After integrating into our permanent sites for near two months, Bak’tun 8 (my Peace Corps group) was called back to the PC headquarters more training. early in-service training (EIST) at the PC headquarters. Bak’tun 8 has two areas of focus: Youth in Development (YID) and Healthy Schools (HS), each with their own program managers. Upon our arrival at the headquarters we thrilled to see each other and anxious to swap stories but we had little time to do so once training began.
During the weekdays we were busy but fortunately our weekends were free. I got to hang out with my good friend, Kathy Z with whom I’ve spent many weekends in Antigua. We were neighbors during our first ten weeks of training and, along with Patricia, our other neighbor, we’d go for walks up into the hills. It was sad when Patricia left the PC for home. But she seemed to know that there was something else she had to do. Now she is in Laos, working in Pediatrics, helping nurses develop critical thinking skills in their care of critically ill infants.We are all so proud of her.
During EIST, Kathy and I frequented different cafes but always liked spending hours at Mc Donald’s because it had wifi, super clean bathrooms, and you could sit outside with a beautiful view of one of the volcanos. It was great to reconnect with Kathy and also with Connie. We are among the older volunteers so sharing time together and talking about life is altogether different from being with the younger crowd. The younger crowd is very dynamic, energetic and accomplished. They have plans for adventure and doing important things in their lives. Us older folks have done a lot and now we’re running at a different speed. Instead of starting medical school or a graduate program, we are thinking about social security and learning Spanish quickly enough to do our jobs well.
Photo below: Santa Cruz, a little hill that overlooks Antigua. Kathy, Connie and I did the short climb though it nearly took it out of me!
Antigua has a beautiful park in their main square and as usual, it was filled with tourists and vendors.
Kathy and I spent a lot of time walking in search of good, inexpensive food. I also looked for health food supplements but found that they were either unavailable or too expensive. Thank goodness I had brought some effective remedies from Tigerlily Holistic, a community acupuncture clinic in Brooklyn.
Photo: fruit vendors in Antigua
Completion of EIST marks when PCVs are free to travel on the weekends, twice a month. To celebrate, most of my Bak’tun decided to go to Lake Atitlán. I was so exited to go to the lake. I had been wanting to go ever since I’d applied to the Peace Corps a year earlier. On the bus, I looked out the window searching for water and when I saw it I nearly swooned. It was just as wonderful and I’d imagined.
I found a hotel room, dropped off my heavy bags and and then walked for hours enjoying the sights and the lake. It was like medicine for my body and heart.
Photo below: One of the docks in Panajachel.
Photo below: Three volcanos that ring the lake (two on the left, one in front of the other).
Photo below: After five months in Guatemala, I really missed a hearty north American breakfast. I found it here: bacon, eggs, toast and/or pancakes and rich coffee. Whoa! It hit the spot. I don’t remember the name of this wonderful cafe, sorry!
Panajachel (“Pana” for short) has a main street that is filled with vendors selling traditional traje (clothes) and crafts. The dolls at one vendor’s table made me chuckle. I posted the photo of it (below) on Instagram and one of my friends commented:
I love this so much! One of my prized childhood possessions among some handmade dolls from Sonora was my Barbie with a handmade huipil and long skirt whom I lovingly renamed “sweatlodge sweetie” haha!
In the evening I sat in an outdoor cafe in the balmy weather eating a delicious pasta dish and promised myself to return to the lake again and again.
The next morning I headed out on a bus for the long bus ride home which was bumpy and windy and crowded. But over the next few days I felt the relaxing peace of my weekend and the magic of the lake.
Kathy had not been able to go to the lake but we agreed to visit each other’s homesites in the coming months. Instead, a couple of weeks later she exited the Peace Corps and returned to the United States. Her circumstances made it perfectly understandable. I was sad but I’m sure we’ll keep in touch. All of the PCVs in our Bak’tun that have returned to the states, are missed. They made a difference in our lives while they were here. They blessed us with their presence and continue to do good in the world.