Traveling with children in Guatemala: Life & Death !Nosotros somos!
Highlights: the most fun under the sun (in Guatemala), losing things, and my near-death stove explosion.
Me llama Manda. Soy de Canada, pero estoy en San Marcos la Laguna.
The most fun under the sun
I can hardly even write this section, because as soon as I start thinking about Xocomil, I start to smile so hard it is hard to type. What, you say, is Xocomil (except you don’t say it because who can pronounce that word at first sight? It’s pronounced: Chocomeel (or chocolate-milk if you are a child.)
What is it? It is this girl’s idea of Guatemalan paradise. (Before you continue reading, keep in mind that I am deeply white trash at my core and I worked for three years in highschool at a water amusement park.) Xocomil is a Guatemalan water park and is part of a series of Disney-like parks and hotels that were built for a group of Guatemalan workers by a conglomerate of companies. It is only open to the public Thursday through Sunday and the rest of time is exclusively open to IRTRA employees. What we found was that the place is DEAD this time of year until the weekend comes and then—Holy Cow!—it fills up fast with Guatemalans coming to have a good time. Everyone there is Guatemalan. Everyone speaks Spanish. No one speaks English. And they were thrilled and interested to see us gringos with our kids and wonder at how we got there.
It is just about my first experience with Guatemalans that aren’t Mayan. It is easy to forget living in San Marcos that this country is not just Mayans. In fact we took our Mayan ninjara (nanny) and gardener/guardian/caretaker (guardio) who are Mayan and they got some strange looks, whereas everyone was thrilled to see us gringos and try to break through our limited Spanish barrier to hear our story.
Veronica (our niñera) and Lucas (our guardia) are both amazing people. Veronica is from barrio dose and Lucas is from barrio uno and never the two shall meet. Neither had ever been to Xocomil and neither would likely ever have been able to afford to go so it was really a treat to be able to take them. Watching them—relentlessly—experience every single ride, slide, and activity. They did it all—roller coasters, waterslides, and even bowling and miniature golf (Veronica also got her first bathing suit and wore shorts for the first time in public). By the end of the trip, Lucas was so exhausted he didn’t even stay the extra hour in Panajachel for Pollo Companera (think KFC). Veronica did though and even took a bag of the delicious fried chicken home to her family whom had never had it before.
First: the not so good parts.
Vomito is Spanish for vomit
Getting there involved an hour long launcha trip (thank God it was calm, as just the day before I had a harrowing trip across the lake with waves so large the boat couldn’t get across for a very long time and the only Mayan on the boat pulled the lifejacket down and put it on. This NEVER happens. The Mayans typically don’t swim and DON’T wear the lifejackets EVER. In fact, she had no idea how to put it on and I had to help her. Everyone in the boat—even in the back—was completely soaked and shaken and one of my local friends said in her 8 years she had never had a ride as bad.) Anyway, back to this journey. After the trip via launcha to Panajachel we took a private van up the road about 30 minutes and then to the Pan American highway. You can go directly from San Marcos but the road is so bad that we went an hour out of our way just to avoid it, and it really didn’t lose much time because the road is SO bad. NEVERTHELESS, as soon as we hit the Pan American highway, Mae-la opened her mouth and started vomiting. Ceaselessly. Projectile fashion. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, Zella joined in. I immediately started laughing hysterically because really it was like something out of the exorcist. Vomit was flying everywhere. They were both soaked. I was soaked. The van was soaked. Their seats were soaked. It continued on this way for almost an hour. Then they fell asleep, I got them somewhat cleaned up, and they started again.
Over the next couple of days, Zella rode a really scary waterslide (really scary) twice and then did the carousel and this crazy, rocking ride tons and Mae-la rode a kid version of the scrambler and NO VOMIT. So, really, what gives?
They had a washer and dryer!
So, the hotel campus was gorgeous. We were staying in the cheapest hotel, in the cheapest (non-A/C) rooms and they were still lovely and RIGHT outside our door was this three-tiered pool with a kid wading area, beautiful pond shaped pools, and a water slide. Just gorgeous. The place also had miniature golf, bowling, and three more pools. The very, very best thing, however, was there was a washer and dryer. It was also fabulous that you could throw your toilet paper in the toilet (I don’t know if I adequately stressed yet how stressful it is to have to collect all the poopy toilet paper in a trash can and burn it, but it is stressful.)
The complex has two BIG parks: Xocomil (a water park with slides, wave pool, lazy river, and tons of little kid water play areas) and Xeteul (Guatemalan Disney-wor;d light with an “Antiqua,” “Italy,” “Greece,” etc area, shows, and rides. There are also a mountain biking park and something else that we never explored. Both days we were among just a handful of people and thus had no lines and endless fun.
Manana en la aenana son las 9 de la manana
The whole trip was so wonderful that none of us wanted to leave. So Saturday morning, Miriam says to the guy at the front desk of our hotel: “I’d like to stay another night.” “Yes,” says the guy, “Same rooms?” “Yes,” she says, “We have two.” “Okay,” he says. (Translated from the Spanish.)
So, it is 5 o’clock and I have come with just my girls home from the theme park and am exhausted. I stop by the administrative desk (where all four hotels are reserved, etc.) to pay for our next night and they tell me (in Spanish) that we don’t have a reservation and there are NO more rooms to be had. I’m exhausted. My children are falling apart. I only know about 5 phrases in Spanish and no one else speaks English. We call Leif. We call Miriam. Miriam comes. Two hours later, after waves of exhaustion, fatigue, anger, hysteria, and mirth, Miriam somehow has worked a crazy work-around (Guatemalans follow rules, so this is a big deal) and somehow we have our rooms and at 1/3 of the usual price. Amazing. Needless to say we took this as a sign that it was time to leave and the next day we were back on the van heading home. Sin Vomito. Oh, and sin my gorro favorito. Yes, goodbye beloved grey hat—most beloved of any hat I (and probably anyone) has ever owned. Those of you who know this hat, know just how amazing and envy-producing it was. Well, now it belongs to a lucky Guatemalan. Sigh.
And, goodbye iPhone which also went missing. And goodbye Zada Mae’s Sit n Stroll carseat which got stolen soon after. And goodbye Zella’s new running shoes. Also stolen. And, then, goodbye purses (I had both of the Guatemalan purses I bought stolen and Zella had hers taken as well.) Sigh. If you care about things, you don’t leave them lying a
round in places where the average person will never be able to have that iPhone, carseat, or shoes. Even if that place is your front porch
Hello, however, to a fabulous new Guatemalan bathing suite-dress bought at Xocomil and to VERY fond memories of a magical holiday land in Guatemala.
Today I had my first intensive Spanish lesson. We focused on Ser and Estar. Both more or less mean to be, but they have different nuances and uses and are quite important. Note my fabulous use of them above: Soy de Nord America (I am from North America) pero estoy en San Marcos (but I am being in San Marcos for now.)
Then I came home and started to make dinner. I was showing Veronica how to make cornbread. I lit the oven. I went to put the cornbread in the oven. Hmm. Strange. It wasn’t lit. So….. I lit it again. The explosion was so big and loud that it moved the oven a foot away from the wall, blew every single burner off the stove, and blew apart the side of the oven and put a dent in the top. All the kids were in the room as was Veronica. We are luckly to be. Somos: we be. Afortunado: lucky. I am that tomorrow I can figure out how to put those both together correctly in my Spanish class. Somos afortuando. (I did burn off the hair on my left arm, both feet, and burnt my right toes. But who cares. Soy: I be.)