Sunday, March 12, 2006

lago atitlan

Lago Atitlan is about 2 1-2 hours away from Xela, but our trip back today took about 4. We arrived in Panachel around 1 and found the 1 direct but to Xela. We got on. We sat, we waited. 30 minutes later, as the black smoke rose from the tailpipe, we took a little tour through the town, only to come back to the same place (facing the other direction) and rest for another 5 minutes. Finally, the green, white and orange striped schoolbus was full, and we took off. As we ascended the first hill from the lake to the mountains, boom, clank, thud, stop. We all sat, looking around, wondering what was happening. Scott, who had chosen to get off his last bus (2 weeks ago) from Atitlan to Xela becasue of smoking tire problems, suggested that we do the same. I flipped the emergency exit handle and hopped out the back of the bus. I looked aorund to see the driver, lying underneath the bus, fiddling with the broken rotor (I think thats the name of the thing that connects the 2 wheel axels. . . ) We knew not to wait, luckily none of us had paid, or put our backpacks on the roof of the bus, so we hopped off, hailed down the next bus, and got on. About 25 people joined us, making the already full bus, even more full. A fellow with a big hat fell asleep on my arm. I met a couple whom had graduated from Oberlin in 91. They happen to be studying at the same school, hmmmmm. small. . . . .

The new bus took us to Sonola, where we got out and transfered to another bus to Los Encuentros. IT was also very crowded, nonetheless, a boy walked on and started handing out honeyroasted nuts, shouting, ¨manis manis manis, uno quetzal¨ I bought a little bag and munched them as we headed off the los encuentros. There were 7 people in my row designed to fit 4 school children.

We got off at los encuentros and transferred to another bus for cuatro caminos, where we would finally meet a bus to Xela. The rest went smoothly, and now I{m back at Xela.

So Lago Atitlan was entertaining. We (7 folks from my school) stayed at a 3 room Hacienda style hotel complete with mud walls, stone sinks, and lake water showers. It was owned by a curly white haired, 60ish, jewish, gloucester raised, ex-pat, woman named Terry. She invited us to her treehouse home to sample some of her cert org homegrown coffee and listen to her strum the guitar and sing songs of guatemalan history and hardship. Later that night we saw her again playing her flute along with a hippy dippy latin band called Mamalapacha. Actually, even though the band was lousy, they were playing at a commune place where the 4 resident families open their ¨grounds¨ every afternoon for children to come engage in creative art projects, dance and circus arts. Sadly a lot of it was disturbed during a recent hurricane (It wasn{t Katrina, I forget what it was named). In fact a lot of the lake area was destroyed, but the expat population seems to be pumping money into the economy adn the recovery is going ok (from my uneducated eyes).

In general, our weekend involved learning the gringofied area known as Lago Atitlan. The departure city (where we left from Friday night), called Panajachel reeks of pot and there are lots of pizza places and cheap hotels. From Pana, it{s possible to catch little boats that take you to the other towns. Each town has it{s own little personality. We stayed 2 nights in San Marcos, the ¨chill¨ place with lots of message, ¨wellness¨ centers and folks like Terry. San Pedro, where we went on Saturday afternoon, has a party, and study, reputataion. I may return there for a week (I could swim and not be too cold for a week, nice). I looked around at a few schools, trying to determine which was best, but quickly realized that I couldn´t tell becasue theyñre all similar, small thatched roof huts with little tables and 2 chairs. Also, all have words like [cooperative or volunteer or development in their titles. They realize that the target audience has left leaning sentiments, but that few actually want to get their hands wet in volunteer opportunities. I may return.

There is Santa Cruz, which is sorta chill, sorta party. Lonely planet reports, and others confirm that there is a cross dressing party every Saturday night. Then there is Jaibalito, which is small and has only one hotel called Casa Del Mundo. We went there to swim, drink liqidos (smoothies) and play scrabble in their spic and span surroundings. Then we hiked back to San Marcos. Next weekend there is a ¨folk fest¨ in Santiago, a pueblo that we didn{t visit.

Thats it for this weekend


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