Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lake Atitlan

Wow, I've got so much to share. But, with an often wonky connection and my focus often being elsewhere, material just keeps piling up. In a previous, I'd promised to cover last week's visit with Dennis.  The shots of his house and property turned out. But images of Dennis himself didn't.  I'll try to get over to his place the next day or two, collect a few more pics and get that one posted soon.

For this post, I'm just gonna share some favorite images of Lake Atitlan. It's so freaking beautiful.  The pictures don't capture the true sense of this magical place.  But, I hope it gives you a sense of the attraction it holds for so many.  The other day, while down at the beach, Katie shared that she's concerned about having lost her sense of wonder in the beauty of this place. I get how she can begin to feel that way. What with having assimilated to the place over the past two plus years, a notable distraction called "Toon", plus the pre-occupation of another little one - soon to arrive.  But,  I'm confident the feeling will be just a temporary lapse, for her.  This place gets right into your soul.  I don't think it possible ever really lose ones connection with nor appreciation of this place. Charlie and his brother to be are extremely fortunate that Katie and Brandon have chosen Lake Atitlan and it's community for them to spend these important formative years of their lives. As a grandparent, I'm thankful for Katie and Brandons vision of how to raise their family. I get their passion for this place and its people.  And, in a huge way, I admire their courage in choosing this path.

Like the cowboy narrator in one of my favorite films says - "Well look at me. Shucks........ I'm ramblin' again."

So, I'll sign off. Lots of other great experiences to share. Hopefully the internet gods will smile and allow me to be a bit more consistent in getting the stuff on line during coming days.

At the dock just below the Xepoj beach gate (the house KB&T live in). Boats come by heading in either direction.  Signal which way you're going and they  pick you up.
Morning - looking West from the Xepoj dock.  The grasses are planted as part of an effort to help mitigate human impact and better manage the health of the lake.  On the beach is an example of hand made boats used by the local folks
Looking East. The way to Panajachel (Pana) - the harbor town central to the lives of, and a supply center for, the people on this part of the lake.
Looking East from Xepoj in the afternoon
Evening, looking West from Xepoj

These two were shot from the boat while Katie and I were returning from San Juan (I'll have a post on that trip for you later)  It kind of gives a sense of how the topography goes completely vertical from the lake shore in most places around the lake.  Most houses and villages are perched on the hillsides.

Ivy & Rory's dock

I call this "The hand of the lake god"
One of my favorites
The three above were taken Friday during our evening walk home from a pre New Year party at the given at the home of Katie and Brandon's friends Ivy and Rory and their 3 children.  All the usual suspects were there. We had a great time!

Happy trails!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Boy, keeping this up is a challenge.  I have material for one about our visit with a neighbor last Friday.  There's also stuff to cover from Saturdays lunch at the Iguana and shopping at the waterfront market just up the waterfront from here.  I'll have to get back to those later.

My first warm weather Christmas.  Doesn't seem quite right not being cold while crunching through snow.  But, I could get used to it ;-}.   Matthew, one of the friends who celebrated with us, grew up in Sydney Australia.  He shared that the "traditional" Northern Hemisphere version of Christmas is very alien to him.  Christmas is time at the beach and bar-b-ques.  So, as Mr Einstein would say - "it's all relative".

The celebrations here began Sunday - late afternoon.  The aforementioned Matthew and his partner Nancy arrived around 4 PM while I was busy cooking.  Seems Nancy was curious to see me running the kitchen?  We chatted and drank some egg nog - for which Nancy brought nutmeg nuts to grate into the drink.  With a splash of Rum (well perhaps a bit more than a splash)  it was luscious.

Our Christmas Eve Feast

When in Guatemala City last Tuesday, Katie and Brandon found some very nice beef tenderloin.  While the beef roasted  in the oven,  I put together garlic smashed potatoes. With the tenderloin resting, Katie roasted some broccoli, onion and red bell peppers. And I sautéed shrimp we'd bought at the market on Saturday.

While dinner prep was in full swing, landlord / upstairs neighbor Augie joined us.  At 6 (just in time for dinner) friends Cruz, Christina and their two sons Christian and Lejandro arrived.

L>R Matthew, Nancy, Katie, Brandon (Tuna hiding to right of Brandon, Cruz' Family & Augie

We dined outside on the patio. Drank some nice wines that Nancy & Matthew contributed -  a German white and some nice reds. Augie brought a couple bottles of another nice German white. A splendid time was had by all.   For dessert, Nancy made a splendid cheesecake from scratch,.  It was phenomenal.

L>R Matthew, Nancy, Brandon, Christina, Lejandro, Christian, Cruz & Augie

Having (at our insistence) consumed the Lion's share of the shrimp ;-} Augie left shortly after dessert.

The rest of us took part in the traditional obligatory photo session.

After the remaining guests made their way home, Brandon gave Charlie a bath. Then they joined Katie for she and Brandon to read a bedtime story. After good night kisses for all, Toon was off to sugar-plum faerie land.  Katie wrapped the last few of her gifts. Magically, Santa arrived just as she finished.

Charlie was very kind in the AM and allowed grandpa to sleep until nearly 7!

I'm gettin' the hang of this!                                              Toon gets his very own headphones

After the wanton destruction of wrapping paper, that I'd so carefully packed and brought from the states, we had a nice breakfast. Afterward we played with all the new stuff. Great fun!
Let's try these out

Hot Wheels Fun

Katie and Charlie took their afternoon naps. Brandon and I watched Episode 1  / Season 2 of Amazon's Grand Tour.  Brandon wasn't familiar with the former Top Gear guys. But, I think he found it quite entertaining.

Nancy and Matthew returned around 3.  They were followed by Chris, Eryne and their 4 year old son, Hugo. Rounding out the Christmas day group were Ryan and Angela accompanied by Angela's twin daughters aged 10

Chris is a great cook. He arrived toting a fabulous ham he had roasted that day with fine glaze of home made ginger syrup.  The remainder of the glaze was served as a sauce for the ham. Chris also contributed some fantastic home-made egg nog.  Katie made from scratch stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes. Ryan and Angela contributed a nice selection of cheeses, crackers and surprisingly good beet dip, (eaten with bread). Angela also made some very light and fluffy dinner rolls.  More nice wines were contributed, Ryan was the guest mixologist and we again feasted like royalty on the patio.

Chris's Excellent Ham - Taken After Everyone Had Been Served!

Angela's Dinner Rolls - Like Eating a Cloud
Katie's From Scratch Sage Stuffing
Katie's Sweet Potatoes - After They'd Been Pretty Much Devoured 

Foregrund - Nancy's back ;-}
Clockwise From There
Brandon, Chris, Ryan, Angela & Eryne

Charlie Contributed the Centerpiece

After dinner, we played a game Ryan and Angela brought along  called "Catch Phrase". It's like trivial pursuit, played with an electronic "puck" that presents the challenges, keeps time and score.  High energy and lots of fun.

Welcome Rest After an Eventful Two Days

By the time everyone headed off for home, KBT, Kirby, Jackson and I were happy for some calm.

Hope your Christmas was as great as ours.

Until next time...


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Norwegian Wood

The area of Santa Cruz where KBT live (remember Katie, Brandon & Tuna) is kind of an enclave of folks from Norway. While hiking South and Central America they discovered the area, fell in love with the beauty of the lake, bought property and built second homes in the mid / late nineties.

 Wednesday late afternoon, before dinner, we went for a walk around (well up and down) the neighborhood.  Along the way we popped through the gate of a large property and to explore. The "estate" is owned by a member of Norwegian Royalty, known here as Lord Eric. I lost count of the buildings on the property.  Didn't take any images I was taken by the gardens.  So, hope you enjoy the images of our walk through the Eric's gardens.

The laundry building

Charlie on the run

Katie loves Oso - beautiful chocolate lab mix

Toon found Kim


Katie loves Kim too

This is an example of how everyone landscapes their gardens. Lawns with well spaced tropical trees / bushes 


Back home, this is the entry garden - outside my bedroom window

The image below is the view from my window

That wall at the back is the garden wall separating the property from the town footpath that runs up from the dock below us.  Most properties have these stonewalls.  Making the footpaths that run between give the impression of being in a maze. Very "Through the Looking Glass" kind of feel.  I keep looking up expecting to see a Cheshire Cat perched on a branch.  I'll remember to get some images and hope to evoke the feel of the paths for you.

After our walk - into the kitchen to make pizza for dinner!

Sometimes Charlie can be a real help ;-}

Katie's from scratch pizza!

Pizza with Ranch dressing. Nirvana!

Jackson - always at the ready with editorial support

Until next time...



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Thanks to Katie for allowing me to share this space. It’s great to be contributing to Guacamala Life during my visit with Katie, Brandon and Charlie. 

This is my first visit.  Wish I’d made the effort to get here sooner.   It’s gorgeous here! Already thinking about a return.  My adventure began Monday night.  My great friend and “brother” Mikey Newman sacrificed precious sleep to get me to the airport - in two stages.  He picked me up from my townhouse at 11 PM (because we both had much on our respective plates).  We drove to he and Nancy’s home (near the airport) where we planned get a few hours sleep, before my early flight. [Mikey volunteered to get up and drive me to the airport at 3 AM!]  Upon arriving at Mike and Nancy's the retractable handle on my rolling duffle broke.  Mikey declared – we can fix that!  We popped a couple beers, headed to his workbench, scrounged parts and made a new handle!   (amid much noise - really sorry Nancy - hope we didn't wake you!- it was his idea ;-) At midnight we called it a night! 

Woke at 2:45, rubbed the sleep from our eyes and headed to the airport. 

Some notes on early mornings at MSP. First if the 2 hours they want you there ahead of departure puts you there before 3:30 – don’t bother. Airline ticket agents and baggage handlers don’t start unti then.  TSA at that time – good luck!  Once through security, the only choice for food, before 5 AM, is McDonalds at D gates!  My gate was in G concourse. A long walk for a crap breakfast - JEEZ


Handle Repair / Mikey & I (with all my luggage)@MSP 3:15 AM

But, after a rough start - for this non-morning person - the rest of the trip went amazingly and thankfully smooth. While on layover in Atlanta - two interesting things.  Wish I'd got a picture of this one - walking from arrival gate to tram I noted a young man, wearing cowboy boots, shorts, midriff T-shirt and open full length fur coat!  Wow - talk about fashion sense. Then, on the wall at my departure gate, I enjoyed viewing a portrait of Bing Crosby - done in sequins! 

                               Merry Christmas from Bing!

After sailing through Guatamala City immigration and customs, I emerged into daylight to see Brandon’s smiling face and waving hand.  Hustled to the van to join Katie (hugs & kisses) and sleeping Charlie, and off we went!  

[K,B & C had arrived in Guatamala City the day prior. Stayed in a hotel ahead of a pre-natal check-up for Katie and a shopping expedition the day of my arrival. We hit the very long and winding road with 3 1/2 hours of nearly constant views of beautiful scenery. 

Along the way we also noted some interesting local road maintenance practices

Orange cones - who needs 'em?  Just paint some rocks white.

About a half hour from the end of the road portion of our trip we drove through Solola. It's the town where Charlie was born.  The market was in full swing, and the town square had a Christmas tree.

In Solola I noticed this interesting dentist office along a narrow street.  Shalom Dental.  The picture taken at close range through the window of our van, while moving.  Not exactly a great image. But had to share it.  Those marks on the smiling front teeth - little gold Stars of David.

We arrived in Pana on the shore of Lake Atitlan, at sunset.  

Loaded my luggage & all the newly acquired provisions into a waiting boat. We headed across the lake, as twilight changed to night.  

Boat ride was kind of chilly. So we wrapped Charlie in my Minnesota ready insulated jacket.  Not sure why the blue interior lights.  But kinda cool

Had a nice dinner that Katie had prepared ahead.  Then we each showered and Charlie got a bath. Katie and Charlie headed to their beds. I unpacked and settled in, while Brandon configured the new Roku box he’d had delivered to my house.  Watched a little news with Brandon via the new / faster-than-the-old Roku, and we called it a night - think around 11

After a much-needed full night of sleep, Katie - kindly ;-} suggested I might want to get up at 8. With my first coffee down, I caught up on a little work outside in the wonderful morning air on the veranda.

My morning desk

Charlie’s sitter, Anna arrived...

....Katie, Brandon and did the short walk down to the dock, ....

....caught a boat, traversed the lake to Pana for breakfast and some shopping. At the dock all three of us crammed into a Tuk-Tuk for a ride to the restaurant. Pana reminds me of Yucatan towns in the 70s.  Breakfast was great - in a restaurant owned by a Minnesota ex-pat. After Katie did some last-minute gift shopping, Brandon went to buy produce & other fresh groceries while I took advantage of the faster network speeds at the restaurant. The better network help me to catch up on some work with big files to send & upload to the cloud.  Katie returned - she and I walked to the dock and caught a boat back while Brandon finished shopping. 

In the boat, Katie and I chatted with a nice couple from NoCal.  They're Peace Corp volunteers, working in a high mountain village.  They talked about how cold it gets up there and were happy to be taking a little time off down at 5 thousand feet on such a nice warm (80 F) day.

Katie and our Peace Corp traveling friends

When we got back to the house I did some more work (in what I’ve dubbed the “pavilion”.....

.....while Katie & Charlie napped.  Brandon returned. Katie got up and we had a nice chat with their landlord / upstairs neighbor, Augie.  Charlie woke during the visit and greeted Augie. 

After, Charlie & I played in his sandbox while Katie prepared dinner and Brandon did some domestic chores.  Tuna (little Charlie v his uncle Charlie) and I had great fun playing with his new toy bulldozer in the sand.  But the big fun was making sandcastles for Tuna to then smash, like Godzilla crushing Tokyo.  As the Sun set and a nice breeze came up – Katie served a really nice pesto / chicken / pasta dish on the veranda - topped off with homemade chocolate chip cookies.  After clean up time [Tuna was very helpful] we watched one of Tuna’s kid shows. Then Toon (yeah the nicknames keep coming) got a bath and went off to bed.  Brandon and Katie retreated to the veranda, while I stayed inside and set about to writing this post.

Please don’t expect a running history like this in each of my entries.   (who'd want to?) But, tonight I kind of needed to remind myself of how I got to this moment.  This place is so amazingly beautiful.  So - in coming installments, I hope to convey more of my experience of this place, Katie, Brandon & Tuna’s (KBT from now on ;-} wonderful adventure here and how it’s all talking to me.  I also plan to be more diligent in capturing images & promise to take time to do some post on them from here out [all of these are straight from the phone / camera].

Thanks for your attention. Hope you find my ramblings at least a bit interesting.  I'll be back with another post soon.


Jeff K