Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 3 ~ La Lancha a San Juan

Francesca Explaining Natural Dye Technique

With all roads out of Pana closed and rain continuing to fall, our Mission Team decided to travel across Lake Atitlan by boat to the village of San Juan to visit the Women's Cooperative and learn about their ancient natural dye technique. Above, you see Francesa giving a presentation to our group as a woman from her co-op group demonstrates backstrap weaving and as a pot of dye is prepared over an open fire.

This fascinating process of creating natural dyes involves the use of materials such as bark, heartwood, plants, and even insects to create gorgeous shades of blue, green, pink, purple, and beige. Fransecsa explained that the tradition was lost for many years, but they have since returned to their "roots" (so to speak) with hopes of preserving yet another piece of their Mayan culture. I was thrilled to watch it and bought quite a few treats to remind myself of the experience.

Like in Pana, the people of San Juan have been dramatically affected by the storm and continued rain. Lake Atitlan's water level is currently 7 feet higher than its normal state, and our lancha (boat) sadly needed to navigate around a rooftop as we approached the dock. As we neared, we noticed nearly a dozen men working on the dock, and we learned that they had raised it last week only to discover that it would need raising yet again.

The men working on the dock were volunteers who were motivated to help knowing that the dock was indeed the only way that tourists could enter their village and contribute to their economy. They gently lifted each of us up and down and across some balance-beam-like planks to make it safely to the shore. Upon our departure, we offered them each 10Q (quetzales) for their kindness and they cheered as we began our journey back across the lake.

Our luck with transportation this week has not been good (landslides, flat tires), so it should be no surprise that our boat stalled in the middle of Lake Atitlan on a rainy and cloudy day. Thanks to great cell phone coverage (believe it or not), we were able to call for assistance and eventually made our way back to shore with a great story to tell.

The highlight of my day was meeting Dilson, an 11 year old boy with kidney disease. Due to the prohibitive cost of dialysis plus the cost of transportation to go to and from Guatemala City twice weekly to receive treatments, Dilson's health was deteriorating rapidly. My brother, David, learned about Dilson and offered a helping hand. He has made it possible for Dilson to begin receiving dialysis at home within the next couple of weeks and has been funding medicine and transporation to the city since learning about Dilson's needs.

As a sister, it was heartwarming to stand alongside David as he met Dilson and his family for the very first time. Dilson offered David a firetruck that he had made from popsicle sticks, and Dilson's mother and grandmother presented David with several handcrafted gifts. They served us tea and cookies and we had a lovely visit where we learned that David and Dilson share many of the same interests. As we were about to leave, Dilson gave me a small toy. I could see the care and kindness in his eyes as he wanted me too to understand the depth of his gratitude. Surely, Dilson would not be alive at this very moment if it were not for the help provided by his Padrino (Godfather), David. What a blessing it was to witness their very special connection.

The rain continues to pour and we're living life day-by-day with hopes to make a difference, despite the storm. And, you know what? Even in torrential downpours or rain or mist, Panajachel is still one of the brightest places on Earth.

Until tomorrow,


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