Where in the World is Jillo?

Guatemala

Day 3
Today we took another walk through the jungle with Antonio. We stopped to take pictures of trees and other interesting spots along the way and he told us about some of the trees and other growths in the jungle. We visited Mundo Periddo Complex and Temple IV in the morning. Here they had a small area that had the whole of the temple area mapped out and replicas of the temple sites and other places sitting on it so one could get the idea of  how everything was situated. Again, there was so much information that it was hard to retain it all.
As we toured around Temple IV, we also were taken to ruins where the Mayans had lived. The rooms were so small, it was hard to envision, however, they were very small people. Even in the ruins of the living places one could see evidence of how they constructed walls with pyramids in the corners where they came together. It was quite unique to see one of these and see how they used this symbol in all their building.
We saw several coatimundi that resemble a raccoon with more of an anteater-type face. One was very close to us and we thought perhaps he was sick as he did not move from near us. We heard the howler monkeys, but what I really wanted to see was a jaguar. Antonio said it was rare that they were visible and if you saw one it was a good sign. Unfortunately none of us were lucky enough to see one.

One of the volanoes seen from our hotel.

There was a market of stores set up near the Jungle Hotel that we perused after lunch. Here we purchased some of the things that they make and sell to make a living. I was trying to figure out the exchange rate when a man in one store said he took US dollars. That was much easier for me and probably a better deal for him in the long run. I didn’t mind. They were all friendly and helpful.
This was our last night in Tikal. As we gathered for dinner in the lodge, it became quite comical to have them take our orders. By this night we thought we had them all educated on what we wanted, however it didn’t turn out that way. The day before I had made it a point to learn the names of three of the wait staff and asked one of them if he’d take US dollars as a tip. He had the biggest smile and said, “Yes.” So even though our tips were taken care of, I pulled out my dollars and gave him some extra just to see him smile.
He proceeded to tell me what was for dessert that night. It was a custard of some type and you could have chocolate or fruit on it. I asked if I could have both and he smiled. That night MY dessert was delivered with both fruit and chocolate. When some of the others saw it, they wondered could they have it, too. I got a frown from AhNa that I had done that, but it was too late, I’d made my mark! And a couple more were graced with the same service from my little friend. It was a lovely evening at dinner.
Day 4
Today we packed up and made our last journeys around the jungle on our own and then it was time to board the bus for the airport and a flight back to Guatemala City and then a bus ride to Antigua in the Central Highlands. We flew in a small plane, but they even had lunch service. My friend, Vince, is a 6’5” United Airlines pilot and he was sitting across from me.  I looked at him and he looked at me and we burst out laughing. We both commented that the little meal on this plane was much tastier than what we sometimes receive on planes in the States.
That started a conversation on what he got for food when he was flying… he flies international flights… and I was surprised to learn that he could order what he wanted but that he was only allowed a certain number of meals or snacks. He didn’t get anything extra as a pilot. Bummer! He said he got rather tired of the same type of meals, so he didn’t need extra. We checked into our hotel and met in the lobby to walk a couple blocks to dinner at a great Italian restaurant. It was neat and we were seated in the upstairs. This restaurant reminded me of one we had eaten in when I was on my trip to France in September. The atmosphere was great and the food was outstanding.
Day 5
In the morning at breakfast we had Sri and Kira, two spiritual leaders in Guatemala, speak to us about their retreat center and what to expect when we got there at Lake Atitlan.
We had a little time on our own before we loaded the bus for the Filadelfla Coffee Estate. A few of us took a tour of the town square where we were told to watch out for pickpockets. I did not experience anything unusual. We found a fantastic little place that looked like a bookstore as we went in and in the back was an open air café that served fabulous salads and desserts.
When we returned to get ready to go to the coffee estate, three of the others who had gone to the square told us of their experience. Sue said they sat down on a bench across from the park. As she looked across to the square she could see something on a bench, so they walked over to look to see if someone had forgotten something. It was a key. And when she looked at it… it was her key to her hotel room! Now the three of them knew they had not been even near any other people, so the mystery is how did the key, her key, get on that bench? They also had not been in the square before. So that was the mystery of the day.
When we got to the coffee estate, there was a young man that took us on a tour. He showed us how big a newly planted plant was and what it looked like in three months and a year. A coffee plant does not produce until it is three years old. It produces a pound of coffee a season. Of course then we were wondering how much coffee the estate produced during a year. Part of the estate is new growth and part is producing and part is being replanted so we came up with a rough estimate for the estate.
As we walked the road between the rows, we observed the coffee bean pickers. It was reminiscent for me of the fruit pickers from the Depression days that I had read about in history. There were families out picking with babies lying on a blanket between the rows.  They have to separate the beans into fully ripe and not as good. The sacks are (a good picker picks 150 lbs. a day) filled and then carried on their backs up to the building where it is poured into a place kind of like a grain elevator. Everything is sorted and weighed and some beans are washed and some not, depending on what they will be used for.
This estate is one of the oldest in Guatemala and grows some of the richest coffee in the world.  It grows in the rich soil fed by the volcanoes. So in essence we followed the coffee bean from the nursery to our cup.
From there they took us up to the little café and gift shop and we sat at tables where they brought us coffee made from the beans grown there. I had just a few sips and I was flying. Wow! Talk about strong coffee. They also sold chocolate at the gift shop, so some bought coffee and some chocolate. As we were served the coffee, our young guide recited a poem.
“Coffee should be
Dark as night,
Strong as passion
And sweet as love.”
We don’t know if he made it up or if it was something from somewhere else.  He was a cute young man so we all clapped for him when he was done.

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