Coming into the last 2 weeks of our time here with our host families and Spanish classes it seems that some of us are starting to get anxious for the end. For others it seems sad because they are just getting to really know their families and they already have to leave. It is so hard to believe that we have been in Guatemala for almost 7 weeks. I, for one, am very excited to be going on free travel at the end of next week and then after that heading off for Chiapas, Mexico for two weeks of living in a small rural community.
This past weekend we went to Santiago Atitlan right on Lake Atitlan and stayed in a hotel with an amazing view of the lake. We left early from CASAS on Friday at 11:00 a.m. and had a 4 hour bus ride up to the lake. On the way to the lake we stopped in at a coffee cooperative and they talked to us about what they are there for and all the different work they do advocating for change in labor laws and helping organize coffee workers on their land so they receive a better and fairer wage. We arrived in Santiago at around 5:30 p.m. in the evening and had a little bit of free time before dinner. As I mentioned earlier our hotel had an amazing view. We found ourselves on the roof of the hotel taking tons of pictures of the sunset and mountains/volcanoes around the lake. That night we had dinner at a little restaurant and after that the group split up and some of us found our way down to the docks and others went up the hill to the central park which was full of little stands with people selling everything you can imagine. You could buy anything from fried chicken, French fries and something that tasted kind of like Cracker jacks to mangos, used clothing, tamales, corn-on-the-cob with salt, mayonnaise, ketchup and lime, and lots of hot and cold drinks.
Saturday we got up bright and early and headed to breakfast back at that same restaurant. After breakfast we went up to the church and looked around and then learned about the priest who was murdered by the Guatemalan army during the civil war. Then we were taken on a tour of Panabaj which is a tiny little town outside of Santiago. Our guide worked with the ANADESA cooperative which is there to help the community and talk with the government to help get things done, especially after a devastating mudslide a few years ago wiped out half of the community. Many houses were buried and many people died. Slowly they are rebuilding their community. We ate lunch with them and then afterwards had time to buy natural shampoos, cleaning supplies and bead jewelry which they make and sell to produce income.
Sunday we were again up bright and early and off for breakfast. At 8:30 a.m. we got on a boat and headed across Lake Atitlan over to Panajachel. The boat ride took about 40 minutes and once there we had the rest of the day to shop on the main street. A lot of people wanted hammocks so Javier (the brother of one of the CASAS staff) took us out to try to get the best deal we could. At 12:30 p.m. we all met at the end of the street and loaded up the bus to head back to Guatemala City and complete an awesome weekend.