We’ve now been living in Panajachel for a week, and things are full of lots of highlights, and very few lowlights. I’ve asked all the members of the family to share some of their favorite things, in their own words, and so what follows here are the highlights for each person.
(Click below right to read more . . . )
#1 – (Erik) - Fixing the Cello with ease –
#2 – (Tera) – See our next blog post . . . . #12
#3 – (Emily) - Indigenous culture everywhere-
#4 – (Nathan) – Back to kid’s transportation independence
#5 – (Anna) – Panajachel is a great setting
#6 – (Tyler) – Making new friends with ease
#7 – (Megan) – Oh so many reasons
#8 – (Jacob) - Friends and Open Spaces
#1 – (Erik) Fixing the Cello with ease – One of the casualties of the road trip was Anna’s electric cello. With all the packing and unpacking, the scroll broke clean off, making us all very sad, though no one was surprised (you can only expect so much from a $300 electric cello amazon purchase). I initially thought it was destined for the trash heap, but Tera had more faith in my Mr. Fixit abilities, and she insisted we keep it and try to fix it. Once we got to Pana, I took it to the little carpenter shop across the street, and we glued it back together. Then I walked down the street to the hardware store, and bought four thin bolts and nuts, then I wandered around looking for a mechanic shop, and found one, and walked into the yard and asked them to make me four thin metal plates, with holes to serve as a brace plates that I could cinch down. The whole process took me 90 minutes, cost me 42 Quetzals ($6) and resulted in a repaired, playable cello. I love the fact that this was all done on foot, with no foreknowledge of where these places were. I just found them, knowing that they would be somewhere close. Had I tried to do this in Dallas, it would have taken me driving halfway around the city to find places to custom make these things.
#3 – (Emily) Indigenous culture everywhere - My favorite thing about Panajachel is the vibrant indigenous culture. The streets are full of women wearing embroidered shirts and woven skirts with hair wrapped up in bright cloth, carrying babies on their backs as well as baskets of vegetables on their heads. Kaqchikel, a Mayan language totally unrelated to spanish, is the native language of most people I meet. I appreciate how the Mayans market their handicrafts to the tourists so that they are able to preserve their traditions, and how they maintain the indigenous language along side spanish.
#4 (Nathan) – Back to kid’s transportation independence - When we lived in Holland, we (kids) were extremely transportation independent. We could bike to school, to friend’s houses, to the grocery store, to piano lessons, and to the church and the temple. When we briefly lived in Grapevine with our grandparents, we all missed that benefit of living in a biking-friendly community. We were always dependent on a driver and a car to get us where we wanted to go. Now, living in Panajachel, where the borders of the town on all four sides are a maximum 15 minute walk away, our independence is restored! We walk to seminary, walk to church, walk to our cousin’s house, walk to the grocery store, walk to the lake, walk to the soccer field, all in a 10 minute radius, on foot. It’s awesome! We have used our car twice in the week we have been here - once to go to the temple 2 hours away, once to go on a service project 45 minutes away.
#5 – (Anna) What a beautiful setting - I absolutely love this town. Although the streets aren't exactly well kept, they are bustling with people and vibrant with culture. There are shops with castoff Goodwill shipments, with new 'in style' clothes, and with traditional Guatemalan outfits. The outfits on the people are just as varied. There are open air markets on the street, a huge warehouse with individual stalls, and small supermarkets. I love the mix of expats living here, tourists visiting, and the people to whom this town is their entire life. But the town itself is simply gorgeous. There are trees everywhere, it's a 15 minute walk to the edge of the lake with the spectacular view there, and our little gated community with cute houses and luscious gardens. So overall, my favourite part of being here is the look and the culture of Pana. Everything is in walking distance, there are two temples, both within a 2 hours' drive.
#6 – (Tyler) Making new friends with ease - Living here in Panajachel for the past week has been wonderful. The views are spectacular, the locals living here are so nice and help me with my spanish and the house that we are in fits our needs perfectly. If I were to choose one thing that would be my favorite, it would be the people. There are a couple families at the church that I think we have gotten really close to and we are already really good friends. We have seen them every day since we got here and they know Spanish and English fluently which means my Spanish is getting better. I love it when people reach out to other new families because it makes them feel really welcome.
#7 – (Megan) Oh so many reasons - I love being here in Panajachel.
First, I love the people’s clothing because it is so colorful and also, everybody wears and sells it. I have seen a lot of shops out the street that all sell the same type of clothing;
Second, I love how there is nobody just begging on the street. They all are trying to work hard to earn their money. They either are selling stuff they make or selling stuff they grow.
I also love how everybody speaks spanish even though Kaqchikel is probably their first language. At first I thought the languages were similar but they are really different
Another thing is that it is so cool, is that everything is walkable. The lake, the market, the park, the grocery store, church, seminary, everything. It is sort of like the Netherlands where you can bike everywhere. It is really nice because then, you have more independence whereas in Texas you had to rely on someone to drive you to the library, or drive you to the store.
Everyone is super friendly too.
The lake here is gorgeous with the 3 volcanoes around it and especially when you can see the sunset behind the volcano.
There is a swing and a small zipline right outside. I go and play in it all the time. I have built a platform so that I can go higher on the swing because it is too long to do by yourself.
If you walk outside, you can usually see at least 2 stray dogs just walking around on the sidewalk, and then if you walk some more, you will see another, and another one because they are EVERYWHERE.
The temperature is always perfect because although it gets super hot, in the shade it is super nice to just sit in one of our 4 hammocks and read, or do math, or just do nothing and relax.
There are gorgeous hikes, waterfalls, viewpoints, nature reserves, and beaches. Everything is just so pretty! We went to a butterfly enclosure and the butterflies were so pretty, and some even land on you. There were green ones, pink and black ones, orange, yellow, purple, and every single combination of colors you can imagine. Then on a hike, we saw spider monkey playing in the trees, some other animal that looked like a super furry possum and lots of birds. We then walked down the rocks in the river rather than using the trail.
All in all, I just LOVE it here!
#8 – (Jacob) Friends and Open Spaces - I love being next to an open space, so I can run and play and drive my remote-control car, because Panajachel Is still developing but that means that there is a place to play. Also, we are right by everything, Lake Atitlan, the market, the church, etc.; we are right by some friends I sometimes play with on the swings, which means everyone is very friendly, which they are. Oh, and the temperature is amazing! It has never rained, it is always cool, but not too cool, and the plants still grow fine. Also, there are so many dogs! In one house there’s a guy who has five dogs! And when the dogs aren’t barking, the birds are tweeting, and it is so calm.
Plan? What plan?
Our first Gap Year was a fabulous "2017-2018 School Year" of travel: from the Netherlands to Jordan to Texas to Hawaii to Mexico to Central America to London and back to the Netherlands. Our "2018 Summer Vacation" took us all around Western Europe, back to the USA on a transatlantic cruise, a road trip through New York and into Canada, and ending up in Utah. We have now kicked off the "2018-2019 School year" with a trip to Asia. Follow along with us on our visits to new places, as well as revisiting some of our favorite places from our time living there. It's going to be great!!