Wednesday, May 14, 2014


May 9, 2014

I felt well enough to get up on Friday, but was still bruised and moving slowly.  We turned the boat around so that we could better connect to the wi-fi antenna and I spent the day researching places to go in Central America and arriving at a tentative itinerary.  I did not, however, feel up to going into Tapachula to buy a bus ticket.  By the end of the day, I felt sufficiently recovered to go up the main mast and help Scott take down the mainsail.  The car for the roller furling was sticking at the upper joint in the housing.  I had to pry the housing aside with a big screw driver to let it slide past.  That didn’t turn out to be the best thing to do with sore ribs, since I had to lean against the shrouds to do so, but we got the sail down quickly and I came back to earth.

With the improved wi-fi reception, Scott and I were able to watch Netflix again, which was a big treat.  We binged on a few episodes of Breaking Bad and then I made a spicy stew out of the last hunk of Salvadoran milk cow and leftover veggies.  The beef wasn’t bad if I cut all the gristle out before cooking it, drenched it in tenderizer and then stewed it for a couple of hours.  This probably explained why so many Mexican dishes are stews with small pieces of meat.

May 10, 2014

Ironic Muddy Road Under Sign Advertising
Success of Road Repairs
My mission for the day was to go into Tapachula and buy my ticket to Guatemala.  I couldn’t make any further plans until I knew when I was leaving.  I got up and headed into town after breakfast.  I walked up to the road and only had to wait a minute or two before a collectivo came along.  The collectivos that serve the marina also make a loop around the part of the port that serves the fishing fleet.  There were a couple of tuna canneries there and the smell was foul.  Being Saturday, traffic was light until we got to town.  I got off at the Walmart and then got a taxi to take me to the bus station.  The security guard in the parking lot called a taxi for me so that I would get one that charged fair prices.  It cost me 35 pesos to get to the bus terminal.  My taxi driver was named Francisco.  It took us quite a while to drive across Tapachula through the traffic, so we had plenty of time to chat.  The condition of the side streets in Tapachula was deplorable and seemed even worse with all the potholes filled with water from the rains.  We weaved all over the road, trying to avoid the deepest pits.

ADO Bus Terminal in Tapachula
The bus company that runs international buses all the way from Chiapas to Panama is called Tica Bus.  Tapachula is the end of the line.  There is only one bus that leaves each day and it leaves at 7:00 AM.  When I got there about 10:30, the Tica Bus terminal was locked up tighter than a drum.  A young man who worked for a hotel across the street solicited my business.  I told him I would make a reservation after I bought my ticket and asked him about the Tica Bus terminal.  He told me that the ADO bus terminal sold tickets when the Tica Bus terminal was closed.  I stood in line to buy my ticket.  The ADO terminal was busy, but I had no problem getting a seat on the bus to Guatemala City for Monday.  I selected a window seat in the front row so that I could see the scenery even if all the shades were drawn.  The ticket to Guatemala cost 290 pesos (just over $22.)

Hotel Lux
After buying my ticket, I crossed the street to the Hotel Lux.  My young friend showed me the rooms.  They were tiny, but clean and nice.  At 200 pesos (about $16), the price was right.  I needed a room so that I could be there in time for the 7:00 AM bus.  I really wanted a room with air conditioning, but the air conditioned room was behind the front desk and didn’t have a window.  It must have been for the night clerk.  It was just too claustrophobic for me and would have been noisy, too.  I settled for a room upstairs with a fan.

I caught a cab in front of the bus station.  The security guard at the Walmart had been correct about the difference in taxis.  The ride back to Walmart cost 10 pesos more and the driver wasn’t even friendly.  Once I got to Walmart, I needed to buy some luggage for my trip.  When we flew to Huatulco back in March, we had been concerned with packing as much stuff as possible into bags that would then collapse so that we could stuff them in a locker.  Consequently, we had brought large duffel bags.  With my tender ribs, I needed something with wheels so that my bag wouldn’t constantly bang into my bruises when I walked.  I bought a medium sized rolling duffel bag and a small day pack to bring on the bus.

Shopping completed, I crossed the road and spent 20 minutes waiting for a collectivo to the Zona Naval.  When one finally came, there was only one seat remaining and it was in the back corner.  My duffel bag and I had to climb across three rows of passengers to reach the seat.  The only way I could do that was to put the bag in the seat first and then climb back there.  As there wasn’t enough leg room to put the bag (even empty) on the floor, I had to shove it out the window in order to turn around and sit.  I amused all my fellow passengers as I contorted myself into that tiny space.  I rode the first five kilometers or so with my neon blue duffel bag hanging out the window.  Fortunately, people started to disembark just outside the city limits and there was soon enough room for everybody to spread out.  The Zona Naval collectivos also go to Puerto Chiapas, but the Puerto Chiapas collectivos do not continue on to the marina and the Zona Naval.  It took about an hour to get back to the marina.  The 20 peso fare was a great deal.

Enlarged Hatch to Allow Removal of Engine
Scott had removed the semi-permanent hatch, thinking that they were going to pull the engine that day, but no one ever materialized to do so.  I spent the afternoon sorting through my belongings and deciding what could stay on the boat, what needed to go back to Benicia with Scott and what I would take with me on my travels.  While I would be traveling lighter than I ever had before, there was still a lot to bring.  I discovered that rain water had been leaking into the locker where I had stored long pants and other clothes I wasn’t wearing.  I had to hang everything out to dry before I could pack it.  Dark clouds were looming on the horizon and it was a race to get things dry before it started raining again.  I packed everything I was leaving on the boat into plastic bags.  There was one large duffel to go home.  My clothes were in the rolling duffel and my computer, books, snacks and toiletries were in my daypack.  I was ready to go.

The sky really opened up just as I finished packing.  There was thunder and lightning all around and it sounded like someone was banging on the deck.  In a lightning storm, it gives one pause to know that you are sitting under a 65’ metal mast.  I made pupusas and chicken parmesan (a strange combo, I know, but I was trying to use up perishables) for dinner while rain drummed on the roof.  While the rain brought cooler temperatures (if you can call 91 degrees cool), it required us to close the hatches.  With humidity at 94% outside and probably higher in the galley, I had to mop the sweat off my face every couple of minutes.  I was starting to dream of cool cloud forests and air conditioned buses and hotel rooms.

May 11, 2012

Sunday was a slow day.  Nothing happened in the engine repair department.  We lounged around and watched Netflix.  I finished my packing.  About 2:30, we took a collectivo to Tapachula.  It was Mother’s Day, so it was very slow.  That was good because there was room for my luggage.  We decided to continue past the Walmart and see where the collectivos turned around before getting off.  The folks at the marina couldn’t tell us because they never used them.  It turned out that we only had to walk about four blocks to get to the hotel.  The downside of that was that it happened to be pouring rain at the time.  The streets were full of water up to our ankles.  Scott had to carry my bag on his shoulder because we couldn’t use the wheels.

Room in Hotel Lux
The hotel was pretty basic, but the clerk was friendly and the rain made it cool enough that we were comfortable with just the ceiling fan.  I had planned to explore downtown Tapachula a bit, but it was raining too much for that.  We watched TV for a bit and then went down the street to get a couple of beers.  We actually had to check five restaurants before we found one that sold beer.  We drank our beers and shared an order of French fries.  Then we went upstairs and lounged for a while before going out for dinner.  There was a place on the corner that advertised real steaks, but they were out and only had the usual arrachera, although they made it very well and didn’t overcook it for once.  I had some lovely shrimp in garlic sauce.

May 12, 2014

I had to get up at 5:30 because my bus left at 7:00.  My shower was cold, but there was hot water by the time Scott got there.  We left the hotel about 6:30 and got tamales and coffee for breakfast.  The tamales were huge and only cost 9 pesos (about 70 cents.) I couldn’t even finish mine.  After breakfast, we checked my luggage and then waited a bit.  The bus was right on time, so I kissed Scott goodbye and left him to find his way back to the marina.  There were only four of us on the entire bus.  I had reserved a seat in the front so that I could see out, but they had strung a curtain across the front, too.  Fortunately, since the bus was almost empty, I was able to open the side curtain.

Old Palm Grove
Once we left Tapachula, the scenery changed dramatically.  The vegetation became much lusher and we crossed several rushing rivers as we started to climb into the mountains.  Quite soon, we came to the Guatemalan border.  The border was a zoo.  The pasengers had to leave the bus and walk across the border.  The Mexican side was easy.  We went into the immigration office and they stamped our passports.  When we came out, all hell broke loose.  We were mobbed by people changing money and others who insisted that only they could handle the Guatemalan immigration process for us.  I really never did determine the actual situation.  A young man took my passport and a hundred dollars and then his partner insisted that they needed more money.  It ended up costing me $180 dollars, but I did get my passport stamped and returned to me.  Fortunately, I hadn’t changed all of my money, since they tried to demand more for a tip.  I know that everyone paid the $100 fee, but if I had it to do over again, I would insist on going to the Guatemalan immigration office myself.  The situation made a terrible first impression and I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. 
Guatemalan Countryside

Once across the border, we drove for several more hours to Guatemala City.  If I had to describe Guatemala in one word, it would be “green.”  We passed through groves of ancient palm trees overgrown with ferns and creepers.  Then we traversed fields of cane and corn and orchards of tropical fruits and avocados.  Guatemala was cleaner than El Salvador, but more littered than Mexico.  The standard of living also appeared to be between the two.  Unlike El Salvador, Guatemala has free secondary and preparatory education, but it is not compulsory.  Unfortunately, many families need the income from sending their children to work once they turn 14 or 15.  The government is working to increase the level of education, with at least some success.

I was dreading Guatemala City.  I had heard that it was dangerous and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get from the Tica Bus terminal on the south side of town to where the buses left for Antigua.  Fortunately, it couldn’t have been easier.  Guatemala City was big, crowded and ugly, but a collectivo to Antigua met our bus.  I was the only one from the southbound bus going to Antigua.  The driver told me it would be $15 if there were others from the northbound bus or $30 if it was just me.  I knew that the price should be about $10, but figured it would cost me at least $5 to get to the airport to get a $10 ride.  Fortunately, there were several more passengers coming from El Salvador.  They ended up paying only $8 each.  Antigua was another hour past Guatemala City. 

Antigua Street Scene
Antigua was founded by the Spanish in the mid-sixteenth century and served at the capital of Guatemala until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1773.  In 1776, the capital was moved to Guatemala City.  Much of Antigua is still in ruins.  What wasn’t ruined was your typical colonial city, although Antigua seemed to offer less vegetation than most.  There was a vast area of narrow, cobblestoned streets lined with masonry buildings in shades of red and yellow.  It was a shock to be in a place jammed with tourists after having been in El Salvador, where I pretty much knew every gringo I met, even in San Salvador.  I felt more like I was in Italy than in Latin America.

Typical Antiguan Ruin
The bus was early and my hotel wasn’t ready when I arrived.  I left my luggage and went to find a travel agency.  Claudia Granados at Tours Mayan Traditions was very helpful.  My plans were very complex and involved lots of connections.  She worked it all out in a very thorough and organized manner.  I would be going from Antigua to Tikal to Rio Dulce/Livingston to Copan in Honduras, not counting a side trip to Lago Atitlan.  One thing I discovered right away is that they charge an additional 10% to use a credit card here.  I ended up getting kind of a bulk discount that offset that somewhat, but I ended up using all my quetzals to pay for my hotel in cash to avoid the extra charge there.
Casa Rustica from the Street
Casa Rustica Courtyard
My Room at Casa Rustica
                                                                                                                                    Hotel Casa Rustica was fine.  It didn’t look like much from the street.  The hotel is entered through a shop.  There were three shepherd mix dogs, Lucky, Laverne and Shirley, who lived in the lobby and made me feel welcome.  The actual hotel is on two levels surrounding a courtyard in the back.  I had reserved a room with a shared bath.  The room was very nice and the wi-fi was excellent, even in the room.  The only downside was that the bathroom was downstairs and I had to go out in the rain to get there.  It was pitch black in the middle of the night.  After checking into the hotel, I went for a quick walk around town.  It was cool in Antigua.  I put on long pants and a sweater for the first time since we got to Mexico last November.  I visited the Parque Cental and had a nice café latte.  I was tired, didn’t want to be out after dark, and had to get up very early the next day, so I grabbed an early dinner of a pizza and a glass of sangria (continuing the Italian theme) and retired to my room to hide from the rain.

May 13, 2104

I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning in order to be ready for my 5:30 AM pickup to go to Lago Atitlan.  It took us an hour of driving around Antigua before we had collected a van full of passengers.  Bouncing around on the exceptionally uneven cobblestones was a bit brutal on whatever was wrong with my back ribs as a result of having fallen in the engine compartment.  Eventually we left town and headed up the highway.  We started to ascend right away.  The vegetation changed rapidly and suddenly we were in a pine forest.  We drove for an hour and a half or so and then stopped to connect with another shuttle.  The van continued on to San Cristobal in Mexico.  A number of us, including the driver, switched to a smaller van that continued on to Panajachel.  We climbed over a pass and then started down into a valley, passing field after field of various vegetables.  The land has been divided generation after generation, resulting in a patchwork of different holdings, each growing varying crops.  Everything appeared to be thriving.  The highway switchbacked down the mountainside into town, but our driver took shortcuts straight down the mountain through narrow, bumpy alleyways.  It was very cloudy and we couldn’t see the lake until we were almost upon it, since the water was the same color as the clouds.

Docks in Panajachel
Panajachel is the gateway to Lago Atitlan.  It is a fairly good sized town, but doesn’t have much to recommend it except for some fancy lakeside hotels.  We stopped at the tour office.  We had some time to kill, so we went up the street to a nice café and had a very nice breakfast for about $2.50.  Our group consisted on two Brazilians, two Costa Ricans and me.  Since I was the only English speaker, I opted to do the tour in Spanish.  Our guide, Alex, was very easy to understand.  He had once been a cook in a Thai restaurant in Ojai, California, and we chatted pretty much all day.  He got a good laugh at the end of the day when I turned in my voucher and it said, “Tour in English,” since we had been talking a blue streak in Spanish all day.

San Juan La Laguna
At 9:00, we met our launch and set off on a 45 minute ride across the lake to San Juan La Laguna.  It was very rough.  I was glad for the foulie jacket that I had brought to protect me from the rain.  The panguero was impressed when I whipped that out.  The 12 villages around the lake are named for Christ’s apostles.  San Juan is a mellow little village running from the lakeshore up a steep central street.  We made a quick visit to a coffee plantation.  Conditions for cultivating coffee, there, are very similar to those where Kona coffee is grown due to the elevation and volcanic soil.  The main difference is that the Guatemalan coffee is shade grown under a canopy of avocado trees.  Everything is grown organically (the use the hulls from the beans as fertilizer) and picked by hand so that only ripe beans are harvested.  They also grow cacao.  The soil is so fertile that other plants, such as tobacco, were growing between and under the coffee trees.  Corn, beans, and melons were sprouting everywhere.

We visited an art gallery.  There were two interesting painting styles practiced in the area.  One was called “bird’s eye view,” which depicted everything from directly above, resulting in pleasing repeating patterns.  The other prevalent style was “ant’s eye view,” which showed everything from the point of view of a small creature on the ground.  Perspective was exaggerated and feet were huge.  Both were very colorful and the paint was applied in thick globs, somewhat like pointillism.  I was very taken with the “bird’s eye view” pictures of corn and coffee harvesting.  Many painters in the area also practiced their own, colorful Guatemalan, versions of cubism and surrealism.  Some faces comprised of nothing but melting cala lilies were especially notable.

Mayan Woman Spinning Cotton
Next, we visited a women’s weaving cooperative, where we witnessed a demonstration of spinning and dying cotton yarns.  Because Guatemala does not have cactus, they do not use cochineal to dye their yarns.  Instead, they use various plants.  They used stewed, grated carrots to produce an orange color.  I had seen weaving demonstrations in the past using wool, but this was the first time I had seen cotton spun into yarn.  I was surprised at how difficult it was to separate the seeds from the fibers.  Guatemala grows two types of cotton: the standard white variety and a brown variety that produces smaller bolls.  The brown cotton is woven without being dyed.  Textiles and coffee are the two major exports of Guatemala, although they also grow many vegetables that are exported to the United States, such as avocados and broccoli.   Traditional Guatemalan weaving is decorated with embroidery which can be accomplished in two ways.  Higher quality pieces will have the designs actually woven into the fabric, resulting in a smooth reverse side.  Economy pieces are embroidered after the fabric is woven.  They are pretty and colorful, but the back side looks messy, which is not a problem if one plans to frame the piece.

Coffee Stall in San Juan
We had a few minutes before we left for the next stop, so I spent them sampling the local coffee and chocolate and chatting with the operator of a small coffee stall.  Lago Atitlan has no outlet and the level of the water has continually risen over the centuries.  Some 35 meters down, there is a Mayan ceremonial city where they once worshipped the three volcanoes surround the lake.  Unfortunately, the tops of the volcanoes were all obscured by clouds the entire time I was there.  There have been more recent inundations, as well.  The houses closest to the water are now submerged.  We docked at what had once been the roof of a building.  Dead trees poked up out of the water all along the shore, making navigation somewhat hazardous.
Submerged House and Trees in San Juan

San Pedro La Laguna
Our next stop, San Pedro La Laguna, was a quick boat ride across a thankfully sheltered bay.  San Pedro is the happening place for young backpackers and weekending locals.  It sports lots of cheap hotels, restaurants, bars and vacation homes.  It had a much more modern feel than San Juan.  I found a much needed ATM there.  We went to a coffee house and had espresso drinks while Alex explained the coffee growing process to us and also explained the Mayan numerical system.  While I had already known that the Mayans invented the zero, I had not known that their numerical system had a base of twenty.  The Mayan calendar had 18 months of 20 days each.  When representing dates, the third position represented 360s, rather than 400’s (1x20x20.)  Mayan scholars are now saying that the mistaken belief that the Mayan calendar ended in December of 2012 was due to a misinterpretation.  What had been seen as a serpent swallowing the world is now seen as the serpent god spewing forth abundance.  We have entered a new era of the Mayan calendar and they are choosing to be optimistic about its potential. 

Crossing to Santiago Atitlan
Cemetery in Santiago
After coffee, we crossed an arm of the lake to visit Santiago Atitlan, which was substantially larger than the other two.  We opted to hire a couple of tuk-tuks (3 wheeled motorcycle taxis) so as to cover more ground.  The hills were very steep and the tuk-tuks (so called because of the sound of their engines) had to switchback up the streets.  The first place that we visited was the cemetery.  Arriving just after Mother’s Day, it was still colorfully decorated with fresh flowers.  It was a pretty colorful place, anyway.  Wealthier folks built small family mausoleums and they were painted in bright colors.  Poorer folks bought grave plots, which were marked with simple crosses, but often decorated with flowering plants and sometimes even trees.  It was also possible to rent space on an annual basis.  If someone’s family didn’t keep up the rent, his or her remains were dumped in a common grave.  In general, the cemetery seemed like a year-round Dia de los Muertos exhibit and had a fairly cheerful ambiance.

Santiago Atitlan is home to the idol, Maximon.  He is a combination of Mayan gods and is revered throughout the highlands.  The Catholic Church tolerates him, since many of their congregants cover all their bases by adhering to both sets of beliefs.  He is housed in the home of a member of a Mayan religious brotherhood and moves from year to year.  While Maximon is sheltered in someone’s home, that person’s job becomes receiving visitors and collecting donations.  People come to ask favors of the god and bring offerings of tobacco and alcohol.  The idol, which looked rather like the pyramid on the US dollar, was flanked by Jesus on the left and a bevy of Catholic saints on the right.  A Mayan spirit guide conversed with the god on behalf of the petitioners.  The room was crowded with old Mayans in traditional dress and smelled strongly of incense.  Mayans make a distinction between their practices and Santeria, but the process was similar.  It was a fairly intense place, but well worth the 10 quetzals donation for the experience.

From the crowded, noisy sanctuary of Maximon, we proceeded to the Catholic Church, which was severe and cavernous by comparison.  It, too, was decorated with statues of saints lining the walls.  On the cathedral steps, we encountered an old woman who demonstrated the construction of the traditional Mayan woman’s headdress.  She started with a narrow, woven piece of fabric about 30 feet long.  To begin, she wound one end of it around her braid.  Then she wound her braid and the strap around her head and continued to do so until she had constructed a wide, halo-like, headdress, the outermost layer of which was colorfully embroidered.  She and some other peddlers were offering woven sunglass leashes and beautiful beaded hummingbirds.  I bought a hummingbird for $1 from the old woman with the headdress, since I felt guilty for not paying to take her picture, and for another $1 got two sunglass leashes to replace the ugly, but functional floating one I had been using on the boat.  Vendors in Santiago were very pushy and the quality of their wares much lower than in San Juan.

We had lunch at El Pescador, a very nice fish restaurant.  The food was excellent and the presentation exceptional.  Each of us had some form of flower carved from a cucumber and dyed with chile gracing our plates.  I had fried tilapia with garlic and the prettiest margarita I had ever seen. 

 At 2:30, we started back across the lake to Panajachel.  It was not quite as rough as it had been in the morning, but started to rain.  It was coming down pretty hard by the time we got to Panajachel and we had to walk some distance through the rain to the tour office.  We waited there for half an hour until the bus arrived.  This time, we took a mini-bus instead of a van.  We had pretty much filled the bus with passengers and luggage by the time we made the rounds of all the hotels in Panajachel.  It was a surprise, therefore, when we stopped at the rendezvous point and took on more passengers coming from San Cristobal.  These passengers had to sit on small seats that folded down into the aisles.  A young Indian fellow from Boston was wedged into the seat next to me.  He had just finished his MBA and was taking a whirlwind trip through Central America before starting a new job.  He was a fascinating conversationalist and we had a very good time chatting all the way to Antigua.  He was interested in possibly joining us on the boat for a few days sometime in the future, so we exchanged contact information.

It was late, dark and raining when we got back to my hotel, so I opted to skip dinner and just munch on dried fruit and chocolate, although I did regret not having stopped to buy beer.  I chatted with Scott on Facebook, watched a bit of Netflix and collapsed for a well-deserved good night’s sleep after two mornings of early rising.

May 14, 2014

Parque Central
I wanted to sleep later than I did, but at least I managed to stay abed until 7:30.  It was late enough that I missed the hot water.  A cold shower was not nearly as pleasant at 68 degrees as it had been at 90 degrees, but I managed with only a bit of cringing.  After dressing, I walked around the block and had a big latte and a poppyseed bagel at a café just off the Parque Central.  After breakfast, I returned to my hotel and spent the morning and early afternoon making reservations for the Honduran section of my trip and working on my blog.  About 1:00, I finally left the hotel, made a reservation to visit the Pacaya volcano the following day and booked a private tour of Antigua for later in the afternoon.  Then I went and had a lovely lunch of spinache quiche and pineapple smoothie at the Café Condessa.  I had yet to see any Guatemalan food offered anywhere in Antigua.

My Guide, Baldomero, and His Apprentice
I rendezvoused with my guide, Baldomero, at 2:30.  We were soon joined by his young apprentice (a boy of at most 14 years) who was learning to be a guide.  Antigua had not impressed me and I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing anything important.  Overall, I would say that you won’t miss much by skipping Antigua if you have visited any other colonial city in Central America.  That said, my tour guide was very knowledgeable and he showed me many things I would never have found on my own.  His $25 fee was worth it for the opportunity to practice my Spanish alone, since I booked the tour in Spanish.  My comprehension of native speakers lagged far behind my ability to read, write and speak the language, so I used every opportunity to work on that.  Baldomero was very patient with me.

Macaws at Casa Santo Domingo
We started the tour in the Parque Central and visited the city hall, where Baldomero took me inside to show me the original architectural details from the 16th century.  There was a nice view from the second floor balconies.  Original 16th century benches were still being used.  Cedar, once it has been soaked in water and then dried, is very durable and is said to last a thousand years.  Before the earthquake that destroyed the city in 1773, there were 38 churches in Antigua.  Only 16 are functional today.  There were many, many convents and monasteries, each of which took up several square blocks.  Most are substantially ruined.  One notable exception was the Casa Santo Domingo, which had been restored and converted into a five star hotel and museum.  It was large and complex, with manicured gardens, several pairs of macaws, huge trees, arbors of orchids, and a swimming pool in the shape of Guatemala (which means the place of flowering trees in Nahuatl.)  The best part of having a local guide was that he knew which buildings could be entered and viewed.  The best parts of Antigua were all behind doors and walls.  One that we visited was the Casa de los Suenos or House of Dreams.  Each block was made up of four houses.  Each house had three patios.  The first patio was for receiving guests and contained the dining room.  Many of these have now been converted to shops and restaurants.  The second patio was a private space for the family and the third contained the service areas and servant’s quarters.
Second Patio of Casa de Los Suenos

We visited the museum housed in the ruins of the Convento de Capuchinas.  When a novice entered the order, she was required to spend one month praying in each of the 18 cells surrounding a circular central patio.  After 18 months, she became a full-fledged nun.  Under the 18 cells, was a cellar of fabulous acoustics where services were sung.  The novices could hear the singing clearly, due to ventilation shafts at each point of the compass.  We also visited the church of San Francisco, housing the tomb of Hermano Pedro de San Jose Betancourt, who was the first Latin American saint to be canonized.  Part of the church is covered in small plaques, each of which commemorates one of his miracles.  There are a lot of them.  Somehow, they reminded me of a collection of license plates, which was not very pious of me.  One of the churches, I think it was Santa Catarina, had a hospital attached where foreign doctors come to hold free clinics and treat children with mental handicaps.  I had seen long lines of people waiting outside at 6:00 in the morning when I passed by on my way to Lago Atitlan.
Novice Cells in the Capuchin Convent

Baldomero took me to a jade factory where another young man took me on a tour of the factory/museum.  Guatemala is one of only a few places in the world where jadeite (Asian jade is Nephrite) is found.  The Mayans prized jade above gold.  Rulers were adorned with jade jewelry and were buried with jade masks, which served as their ticket to the underworld.  I learned that my Mayan zodiac sign, or Nahual, is Kan, the serpent.  I learned that the purest and most valuable jade is white. Next, is the purple jade, which is contaminated by titanium.  I had seen heaps of titanium ore at the port in Chiapas.  It is mined in the Chiapas/Guatemala area.
Public Laundry

After two and a half hours of stomping around central Antigua, Baldomero deposited me back at my hotel.  I then remembered that I needed to visit Claudia at the travel agency to pick up all my tickets.  She had everything ready for me.  There were fifteen separate vouchers for transporation, hotels and tours.  She had them all numbered sequentially so that I wouldn’t get confused.  My plans looked somewhat exhausting, especially the day when I would need to leave at 4:30 AM to drive from Rio Dulce to meet my ride to Copan in Honduras.  It was, however, exciting to know that I would be covering a lot of ground and seeing a lot of fascinating things.  Little did Claudia know that I had planned even more outings once I reached Honduras.  I bought a beer and drank it while working on my blog and then I repaired to a restaurant two doors down where I got a cheeseburger and a pina colada for dinner.  Antigua was like every other Latin American city in that the selection of businesses changed every time I walked down the street.  After dark, restaurants and bars appeared that were invisible during the day.  I believed that the thumping music I had been hearing at night was emanating from the bar/restaurant where I ate dinner or perhaps from the Irish bar next door.  During the day, the neighborhood looked quiet.  Antigua was starting to feel familiar, which was a sign that it was time to leave.  

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