Corn, it is everywhere. If we weren´t brushing past it to get to our Spanish classes set in an abundant garden overlooking Lake Atitlan, you could smell the smokey corn tortillas being cooked over hot coals on the sides of the road, or you would be jumping out of the way of ladies swiveling their hips towards the market, balancing big plastic bowls filled with big blobs of maiz dough on their heads.
Guatemala is traditional, it is cultural and it is indigenous. Meat takes a back seat to the golden husks rising up out of the dirt in dramatic abundance. In this part of the world, you are nobody without your machete. Slung around the mens’ waists in fabulous leather straps, these essential items slash through the greenery with vigor, clearing the way for yet more corn fields. Despite wielding what I have always known as a weapon, it is not threatening and just like you feel the need for the latest Iphone, I enviously look on wishing I could have an excuse to carry an engraved knife in a custom leather sling.
Despite being a country being once torn by civil war, Guatemalans are ranked among the world’s happiest people. It is like walking down the street in your home town, it is impossible if not damn rude not to say hello and exchange other pleasantries with the people you pass. And what do you expect? They are surrounded by magical beauty…
Imagine a place where the husky aroma of smoking wood drifts silently on crisp, clean air. Where the nights are fresh, insisting you warm up with a glass of vino and the days are kissed by pure, sweet sunlight.
Traditions have not been lost, Mayan culture lives on in the indigenous people of the lakes and jungle through their food, their own languages, the way they dress and how they live. Our daily paddles out on the lake would see us pass women and children bathing and washing their clothes in the lake, the men working the fields.
Antigua is quaint, with its cobbled streets that threaten to twist your ankle if you become preoccupied by gazing at the architecture, the old churches or the looming volcanoes. It has a fantastic coffee culture.
Lake Atitlan is something else. Heralded as a place of great spiritual energy, hippies gravitate to this area. It is tranquil, picturesque and just perfect. There is no-where else you want to be. We studied for a week at the Spanish School, Casa Rosario absorbed in a world of verb tenses, vocabulary and idle chit chat amongst orchids, fruits, singing birds and curious squirrels.
I am not sure if I will ever find a place more heavenly.