Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

PADDLE BOARDS on Lake Atitlan

My son in law has designed and built a number of stand up paddle boards for use on Lake Atitlan. It's a very popular sport in California and other water areas but hasn't been common in Central America. My son in law believes it can catch on if only the paddle boards are available and being the enterprising guy he is, he decided to make them.

He had to import the fiberglass and other materials from the U.S., either bringing it down himself in a truck or having it shipped.

The end result is high quality stand-up paddle boards that work very well on the lake, whether you stand up, sit or kneel.

We had a couple of paddle-boarding experts from Europe who stayed at our hotel, took them out one morning and gave them the stamp of approval.

 As well as a few novices who'd never done it before--like me--and felt quite safe out there, as long as the conditions were not choppy, although I couldn't get the stand up part of it.

This couple, however, make it seem so easy!

The professionals

They make it look like fun, don't they? 

The shot below is of my son in law and his assistant, at the end of the day, experiencing Lake Atitlan on a stand-up paddle board. It's like they're walking on the water!

Friday, April 17, 2015

OUTDOORS in Panajachel

It seems like everything happens outdoors in my town, even during the rainy season. It's odd because we came from the suburbs of Salt Lake City where people basically live in their cars or their houses, only going outside to exercise or do yard work.

But here, the whole population seems to be living outdoors.

At first seeing so many people outside all the time was exciting to me. I wanted to be part of the crowd, eating outside, walking to buy my supplies at "WalMart" or rather a small version of it called "Dispensa." And of course shopping for fruit and vegetables at the mercado, or open market.

Women making their corn tortillas outdoors for sale to passersby.

Even washing our clothes outside....

And of course drying them too!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Natural Wonders of Guatemala

If you love the outdoors and being in nature, appreciating the variety and beauty of God's creations, then you'll enjoy a trip to the Guatemalan highland country. The views are stunning, especially from up high in this mountainous region.

Picturesque Lake Atitlan is a natural resource that's a part of life in this region, just as the volcanoes are surrounding it and elsewhere. There are over one hundred volcanoes in Guatemala, a country the size of Ohio.

Besides the large views of mountains and water and trees, there are the small parts of nature: birds singing and calling to one another every morning at dawn; hummingbirds of so many sizes and colors; butterflies, especially at the Nature Preserve in Panajachel where you can visit an enclosed butterfly sanctuary that feels to me like one of the most peaceful outdoor areas I've ever been to.

As far as nature one would rather avoid, there's scorpions and spiders (not seen any snakes, I don't think they hang out where there's people), and the ever-present termite.

It's wonderfully refreshing to enjoy the beauties of nature, whether in its wild state or tamed and cultured in one's own backyard.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Music everywhere

There is music in the streets of Panajachel, especially during holidays like Christmas and Easter. Marching bands from the local schools will perform several times a week. Leading up to Christmas there were ma parties for the public with music on loud speakers.

There is always music on the chicken buses, broadcast over the radio

One can enjoy live music at night in the restaurants, or random groups that set up right in the street. Most of the music though is coming out of giant loudspeakers set up outside of stores or stalls, to attract customers or celebrate holidays.

We just finished Semana Santa, or Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, and the town was filled with people and music. These beautiful designs were made on the main street, followed later by the processional on Good Friday.

We heard so much music during Semana Santa my husband and I had to move to a different bedroom without as many windows just so we could sleep. There was all kinds of music everywhere: North American pop hits in English, Central and South American pop hits in Spanish, Christian music and hymns in Spanish, instrumental groups, band music.

Music, music everywhere! Do you hear the beat?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Licuado, delicious to drink, easy to make

The licuado is basically a fruit drink blended with fruit, sugar and milk, water or yogurt. All these years where I used to make "banana shakes" in my blender to use up over-ripe bananas, little did I know I was making banana licuados.

Since I've moved to Guatemala, I've gotten more adventurous with my "fruit shakes," because my philosophy has always been with food preparation "if you can make it, so can I."

I've made licuados with papayas, strawberries, pineapple and mango-- by far the easiest is bananas, probably because I've done them for years. The secret is getting the right amount of fruit, sugar and liquid. And the other secret is putting them in a fancy glass and drinking them with a straw.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Kaqkitchel is one of the ancient Maya languages, related in sound and meaning to many other dialects depending on the geographical area. Everyone I have spoken to (in Spanish not in Kaqkitchel) refer to the language as Kaqkitchel. In other areas of Central America they may call it something different, but in the Lake Atitlan region it's known as Kaqkitchel.

Kaqkitchel is thousands of years old yet is still spoken many of the homes of the people, with Spanish being their second language and the one they learn in school. They are very proud of their tongue and will try to teach it to you, if you are at all interested.

Like their traditional dress, the form of Maya language they speak depends on their geographic area. They can understand each other's dialects, and they'll recognize where others are from who speak it a certain way.

As a tourist to Guatemala, one would expect to hear Spanish spoken freely but for the people whose families have lived in these mountainous areas for countless generations, it is Kaqkitchel that is spoken freely not Spanish. In fact there are many old ones who speak and understand very little Spanish.

I would really like to learn this remarkable language. Maybe after I've mastered Spanish...

A few words I know:

nan -- a respectful name to call a woman, probably in Spanish similar to "senora"

katok-- welcome

ya-- water

tzi-- dog

chi chi-- breastfeeding

chachek-- have a good day!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

JEWELRY on the streets

One item a shopper can find quite cheaply and plentiful on the streets of Panajachel is jewelry-- necklaces, earrings, bracelets made of real stones, not plastic. It's hand made and sold from stands on the streets, or by people carrying it around, eager to show you their wares.

I bought these two necklaces for what would be about $2 each in the States. I don't know what kind of stones they are, but they're real, and that's the main thing. When I think of how much it costs for plastic costume jewelry in department stores at the malls back home, it's kind of ridiculous.

Wearing the green stone necklace

Needless to say, when I'm shopping for gifts to take back to family, I go for the jewelry. You can't find this kind of quality and beauty for the price. If you visit and like to shop, don't miss the jewelry available everywhere, and you'll be helping out the local economy and artisans as well.

Friday, April 10, 2015

And the ICE CREAM is super good!

When you're traveling it's hard to know what food to try and what to avoid. Let me say, if you come to Guatemala try the ice cream. There's a brand called Sarita that's really delicious. They have quite a few flavors to choose from in their shops, and my favorite is Rum Raisin.

I'd never eaten Rum Raisin ice cream before, not even sure if they have it in the States, but boy do I love it! It tastes kind of like eggnog, rich and flavorful, and then you get these raisins that are surprisingly good. Raisins in ice cream isn't something I'd necessarily put together but it works.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hiking in the Hills of Guatemala

Many of the tourists who come to the Guatemalan Highlands are excited about hiking. Not too many of them are dressed up fancy. Instead you'll see people carrying heavy backpacks, and front packs too, and wearing sturdy shoes or boots for exploring jungle trails or trekking up the side of a volcano.

Since I'm a pansy, I like fairly short, scenic walks. One of the best of these is the walk along the road from Panajachel to Santa Catarina. It follows the road, takes about an hour or two or three, depending on how fast you go and how often you stop for photos.

My sister and I took two hours up, one hour back. The scenery was so beautiful we wanted to enjoy ourselves, and take plenty of pictures along the way, like closeups of ourselves, and of these flowers.

A shorter hike is to the nature preserve, just a twenty minute walk outside of town, yet with gorgeous views of the lake.

It's my favorite route when I want to get a few minutes out of town and take a short hike by myself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Girls of Guatemala

This is a good place to talk about the traditional clothing the girls and women wear in the highlands of Guatemala. It consists of a piece of fabric wrapped around several times as a skirt, a blouse with specific designs on it, tucked into the skirt and held with a belt, also with specific designs that signify what geographical area they are from.

 Notice the matching blue head dresses on these two women below. What they wear on their heads can also be part of their traditional costume, with the print, design and color having significant meaning.

These girls waiting for a bus are dressed more modestly than any girls you'll see of the same age in the U.S. Note how the skirts come below the knee, and the blouse has sleeves and a high neck. 

The Mayan clothing is beautiful, colorful, modest and worn throughout the country. The girls of Guatemala are dressed this way from the time they are quite young. Nothing is more charming than seeing a three-year-old girl in her traditional outfit, stepping daintily alongside her mother, as though she is the most beautiful princess in the world.

Not to say they never wear American styles, because they do on occasion. Used American clothes are available in the stores called "pacas," and are less costly than the traditional dress costume.

But the hand-made Mayan clothing continues to be worn today as it has for thousands of years, providing the girls of Guatemala with an identity. They carry the pride of belonging to an ancient culture with dignity, and it gives them a fresh, confident, quiet beauty that being decked out in the latest fashions could never provide.