If I haven’t told you this yet, I belong in Guatemala. Have you ever been abroad in a place that you fell truly in love with, that is Guatemala. Everything about my time there I remember with fondness and love, I eagerly want to return and spend more time exploring it. My parents and boyfriend have expressed an interest in coming with me too, and honestly, I would love them to. A lot of people will ask me why, what is the fuss, and I can give you a million examples of why I love it but I also can’t quite put my finger on what makes the place so utterly spectacular and homely.
My adventure started in Panajachel, a small town where we only stopped over for the evening before getting on a boat to cross the stunning Lake Atitlan. We stayed only for the night in this small town, a lay over really, but I decided to go for a wander and try to discover some little bits of it. Straight away I began to fall in love with Guatemala, art everywhere, the gorgeous tapestries, the music. I was excited to see more, and Daniel (our guide) had assured me that San Juan La Laguna was the place to visit.
The next morning we got in our small boats and sailed across the lake. San Juan la Laguna is an incredible little village, it works alongside G Adventures and Planeterra to help bring education, tourism and prosperity to the region. All the businesses are local and work as cooperatives to help and support each other. We had the chance to visit some of the businesses ourselves and talk to them.
We began by visiting the weaver women. They showed us how to weave cotton thread out of wool, how to naturally dye the cotton and keep the colour from fading by using boiled banana bark water. We then admired their craftsmanship and I even bought a scarf, hand made and dyed, and had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful lady who made it for me, Rosa.
We then visited an art gallery, where we learnt about different painting techniques that are used here. Some of the traditional paintings are of all the local dresses from across the country, they all differ a bit. They also make birds eye views paintings, mostly of working environments in the fields and fishing, traditional images of work. Here I purchased the most stunning painting of a Quetzal, the endemic and national bird, also the name of the currency of the country.
Finally, we visited a group of homeopathic traditional mayan doctors. This was really cool! I love natural medicine and find that it works wonders with me and my family. They told us of a lot of treatments with herbs that are very easily found. I suggested some teas for mum for high blood pressure and snoring.
After a very busy day discovering so much of this wonderful place and culture, we headed off for the evening with our families. I absolutely love homestays, you really get to know people from the culture and live their realities, help them, talk to them and support them. It is a wonderful thing to do and I could not recommend it more. Our father for the evening, Juan Diego, is one of the local artists and his paintings revolve around the traditional outfits. We had a lovely evening, playing football with the children and learning each other’s languages.
The following day we said our sad goodbyes, which for the locals is just another day waiting for the next group of tourists. However, it feels like such a simple thing, a simple evening with a family that after 3 months without one fills a little warm place in my heart. This is where it all began for me, my love affair with Guatemala started here and the rest of the journey was just as wonderful. I am excited to share more of it with you all, but mostly, I am excited to write to my temporary family and also return to Guatemala.