My head is buzzing with all the photos (600 of them!!) and stories Kay has been regaling us with since her return from Central America. She has had a whale of a time and experienced such things she will remember for a lifetime. All those weeks of worry (on my part) have dissolved with every precious minute I have her back with me. It turns out she was the only Spanish-speaker in the group of eighteen and was pushed forward at every turn to speak for the group, arrange transport to collect them or negotiate accommodation in advance and haggle down the prices. Her Spanish went from rusty GCSE standard (done a year ago and forgotten ever since) to passable conversation standard within a few days and rose to very good within the space of the four weeks. She also taught the odd phrase to all the others to help them with what they needed to buy their souvenirs or order a drink. But she was always the one to order the bulk food in the brightly-coloured markets , to converse with the guides they took on, or to haggle the prices.
Market in Chichicastenango
She has so many stories that it is impossible to put them all here. One is of the mountain trek overlooking Lake Atitlan. The paths were steep, shoulder-width and covered with crumbling rock. The descents were the worst. Carrying extremely heavy rucksacks, with their homes on their backs, the girls had to negotiate the steep crumbly paths with sheer drops to one side and the danger of more falling crumbling rock to the other side. The views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes more than made up for it though, as her photos bear witness. By the way, you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.
Another story is about the climb of the Pacaya Volcano. It had erupted two days before they got there, spilling molten lava over the sides, then it rained the next day, cooling the lava. On the day they climbed, the lava was still cool but now and then in the cracks and fissures, they could see burning red-hot fire. Some passing Americans on their way down gave them some marshmallows and a stick to toast them. Their delight in being able to do that was palpable. The following day in a nearby hot-spring they swam in sulphur-enriched waters which turned any white on their swimsuits yellow.
Another lovely part of the trip was the community project. They stayed on a reserve on the Pacific coast for a week, lived with the villagers and helped with turtle conservation. Apparently the turtles there are in danger of extinction and have their eggs poached by those who believe they are an aphrodisiac. The community scan the beach for any signs of eggs and put them in a hatchery where the baby turtles can hatch in safety and then waddle back down to the sea to start life all over again. The beaches also need to be kept clean from debris to allow the mother turtles a safe path ashore to lay their eggs, so the English girls helped with that too. In exchange (to put something back into the community) the girls paid for lessons on how to make knotted-rope hammocks or brightly-coloured string bracelets.
Or they played with the children.... black-haired, dusky-faced cherubs with toothy grins who were eager to learn the English games the girls taught them. The girls also arranged a Sports Day for the children to which the whole village turned up. It was sad saying goodbye to their newly-made friends. (Incidentally, Kay says that many people in Guatemala believe that the tourists come to steal their children. There may be an element of truth in that, as some cute children have been kidnapped to order for childless tourist couples. So out of respect for them , you are sadly denied those lovely pictures.)
Now the photos are being stored and the stories written up. What memories she will have to look back on in years to come. Her AS results, by he way, waiting for her return, were excellent and a good foundation for the finals next summer, but it will no doubt be another stressful year ahead, full of hard work and distractions, courtesy of Greg. But meanwhile she has another week to unwind and to dream of those far-away places. And me? I'm just so glad to have her back.