|Well, we made it. After all the last minute packing, cleaning, and various to-do’s, we headed off to LAX for a 4 hour later followed by a 1130p-615 am redeye (that’s 4:15 am to us west coast folk). Despite the hour, all went well. All the bags made it and our ride to Antigua was there with sign in hand. The sun quickly rose as we made our way out of Guatemala City. I’m sure there are some wonderful parts of the capitol city, but the part we saw was the same as most third world main cities: littered with billboards, polluting cars, noise, trash and fast foods. A short while later we found ourselves in Antigua. For those who have not been here, we highly suggest visiting. Antigua is an old colonial city, full of old buildings, cobblestone streets, beautiful cathedrals, colorful pain fading to a rainbow patina, and eye popping chicken buses. The city is made all the more majestic by the surrounding volcanoes and lush vegetation.
We met our family who we will be living with as soon as we arrived. Theresa (“Terry”) and Ronnie, and their 3 kids (Andres (9), Amilcar(12), and Maria Theresa(10)). Annika immediately bonded with Maria
, and the two of them were running around the house, holding hands and smiling within one hour. Alex likes the boys and is hoping to join in their soccer games, though they are MUCH more advanced, as ‘football’ is actually encoded in the DNA down here.
The family invited us out to their weekend place shortly after our arrival. They own a piece of land in a gated community 20 minutes outside of town. There is no house on the land, just a roped off square. But it gives them access to the compound pool, the play structure, and soccer field. The kids ran around while I napped on the lawn, in the sunshine, surrounded by the volcanoes (now closer and sputtering smoke), and dreamt of Pompeii. We came back to the city, had dinner with our new family, and quickly fell asleep. All the meals here are home cooked by Terry. There are always beans, rice, and tortillas (in some form), and other interesting dishes mixed in (vegetable soups, rice and milk breakfast soup, etc). The foods are very mild flavored, not the picante we were expecting (though we may be lulled into security by this-we’ll see). In addition to the strong Guatemalan coffee that gets Peter going in the morning (Raffa proof!), they serve a Corn coffee, which tastes remarkably like corn nuts.
The following day got off to a slower start, with Alex spiking a fever, Annika regurgitating her traditional Guatemalan meal to the porcelain gods and Gillian getting electrecuted in the shower. Luckily, all were better within a couple of hours, giving us the opportunity to hoof it around the city a bit and bask in the sunshine. Alex crashed and Annika and Gillian hopped a Chicken bus with the family to attend a mass for Ronnie’s abuela who had died. It was beautiful and moving. Guatemala is obviously very Catholic and the churches are packed wherever we go. All are decorated with very rudimentary creshes and this one even had a “ volcano” in it with a florescent bulb wrapped in orange cellophane for lava.
Being on a major fault line and surrounded by volcanoes does have some surprising advantages... and has filled the city with gorgeous ruins to visit. Being from SF we should be more comfortable with this threat but are not.
Monday we all started school. Peter and I both have our own teachers and the kids share a very kind teacher. The school is in a covered courtyard of sorts and the children have lessons in an open shed in the garden with lots of room for Alex to get his “ jumpies” out. It feels good to have the Spanish rolling off our tongues (well..sort of anyway).
So far I’d have to say we have lucked out. Great family, great school, gorgeous town and no major eruptions yet. Thanks for reading and thanks for all your well wishes.
Gillian, Pedro , Annika and Alejandro.