Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yes, Iris, I´m In Paradise

Me again! Yesterday was lovely. We went straight to the open-air market in Antigua to have lunch. I had a typical Mayan dish called pepián, with hen. Pepián is a dark brown, mildly spiced sauce, kind of smoky in flavor. Yummy!

We walked around the town...if you don´t know, Antigua was the original capital of all Central America, so some of the buildings are 500+ years old. I used to spend some time there every year, when I worked for the PCUSA, doing closing retreats for groups. I haven´t been back in 7 years...that´s a long a painful story, how I lost my job, better for another day (or not at all...)... suffice to say my emotions were a little mixed yesterday: mostly happy memories, though, of the groups; of walking around the plaza; of praying in the cathedrals; of wandering through shops; of being surrounded by young Mayan women all trying to sell me something (very hard to resist, frankly); of Doña Luisa´s restaurant and bakery, where you can get fresh coffee and warm banana bread; of Doña María´s candy shop; the huge Volcán de Agua, (Water Volcano) looming over the city; the little cafés where I´d have a little cafe con leche and write in my journal, the one where the cat that lived in the travel agency climbed through the small trees and bushes; ancient buildings like the Capuchin convent; smells of fresh breads and grilling meat; all the bright colors of buildings and traditional clothes. I´ll post some photos when I get back.

Really, the only thing that made me sad was that the last time I was here was with my last group. I´d just been told I would not be hired back, with no good reason ever shared with me. I was deeply depressed (in general, made worse by the job loss). I guess my sadness was that I didn´t get to say a proper goodbye, as it were, to my job and the people and the places, like Antigua, that I loved. And I´m still a little angry that it was all taken away, even though I am so happy with my life now that I would not change it for anything.

So, all in all, besides a little mixed-up and understandable nostalgia, the afternoon was fabulous. My cielo´s nieces adore me and teased me and held my arm while we walked around town. They were just girls 7 years ago, the oldest barely a teenager, now they are beautiful and kind and generous young women. We got the famous banana bread (which we had for breakfast this morning along with fresh eggs and black beans) and candy from the candy shop. The only thing I wish we could have done was go into the cathedrals (the main one on the plaza, and La Merced). My cielo´s family is pretty conservative pentecostal so that was not really a possibility. I hope we can get back, just my cielo and I and her one brother who is more open to such things, so that, as I told my cielo last night, I can make my peace with the place. But certainly it was wonderful to be there, and recognize my favorite places and know that I can still find my way around (OK, it´s not that big of a place, but I tend to get turned around easily).

On the way back we stopped at another market for atol (a creamy corn drink) and Guatemalan-style tostadas with fresh (there´s that word again!) guacamole. I also had a roasted ear of corn, one of my favorite things, roasted on the grill. I don´t post pictures of myself (ok, except for my feet, which you don´t want to see because they´re a little swollen from the plane and I woke up with some sort of rash caused by a bug feet are not at their normal level of cuteness!), otherwise you could see me laying into my corn with great gusto!

Today is a quiet day at the house. Watched a soccer game with my cielo´s dad, read a little bit of Sense and Sensibility, and now I´m here by myself while they´re doing a little shopping.

A nice vacation, all in all, which I clearly need because all night long I dreamed of impossible homework, mean professors, and all-around stressful school stuff. Yikes!

Peace to all of you --