This year, 2013, I traveled to Belize and Nicaragua but spent most of my time in Guatemala. Although there are wonderful aspects to both of these countries, I missed Guatemala when I was away and was happy to return. It has been a year of deepening and expanding my connections with friends and feeling daily gratitude for the beauty of Lake Atitlan and for the Maya culture that surrounds me. Every day I am so happy that I am here, in San Pedro, and that here I feel at home. And so it was right that this year I stayed closer to home and celebrated the holidays of December with the families and communities who most deeply touch my life here in Guatemala.
December began with the 4th birthday of my friend, Jacqueline, who is the daughter of my dear friend, kitemaker Julio Asturias. Over the years I have had many meals at Julio's house in Sumpango and been honored to know the other members of his extended family who live together with Julio's family in a traditional Guatemalan family compound. Still I hadn't met many of Wilma's family as they do not live in Sumpango. "We would like you to come," Julio had written. "Our whole family will be there." "How many people is that?" inquired. "Oh about 50," he said. I tried to imagine that many people in their courtyard as they also have 5 duchsands, 2 large dogs and a variable number of rabbits.
When I got to Julio's house after a scenic and comfortably seated 3 hours on the chicken bus, several family members were steadily blowing up balloons. Eventually there were over a hundred balloons surrounding us and which afterwards would provide the main toy for the kids. Periodically a balloon would pop, but in this land of intermittent firecrackers and bombas, the sudden explosions startled no one. Personally I was delighted this birthday was being celebrated with popping balloons and not with the traditional exploding gun powder.