Posted by: Sanette | July 1, 2010

i’m on a boat.

Brave New World author Aldous Huxley described it as “the most beautiful lake in the world.” My honest opinion: he wasn’t exaggerating.

Panajachel (the region of Solola that my group is staying in) is a little city off the coast of Lake Atitlan, which is surrounded by mountainous volcanoes and little villages. My particular street is a tourist’s dream—plenty of restaurants, shops, street vendors and hotels. But beyond the road, Solola is fresh and natural and gorgeous.

We took a motorboat to reach the town of San Juan across the lake. The ride was bumpy— I could hear and feel waves of floating debris hitting the side of the boat—but the view was unreal. Pictures to come.

In San Juan, we gave two presentations to women in a co-op called Lema, a weaving association that uses natural dyeing practices. The first presentation was about the homestay program, which may be implemented in San Juan in the future. The second presentation gave a general introduction about Soluciones Comunitarias and the different products, such as water purifiers and glasses. The Lema women want to set up a kiosk to sell the products in their store.

The women then showed us how they weave. They use plants that grow around or inside Lake Atitlan like coconut husk, pericon, pepper and annatto to extract colors. After dyeing the thread, they use ancient weaving techniques to make mats, bags, scarves, etc.

Afterwards, I walked around the town and conducted surveys to gather more information about community needs in San Juan. The people there were the friendliest of all the cities we visited—I had great conversations and passed along my contact information as well.

So, to backtrack a bit, we had pretty terrible weather this week–lots of rain due to the hurricane off the coast. Our ziplining outing was canceled yesterday (hopefully rescheduled for tomorrow). Another group also canceled one of our presentations for tomorrow. Work was pretty light for the first two days, but we spent all of Wednesday preparing for our presentations. We also have a few random projects as well, as well as continuing work regarding diabetes.

Turns out rainy days are good times to bargain with the street vendors. One particular incident, though, didn’t quite go as planned.

While my friend Komal and I lounged on our beds Tuesday night, a few other people from our group burst into the room, saying they got awesome prices for scarves and bracelets from a street vendor. Komal and I immediately wanted to go bargain, but Vinny warned us that the lady was rude. Still, we decided to take our chances.

The sun had already set, and so most of the vendors had packed up. We ran into the lady almost immediately. Komal and I were trying a bargaining technique that our site leader had taught us (one is stubborn and rude, the other acts as a sweet, understanding “translator”). I was the former. After a bit of going back and forth, I finally said I would only buy the bracelets and not the scarves.

After I made my purchase, the lady glares at me, waves her hand in a rude Guatemalan gesture and then calls me words I don’t care to type out.

Once we got over the initial shock, Komal and I couldn’t stop laughing. But I did learn one thing: even if hardcore bargaining gets me better deals, I’d rather use honey than vinegar. =)



  1. Thanks for thisl. Just returned from Guatemala and did not love the whole bargaining thing! On the one hand, it was always rewarding to get something as inexpensively as possible…on the other hand was it reallly worth it to hold out for what amounted to 25 cents? Once my wife told a vendor that her husband was getting irritated (I tend to get irritated if I spend more than 15 minutes shopping) and the vendor immediately went down in price. We thought maybe she feared I would become violent…that reallly scared me…give it for a good price so the husband doed not act badly? Hmm….
    As for the Lake, I agree it is one of the most beautiful places I have seen.
    Be well
    Eric Mlyn

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