I’m so happy to be back in Guatemala! I spend a lot of time, when I’m NOT in Guatemala, planning for and dreaming about the times I will be here, so I was like a giddy girl on a first date or a little kid sitting in front of a tree on Christmas morning, ready to tear into packages.
There were a few new things about this trip! First of all was the flight experience . We flew an airline we had not experienced before, Avianca, got to fly to Guatemala nonstop, and also flew on a red-eye.
Let me start by singing the praises of Avianca. First of all, we got nonstop flights from Chicago to Guatemala City for under $400. Killer deal! When we got to the check-in counter, the agent was the most pleasant person I have ever dealt with at an airport. They gave us a discount on our extra bag fees and we only had to pay $40 instead of $150. When we boarded the plane, the flight attendants asked us for our seat numbers, and then offered to take our carry-ons and stow them in the overhead compartments, rearranging them as necessary to ensure that they were stored as close as possible to our assigned seats. They did that for each passenger!
When we were in the air, we were served a nice, full meal, and when we landed, it was the smoothest landing I have ever experienced!
Unfotunately, Avianca is going to discontinue service to Guatemala starting in June, so the next trip we have to Guatemala (in August) cannot be by Avianca.
Long story short, I am putting my plug in here for any passengers that have the opportunity to fly Avianca in the future, I do not think you will be disappointed!
When we landed and went through immigrations and customs, it was smooth. They randomly searched just one of our bags, and all of our donations made it through without a problem. The agent performing the gloved-hand inspection, however, did not seem too pleased with the answer when he asked us what was in the drawstring bags. We said “menstrual kits” and I swear he crinkled his nose! Too much for his macho self! (The “menstrual kits” are a product of the St. Jerome’s sewing ministry and provide a way for girls and women to have reusable feminine hygiene.)
As we exited the airport, our driver was waiting for us, holding a sign showing my name. This driver was one that was provided for us through the property owner at the Airbnb home we’re renting in Panajachel. Renting an Airbnb is also a first for us. Previously, we had always stayed in hotels. So far, that experience has been good. It’s nice having all the extra room. We’re only a group of six this time. We were supposed to be a group of 7, but my mother at the last minute had a leg injury and doctors were advising against travel given that she developed an infection at the injury site.
Unfortunately, we did not get to stop at Iximche (Mayan Ruins site) on the way from the airport to Panajachel as we planned. But, maybe it was for the best. All of us were dead tired and Scott even fell asleep during the van ride to our destination.
We did get to share the ride with a surprise last-minute add — Jose Miguel Yllescas Juarez and his son. Jose Miguel contacted me yesterday, mentioning that he was going to be in the city and wondered if he could hitch a ride home with us. I’m glad it worked out that way. We have plans to spend the morning and afternoon with him tomorrow anyway, so it was nice for everyone on the travel team to get acquainted with him ahead of time. He took this picture of me and Sarah!
When we arrived in Panajachel, we grabbed some “brunch” and then relaxed a bit before meeting Esthela Gomez and her family for a pepian experience that was so special.
Esthela is a friend, the wonderful woman that provided her voice and Kaqchikel translations for both the Guatemalan Picture Dictionary, and the story “Peter Perdido Finds His Way”, two quadrilingual books that we self-published last year as a fundraiser for our nonprofit.
For the second time, we arranged for Esthela and her mother and sister to provide us with an authentic cooking class and cultural experience. The food was wonderful and the company of a friend even better! We all had the opportunity to stir the roasting pepitas and sesame seeds, and also tried our slappy hands at making tortillas from the corn masa.
Everything turned out great We finished the day with a walk to the lake followed by some swinging in a hammock back at the house. Sweet!
Tomorrow we visit Santiago Atitlan, the town across the lake that is home to Jose Miguel.