How do you thank the man who had the vision to start this all? Photo by Jim.
The kitchen was closed that morning, a well deserved break after feeding 200. But that meant that not even coffee was ready! But as we loaded our luggage near the bug, Bob and Jacob Hentzen were waiting to say good bye. Bob is friendly, humble and kind. He appears somewhat uncomfortable with the “hoopla”, but his eye light up when he speaks with or hugs the children. I thanked him for getting up early to greet us. But he has been walking from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or later) for 1 1/2 years, so he graciously said it was late for him. He left us to walk down the hill to mass.
Without benefit of coffee, we loaded onto the bus. It was hard to say goodbye to the center that was our home for the week. As we crossed San Lucas, there were many signs of last night’s parade. Though we say clean up crews out already, there were still many bedraggled flowers and signs on the roadside.
About an hour later, we arrived at a lovely roadside restaurant, with sort of a Swiss chalet look. when we sat down, we were handed menus for the first time! We struggled a bit, since this was a skill we hadn’t developed yet – thought we had gotten pretty good at brief conversations with adorable children – but everyone seemed happy with what we ordered. While the prices seemed high because the quetzal is worth about 7 cents, the breakfast was about $7 each (and paid for by CFCA).
We headed on towards Antigua.
Kasey and Natalie at the museum. Photo from Natalie's camera!
We stopped a little ways outside of town and visited a coffee and music museum. The exhibits were interesting, particularly as a woman demonstrated ancient Mayan musical instruments. We sampled the coffee and had the first chance to shop in real stores!
After the final drive into Antigua, we let everyone “loose” in the city center four four hours, with cautions to stay in groups. This was the first true freedom for the kids.
Historic church on the main square in Antiqua. Photo by Natalie.
Antigua is a beautiful historic town — and a bit touristy. The square is lined with a great cathedral and many shops and restaurants. I had fallen in love with Quatemalan textiles over the past week and it was hard to chose which would go home with me. I had already purchased scarves and an embroidered piece in San Antonio, so I added an embroidered Mayan calendar and an embroidered blouse to my bag. I bought a bright necklace for my mother and was disappointed when I realized that it would be hard for her to put on and take off due to the clasp. I was tempted to buy a shirt for Steve, but fearful it would not be as charming for him. The arcades of Guatemalan merchandise were dense with sales people (and short on shoppers). ”I give you a good price” (spoken in English) was the most common sentence spoken. My negotiating skills improved as I paid half the asking price for the Mayan calendar!
Jim, Emmie, Katie and I had been together when we ran into Gloria, Joy, Amanda and Millie. We sat down for lunch and enjoyed the first glass on wine in a week (25 quetzals – about $2.50). We tried to order a second round, but they only had one more glass, so we shared it.
Emmie in Antigua. Photo by Natalie.
Katie and I shopped a bit more. I loved the market baskets the natives use and finally found a booth of them in an open air market. what a deal at 40 quetzals or about $6 (and I couldn’t bring myself to negotiate with that sweet elderly woman to save one or two dollars!) Katie found a beautiful gift for her parents.
Manuel, Brenda and Chico were always waiting patiently for us. Photo by Natalie.
We rejoined the group about 5:30 that afternoon. Everyone seemed happy – and a bit grateful to have split up for awhile! Chico suggested dinner at McDonald’s and the kids were thrilled. Kasey asked for more quetzals and went down the street to buy a striped jacket - that style was very popular with our kids.
Alex and Natalie sporting their striped jackets. Photo from Natalie's camera.
(Katie laughed because it’s the same they that was popular when she was in junior high!) Alex spent his last quetzals on a “has to be fake because it’s so cheap” soccer jersey at the open air market.
We piled onto the bus again and headed to a hotel. We knew it was small (we would be the only guests) and 2 blocks from the project we would visit the next morning. It was unlike any hotel I have stayed in. Two buildings with a courtyard in between. The girls were in one building; the boys in another. Most of the girls (except Joy and Gloria) were on the second floor at the top of a narrow staircase. One room had 5 beds, one had 3, one had a double. With a couch in the center and 3 bnaths it could have been nice, but the smell of mold was prevalent. With some broken windows to let the bugs in it was rustic at best, but it was home for the next 12 hours (and much nicer than the guest house that Katie stayed in for the Haitian trip!)
We all met in a small area near the boys’ rooms. I asked everyone to share their trip highlight reel (ESPN style). It was great to hear the stories. Each had a meaningful story to share. The stories created a colorful picture of love – and every significant part of our trip got mentioned by someone as a favorite!
Then we split up to write notes to Brenda, Manuel and Chico - who had been such wonderful hosts for the week. The girls retreated to our “suite”. We laughed and shared stories as we wrote our notes (and tried to protect the notes from the drops of condensation that fell from the ceiling!) Nicky created fun “folders” for the notes from construction paper that Milly had brought along.
We settled into our somewhat damp rooms for the night. Again, I was grateful for the ear plugs that Jim had brought along (from The Bridge supply!). There were fewer animal noises but they were replaced by city noises. Those ear plugs made all the difference in getting me the sleep I needed that week!