May 6, 2009

A WEEKEND IN THE COUNTRY: The world around you ought truly astound you (and not cause you to whine and complain)

Hola Everyone,

Huge everyday living of life gifts to share:

This past weekend Juan Carlos and I jumped into our old and trusted
¨Vanna White¨ and drove to Lake Atitlan for a visit with a friend at Lake Atitlan, Solola, Central America.

Our friend designed and built a lovely,
very rural, stone and hardwood home near the lakeside town of Santiago, Atitlan. Our weekend visit was grand experience (it´s our second time as guests at his home) and we are pleased to start to know some of his creative friends and interesting neighbors too.

Ken, our PAL, has a greener than green thumb and lives on the site of ancient Maya Royal Summer Enclave. Although the area was long ago covered by the Lake it is now withdrawing and revealing spectacular vistas and lush landscapes and wonderful irregular rock´s very beautiful and private as there is only one small dirt road that comes into the area.

The few residents must access their stunning, yet tucked away into the landscape, homes on foot. Most of the homes (there are only a handful and you can´t see them because of the cornfields and other hand worked farmland parcels inbetween) are eco-friendly with, blocklong dirt paths that provide access to them. The actual homes are hidden and roofpanels provide solar hot water heating (almost scalding hot even with overcast days). The major material for building each home is mostly natural stonework from the stones excavated on site and individual water wells and water tanks provide water and look like stonework watchtowers (and some of the tops have become little look out points)...all the vegetation and gardens grow abundant crops and endless acres of wild and planted flowers are visible. The rainy season has just started and will last until November.

The indigneous people in that area do beautiful weavings and often use natural dyes
and non-traditional materials like the inside of bamboo and other nature provided weaving construction elements as well as cotton and wool...all colorful, all exotic.

Lots of Maya history, both happy and tragic and the village is flanked on the lake by THREE enormous volcanos (non-active). Lake Atitlan is huge and deep and most villages are best accessed by motorboat (midday the winds come up and it is
Oceanlike in the center with strong/high waves which often can overwhelm the
unsuspected/unprepared). It´s a moving and spiritualike experience visiting Lake Atitlan.

Santiago Atitlan is the capitol of the Tzutujil Maya nation. read it all, click HERE

Sometimes I am privileged to stay at another lovely stone home of a different friend at yet another charming lakeside village. Dozens of tiny indigenous village dot the waterfront around Lake Atitlan, and most have a particular distictive cultural flavor.

A few years ago some of the small vulnerable villages were lost to mudslides during the aftermath of a very rainy hurricane. It was a very sad time.

This visit to Santiago I appreciated greatly the
environment of the ancient royal grounds of the Mayas as the area is quite thick feeling and heavy with calm serenity and peace. Outside of the two Scorpions we killed all was completely tranquil with
classical music seeping throughout the grounds (lots of extended garden and lush
overhanging porches/ferns, pitched/thatched roofs). The guest room was located in another stone outbuilding, complete with bath and kitchen.

The expansive and stone/bamboo enclosed grounds are very well layed out for appearance and practicality. The decor stunning, in a simple and straightforward and regionally authentic way. All handwoven textiles, handmade earthen pots, hardwood, and then bamboo furniture tinted a very dark, almost black, eggplant color and used throughout the thatched roof covered cottages, palapa and grounds.

It was a memorable weekend and Juan Carlos and Jennifer, a friend from San Francisco/Cal and San Miguel/Saq who joined up with us on Saturday, were the special guests at a elegant dinner party hosted on Saturday is especially nice when making new friends in a casual, yet elegant, atmosphere loaded with easy flowing chatter, good music, great food and good-will.

The Saturday night dinner party menu included Filet of Chicken Breast (a light sauce), Summer Squash with a Monterey Cheese Sauce, a local souffle of
another type squash and frothy mashed potatos too...Macadamia Pie for desert. All locally grown/made...all fresh from the garden(s) and local fincas. Juan Carlos and I both drank a light/natural local spiced tea (good for many things we are told) and others had a rich, flavorful, red wine.

We drove home Sunday afternoon through the rugged and breathtaking countryside. I enjoy driving by way of, and through, tiny indigenous villages (sometimes stopping)
and observing life in the ¨campo.¨

SIDE NOTE: In Guatemala there have not been any positive cases of Swine Flu but the border shared with Mexico is being heavily supervised by heath professionals and the airport too (12 daily flights arrive daily from Mexico City).UPDATED There is one case of Swine Flu (positive) that has just been announced. The 11 year old girl had returned from Mexico 10 days ago and is recovering strongly at a private hospital in Guatemala City after seeking/receiving the medical attention she badly needed.

Holy VACA! Please say hola to another friend we met along the road on the way home:

Abrazos to all!

·Thanks to Ken W.
·Thanks to Juan Carlos C. Fuentes/Photos
·Thanks to Vanna White


David G. said...

That poor cow looks emaciated.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

David, it´s just now the start of the Rainy Season...the cow, and the cow friends with her will be receiving plump grazing´s started to green up already!

Lynn said...

Ah, another set of lovely photos by Juan Carlos - they are so perfect for your travel logs!

I want some Macadamia Nut Pie, please. (No, actually, I want some chocolate).

Lynn said...

p.s. - David, about the cow? Now you know why they had chicken for dinner :-)

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Lynn, yes, the Macadamia Pie was wonderful (like pecan) but Chocolate is a force of life (besides it enhances ones twinkle)

Caminante said...

Estoy tan celosa... hace 22 años que no he visto Atitlan.

Pray that I can find the beautiful telas guatemaltecas que compré el año pasado en El Salvador y que perdí cuando cambié de casa.