Thursday, August 23, 2007

One last update

Home safe and sound - hot shower and a real towel, comfortable bed with a real pillow and my wonderful husband, living the good life.

Our 3 flights yesterday (Flores to Guatemala City to Houston to Portland) were all a bit rocky (in part compliments of Hurricane Dean) but all the connections went very well and we landed safely in Portland 5 minutes ahead of schedule.

Here's one last picture and a note on good trip karma and being prepared. In the photo are Sylvia and René, our seat mate for the Houston-Portland flight. René sat down beside us very upset having lost a crown at boarding time at the beginning of her trip. I happened to have an emergency kit for replacing a crown or filling (I think I paid about $5 for it at Bi-mart 4 years ago and have packed it on every trip since just in case) and it worked! After a few minutes to figure it out, mix it up and use it and an hour to set, René was good to go, at least until she can get to a dentist for a more permanent fix. We enjoyed getting to know her during the flight. What an upbeat way to end a trip!

Happy trails all!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Final Installment - Flores

Last time to blog for this trip, as we plan to leave our hotel around 6 am tomorrow and will be heading from one airport to another (Flores to Guatemala City to Houston to Portland) until (hopefully) 8:22 pm tomorrow night.

Flores is a nice little town and we've enjoyed strolling around, buying the hard cookies we consider to be our survival food on the road, going for a swim in the pool and a soak in the hot tub (tepid tub, actually), and enjoying a nice dinner on the terrace of our hotel overlooking the lake.

The first picture is the ultra mini van we rode in from Tikal to Flores, sort of a tall Volks Beetle we shared with the driver (who drank Listerine?!) and 2 couples from Spain who were special ed teachers - very interesting.

The other photos are of our hotel from the street, the view from our balcony of the pool and lake, and from the pool to our balcony (top right).

Thanks for following our travels! We've had an interesting, memorable trip and are grateful to be heading home tomorrow.



I´ve chosen 5 photos of Tikal. We spent 5 or 6 hours getting there and it felt great to hike around. Yesterday afternoon and early evening we enjoyed the spider monkeys. I was lucky enough to see several bedding down for the night when I climbed Temple 4 and took the first photo high up on the stairs on my way up.

The 2nd one was taken of Temple 1 from Temple 2, a fairly easy climb now. Four years ago no one was allowed to climb that one but they´ve built new stairs.

Right before the sun set the storm clouds were rolling in and the lighting was amazing! Picture #3 is of the North Acropolis taken from the Grand Plaza.

It POURED all night long and was still pouring when we got up to head back into the ruins. We stomped around Mundo Perdido (Lost World) and enjoyed the beautiful, wet jungle. Unfortunately, the birds and howler monkeys and coatis we enjoyed so much in the morning 4 years ago stayed tucked away to avoid the rain. I climbed Temple 5. I´m not usually afraid of heights but it was wet and windy up there and it got my adrenaline going! Absolutely incredibly beautiful, though. The 4th photo was taken of the jungle canopy with other ruins poking through and the 5th taken over the edge of Sylvia down below (the blue dot).

I´ll blog one more time, either later today or after we get home. We fly from Flores to Guatemala City tomorrow morning, then on to Houston and Portland. We´re hoping that Hurricane Dean (who graced us with unusual rains at Tikal) won´t prevent our timely arrival in Houston so we can make our connecting flight.

Happy trails!

Rio Dulce and Livingston

Hi, all -
Our wonderful trip is winding down and we are really missing home and loved ones and are ready to return. We haven{t had decent internet access for a few days so I am going to try to post 2 or 3 pages in one sitting.

This 1st set is of Rio Dulce and Livingston on the Caribbean coast. The top photo is the view from my hammock on the balcony of our room at Bruno´s in Rio Dulce. It´s a little dark but you might be able to make out my feet in the hammock to the right.

The next is a classic - Sylvia with a big smile because she found diet coke (Coca Light here) in bottles - a daily goal often requiring a lot of stomping around, peering into dark coolers, and asking in Spanish.

The 3rd photo is a woman and her son on the river trip to Livingston. We stopped at a hot springs and I hiked with a guide to a nearby cave, very cool.

The 4th photo is also on the Rio Dulce, fishermen hauling in nets.

The 5th is my topado in Livingston - a classic Garifuna meal. It was a soup made with coconut milk and bananas and a variety of seafood including shrimp and crab still in the shells and a whole small fish, complete with teeth and eyes. I covered the fish´s head with a piece of banana and enjoyed the rest.

The last photo is just a simple, classic market scene - pineapples and sugar cane against a bright colored building.
Happy trails!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Last Post from San Pedro la Laguna

Syl and I are tying up loose ends this afternoon. We had class in the morning instead of 2:oo to 6:oo but will head back to school at 7:oo for a special dinner. We´ll leave bright and early (or early, at least!) on a bus to Guatemala City where we´ll take a taxi to another bus to Rio Dulce, near the Caribbean coast to the NE. Our longest day of bus travel but through some interesting countryside.

The first photo is the sunrise from the upstairs windows at my house - another beautiful sunny day.

The next photo Sylvia took during our salsa lessons last night. Maybe I can convince Mike to take up salsa dancing? It´s really fun.

The last 3 photos are from the school: a big frog in the grass, Sylvia and I with our teachers, Luis and Lorenzo (Luis´dog Bongo in the foreground), and the teachers of the Cooperativa school in the lovely garden.
We have no idea what internet access might be like for the rest of the trip but we´ll email when we can.
Happy trails!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sylvia and I visited Santiago Atitlan this morning, a half hour boat ride from San Pedro. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we enjoyed sitting on the top of the boat and snapping pictures as we plugged along.

I picked 6 photos from Santiago Atitlan, too tired to decide which one to cut out.

At the top is a picture of the town as our boat pulled in.

Next is a photo of me with the man we paid a few bucks to to show us the location of Maximom (see below), the plaza, and the best shopping areas. I´m getting used to feeling like a giant.

Next is Maximon, the saint of tobacco and alcohol, revered in several towns in Guatemala including Santiago. I had to pay a total of nearly $2 to visit and take one picture. He had "friends" who seemed to be enjoying the cigarettes and alcohol that had been left as gifts. In the background is a glass case with a life-sized Jesus. This was one of the strangest things I´ve seen in my travels.

The 4th photo is a crowd watching a group of traditionally dressed school kids singing. Santiago is a very traditional town where many of the men and nearly all women wear traditional dress. The huipiles (women´s blouses) were absolutely gorgeous (not the foreground of the photo).

The 5th photo is a group of workers pouring a 2nd story cement slab. Hard work and not one of them paused for a second the whole time we watched, just like clockwork. The guy in the red shirt was tossing down buckets one after another that were filled with cement and hauled up the ladder.

The last photo is a detail of the square of fabric I bought today covered with embroidered phoenix birds.

Happy trails!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It´s been raining a lot here in San Pedro but POURING higher in the mountains - landslides and flooding. I think it´s supposed to subside in the next day or 2. Tomorrow would be nice!

Syl and I spent the morning volunteering in the program for kids with disabilities. It was very interesting and basically resembled my worst nightmare for my own program - lots of kids and no help or money for supplies. As always, the kids were great and it was nice meeting and talking with the teacher.

The 1st photo is of my host family here in San Pedro: Roni, Pedro, Petrona, and Alejandra.

The 2nd photo is Syl and a local man heading up the hill from my house in the rain.

The 3rd photo is Syl in front of the program building, "Children of the Lake".

The 4th photo shows me helping Jose' wash the dishes after lunch - a great functional routine!

The last photo was taken from the ice cream shop where we waited out a huge downpour. Spirits were high, though! I guess you can count me in with the locals that it´s an experience worth smiling about.
Happy trails,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

San Pedro!!

A note on our blogs: It has become easier for Sylvia to use her photo cards on her Travelingrandma blog and for me to use my photos on this one. Consequently, you´re getting a more Stacey-oriented blog here and I don´t want you to miss Sylvia´s pictures, so check out

The 5 photos in this edition are mostly from San Pedro (but the order is a little off). We didn´t take very many photos in Panajachel because it was too touristy for our tastes but I´ve included one (#2) of a wonderful, talented women named Juana we met on the street. Her talent for weaving was incredible and she agreed to pose for a picture since I bought a huipil from her (the gorgeous blue one I´m holding).

The 1st picture shows a very nice man who was gardening in his traditional clothes, the pants (usually capri length) rolled up above the knee. I engaged him in a conversation about the names of trees and he was gracious enough to let me take his picture - one of my favorites on this trip.

The next photo shows my classroom yesterday, a palapa cover with table and chairs with a view of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world - amazing. Sylvia´s spot had an even more incredible view and I think there are 10 similar spaces, all surrounded by gorgeous gardens. The gardener, Dolfino, is a wonderful anciano (very old man) and a prime example of why I´m learning to speak Spanish - to meet and enjoy conversation with folks like Juana, the happy guy in the shorts, and Dolfino.

The produce here is vibrant and beautiful; the 4th picture is an example from the San Pedro market a block from my house.

Sylvia and I spent hours walking on the narrow pathways that weave around this town. The man in shorts photo was taken on one and photo number 5 was taken from one as it hit a dead end by the lake. It shows a man working in his corn field with fisherman in boats just off shore. Enjoy!
Happy trails!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Last adventures in Nebaj

The 5 photos in this batch represent our last adventures in Nebaj

First is a photo of me (Stacey) learning to make boxboles, the traditional food specific to this area. They are corn meal wrapped in squash leaves and boiled; you eat the leaves and all with picante sauce, very tasty.

Next is a photo I took of me with my host family; I´m the one on the right. :o) My host father is running for mayor of Nebaj. I told him everyone should vote for him because no one else could possible be more handsome. He announced to the family today that I´m returning to Nebaj next summer with my family and we´re going to live with them - news to me! What a joker, ja, ja, ja (that is Spanish for ha, ha, ha in case you did not know).

Syl and I hiked 7 or 8 miles yesterday up (and I mean UP) to a small village called Cocop. The 3rd picture is a view of the village from the hill above. The 4th is a woman and her daughter preparing a traditional meal for us, a savory soup with squash leaves, tomatoes, and eggs served with fresh tortillas. The last photo is the food. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed that meal!!!

Happy trails,
Stacey and Sylvia

Friday, August 10, 2007

Special places and occasions

We´ve done a lot more exploring and it was hard to select just 5 photos for today´s blog. Today we walked to 2 cemeteries with our teachers, an older cemetery with lots of above ground structures in startling colors and a newer one with fewer buildings and lots of wood and cement crosses in bright colors. The 1st photo shows my beloved teacher, Pedro, with a memorial to the victims of the military in the 80s. He said it´s wrong to call it a war, because a war is when 2 sides fight each for something. This was the military coming in with helicopters and weapons and murdering people who were not soldiers and who had no way to defend themselves; it was a holocaust.The ¨5th¨ picture didn´t post so I´ll try to add it at the top. Today we walked to 2 cemeteries with our teachers, an older cemetery with lots of above ground structures in startling colors and a newer one with fewer buildings and lots of wood and cement crosses in bright colors. The photo shows my beloved teacher, Pedro, with a memorial to the victims of the military in the 80s. He said it´s wrong to call it a war, because a war is when 2 sides fight each for something. This was the military coming in with helicopters and weapons and murdering people who were not soldiers and who had no way to defend themselves; it was a holocaust.

The 2nd photo is hilarious to me: dogs waiting with hungry looks in front of Carneceria Esperanza (Meat shop of hope).

Next is a sacred Maya site high on a hill above Nebaj, hidden in a corn field.

The 4th picture is of dancers representing the conquistadors; the costumes are fantastic and it´s an honor to be chosen to perform, but the point is more to make fun of the conquistadors than to reenact factual events. I enjoyed the marimba accompaniment, too.

Sylvia and I went on a guided 3-4 hour hike yesterday out through the country to see some of the waterfalls. The good parts were the exercise, the views of country homes and gardens, and the beautiful waterfalls. The downsides were pounding rain and roads lined with garbage. The 5th picture shows a waterfall tumbling into a corn field.

Our time in Nebaj is winding down. It may be a few days before we´re able to post again, but we´ll try when internet access becomes available.

Happy trails!
Stacey and Sylvia

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Exploring Nebaj

We´ve taken time the last few days to explore Nebaj more, partly because we were looking for a bakery and an ice cream place we remembered and partly because it was sunny instead of rainy yesterday afternoon. Here are the pictures we selected for today: a typical street scene with a sign for a dentist that is blessed by God and guarantees his work (note the adobe wall near the sign, very common) and a photo, shot from the hip, of some young people ordering ice cream. We got a kick out of the huge basket and traditional clothes with the ice cream store backdrop. The 3rd picture shows Cecelia and Maria Linda, the mother and daughter in my host family, preparing dinner and laughing at my attempts to make round tortillas (I told them ugly tortillas taste just as good as perfect ones). The 4th photo is of Pedro, Stacey, Angelica, and Sylvia, in the country taking a break. The town of Nebaj is preparing for their big annual fair which begins this week-end. Today there was a political rally and a march of indigenas people carrying signs (lower right of photo) ¨We´re looking for Jose Efran Rios Monte for genocide¨. He was the president in the early 80´s when there were massacres in most of the villages in the highlands including Nebaj, where hundreds died. Others are carrying a huge quilt with squares representing those who died (none of them were soldiers, all innocent civilians). You can also see the banners they´ve put up for the fair. Enjoy!
Happy trails,
Stacey and Sylvia