Hobbit Adventures in Guatemala, Part 1
Those of you who read this blog know Steph as a person who seeks out new challenges and who embraces the adventures that come with traveling to new places and meeting new people. So it would be reasonable for you to assume that she learned her adventurous ways from her parents. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Don and I are hobbit-like in our devotion to the familiar and our anxiety about the unknown. The words of Bilbo Baggins (from Chapter 1 of The Hobbit) come to mind: “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them.” Of course, we all know how that story turns out…
So imagine our amazement when in early June we found ourselves in Guatemala, having the biggest adventure of our lives. (Editor's Note: In case you are wondering, the picture above isn't an actual town. It's the "Mayan village" at La Azotea, a cultural center/coffee farm & museum outside of Antigua!)
June 1 and 2: Arrived at the Guatemala City airport, where Steph met us and arranged for a taxi to the lovely resort town of Antigua, about an hour away, where we spent two days and nights.
June 3 and 4: Took a four hour shuttle bus ride from Antigua to the city of Xela (also known as Xelajuj, also known as Quetzaltenango) in the highlands. It was like traveling to the top of the world! Spent two days exploring Xela and visiting with the family of Steph’s sweetheart (fiancé?).
June 5, 6, and 7: Arrived in Steph’s town about a half hour drive from Xela. Met 100 of her friends and colleagues at her birthday party (see more on this below!). Stayed at Steph’s apartment, visited her worksites and got an up-close look at her day-to-day life in Guatemala.
June 8, 9, and 10: Returned to Xela where we met up with Mario, our host and guide for our stay in the Boca Costa (Pacific Slope) region of Retalhuleu. We stayed at Mario’s beautiful nature preserve and coffee farm, Reserva Patrocinio. We visited Comunidad Nueva Alianza (a coffee and macadamia cooperative where one of Steph’s fellow Peace Corps volunteers lives and works) and a Mayan archeological site, Tak’alik’ Ab’aj. Mario drove us back to Xela on Friday, where we celebrated Steph’s birthday with family at her favorite restaurants and cafes.
June 11-12: Returned to Antigua by shuttle and spent an afternoon and evening enjoying the town, before bidding a reluctant farewell to Steph and Guatemala.
Here are a few of the many highlights from our trip:
o- The shuttle van ride from Antigua to Xela over breathtaking mountain heights, with some interesting young adventurers as our fellow passengers.
o- The birthday party for Steph’s future mother-in-law in her postage stamp -sized living/dining room in Xela, with 8 adults, three children, four birthday cakes, and a riotous mix of Spanish, German, and English conversation.
o- The striking beauty of the volcanoes and the tropical forest at Reserva Patrocinio.
o- Getting to know Mario, owner of Reserva Patrocinio, who is the antithesis of “business as usual” in Guatemala. (In other words, his goals are ambitious but realistic, and he has the skills, focus, and resources to accomplish them.)
o- Spending so much uninterrupted quality time with our accomplished, intelligent, resourceful, perceptive, fun-loving, and compassionate daughter. [parents are required to say these things!]
Look forward to Part 2 to hear about the lessons that ultimately came out of the experience for my parents!