Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear Diary, Week Three...

Week Three, December 18th to the 24th consisted of two events...

December 21st we went to Panajachel.. to read about that click here.

Then December 24th and 25th was Christmas! To read about that click here!

The days are flying by! I can't believe we have been here almost a whole month!

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas from Guatemala!

December 24th and 25th...

Oh my goodness!! If you are a lover of Christmas than Guatemala is where you need to be for the holiday. It is literally Christmas, New Years, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one colorfully wrapped present! Which is ironic I know since Guatemala does not celebrate the 4th of July or Thanksgiving. But it gets my point across! 

We started off Christmas Eve by running a few errands and then wrapping presents. Guatemala's tradition is to stay up til midnight, say a prayer of thanks, eat a large dinner, THEN open presents! You end up staying awake almost all night long. Luis and I didn't get to bed til around 4am! 

So where was I? At around 8pm we ate dinner with Luis' mom's side of the family; grandparents, 2 aunts,  2 uncles, and their prospective families. 19 people total! A big difference for me and my small family of 5! The night started off with some of Luis's cousins setting off fireworks. Then we ate a delicious turkey, potato salad, and rice with corn. After dinner we all made our way into the living room where everyone had a specific chair full of their presents. 

Luis' grandparents don't stay up til midnight anymore so they open the presents early. As a thanks to Luis' family and grandparents for letting us stay at their home we got each family a picture frame with photos of us and them. We got some nice things and I got more than Luis (which he is still jealous about)... Seems his family likes me more ;). So after saying our thanks to everyone we then hitched a ride with Luis' Uncle to Luis' father's side of the family! 

The celebration took place at Luis' Aunt's home. It was filled with Luis' family! I don't know if I've mentioned this before but Guatemalans greet each other the typical spanish way, a kiss on the cheek. I felt like I was kissing people on the cheek forever! The line of family seemed never ending. When we finally greeted everyone we then handed out the gifts we had for the family. Each family member does that and puts them in their corner of the house to open at midnight. We then sat and chatted and listened to Christmas music and counted down the minutes til Christmas. Luis' cousin Velvet has a daughter that is 5 years old and despite the fact that I can't talk with her she seemed to immediately develop a connection with me. She sat with me for about half an hour showing me a gift she received of a book of fairytales. We then went through the book naming things in Spanish and then English. I learned all about Little Red Riding Hood, The Princess and the Pea (La Princesa y El Guisante), and other stories I'd never heard of. 

Then midnight happened and everything went crazy. All around us, everywhere, fireworks were set off. Small ones, big ones, loud ones, colorful ones. Everywhere you looked there were fireworks. You could turn around in a circle and see huge fireworks being set off into the sky, a panoramic 360! Then what happens is everyone kneels by the tree and baby Jesus and says a personal pray. And I mean EVERYONE does it. Then one by one, people get up and wait respectfully for everyone to finish. Once everyone was finished the hugging and wishing well starts. You kiss and hug each person, wishing them well and Merry Christmas. And THEN you eat dinner! We had another turkey, rice, and salad meal! Very similar but different than our first meal, the flavors were entirely different.  

Once we finished dinner we then started to open presents. And by the time presents were finished it was around 2:30am. We talked for a little bit more, one of Luis' cousin's said he wanted to take us to hike a volcano sometime soon! And we left around 3:30am, got home around 4:00am and immediately went to bed. Christmas is over right? Wrong! 

The next day at noon and 6pm you set off fireworks again. And at noon you kneel down in front of the tree and baby Jesus again and say a prayer and well wishes. What an amazing holiday! Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 26, 2011


Lago Atitlan (Aah-tee-tlan), Panajachel (Pan-ah-ha-shel)!

What a gorgeous place! Lake Atitlan is boasted as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and known in Guatemala as THE most beautiful lake. The lake has 3 volcanoes surrounding it and several mountains and 12 small villages. Each village is named after one of the 12 apostles when Christ was alive. The city Panajachel is a predominantly European town. Therefore, most people speak English! Kind of refreshing to NOT feel like I was cut off from the world! 

We woke up at 5am Wednesday morning in order to get there at a decent hour. With the traffic it can take up to 4 hours to get there. We left Guatemala City around 6:30am. And luckily it only took us 2 and a half hours to get there! On the way we stopped at a breakfast place... A hole in the wall, literally. A native woman and her daughter, who spoke an indigenous language and Spanish, made the breakfast right in front of us. 

I had black beans, chorizo, and eggs, chorizo is a type of sausage. While eating a woman trying to sell baskets and scarves came up to us asking us to buy something. The people we were with, Luis’s Uncle Pepito and his wife, were so nice that since they weren’t going to buy anything from this woman, they offered to buy her breakfast. You would never see that in the U.S! People would just get pissed she was bothering them while they ate, yell at her to go away, and then seethe with anger that someone had the gall to go near them. Such a difference! Little did I know I’d be feeling just that not too much later.

We then headed back out again and didn’t stop until we got to a great lookout point. There were little kiosks there, a mini mini market of sorts, and we were bombarded by every vender there. And when you say no, they take it as bartering and will lower the price so you won’t leave. While at the lookout the volcanoes were beautiful and clear but as we made our way down to the city the volcanoes sadly got covered by clouds. 

We were looking for a place to park when a guy on a bike asked Pepito if we needed help finding one. We said yes and the guy had us follow him to a parking lot. It seems that it was his job to ride around on his bike and find people to use that parking lot! And guess how cheap the parking was? 80 cents an hour! We parked and started walking around. Now, when we’ve walked around the market in Guatemala City and even Antigua after you say no once to the street vendors they leave you alone. Plenty of other people to go ask so not an issue. In Panajachel it was sooo much worse! The venders walk with you and keep on asking for you to buy something over and over and over. It wasn’t very conducive to an enjoyable atmosphere. We even sat down INSIDE a a restaurant to grab a drink and they would come INSIDE and ask us to buy something. The fiery redhead in me sizzled and it was all I could do to not yell at these people! Luis’s aunt said that was the first time she has seen me so mad. It is one thing for these venders to be selling out on the street, I may not like it but I’ll respect that. It’s another thing entirely when they come into a restaurant, disrupt our meal, and keep on asking us to buy something! The hard part too is Pepito likes to have fun with them and sends them on crazy missions to find hard colors and keeps on saying no but keeps on talking to them. Drove me crazy! I realized then that I am very American and may not be able to be as nice as Luis’s Uncle was. I’m such a hypocrite aren’t I? ;)

So while we were being bombarded by all these natives trying to sell their stuff, 3 children came up trying to sell as well. I pulled out my camera (I was still feeling nice at this point) to take some video of all of this. One girl, about 4 or 5, got super excited and thought the camera was so cool. She kept on trying to take the camera from me and take pictures of everyone else. When Luis asked if we could take a picture of her, she said unless we bought something from her. When I finally got her to stop taking pictures she started hugging my arm and saying “Mi nueva amiga”, my new friend. Just when I was going to get her to pose for a picture, she and the other two children bolted. They ran like the restaurant was on fire! Luis and I were left completely baffled and confused.We had no idea why they ran off like that. I then though, “Oh crap!” What if they took something from my purse?! So I quickly scanned through my things and Luis scanned through his stuff, both of us trying to figure out if they took something, which would explain why they ran away so quickly. Luckily, there was nothing stolen and Luis I just chalked it up as another random experience in Guatemala! 

Just a few of the people surrounding us while at the restaurant!

After our restaurant experience we resumed walking around Panajachel. We passed several British and American couples down the streets. Most would recognize one another and say hello. The atmosphere (despite the ruthless vendors) was actually very friendly. After walking through the streets for a while we decided to do a quick boat ride. Half an hour boating along the edge of the lake, we got to see the beautiful hotels and homes of Panajachel. We couldn’t see the tips of the volcanoes but it was still very beautiful! 

Ara, Pepito, Leslie, and Me

What our boat looked like!

The boat ride ended and we decided to eat dinner before we left. The restaurant hosts were as bad as the vendors! They would hover around us begging us to go to their restaurant and telling us the food to entice us. We picked a restaurant called Alache, we think. It had two floors and the top floor had no walls, open to the outdoors. 

We had a gorgeous view of the lake and the volcanoes. The food was delicious and the view breathtaking. All you could ask for in a day in Guatemala!

P.s. I haven’t done a travel tip in a while so here’s a very important one. ALWAYS have tissues or toilet paper with you. When using a bathroom in a foreign country they do not always have toilet paper. You could then get stuck in the bathroom, with no phone, praying your husband will come down to check on you since you’ve been gone over 15 minutes! Yes, that happened to me! Also, you need to do several sets of squats before you leave because not many toilets have seats. I was stuck in a bathroom, no sink, no toilet paper, no toilet seat, squatting for 15 minutes. I'm coming home with thunder thighs!

If you want to see more pictures go to Luis's Blog.. More photos to come!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear Diary, 2 Weeks!

We have been in Guatemala for 2 weeks now! We still are loving every moment :)

Sunday December 11th... We had 3 birthday parties to celebrate today! Luis’s Grandfather, Uncle, and Cousin all have birthdays in the same week. So a huge family gathering was required to celebrate these birthdays in Guatemalan style. Over 25 people, FAMILY, showed up for the event. For fabulous food we had empanadas, sopa de fideo con elote (noodle soup with corn), and ensalada rusa (potato salad with a different twist). After eating we skyped with Luis’s parents while hitting a star shaped piñatas and eating cake! Everyone got a chance to hit the piñatas including adults. The adults even ran to gather the candy once it was broken open, so funny! 

Abuelo (Luis's Grandfather)

Me hitting the piñata
Luis's uncle Alberto
Luis breaking it open!
What was left of the piñata

The adults grabbing the candy!

Webcamming with Luis's parents while cutting the birthday cake!

Monday December 12th... We walked to El Mercado (the Market)! Uhm... how can I describe the market? Kind of like an indoor flea market but cooler. The market was under a block of the city. It was a sensory overload of bright colors, smells, sounds, and textures. Everywhere you looked was crammed with purses, clothing, jewelry, wallets, hammocks, things made out of clay, christmas decorations, wind chimes, and so much more that I can’t even remember! All of it being native Guatemalan. We walked around for a couple hours and still didn’t see everything! 

Tuesday December 13th... Since we didn’t see everything at El Mercado we decided to go again. Walked around the areas we didn’t see and Luis and I purchased quite a few items for very cheap. I was on a hunt for the perfect purse. Something that looked native Guatemalan but was colors I liked and had a large strap to go over the shoulder. Luis’s family was nice enough to indulge me in this mission and we eventually succeeded! 

Wednesday December 14th... Antigua! We finally got to go to Antigua with Luis’s Uncle and family. Such a beautiful city! It was the original capital of Guatemala but lives under the shadow of not one, but TWO volcanoes. Guatemala City then became the capital sometime in the early 1900’s. Antigua is only about an hour away so I have a feeling we’ll be going back often. Antigua has a distinct feel of Spanish influence. Walking down the cobble stone streets I felt like I was back in Spain! The colors and architecture were very reminiscent of colonial Spain. Each house was painted a different color, a very bright color, as you walked down the road. We walked around the city for a while, visiting the famous arch. Most pictures that you see of Antigua have this arch and the closest volcano in the background. 

The Volcano is called Volcan de Agua.. The top is blocked by clouds.


We also got a chance to go to an old theater that Luis's family owns. It was no longer a theater but a market! Very similar to the one here in Guatemala City that we went to the day before. 
An old theater turned into a market

Three native Guatemalan women.. Baby included! I'm amazed at how they can carry stuff on their head with no hands. Such balance!

The street of Antigua, cobble stones, and the Water Volcano in the back

We then went to a restaurant that was native Guatemalan food. Very native. Luis tried a bite of his Aunt’s stew that was comprised of pig head parts. Pig. Head. It had brains, ears, tongue, nose, intestines, spleen, and stomach. So gross!! I had a more sedate meal with guacamole, beans, rice, and bistec.

A picture of the front door of the restaurant.. No music, no guns, and no dogs!

Max in the restaurant... Think we miss him much?

 After eating we went to the top of a hill called Cerro De La Cruz (Hill of the Cross). The hill overlooked the city of Antigua and the two volcanoes. Such a gorgeous view! 

From left, Alberto, Ara, Me, Luis, Clarissa. In the back is Ricardo and Aline (Aleen).

Luis and Max hanging out.. haha.

The last place we visited in Antigua was a famous candy store. A famous Guatemalan candy store. You would not find any familiar candy from the U.S. Some of the sweets were comprised of marzipan, egg and honey, condensed milk and sugar, candied yams, and gingerbread something or other. 

Those are just a few of the things we tried. After that we made our way home again!

Thursday December 15th... Not much to report today. The food has finally caught up with me. I don’t feel so bad though since some of Luis’s family is also sick. Looks like we all ate something bad. Stayed in my room the whole day wishing I had the energy to do something useful like update my blog!

Friday December 16th... Basically a spa day. We got ready for the two weddings we have to go to tomorrow. Luis got a haircut and I got a pedicure. I have to tell you, the pedicures here are amazing! They take such good care of you and spend as much time as needed with no rush. Each chair is separated by a wall so the clientele does not see each other. They had this machine that tickled my feet like crazy and I couldn’t stop laughing. Luis was with me to translate and he couldn’t stop laughing either at my reaction. I think he enjoyed it far more than I did! We then went to a mall to get Luis’s haircut and I went to a bank to get some cash. Each bank has a metal detector you have to walk through. I had a purse with a camera and change so of course the metal detector went off. The policeman at the entrance asked to look in my purse and then lifted the bottom to see how heavy it was. Apparently it was a good weight because he waved me on. I couldn’t help feeling a little nervous since I was pretty sure he was checking for guns! After Luis’s haircut we walked past a pet store. We couldn’t help but go in, I think we both are missing Max very much! We saw a little cage full of teacup chihuahuas for 200 bucks! Don’t worry, we didn’t get one but Luis’s uncle’s kids, Aline and Ricardo begged and begged their parents to get one. They sadly said no and we left (But on Sunday, they went back and got the dog!!). 

When we got home we did what we’ve been doing every night this week. We went over to Luis’s Uncle’s place, Alberto. The family that took us to Antigua and our Spa day. We’ve been staying up til 2 or 3 in the morning with them watching movies or just talking. I can’t believe how late I’ve been staying up! Of course, for me it also means I sleep in so much later ;)... Not that I mind sleeping in. I love knowing we are here for 2 months. We can do things at our own pace and not feel like we have to run around at a super fast pace in order to see everything. 

Saturday December 17th... 2 weddings in one day! Both weddings were cousins of Luis. We went with Luis's Grandfather and Aunt that is from the U.S. The first one was back in Antigua. The wedding was in a beautiful, old, yellow church. We were a little late to this one but it had the full one hour mass and we arrived right in the middle of it.  Luis was nice enough to translate stuff in spanish and after the ceremony about 15 more family members came up to introduce themselves. Luis's family is never ending! I really wish I could remember them all. We then drove to the reception with Luis's Godmother and husband. 

Luis with his Godmother Chely and her husband.

The reception was so much fun! It was a serious party and celebration. Where the bride and groom walked in there was a hanging piñata above their heads. This one, however, was not filled with candy but confetti! As the new couple walked under it, the piñata was opened and the confetti fell out on top of them. The piñata was in the shape of a bell and was white. The dancing was a blast! The DJ handed out balloons, silly headbands, and plastic top hats to the crowd. The food was delicious Guatemalan food, chicken, rice, and veggies. Sadly, in order to make it in time to the next wedding we had to leave early before they cut the cake!

David Andre and Ana Cecilia Larrañaga

Me, Velvet, and Luis


Switching accessories.. I think we look better this way don't you?!

The second wedding was in a beautiful church as well, back in Guatemala City. I couldn't see the outside since it was dark by the time we got there but the inside was gorgeous. The ceremony started at 8pm! We sat through another full mass and ceremony. The reception was at a beautiful hotel and the party was fabulous! They had a live salsa band and their first dance started off slow in the traditional way then picked up into a dance party for all the guests to join. My kind of people! The food was also delicious and the celebration was still going strong when we left at 12:30am! 

Mario Roberto and Patty Mendizabal

One of my favorite traditions that I learned about was giving almonds to the guests. 
"On happy occasions it is an old custom to give family and friends 5 almonds. The candy coating signifies sweetness and love and the almond represents fertility. Each almond has a special significance; Love, Health, Happiness, Prosperity, and a long life together." 

This was how our almonds were represented at one of the weddings. Beautiful!

Can't wait to see what another week in Guatemala brings! Especially since this week is Christmas!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear Diary, Week One...

This is a rather loooong post, so get comfortable! I was trying to write something every night so we don't forget what we did each day. So here is a diary of our first week in Guatemala!

Saturday, December 3rd... arrived around 2:00pm. Was hugged and kissed by several family members that said their names so fast I couldn’t say them back to save my life! I later learned Alberto (one of Luis’ Uncles), Julita (Luis’ Dad’s half sister), Luis’ Abuela and Abuelo (grandpa and grandma), and Julio (Luis’ other grandpa). We were shown our room and ate lunch at Abuela and Abuelo’s house. Their house which is actually a school! They own and run a private school. Then we went over to Julio’s house for dinner. There were SOOOO many family members! I couldn’t keep all their names straight (sorry to those family members reading this!). The nice part about Saturday night was being able to speak English to one of Luis's cousins, thanks Velvet!

The decorations Luis's family put up for us!

Sunday, December 4th... Ate breakfast at a hotel buffet, treated by Luis’ Abuela and Abuelo. Went shopping at a new mall and Walmart... You have NO IDEA how big a deal Walmart is here. The parking lot was completely full and it took us over 20 minutes just to get out of the parking lot! At night we went to dinner with Luis’ uncle Alberto and his family. It was Alberto’s birthday and they took us to the most AMAZING Steak Restaurant! Muy delicioso! After returning home Luis talked with his uncle while I talked with their two kids, Aline (13 yrs. old) and Ricardo (11 yrs. old). Aline (A-leen) is the best student in her English class but she refused to speak English with me at first. While the grownups were talking, I got her and her brother to speak English! Well, we spoke Spanglish. Words they didn’t know in English I tried to supply in Spanish and vice versa. I learned more Spanish tonight than I have to date!

Monday, December 5th... Walked around Guatemala City! Not as dangerous as we thought. We still have to be careful, we still can’t walk to certain places or even on a certain side of the street. And Luis’ family will not let us go anywhere without them, not that we would want to. So we walked all the way to the National Palace, 8 blocks away. Also went to a beautiful Cathedral right next to the palace! The palace was where the president of Guatemala used to live but doesn’t anymore. It’s now used as a convention center and museum. We waited over half an hour before they finally told us no tours today. Some kind of convention was going on. 

               Tonight we went to a graduation party for one of Luis’ MANY cousins that officially became a lawyer.. So much family! Great music, great food, and several people that knew enough English so I could be a part of the conversation and Luis didn’t have to translate so much. Everyone Luis RE-met said his face looked the same and that he was just taller. I love how everyone we have met has been so happy and genuinely excited to see Luis again AND meet his wife! Those that didn’t know English still tried to include me in the conversation by looking at me and waiting for Luis to translate. I have never felt so welcome before! The highlight of the night for us was when a cousin of Luis’ father offered to take us on a trip to see the “Most beautiful lake in Guatemala”, Lago (lake) Atitlan in Panajachel. He had just met us that night! It is humbling and overwhelming to see how willing Luis’ family is to do things for us and show us around Guatemala. I love them already!

                                 Luis with 5 of his cousins (primos).. he's one of the tallest ones!

Tuesday, December 6th... Walked to the National Palace again, just missed a tour so walked around the market and Sexta Avenida (6th Avenue). As we were walking around the square we saw a large group of people wearing white button-up shirts, ties, and black tags. A whole group of missionaries from our church! So naturally I wanted to go over to them to speak some much needed English! Some were from Utah, Washington, and California and very jealous of Luis’ fluent Spanish. 

Sexta Avenida is a street in Guatemala City that is closed to cars and open for shopping. It used to be a normal city street that was not very safe and the shops were not visited hardly ever. One of the changes in the past couple years was to clean a 10 block section of this street, close it off to cars, and make it safe to walk down with your family. It also has beautiful twinkle lights hanging from side to side down all 10 blocks. The lights are only during the month of December in preparation for Navidad (Christmas).

We then walked back to the Palace, waited another HOUR and finally got to do the tour! It was commissioned to be built by the Guatemalan president Jorge Ubico during the 1930’s. He had 5 letters in his name so everything in the palace has the theme of the number 5, 5 windows, 5 arches, 5 doors, 5 staircases... Very beautiful place, so much detail in the floors, ceilings, walls, doors, and everywhere! I feel like I need to go several times just to catch everything. There were gorgeous murals of Mayan natives and Spanish Conquistadors, stained glass windows of more Mayan culture, beautiful patios that opened up to the sky, 5 huge pools of water (50 ft long, 5 ft wide) with 5 small fountains in each one, and so much more!! 

The Guatemalan National Palace

After walking home from the palace we tried to get internet connection in our room. It wasn’t working so we tried the internet in Luis’ Abuela’s office. We finally got to update our blogs and let people know we are alive! We are alive! 

Wednesday, December 7th... Just relaxed today. Got the internet working in our room so we’ll be updating our blogs more often AND skyping family and friends!  

              Luis’ Abuela (Grandmother) is like your typical grandma. She keeps on trying to stuff us with food at every meal AND in between and always makes sure we have a jacket because it’s cold outside (hace frio). Here, 70 degrees is cold, can you believe that?! She always makes sure we have filtered water in our bedroom at night and refuses to let us pay for ourselves when we go places! I am again humbled by the natural service that Luis’ family willingly does on a daily basis. I hope to be like them and to not forget their example!

             Tonight in Guatemala is called Quemando El Diablo (The Burning of the Devil). Everywhere in Guatemala they buy pinatas that look like devils and at night they burn them on the streets! It is to signify purifying sin from Guatemala for the coming year. A very cool tradition! Every street you look down has 2 or 3 pinata devils burning. Firecrackers are set off and even real fireworks are shot into the sky! All this is going on while cars are passing through the streets. Firework goes off and a car goes right under it! I wish we did Quemando El Diablo in the U.S. and I wish it worked! 

Over 20 feet tall burning devil pinata!

P.S. Remember Pearl Harbor today!

Thursday, December 8th... We went to an amusement park today (IRTRA), called Petrapa Mundo. We went with one of Luis’ aunts, Abuela, and 5 cousins! We had a blast! There was a really fun ride where you sat on a bullet bike but it was a roller coaster. It went super fast! There was also a zoo attached to this amusement park and Luis was brave enough to feed a free roaming peacock by hand! We were amazed to see 50 free roaming peacocks around the amusement park. They're not caged animals here. We both fed peacocks, monkeys, and a monkey/raccoon looking animal. Also, did you know that raccoons are so rare in Guatemala that they’re put in a zoo!? YES! Luis and I couldn’t stop laughing. Raccoons in a cage and not peacocks?!

Bought this photo for 3 dollars! Me and Luis' cousin (prima) in front, Luis and another cousin next to him.. and ANOTHER cousin behind Luis!

Part of a playground for kids at the amusement park.. we are just big kids after all ;)

Luis feeding a monkey popcorn!

Me feeding a monkey popcorn!

A pretty waterfall at the park.

                After getting home we had an hour before El Baile del Torrito, The Dance of the Little Bull. We showed Luis’ cousins the photo booth application on my laptop and the different effects. Laughed so hard we cried! Then at 8pm we walked outside to the street where El Baile del Torrito was taking place. There was a procession of an alter of the Virgin Mary being carried by several men, and when I say several I mean at least 30 men! The thing was huge! It was basically like a float at a parade in New York City, but carried. We later found out that the dance was a native ritual when they wanted to thank the Gods for a great harvest or a much needed rainfall. They continue with it today to remind themselves of where they came from and the traditions of old. All the people on the streets were gathered around 1 man dancing in a circle with a contraption on his shoulders FILLED with firecrackers, fireworks, and sparklers. While still dancing the fireworks on his back were lit. This dance was repeated 3 times by 3 different men. Then REAL fireworks lit up the sky as native Guatemalan music filled the air (beautiful marimba music). Such a cool experience! I think I’m going to like Guatemala, they do fireworks ALL the time! 
Luis and I with the alter behind us and the fireworks behind that!

Friday, December 9th... We did two things that were pretty cool today. Guatemala has a park where there is a huge, perfect replica of the country. We went to that park and got to see how contrasting Guatemala really is. There is one side of Guatemala that has tons of mountains and volcanoes (where Guatemala City is and where we are) and the other side is completely flat (where the famous Mayan ruins are)! Here’s a picture of the map. 

              That night we finally got to go to Sexta Avenida and see the lights lit up. It was beautiful! We walked down the street listening to street musicians, watching dancers, looking at all the shoe stores... There are TONS of shoe stores here, every women’s dream! We then returned home and went over to Luis’ uncle’s house and watched two movies! Real Steel and In Time with Spanish subtitles of course. We stayed up till 2 am and for those who know me, that is certainly an accomplishment! 

Sexta Avenida

Saturday, December 10th... Woke up early (after staying up late) and drove to Luis’ family farm, la granja (la gran-ha). We drove up into the mountains even higher to get there. We had to drive over a very bumpy dirt road for the final stretch. It was so cool to see the farm! Luis and his family usually went to this farm on the weekends, kind of like a vacation home but with work. When Luis’s family moved to the United States they hired caretakers for the farm. In the past few years they decided to rent out the farm. First a Greek, then an American. When they rented it out, their usual caretakers had to leave. Sadly, the renters did not take very good care of the farm and all the orange, peach, apple, pomegranate, and lemon trees had to be cut down! They still had one avocado tree, french green beans, radishes, and tomatoes, hardly anything compared to what they used to have. While there we got to meet the caretakers and their children. They were making tortillas and they offered us freshly home-made ones! When we come back to the U.S. I’m going to have a hard time eating the store-bought brands, I love the fresh food here! There were 2 homes on the farm, one for Luis’s family and one for Luis’ aunts family. The homes were old and needed repairs but they were still beautiful! They had all cedar beds and closets, the floors were tiled and the ceilings all wood. Then when you look out the window to the view, gorgeous! Maybe Luis and I will move here ;)... Such a beautiful place! 

The entrance to Luis's Family Farm (La Granja)

The steps leading to Luis's home.. Luis, his Abuelo, me, and his aunt Ara.

            After visiting Luis’ farm we went to another family members farm for a reunion/party. Another family member was visiting from the States so a party it is! They had clowns, 2 pinatas, delicious food, and tons of people! Luis’s family is never ending, I am having such a hard time keeping all the family straight! 
Luis with a hat on his head and a clown in the background.

            After returning home we took a short nap and went back out again. Luis’ uncle took us to a fireworks display. They set off fireworks for a straight hour every year on the 10th to celebrate and welcome the Christmas Holiday. So awesome! We went on a bus (when we were told to avoid all public transportation) and then walked a few blocks to the event. On our way back we went on another bus. This one was different. The bus we took back had been implemented only in the past year or so and there are two policemen on every bus and policemen waiting at every stop. However, this bus was so full, we were packed in like sardines! I wasn’t holding on to anything but I never fell, I was being held up by the people around me! Craziness. After the bus we went back to Sexta Avenida and walked down it one more time, ate dinner at a place called... Picadilly! Nothing like the one in the U.S. but still very yummy. I had a spanish version of Mac & Cheese. Yumm :)..  Luis was in awe that my plate and his STEAK plate cost us a total of $10.15!!! Food. Is. So. Cheap. Here! Then we came home and went to bed. 

Our first week in Guatemala. So much family, fun, and food. I’m glad we’ll be here for two months, there is so much to see! Luis and I are loving every minute of being here and have felt completely safe and welcomed. I have a feeling that Luis and I will be coming back to Guatemala often.. and it’s only the first week!