When your snot runs black and your feet are filthy, it’s time to take to the lake. Unfortunately Lake Atitlan isn’t exactly the sort of thing you’re dying to jump into – what with its agricultural run off and busy harbors. In light of a dip, riding across this gorgeous body of water in the crisp wind would have to suffice for refreshment (of the body and mind).
Today was the fourth day of the Learning Journey and one that is looked forward to with intense anticipation. Our time in the communities is incredible, it’s humbling and thought provoking and inspiring and exhausting – all in equal measure. But today serves as a sacred rest stop in the Learning Journey as we head across the lake to visit the tourist town of San Juan La Lago. This morning we met eight of our scholars on the shores of Lake Atitlan. They had been elected by their peers to join this adventure, most of whom had never been on a boat much less across the lake to a town that is no more than a few miles as the crow flies. But two thousand feet lower in elevation, its scorching heat and bustling tourism felt a world away for the teens.
Just after breakfast while the air was still cool and the sky clear we piled into a water taxi to take the 30-minute ride across the lake. The slapping of water against the hull, the rocking boat, the whistle of the motor it was second nature to some and terrifying to others. The tables were turned as our travelers were suddenly more comfortable in this world than these teens, a novel exchange of roles that provided immediate opportunity to make connections across the cultural divide.
By the time we reached the other side of the lake the sun had risen high in the sky and the heat was scorching. We wound our way past the brightly colored stalls with all their paintings and textiles and found shade in community’s public library. This particular library was a brilliant example of what social values and international resources can accomplish. It exists to not only create the culture of literacy that we are working to instill around Sololá, but also to preserve the rich Mayan traditions which are being lost among the Lake’s younger generations. Bustling with youth and filled to the brim with books, it was an inspiring experience for our scholars and serves as a model, which they aspire to replicate in Los Morales, Chuacruz, Concepcion, and Chuiquel. Based on their eager questions and attentive note taking, it’s safe to say that seeds have been planted. We’ll have to wait and see what takes root.
Speaking of seeds, from the library we moved on to San Juan’s organic coffee cooperative where we walked through the orchards and sipped sweet lattes under the broiling sun. The rest of the day was spent meandering the streets of this vibrant community. We shared a lunch of sweet limonada and fresh tortillas, laughed at one another’s dance moves, practiced one another’s languages. We visited a women’s weaving collective, bought trinkets of a trip that is nearly over, and then wound our way back to a dock.
The timidity with which the teens approached the pier this morning disappeared by the time of our return. The girls piled in heaps of laughter on the fiberglass bow and rode the waves all the way home, giggling with every splash of the waves and crash of the hull. Thinking can be exhausting, but boat rides always help. A few ice cream cones later it’s safe to say we’re feeling reenergized and ready to dive back into the work tomorrow.