All Good Things Must Come to an End

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Monday, March 5, 2007

It was inevitable from the day we arrived at Terkuiletenango that it would be extremely difficult to tear ourselves away from such a spectacular setting, and from the family who had first stolen our hearts just three years ago. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, and rather enjoy to the fullest the time remaining in our own little piece of paradise.

Unfortunately, just over a year ago Alberto fell off a ladder while attempting to fix a wooden shutter, suffering a severe fracture to the right shoulder. Despite spending time in the hospital followed by several visits to a local healer, he continued to experience intermittent pain and has been unable to lift his right arm past shoulder level. Since Janine is a practising physiotherapist, we asked whether she might consider taking a closer look at Alberto's shoulder/arm, and perhaps propose some simple exercises for him. We can't be sure whether it was simply the assurance that lifting his arm higher wouldn't aggravate the injury further, or whether the daily exercises were spot on, but the improvement to Alberto's flexibility was unbelievable. Thanks so much for all the quality time you spent with him, Janine!!

Alberto isn't alone in the mishap department. Last week, Eddy Maudilio somehow managed to spill a pot of boiling water onto his ankle. Although obviously in pain, he was reluctant to take off his shoe in order to allow us to examine his foot. By the time we did finally get to see the damage, it appeared to be quite a horrifying injury. We unearthed our first aid kit, and once again nurse Janine was called in to gently clean the wound and apply an antiseptic dressing. We had decided to take Eddy to the local clinic in spite of his adamant protestations, but fortunately the wound finally began to heal on its own.

Reflective moments at the hacienda continued to be interspersed with outings to surrounding towns and villages, each with its own special charisma. In spite of the dazzling colours of Chichicastenango, the brilliant indigo blues depicting Santa Catarina, the dozens of cute, inexpensive restaurants in Panajachel, and the fascinating, traditional lifestyle of Santiago Atitlán, we still find that nothing quite matches the charm of Antigua - one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America.Cameras at the ready, we wandered leisurely through the cobblestoned streets, particularly admiring the buildings painted in alternating pastels, with their attractive wrought iron window bars and exquisitely carved wooden doors. We were moved almost to tears at the destruction caused by the major earthquakes to hit the area - 1717, 1773, and again in 1976. Although beautiful in their own right, the crumbling ruins of the Catedral de Santiago, as well as numerous churches and convents, are a constant reminder of the catastrophic force of nature.

Antigua is of course also well endowed with a myriad of interesting restaurants, so following an afternoon of being tourists, we enjoyed a final "plato tipico" with Peter and Janine before taking them into Guatemala City for their flight back to Canada. Yes, the last of our visitors had left, meaning that our departure from the hacienda was not far away. But not before tying up a few final ends.

Over the past month, Alberto and Juliana have been extremely busy harvesting their maize, drying it thoroughly in the sunshine, removing the kernels from the cobs, and finally winnowing it to remove any remaining extraneous substances before storing it in their new silo. Although they were cautiously optimistic about this season's production, we could see at a glance that they would run short of their staple crop well before next year's harvest was anywhere near ready. And naturally, the price will rise considerably before that time, so they would be forced to buy at inflated costs. We suspect that because of Alberto's accident, he was unable to keep up with the daily demands on his time during planting season last year, resulting in a somewhat reduced harvest. Thus, we made a quick trip into Panajachel to purchase 500 pounds of maize to augment their harvest, ensuring that their supply would last the year. The smiles on the faces of the entire family when they saw the maize will stay with us forever.

But what about our final despedida? The family had already enjoyed Swiss chocolate when Adi and Tanja left, and pancakes with maple syrup when Peter, Janine and Sherry left, so a little party with popcorn, fruit and cake for our own farewell just didn't seem to cut it in our minds. Thus, we decided to invite them to a restaurant in nearby San Andres - definitely a first for them. At mid-day on Sunday, Alberto, Juliana and nine of their ten children piled into our van and off we went in search of a special meal. Not only did they savour every morsel of the delicious chicken lunch - they also scraped all the bones into a plastic bag to take home. They might have been earmarked for the dogs, but we suspect they will contribute to a very tasty soup for the whole family! And to top it all off, we decided to be totally decadent and went off in search of peanut-covered frozen choco-bananas for our after-lunch treat.

That afternoon as we carefully packed the van, the entire family came to watch and assist whenever they could. Early the next morning the winds were howling, the lake was shrouded in cloud and the power was off - the volcano gods appeared to be telling us it was time to move on! All the children came to say good-bye before leaving for school at 7 am, and the tears flowed freely as we all hugged, hugged again, and then hugged some more. What a wonderful family - when will we ever see them again?!
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