After a four hour bus ride, we finally arrived at our quaint hotel in Panajachel, Hotel El Aguacatal. We dropped our stuff off and crossed the Atitlan Lake. It was spectacular to be in the middle of a lake that was surrounded by volcanos, especially since I had never seen a volcano before.
Once we made it across the lake to Santiago, the boat pulled up to a rickety dock which was next to a few abandoned buildings that were half way underwater, obviously due to erosion and the rising of water level. We then ventured to the Catholic Church where we met up with Juan Ramirez and David, a Canadian who was with the Mennonite Central Community organization. They taught us about Father Stanley Rother and gave us a tour of the museum dedicated to him. We actually got to go into the room, which is now a chapel, that Father Rother was shot in. It was beautiful to see how much respect the community has for the martyr to this day.
After the tour, Juan and David led us to ANADESA or Panabaj where our group was fed chicken chow mein. Hattie and I were presented with specially cooked potatoes and guacamole because of our special dietary needs, and let me just say, they were to die for. We had the honor of meeting the women who prepared our delicious meals and they also presented us with their intricate bead work, homemade ointments for muscle pain and homemade vapor rub, which are all made from natural ingredients. David and Juan also talked to us about a brief history of Panabaj, specifically about the armed forces that came in and took the lives of locals during the civil war and the mudslide that also took many lives and ruined homes of the locals. It was really impressive and interesting to see the progress of the community in terms of rebuilding and developing their district. After we had lunch and browsed through the items the women were selling in Panabaj, we crossed the river back to our hotel so we could shop at the jewelry/leather/craft stands that lined the street, Calle Santander. We all met up in the room where Caitlyn, Hattie and Gretchen and I were staying, after coming back from Calle Santander. Caitlyn and Cassandra came back to the hotel showing off the exquisite turquoise bracelets and necklaces that they had got great deals on. While the group waited for dinner time, we all squeezed on the big queen sized bed that was in our room while we listened to the rain and gabbed about funny stories from our embarrassing high school days. We then went to dinner and everyone got pastas, pizzas, and/or salads. After dinner everyone was pooped from the long day and turned in for bed.
– Text and Photos by Maria Weber