Volcanoes, Jade, and a Picture of Love
Some of my fondest memories as a child revolve around time spent with my grandparents. Holidays were always extra special if they were with us, and in fact it seems that having them visit seemed to turn ordinary days into extraordinary days. For the first two weeks in October we were blessed to have our second set of grandparents (Amy and Marshall's that is) come and spend time with us since we left Idaho. I should tell you that sailing is not on my mom's list of priorities and since we are still waiting out hurricane season we decided to travel inland and see some of Guatemala together.
My parents have traveled extensively, and along with sailing, traveling to third world destinations also fell off the priority list many years ago. But as parents and grandparents have been doing for centuries they set their personal preferences aside and loaded up and headed out to see the kids and grand kids. It was quite the adventure and between a volcano melting our shoes, riding on horses and in tuk tuks, visiting some amazing ruins, learning more about Guatemalan culture, history and their only "Saint" we experienced a little of everything this country has to offer.
Our trip began and ended in Guatemala City with a week spent in between in Antigua. I am sure there are varying opinions on this, but to us Antigua is really the crown jewel of Guatemala. Built by the Spanish, this traditional city, complete with cobblestone streets, takes one back in time and feels much more like historical Europe than Central America. That is of course if you can ignore the beautifully dressed Guatemalan ladies. I continue to marvel at the color and complexity of the tapestries still worn by so many of them. They provided a kaleidoscope of color set against the rich architectural past of this quaint town.
As the original capital of Guatemala, Antigua has a footprint smaller than downtown Boise yet there are over 50 ruins, mostly churches, within its city limits. Many of the ruins have been or currently are under renovation and a guided walking tour of the city gave us a better appreciation not only for the architecture and design of the city but also the challenges faced by Antiguan residents over the centuries. At its' peak, Antigua was a thriving city, yet after the capital was moved to Guatemala City the city slowly declined for two centuries. It has been in more recent years that the city has seen resurgence in economic viability, mostly due to tourism, and this new energy is providing the emphasis to preserve this historical landmark.
Guatemala is one of the few countries in the world that mines Jade. In fact a few rare types of Jade are found only in Guatemala and Burma. Antigua has emerged as the Jade manufacturing capital of Guatemala. With numerous jade factories the variety of jewelry and decorative pieces made from Jade was astounding. The Mayans knew of and used jade, and many of the jade masks recovered by archeologists are reproduced by modern craftsmen and are a wonderful reminder and glimpse into the past. The color and variety of jade from black to translucent with green, blue and lilac in between are a jade artists dream come true. No trip to Antigua is complete without a jade factory tour. It was a treat to be able to buy Amy a beautiful ring of lilac jade for her 13th birthday while we were there.
The other thing I had to do in Guatemala was climb a volcano, and when I learned you can roast marshmallows over flowing lava at a volcano near Antigua I signed up for the trip. Originally my plan was just for my immediate family to climb the volcano. I figured my mom and dad would hang out at the hotel while we ventured up the volcano. As it turned out they decided to go with us and we all made it to the top. My mom and dad rode horses as far as possible and walked the remainder, and the rest of us got our daily workout, hiking to just over 12,000 feet. We spent 20 minutes at the top warming ourselves over steam vents and roasting marshmallows over open lava. Seeing firsthand the awesome creative power and energy contained within a volcano is not an experience we will soon forget and served as a great lesson in geology. One word of advice if you decide to climb an active volcano; keep your feet moving or the ground will melt your shoes.
To say the volcano climb was more than my parents bargained for is a gross understatement, but to their credit they did not give up and I have to say that I was really proud of them. Numerous people on the climb told me how cool it was my mom and dad did this with their grand kids. As I walked down the volcano behind my mother on the horse, holding onto the saddle for dear life I thought to myself, "this is what love looks like." Setting aside our own personal desires to make room for the dreams and desires of those you love. My parents are "really cool" and I am grateful for the example they continue to set for me and my family.
We made it back to the hotel with our melted shoes and after a late lunch we spent the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing. What a great experience and memory we will all not soon forget.
Live Slow, Sail Fast, Love Well