Nearly Time to Go
31 December 1969 | Antigua, Guatemala
Beth / 80's daytimes -cool nights
We’re wrapping up our stay in Antigua, fitting in final dental appointments and last excursions for this time around.
Jim was hoping that Dr Sammy might make the impression for his crown on Friday, but although he removed all the stitches and deemed his healing going very well, he said there was still enough swelling to make it inadvisable. So what did we do? Why we filled the weekend with all sorts of activities of course!
We hired Erick, who was our tour guide at Finca Filadelphia to take us on a pueblo tour in the area surrounding Antigua, and that turned out to be a little more of a “local experience” tour than we planned. He picked us up at 2 and we drove first to San Juan del Obispo just a little farther down our road and up the hill. There, we toured the large Palacio del Obispo – dating to the 1500’s and the original home of Bishop Francisco Marroquin (the namesake of the Spanish School we attended last year), a centre of education and instruction in wood and metal working at one time, and now home to a small group of nuns and occasional spiritual retreats. We wandered through beautifully restored halls and archways, glimpsing an ornate and heavily gilded chapel.
Next on the tour was a stop in Ciudad Vieja where we spotted numerous streetside water faucets that made carrying water more convenient for families who didn’t have to go all the way to the central square for their supply. In that square, we watched local women doing their laundry in the central lavandria – a large water filled, covered area with individual scrubbing stations - pilas. Women wash not only their own laundry here, many are employed to do laundry for others too. We’ve seen these washing places in Antigua and Livingston also - where women chat and scrub together – and they do a good job of it too. I have rarely seen a grubby Guatemalan.
Next stop was the Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm, started 30 years ago by a Californian who decided to settle here and establish a sustainable and organic nut plantation. Pedro gave us a short tour, explaining that the nuts are gathered after they fall from the trees – no climbing or shaking necessary – and are dried, sorted, roasted, mixed with chocolate or processed for their beneficial oil. It was here that our unplanned look at life for a local Guatemalan started. Erick’s car had a flat tire, and because of the particular lug nuts on it, he couldn’t find the right tool from any nearby garage to remove it. As he drove from mechanic to mechanic (while we were having our tour) it shredded entirely and became completely unusable. He had used his spare to replace another tire the day before. So, we waited – enjoying the hospitality of the farm – for a taxi to come. The car stayed there as Erick, Jim and I rode back to Antigua. After dropping us off, Erick would have to go home, get on his motorcycle, find a mechanic with the proper tool and a new(ish) tire, go back to his car and do the repair. As we paid his fee (with great apologies and embarrassment from Erick) we knew that the whole fee for today’s tour would go to car maintenance. Although we didn’t get to visit the textile village or the guy who made delicious pork tortillas, we got a glimpse of the real life of one young hard working Guatemalan man.
We were back to history on Saturday – after my last yoga class, and my last enthusiastic greeting from Juan the ceviche man – as we walked up to Iglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas – the one time home (started in 1726) of a small group of Capuchin nuns from Madrid. It was heavily damaged in the earthquakes of 1773, abandoned until restoration started in 1943. As in so many other Antigua sites, present day life takes place in the midst of historical ruins, and on the day we visited, wedding preparations were underway. It was interesting to contrast the beautiful flowers and table settings, elegant gowns and tuxedos among beautiful gardens and courtyards with their ever present fountains, with the life of those one time residents who were reportedly required to sever all ties with the outside world, and sleep on wooden pallets in their tiny cells in a unique tower-like structure.
As we walked home, we met up with Doug who invited us over to Nancy’s house for a glass of wine. What a surprise to walk through that solid wood-over-metal door. I was expecting it to open into a courtyard, but it was a whole field to the right with houses to the left. We walked through yet another door to find the requisite courtyard with flowers, spiral stairway to the rooftop terrace where we enjoyed our wine among clay tiled rooftops and views of volcanoes and churches and bell towers. I think a rental of one of these Spanish style houses lies somewhere in our future!