Molding away in Guatemala!

February 3, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

I am sitting here on a dismal rainy day wearing sweat pants and  colorful knitted booty slippers that I got as a gift last year.  The door and hatches are closed so we can stay warm.  It has been raining almost constantly since the big party I last wrote about.  We did get out for awhile one day which I will tell you about in a minute, but otherwise it has been time just sitting on the boat listening to the rain.

Yesterday I made one of my rolled sandwich loaves and also cinnamon rolls except I forgot to put in the cinnamon.  Still good though.  I wish I had ingredients to make some home made chicken soup.  One of the restaurants in town has it for a lunch special today but of course, we are not in town anyway.  May open a can of soup.  I am starting to run out of produce though Chris brought me some fruit yesterday.  We don’t see much of him as he has been in town every day trying to get the boat he is working on, back in the water.  It has been hard to do the work and bottom paint when it rains all the time!  It has to be miserable every day going in and out in the rain.  It is a 45 minute ride in an open boat and I wouldn’t like it much.  He is hoping to check out and leave on Sunday to make the planned 10 day trip to deliver the boat back to Florida for the owner.  Doubt he will have any time off before that so we have not had our fill of time with him but grateful for what we did have.

Kelli has been wanting to show us around more but no one wants to get soaked and that seems the only option.  It is about 10:30 and no hint of sun anywhere.  It seems like dusk.

A couple of days ago, it seemed to clear a little and Kelly took us in her dinghy up the river a ways.  We went down a few tributaries that feed in to the main river to see the houses and land along those places.  In one area, there were some nice looking places and a pretty busy and industrious boat yard where they do fiberglass work on larger boats but also have a mold and make their own launches which sell well.  They employ quite a few people but OSHA would have a field day with this.  Fiberglass dust is everywhere, including coating the surface of the water.  One man grinding was wearing a scarf over his nose and mouth but no eye protection.  This is pretty common and one wonders if they realize the long term health and environmental consequences or if making a living today is the only consideration.

We ended up at a back packers place along another river.  It was really pretty with large common areas for dining and a large room with hammocks for laying or sitting.  There was a dorm like loft above the sitting area which is the least expensive option for a nights stay.  There are also paths that lead to little individual bungalows in the rain forest.  There were bathrooms near the bungalows.  The prices are low but then the accommodations are on the rustic side.

We met a couple there who were on their last stop before returning home.  They had been traveling for their third trip to Guatemala and did some volunteer work near lake Atitlan building mason stoves and installing them in homes.

They were really interested in our cruising life and she really wanted to do it someday.  The old thing about putting aside a promising career, financial security, etc. was a difficult thought for him but understandably so as he is only 28.  She is 32.  We invited them to stop by our boat but we are anchored a distance away, about an hour by kayak, which was all they had to get to us.  Unfortunately, with the rain, they are in for a lot of hammock time.

This rain has been going on almost solid for about a week.  I told you that the one day we went with Kelly is the only outing we have had since last Saturday night.  As frustrated as we are feeling, I am thinking of the locals here.  When you can’t do construction, you don’t get paid.  The one day we went with Kelli, we saw women doing laundry at every house we passed.  I doubt they were able to get things dry.  We had to do underwear and it took about 2 ½ days under the Bimini before things dried.  We would like to do laundry again but it is impossible.  We have plenty of water though!!!

The poor women in their little stilt houses with no place to go, nothing to occupy them like reading, or TV or music or visiting with friends.  The children who are house bound and need entertaining in this small damp place they have to play cannot be easy to entrain after days of this.  I am dry, have lots to eat, can watch movies, have lots of books and at the moment, you to talk to, so I have nothing to complain about.

Carlos was here this morning to finish the woodworking he has been doing for many days now.  After the first day, it was just to come and apply more coats of varnish.  This was his last coat.  It really looks nice.  Now we have to train ourselves to keep our hands off of it which is why it got so bad in the first place.

After he finished here, he was going in to the mountains to bring back the thatch that was being cut for his new house.  It would have been fun to tag along but Kelli said it is a difficult climb even when it is not raining and muddy so we will miss that option.

Last week, before we started this steady stream of rain every day, Chris had a day off and took us to a local cave and hot springs.  We walked through the cave.  It was nothing impressive as compared to our past experience but it was fun.  It was interesting to see the roots of the trees growing down through to the cave.  Some were larger roots but some were like hairs.  Outside the cave in the river is an area where hot water comes out and you can sit in the water there feeling the mix of the hot and cold swirling around you with the steam rising.  It is comfortable but the little fish that come nibble on your legs can be startling.

A few days after we did that, we connected with a family on a boat named Moon Shadow.  We heard them during the morning radio net but they were still off shore and had questions about getting in at Livingston.  We got them hooked up with help and suggested that they come here before heading straight to Rio Dulce.  They did and we got to meet them.  They are an interesting family.  He was born in Switzerland but considers himself Austrian.   The Mom was born in Colombia and they have an 11 year old boy and an 8 year old girl.  They were born, one in Austria and one in Spain.  The children speak Spanish, English and Catelon.  That is a small country that borders Spain.  The parents speak Spanish and English and I would guess the Dad speaks German and maybe French.

They bought their boat in St. Petersburg and lived at the dock there while the kids went to school.  They left Florida less than a month ago to begin their Caribbean journey.  The kids are really amazing, full of life and they communicate so easily with adults.  They came to meet us the next day and I mentioned the caves we had been to.  Their dinghy engine didn’t work so we used our dinghy to go back to the caves.  Rob stayed behind to do boat work as there was not enough room for all of us.

I didn’t go back in the cave but did the hot water springs with them.  Then, because they had been traveling for awhile with out provisioning, we had them over for dinner.  We were able to play 3 different games with the kids.  I miss playing games.  Because of the rain, no one is very social.

The next day, we took our boat in to the city to do some shopping and get some cash.  They traveled in as well and are now settled at a marina where there are several other children living on boats.

We took Carols and Elizabeth and baby Carlos in to town with us so that they could have an outing on our boat as well as do some shopping.  We got in later than anticipated because we were doing maneuvers on the boat to calibrate the new auto pilot system.  Then it took much longer to get everything done that we wanted to do, so were rushed in the end.  The idea is to get back before the fishermen set nets across the river.

Carlos was a big help with the anchoring, especially as we left here because the anchor chain and anchor were really muddy.  Rob also gave him the helm on the way home and I hope he enjoyed the experience.  I helped Elizabeth play with the baby.  He is such a sweet heart and really warmed up to me at the end.  When they left the boat, he gave me a kiss.  He was very good but there was constant work to make sure he was safe and he didn’t get in to things that he shouldn’t.  We couldn’t talk a lot because of the language but the baby was a good point of connection.  It was one of our last beautiful days.

Yesterday, the families of the 5 kids who are to receive scholarships, were asked to meet with the school officials.  The scholarships are given with the idea that the kids maintain a minimum grade performance and that the parents don’t pull the kids out of school during this year.  This is not uncommon here.  Many are pulled out to help in fishing season or to just work so that they can support the family.  They want to be sure that if the student starts with the scholarship, they will make good use of it.  If the 5 families agree, then the scholarships will go to 3 boys and two girls from families that really need the help.  While I think it is a good idea to do it this way, it was the idea of the people at the school to make the scholarships contingent on the promises of the student and the family.  What is good here is that people still honor their word, at least among the local villagers.

We don’t know when we are planning to leave.  We listened to a popular weather guy this morning and he said he had no idea what was going on along the coat of Honduras and could only guess.  We are not the only ones having bad weather and lot of rain.  They have been wet in Belize and Honduras as well.  I guess December and January are actually the most rainy months here.  Their winters are different than Florida.  This is February though so maybe this rain is the last hurrah!  I hope so, though it is nice having full water tanks.  Now if it only rained at night and cleared up some in the day!!!!!

We may go in and clear out  with customs in Livingston with Chris on Sunday and hopefully leave soon after.  Chris will go in the launcha and that will be easier than making the 6 mile trip by dinghy.  It is likely to be motoring once we leave the river and head for Honduras but anytime we have to head east, it seems that is the case and we are used to it.  I just am not up for heavy seas.  Hopefully, we will leave in the next day or so.  We are finished with work done that we planned on so there is nothing keeping us.

Wish I had all the things to write about that I would have liked to have done but now you wait for what comes next.  We are eager to get going on the next part of our adventure.

Praying for rain where it is appreciated!

Sue and Rob

Molding away in Guatemala!


Here is where they are making the new launchas.  Can you see the white color on the water?  That is fiberglass dust.

Here are some pictures of the back packers hotel.  You can see the entry and one of the bungalows.

See the common rooms and kitchen.  It was beautiful but no place to explore unless you have water transportation.  They have kayaks.

Here is the delightful family we met.  Paula is with their guide holding the tree roots that are coming through the cave.  They are called beards by the guides.   The hot steam on the springs was welcoming and comfortable.

Here are pictures of our trip with Carlos, Elizabeth and little Carlos.  He really wanted to explore and his Daddy took such good care of him.  It is wonderful to see good parents loving their children and doing the best they know how to see to their future.  Chris and Kelli have taken Carlos on as a partner.  With a third grade education, he has a lot to learn but they are good mentors.  He works for what he has and knows he is lucky to be respected, not taken care of.  It should create a successful partnership and lasting friendship.  Kelli and Chris hope that a successful family and a good citizen of the community will be the foot print they helped to foster during their time here.  I think they will have left much more than that!

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