San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala — Part Uno

We’ve “lived” here for the last four weeks. And the next two. Not sure how much time it takes before you can claim you’ve lived somewhere, versus visited, but I am sure we’re under. Nevertheless, we’ve certainly lived here more than any place on this trip thus far. Figured I’d write two or three posts about our experience.

Pasaj Cap

Part campground. Part apartments. Full awesome.

I’ve often wondered, as I’ve sipped my locally-harvested and -roasted coffee while goggling across sky blue Lago Atitlan at the massive Volcan San Pedro, tinged orange from the rising sun: Would you ever get bored of this view? I don’t think, day in and day out, I’ve ever started at scenery this epic for this long. Most of the time it’s only a week or two. And even then, likely due to some unnecessary distraction, I don’t goggle the grandeur. I glance at it. Here, you’re forced to: Every campsite and apartment has a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes. You can’t wake without the view.

Back to the question. Would you get bored? You might. If you’re like me. Familiarity breeds contempt. Variety is the spice of life. Insert other idiom. Or perhaps, and hopefully, you’re not like me. Perhaps, over time, the view would become more comfortable, more enjoyable, like a sweater made from shedded bunny fur that gets better with each wear. It’s an awesome view regardless of opinion. I’m not bored with it. Yet.

Sittin’ on the Dock on the Lake

We’ve spent a lot of time at the docks. Watchin’ the tide roll away. Wastin’ time.

The Town

Pasaj Cap is around a hill, about a twenty to twenty-five minute hike, from San Marcos La Laguna. Everett’s school, Escuela Caracol, which translates to Snail School and which strikes me as an odd name for an education advancement institution, is in town. Thus we walk into town almost every day of the week.

You can circle the town in about ten minutes. It has two main roads and a handful of auxiliary roads. It also has a walking alleyway lined with craft shops and restaurants that leads from the central dock to the central road.

It’s not the prettiest town. It has its moments. The alleyway is cool. But the true appeal of this town, and most of the towns we’ve visited around the lake, is the atmosphere. The encompassing lake views. The lush and ambrosial vegetation. The temperate weather.

Beet Buns

Coming from Mexico, the food has, como se dice, been worse. Not horrible. But horrible in comparison. However, while it’s not the tastiest of fare, it is the freshest of fare. No preservatives (from what I can tell). Handmade. Craft. Even the lemonada con soda is squeezed right in front of you, not poured from a faucet or can. I particularly enjoyed the beef, falafel, and chicken sliders with the beet buns at Cafe Camino.

Height Advantage

Last weekend, we took a truck taxi up the steepest, curviest road we’ve yet encountered on this trip. Or in life. Everyone just stands in the back of the truck. Our taxi, a well-aged Tacoma, somehow squeezed fourteen humans in the back and three on the bumper. Rickety rails around the sides are all that kept us humans from plummeting down the precipices. Andrea, the kids, and I clutched the rails for dear life — my forearms were sore the next day. The Guatemalans just stood and licked ice cream.

It was, however, during this trek, shortly before or after I nearly lost my lunch, that I realized that Andrea and I are giants in the land of Guatemala. Andrea is 5’8″. I’m 6’0″. Perhaps 6′.05″ since I haven’t had a haircut in a couple months. But we felt 8’0″. Andrea and I were literally heads and shoulders above every other person in the truck. Even my 5’3″ sister would be a giant here….

A Skirt And A Machete

Women of all ages don the traditional Mayan clothing: A traje. A skirt, a sash, and a wide-neck shirt, all brightly colored and patterned. Yet they also wear modern clothing. I asked our Spanish teacher, Clemente, why and when they change from traditional to modern. He told me it’s just their preference. Some wear traditional clothing all the time. Some wear modern clothing once or twice per week.

Perhaps it’s that fact, or perhaps it’s because we’ve been here for almost a month, but I don’t feel I stick out as much here as I have in other traditional environments, like India. However, I’m still reminded of my foreign-ness (and laziness?) when, almost daily, I see a minuture, elderly woman wearing a traje and sandals and holding a machete in one hand and bundle of firewood on her back while trudging up a steep, rock-infested street. I’m usually snacking on Cheetos when this happens.

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