Along the Way in Guatemala

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Antigua below with Volcano and Second Capital on Far Mountainside. Antigua was the third capital
which was destroyed by a major earthquake in 1773, Guatemala City was then founded as the 4th Capital.

The act of traveling from home to a distinctly different environment requires an adjustment of perception and interpretation from the known to the unknown.   The art of traveling is to integrate those differences to modify personal understanding of the life around us.  It is too easy to let new experiences pass by as our mind races along its usual track.  My writing of these posts as I move from new place to new place is my attempt to think about and recapture some of the new sensory input a second time around. To help me toward greater integration of inner and outer world.

Church in Antigua which shows the integration of local beliefs and symbols with the new found Catholicism brought over by the Spanish colonizers in the 16th century
Our Group in Antigua

I am now in a bus with my group heading for a Mayan archeological site. The rolling countryside is a green garden of coffee bushes, corn, bright yellow flowers, and more and more pine trees as we head to higher ground and the remains of the first capital in Guatemala.   But yesterday is a blur of visits: an overlook of the valley where Antigua is located. a visit to a jade museum as Guatemala is one of the major jade producers in the world, and last a visit to an ancient monastery in Antigua, Santa Domingo, which is now a very impressive hotel.  Marge and I are doing very well.

The most beautiful Starbucks

What stands out about that day is that one of our travel group who was stung by a bee the day before, developed a very swollen hand and was taken by our Spanish-speaking tour leader to the local Antigua hospital for treatment.  She applauded their emergency department where she was quickly seen, given a shot of antihistamine, other medicines and instructions and began immediately to improve.   The cost was $3 for the emergency room treatment and about $30 for the medications.   Traveling has its perils. I sense the health ledge I stand on which becomes a little slippery with aging and especially when out of my environment and support systems.

We are now rolling through a major agricultural area where field of grain and vegetable with people in straw hats working in the fields.  Produce includes potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, broccoli, apples, peaches strawberries and blackberries.

Our main excursion is to the archaeological site of the ancient city of Iximche’. There we walk among the remans of step pyramids in 4 courtyards for the families of the King, each with places of worship and, most important, football fields used for both play and settling of feuds between families and villages. I think of how a fully developed culture, men, women, children – and slaves from defeated neighboring groups — lived here 2000 years ago. The smaller towns and villages we pass through are all clean and well cared for. No one looks hungry although we have seen some isolated people on sidewalks, some asking for money.

We are fortunate to see two local people making offerings at a site set aside for that purpose on the Iximche’ site, with permitted fires into which are thrown certain food and herbs. One is a solo man and the other is an older man and his younger son, whom we spoke to and who it turns out comes from Spokane, Washington, down here for his one of his three times a year visit to his parents and to learn some of the old customs.

Offerings at Archeological Site

Then we are on a very curvy, windy road up a mountain and over to Lake Atitlan. I, who never get car sick, made the mistake of reading in the bus and do not feel well. We are all a little dizzy when we stop by a beautiful overlook of large Lake Atitlan. Then down into the largest village in the area to our hotel with a spectacular view over the lake.

View over Lake Atitlan and its Volcanoes

We will explore this area tomorrow.

Lake Atitlan near out hotel at night: Photo by Marge