First Full Day in Guatemala

Today has been such an adventure! I’ve met so many people and seen so many new places – I’m just grateful.

I am staying at a home owned by a man named Benjamin. He has lived here in San Marcos for something like 20 years. He owns a hotel, restaurant and retreat space a short walk from here called La Paz and is very well-known in this small village of roughly 2,000 people.

I slept just fine through the night and awoke this morning to find that the dogs had abandoned me and moved to more comfortable quarters in the living room. Nice of them to at least see me to bed, I suppose. Zues and Shanti. Shanti is actually Zues’ mother, but they behave more like equals – always grooming each other, scratching each others’ backs, and horseplay as if they were puppies. They’re both labs, Zues blonde in color and Shanti all black.

I made a small pot of the local coffee using some sort of mechanism I’ve not come across before, though now that I am trying to describe it, it’s much like a small version of those percolators you find in church basements. With the coffee I ate nearly half of a peanut butter / chocolate bar that Josh made for my arrival. It’s delicious 🙂

I took my first first shower in an amazing indoor greenhouse / shower. Photos to come. The hot water heater needs to be warmed up before you use it, but that gave me the time to enjoy the aforementioned coffee and peanut butter / chocolate bar and sit out on the front porch enjoying Benjamin’s yard.

Josh met me at the house around 9:00 and we went to Andy and Annie’s house. They are from South Dakota and have two children, Celeste is 9 and Rowan is 6. The family moved here so their children could attend the Waldorf School here in San Marcos. We enjoyed more coffee with the family and then left with Andy in tow up the mountain a mile or so to Nadja’s house.

Nadja (Nadia) is a German lady with an interesting story, having lived in Germany, Sweden, China and now San Marcos for the last 5 months. She speaks several languages and has a degree in fashion. She’s working with local indigenous people to help them setup a business to export their goods. She is house-sitting at a beautiful estate on the mountain overlooking Lake Atitlan.

Nadja, myself and Josh
Nadja, myself and Josh
Nadja´s casa
Nadja´s casa

Marjanne (Maryann), a nurse, also from Germany, joined us at Nadja’s. From there we continued up the hill a short distance and stopped in at Andrew’s house. Andrew is originally from Idaho, having moved to San Marcos 8 months prior. He has a concept he’s still forming called the Dark Room. It’s an experience he offers to people for a small sum. They enter a room he’s built into his house for three days, never leaving, and as you may have guessed, completely dark. The dark room is equipped with a toilet and he brings in food at regular intervals. Coincidentally, the gang’s friend Maggie, a 22 year old from Boston who’s been traveling through Central America for many months now, has just emerged from her 3 days in the dark room only 20 minutes prior to our arrival. She kept telling us how beautiful we all looked, but added that we were the only people, or things, she’d seen in 3 days.

All of this and it’s only about 11:00 AM! The weather forecast I obtained from my iPad’s Accuweather app predicted that we would have sun until 2:00 PM, at which point thunderstorms were due to strike. Fortunately we avoided rain all day and the weather stayed around 75 degrees, though with humidity the “real feel” temp was in the 90s.

We left Andrew’s, letting Maggie regain herself, and began our hike to Joibolita. Two hours away, through the jungle, along narrow paths with nothing between you and the cliff but a whisper of air.

Josh had been hyping up the restaurant in Joibolita since the time I arrived. It’s owned by a German man who also farms and roasts his own coffee and hosts a small school that an older lady helps educate young children at. I ordered the Pancakes at Josh’s recommendation, but also enjoyed bread and jam, fruit tortes and cookies before departing. Though we didn’t leave empty-handed. We all purchased some of the jam and Andy and I also picked up some fresh coffee.

We took one of the public ferries back to San Marcos from Joibolita. Several of them run in both directions all day between the 14 pueblos (villages) surrounding the lake. I headed back to the house where I was greeted by a man who’s working on the yard. He is chopping down a HUGE, multi-trunk tree with a machete! Machetes are very common here – used as a multi-functional tool, but also carried by those walking in the dark at night. Presumably for self-defense, but there have been no reports of machete-inflicted wounds in years. I gather they’re more for looks than actual hand-to-hand combat.

Upon returning to the house I locked myself out with no keys, phone or wallet! The yard man had only the key to the gate, so I took a siesta on the porch with the dogs. An hour or so went by and Katerina, the housekeeper stopped by and let me in.

Josh came by a short while later and we headed up to Nadja’s house for dinner. We stopped at a couple of road-side markets where Josh inspected and haggled with merchants for the evening’s fare. It’s amazing how well he communicates with people, having known no Spanish just five months ago.

At the house we were greeted by Nadja and Marjanne, though Marjanne left a short while later to begin her own 3 day stay in Andrew’s Dark Room! She was very excited and looking forward to it. I haven’t yet felt that calling. (!!)

We were joined later by a Dutch woman, Julia. She is a film director in Europe and has spent the last two years building a home here on the mountain, high above San Marcos. Andrew also arrived later, after having gotten Marjanne settled into her new dark home.

Josh prepared a fabulous vegetarian dinner for us. Carrots, beets and cucumbers under a teesekee sauce with tempeh and palate. Julia had brought a seaweed dish she prepared and Andrew brought a salad with cabbage, tomato and mango. Everything was so flavorful and I was impressed by the variety given the lack of meat. (It seems many of the gringos here are vegetarian).

Dinner was had on the deck at Nadja’s, with candlelight and a lightning storm over the lake in front of us. It was beautiful. We had a discussion surrounding consciousness and worldly thoughts, societal pressures, the happiness in San Marcos and the varied people living there. It was really amazing to me to have met so many varied people from all over the world in such a short period of time and already feeling so connected with them.

After dinner we played a game of Chinese Pick-up Sticks. We had to set the rules straight beforehand, as the gang’s previous attempt ran into some arguments over technicalities. It was more a joke and a reason to get into a philosophical debate than anything. It was quite comical.

At 10:00, Josh was kind enough to walk me back down the hill to Benjamin’s house. It was pitch black. Without our flashlights I would have not made it far, though Josh tells me that he often goes without and the locals don’t own any.

I’m now back at the house, the dogs having greeted me and getting ready to get into bed and hopefully start The Alchemist.