Sweet Home Panajachel


Until this afternoon it had been almost twelve days since the last rain –Dust rules where mud once pooled then cracked up. As evidence of the coming of dry season, the new waterfall that gushed forth one drenched afternoon, just trickles. In place of wet flow, wind is the new constant – it cackles through the leaves. The daily gusts from – Xocomil- stir the lake a bit as I make my rounds checking out the cyanobacteria’s — bloom of doom.

On other matters related to environment, by accident I discovered two key documents governing the original sanitation plant and the charter for AMSCLAE (the governmental agency with specific directives for cleaning up the lake.) And, this week the Prenza Libre confirmed that business in Panajachel was down 90%. Turns out that everybody guessing how bad it was over coffee in Gringo-Tenanga was too sanguine.

Meanwhile, I am snug in my new house – my first private space since 2006. My only “problem” is which way to look: left, east wards at the terraced fields greening below the dwindling waterfalls or straight out, across the lake to the volcanoes. After dark it is darker in Barrio Norte; so, I can look at the sky, see Andromeda and expect to recognize Ophucius and Aquarius some night, soon. It seems the fireworks are not nearly as noisy as in Jucanya. But those “birthday blams” remain unwelcome clocks – going off – at random – throughout the day. The really good news (noise-wise) is band practice is becalmed since the holidays; quieting infernal glockenspiels and drums all over. However, ear damage saved by change of season is lost by nights at Panarock or supporting the band at Palapala. While my new walls waiver they endure extremely loud sports events and more interesting things like what sounds suspiciously like a giant belly dance every afternoon. True, the music is perhaps folksie but the wailing clarinets are hardly from this culture.

Still I am more than comfortable situated above the luscious garden complete with high speed internet and a raging joyousness of hot showers. I found my new home entirely by accident: just happened to pop in on an Aussie, Grant, in his electric shop and asked if he knew of any places. Within the week, his friends called me regarding the vacancy and I moved in to this very cozy living situation. The walled garden hosts only my upstairs neighbor, me and the owners. This magical place once belonged to Ann Cameron – the children’s writer.

I live in the bottom half of a round tower called “Hex Haus” by the Germans because of its witch-hat roof.

casa bruja ja ja
Occupying the upstairs is Canadian Steve, who has a wind station on his porch and clocked the winds at almost 35 mph over night last week. He has a fancy motor cross style cycle with the giant springs and briefly recounts tid bits of his twenty years in Latin America. One included a trip to a pueblo where vigilantes burned a couple of guys with “M13” tattoos on their arms. He told me about sighting the algae from a high vantage point two weeks ago and expects it to smell bad by mid November. “But, not up here,” he assures me. Steve also tells me that earthquakes can shake you for up to 15 seconds. The other day, there was a 5.0 that shook my bed as hard as a wee kitten jumping from the pillow. I am not sure if it was the kitten or the fusillades of barking across the valley that woke me up.

Since I now have my own burner, I have replaced the vile morning cup of micro-waved Nescafe and the subsequent mediocre coffees offered by most local establishments with some quite kicking home brew. There ends our Julia Child moment. I never cooked because I don’t like raw, at all. As certified fud-wuzz, I had no issues in NYC but here I am half passed aghast at even the idea of finding some chicken-ish thing in my home cooked eggs. So, I shop for cornflakes at the Walmart where I can also run into everyone. Like Eli with the baby, Boston Mike, Ingrid. And, this is where I met the young people who were on week one of an eleven month mission.

This is a small town so that I should run into parts of this the group again is to be expected. The second meeting they seemed very nice and happy about their construction work by the field. I asked two them about how they elected to spend the better part of this year in dire locations doing good. Angie Blattner, 22 and Alana Lusted, 25 are on a long term Christian Mission — their individual blogs can be seen on http://www.TheWorldRace.org under their team name: “LoveBound.” On their way, they could be doing relief work, prison ministry, care in orphanages and they have been trained carefully not be invested in any one task or location. Their routes might change; their teams might change over the eleven months but both women expressed trust in the leadership.

Along with 60 plus other male and female candidates Angie and Alana completed a ten day training camp. Shortly after that, the newly formed “Lovebound” group was dispatched to Guatemala. Why? Because this is a friendly country and offers a good place to begin.

“We are not allowed to have expectations,” said Ms. Blattner. When asked what she had given up to go on Adventures in Missions’ voyage she allowed that she had also given up alone time, hot showers and, after a pause, a relationship. “We pack our lives up in a 65 liter backpack,” said Alana, who had grown tired of reading how everybody else’s life had changed. She had to accept that there will be “No breaks – no doubling back for a hot shower before we go to India.” By the same agreement they also left independence behind. They travel as a family and do not go out alone. Ms. Lusted added, “I have a love/hate relation with that. I have not lived in Family for a few years. But, I cannot believe that our common interest is so magnetic.”

Neither of the women is new to this work; their families also engage in some form of missionary work. And, despite their training, each has a promise she wants to fullfill. Angie wants to assuage the damage of human trafficking; she wants to “..love on them — never-endingly and without expectations.” Alana was already well along to realizing the first or her wishes, “..to build one family’s house, to hold an AIDS baby.” When asked what they most wanted people to know Alana declared, “That Jesus wants a relation with you,” and Angie believes “That Love wins.” And I say: “Good luck in India, China, Africa and wherever else your mission takes you, Alana and Angie.”

Meanwhile, back in the secular world, my social life continues apace. Sunday, I discovered the sunny poolside lunch with the Kelly kids in tow at the Hotel del Lago. There were also several denizens fleeing from Gringo-Tenanga to bask and swim with their kids.

Monday, I enjoyed a beer with my landlord at the Palapa bar “This place is beautiful- precious,” he observed. “If I were back in Sidney, they would treat me like a four year old.. utterly over protected. Here, I can get pissed on beer and ride my bike home without a helmet.” As he was warming up to this topic, his friend came in and inquired how he was feeling. “Struggling,“ he replied with a straight face and, then, waived his beer high in the afternoon air.

Tuesday I met a very long term Gringa, who currently has an NGO born from disputing distribution of native lands a decade or so ago and is now dedicated to preserving culture and nature around the lake

Wednesday, MaJo lead a women’s dance for about ten of us based on bioenergetics work out of Chile. She said that the dance can be done every other week. After the centering dance, I stopped by the German restaurant to enjoy their company, a beer and the “best falafel in Pana.” There, I heard about three babies who were due that week. One was a successful delivery of child at the Jucanya home of another German family. The father delivered his fourth child by himself with little difficulty but some fear because the placenta did not come out at once. After hours of massaging the mother’s belly, that birth ended well. The second expectant family was killed all at once on their way to the hospital in Solola by a pendant boulder that fell on their car. The third was announced just as we tucked into our Middle Eastern cuisine. The jubilant man came in to the restaurant to pick up a couple of pizzas for guests at his 35th wedding anniversary and he was also celebrating the birth of his first grandchild that day. “Prost!” we all said.

We have news of Batman written in her own hand and posted in the usual places and excluding Walmart. She is seeking to rent or to sell her pieces of property and that, is yet another sign that this lovely ship is sinking.

Finally, ignoring talk of a Dengue fever break out in the capital, I will make my first shopping trip since July, next Wednesday.

Author: diane e. dreyfus

on the road until they put the lid down

3 thoughts on “Sweet Home Panajachel”

  1. Poetic description of your new life. Many perks — particularly having your own lovely dwelling place. It sounds as if you have kind and interesting friends, gorgeous scenery and, above all, useful purpose. A new life, new perspective. Enjoy to the fullest…..but come home sometime. We miss you, Techie Granny.

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