Good Gifts-Our Last Night In Guatemala

April 15, 2011 in blog, Guatemala, North America, Travelogue

Imelda & Jenn

Antigua is a zoo tonight. The whole town is swollen in anticipation of semana santa and the streets are positively oozing people.


We’re safely tucked into Hotel Don Ismael, our favourite little back street dive, fed, showered and breathing a sigh of relief.

Our last 24 hours in San Marcos were perfect.

Yesterday was a packing marathon punctuated by the unexpected arrival of Jeff & Wendy, with their boys, and Chris for lunch. We ate black bean soup with the goat cheese and bread they brought while the kids played with the gardener’s puppies in the garden. It was one of those postcard moments in which I work hard to etch every line, every shadow and the cascade of laughter into my memory.

Yesterday was also Tony’s birthday and we celebrated with a party at Fe, our favourite evening hang out. The party was so big that there were actually restaurants in town that closed because everyone was coming to our party.

The whole evening was a parade of people we’ve come to love and some who are certainly chosen family:

Alex: The trendy young bar tender who always knows what we’re going to order before we tell him. How his hair remains so perfect is a subject of much speculation about town.

Mike: The brash Irish bar keep who is quick witted and quick to remove the rowdies bodily from the restaurant.

Stephanie & Marley: A mom and daughter team who we’ve befriended late in our stay but who’ve become fast friends. Marley, seven, is the president of the San Marcos chapter of Hannah’s fan club.



The Dandeneaus

The Dandeneaus: Chosen family for sure. Their three year old, Darius, is in love with our girl… “I have heart fireworks for you Hannah…” They brought Tony the gift of a cacao bean pod in honor of his 39th.


Misha: Alex’s room mate and high school friend.  The only guy we know who admits to trimming weed for a living and has lived through a hostage crisis as a result.  Turns out it was his last night in San Marcos too and he wanted to celebrate it with us.

Jarod: Who’s teaching the boys Poi. (Fire dancing!)

Chris: He’s become a regular at our dinner table and a dear friend. This guy’s got more road stories than Jack Kerouac!



Tor & the kids, the drum Hannah is holding is ours, the one Gabe has is topped with used x-ray film, you can see a spine in it!!

Tor: It’s not his real name, but it’s the only name he goes by. He and Hannah have become unlikely friends. Tor is convinced that in one of his past lives, in the 12th century, Hannah was his mother or his sister, but he can’t remember which. He’s spent weeks carefully creating a hand drum for us with a goat skin top. He presented it, along with a reindeer antler from Norway for a drumstick, at dinner Wednesday night and the children haven’t stopped drumming since. It’s perhaps the most generous gift of self we’ve ever been given in our travels.

Kari & Tony have become good friends, she brought him a banana-mango pie with cashew and fig crust with zapote topping!

Kari: Our chocolate making buddy who’s got feathers in her hair and a ready smile. She gives the best hugs in San Marcos, I’m convinced. She’s one of the few that I think will stick and we’ll see in some other place and time.


There were so many others too. People we walk past on the paths day after day. People who we’ve come to consider friends, even though we’re all just passing through.

A German fellow we barely know brought Tony a book (in English).

The guy from San Diego reminded us to contact him and borrow his sailboat next time we’re in the bay area.

Many others brought hugs and stories or other gifts of self to the party.

We’ve received so many good gifts this winter.

  • Little things, like books or candles, bottles of wine or plates of cookies.
  • Bigger things, like baskets and fancy chocolates.
  • Intangibles like dishwashing, musical serenades, generous hugs, dinners and lessons in various crafts.
  • Gifts of self, like homemade chocolate, a beautiful tambo, CDs of music and photos, an hour of someone’s time, laughter.



Imelda's fifth child, Fatima, swinging from the vine in our garden.

It was a long, cloudly climb to the top of the crater in the collectivo this afternoon. We couldn’t see the volcanos for the mist and gentle rain. It was as if the whole Lago was as sad to see us go as we are to be leaving.


The music from the bar next door is playing loudly. Antigua is nice, but it certainly isn’t home. We’re solidly in transit now and we all feel as if we’ve got a foot in each of two worlds. It’s not our favourite feeling, but it’s one we’ve come to recognize, and it gets easier to bear.

This evening we’re looking back with a smile and full, grateful hearts at the half a year that’s passed too quickly. Tomorrow we’ll wake up and look forward, to friends and family and a summer filled with all the things we miss when we’re away.