Upon arrival, we knew it would be be a very special week. Sharing the experience with seven other extraordinary mother-daughter pairs and being met and guided by friendly and helpful Mercado Global staff…the plans all began to unfold. A visit to Antigua-- the former capital of Guatemala-- was a great introduction. The colors of the traditional indigenous dress, traje, the buzz in the marketplace, and the buildings, facades, and remnants of colonial times that we explored during our walking tour helped us to envision a former vibrant age in this region.
The next stop was Lake Atitlán, a marvelous highlands lake nestled among the surrounding volcanoes. We settled in to a most inviting lakeside resort which included a verdant, manicured garden complete with native plants and flowers as well as peacocks and parrots greeting us with "hola" and tossing us peanuts to fetch. The girls were excited to try out the zipline above the jungle.
But most amazing of all were our trips to the nearby communities. Meeting the indigenous Guatemalans in the highlands, with such friendliness and anticipation, was a remarkable experience. We watched them demonstrate work on their foot looms, proudly display their handmade wares, lovingly care for their small children, as well as us, the guests. They treated us to tasty, homemade, filling tamales. Friendly games of soccer and then basketball easily proved that we are all similar people after all, full of humanity, energy, fun and joy. The local children, shorter and perhaps hungrier than our American-raised group, beamed after a great pass or a scored goal. In their skirts, even high-heeled shoes, the basketball-yielding women were fierce and organized. They were proud and clearly demonstrated their love of the game; their desire to participate, to compete, and to win.
My appreciation of the situation, plight, and potential of these women and their communities grew by the minute. I enjoyed practicing my rusty Spanish, savoring local cuisine, and witnessing the engagement of my adolescent daughter as she embraced this exposure. I remained hopeful that perhaps this was igniting a flame for future trips, projects, and causes.
After our "official business" with Mercado Global, we embarked on an unforgettable trip to Tikal in northern Guatemala. The ruins of the ancient Mayan civilization, with only an initial excavation of five percent of these thousands of edifices buried within the jungle, was a truly remarkable sight to behold. We soaked up the history and the wonder of this ancient civilization from our extremely knowledgeable tour guide, as he explained the advanced astronomical and mathematical appreciation that the Mayans displayed in their temples, number system, and calendars. It was also refreshing to hear giggles, not groans, from our children as we awoke at 3:30 am for our predawn hike to Temple VI, amongst the roots, vines and boisterous howler monkeys, in order to experience the surreal and magical sunrise over the jungle. We relished the intermittent moments of silence as spectators, observing the majestic Grand Plaza temples rising above the treetops, basked in early morning sunlight and rolling fog.
Overall, this week was an experience to remember forever; the growth, compassion, and ongoing learning in a fabulous setting with a remarkable group.