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Archive for the ‘Guatemalan Adventure’ Category

We’re Family

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Saturday, April 4th, was our last day in Guatemala with our friends, the Morales family. Luckily, our departure was in the evening, so we had the whole day to enjoy. After breakfast at the beach house, we began packing bags and loading vehicles for the trip back to Guatemala City. I wandered out in the early morning sunlight to capture a few parting shots in hopes of adding more vantage points to aid my memories of our visit.

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Traffic wasn’t too heavy since it was Saturday of Easter weekend and the drive back to their house went smoothly. Marco and I made a run to pick up some ingredients for lunch, which they prepared and served at home. I discovered there was a US women’s friendly soccer match on their television and watched some of that with the boys, before the adults headed out to give us one last chance to purchase some gifts for people back home.

We started at a market with more hand-crafted items to select from, and then moved on to a fabulous outdoor center of many upscale shops. Their boys eventually met us there and we visited a specific coffee shop where Marco and Dunia wanted to buy some special coffee beans to send home with us.

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The sun was setting and the air outdoors was fresh. The energy of the people created a feeling of excitement for Easter weekend. That feeling mixed with our joy for the precious time we had experienced, and our growing grief over parting from our friends. When the time came for us to be heading toward the airport, we gave the boys hugs and said our goodbyes, and climbed into the Land Cruiser one last time with Marco and Dunia.

DSCN3356eDuring the bittersweet drive, they mentioned a number of times how happy they were to have us, thanking us and saying how much they would miss us. I told them it was like being family, and Marco said, “You are family.”

Yes, that is how we felt the whole time. Actually, that is pretty much how it has felt from the time we first met them in Arizona, and later when they stayed with us for 2-weeks at Christmastime. We are blessed to have come to know them and honored to consider them as family.

Cyndie and Dunia are definitely linked in their inspirations to offer equine facilitated lessons in the areas of leadership and personal development that they studied in their Epona apprenticeships. They both share hopes of being able to travel to assist each other for workshops in the years ahead.

Visit Dunia’s website for C’Ubuntu to see excellent descriptions of opportunities for equine facilitated learning and growing that are available. We are planning to come up with something similar for Wintervale Ranch very soon.

And then it was over. We flew all night Saturday and arrived home in the middle of the day on Easter Sunday. We had an absolutely fabulous time in Guatemala with the Morales family. Our thanks to them, and to their extended families and friends, for being such incredibly gracious hosts, and for allowing me to post all the images and details from our visit.

I hope it has been as fun for all of you reading as it has been for me to re-live in such detail. ¡Adios!

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Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2015 at 6:00 am

Beach Again

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I now return you to my tales of our Guatemalan adventure, reliving our third day at their beach house. It was now Friday and we awoke from another sound night’s sleep in which neither my wife nor I heard even a hint of rain. From the looks of things, it must not have been much of a storm, after all.

I’m not usually one to crave a hot beverage, but when I walked out of our room that morning, I instantly had the thought of wanting some hot chocolate. While we were seated at the table visiting with Marco, Dunia’s dad, and Jose, Dunia brought a cup of hot chocolate and set it in front of me. Neither of us had discussed it, and without a word, she acted on a sensation she felt to look for their chocolate and then brought me a cup. It is not the first time she has demonstrated her acute sense of intuition. Priceless.

DSCN3275eI elected to join Dunia and Cyndie for a walk on the beach that morning, picking up stones and shells along the way. Walking a beach has the potential of being an endless activity, and at one point I offered an invitation to Dunia to consider not walking too far. She graciously listened to my idea, and then continued on in conversation with Cyndie. I found myself choosing to slow down behind them a bit and soon after, she and Cyndie turned around and were walking toward me. Moments later, Marco showed up on the 4-wheeler to check on us. I think he and I were thinking along the same lines. Plus, it was soon time for a big breakfast!

DSCN3317eWhen we got back, I made a small tower of stones and left it on a ledge for them.

Marco’s brother arrived for the day, and Bill and Karin and their niece joined us for breakfast. Guatemalan breakfast was served, plus pancakes and amazing fresh fruit. It was all spectacularly delicious, especially Marco’s salsa again.

The rest of the day was filled with lounging around the pool and people enjoying a variety of arts and crafts, with Dunia and Marco working mostly on their paintings on the wall.

The boys took a few turns playing a game where they try to kick the soccer ball the full length of their field and strike the cross-bar of the goal. I played the role of photographer.

It was idyllic.

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Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2015 at 6:00 am

Reality Check

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I am going to pause today in my ongoing chronicle of our Guatemalan adventure to provide some perspective that I think will show why I choose to describe our 10 days with the Morales family in such specific day-to-day detail. This is the April reality that we have returned to at our home, latitude 44.7739° N:

IMG_iP0774eYou may be able to barely make out the silhouette of our horses in the distance through the falling flakes, but you won’t find any palm trees and I can attest that there was absolutely nothing similar to a balmy Pacific breeze.

IMG_iP0777eDo you blame me for wanting to relive every precious warm moment of that visit with our great friends in their beautiful country? It’s winter-cold here again and the wind is gusting mini-blizzards straight out of the Arctic circle this week!

Seriously, tomorrow I am going right back to describing our last days at the beach house and then our return to Guatemala City in preparation of boarding the flight home. Maybe it’s escapism. I’m not proud. I do it because I can.

Aw, heck. I can’t even wait.

This is what I am talking about…

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2015 at 6:00 am

Luxurious Relaxation

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It felt great to sleep a long night. On Thursday, we woke leisurely and then gathered with people around the table where the coffee drinkers enjoyed their morning treat. Once everybody was fueled up, Cyndie joined Dunia and her mother for a walk on the beach before the sun got too hot, and Marco invited me to join him on a trip to the vegetable market to buy fresh produce. There wasn’t space in the Land Cruiser to pick up anything when we passed by the day before.

Even though I already had pictures of this place from my first visit, I couldn’t stop myself from taking a few more shots of the wonderful array of colorful fruit and vegetables.

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DSCN3265eOn our way back to the beach house, we stopped to buy fresh mangos from a street vendor selling out of their front yard. Marco said he didn’t buy them from the market because these would be better. Marco is a very skilled chef and he added some flavor enhancements to the fresh-cut mango that were a particularly special treat for my taste buds.

Dunia’s brother and family arrived with contributions to a brunch meal. While preparations were underway, I played cards with Jose and then programmed a music playlist before the food was served. Marco’s fresh salsa was an outstanding addition to the scrambled eggs. Dunia’s mother made a dessert of chocolate covered plantains that I’ll remember for a long time, too.

After brunch, I played ping-pong with Jose and Marco, enjoying many ferocious battles, where the winner stayed on the table in a rotating series of games to 7 points.  We got drenched in sweat by our effort, which led to some relaxing time in the pool.

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After a break for lunch, for which Marco had slaved over the hot, hot heat to grill ribs, the boys wanted to play some soccer. Bill & Karin’s son, Anthony, wasn’t around to make it 2v2, so Dunia’s brother volunteered to play. I was having so much fun that I tried a little too hard and strained my calf muscle stepping quickly forward to steal the ball. I got the steal, but paid the price. I tried limping along to continue play, but further sporting activity was dramatically curtailed.

We jumped in the pool after soccer and eventually Cyndie, Marco, & Dunia joined us for a relaxing soak until dusk threatened an onslaught of mosquitos. After a shower, I climbed the new spiral stairs to their TV room to play some cards with the boys before calling it a day. While we were up there, it started to lightning outside and we heard a few good rumbles of thunder. When I came down, I stepped out from under the roof to check the weather and enjoy some of the lightning activity. Bill had stepped out from next door to look, as well, and he described the usual storm activity. If it comes from the ocean, as this one appeared to be doing, it is usually a pretty good storm.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be awake to see it.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2015 at 6:00 am

Driving Adventures

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DSCN3252eWhen we awoke on Wednesday, the beginning of our 7th full day in Guatemala with the Morales family, we started packing almost immediately. It was time to leave Bill & Karin’s beautiful lake house and embark on a road trip to the beach house, reported to probably be 2-hours and 45-minutes duration. After a short time, just as we had on the drive to Lake Atitlán days before, we arrived at a mysterious stretch of road where up and down directions are reversed.

Marco stopped our vehicle, turned on the 4-way hazard lights, and shifted to neutral. The Toyota began to roll uphill. It’s crazy-making!

When we approach a “T” intersection very near to our planned restaurant stop for breakfast, the traffic came to a complete standstill. We were just a couple of car lengths from where we wanted to make a left turn, but were pinned with nowhere to go. Several guys on foot seemed to be trying to augment the single traffic cop’s attempt to orchestrate some progress, but many drivers just chose their own solution and drove around any vehicle in front of them. It only served to complicate the mess.

DSCN3253ePatience turns out to be the best course of action, and eventually we made our turn and got to stretch our legs and sit down to eat. The restaurant had a roof, but no walls around the seating area. Cyndie ordered in Spanish; an omelet with vegetables for me, pancakes for her.

Breakfast automatically came with cups of coffee and a bowl of a sweet porridge. I noticed Cyndie and Marco set their cups aside after their first taste and he ordered better coffee for the two of them. I normally don’t like cooked oatmeal or porridge, but this was sweet and not heavy. I liked it a lot. It was a great breakfast on the road.

Shortly after departing from that restaurant, we came to a stretch of divided highway with a very long backup of stopped traffic in the lanes approaching from the other direction. Shockingly, we suddenly spotted vehicles driving toward us in our lanes! After multiple cars switched lanes in reaction, everyone going our direction adjusted to the right lane. After the initial alarm, it wasn’t as unnerving as you’d think, because there is a lot of driving in each other’s lanes to make passes on the two-lane roads everywhere else. Still, they were driving into traffic and it was very hazardous, so Dunia got on her phone and reported the situation to authorities.

Despite the traffic challenges, it seemed a relatively short time had passed when we reached sights that I began to recognize from my visit there with Marco a week earlier. The beach house was just ahead.

Upon arriving, we were able to meet Bill and Karin. The two families each have adjacent beach houses beside the large shared pool. It reminds me very much of the community of families at Cyndie’s family vacation home in Hayward, WI. We also are greeted by Karin’s sister and niece, and later, Bill and Karin’s son, Anthony.DSCN3254e

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It was significantly hotter this day than any other we’d experienced, in large part because we’ve come down to sea level and it was sunny all day. I get my first chance to play some football with the Morales boys and Anthony, followed by a jump in the pool. Dunia’s parents arrived and we met them as Marco began preparations for a dinner of grilled lobster tail.

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As the sun got low, mosquitoes and the heat contributed to drive us into our air-conditioned room at around 6:45. It feels much later than that and we give in to beckoning sleep early, after a day that felt like we mostly just lounged in the pool. Hardly the exerting activities that should have caused such tiredness. Maybe the week was finally catching up with us.

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Written by johnwhays

April 20, 2015 at 6:00 am

Water Taxi

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Lake Atitlán mapOn Tuesday of our fabulous Guatemalan adventure, Marco arranged for a boat to take us to several different destinations around lake Atitlán. The portion visible from the house where we were staying near Santiago Atitlán was a small fraction of the whole. It is the deepest lake in Central America, filling a caldera that was formed by an eruption many thousands of years ago. Ash from that eruption has been detected as far away as Florida and Ecuador.

The first thing I noticed after we got out on the water was the view of the two volcanoes, Volcán Tolimán and Volcán Atitlán, that were behind us and much less noticeable from our perspective on shore. Our view was dominated by the magnificently sculpted San Pedro filling the sky across the water.

I wish I could describe every detail of the unparalleled beauty of each place they took us for a meal, luxurious cups of coffee (or chocolate), more shopping, and every superb view that accompanied them. I’m unable to find the words at this point.

Here are some impressions from my camera to give you a glimpse…

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Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2015 at 10:28 am

The Lake

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DSCN3250eIt was now Monday morning and we were staying at Karin and Bill’s house at Lake Atitlán. Marco and Bill are architects and business partners. The house is tucked beside the rustic hotel Posada de Santiago, and surrounded by incredibly gorgeous landscaped gardens.

The first thing we did when we woke up was walk across the road to the lake and sit in the hotel pool area, taking in the vista of the volcano San Pedro reflected on the water. The early morning air was calm. A cloudy mist floated above the surface of the water where fishermen in their canoes and flat bottom boats slowly plied their crafts.

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DSCN3180eA man was preparing the chairs and swimming pool for the day, and after some brief dialogue with Marco, he delivered tall glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice. Marco had thought about the possibility of taking canoes across the lake to breakfast, but he learned the hotel was fully booked and they didn’t want to give up canoes for that long.

Instead, we gladly drove to breakfast, for pancakes. From the parking area, there is an incredibly lush and beautiful garden to walk through to the restaurant. For some reason, I only took a picture of the building. Some things just defy being captured in an image.

After breakfast we drove to the market in Santiago Atitlán where street vendors displayed the many bright-colored designs and craftwork of the classic Guatemalan look. We enjoy a pleasant stroll up and down the stone streets to shop for more souvenirs, while Marco went off to find a coffee maker for the house —an essential appliance they could have used when they woke up this day.

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With no agenda for the afternoon, we passed time enjoying relaxing pursuits. The boys went off together to do young Marco’s prescribed football (soccer, for US readers) exercise workout. I threatened to join them, but then passed on the opportunity. Instead, I caught up on email a bit until, somehow it had gotten to almost 2 o’clock and we needed to make it to the hotel restaurant before they stopped serving lunch. DSCN3196eI ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and happily found it to be customized to a Guatemalan version of ham topped with avocado and a fabulous cheese.

After lunch, I watched part of the movie, “Guardian of the Galaxy” with Jose on his laptop computer. We paused it when Marco Sr. invited us to join everyone for some afternoon coffee/hot chocolate and cookies. We played “Golf” with a deck of cards and the board game Cranium and even some “Heads Up” with Marco’s phone, after we had him download the app.

It was feeling wonderfully like a vacation at the lake.

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Written by johnwhays

April 18, 2015 at 9:02 am