Pana Again and Book Seeking

Guatemala Day 8

Morning rituals lead to LaPaz for breakfast with Zeus in tow and Shanti somewhere in the village doing her thing. I decided to spice it up a bit and ordered the french toast instead of my usual Ensalada de Fruit o. It was yummy.

I chatted with another of the hotel guests, Sylvia. She is traveling alone for 7 weeks through Central America, ultimately ending up in Nicaragua for a project she´s to be working on. She´s French, but appears to be of African descent. As I speak with her, I find that she is a child psychologist and has worked throughout Africa, South and Central America. She names off a number of countries I haven´t heard spoken since 7th grade geography.

We talk about wanting to visit Santiago, the most indigenous and authentic of all the Lago Atitlan Pueblos. Its a large village and yet only 17 gringos live there – reported by a man who purports to keep track of such things. Its a somewhat complicated journey, as you must take a boat across the lake to San Pedro, where you de-board and walk a ways to another doc, which runs a different boat to Santiago from there.

Sylvia heads out for a day´s journey and Rico joins me. He announces that he is to leave for Shala today after breakfast. I tell him I will accompany him to Pana and show him where to pick up the chicken bus. He orders oatmeal as I read from Reminiscences of a Stock Operator from my iPad.

Rico is shortly paid up and suited up with his backpack and Indiana Jones hat. We head to the dock and board a boat to Pana. The ride is rather smooth and quick, though the boat is quite full. I ask about his hat and he tells me he purchased it in Peru, but it got wet in Honduras and the black dye mostly washed away. It would seem they have cheap construction in authentic looking leather goods in the 3rd world, just as much as in the 1st. The hat is otherwise interesting, with hieroglyphics etched into the leather and a loose-fitting strap that falls under the wearer´s chin for those windy occasions where it might blow off.

We arrive in Pana after customary stops in Tsunana, Jabolita and Santa Cruz. Rico wants to get a picture of us on the dock and we head over to a less hectic dock next to the one we de-boarded from. We ask a man to take our photo, but he is unwilling, “no photo” and waves us away. We ask a man waiting in a boat to depart and he gladly accepts. The two of us pose at the end of the dock and the man with the camera wants to do more shots, but we decline and head up the hill.

Rico suggests we get a TukTuk to the bus stop, but I assure him its only a short walk and we depart from the docks. About a half mile later the bus stop is just within sight – much farther than I remember, and then I look at Rico with his heavy pack and think, I should have taken his suggestion with the TukTuk.

We still have time for the next bus that departs for Shala, so he asks about the Crossroads Cafe I´ve told him of. Excited, I gladly show him the way!

We approach the cafe from a different direction than before, and I notice an AA clubhouse – how awesome! Unfortunately they have meetings only at 8:00 PM, after the last boat departs for San Marcos. I snap a few photos.

Soon we are sitting at Mike´s coffee bar enjoying the rarest coffee in the world – grown atop the highest point in Guatemala, roughly 14,000 ft above sea level, and of course, his wife´s spectacular baked goods. I couldn´t resist the carrot cake once again, but Rico orders a piece of blueberry pie. Mike services him up a more than generous portion and I get a taste of it and think, I should really try new things now and then.

We meet a girl in her twenties who is in town for Spanish lessons, though she has been in Guatemala annually for the last 6 or 7 years on missionary work with her church in Ann Arbor, MI. She strikes up a conversation with another patron who supplies her missions with local supplies.

Mike and Rico discuss his next stop and Mike recommends a “great bakery run by a Palestinian woman.” I don´t know if this is a sore subject for him or not, but neither I nor Rico mention that he´s just served 6 years in the Israeli army.

I ask Mike if there´s a good bookstore in town where I might find something to read in English. He recommends the Bus Stop Bookstore. Both he and his regular, Dave, the Austin grad student, try to give me directions, but I´m too fresh in town to know the landmarks they speak of. They assure me I can´t miss it, as its right next to the chicken bus stop, hence the name.

Rico and I head out, returning to the bus stop. We say our goodbyes and get each other´s Facebook contact information.

I try to seek out the bookstore but am unsuccessful. The people I ask stare at me blankly. I end up in a part of town I´ve never been in, and am stuck at a dead end when I discover a fallen bridge taken out in the last storm and must turn back.

I give up on my bookstore search and head to the bank, where I exchange some additional US dollars for Guatemalan Q. It makes me nervous to carry so much cash around, but I will soon need to pay my bill at LaPaz and San Marcos, as with most of the lakeside villages, has no ATM or bank. Very few of the businesses accept credit cards, so one is forced to keep cash on hand or take a boat to Pana each time you want to get cash.

I make my way back to the dock and come across an internet cafe and it occurs to me I´ve got an iPad now, with umpteen million ebooks available to me online! It seems all this time in the third world has me forgetting my technological capabilities in just a week. I stop in at the cafe and find a book that Chuice had recommended to me about the Mayan Calendar. All this Mayan stuff has me very intrigued.

Back at the Pana docks the sky is turning dark. Its about 1:30 in the afternoon now, and it appears as if the daily rainfall is going to start early today. I board a boat and wait for the driver to fill it more completely before he´s ready to leave. By the time we do depart, there are no open seats and the sky is ominously black, yet still no rain.

We aren´t 50 feet from the shoreline before the waves begin to toss the boat around. Water splashes into the boat as the side flaps are blown upward. The group of indigenous women scream as they are drenched in the spray of water. Because the waves are so high, the driver keeps us at a slow pace. Its roughly another hour of rough seas until we arrive at San Marcos and my eyes never leave the life jackets mounted under the roof of the boat.

I head up the hill to the Arbol to pick up my laundry. I´m excited to see it come back dry and folded! The rain is beginning to come down now and I return to Casa de Benjamin for a nap and plan on attending the 5Ñ00 meditation at the Pyramids. My body has other plans, however, as I slept until 6:30. I think I was tired from the boat ride, rigidly holding myself in place for an hour´s time.

The rain is still in full force and the dogs and I head to LaPaz for the dinner special. It´s not quite 7:00 yet, and there are a few folks in the restaurant lounging about for us to socialize with. Three folks from the Yoga training and one newcomer, Comila (pronounced Com-illa). She explains that it´s her spirit name, but her given name is Kristen.

Comila is a hit with Shanti, who finds Comila missing her own dog and more than happy to give her a lengthy rubdown. Comila joins me for dinner and we get to know each other a bit. She grew up with her father in the marines, moving around from Hawaii to Virginia. She´s now a counselor for emotionally disturbed youth and has worked in Africa and will shortly be returning to school to attain a masters degree. As coincidence, or fate, or the Mayan calendar, or whatever, may have it – she knows BeDontin, the yoga course instructor, from 5 years prior, when they were both in yoga training together.

Comila is a vegetarian and is happy to find that LaPaz serves only vegetarian fare. We both enjoy the broccoli soup and the veggie pizza served for the dinner special. The nightly yoga course begins and she joins them, leaving me with my iPad book to read.

Tall James from Central California joins me. He is sitting out of the class tonight with a bum neck he injured in a headstand pose. We chat for a while as he eats and nurses his neck with a makeshift icepack provided by the ladies in the kitchen. We are both bummed that LaPaz doesn´t serve dessert and he tells me that Blind Lemons, up the hill, serves an ice cream brownie that I will certainly have to try!

We head our separate ways and I am in bed by 9:30, the dogs watching over me from their resting places on the floor.