Lake Atitlàn

The tours that I’ve been working on have been really fun and exciting for me. Not only do I get to meet new and interesting people, I get to travel around. I’ve missed traveling. Really missed it. My wanderlust never went away, I just don’t have the funds for it with a family, so this is the perfect solution!

I love the lake. While I prefer the Antigua area simply because it’s home, the lake is beautiful. I mean, who can say no to this view?!

lake atitlan

Each week that we were there, we took the group on a trip around the lake, which was a lot of fun. The first week, we visited Santiago and San Pedro. The second week, we went to Santiago and then to San Antonio Palopo. It was hot and sunny both weeks and I ended up with a killer tan.

This is San Pedro, which I hadn’t visited in nearly 13 years . . . it’s changed a LOT. Back then, it was mostly trails through cornfields. Now it is a fully commercialized city.

San Pedro La Laguna

We spent much of our time in Panajachel, the main tourist town on the lake. Pana, as it’s known, is home to Mayan Families, an organization that has multiple projects going on to help the poorer people in the area. I’ve been there many times, since my sister sponsors a family through them, but this was the first time I really spent a lot of time with the organization.

Since everyone who came on the tours brought down some donations (a pre-requisite for their trip), we ended up distributing some of the items early on. These children were thrilled to get new shoes, socks and toys.

kids

new shoes

new shoes

The shoes were much needed.

old vs. new shoes

Each group put up some money to provide a bed, an Onil stove and a water filter for a needy family, so that was part of the service trip. We learned to build the Onil stove and then delivered it and the bed. We also took food baskets to each family that received help.

In one house, this is what they cooked on before . . . a sheet of old corrugated tin set on a platform of wooden beams. The beams were burnt and I’m pretty sure they would have had to replace them soon.

Unsafe stove in Guatemala

And this is the stove we left them. It is much safer, since it has a chimney that takes the smoke out of the home and helps prevent respiratory infections. It’s also a very fuel-efficient stove, so people don’t have to spend as much time looking for firewood.

Onil stove

One of the best parts of the trips was the party we held at a different Mayan Families preschool each week. The organization helps children learn Spanish before they start school (otherwise, most of them are thrown into first grade with no clue how to speak it, and are expected to receive passing grades), gives them nutritious food and teaches hygiene. Basically, they give these little ones a good start in life and it’s also a form of childcare, allowing mothers to work outside the home in the mornings without worrying about taking the kids with her or worse, leaving them at home on their own.

The kids were adorable and they loved the piñata and cake that we brought. It was a good opportunity for everyone to meet the children and choose one to sponsor. It was also a good way for the tour groups to really participate and get to know some of the kids here.

piñata

kids eating cake

The second week, Dorian was with me and he helped serve cake to the kids at the preschool we visited that week.

Dorian helping

We also checked out the textile market in Panajachel, where you’ll find used huipiles (traditional blouses) and cortes (skirts) for sale. They were available at amazing prices!

huipiles

Exploring is so much fun! If you want to read more about the places I’m traveling these days, don’t forget to check out Into Guatemala. ?

Panajachel church