Learning to Weave in Guatemala!

Weaving workshop in Guatemala

Months ago, I started planning a weaving workshop in Antigua. A quick Google search landed me at Art Workshops in Guatemala and after some emails back and forth, I had a weaving workshop booked! Lumita decided that she really wanted to join me so we made it a date!

weaving workshop in GuatemalaI dabbled with weaving while in university and really loved it! (while my classmates were likely dabbling in very different things, I was busy taking extra-curricular quilting and weaving classes! I’ve always said that I am an old soul trapped in a young woman’s body!) I have always had a desire to explore textiles more (which is one of the reasons why I started sewing and dyeing silk ribbons) so signing up for a 3-day weaving workshop while on holiday felt like the perfect opportunity!

weaving workshop in GuatemalaLiza Fourré started Art Workshops in Guatemala, 20+ years ago – long before community-based tourism was cool and trendy. Over the years, she has developed a wonderful network of local artisans who passionately share their skills, techniques, and traditions. The wonderful thing about doing this workshop through Liza’s organization is that we are helping to support the women who are teaching us! Liza organized a 3-day workshop for me and Lumita with Elda Lidia Tarton de Santos. Lidia has many years of experience teaching visitors backstrap weaving, opening up her home (and her family) to international weaving students.

weaving workshop in Guatemala 4aWhat a gloriously wonderful experience! Lidia and her family opened up their home to us for the 3 days. With guidance from Lidia, her sister Odilia, and Lidia’s daughters Sindy and Jacqui, Lumita and I helped to prepare the loom and then learned how to weave and even add in some simple (and colourful!) designs.

weaving workshop in GuatemalaAnd Lumita did so wonderfully! I’ll be honest, I totally expected her to get bored and give up after a short time (she has a history of that…). Lumita charmed her way into our teachers’ hearts, just as they have into our’s! They were so patient and helpful with her, especially when she would say “Yo quiero hacer” (“I want to do it”). This has been such a positive experience for her that she is already talking about doing more weaving once we are back in Peterborough!

weaving workshop in Guatemala I am thrilled with all that we did in the 3-day workshop! Not bad for a couple of backstrap weaving newbies!

weaving workshop in Guatemala

At the end of the 3 days, we headed off with our semi-completed projects and EVERYTHING that we would need to continue our projects at home (the loom with all of its accessories, the cotton thread, and hopefully enough knowledge to finish up!).

We also left with some wonderful new friends and I hope to return again…

weaving workshop in Guatemala

In the left photo is Lidia’s daughter Jacqui (unfortunately, her other daughter Sindy was out when we took this photograph), the kind and generous Lidia, Lidia’s gloriously friendly husband Pancho, and Lidia’s equally kind and generous sister Odilia.

Muchas gracias por todo, Lidia y todo su familia. Espero de regresar pronto para apprendir y compartir mas. Abrazos de nostros!

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Island Creations in Roatan

Island-Creations-title-imageOur first day in Roatan, we stumbled into this little cafe we found right near the apartment that we rented. The cafe is called Sonrise and at first we thought that it was a spelling error but then we realized that it is a very clever name for the cafe as well as the church next door! I was intrigued by the for “Island Creations”, advertising handcrafted treasures, made right here in Roatan.

Island-Creations-10The cafe and gift shop share the space so after we ordered our “baleadas”, I walked through the shop. When I first took it all in, I was so very impressed – the colours were wonderful, the creations adorable, and this little gift shop could easily be plunked, as is, to a quaint village somewhere on the East Coast of the United States…

Naturally, I am a sucker for hand-crafted treasures – why go home from a wonderful vacation with mass-produced junk (usually made overseas and nowhere near where you are actually visiting)… And when these hand-crafted treasures directly support local residents who desperately need the income? WIn-win!

Once I started reading more about Island Creations and its mission to support those who need it most in their community, I was very impressed! Clearly stated on all of the literature and signage in the store is “Please know that anything you purchase is not for profit and could be feeding a family that otherwise would do without”. All prices are a donation, allowing shoppers to leave more than what is suggested.

Island-Creations-07I absolutely love the fabrics that the women use for the sewn items – so funky, modern, and fresh! The items created under the “Caribbean Girl” line are all sewn by local women and also include some lovely jewellery that the women design and create. There are also a group of men who create beautiful wooden pieces (I was rather tempted by the turtle-shaped cutting boards but space and weight are an issue for us until we get settled in Guatemala – then I can go wild since we can always get another bag to fly home with… 😉 ).

Island-Creations-04Both of the Lumitos were enamoured with the adorable sea horses (well, Lumita had to think long and hard about deciding between a sea horse or the totally precious jelly fish – she went with the sea horse in the end). Since coming home with their sea horses, the 2 kids have been happily playing with these wonderful creations.  Island-Creations-09

I was so impressed with both this little shop and am so thrilled that we are bringing a little bit of this part of Roatan home with us.

I Choose My Life…

IchoosemylifeEveryday we make choices: what to eat, what to wear, where to go. Many times, the most important choice gets none of our attention at all: how to live your life. I used to have a great job that I was super passionate about and really good at (being an environmental educator). Then I decided to try being a classroom teacher and I suppose I was pretty good at it, though I didn’t love it. I was stressed, anxious, and all-consumed by this job. I missed my old life where I was a happier person – even Señor Luma and one of my closest friends missed the “old me” (I used to be happy, vivacious, full of life and enthusiasm).

When I was pregnant with Lumito (#2), I made a conscious choice to change how I was going to live my life… I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and look back to realize that I had been miserable and lived it for other people.

So I did something totally crazy: I quit one is of the most sought-after jobs: a full-time, permanent-with-amazing-pension-and-benefits teaching job with the public school system in Ontario.

But I don’t view it as what I walked away from. I look at it from what I got by leaving. By choosing to leave this job, I chose joy and freedom. When we moved down to Panama, I chose adventure. Now that we are headed off for 3 months if travel through Central America, I choose family.

These days I’m spending less time choosing the little things (my clothes, my breakfast, etc) and more time choosing how I want to live my life.

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Hammering Out Our Travel Itinerary

Map-of-Central-America1

It is less than 10 days until we head off and start our exciting adventure of travelling through Central America, before returning to Peterborough, Ontario. I want to share with you our (current) itinerary. (you can click on the above map for a larger version so that you can see the details a bit better).

A) We leave Boquete on March 2 and catch a bus from David to

B) Quepos, Costa Rica. We arrive that day in Manuel Antonio National Park for 4 nights. This park has been high on Señor Luma’s priority list for our travels so we are excited to have a bit of time there. From there we head north and stay somewhere overnight en route to Nicaragua (we’ll find a spot).

C) We arrive in Granada, Nicaragua where we will have 10 days or so to explore the colonial city and the surrounding area.

D) From there we will take a bus to Tegucigalpa (the capital of Honduras) where we will stay a night before catching a flight to

E) Roatan, Honduras (this is now March 21). We have a week booked in Roatan and have managed to rent a condo at the Roatan Backpacker’s Hostel. We are looking forward to hitting the beach, snorkelling, and relaxing at the pool (!!). Señor Luma has also gotten in touch with a lovely resort that has invited all of us to spend a day while he talks retreats with them. On March 28, we are flying from Roatan to

F) Belize City and then heading right over to Caye Caulker where we have 3 nights booked. We are looking forward to one more snorkelling extravaganza before heading inland towards

G) San Ignacio. We have 4 nights booked just before the Guatemalan border and we are excited to begin our introduction to Mayan ruins. On Easter Weekend, we head to

H) Tikal, Guatemala where we will stay 2 nights in Tikal National Park where we can explore the amazing biodiversity of the area as well as the spectacular history of this magical area. From this point on, we have a very loose itinerary (we felt the urgency to get reservations for the first part of our trip since we are travelling to highly touristic areas in high season.After our Tikal reservation, we have about 10 days to get to our final destination in Southern Guatemala for April 15).

I) Once we arrive in Antigua, Guatemala, Lumita and I will take a workshop with Mayan weavers, using the traditional backstrap loom as well as spend a couple of days exploring this beautiful colonial city.

J) On April 15 we arrive at our rental in Santa Cruz la Laguna where we will relax and explore the area for the next 6 weeks (and we hope to host some dear friends from Peterborough for a couple of those weeks!).

On June 2, we fly from Guatemala City to Toronto and we are very excited to return to Ontario at one of the most glorious times of year and have the whole summer to enjoy being back, before school starts up in September

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Snorkelling at Isla Coiba

We have been blessed to do some rather wonderful things while in Panama. A high priority for us has been hitting up the beach (since there are so many close by!). Neither Señor Luma nor I are super crazy beach people (seriously, all that sand just gets EVERYWHERE!). Despite this, we have had some fabulous beach escapes!

manyfishThe most recent was just the other weekend. I’ll be honest here: I love snorkelling. Like giddy-squealing-cause-I-saw-something-colourful, child-like LOVE snorkelling! It doesn’t even have to be great snorkelling for me to love it! Up until this most recent trip, we have had some decent snorkelling opportunities and I have been more than happy with my experiences. But then I heard about Coiba National Park, off the Pacific coast of Panama. The island used to house a prison (up until 2004!!) and is now a marine and national park, preserving the barely-touched-ecosystems (both on land and under water). And the snorkelling and diving around this national park (which is often referred to as “Panama’s Galapagos”) is likely the best in all of Panama. Crystal clear blue waters, lots of impressive marine wildlife (including whale sharks!), and government regulations that keep this spot preserved.

Turtle&fishIt is about a 4.5-hour drive from Boquete, so we broke our drive up with some time at our favourite spot in Las Lajas. Upon our arrival at our (seriously basic and no-frills) accommodations, we booked ourselves in for an all-day snorkelling tour to Isla Coiba. We headed off a blindly, knowing nothing about the itinerary for the day or anything about the company – this was EXTREMELY hard for Señor Luma who has an extensive background in tourism and is used to being in control (or at least in the know!). But sometimes you do have to just put all your faith in the belief that it is all going to be fine (cause it was!).

SnorkelswimWe found our group in the morning and loaded in to the boat to head off on our 90-minute ride (from the beach at Santa Catalina – the nearest town) to the island. 90 minutes on a boat passes so much faster than in a car! It helped that we saw a pod of dolphins from the boat!! Upon seeing dolphins for the first time in her life, Lumita announced “This is the BEST snorkelling trip ever!!” (and we hadn’t even go IN the water yet…!). 🙂

Colour-fish We visited 3 beautiful, white sand beaches, and swam in gorgeously crystal blue (the clearest water that I have ever snorkelled in). We saw all kinds of glorious creatures and had such a lovely time! Hands down, the most exciting spotting was seeing 2 whale sharks! The area around Isla Coiba is part of their migration route and it is possible both dive and snorkel with them! On our way back at the end of the tour, we stopped off at a spot where whale sharks are often spotted and hopped in to the water with high hopes… I’ll be honest, I pretty much couldn’t contain myself and we saw the 2 whale sharks… They are extremely docile creatures (even if they are so huge and the word “shark” in their name which makes them sound ferocious) and move nice a slow so they are easy to watch. This was such a huge gift and a lifetime dream for Señor Luma!

Whale-shark_1

Not the greatest photo of a whale shark we saw (but that is fine because we have got great memories locked in our minds!).

Although they didn’t snorkel, the kids had a wonderful time playing in the shallow water and the sand. It was a great day to be outside and enjoying such a beautiful place!

This was such a wonderful weekend and it certainly has us rather excited for our time snorkelling in Roatan and in the cayes of Belize!

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A Week in Quito

El Panecillo

El Panecillo

At the end of January, I abandoned my family and headed off for a Ladies’ Week with my friend Gayle in Quito, Ecuador. Gayle and I met 15 years ago at an environmental education centre in Minnesota. Gayle is from the UK, but is in Quito for a few months as she conducts her PhD research (on inclusive urban mobility/transportation). Since we were going to be so close to each other, I decided to head down to see her. Señor Luma, Lumita (when she was all of 9 months old!), and I went to Ecuador in May 2007, but we hardly spent any time in Quito so I felt like I was headed there for my first time!

Let me just start by saying that Quito is FABULOUS! Friends of mine had been RAVING about it during (and after!) their time there, and so I was quite excited to have a whole week all to myself with a good friend. And after a year of being together (pretty much all. of. the. time.), it was nice to head off on an adventure, alone!

And while I do love travelling with my family and spending time together, it was so gloriously nice to go away and not have to worry about anybody, other than myself! And to be fully transparent, my family would not have enjoyed all of the wandering around the historic areas of Quito, visiting a basilica, standing around and watching the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace, wandering around the artisan markets, etc… There would have been whining (from the Lumitos) and frustration (from Señor Luma).

Rather than blather on about all I did, why not browse through some of my favourite photos from my week (hover over the images to see the captions).

Such a wonderful trip and so wonderful to spend some fabulous time with a great friend!

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