A visit with friends in Guatemala

August 4th, 2016

When Olivia was a toddler, I moved to Antigua and rented a small house where we lived together while her adoption paperwork was being finalized. I studied Spanish a few afternoons a week, leaving Olivia in the loving and capable hands of nanny (and friend) Yoli Rodríguez. Yoli had children of her own, including her then-young son, known as Junior, who was a good “big brother” to Olivia, as well as to Maya, the daughter of another adoptive mom, Kallie K.

This summer in Guatemala, Yoli invited us to lunch at her home near Antigua, where we discovered photos of Olivia and me, and Kallie and Maya, displayed on Yoli’s living room wall, among Yoli’s other family pictures. Seeing the photos reminded me that our children remain in the hearts of their early caregivers, as their caregivers remain in ours.

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Birth family visit 2016

July 28th, 2016

Realize I never posted a photo from our visit this summer with Olivia’s birth mother in Guatemala. In the photo above, they’re walking into the church in Panajachel, where every year we pray together and light candles.
And in the photo below, from their first reunion, when Olivia was age seven, with Abuela.

 

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Guatemala calling

July 24th, 2016

In Guatemala, I use a tiny blue phone locals call a “frijolito,” because the phone size is like a little bean. You don’t need a complicated ownership plan, just add minutes with a phone card you buy at any tienda. Mateo and I arrived back in California, and this morning, my frijolito rang, which surprised me, because I thought I turned the thing off. And even more puzzling, the Guatemalan carrier is “Movistar,” which doesn’t exist in the US. Yet, just now a new message urged me to buy a phone card because, “Today is Quadruple Minutes!”

Feels like a small piece of Guatemala, calling out to me. xo

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Road trip to Tikal, details

July 6th, 2016

Everyone I know who visits Tikal flies via Guatemala City, but we decided to drive. On the way, we visited parts of Guatemala we’d read and heard about–Rio Dulce, Lake Izabel, and Livingston—and saw miles of near-desert and dense jungle vastly different from the familiar mountains and valleys of the country’s west and center.

Our group consisted of my children, fourteen-year-old Olivia, eleven-year-old Mateo, and I, along with good friends from our Bay Area adoption group, Michele S. and her ten-year-old daughter, Sofia. We hired a driver, Helmuth Leal, who owns the Antigua travel company, Caminos del Quetzal. Literally dozens of tour companies and shuttles run trips to Tikal. We chose Helmuth based on recommendations of others in our adoption community. The service he provided was terrific.

Guatemala is divided into twenty-two regions called departments, similar to our States, and enroute to Tikal we passed through nine of them: Solola, Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango, Guatemala, Progresso, Zacapa, Izabel, and Peten. Tkal is located in the middle of Peten, the largest and most northwestern department, bordering Mexico to the north and west and Belize to the East. The distance from Guatemala City is about three hundred thirty miles. We started our trip in Panajachel, which added another hundred.

The trip took six days, with two days dedicated to driving. The cost was about twice as much as the price of five people flying round trip from Guatemala City to Flores, Tikal’s nearest airport. Bear in mind, the price included hotels, transport, and Tikal Park admission.

Before leaving for Tikal, our families had spent a week at Lake Atitlan, and Helmuth picked us up there on Sunday at 6 AM. If I were to do it again, to save travel time, I would start in Antigua. Lesson learned. We stopped for breakfast at the restaurant Chichoy, between Lake Atitlan and Antigua, and snacked in the van until we arrived almost at Rio Dulce. I say almost, because it was while on the road that we learned the meaning of the word pinchazo—flat tire. The incident added to the adventure.

Once in Rio Dulce, we unloaded our luggage onto a riverboat and cruised over to the rustic and charming Hotel Catamaran. The cabins were simple and clean, with ceiling fans we grew to cherish—that part of the country is hot! and humid!–and no internet access. The no-internet theme was repeated for the rest of the week, and for the first time I could remember, I truly felt off the grid. Continue… »

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Road trip to Tikal

June 25th, 2016

Olivia, Mateo, and I just returned from visiting the great Mayan pyramids in Tikal, which is the reason I’ve been incommunicado. Not even phone reception in some places. I can’t remember when I’ve been so off the grid. We’ve been traveling with another family from our adoption group, Michele S. and her daughter Sofia, and the kids got along great. We drove through 9 departments in Guatemala–departments are like our states; there are 22 total–and saw a part of the country completely different from the highlands, where we usually go. The east and north are very dry and then very jungle.

We spent a night or two in Rio Dulce (details are a blur at this point!), which is beautiful and like I imagine the Amazon to be. We took a boat ride down the river and stopped at a hot springs, where a natural healer named Felix massaged the sulphur sands into my bad knee, and for good measure, the other knee, too. The kids loved soaking in the scalding hot water. An amazing day.

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Pastores

June 12th, 2016

 

The town of Pastores near Antigua is known for its leatherwork. The main street is lined with shops where craftsmen custom-make boots and belts and handbags. My favorite wallet, of leather and cloth, was made in Pastores. We visited last summer with a friend whose daughter rides horses, and left with a handsome pair. I stumbled on these photos in an old file, and remember the happy day.

 

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GuatAdopt Gathering 2016

May 31st, 2016

I’ve posted a few snaps from our annual GuatAdopt party, taken by the multi-talented Ginny C. Everyone agreed this was the best bash ever–our kids have grown up together, and we have too. Friends pitched in with set-up and break down, and pot-lucked delicious side dishes and salads to complement Tim’s wizardry at the grill. How lucky we are to be part of this group!!! xoxox

 

 

 

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Gathering

May 28th, 2016

Sunday is our annual party for adoptive families with ties to Guatemala. So if today you saw a crazed lady steering a mondo cart through the aisles of Costco, that was me. The weather forecast is great, and for once, we’re ahead of schedule with cleaning and prep-work. (After five+ years, I think we’ve finally gotten the system down. ) Looking forward!!! xoxox

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My mother the Rockette

May 24th, 2016

My son Mateo may be my mother’s biggest fan. We’ve visited Radio City Music Hall in NYC and he’s fascinated that his grandma once danced on that great stage as a Rockette.  Five shows a day, fifty weeks a year, for five years.

While searching on the internet, Mateo found this vintage photo of my mother, as she’s getting fitted for her costume for the Music Hall’s famed Christmas Show, circa 1950.

Thank you, Mateo. I love everything about this picture.

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Butterfly

May 17th, 2016

Brag Alert: My niece, Astrid Swensen, made a Trials cut for the US Olympic Swim Team, in 200 Butterfly. (Translation: she gets to compete in a big meet to see if her time qualifies her for the team.) I love the slogan she’s standing in front of: “It’s not every 4 years; it’s every day.”

Don’t those words apply to so many things? I’m thinking parenting, family relationships, friendships, exercise, healthy eating, and because I’ve set a goal to finish the draft of a novel, writing. It’s not enough to wish the pages were finished. I’ve got to make time to sit in a chair and get focused and do the hard work. Every day.

Kind of like swimming length after length of a pool, whether you feel like it or not. There is no easy way. Only the hard work. Every day.

This is Astrid’s second Trials. She qualified the first time at fifteen years old. She’s now eighteen. Read more about the amazing Astrid in my previous blog posts: Brag Alert; My Niece, the Swimmer, and A Lesson From My Niece.

Congratulations!

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