landed in Miami at 12:04  p.m. and our next flight was scheduled to take off at 12:40. Deplaning took a few minutes, and  our connection was at the next terminal over. We needed to board the Sky Train to get there in time, but there was a sign saying "Sky Train out of service." Our 13th trip to Guatemala seemed to be living up to its reputation. Not knowing what to do, we followed the crowds up the escalator anyway, just as the Sky Train arrived. What? It turns out that just an escalator was out of service. The airport may want to revisit the accuracy of its signage.

We hopped on the Sky Train and took it t the next stop. I looked at my watch. If they truly closed the doors 15 minutes prior to departure, we would probably miss the flight by a minute or two. I ran as fast as I could with Craig making his way behind me. We heard an announcement that it was the final boarding call for our flight. As I approached the gate I frantically waved to the crew members at the desk. "My husband has MS and is getting here as fast as he can..." The woman reassured me that  all was fine and that the flight would be slightly delayed due to a lightning storm. We wished that the status board reflected that so we didn't kill ourselves trying to get there for an ontime departure. But we didn't care...we had made our flight against all odds.

We boarded the flight out of breath and sweaty. "Did you come from Boston?" one of the flight attendants asked. "Yes," I gasped. "We were waiting for you!" After us, a few other folks we recognized from our earlier flight boarded. We quickly used the plane rest room, thinking we would take off any minute. Then they announced that the storm had subsided  and they were free to commence loading the final luggage. Hopefully our checked luggage was part of that. Once the luggage loading was done, they announced that there was a maintenance issue with one of the radios. The maintenance team was in the process of replacing an antenna and we would be on our way as soon as possible. We sat patiently waiting, until they announced that the antenna replacement hadn't fixed the problem and they were "looking for new equipment". Craig was sure that this meant a new plane rather than a new radio.

At 1:50, an hour and 10 minutes after we had been scheduled to take off, they announced that  they had found a new plane for us. Craig had been right! We all got off the plane and walked a few gates down, where a flight to Newark had just been canceled. We had to wait a few minutes while the crew transferred to the new plane, and so I tried to call Humberto. Neither number I had worked. I called Steve and luckily he was able to log into my Hotmail for me and get the new number from Humberto's e-mail signature. I called Humberto and told him we would be at least 2 hours late. He said that the driver was probably already at the airport, but that he would call him and say we wouldn't arrive until around 4 p.m as opposed to 1:15 (Guatemala is currently 2 hours behind EDT). We now had an estimated departure time of 2:45, so we would probably get there closer to 3:15, but 4 would give us a buffer to go through immigration, customs, and pick up our checked  bags. Humberto said that Eddy had already been asking when we will arrive every 10 minutes, LOL.  He thanked us for calling, and we boarded the plane at 2:30.

They still had to reload all of our luggage after removing it from the previous plane, and we didn't end up leaving until 3:48 p.m. The pilot was very apologetic and the crew and passengers were pretty good natured about it. We were now targeting a 4:05 p.m. landing. So much for that buffer! The crew gave away free headsets that were more comfy than our Apple earbuds, so we took them and listened to our Ian Gillan music (Clapton Live in the '70's turned out to be too quiet to be heard over the engines, so we figured that Ian Gillan's screaming would do the job).

Near the end of the flight,  I got up to go to the bathroom, and Craig said "You sat in gum!" Lovely! Now there was gum on the back pocket of the one pair of jeans I had brought. I guess I hadn't seen it when I had sat down. I went to the galley and told the flight attendant and asked for some ice to freeze it off. He said, "What else can go wrong?" I told him about our morning problems in Boston and said that he wasn't kidding. He gave me ice, napkins, and a small towel to sit on, and asked the seat number so that maintenance could clean it later. I went into the bathroom (where the sink didn't work and was full of packages of wet naps) and luckily was able to pick all of the gum off. It was our 13th trip alright, but we kept smiling!

We landed at 4:05 p.m., went quickly through immigration, picked up our bags, went through customs, and were out at the curb at 4:30, where Juan the driver was waiting for us. We were 3+ hours late, and now had to deal with rush hour traffic, but at least we had made it to Guatemala!

The traffic was very bad so Juan took an alternate route out of the city. We got to see some areas we had never seen before. We ran into some rain showers en route. We arrived in Panajachel at 7:45 p.m. Aracely and Eddy were waiting for us in front of the office. Yoselin, Vanesa, and Paola came out to greet us. Yoselin had grown very tall! As the 4th child, she was very close to being the tallest now!

Humberto and Paulina took us up to our new second floor room with Aracely and Eddy. This was the most recently completed guest room, and Humberto assured us that however much we had loved our first floor room, this one was even nicer. It was gorgeous. There was a beautiful piece of artwork on the wall which Paola had made Paulina for Mother's Day. There were two beds, and the wall paint and floor tile was very light and made the room look huge. There were nice windows in the room and en suite bathroom. There were now 4 completed rooms downstairs (two of which are bedrooms for the older four girls) and this one upstairs. The other 3 upstairs rooms were also very close to completion.
Craig gives Eddy a piggyback ride
We chatted with Humberto, Paulina, Aracely, and Eddy in the room. Aracely showed us two pictures of her from school, and she gave them to us to keep. She had just finished 3rd grade and was about to turn 9. She is now perfectly fluent in English, and can easily switch between Spanish and English depending on her audience. Eddy would soon be 6, and had just finished kindergarten. Although he would only speak an isolated word or two of English at any time, he definitely understands a lot more than he did 6 months ago when we visited for Paola's quinceañera. We are so proud of both of them, our two precious godchildren.
Aracely, Yoselin, Paola, Humberto, Paulina, Eddy, Craig
We all went down to the dining room for dinner. We had toasted ground corn tea (maiz tostada imolada) accompanying our veggies and ham with cheese sauce and tortillas.The kids watched Combate on TV. Humberto asked Craig how his health was doing since his MS attack last fall. Craig explained that his medicine had changed - he no longer had to take an injection each day. The kids were thrilled to hear this, as they had always been morbidly fascinated by the process, despite themselves. Now he only had to take two pills orally each day, which was much easier than traveling with syringes which need to be refrigerated in hot climates like Guatemala. Craig explained that he had been doing relatively well, but that he still has balance issues sometimes and needs to be cautious when walking.

It had been a long stressful day getting here, so we were quite tired. We went to bed at 10 without having seen Yasmin at all. Aracely knocked at our door a couple minutes later delivering nice cold Gatorades. That is something they have always done for us, trying to help us keep hydrated. We really appreciate their thoughtfulness. I wrote in the notebook and we went to sleep at 10:20.

After a great night's sleep in our comfy new beds, we woke up at 8:30 a.m. and went down to the dining room at 9. Eddy and Aracely are on summer break from Atitlan Multicultural Academy, and the older girls go to school in the afternoon. So Yoselin was the only one who was at school this morning. We finally got a chance to greet Yasmin and give her an overdue hug. For breakfast we had a milky oatmeal into which we put cocoa krispies. We also had a banana and coffee. The World Cup was on at 10 a.m., so we decided it was a great time to break out the kids' big gift - a tabletop foosball table (or futillo, in Spanish). Humberto helped us to put it together before he went to work (filling in for another guide named Pablo).
Foosball (futillo): Vanesa, Aracely, Craig, Eddy
Once the foosball game was assembled, we all played with it as we watched the Cup on TV. Aracely said that it was the best toy. Humberto has wireless internet now, so we set that up for the first time on my netbook and the kids used it to browse YouTube, Facebook, etc.  Cousins Neli, Josue, and Andrik came over, and everyone had fun playing foosball and with the computer. After the game was over, we watched Spider Man 2 on TV while continuing to play foosball. Paola and Yasmin went to school, and Yoselin came home from school. Yoselin is still the same sweetheart she has been since we met her at age 4. She always has a beautiful smile on her face, and she is effortlessly polite and cheerful. If the camera ever points in her direction, she is gorgeously photogenic. Always.

Vanesa currently works in Humberto's office. She will be starting University in the fall to study business administration. Paola is starting high school (3 years in Guatemala) and wants to prepare to study medicine. She does very well  in school and we believe that she can achieve anything that she sets her mind to. We are so proud of all of the kids!

We had lunch of fried chicken cutlets, mashed potatoes, and salad, with fresh pineapple juice to drink. We played with the kids and brought the foosball table outside.  We went up to the roof with Aracely and saw the nice view of the volcanoes, as well as the small pergola roof Humberto had installed.

Aracely and Steph
Craig and Aracely

It started to rain and we all went inside. We had bread and more toasted corn tea. Paola and Yasmin came home from school. We had dinner of  black beans, huevos rancheros, and barley tea. We chatted with Humberto about food conspiracies "Like Monsanto?" he asked - exactly!  I watched some of Aracely's favorite animated videos with her: El Conojito Negro and Pulcino Pio - El Pollito Pio (Official). The latter was hysterical.  A couple of the kids ran to the store to buy us Gatorades, and  we went to the room at 10:30 p.m.

We woke up around 8 a.m. on Saturday and went downstairs at around 9. We had fresh fruit and barley tea for breakfast.  We played foosball with the kids.  We gave them the shirts we had brought them and we distributed Tic Tacs (Aracely and Eddy's favorite) to them as well as  Josue.  Craig took a shower and we watched the cute "Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue" on TV. We ate lunch of black beans, fresh home-made guacamole, toasted tortilla chips, fresh tortillas, veggies, and fresh lemonade. The food was always so fresh and delicious. It was a hot day and it was a nice refreshing meal.

Paola and Aracely
After lunch, we walked down to the lake with Paulina, Aracely, and Eddy. Lake Atitlan is a gorgeous crater lake ringed with volcanoes, which brings lots of international and local tourists to the area. The water level was very high - several feet higher than normal. Sometimes because of the movement of fault lines, the lake can't drain properly (there is no real water outlet; it all seeps underground). The beaches where we usually swim were under water. So we went to the shallow water near the boat docks. I went in the water with the kids while Craig and Paulina sat on a cement wall and enjoyed the view from dry land. Aracely has learned to swim well (her school gives them swimming lessons in the local hotel pools) and kept swimming from the dock over to me. I was in the water up to my waist.  It was a hot, sunny day, and the water was refreshing.  We met an El Salvadorean man who was training for a triathlon in Cuba. He says this is the coolest water in Central America, so he came to try out his wet suit. He had swam over 2 km while his girlfriend rode along in an accompanying boat. He said that he was testig how much his lungs compress in the cool water and with his tight wetsuit. They was very friendly.and we enjoyed chatting with them.

Lake Atitlan

Aracely swims to Steph in Lake Atitlan
There was a nice stage set up on a new dock, and it looked ready for an outdoor concert with a gorgeous view. Paulina asked a woman when the concert was, and she was told that there was no concert today due to the World Cup. These people sure do take it seriously, even when their own country isn't a contender.

On the walk home we stopped for ice cream at a food court which was packed with people watching the game on a large flat-screen TV - Costa Rica vs. Netherlands. The whole crowd was really into it, and it was amusing to watch.  Aracely suggested getting frozen yogurt at a little stand called Chooghurt. Craig and I got mora (blackberry) frozen yogurts on a stick, dipped in chocolate. I had mine also dipped in coconut. Eddy had a three colored yoghurt, and Aracely had a blue one which turned her entire mouth bright blue.

We came home and played the Monsters University Left Center Right dice game with Eddy, Aracely, and Josue.  After a while, when Eddy and Aracely lost interest, Josue played with Craig and me. He was very lucky and won 4 times!

Humberto's nephew Victor arrived with his wife Rosa and their daughter Neli.  They brought a nice bottle of Chilean merlot for me, knowing that I can't drink the Brahva beer that the rest of the family would drink. Victor's brother Juan Carlos arrived with his wife Yolanda and kids Junior and Fatima.
Junior is so big now that it is hard to believe that he is only 13!  They came bearing  XL Rum and orange juice. Everyone is always so thoughtful!  We had snacks and the kids played foosball in Aracely and Eddy's room.  Juan Carlos hooked his phone up to a  pair of speakers and played dj. For dinner, we had chicken, beets, sweet grilled onions, and rice. The drinks flowed freely. After the rum was gone, they had Brahva beer and I had the wine, which was very good.  We showed everyone the video we had made of Paola's quinceañera from January. Afterwards we caught Juan Carlos whistling the Tom Waits soundtrack.

Rosa and Victor
Steph and Craig
Yolanda, Juan Carlos, Rosa, Victor, and the kids watch Paola's quinceañera video
Paulina wanted to go to the disco, one of their favorite Saturday night activities. We were certainly up for going out. We told them if for some reason Craig couldn't handle it (whether it was too hot or if he had to stand up for too long), that we knew our way home and that they should continue dancing.

Steph ready to go to the disco
Yolanda, Juan Carlos, and Paulina
Rosa and Victor had to work the next day, so they didn't come with us. We took tuk-tuks to the little night club district on Calle Principal. We went into El Aleph, the disco we had gone to last year. It was hopping with people! But it was hot and very crowded with no place for Craig to sit, so they insisted on trying someplace else. We went right next door to Chapiteau. It had a sort of creepy circus vibe (there was a female clown marionette seated on a trapeze suspended from the ceiling) but the air conditioning  felt comfortable, the music seemed less loud, and it was less crowded. All in all I much preferred this club. Humberto got Craig a Gallo and me a Coke (I was already pretty buzzed from the rum and wine) and we sat while the two couples danced. I took some funky pictures and we enjoyed people watching. Humberto and Paulina invited me to dance, and I gladly joined them.  I always enjoy dancing, and I liked the atmosphere here. I found the dance music to be pleasant enough, including a beat-driven cover of La Bamba.

Disco Chapiteau
Disco Chapiteau
Disco Chapiteau
At 1:00 a.m., they started to play Bob Marley to calm people down as they closed the place. Humberto offered us a tuk-tuk home, but Craig was feeling good so we said we'd rather walk. We stopped at a food stand on Calle Santander and got cheveres - big hot dogs slathered in ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, onions, and picante. They really hit the spot after a late night of drinking and dancing. Street food is always wonderful that late at night! We sat  at a table on the roadside, enjoying our cheveres and drinking  Dorada Ice beer (except for me, who had tamarind soda.)  We happily walked home with full bellies, arriving at around 2 a.m. After writing in the journal, I went to sleep at 2:30.
Late night street food
Craig enjoys Dorada Ice and a chevere
After only 4 hours of sleep, we were woken up at 6:30 the sound of a tile saw and hammering. At 6:30 on a Sunday morning?! Luckily it stopped between 7 and 9 and we were able to get a couple hours' more sleep. Maybe the guy had tried to get a little work in before church. Who knows? We got up at 9 and went downstairs at 9:30. Humberto had forgotten yesterday that he had to work, but luckily secretary Vanesa had reminded him at dinner last night that he had 2 clients. So he was already gone.  Paulina had already gone to the market. We had a fruit plate including our seasonal favorite pitaya (a.k.a. dragonfruit)  with coffee for breakfatsl. The kids watched Disney's 3 Little Pigs and Ugly Duckling on YouTube. They were glued to it. We told them that these cartoons even pre-dated us (and they think we are pretty ancient!)

Eddy and Craig
Aracely and Steph
Vanesa and Yoselin
Paola, Eddy, and Aracely at the lake
At the lake (clockwise): Craig, Paola, Eddy, Paulina, Aracely, Yoselin, and Vanesa
Then we went to the lake with Paulina, Vanesa, Paola, Yoselin, Aracely, and Eddy. We took 2 tuk-tuks to the other side of the bridge, to where there was a nice grassy spot where we could lay our towels and enjoy some swimming.  The lake was very rough today. There were huge waves, which made it a lot of fun, and reminded us of the ocean. Yoselin and Paola didn't swim but they enjoyed hanging out on the shore. The water was a very comfortable temperature. Craig stayed close to the little dock, as it was difficult for him to keep his balance while being battered by the waves.

Swimming in Lake Atitlan
Steph swimming in Lake Atitlan
Vanesa, Paulina, and Fatima

Soon Yolanda, Juan Carlos, Junior, and Fatima arrived.  The sun was out and it was absolutely beautiful. There were lots of other local families swimming, and it was a nice weekend family atmosphere. It was perfect! A helicopter took off from right behind us, and flew very low over the lake. Juan and Paulina had underwater handstand contests, and they had swim races with Junior.

Junior, Juan Carlos, and Fatima
Vanesa and Paola
Aracely, Yoselin, and Steph
After a couple of hours of swimming and sunbathing, we got dressed and walked toward the road. The kids played on the playground for a little while and then we grabbed tuk-tuks home. As soon as we got into the tuk-tuks, it started to sprinkle. What perfect timing!

We got home and took showers, then Juan Carlos, Yolanda, Junior, and Fatima arrived. We gave Aracely her Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal she had requested last time we were here, (she didn't remember asking for it, but was thrilled just the same), and we gave Eddy a monster truck. We shared Starbursts with everyone. The kids watched a horror movie on the computer. Humberto was supposed to be home at 3 o'clock from work for lunch, but the boat was slow and he didn't get back til 4. We had a very delicious soup along with corn on the cob, beef, and some other veggies. Everyone had Brahva beer and I had wine.

After lunch, Juan Carlos, Yolanda, and family said their goodbyes and went home.We had a nice conversation with Humberto and Paulina about Aracely and Eddy's school and saw their report cards. Both are doing great. Even though Eddy doesn't speak much English (only a word or two here and there) he is understanding a  lot more, and is participating more in activities. We are so proud of them!
Aracely and Steph
We gave the kids metal water bottles. We let them choose between the several styles that we brought. Yoselin chose the same one I have at work. I told her that, and she was very happy. Aracely then wanted that one.  She and Yoselin had a playful fight about it. Yoselin teased her with a Simpson's-style "Ha ha!" Aracely stole the water bottle, and Yoselin responded by stealing Winnie the Pooh. Sisters!

Yoselin, Aracely, and I played the Monsters University dice game.  Josue came over and he joined in the game. We had camomile tea and then dinner of huevos rancheros and refried black beans. We played dice some more. Vanesa and Paola ran to the store and bought us Gatorades . We broke up at 10 o'clock. Aracely thanked us for Winnie the Pooh and said she would sleep with him. We went to bed at 10:30.

Craig and I each woke up 5:22 a.m. with the sensation that someone was slightly shaking our beds. Then it changed to a violent forward and backward motion. "Earthquake!" we both shouted. It seemed to last a while, and all went quiet while it was occurring.  The beds would shake  and then would lurch forward, shake a bit more, and then lurch back. You could totally picture the tectonic plates moving below you. Craig was very attuned, listening for cracking sounds that might signal that we should run for a doorway. When the earthquake finished, it was as if someone had un-muted the volume. We suddenly heard the commotion of dogs barking, roosters crowing, and people talking. I checked the compass on my bag and noticed that the motion had been east-west. Craig looked out the window and all seemed ok .We were thankful for the proper construction of our building, done by Humberto's mason brother Mario. We had seen the building under construction, and knew that he had thoroughly reinforced the cinder block walls with rebar and concrete. We were thankful for this.

Craig couldn't see anyone from the family outside,  so we laid back down, but couldn't go back to sleep because of the adrenaline. I texted Steve to tell him about it. He looked it up online and sent us the info (Humberto's router is off at night so I couldn't connect myself). It was apparently 6.9 in magnitude and the epicenter was 60 miles west of us on the Mexico/Guatemala border. Wow - that's close! We wondered if there was any volcano activity, or if the shifting plates would cause the high lake water to recede.

We went downstairs at 8 o'clock. All of the kids were buzzing about the earthquake, except for Aracely who had somehow slept through it (!!?)  I guess sharing a bed with a hyper 5 year old brother makes you immune to shaking like that! There was no school in the western part of the country because of the earthquake. Apparently there were landslides blocking some roads, and they needed to check the safety of the school buildings before students return to classes.

We were going on a lake boat tour today, and now that the older kids suddenly didn't have school, the whole family could go. We were very happy to be able to spend the last full day of our visit with all of  the kids. We had breakfast of coffee, fruit, and toast. We opted not to bring our bathing suits today as we had gotten plenty of sun yesterday and didn't want to expose our skin to the strong sun again.

Steph and Craig
Vanesa, Yoselin, Yasmin, and Paola
Paulina, Craig, Vanesa, Paola, Humberto on the boat to San Juan la Laguna
Yoselin, boat captain, Yasmin
At 9 o'clock, we walked down to the lake (the whole family and Josue) and got onto a boat called Heidi. It was another gorgeous clear day and the volcanoes were completely visible.  The water was still high and some docks and homes were submerged. The boat ride was beautiful.  We went to San Juan la Laguna, where we had been when Mukul came with us in 2010.  We walked up the steep hill, stopping in to various cooperatives run by the Tzutzujil Mayan community (Humberto and family are Kaqchiquel Mayan).

Our first stop was a textile studio. Humberto explained the natural materials that are used to dye the threads: bark, flowers, minerals, and even insects.

Next we stopped in at a painting studio. We chatted with one of the artists. He was working on his first large painting. He specialized in the local "birds' eye view" style of paintings where Mayans are depicted from above, doing traditional work such as planting corn, picking coffee, etc. The family had presented us with two of these paintings two years ago. There were all different styles of paintings, including pop art, portraits, religious icons, and landscapes. Some were even done in a pointillism style, or a mosaic style which is best viewed at a distance. Our previous conversation about Monsanto was brought to mind when we saw a painting of an ear of corn being injected with a syringe and subsequently turning the kernels black.

Humberto explains the natural textile dyeing process

Artist paints a bird's eye view painting
Paulina and Yoselin in the art gallery
 Next we went to a textile cooperative where a Mayan woman in traditional dress demonstrated  how to clean seeds out of organic cotton. The kids tried it and took home a couple of seeds. We wondered if we would find cotton growing in Humberto's garden on our next visit.  The woman then effortlessly spun the cotton into thread on a spindle. When the strand broke, she easily spun the fibers back together between her thumb and index finger and continued the process.

There were murals around the town, depicting various aspects of traditional Mayan life. Humberto explained a mural which showed a traditional bonesetter treating a patient who was anaesthetized by aguardiente liquor. Humberto said that bonesetters were believed to have supernatural shamanic powers. This was a familiar mural to us, as we had studied  it with Mukul four years ago. There were also carvings of the Mayan calendar which were installed as part of the celebration of the end of the 13th baktun on December 20, 2012.

Next we went to a farm which grows medicinal plants and coffee. They sell natural remedies, shampoo, and candles.  Humberto bought me some aloe lotion for my sunburn.  Before heading back to the boat, we stopped at a little shop and we all got cacahuete popsicles (Craig immediately recognized the word: "Peanut!"), which were very tasty and refreshing in the heat. 

Tzutzujil Mayan woman demonstrates spinning cotton
Paola, Vanesa, Craig, Paulina, Aracely, Steph, Yasmin, Yoselin, Eddy, Josue
We walked down the steep hill to the dock and got back onto the boat. On our way back to Panajachel, we stopped near some rocks off of San Marcos, and Humberto and the kids jumped into the water for a swim. Yoselin stayed on the boat with us and Paulina. We enjoyed watching and taking photos as the kids swam and dove off the rocks. Humberto did some flips into the water which I caught on video. The water was a beautiful turquoise color here, and it was relatively calm. They swam back to the boat and the captain helped to pull the little ones back aboard. As we made our way back to Pana, in the bright sunlight with the wind in our hair, surrounded by loved ones, Craig commented on what a perfect moment it was, and how he didn't want it to end.

Swimming at the rocks
Paola dives over Aracely
Disembarking from the boat
We arrived back in Pana shortly after noon. We walked back to the house. We gave the kids some notebooks. We gave Aracely a maze book and Eddy a wooden Tonka helicopter model kit, with screwdriver and screws included. Yoselin helped Eddy to assemble 90% of it, and Yasmin joined in to construct the propellor. It turned out to be a very solid, nice toy.

Humberto cooked churrasco (thin steak) on the charcoal grill and we enjoyed it for lunch with salsa and picante, salad, and fresh watermelon juice. Eddy and Aracely painted the helicopter blue and yellow with tempera paints. Neli and a little girl came over for a visit. The little girl came up to Craig and me  and gave us each a hug. I asked her name and it turned out to be neighbor Gisele! She had grown up so much and it had been a while since we had seen her. She was carrying a little purse and was absolutely adorable. We distributed Starbursts to the kids. Paola was doing the laundry by hand.

Yoselin and Yasmin help to construct Eddy's wooden helicopter
Humberto and Aracely
At around five o'clock, we walked with Paulina, Humberto, Josue, Junior, and all the kids (except  for Yasmin) over to the community fields for a family game of basketball. When leaving the house, we saw Josue's little niece Brittany in the alley. She looked a little scared at first but when I called her by name she smiled and said hola. She is such a cutie. She grew a lot in 6 months!

On our way to the field we ran into the kids' cousin Laisa and said hello. It was nice to see her, as wehadn't had a chance to visit Paulina's side of the family on this trip. We arrived at the field where there were soccer goals on each of the four sidelines. Multiple games were going on at once, as families and friends enjoyed a pleasant Monday afternoon.

Eddy and Josue played soccer while two teams of three (Humberto, Paulina, and Vanesa vs. Paola, Yoselin, and Junior) played basketball. Aracely mostly stayed with us as we took pictures on the sidelines. I think that she wanted to maximize time with us since we would be leaving in the morning. The basketball game was pretty competitive, and they were all good players.  It was fun seeing normally demure Paulina getting aggressive and in her kids' face, stealing the ball away.

After the basketball game, they broke out their new water bottles, rehydrated, and then started to play soccer. The sun had come out and it was quite warm, and we wondered where they all got the energy.  Aracely, Eddy, and Josue also joined in the soccer game. Occasionally Eddy would come over and give us hugs. The sun started to set behind the mountains. The moon was visible. Eddy pointed out the planet next to the moon as "el planeta cerca del moon". We thought his insertion of the English word "moon" was very cute. After the game,  Junior and Paola disappeared and returned with a bag of frozen fruit dipped in chocolate. Humberto said, "Sorry, I told you we eat all the time!" Craig and I each had a piece of frozen pineapple dipped in dark chocolate. It was very good. We walked home at around 7 o'clock.

We took showers and reconvened at 8:15. The kids were dressed up, and Paola was wearing a pretty dress with rhinestones on the front. We gave the kids their last presents - necklaces made by my Mom, and they put them on. Eddy had fallen asleep, but he was awoken with the promise of Tic Tacs for him and Aracely. We also gave him an American football plastic ring.

Family basketball game
Craig, Junior, Humberto, Eddy, Paulina, Aracely, Vanesa, Yoselin, Josue

Steph, Aracely, and Eddy
We walked down to Calle Santander and rook a left. We went into El Bistro, a nice Italian restaurant established in the '70's by an Italian, but now owned by his local protegee. There was some live entertainment (a guy with an acoustic guitar playing sleepy music, which the kids thought was lame). Craig and Humberto got Gallo beers and I got a fresh squeezed lemonade with soda water served in a heavy glass chalice. As an appetizer, they brought plates containing small slices of wheat bread and bowls of molten cheese - delicious!  The cheese was so gooey that as the kids dipped their bread into it, they ended up with long cheese strings attaching their bread to the bowl.  At around this time, the music ended, and the kids were relieved and immediately became more animated.

We had four pizzas - one with all vegetables, and the others with various meat and onions. They were  absolutely delicious. We put hot sauce on them (Guatemalans are known for putting condiments on pizza - we forewent the ketchup but the hot sauce seemed appropriate, and was quite tasty!) Even though everyone was tired after a busy day, it was so nice to all be together on our final night! Since we don't have kids of our own, these are "our" kids, and we love them with all our hearts. We are eternally grateful to Paulina and Humberto for their hospitality, and for sharing their lovely family with us.
Vanesa, Yoselin, and Yasmin at El Bistro

Humberto and Paulina at El Bistro
Craig, Aracely, and Paola
We walked home and Paola gave us a nice hug goodbye, and then went to our room at 10 p.m. Craig went to sleep instantly. After writing in the journal and sending a text to Steve, I went to sleep at 11 o'clock.

On the day of our departure, we  got up at 6:30 a.m. Yoselin came and knocked on our door at 7 o'clock on her way to school. She was quieter than usual and gave us big long hugs. At 7:30, we went out and joined Humberto and Paulina at the dining room table for breakfast.  Humberto told us that our vehicle is here (Eddy's helicopter).  We had coffee, fruit, and toast with pineapple jelly for breakfast.  Aracely woke up and emerged from her bedroom with her Winniethe Pooh.  Then Eddy woke up and came out asking for his Tic Tacs.

A woman from Santiago Atitlan came by outside yelling "Patin! Patin!" This is a local dish from Santiago Atitlan. Paulina ran outside and bought three. They are wrapped in leaves and we sampled one containing beef in salsa with a tortilla. It was quite yummy. Others contained fish in a picante sauce, Humberto's preference. Vanesa came in and greeted us.

The van arrived a little early, shortly before 8:30. Eddy stayed inside (Humberto had told us that Eddy had said he would miss us, so we suspected that he wanted to avoid the actual goodbye).

Humberto, Paulina, Aracely, and Vanesa walked us out to the street. We said our goodbyes and thanks and then left around 8:30.  They continued waving until we turned the corner.  It is always difficult to say goodbye. We enjoy spending time with the children and they always grow and change way too much in between visits. But it had been an excellent trip and our hearts were happy as we headed towards Guatemala City and the airport.

Humberto, Vanesa, Aracely, and Paulina
We arrived at the airport at 10:45. Our layover in Miami was only going to be an hour and forty minutes. We know how far you have to walk to go through immigration there, and Craig would never be able to walk that far in that short a time. Even though he is usually reluctant to admit needing help and uncomfortable taking what he views as "special treatment," I convinced him that we should book a wheelchair to help him get through the Miami airport. We checked in at a kiosk and then asked the woman at the desk to reserve a wheelchair in Miami. Our flight was already delayed by 15 minutes, which didn't bode well for our ability to make our already-tight connection. But we tried to remain positive.

We went upstairs to the food court. We sat at a table and I wrote in the journal and filled out our departure and arrival paperwork.  Then at lunch time, we got 2-piece fried chicken meals with French fries, a dinner roll, and orange Mirinda soda from Pollo Campero. As usual, Guatemalans were buying large to-go bags to take on flights with them for friends and relatives abroad. Pollo Campero is a Guatemalan institution.

After lunch, we then went through immigration and security and walked to our gate. The flight started boarding at around 1:50 p.m. It took no time at all because there were so few people on the flight. The guy next to us moved up to an empty row so we got a row to ourselves. We actualy pulled out at our originally scheduled time (2:25) instead of the delayed time (2:37). I typed up my notes during the entire flight while we listened to Ian Gillan in Black Sabbath.

We landed in Miami at 7:05 p.m. There was a wheelchair waiting for us on the gangway. The woman was very nice. We were very far from customs and had to take the Sky Train to get there. This time all of the immigration kiosks were out in the hallway. We went to a human immigration officer instead. We didn't have any checked luggage to collect, so we went through customs and were then ready to go to our gate. We took the Sky Train back to the same terminal we landed in, and went to the gate. It was now 8:00, and our departure time was 8:40. The wheelchair had really been a blessing. Craig was having some trouble walking tonight due to a busy previous couple of days with lots of walking, so he was thankful that he didn't need to try to run through the airport and risk injury.

I ran over to Cafe Versailles and got us some food to eat on the plane: jerk chicken wraps, orange Gatorade, and chips. We boarded the flight and it took off several minutes late. We didn't care - we were just glad to have made the connection!

We landed in Boston just before midnight. There was once again a wheelchair waiting on the gangway. The nice young man wheeled Craig to Central Parking, where we picked up the car and were home by 12:40 a.m.

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