This update is written by me, Juergen; Yasha is on "sick leave" for a cold...
How to write about a long stay in one particular place without boring you, the audience, with a day-by-day account? I thought I would tell you short episodes of some of the different things we have encountered, and call it
Friday, 24 August 2007, Panajachel
It's beautiful to wake up with a view of Lago Atitlán right out of our windows and back door - every day is slightly different. One day it might be cloudy and the lake is almost dark grey, then, when the sun is high up in the sky the water is changing to an almost clear deep green, at other times it's dark blue or, when the storms hit, it is just one light grey sheet of heavy rain (with no lake visible). The surrounding mountains too: in the morning you can often see all tops of the volcanoes, later they slowly attract clouds which seem to swirl around the mountain tops and make them look like picture perfect volcanoes. At times the clouds gather up around the peaks in big formations and make the volcano look like it's spewing out masses of fresh smoke... And at night the mountains are often the centrepiece of striking lighting spectacles. Lago Atitlán certainly deserves to be named "one of the most beautiful lakes in the world".
Panajachel could actually be a pleasant place to stay, and to a degree it is, despite the fact that it is a very tourist orientated town. There a several interesting shops in town, and a number of excellent restaurants. We can get some luxuries like absolutely yummy baked cheese cake, wholemeal bread, one restaurant makes really good woodfired pizzas, another offers Indian style vegetarian dishes (and all without garlic), yet another sumptuous baguettes.
We probably would go out a lot more, if there wouldn't be that many annoying vendors around (or if they would stick to the streets, like they mostly did in San Cristobal De Las Casas in Chiapas).
Here you either just start a sentence in a conversation, or worse, you just put some tasty bite into your mouth, and before you get a chance to taste its flavours, somebody new is coming up and holding a weaving, shirt, or doll right under your nose. Most are either women, or little kids of around 10 years of age; some are actually quite pleasant, but the majority are just a nuisance. Unfortunately they don't take "No" for an answer.
"No, I don't want to buy anything, I want to eat..."
"Good price for you."
"I don't care, I don't buy nothing." (Spanish has a double negative.)
"For your family."
"I don't have family."
"Then buy it for your mother."
"She's long dead and doesn't need it anymore."
"Take it home for your friends."
"I don't have any friends either." (Sorry, guys, just an excuse!)
"Then for your enemies..."
It could be funny was is not repeated every 3-5 minutes; as well they all seem to go through the same selling school learning the same English phrases, selling the same rather boring stuff. The other day we encountered a particularly charming young boy flogging off stuff at our favourite pizza place: "You don't buy - no good! Later I go and steal..." - what a trustworthy young vendor he was...
Everything here is so colourful. With the rain season upon us the green is at times so green it almost hurts your eyes. Many trees and shrubs are in flower, and some gardens contain the most stunning display of flowers: roses, lilies and various bulbs, gerberas, hibiscus, flowering plants from every part of the world, often searched out for their nectar by shiny hummingbirds (whoosh - gone they are...).
Then there are the people: in Mexico we were always skeptical when travellers told us that Guatemala has a monopoly on colour in clothing, because we had seen a lot of really brightly coloured clothes there (in Mexico). Here in a way it's a little more subtle, with finely woven fabrics in all colours of the rainbow. But then not only the women wear traditional clothes, many men and almost all girls wear them too. It's not unusual to see a man dressed in bright-red woven pants with a striped pattern, a finely woven shirt in rainbow colours with some extra appliqué work, and sometimes a straw hat with colourful bands around its rim.
Even most shopping bundles or market baskets are wrapped into colourful woven blankets. You often see women walking down the street, or pushing their way through a crowded market, balancing huge bundles on their head. The other day we noticed a woman with 8 trays of raw eggs on her head walking down a rough pebbled street (where we always have to watch our steps or we stumble on the rocks), and at the same time she was getting change out of her purse, so neither her hands were free to catch the load of eggs in case it lost its balance...
And finally many of the houses: almost every second one contains some sort of small business, and almost all of them are painted in advertising colours. So you'll find entire buildings in Coca-Cola red and white, Maggi yellow, Pepsi blue, Crush orange, Movistar lime green, Claro tangerine, Eveready burgundy, and the always present TIGO-blue 1). TIGO-blue can be also found covering walls of public carparks, schools, hardware stores, mechanic workshops, market halls, public toilets, bus stations, you-name-it... Sometimes they even paint over street and direction signs, which makes life for tourists (like us) really easy.
Continuation on > Page 2 > !