Last days of the trip – Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala is famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture as well as a number of spectacular ruins.

With sad goodbyes and many tears & hugs, we left NPH right after breakfast on Thursday July 26th. We boarded the bus to Antigua for one day and night. We began the day from Central Park in the heart of Antigua. It’s a beautiful setting with fountains and greenery, gorgeous flowers and more Mayans selling their wares. The streets are cobblestoned and lined with colourful stores full of everything your heart could desire and amazing restaurants. I devoured the best cappuccino I have ever had! We met our trusty tour guide Manuel, who took us on a 3 hour tour. We visited Saint Joseph Cathedral. The church was originally built in 1541 but eventually demolished by earthquakes in 1669. It was rebuilt and became one of the largest churches in Central America. In 1773, another huge earthquake, once again damaged the church. Today, much of it is restored and is still being rebuilt. We toured the ruins as well, and I think I spent the whole time with my mouth gaped open in awe and I shot my brains out (with my camera).

Our hotel was another piece of paradise just a walk from the Central Park and main court. I felt as though I was in Tuscany. Two floors of art, architecture and incredible rooms.  A spiral staircase lead up to the roof top… THE ROOF TOP!!! Best spot ever! We had a view of the entire city, clearly seeing the mountains and volcanoes beyond the roof tops. I could have spent days and days there. I want to go back and bring my family! I want to redo the entire trip with my family! I have fallen in love with the people, with helping and with the culture and architecture. For around $400.00, you can go to Antigua and take Spanish lessons for 2 weeks and this includes room & board…

Then volunteer for some time at NPH, then explore more of Guatemala…now THAT’S a plan!

– Endless learning & beauty

One day is simply not enough to do Antigua Guatemala. If you ever get the chance, plan on a few days. There is so much more I wish I could have explored.

One day is simply not enough to do Antigua Guatemala. If you ever get the chance, plan on a few days. There is so much more I want explore.

YESSSSS!

YESSSSS!

Just outside my hotel room door

Just outside my hotel room door

BIG Seat to Fill

I bought a wee bottle to complete my evening

I bought a wee bottle to complete my evening

Can you say UH DOR ABLE!!

Can you say UH DOR ABLE!!

He Gave Me Chills!

SANGRIAAAaaaaa!!!

SANGRIAAAaaaaa!!!

Beautiful Views from Every Corner Breakfast Spot On Last Day Best Was the Roof Top So Many Great Places to Sit Antiques Even... Seriously Gorgeous

Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

My Room

Love the Colours

Volcán de Fuego gave a little show on our last day and burped. I was very excited to see that for the first time!

Volcán de Fuego gave a little show on our last day and burped. I was very excited to see that for the first time!

While watching the Volcano Fuego, release some steam, beside I watched the colours change behind the mountains. Stunning, shadows appeared.

While watching the Volcano Fuego, release some steam, beside I watched the colours change behind the mountains. Stunning, shadows appeared.

Beautiful

I felt like I was in the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" movie

I felt like I was in the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” movie

Bodies are buried below the church

Bird of Paradise Mayan Calendar Symbols in Jade Jade Shop Creative Entrances Stairs to the Crematorium under the church

I was amazed by the perfect circles in the ceiling

I was amazed by the perfect circles in the ceiling

Hmmmmm

I was curious about the adult head on the baby's body

I was curious about the adult head on the baby’s body. I thought he looked a lot like Stephen Colbert.

Catedral de San José

I love this fountain

I love this fountain

Central Park

A sad morning

A sad morning, when we left NPH.

Advertisements

Panajachel

This priest was shot in this very room and the bullet AND his blood stain still remain. That was a wee bit creepy but fascinating all at once. Sad stories indeed. He made an impact and brutally died for it.

This priest was shot in this very room and the bullet AND his blood stain still remain. That was a wee bit creepy but fascinating all at once. Sad stories indeed. He made an impact and brutally died for it.

We visited beautiful Panajachel which is located in the southwestern Guatemalan Highlands. The drive there alone, was incredible. We wound around mountain roads with cliffs and views on each side. I often couldn’t tell if we were heading up or down as we did a lot of both. We stayed for two nights at the Hotel Dos Mundos , a beautiful paradise a block from Lake Atitlan and right off the main market road. Pana is the gateway to many Maya’ villages including Santiago Atitlan, which we boated across the lake to visit. Santiago is situated between two volcanoes (San Pedro & Toliman). The majority of the residents are indigenous Mayans.  Wikipedia – The Cofradías (religious brotherhoods), manage a parallel power and are the guardians of the modern and ancient religious practices, most notably the cult of Maximón to whom they offer liquor and tobacco in exchange of favours. We visited Maximon and watched with our own eyes, this ritual. It was a little unnerving at first, as we followed Manuel through a narrow sketchy alley into a back area behind the buildings. Random chickens were running around and a large dirty blanket covering a doorway. We were ushered in behind the blanket, to a very small room where with about 12 men on their knees, were chanting (or speaking spanish to a tiny statue). It was dark, noisy and to my left was a glass coffin with a body inside. I wasn’t sure if it was real at first and my heart was racing. It all happened so fast, I really couldn’t put together where I was or WHYYYY. It felt as though we were invading someones private scene, in their dirt floor living room. I’ve never before felt claustrophobic…but it kicked in as soon as I was pushed to the corner of the room. The body was not real, but a stuffed form and what looked like a plastic face. The outside of the coffin was covered in plastic colourful light up flowers that were blinking. In front of the men on their knees, was a short statue of a person. It had many mens ties wrapped around it’s neck, a cigarette in it’s mouth and money stuffed in pockets. The men were drinking Gallo (Cerveza), in honour of this statue (who I think might be the same dude in the coffin). It was all a little overwhelming but interesting at the same time. I lasted maybe 5 minutes and had to get out to the air. I would have liked to go back in and ask questions…but bad timing and all… and I knew we certainly didn’t have the time.

I found a link about Maximon -http://www.santiagoatitlan.com/Religion/Maximon/maximon.html  – Crazy interesting stuff!!  AND I WAS RIGHT THERE!!!

We ended the visit and tour of Santiago with more market shopping, a drink by the water and a boat ride back to Pana.

Beautiful cobblestone pathways to what looked like private villas. I highly recommend this place

Beautiful cobblestone pathways to what looked like private villas. I highly recommend this place

Okay, I'll buy!

Okay, I’ll buy!

The art was beautiful and colourful. I don't even think we ave paints that vibrant in Canada. I've never seen anything like it. I could have bought hundreds!

The art was beautiful and colourful. I don’t even think we ave paints that vibrant in Canada. I’ve never seen anything like it. I could have bought hundreds!

A large Confessional was taking place when we arrived

A mass confessional was taking place when we arrived

Outside the church was a small fair. If that doesn't entice the kiddies to go to church....

Outside the church was a small fair. If that doesn’t entice the kiddies to go to church….

We were taken into a room where there was a tribute to a American Priest who was brutally assassinated by the Guatemalan Army. The town's citizens were also slaughtered, raped and tortured at the command of a dictatorship supported by the non-other than the United States! The stories we were told, took hold of my heart. The sick torture that went on and the kinds of things that were done...not human in my mind!

We were taken into a room where there was a tribute to a American Priest who was brutally assassinated by the Guatemalan Army. The town’s citizens were also slaughtered, raped and tortured at the command of a dictatorship supported by non-other than the United States! The stories we were told, took hold of my heart. The sick torture that went on and the kinds of things that were done…not human in my mind!

Again...the doors are art Main Market Street of Pana

Paradise

Paradise

Was selling beautiful hand made fabric cards, while we were eating our lunch.  -Cute clever kid

Was selling beautiful hand made fabric cards, while we were eating our lunch.
-Cute clever kid

"At times very wise and times very crazy, the figure of Maximon has confused outsiders for many years. This combination saint/devil is one of the strongest remnants of the native philosophy in Santiago Atitlan." Yup...I felt that!

“At times very wise and times very crazy, the figure of Maximon has confused outsiders for many years. This combination saint/devil is one of the strongest remnants of the native philosophy in Santiago Atitlan.” Yup…I felt that!

So Totally Cute...Amy

A sweet knowledgable man!

A sweet knowledgable man!

Lake Atitlan is a crater and filled by rain water. It grows yearly and eventually these homes will be under water like several before them. SOme people are living on their second floors as the first floor is already under water. Cheap land peoples!!

Lake Atitlan is a crater and filled by rain water. It grows yearly and eventually these homes will be under water like several before them. Some people are living on their second floors as the first floor is already under water. Cheap land peoples!!

Am i repeating myself here?

Am I repeating myself here?

Breathtaking SNAP'd on the Boat to Santiago Purely Stunning

She's a happy girl!

She’s a happy girl!

A moment to take in some spectacular guacamole and Margaritas

A moment to take in some spectacular guacamole and Margaritas

More Digging, More Playing, More Love

I have a thing about the doors

I have a thing about the doors

and I had a root canal just before I came to Guatemala! Think of the money I could have saved, eh?

and I had a root canal just before I came to Guatemala! Think of the money I could have saved, eh?

Simply yummy breads and cookies

Simply yummy breads and cookies

Owned by a lovely family

Owned by a lovely family

Too Pretty Not to Shoot

We stopped for Cervezas

We stopped for Cervezas

Parramos

Guatemala is full of dogs...hungry puppies. They are not aggressive, they don't fight and they seem to have an uncanny awareness of vehicles

Guatemala is full of dogs…hungry puppies. They are not aggressive, they don’t fight and they seem to have an uncanny awareness of vehicles

Walking to Parramos

 Jose, Julio & Marvin made the days fun

Jose, Julio & Marvin made the days fun

This was a tedious job. There is no easy way to shovel small pieces of tile.

This was a tedious job. There is no easy way to shovel small pieces of tile.

Tamped

Yes...this is the tool used to tamp the sand down to level and harden the floor to get it ready for cement.  - Heavy and painstaking

Yes…this is the tool used to tamp the sand down to level and harden the floor to get it ready for cement.
– Heavy and painstaking

Gratifying work

Gratifying work

I brought with me, two Chinese lanterns. The kids had never seen anything like it. What a thrill to see their faces light up.  The altitude did cause a bit of a delay in lift-off and I didn't expect that...was touch & go for a moment.  On our last evening, visiting Antigua, we spotted hundreds of these lanterns in the sky being released for the celebrations of St. James’ Day

I brought with me, two Chinese lanterns. The kids had never seen anything like it. What a thrill to see their faces light up.
The altitude did cause a bit of a delay in lift-off and I didn’t expect that…was touch & go for a moment.
On our last evening, visiting Antigua, we spotted hundreds of these lanterns in the sky being released for the celebrations of St. James’ Day

Play time at Casa de Babies

filling, then Levelling floors to prepare for cement

filling, then Levelling floors to prepare for cement

After my piñata

After my piñata

Soccer Beauty Bead time with Judy Tia Smiles

I could have taken photos for hours of all the beautiful faces

I could have taken photos for hours of all the beautiful faces

Love the hugs

Diane Finoro brought a fantastic craft for the kids. The girls made beautiful mini autograph/scrap books from coloured napkins

Diane Finoro brought a fantastic craft for the kids. The girls made beautiful mini autograph/scrap books from coloured napkins

Students from Our Lady of Hope Catholic School in Richmond Hill made beaded bracelets for NPH students. In return, the NPH kids made bracelets for the OLH kids. *A fun trade

Students from Our Lady of Hope Catholic School in Richmond Hill made beaded bracelets for NPH students. In return, the NPH kids made bracelets for the OLH kids. *A fun trade

Craft Time With Diane Craft time with Diane

I was surprised with my very first ever Pinata

I was surprised with my very first ever Pinata

Play time

Just a sample of what is made at NPH

Just a sample of what is made at NPH

Is it refa time?

Is it refa time?

The garden approximately the size of a football field

The garden approximately the size of a football field

NPH- the school, the kids, the staff, the volunteers – all family

We enjoyed the opportunity to not only play with the kids, but to leave our mark with volunteering in the kitchen, in the garden, with the special needs, Montessori and my favourite… the construction site. There is no end to the help needed and nothing more rewarding than to give it.

In 1954, a boy was arrested for stealing from the poor box of a small church in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. The young priest in charge, Father William Wasson of the United States, was unwilling to press charges against this “thief.” Instead, he asked for custody of the boy. One week later, the judge sent him eight more homeless boys. By year’s end, 32 boys were in residence and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos™ (NPH), Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters,” was born.

335 children are at NPH Guatemala,  providing a permanent family and home for orphaned, abandoned and other at-risk children who live in conditions of extreme poverty. Each story is different and many completely heart-wrenching. I was amazed of the resiliency, at the apparent happy faces and incredible warmth and welcome feeling they gave us. It didn’t take long to feel like home to me. The love is unconditional and the appreciation is vast.

“Through the principles of love, security, sharing, work and responsibility, the children begin to thrive. A careful balance of these five principles helps the children succeed and live in harmony.” – NPH

Beautiful Faces

After completing our painting project of the bathroom windows

After completing our painting project of the bathroom windows

A Work of Art

Creating privacy

Creating privacy

Building the sink

Canadian made

Canadian made

The visitors houses are built by Canadians

The visitors houses are built by Canadians

The View from Casa One

This was one of my most favourite views

More Moo

A Precious Moment

Northfield Racquet Club in Waterloo donated tennis balls and several were used for the kids to grip crayons to enjoy colouring for the first time

Northfield Racquet Club in Waterloo donated tennis balls and several were used for the kids to grip crayons to enjoy colouring for the first time

Just outside the grounds, a sweet little town with a delicious bakery and good beer

Just outside the grounds, a sweet little town with a delicious bakery and good beer

So True

The little ones put on a performance for us on the last night, and in turn, we gave our own

The little-ones put on a performance for us on the last night, and in turn, we gave our own

Having way too much fun

Beautiful Faces

Beautiful Sandra from Toronto Ontario

BBQ'ing our last supper

BBQ’ing our last supper

Beautiful Faces

Making dolls

IMG_2097

Soccer Time

Favourite game

IMG_1825

Sorting Beans

Judy & Kathryn volunteered in the kitchen

A view from the gardens

Built by Canadian students

Built by Canadian students

The kids clean their own clothes by hand and hang them to dry

The kids clean their own clothes by hand and do many chores. They begin their day at 5:30am (chores), then school at 7am and their school day ends at 1:30. Some have jobs within NPH and others have more studies. A few live on campus, but leave in the morning to go to university.

Soccer Pitch

This soccer pitch was donated (the sod & lighting)

Boo

Boo (Nathan Ingram) is head of NPH construction. From Guelph, he originally came to NPH as a chaperone for a high school group, with his dad. He instantly fell in love with the people, the culture and the country. He currently lives in the small village of Parramos, just outside the NPH grounds.

Ahhhhhhhhhh

Shirley, Judy & Diane

Kathy & Pedro

Kathy & Pedro

Judy, Judy, Judy

Soccer time

One, Two ,Three

Beautiful Faces

Kissable

Beautiful Faces

Kathy Ingram cuddles up

Shutter bugs

The kids were fascinated by cameras

Beautiful Faces

Beautiful Faces

squatters have made their home across the river from NPH

squatters have made their home across the river from NPH

Diane

All Smiles

I was presented on my birthday with these beautiful flowers, grown on the NPH grounds.

I was presented on my birthday with these beautiful flowers, grown on the NPH grounds. I was also surprised with fireworks and a gorgeous chocolate/raspberry cake. Treated like a queen!

Carprenty

Kathryn, Leanne & Annalisa

The Commodore

Tortilla making

Special Needs House

Boo

BAAAaaaaa

NPH has a full sustainable farm with cows, chickens & goats

NPH has a full sustainable farm with cows, chickens & goats

I never tire of this view

IMG_0586

IMG_0578

On the Blacktop

IMG_0567

IMG_0563

Peter & Nathan Ingram gave us a grand tour of the NPH grounds

Peter & Nathan Ingram gave us a grand tour of the NPH grounds

Avocado Tree

Avocado Tree – our meeting place each morning

And an added birthday greeting

And an added birthday greeting

Always carried a smile

Always carried a smile

Our amazing cook

Our amazing cook

Continually cracked me up!

Continually cracked me up!

Judy. Judy. Judy

Day One in Guatemala – A Trip to Chichicastenango

We started out our visit with a day trip to a traditional Mayan market in Chichicastenango. The views along the way were breathtaking. Surrounded by valleys & mountains, the narrow cobblestone streets of Chichicastenango were filled with crowds of vendors and shoppers. I almost caved at the beginning as I found it to be an assault on every sense. Mayans flocked to us as soon as we exited the bus. They give very little space and shove blankets, jewellery & crafts in your face and beg you to buy. It was overwhelming at first. I took a deep breath and dove in! After a break (and a cerveza) at a small restaurant within the market, I was able to take it all in and enjoy the ride.

Flowers for sale

Waiting for the bus

How did the chicken bus cross the road?

Almost every window is a piece of art

I never did get a ride in one of these.

I never did get a ride in one of these.

I enjoyed the Mayan clothing, layers and layers of rich colour

I enjoyed the Mayan clothing, layers and layers of rich colour

If three's a crowd....

For a bag lover, this place could be considered a nightmare. The choices were endless and I loved everything!

For a bag lover, this place could be considered a nightmare. The choices were endless and I loved everything!

We stopped for a small bite, beer and a breather from the chaos.  A tiny little old man came in looking for hand-outs. I couldn't resist and we gave him our left over dishes

We stopped for a small bite, beer and a breather from the chaos. A tiny little old man came in looking for hand-outs. I couldn’t resist and we gave him our left overs.

Gallo is the Guatemalan choice

Diane, Shirley & Tracey

Diane, Shirley & Tracey

Everything is art

The Mayans bring offerings and sometimes burn a chicken for the gods. The 18 stairs that lead up to the church stands for one month of the Maya calendar year.

The Mayans bring offerings and sometimes burn a chicken for the gods. The 18 stairs that lead up to the church stands for one month of the Maya calendar year.

This little girl wondered right in the middle of us as we huddled at the top of the stairs of the church overlooking the market. She was curious about my camera and didn't seem at all shy. - Pure curiosity

This little girl wondered right in the middle of us as we huddled at the top of the stairs of the church overlooking the market. She was curious about my camera and didn’t seem at all shy. – Pure curiosity

The 400-year old church of Santo Tomás is built on top of a temple and the steps lead to a temple of the pre-Hispanic Maya civilization still highly regarded. Maya priests still use the church for their rituals. We saw a gentleman burning incense  at the entrance. (He didn't like his photo taken).

The 400-year old church of Santo Tomás is built on top of  a temple of the pre-Hispanic Maya civilization still highly regarded. Maya priests still use the church for their rituals. We saw a gentleman burning incense at the entrance. (He didn’t like his photo taken).

from the top of the stairs of the church

from the top of the 18 stairs of the church Surrounded by valleys & mountains, the narrow cobblestone streets of Chichicastenango were filled with crowds of vendors and shoppers. I almost caved at the beginning as I found it to be an assault on every sense. Mayons flocked to us as soon as we exited the bus. They give very little space and shove blankets, jewellery & crafts in your face and beg you to buy. It was overwhelming at first. I took a deep breath and dove in! After a break (and a cerveza) at a small restaurant within the market, I was able to take it all in and enjoy the ride.

Chichicastenango, also known as Santo Tomás Chichicastenango,known for its traditional K’iche’ Maya culture

Chichicastenango, also known as Santo Tomás Chichicastenango,known for its traditional K'iche' Maya culture

They do love their paint. It makes everything pop.

They do love their paint. It makes everything pop.

I was in constant awe of the dwellings i could see as we passed

I was in constant awe of the dwellings i could see as we passed in the bus

I always wanted to know what it was they were growing. Everything looked 10 times the size of anything we grown in Ontario. I did find out that it's due to the volcanic ash in the soil that makes everything huge and more flavourful. The carrots were the size of baseball bats

I always wanted to know what it was they were growing. Everything looked 10 times the size of anything we grown in Ontario. I did find out that it’s due to the volcanic ash in the soil that makes everything huge and more flavourful. The carrots were the size of baseball bats

I couldn't keep my eyes of the scenery

I couldn’t keep my eyes off the scenery

NPH -Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos , Guatemala

We arrived to the NPH Orphanage just outside Parramos in Guatemala, on July 13th, 2013. Our flight landed in Guatemala City shortly before midnight, so when we arrived to NPH, it was pitch dark with not much to see. We each lugged our bags (2 pieces each, one chock-full of donations) up a flight of stairs to whats called the “Bodega” (storage). This was our dorm for duration. There were 12 to 14 sets of bunks and I felt like I was back at camp! The first night was a chilly one but waking up to incredible views, warmed me up.A view from the hard top used for gym classes, soccer, basketball and most social events

A view from the hard top used for gym classes, soccer, basketball and most social events
One of my favourite views from NPH

One of my favourite views from NPH

Just like camp

Just like camp

Piece of Paradise