Exploring – Santa Catarina Palopó

Earlier this month, we took the kids on their first truck ride to a nearby village. Trucks in this area are used like informal buses to take passengers from village to village. When the back is full, the truck begins it’s short journey. It’s a fun and convenient way to travel.

While we wandered, we came right into contact with one of Jason’s previous students, Maria. She is now attending college on the weekdays and runs her family’s handicraft booth on the weekends. It was a joy to see her. And she told us she still had a photo of “baby Luke” from when we last lived here. So special.

Many of the beautiful textiles here are created by women weaving the material by hand using these looms.

Exploring the twisting pathways that make up the majority of the towns “roads.”

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We thoroughly enjoyed all the beautiful blues and greens used in decorating their buildings.

We told the kids that if they’d make the 2 1/2 mile walk back to Pana without too much complaining, we could stop for a snack along the way and get ice cream when we arrived back in Pana. We found this little cafe to stop at, perched on the hill with amazing views. What a delight!

And the promised ice cream! After a day full of walking and with very few complaints. Love that.

Trying more new foods

We encounter new foods nearly everyday here. We’ve made it a goal to buy and try at least one new fruit or veggie from the open-air market each week. Here is what we’ve been trying lately:

Wiskil (wisk-eel), a spiny, squash-like vegetable that needs to be peeled, de-seeded and boiled for 25 minutes or so before use. Once cooked, it tasted to us like a cross between a potato and a zucchini. Very versatile to use and easy to find.

Pepino Dulce and Maracuya (another type of passion fruit). The maracuya was delicious! The vendor had told us that the pepino dulce was like a melon and would be tasty with lime and salt on it. He was right! By itself, it was pretty bland but it was delicious when topped with lime & salt or added to a tomato, cucumber and lime salad.

Sapote (saw-poe-tay) is beautifully vibrant with a wacky looking seed, but wasn’t our favorite to eat by itself. After researching, it seems it would be good in smoothies or made into ice cream.

Probably our favorite of this bunch – Star Fruit or Carambola. I bought a dozen on accident, so it’s good we like them! (I’ll now never forget the spanish word for dozen = docena!) They are delicious just sliced and eaten, even the peel/skin is edible – think of a bell pepper. They have a crisp texture and lovely apple/pear/citrus flavor. I’m going to make a star-fruit upside-down cake and also use them in salad. Yum!

Luke’s favorite “new thing” to try — Frozen Hot Chocolate! He’s a big fan 🙂

Celebrating Christmas

We all had a very hard time realizing that Christmas was actually coming this year. After spending the past seven years in very cold climates, it was so strange to still be wearing short and t-shirts and using our swimming pool in December. It definitely did not feel like Christmas, but Christmas did indeed come!

Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) is more significant here than Christmas Day. We were unexpectedly treated to dinner two times that evening! Once by a new resident to our compound and then later by our compound guardian who arrived with his wife and fresh tamales, ponche (a homemade fruit punch) and beautiful gifts for our kids. It was incredibly humbling to be the recipients of their thoughtful generosity.

We had forgotten that Christmas is a time for many, many, many fireworks – the most being at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Doing “normal” Christmas activities — and then a not-so-normal activity, swimming!

We got to celebrate in the evening with our friends, the Deeds and some other new friends. It was a special time of fellowship, thanksgiving and singing.

And then a walk home together under the Christmas lights…

Getting used to a few differences

We have been in Guatemala over a month now and overall we are all doing well with the many changes from life in the U.S.

I’ll admit that I love that we have been without power on a somewhat regular basis. We’ve also been without water or had dark brown liquid coming out of the tap. We are glad for our kids to get to experience in a very, very small way what so many people in the world encounter on a daily basis. They are also getting used to finding ants cruising around on their plates of food and I love that now they just squish them and continue eating.

The most difficult change for us to get used to is that we are required to wear masks outside at all times except within our own home compound. This is a big change for us. It is compounded by the fact that we walk on very noisy streets for a minimum of an hour a day. Between the street noise and the masks it is really hard to hear each other and is especially frustrating for Mabel. That being said, we know we are pretty lucky that this is the biggest “challenge” we are encountering.

This is AMA, the school Jason taught at when we lived here eight years ago.

A few other changes —

Navigating “sidewalks” with the kids has been a bit different.

We notice that nearly every home is surrounded by fencing or a wall with razor or barbed wire and a sturdy gate.

Teaching the kids how to wash clothes by hand at the pila (Guatemalan outdoor sink/wash station).

All toilets come with a small trash can next to them as NO paper can go into the toilet. This definitely takes some retraining.

Trying out lots of new produce (& a watermelon popcicle!)

Lychee, passion fruit and jocotes – YUM!

Finding anything from vinegar to olives to strawberry jam in a bag! And getting used to eating deliciously fresh, handmade tortillas daily along with trying all kinds of street food (churros in this case!).

There has been no end to the beautiful lake and volcano views, nor to Luke’s swimming and we are definitely getting used to the fabulous weather!

Two weeks in —

Friday marked two weeks since we arrived in Panajachel. We’ve definitely been busier than we expected to be, but not in a bad way. Opportunities to get involved in our community have been abundant and we’d also forgotten how time intensive some relatively simple tasks (like basic shopping) can be here.

So, what have we been doing with our time?

Spanish school is our biggest priority right now — we go five days a week and little-by-little (poco a poco) are seeing small improvements.

Jason quickly got involved with Will at Dirty Feet Missions and is helping teach English twice a week in a small pueblo a few miles out of town. Luke goes as well and has a great time helping out.

Mabel and I got to spend a little time helping sort and organize donations at Porch de Salomon.

The kids and Jason quickly got involved in extra curriculars which has been great! Mabel does a dance and an art class weekly while Luke is in basketball twice a week. Jason has been playing basketball with some men from our Spanish-speaking church, plus soccer with an acquaintance from our last time here and running a couple days a week with a friend.

I don’t know yet where I will “fit” into our new town, but I’ve hosted friends in our home several times already so perhaps there will be something to that.

A prayer request for us is that we can be comfortable with shifting our purpose here as circumstances around us change and/or as God directs us. We want to be flexible with this beautiful opportunity that we have been given and ultimately, we want to be useful to God’s kingdom here on earth.

If we walk across the street from our house, we get this fantastic view. Catches my breath everytime.

And the house hunt winner is …

NUMBER TWO!!!!!

We were fortunate to live in Number 1 for our first week here and it really was WAY too noisy (we had to stop conversation when vehicles were going past, which was all the time). And, that outdoor bathroom! Just not a go for us with kids using it in the night, especially with us already needing to be very vigilant about safety.

Number 3 would have been awesome, but … without kids who already rise with the first hint of dawn’s light. Being in a loft space just wouldn’t work. Even though I really wanted it to.

Number 2 definitely makes us feel spoiled and a little embarrassed by just how nice the grounds are. There is even a full-time guardian who looks after the property. There are 5 other units on the property and we’ve already met several of our new neighbors who have been really friendly.

Photo from here

An added bonus is that we have hot water in ALL the taps!!

Many homes here come fitted with a “widow-maker” or electric shower head which heats the water just enough to make for a semi-bearable shower, but that’s about it.

Lastly, this was by far our easiest (and cheapest) move. Jason made three trips in a tuk-tuk with our luggage, paying less than $10 total, and we were in! The kids have been swimming twice already and are loving it! We are feeling so happy to be in a space that we should get to stay in for the next six months. Now … to try to make it feel homey.

International House Hunting – Panajachel

Photo from here

We’ve been working to find long term housing for our six month stay here. We don’t think we are too picky, but it is not an easy task!

Our priorities are to find a: 2+ bedroom house or apartment for less than $500 a month, on a safe compound with an outdoor space for the kids (and us too!)

Here are our options at this point:

This first one is our current short term rental that the owner has offered to let us rent for our entire stay.

Option #4 — Some friends have offered their absolutely magnificent home for two months or so while they are away. It is such a tempting offer as the place is stunning! But, the thought of moving again in a couple months puts a damper on that idea, especially as we try to create some stability for our kids. I know it would be a hard transition for me to move from their lovely space to one that would likely be so much less lovely. It has been a wonderful kindness though to have a safety net as we look for long-term housing.

Going to Spanish school

We started Spanish classes yesterday! We are attending Jabel Tinamet five days a week, for an hour each day. An hour doesn’t seem very long, but I was definitely tired out afterwards! The kids have their own teacher, and Jason and I have our own which seemed to work well. The school has lovely garden and terraza spaces where the classes are held and overall it feels very pleasant. Day two is today!

Another homecoming — Lake Atitlán!

This summer was packed full of homecoming visits — we feel so blessed to have spent time in many of the places we’ve previously lived, and also in both our hometowns.

This week marked yet another homecoming. We arrived into Guatemala City, Guatemala on Thursday and after spending the night there, arrived back in Panajachel (Pana-ha-shell or Pana for short) on Friday. It was a beautiful day and packed full of sights, sounds, smells and people that we love.

This was the first time the kids had flown in over four years and they were thrilled by everything about flying which was a joy to experience with them. And a huge, huge praise that everything went just about as smoothly as it could for our travels. Now that we are on the ground here, it feels like pretty much everything is new for the kids and for us, it feels very new to have children in tow as we try to navigate the exciting and busy streets together on foot.

We are thrilled to be here and we feel so fortunate to get this opportunity to do this with our kids. It definitely feels surreal that we have finally arrived after so many months of preparing and and then being in transition.

We continue to ask for your prayers as we settle into our life here, that our eyes would be open to who or what God places in our path. We also do not yet have long-term housing and we especially pray for our kiddos as they transition to life here – we are all going to experience some big adjustments in the weeks ahead.