Sunday, March 4, 2012

Antigua to ChiChi

We left Iowa on Feb 23 for Guatemala and spent 9 days with Iowa MOST – the cleft lip and cleft palate surgical repair team.  If you have not done so, go to to read about that experience.  On Friday (March 2) morning we left the city (Xela) in which we had the MOST mission and drove on a bus to Antigua.  After an afternoon, evening and morning in Antigua, Cal and I picked up our rental car and we started out on our own! 
Our Hotel in Antigua

An unusual Flower at our Hotel
However I must first tell you about our morning!  Cal wanted to download our photos unto our exterior hard drive to empty our digital camera cards, when he realized the plug-in into the hard drive was not functioning the way it should. The USB plug-in inside the hard drive has broken away from the Motherboard! OH NO!!!!! We cannot access the hard drive at this point.  We are hoping that some one at home will be able to retrieve our documents off this exterior hard drive, but time will tell.

That was our first bad luck of the day!! 

However, on a positive note, one of our team members had an extra16 gig-a-bite thumb drive with him that he insisted we take, so we will be able to store photos on it. We are not going to worry about the hard drive until we return and get to Iowa City.  The main issue ‘at stake’ is the photos.  We still had our own photos on the computer, but Cal had lots of photos from other team members, and they are gone, if they cannot be retrieved. 

So life goes on!  We had a lovely morning walking around Antigua, snapping photos of markets, people, buildings and activities.  By we returned to our hotel to meet the in-country coordinator of the MOST team, Paco.  Paco took us and our luggage to the car rental location.  We unloaded our luggage, etc, processed the car and also at another desk in the same office we processed the shuttle vehicle we will take to Guatemala City on March 6. This was all within feet of each other. When we were finished with paper work, Cal went with the rental attendant to get the car.  I was looking at our stuff when I realized Cal’s camera case was wide open and no camera was in the case!!!! OH NO!!!!
Did Cal have it with him, NO!! It was nowhere!! We returned to the hotel lobby, just to double check, but we are sure we had the camera in the case with us. We do not leave the case open as it was when I found it. 

Two women had entered the car rental office, asked the attendant a question and left. Within that minute the one had opened the camera case and off they went!!  Quick money!!  It was all within a matter of one minute. No one else was in and out of the office except these two women.  The office attendants were shocked when they saw the empty camera case and realized what had happened.  We were sick!!  We have a second camera but this was the better one even if it is old.  We are still sick about it, but life goes on and we must look at the positive.  At least it was not credit cards and other documents.  Plus we are thankful Cal transferred all the photos off the cards this morning, so we just lost the photos we took walking around Antigua. We really think these gals watched us unload the car and saw the camera was not around someone’s neck.  Cal ALWAYS carries it around his neck, in fact, we had just discussed what he could do so he wouldn’t look so much like a tourist!  Well they took care of that issue!!
Central American Highway #1 - Notice the deep cut into the Mountain
View of Agriculture along the Highway

After this, we had an amazing day.  We drove 3 1/2 hours to Chichicastenanga, a village in the mountains. We drove west on CA 1(Central America Hwy #1) for 2 1/2 hours and then drove north on a secondary road for 16 km.  16k is right at 10 miles.  No sweat – this isn’t very far!!  Well it took an hour!  There were 35 speed bumps, for which you had to stop, or you would rub the bottom of the car, which we did on a couple of occasions.   Plus the road was steep and winding both up and down the mountain sides.  At times we were on the backbone of the ridge - it was so narrow we could see down both sides, then we would go down into the valley and up to the top of the next ridge or around the next mountain.  We had sharp hairpin curves and steep grades.  We were not sure we were going to make it unless we had it in first gear! (thank good Cal was not riding a bike!) There were trucks on the road, going ever so slow, several were broke down, and the chicken buses were just FLYING!  It was an interesting and beautiful drive.  We drove directly to our hotel reservation (no problem), checked in and walked to the plaza to a recommended restaurant.
A Secondary Highway to Chichi

More Highway Photos

Saturday Evening Restaurant - Casa de San Juan

Casa de San Juan during Market - Sunday

I guess maybe I should tell you our reason for coming to Chichi (as the locals call it). Chichi is known for its colorful Thurs & Sunday markets, plus the Sunday Mass in the church on the Plaza dating back to 1540. The service has Christian and Mayan traditions intermingled – actually they say more Mayan than Christian. This is town of deep traditions.

As we walked to the restaurant we saw many carrying bundles of poles that will be used to hold the canopies, over what will be their booths tomorrow, along the streets. Some were already erecting them, while others were just arriving. We continued onto the plaza where lots of booths were already selling item.  It was a maze of booths, and tomorrow it will be a mass of people. We were glad we were able to walk around tonight we ease.  The fruits and veggies are sooo beautiful.  The women are dressed in such beautiful traditional colors and styles.  They usually do not want their photo taken, but the little girls love seeing photos of themselves. 

Tonight and most definitely tomorrow, on market day, we will be carrying nothing or have anything in our pockets, except our small camera in our hand.  We have been warned of pick pockets on market day with people bumping from all sides.  The market opens at so you know these market people are sleeping right there in their booth/stall.  We plan to get up at , walk to the market and be at mass by , after which we will eat. 
Women in Traditional Dress

Indoor Market
Indoor Market

More Indoor Market
Man in Traditional Costume at Market
Sunday Market Crowd

Outdoor Fruit Stand
Sunday Street Scene at the Market

Women Discussing their Chicken
One of the Many Stands with Colorful Fabrics

Flowers on the steps of the Church
Chichi in the distance with the  road we drove in  the foreground

Farmers working in the fields making ridges to plant their crops

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