Written by: Brandon Faria
Today was the last day of the official trip, and would bring to an end one of the most memorable experiences. Our last morning together would bring most of us to La Esclonia, a beautiful outdoor café nestled amidst a lush nursery. It lays on the outskirts of town, south of Parque Central, and would provide a much needed escape from the heart of town. Once we were all satisfied with coffees, breakfast desserts and reminiscing over the previous couple of weeks, we decided to venture back into the hustle and bustle of Antigua and visit a few spots that we wanted to go before some departed. Most of us set out for Jade Maya, the jade museum and to the chocolate factory. Navigating down the rough cobblestone streets and uneven sidewalks had almost become second nature by this time allowing me to take in more of the cities other finer details and architecture (without tripping or stubbing my toes). As we made our way through our few stops, admired and bought jade, and indulged on unique and delicious fresh made chocolates we ultimately made our way back to the terrace of Las Palmas, a local restaurant with seating on the roof and hard to beat views of the city and surrounding volcanoes. We had barely ordered food when Kelli realized that it was already time to meet Maria Angelica, a Mayan leader who agreed to come cook a traditional Mayan dinner for our group. I ran off to go meet her while Kelli waited for the food she ordered. I made my way back to our hostel, La Quinta, and saw Maria Angelica sitting there with her sister Sylvia. We chatted in Spanish a bit while we waited for Kelli, and set off to the market once she arrived. As I walked behind these two ladies on our way to the market, I thought to “myself what a unique experience I am in for.” I was about to watch these ladies shop for fresh ingredients at and outdoor market, see what they pick, how they barter, and how the interact with the vendors. I began collecting all their purchased goodies and carrying them in the bags to be helpful, only to have them taken from by Sylvia who then tactfully wrapped them in her sute and confidently placed it upon her head. I was amazed at her strength and balance, and to watch her walk without her head moving. After all the ingredients were purchased we headed towards the edge of town where there were bunches of firewood for sale. We bought what was needed plus some extra which I insisted on carrying back since my hands were still empty. Onto the roof of our hostel is where we made it back to and where we would be cooking the Mayan meal, pepian. I helped pull out the barbeque, and then went and bought refreshments for everyone helping which included San Pellegrinos and Coca-Cola. Dishes were brought up to the terrace, tables were rearranged as the group slowly culminated on the roof around the smoking barbecue and cooking pots of rice, chicken, pepian, and tortillas eagerly awaiting their completion. The sun was setting just as the food was ready, and candles were brought up as we began to sit down to our last meal together as a complete group. And there couldn’t have been a better meal to share and place to share it at. For many of us, La Quinta with its terrace had become a home away from home. As the night wound down and our bellies filled it was time to see Maria Angelica, and her sister off. There we many hugs exchanged and thanks given as we bid them farewell before they rounded a corner and disappeared into Antigua. After returning to la Quinta, most went off to enjoy the night as karl, Kelli, and I stayed behind to enjoy chocolate, ELO, and each other’s company. At 4AM the following morning the bus would be arriving to take Karl, Kelli, Mel, kalika, David, Jose, and Josh to the airport. And someone, probably Karl, suggested pulling an all-nighter in order to make the most of our last moments there. And as delirious as they were, they were still very memorable, and the perfect way to conclude the 2015 Guatemala experience!