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Designing Holidays Abroad

November 30th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

And so the time came to leave the much vaunted Lake Atitlan, but not without a few more memorable experiences.

Just before Chaz’s departure we were reminded that Thanksgiving, which doesn’t get a lot of airtime in these here parts, was just two days away.  With our weak showing of spirit for Halloween (although I did carve a papaya back in Nicaragua), we started to come to terms with the stark reality that we stood to miss an entire year’s worth of holidays.  And unlike when you miss, like, one holiday, and hear sweetly reassuring sentiments from family to the tune of “Oh, we’re really going to miss you for this one!”, we’re starting to hear more like “Well, here’s what we’re doing”, which carries the subtext “…and you’ll not be here, and we’re used to it and we’re over it.”

It’s not an unkind sentiment at all, but rather quite understandably practical: who wants to spend a year getting even just a little bummed out every holiday over a pair of persistent & predictable no-shows?

Confronted with the reality that it’s up to us to make our own holiday fun if we were keen to having it (we were), I set about the apartment complex to arrange a proper Thanksgiving party in t-minus 48 hours.  My first stop was downstairs, for Garth had casually insinuated several times already that he makes a mean roast chicken whenever the topic of US Thanksgiving came up1.  Our Canadian friends had already celebrated their holiday of thanks in early October, but Garth was sporting enough to offer up his culinary participation for ours.  We hatched a plan that I would pick up a full chicken fit for roasting when I was dropping off Chaz in Pana the next day, and pick up some spices while I was at it.  Garth gave me directions to Sandra’s Grocery, a specialty shop catering to gringo tastes at which I could procure such items.

My second stop was up one flight and over to Barb and Fernando’s apartment.  Barb is from Canada and Fernando from Colombia.  We’d met around the property a few times earlier but only just that day had we had our first time real time spent together: during day 1 of the hypnotherapy course we were all taking.  I could barely speak out my invitation to US Thanksgiving before being ushered in, sat down, poured some rum, and served up a plate of super tasty cilantro-baked vegetables on a bed of fish with lobster tails on top (Fernando’s culinary prowess and sense for hospitality was keenly demonstrated in the space of about 45 seconds).  As you might imagine, they were immediately up on the idea of our forthcoming gathering, and eagerly volunteered to be a most worthy part of the potluck equation.

At 6 attendees I decided we had a good party for the upcoming holiday.

The next day in Pana, just after seeing Chaz off I found myself at the cozy and well appointed Sandra’s.  There I happened upon the opportunity to buy a 6 pound butter ball turkey, a rare find indeed.  I immediately phoned in to update mission control of the situation: “Hey Chef, how do you feel about me bringing back a turkey instead?”  “Bring it on,” my Canadian cook declared without hesitation, “and in that case then see if you can find a little jar of rosemary, eh?”

Roger that.  I picked up all the called for items plus as many boxes of bonus Vizios that my pocket full of 300Q would afford me without requiring an ATM visit, and was off2.

Thanksgiving was perfect.  Fernando made up a dish of top notch shrimp on a similar bed of tasty vegetables, plus a separate helping without shrimp for Tracy.  Garth did a bang up job of roasting the turkey, complete with a stuffing adapted for Guatemalan produce that included jalapeno peppers.  Tracy remarked of our (comparatively basic) contributions of mashed potatoes, baked yams and brownies for dessert that it was kinda nice for a change to be bringing the most boring entries to a potluck.

It was the best meal I’d had all month.  As we ate and drank wine we took turns declaring what it was we were thankful for.  Amid so many blessings on this night I found it fit to be thankful for our friends at the table, and how on such short notice we could all come together in the interest of allowing us United Statesians to get in a proper Thanksgiving while so far from our homeland.  You can see a shot of our troupe here.

After about 4 bottles of wine, a trio of great he said/she said stories of how the couples at the table met, and even a few inspiring tales of divorces gone past3, our 4 hour party laden with laughs gave way to triptophan-inspired sleepy time.  If we can do Christmas and New Year’s anywhere near this well we’ll be set.

During our last few days we got a bit of hiking under our belts: one day with a hike up to a waterfall in the neighboring town of Tzutzuna, and the next day up the same cliffs as the Mayan sun ceremony earlier but this time for an evening lunar ceremony, to mark the full moon and lunar eclipse.

Lest you suspect our time on the lake was all fun and games, let me assure you I made a rather lovely office space out of our 3-volcanoes-facing dining table, whereat I finished, among other things, a cheeky 29-page guide to using my brand of coaching software.  In a fine demonstration of collaborative working together during our travels, Tracy did a fantastic job of typesetting and laying out the whole thing.  I daresay it’s the most beautiful thing that we’re apt to make together until we start with the whole “making little people” thing in the next year or two.

Earlier today as we stood on the Pasajcap dock one last time awaiting our boat I stared good and long in all directions, savoring one last time the beauty of lake Atitlan and our now bygone residence.  And as always, what smoothed over the bitter pill of leaving behind a great living experience is the promise of the next one.


  1. And to be clear: it’s not that our Canadian friends don’t know that turkey is the meat of tradition.  The chicken roast boast is an acknowledgement of how rare turkeys tend to be ’round these parts.
  2. Vizios are above-average delicious chocolate covered almonds which we were first turned onto in Peru.  We haven’t seen them anywhere since, so I jumped at the opportunity to stock up.  There’s something refreshingly fun about NOT having access to the same everything everywhere you go, even though that characteristic of modern living back home is a true marvel of supply chain management.  The hunt makes rare finds like Vizio’s in Pana a pleasant surprise, and has me appreciate, well, stuff much more.
  3. I have this quirk in that I can be impressed and inspired by how someone’s divorce went.  Against the baseline of my own parent’s splitting and subsequent fallout (which entailed literally decades of mudslinging and awkward holidays), I’m amazed when I hear of partings where affinity and workability are kept in tact.  As a result, I sometimes I literally compliment people on their divorces.  Almost in like a “well done, old chap” with a pat on the back sort of way, but with ample explanation.
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