Monday, May 9, 2016

Oh the people you'll meet!

"Oh the places you'll go!  You'll be on your way up!  You'll be seeing great sights!  Whenever you fly, you'll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.  Except when you don't. Because, sometimes, you won't."  ~Dr. Seuss

Spent the most interesting weekend horse-back riding at Lago Atitlan with a good friend and fellow volunteer who left yesterday morning for Iceland.  We went as a despedida, a farewell, and with the expectation of spending time by the lake on a ranch with a little horse-back riding on the side.  What we found was one of the most interesting couples I've come across in all my time in Guatemala.

We were met at the dock by an elderly american gentleman in his seventies driving a barely running, very old, very decrepit green jeep.  He took us to his ranch way outside of town and directly on the water.  Eighteen beautiful horses roamed the pastureland along side the lake and we climbed out directly above them before going upwards to his beautiful and amazing house.  The gentleman, Arthur (not his real name) gave us a tour of his and his wife's beautiful home which they built themselves.  Extensive walkways and gardens surround it with tame deer, birds, and some other kind of raccoon-like animal running around.  Eight dogs greeted us from the outdoor pavilion, laying with their heads on their paws as if nothing in life could ever bother them.

The house itself was beautiful.  Full of artifacts that the couple had discovered in the lake region, everything was tastefully displayed as if in a museum.  The wife, a native american, also had a room full of decor from the Navajo Indians.  Our suite had a running water fountain and the main sala had one entire wall made of windows looking out at the lake.

The most interesting part was listening to Arthur and his wife.  They invited us unto their home as if we were their personal friends.  They regaled us with stories of being spies during the cold war, serving in the Reagan administration, taking ski trips with their friends (famous olympic skiers) and then losing all their money and coming to Guatemala during the Guatemalan civil war.  They told us they were anarchists and that Arthur has five master degrees and a PhD.  

We discussed history, philosophy, politics and religion....normally all taboo first conversation subjects.  He continues to work online with a big name university, all the way from Guatemala...and they have lived here 26 years.  They told us about guerrilla warfare, about training and breaking horses with no prior experience, about performing veterinary surgery on their dogs when needed, and a lot about life in Guatemala. Neither have been back to the states in 23 years.

They also told us about their neighbors, one of whom happened to drop by and shared cocktails with us.  They are a very young couple from the states with four of their own children, who also happen to be raising 21 other guatemalan kids...all of whom are orphaned and call them mom and dad.  They raise support from local churches at home and have two other couples in the area doing similar work, one with 10 kids and the other with 15.  

Working with children in an institutionalized setting, it was very interesting to sit and chat about what we do and how it differs.  I came out of our conversation with the feeling that both of our organizations are doing more for these kids than not having them would and I honestly wouldn't want either one to be promoted as better and risk the other being shut-down.  Kind of like public school and home-schooling...what ever you can make work or works best for your family!

The horse back ride itself was spectacular.  We rode through fields of coffee plants up to a ridge that looked out over the lake and if there were less clouds, we would have seen the pacific ocean.  We even cantered part of the ride which was my first time cantering!  I rode western and my friend rode English.  We loved it!

And finally, the food.  This was by far one of the best meals I've encountered in Guatemala.  They served us the most tender beef, which they cure themselves, along with salad, creamy rice pilaf and fresh veggies.  Then a caramel custard for dessert. Arthur told us he used to win cooking competitions.  They proved that to us!  Everything was delicious.

I know this is a very long post!  The next one will be short and sweet...I promise!!

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