Category: Central America 2011

Central America Calendar – Thank you!

Hey everyone,

Thanks for supporting my Central America photo calendar project this year. A total of $315 was raised for Planeterra’s Mayan Homestay project in Guatemala. The donations help the village of San Juan La Laguna develop sustainable, small-scale tourism to preserve the beauty, environment, and culture of the Lake Atitlan area. As you flip through the calendar over the upcoming year, take pride that your contribution helped the people and places in each of the 13 photos.

More info on the Mayan Homestay project

Happy 2012 and save travels,
Daryl

2012 Central America Calendar Project

[Update: these are going to the press in a few days so get your order in ASAP. 100% of your payment goes to helping out a great community in Guatemala.]
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Once again, I’m printing up a calendar with my travel photos from 2011. But this year I’ve decided to change it up: I’m asking for a donation of $15 (or more if you want) for each calendar. The donations will go towards a Mayan Homestay project in the village of San Juan La Laguna on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. I stayed in one of these homes while on my recent travels through Guatemala so I can tell you that this project is absolutely worthwhile of our support. Many of the photos in the Calendar are from San Juan with the rest taken across Guatemala and Belize.

The people of San Juan are incredible and have managed to embrace tourism while staying true to their Mayan roots. This project will help build a sustainable tourism infrastructure so that they are able to retain their culture and avoid the potential negatives that sometimes come with tourism. For more information on the project, see the Planeterra site.

I am covering the printing costs so 100% of your donation will go to the project. Sample photos follow and the order form is at the bottom of the page.

Cheers and happy travels,
Daryl

Cover Preview

Textile Co-operative

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Village laundry basin, Antigua
Cathedral Restoration
Sunset over Flores
Last year's calendar

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Calendars will be shipped in time for you to get it by Jan 1 (Canada and US). If you don’t want to use the form above, email me to make other arrangements. (Note: you don’t need a Paypal account to use the form above)

Day 5 – Lake Atitlan and Mayan Homestay

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After staying the night in Panajachel we woke up to a beautiful sunrise. It was perfect beach weather which was awesome, given that today was a swim day.  We boarded a boat to take us to Casa Mundo, a quaint hotel that is boat-access only. The edge of the lake is dotted with all kinds of villages rising up fro the water which made for a very scenic boat-ride. The topography actually reminded me a but of shusway or Kootenay Lakes (aside from the 3 huge volcanoes rising high above the surrounding land). We had a leisurely lunch and swim (I had a traditional Guatemalan meal of beans, rice and plantains) and then we made our way off to San Juan del Laguna (San Juan on the Lake).

As soon as we rolled into San Juan, the flooding in October that everyone had been talking about was very apparent. The lake had risen 10 ft in recent months and houses that were once waterfront were up to their eaves in lake-water.  There is really nothing that can be done about the water level as the lake sits in a massive crater formed about 10,000 years ago. It simply goes up and down with the rain and sun.

Many of the towns on Lake Atitlan are very poor but San Juan has done well for themselves.  Realizing the importance of tourism and agriculture they have built up a town based strongly on those two industries and have been smart with their choices.  This was clear the moment we stepped off the dock. You can feel a certain pride and contentment eminating from the people despite their lack of material wealth. It was by far the most friendly, cheerful and genuine town we had beeen in so far. And once again, the religious dedicationof the guatemalan people was evident as yet another religious procession (albeit smaller than the one in Antigua) made its way up and down the streets.

The plan for the evening was to do a tour of local artisan co-operatives and then meet up with a Mayan Family for dinner and our homestay. We quickly maade our way to the first co-op,  an art gallery where they make paintings using traditional Mayan styles. They have three different “perspectives”: Abstract view, Bird view, & Ant view. The paintings are really colorful and each of the different perspectives shows off the Mayan culture in unique ways.  I ended up buying an ‘ant-view’ painting of some farm workers.The next stop was a textile co-operative where some local weavers demonstrated how they make their textiles on hand looms. They make all of the thread by hand by processsing cotton that they grow in their own gardens. All of the dyes are made organically using local plants (and bugs such as a reddish beetle found on cacti!), much like their relaitves did hundreds of years ago. Each piece of fabric takes days (or weeks to make) and the attention to detail is incredible.

Finally, it was time to meet our Mayan home-stay family. We would be staying in the home of Marcos and Jauna and we couldn’t have asked for nicer hosts. Marcos worked in the coffee and corn fields of the Lake Atitlan area and Juana was a home-maker. They had 3 boys and lived in a basic but well taken care of home. Charlotte and I ddidn’t know what to expect but it was an incredible experience. Despite us not knowing much Spanish, we managed to stumble our way through conversation using a combination of Spanish, English, French and Mayan (which they taught us). It took a lot of mental effort to communicate but it was a positive and fun experience for all of us and there weren’t really any awkward moments. Marcos and myself prepared the eating area (small wooden table with plastic stools) while the ladies made Tortillas by hand in the kitchen over a wooden stove. Dinner was a basic but flavourful chicken soup with hot sauce on the side. Let me tell you about this hot sauce: I put only the tip of a tea-spoon of it into my bowl and it was the hottest thing I’ve ever tasted in my life. It was all I could do to hold back the tears. It was delicious but WOW they have some crazy peppers in Guatemala. Marcos was an interesting fellow but also had a bit of a sense of humour. When he pulled out a mis-shapen tortilla he looked over at Charlotte and said “Son Tortilla”, teasing her on her rookie tortilla making experience. When the topic came up on our relationship, for sake of cultural simplicty we used terms we had agreed on before hand: “Esposo y Esposa”: (Husband and Wife). Dinner conversation was hard but fun at the same time.. We talked about Canada, Guatemala, politics, schools, and life in general. One of their sons was studying computers in school which I wished I could have shared more of my knowledge over. Given that basic communication in Spanish is challenging enough, I can’t imageine trying to explain PHP in another language.

After dinner, we wandred through town coming across some of the other home-stay groups as well as a middle school graduation and photography exhibit. We watched the graduation ceremony for a bit but it was all in spanish and difficult to understand (Except for the national anthem which had karaoke-style words on a projector screen. Its also the longest national anthem in history, I’m sure it went on for at least 15 minutes). The photography exhibit was… interesting. We had a very enthusiastic (but spanish-speaking-only) guide who walked us through a class-room full of photos showing the progress of San Juan. The pride of the people in the town is absolutely amazing. In just a few decades they’ve built up a first class town full of schools, churches and sustainable businesses unlike any other town on the lake. They are proud yet humble. It was by far the most friendly town we have been in this entire trip and all of the townspeople radiate happiness and contentment. It was definately one of the highlights of the trip.

Day 7 – Flores

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We had a quick one-day stop in Flores. On the way we stopped by a *hot* waterfall which was awesome. A cold stream fed into it at the bottom so you could have a hot shower fallijng down on your shoulders and back with the cold pool to keep the temperature  comfortable.

Flores was  a charming little “island” town. We only spent one night there but it came with a magnificent sunset.

Day 2- Antigua

We spent the majority of the day exploring the town of Antigua. Given that it’s the weekend, the markets were out in full force. I used this as an a opportunity to brush up on my Spanish skills which went surprisingly well. I ended up getting a leather belt and two paintings for a reasonable price. And given my love for technology, I managed to aquire a prepaid SIM card (with data!) for only $10. The market was the craziest one I’ve ever been to and inclued everything from live baby chicks to bench grinders. We were a bit apprehensive at first but warmed up quickly and got a lot more comfortable pwrusing the goods. It was nice that the vendors were a lot less pushy than in the more touristy places like Playa del Carmen.

The plan for the next couple of days is to go to Lake Atitlan and spend one night in a hotel and then taake a boat ride to an ancient Mayan village. There we do a Homestay with a Mayan family. I’m really looking forward to that as I imagine it will be an amazing cultural experience. I’m not sure how much Internet access I will have during that time so updates could be on Monday and Tuesday. Have a good Halloween everyone and eat lots of candy. We’ll be at the Homestay that night so I imagine there will be no indiation of it being different than any other day.

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Two wheels is the way to go in Antigua

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The local artisan market. It wasn’t only for artisans though. One giiuy tried to sell me a achete and bench grinder for Q130 (under $20 US)

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Beuatiful arch downtown

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The town “Laudromat” where the mayan ladies wash their clothes in Conctrete wash basins.
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Another shot of the wash basins
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Ancient ruins that are part of our hotel
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The Apple love runs world-wide
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The trunk bakery lady made delicious pastries
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The colonial architecture here is amazing.

Day 1

We made it Safe and Sound to Antigua today.  We et up ith the rest of our tour and both the group and leader seem like awesome people.  Spent a nice night making new friends over good food and drinks.
Not  a whole lot of energy left right now so I’m going to let the photos do the talking

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Guatemala City

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Volacanoes on the landing approach in

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Patchwork landscape

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Day 0 – Seattle

Made it to the Seattle airport. Winter is not all that far from hitting the Okanagan judging from the snow on the hills above the vallley. The landscape will probably look a whole lot more white when we get back!

I decided not to bring my DSLR with me due to weight and security issues so I was playing around with the Canon S90 that Clark lent me (Thanks Clark!). It’s got a pretty fast lens for a point and shoot (F/2.0) and quite a bit of manual control so it should work out well. I took a couple of test shots on the flight down. Alaska Air also offered (free) Pyraamid IPA on the flight down which was pretty enjoyable as well. If  you can find some at your local store, I highly recommend it.

It’s going to be a long night. Our flight from Houston leaves at 11pm (5hrs from now) and then we depart for Guatemala at 8am. I’m hoping to explore the city a bit on that first day but also have a ‘siesta’ in the plans.

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Hasta Manana