14 July 2006
My Journey to Atilan
When I decided to start writing BLOGS I did so with a belief that each story would either be humorous, or at least tell a story about the place I was visiting. While I found Guatemala very interesting and beautiful, the story below doesn’t really say very much. All I really did was work so there was a paucity of opportunity to find fun. The highlight, if there was one, was sitting in a Mexican restaurant watching the Mexico v. Argentina world cup match. I totally predicted the final score of 2-1 in favour of Argentina but the best part was seeing the nationalism play out right there in that restaurant. It was as if the pride and stake of each nation was on the shoulders of the 22 men on the field. Mexican’s would rise in anticipation as their striker moved the ball forward only to be countered by Argentine fans who are pleased that the attack has been repelled. The World Cup is over and Italy won. My favourites were eliminated one by one in painful succession but that is grist for another story.
The Road to Atitlan…
As I write I am sitting in the back, the very back, of a Chevy Tahoe being driven by a USAID driver who is taking us back to the other side of what has to be one of the most beautiful lakes on the face of this earth. I have been duly informed by one of my travel companions that Lake Atitlan is listed as one of a thousand sites one must see prior to the end of his lifetime. So here I am the 6th passenger in a 5 passenger Tahoe traveling on a bumpy and mostly winding road with computer on my lap looking out the window on a rainy and foggy day.
My journey started yesterday as we left the capital and drove several hours to the small lakeside town of Panajachel. I was dreading this trip only because I dislike not having ready access to the Internet. The purpose of this trip is built around that exact issue – how can USAID play a role in providing Internet access to the schools, health centres and residents of Lake Atitlan. I enjoy being the “Johnny Appleseed” of Internet connectivity without ever thinking about how maybe paradise isn’t ready for Internet access. Such thoughts rarely enter my thought processes – for better or worse I am a foot soldier in the spreading of the Internet.
The drive from Guatemala City was very scenic but nothing along the way prepared me for the beauty of Lake Atitlan and the town of Panajachel. We arrived very close to dusk but enough light to see the Lake and the four volcano’s. In fact, there are three visible volcanoes which dominate the skyline but the fourth is actually the remnant cone in which the lake sits. One can only imagine, given the size of the lake, that the volcano must have shot up at least 20,000 feet or more above where I was standing at the edge of the water. The three remaining volcanoes sit at 12,500, 11,500 and 10,500 feet and their footprint is no where near the collective size of the lake. It must have been quite an explosion.
The other beautiful thing about Panajachel is the wide array of fabrics produced by the indigenous natives. I am so attracted to the orange, tans, purples and basic fall colours of the fabrics. It reminds me of the fabrics I have seen in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. It almost seems as if the people of these countries have purchased their goods from the same manufacturer – but obviously this cannot be the case.
It turned out that my fears of lack of internet access turned out to be unfounded as the hotel in which I stayed had substantial connectivity enough to feed my incessant need to be connected to the Internet.
There were many things about Guatemala that make it a very nice place to visit. The food is fantastico!! The people were incredibly friendly.
Well I left Guatemala two weeks ago and was hoping to finish this blog while still there but work, and other circumstances, all conspired to derail my plans. Suffice to say,