At the end of a pretty incredible journey in Guatemala, the team took time to really rest and enjoy the sights of the unbelievable Guatemalan countryside. We left Antigua early in the morning to go to Lago Atitlán, a beautiful natural lake neatly situated between volcanos San Pedro and Atitlán.
Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America and was formed in the heart of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Atitlán is a Nahuatl word meaning “at the water”. This piece of heaven on earth is an incredible mixture of blues: water meeting the skies at the horizon, volcanoes blending into the background; an ocean of blue.
We arrived in Panajachel around 9:30am where we took a boat and crossed the lake to visit the village of San Juan. This town is home to a wonderful weaving cooperative in which single mothers all create beautiful textiles which they sell to support one another. This cooperative, much like the coffee cooperative in San Miguel Escobar, it is a locally created and self-sustaining organization in which the people of the community work together to help one another with the goal of creating a better life for all in San Juan. The colors of the products were incredible, and knowing all of the proceeds go to a good cause, made it easy to purchase artesian goods guilt-free 🙂
From there we went on to the town of Santiago which had its own distinct feel. Coming from the more traditional setting of San Juan, it was striking to see the yoga studios and smoothie bars that dotted the Santiago coastline. It is clear that many foreigners not only frequent this village, but many have made it their permanent home.
Finally we finish our tour in San Miguel, the largest of the three villages we visited, and a beautiful blend of the previous two. Modern in some respects, with cafes that have Wifi and frapaccinos but more traditional in others like street venders and artisans in colorful dress. The colors were incredible, and the generosity and curiosity of the locals was unique. There’s no doubt they were accustomed to tourists, but that in and of itself was an interesting contrast to the rest of our experiences thus far in Guatemala.
The thread that tied all three villages together, however, was the interest and slight shock on the faces of the locals when they learned that the purpose of our trip to Guatemala was not to buy kitchy goods or see the sights but rather was to build a house for a family in need. Everyone wished blessings on us saying que Dios les bendiga or “may God bless you” for the work we were doing. They have such pride in their country, their people, and their heritage, the though that we would give our time and resources to support and help sustain the progress towards a better Guatemala, made an impact.This is why we serve.
We come together and help one another to build tolerance and understanding, but more so to show we are all one-we are all human. Our lives should be centered on the goal of making things better for everyone around us, and using our gifts and surplus to make a difference for people who need it, knowing that when we find ourselves in a situation of need they would do the same. Give and take. Our students at Middleburg Academy have an acute understanding and have now experienced this first hand, and in turn their lives have been changed. With the goal and hope to continue to give, we are thankful for the opportunity and the people of Guatemala who have so graciously received us as their own. From the bottom of our hearts, Thank you.