Tuesday, March 3, 2009

This one´s for you.

(Lake Atitlan, Guatemala - Antigua, Guatemala)

Each of us has a memory or two of a photo, a story, a fabric, or something else that has somehow shaped who we are. For me, one of these is a photo of my dear Auntie Palma sitting against an ancient stone wall in beautifully woven layered garments, somewhere in Guatemala (I think). This was more than thirty years ago, when young women traveling to Guatemala was slightly less common.
Palma is partially responsible for my absolute love of textiles (I also thank my Mum), how they feel when touched, how they drape and curve to the shape of a body, the rustle when they are moved...
She wears incredible clothing, much of it from her travels around the world, layered beautifully, always rich in colour and texture, and always with a story behind it.
Before we left San Diego, I told Adam I really needed to have a photo like hers: of me sitting against ancient stones somewhere in Guatemala. (Preferably wearing something great, and looking fantastic!)

This trip is something I have dreamed about forever. Granted I didn´t imagine riding on the back of a motorcycle, but daily I am thrilled and amazed that this opportunity has finally come!

We are in Antigua now, and have found ourselves a room at a language school just a few blocks from the Parqué Central where the famous fountain features a woman holding her voluptious bosoms as water sprays out from the nipples. Rather odd to see, actually.
Our room doesn´t have a bed in it yet, as they are building the place little by little. I´m hoping that one arrives soon so that we can shower and get cleaned up for our evening in this lovely little city. The owner has invited us to a farewell party in the courtyard where they will have salsa dancers performing and food and drinks for 10 Quetzales a person. 8Q to $1 US. What a welcoming atmosphere!
The city reminds me of Oaxaca, but the cobbled streets are deeper and it seems a bit more bustling and lively. The air is warmer here, and we can see volcanoes in the not-so-far-off distance. Apparently there are only 4,000 volcanoes in Guatemala. And by only, I mean: THERE ARE 4,000 VOLCANOES IN GUATEMALA!!!! A bit startling to me, and fascinating. It makes for very interesting riding, small distances carrying you up and then down the sheer sides of mountains.

There is a fantastic bruise on my left calf from a minor incident a few days ago which involved a motorcycle with zero forward velocity, a slightly top heavy luggage arrangement, and a young woman precariously balanced between two luggage cases completely vulnerable to the balancing abilities of a fearless driver. Suffice to say that we fell over, and I got hurt. It actually wasn´t really any big deal and I feel fine, but the bruise has turned out to be quite the battle wound. Wé´ve taken quite a few photos of it, because it makes me feel kinda tough. It´s the little things in life.

I woke up at 5am to the sound of gun shots and canons. Or were they fireworks? My muddled, sleepy mind couldn´t tell, and after a bit of a scary movie before bed, I laid there considering what possibly awful things might be going on out in the town of Panajechal. Apparently nothing, as we were up and out by 9am and the town was bustling and people were happily going about their Tuesday business.
We had a lovely ride into Antigua, stopped once by the police who checked all of our paperwork and asked a few questions then sent us on our way. We were relieved to see that they were stopping all the motorcycles who passed by.

I can see you wandering these streets, and try to imagine them thirty years ago. Many things have changed and yet the women still wear their traditional clothing and carry huge colourful bundles on their heads. They also have cell phones. The restaurants are a myriad of international cuisine, we´ve seen Thai, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, and so many beautiful courtyard restaurants with amazing ambience it´s just, well, amazing.

We like to do a few circles through new towns, discovering where the Plaza Central is, and usually the great places to stay are nearby. When we arrived today we sat down for té negro con leche and I had a tuna melt on a jalapeno bagel. I´ve found Guatemala to be surprisingly expensive compared to Mexico. Still cheap by US standards, but still $5 for a bagel sandwich and tea! Crazy.

I found a purse today. It was $5. Each of the three things I´ve purchased in Guatemala are a rich red and brown tone, aged looking and hand woven. So exciting.

Adam gave me a fantastic birthday present in November, and that was a camera. I am a picture-taking wild woman on this trip, little things catching my eye like doorknobs and tacos, ketchup packs (on the pizza pan), and beautiful people everywhere. My famous bruise, so no one can call me a Ninny! (Thanks, Bethany.) Clouds, mountains, flowers. Vines growing in unbelievable places. Women in traditional costume, men too. Streets, electrical wires... The list goes on and on. Since we are riding nearly every day, that means lots of time where I sit on the back of the bike and just strap my little camera to my wrist. I have become pretty good at snapping shots of things as we fly by, and have also deleted many of them due to the fact that they are a complete blur.

I´d like to tell this little story, too. This afternoon we parked the motorcycle on the edge of the courtyard at our hostel, near the entrance to the street. There is a 15-foot rack filled with scarves and blankets, belts and bedspreads which is covered lightly with sheets. As I was pulling out my scarves to take a photo, I noticed a creepy little man standing near the doorway and the shelves. I thought he was watching me and thinking about trying to take some of our stuff, so I locked it up quickly and walked behind a wall with holes in it, watching him. I then noticed that he was pulling a blouse from behind one of the sheets, and was attempting to roll it up and tuck it under his blue sweatshirt!!! I walked out and spoke a firm bit of Spanish, "No Señor, Dame lo, por favor." (No Sir, give it to me please.) He was a bit scraggly and dirty, but managed to look guilty and sorry, and ducked his head, handed it over and disappeared around the corner. The woman who runs the learning center thanked me when Adam her what happened, but the rack is still there, the large doors wide open, presenting ample opportunity to anyone who waits long enough.

Alright, that´s enough writing for one sitting. Thank you so much for all the great comments and I hope this posting finds you well. I´ve got a going away party to go to, a shower to take, and some salsa dancing to do. To dance. Oh, whatever.
With lots of love, Grace and Adam

1) Adam makes some little friends in Chichi.
2) Ketchup on pizza? I thank you, no.
3) Used to be a school bus.
4) My first vegie soup!!!
5) Casa Perez. For Rachel.
6) Doorknob. Because of "Manon of the Spring."
7) Tacos!! Not the prettiest picture, but tasty.
8) Limes in Barra de Navidad.
9) Clouds and volcano on Lake Atitlan.
10) Clouds, volcano, dock on Lake Atitlan.
11) Sun setting on volcano in Antigua.
12) The Bruise.
13) My Guatemalan goods.
14) Totally worth the intense hike up...
15) Just a purse, but so happy.


  1. dEAR gRACE: I love you too. Always, and forever! And, today's my birthday...I couldn't have had a better gift than your essay. Love you two with the lake behind you...the world at your feet. Enjoy! Love, Auntie palma

  2. Ahh, yes...here`s to all the creepy little men crouching in the shadows and in the full glare of Grace`s ire... pity the poor devils! Also, your bruise just confirms the genetic reptilian ancestry I suspected on the Irish side of our family. 4000 volcanoes... and we were so impressed with Mt. St. Helens

  3. Love the pics, Grace! Nice work. :)

  4. What is UP with my sign? It looks hit yo.


    THIS ALL LOOKS SO AMAZING! You're my heroes.

  5. I hope you girls STOCK UP on textiles and send them home with Bethany! Love you!

  6. Look at you guys almost in Honduras! Been a week since your last update. I am feeling a little out of the loop.

  7. Beautiful purse Grace and awesome pics!!! What an amazing adventure :)

    Miss you guys.