Posts Tagged ‘heritage trips to Guatemala’

Museo Casa del Tejido

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Behind the municipal Mercado in Antigua is the small, family-run Museo Casa del Tejido, a sumptuous collection of hand-made textiles from every department of Guatemala. Technically, the address is First Calle Poniente no. 51, but you’re better off finding it by going to the top of Santa Lucia near the ruins of La Recoleccion and walking straight back. The admission is not too much, and for a small fee, they’ll let you take pictures. Our guide spoke English fluently and taught us a lot.

Don’t go in expecting sealed cases and precious pieces protected from light and dust. This isn’t that kind of museum. Here, the traje of embroidered blouses and woven skirts are hung on rods or simply nailed to the wall, often approximating the figure of a person who might wear it. A stroll through the galleries impresses anyway, especially for anyone who loves textiles. Each weaving and embroidery is a unique balance of composition and color and story, beautiful in its own way.

If you visit Antigua, particularly with your children, schedule time for the Casa del Tejido. Afterwards, meander through the market for a perfect half-day.

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Pacaya 2015

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Mateo and I climbed Volcano Pacaya in February 2013 and I remember the trip as rigorous and hard. Something I was proud to have done, which I never needed to do again. Until this past July, when Mateo and I rented a house in Antigua with 10 other people–four adoptive families from the Bay Area, friends all–who really, really wanted to climb Pacaya this trip back. In fact, climbing Pacaya was the Number One item on their wish list of Things to Do in Guatemala. Pacaya was a must. We couldn’t leave without climbing it!

Good sport that he is, Mateo agreed, and talked me into accompanying him. I’m so glad he did. This time we hired a guide on-site–a family of guides, actually: a young mother and her son, and her mother, the boy’s Abuela (see photo above), and various helpers–who led us up a gentler path than the one we traversed in 2013. The family of guides came equipped with horses, two of which members of our party chose to ride. The rest of us soldiered forth, walking sticks in hand, until we reached the summit. Marshmallows were roasted, and piles of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches consumed. Before we headed down, fistfuls of sweet vanilla cookies were scarfed, rightfully earned.

The day was misty and overcast,  the gray sky threatening rain. We finished before the deluge, victorious.

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Antigua nostalgia

Friday, July 31st, 2015

During my trip to Guatemala with Olivia this summer, I felt very nostalgic for our earliest days together, when I moved to Antigua and we lived in a small house to wait for her adoption paperwork to be finalized. We were first getting to know each other then, and many of those days weren’t easy.

I remembered the hours we passed playing at Antigua’s Mickey D’s, wandering through the markets, and admiring the artwork painted on the sides of local buses. I also remembered the care shown to Olivia by our dear Guatemalan friend Yoly, who babysat during the afternoon hours I studied Spanish.

As I watched Olivia navigate her life in Guatemala this June–confident, happy, independent–I thought, How far we have come. ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Choco Museo

Friday, July 17th, 2015

This week, we went to the Choco Museo on Antigua’s Fourth Calle to watch a demonstration on chocolate, from cocao bean to market shelf. Our English-speaking guide, Pablo, captivated our group of six Guatemalan-born kids with hands-on activities and tales of the bean. After two hours, we each took home the fruits of our labor–a personal cache of artisan chocolate. Beyond. Beyond! ~

 

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Oscar Peren in Comalapa

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

I first learned of painter Oscar Peren when I lived in Antigua with Olivia in 2003. Another waiting adoptive mom who was fostering her daughter knew a lot about art, and lent me a book about Guatemalan artists, past and present. There, I read about painters from the town of Comalapa, including Oscar Peren. I was familiar with Peren’s name because a poster of his painting, “The Guatemalan Bus,” hangs in a bookstore in Antigua’s Square. I loved the picture’s humor and color, and wanted to see Peren’s work in person.

We hired a driver and Olivia and I made the pilgrimage to Peren’s Comalapa studio to meet him. The place was everything I hoped for: walls covered floor to ceiling with paintings, each one confident and beautiful and witty. I bought 3 pictures that day, which hang in our house in California. Each time I look at them, I see something more in the canvases.

This trip, we visited Oscar Peren’s Comalapa studio again, and I told him about our 3 pictures. I also told him how much my now 13-year-old daughter loves to paint and draw and sew–to make anything with her hands–and Oscar Peren nodded. He told Olivia he himself began to paint at the age of 3, and urged her to continue. He called Olivia, “La Futura.”

In the photo I’ve posted, you can see Olivia with Oscar Peren. Notice the canvas to Olivia’s left. It’s a self-portrait of Oscar Peren at age 3, barefoot and in a doorway, peeking in to observe the master painter who became Peren’s teacher. We bought the picture, and when we return to California, that self-portrait will hang in Olivia’s room. ~

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San Juan La Laguna

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

Dear Mateo,

We took the boat to San Juan, a village on Lake Atitlan known for its women’s weaving cooperative. The weavers use only natural dyes, made from herbs and spices and bark and berries. To give you an example: the red shawl I bought was dyed with carrots and paprika. I will show you when we get home.  Here are some photos that show the process. You can see the balls of threads and the elements they use to dye them.

Also: Notice the church, San Juan Bautista (that means “John the Baptist” in Spanish): the new structure was constructed behind the original facade, still standing a few hundred years after being built. You see the old wall, and the entrance hall from the old building. Then you see a whole new church.

Next time you come with me to Guatemala, we can visit San Juan if you want. It’s a very cool little town. We’ll take the boat from Panajachel. Remember when we did that with Olivia’s birth family? They loved seeing the volcanoes.

Dad said you are doing a page of math problems every night. I hope that is true!!!

We miss you!

xoxoxoxo,

Mommy

 

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The Vendor Jesus

Monday, June 15th, 2015

If you happen to be in Panajachel, Guatemala, please buy a card from my 14-year-old friend, Jesus. Three years ago, Jesus spotted my son Mateo and me through a school window in Santa Catarina, a nearby village–we do stand out–and the next day, ran after us on the street in Panajachel.”I saw you in Santa Catarina,” he said, in perfect English. “You want to buy a card?”

Every year since then, Jesus has found us, and every year, we buy more and more cards. This trip, Olivia and I were waiting for a ride to our next destination when out of nowhere bounds Jesus, clutching a bundle of cards encased in plastic, calling “Senora, senora!” I was happy and relieved to see him. When we’d been in Pana a few days, and he hadn’t yet materialized, I worried.

Ask Jesus for a discount, but be warned that he bargains hard. At some point during the negotiation, in a serious voice, he probably will utter his favorite phrase, “Business is business.”

Here are two photos of Jesus’s wares–details of the embroidered blouses known as huipiles–and, above, a picture of him with Olivia and an Abuela, who, by the way, gifted me with a lovely textile to wrap tortillas.

 

 

 

 

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Semana Santa 2013. Carpets, Rugs, Alfombras

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Finally, I’m posting photos of just a few of the amazing alfombras Olivia and I saw during our trip to Antigua over Semana Santa. In Guatemala, unlike in the US, Good Friday is the day considered most significant, which is why a friend of mine, a Catholic nun who lives in-country, describes Guatemalans as “Good Friday Catholics” versus Catholics in the US, whom she labels “Easter Catholics.” Having now participated in my first Semana Santa, I understand what she means.

Driving to Antigua from the airport, our cab driver had told us that the most spectacular carpets of all of Semana Santa could be seen on a street on Antigua’s north end called Calle Ancha. Teams of artists would have started construction around midnight on Holy Thursday; the earlier we arrived on Good Friday morning, he said, the better. Five AM was the hour he recommended, because that day’s procession started from the church known as La Merced around then, and would arrive at Calle Ancha by 7. As I explained in an earlier blog post, an essential element of constructing the carpets—for the artist and viewer—is watching them destroyed by the feet of the hundreds of pilgrims walking over them as they carry the procession platforms. To see the work intact, we needed to get there early.

Another adoptive mom, Rebecca, and I, slipped out of our hotel and were headed north by 5:30. After a few false turns and a run back to my room for my camera, which in my pre-coffee haze I had forgotten, Rebecca and I found Calle Ancha. Spectacular. Unforgettable. Worth every effort.

What I hadn’t expected, although I should have, was the tone of the day, and every day during Semana Santa, really. “Reverent, solemn, prayerful” are the most accurate descriptors. ”Artistic, creative, witty” are a close second. The processions themselves will require a separate post—in their own way, they were as gorgeous and impressive as the carpets.

Semana Santa stands out as one of the best experiences we’ve ever had in Guatemala. We’d love to return to see it again.

I hope you get there, too. Just be sure to make your reservations early! ~

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Back to reality

Monday, April 15th, 2013

This week, both kids finally are back in school, and life, I hope, will return to some semblance of normal. First Mateo had what is called in these parts “February ski week,” and because we don’t ski, he and I flew down to Guatemala together, and among other things, climbed a volcano, about which I wrote here. Two weeks later, Olivia and I shared 14 wonderful days in Antigua and Panajachel during her Spring break, which happily coincided with Guatemala’s famous Semana Santa and the holiday schedules of several other adoptive families, with whom we shared many laughs, meals, and unforgettable experiences such as making chocolate, visiting the Zoo and Children’s Museum, crashing the pool and playground at Hotel Antigua, and engaging in philosophical discussions about adoption, parenting, the politics of Guatemala, and other subjects about which we all obsess. In addition, we visited with Olivia’s birth family, the true purpose of our trip, as you no doubt already know if you’re reading this. I believe I speak for everyone involved when I say how deeply grateful I am to feel our relationship develop.

Olivia and I flew home late last Sunday night—exhausted but happy, and only one of us sick (my usual bug that I cannot seem to avoid, and to which Olivia thankfully seems genetically impervious). And while Olivia returned to school early Monday morning, Mateo did not. For, oh yes, Monday heralded the start of yet another vacation for my dear boy, his official April Spring break. How do parents manage who work regular hours in offices?

Anyway, this week, we’re back on track and I plan to begin writing again, especially about Semana Santa before the details fade, and now that I’m almost finished whittling down the stacks of bills, papers, taxes, and laundry that seem never, completely, to disappear.

But I cherish the weeks I had alone with each of my children, who fascinate, challenge, and energize me, and whom I madly love. I wouldn’t trade a minute.

The photo above was taken on my birthday last year while we visited my sister Deanna and her family in Boston, and is the only recent one I can find that shows the three of us together. The talented De made the cake from scratch, gluten-free. Kind of wish I had a slice right now. Mmm-mmm!

xo

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The next visit

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

I feel guilty even writing this but I’m gearing up for another trip to Guatemala. For close to a decade, I’ve promised myself that one of these years I’d be in Antigua for Semana Santa, the holy week that leads up to Easter. That year finally has come. Only Olivia and I are going; my husband and Mateo will hold down the fort here. For the past weeks, I’ve been accumulating small gifts for Olivia’s family there, which is always fun. By now I know their favorite colors and tastes, the things they like and what they need. Our gigantic suitcase is filled.

The best part is putting together the photo album from the previous year’s visit. I love watching Olivia and her family page through it together, laughing at some remembered event—Dulce getting a ribbon woven into her hair, or Santiago eating an ice cream cone at Pollo Campero. Everyone will remark on how tall Olivia is compared with last year, and how her hair is still beautiful, but different. I’ll be amazed at how much her brother and sister have grown up, and delighted to see the family look happy and healthy.

A big part of loving someone, I think, is sharing a history with them. How grateful I am that we’re able to help Olivia create a history with her birth family. How lucky I am to watch it develop.

 

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