It has been a strange couple of weeks weather-wise. No new rain like the stuff we got in November, when the thick clouds and nightly thunder and lightning shows scoffed in the face of the arbitrary dry season dates recited by rote from every mouth in Atitlán. However, the wind has been unusually strong and erratic. Normally by this time of year (in our experience, anyway) you can count on calm, sunny mornings and slightly breezy afternoons. A level of consistency and predictability we very much appreciate considering one of the only structured portions of our day down here is our morning swim. Wander down to the dock around 9, lounge around for about 5 minutes or so (more if it is warm and sunny, less if it is cloudy or windy), around 30 seconds of whining and procrastinating before finally jumping in with grumpy frowns and sudden exclamations of shock (despite the fact the water temperature no longer should hold any surprises for us), swim to the neighbour’s dock and back (around 10 minutes) using slow, easy breaststroke, cap it off with a final 50-metre dash using front crawl, flailing my way back toward the dock somewhat comedically, violently flinging my face out of the water for air prior to every stroke of my left arm, desperately gasping an unfortunate mix of air, water and whatever bugs happen to be gracing the lake’s surface on that particular day. Then a brief period of treading water to catch my breath, futilely attempt to clear my ears and, of course, spit a bunch of times. Then we crawl out, lie prone on the dock for anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes depending, once again, on very subtle variations of the weather (it is always between 18 and 20 degrees this time of the morning, and always at least partially sunny). Finally, shirt and flip flops back on for the long trudge back up the hill (roughly 10 stories, as Lyle measured during his last visit). So I’m sure it is glaringly obvious how destructive something as seemingly innocuous as a windy stretch could be to the careful balance of this delicate routine. Suddenly it might feel ever so slightly too cool to be ideally comfortable sitting on the dock beforehand, and the whole dock is swaying back and forth in the large waves making our jump in just a hair less steady, our measured breaststrokes leave us susceptible to nostrils full of water when timed incorrectly, going out with the waves and coming back against them leads to a complete loss of symmetry from an effort standpoint, among the huge rollers my so-called front crawl devolves into nothing more than a really slow way to drown myself, and our recovery period of lying on the dock becomes less relaxing and recuperative and more about shivering, motion sickness and painfully erect nipples. And people think we have it easy down here.
We have also noticed a lot more helicopters flying by these days, as many 2 or 3 some days. We have no idea if this trend is in any way connected to the increasingly erratic wind patterns or if there has simply been more helicopter-related business to attend to in the area. Things such as medical evacuation, wildfire control and dramatic shootouts between nefarious villains and their heroic counterparts who love dramatically swinging from the landing skids by one arm.
Last weekend we visited the First Annual Harvest Festival in Barrio 2 of San Marcos. “Barrio” officially means “neighbourhood”, although in San Marcos it also means, unofficially of course, “way the hell up the hill”. Long, sweaty climbs aside it made for an interesting excursion. Put on by a local coffee roaster, it mainly resembled a small alternative market where local expat organizations, artists and farmers set up informal booths (consisting generally of a blanket on the ground, stuff pinned to the wall or, in very select circumstances, a small table) selling everything from coffee to pumpkin seeds to art to handmade trinkets to jocote ice cream to multi-coloured vests to beef jerky to free branches of rosemary to chocolate cake (served on a styrofoam plate by a group of white “monks” who had shaved their heads but couldn’t quite bring themselves to part with the beards). It was a fairly jovial little gathering, with some of the people raising money to support charitable groups, and others raising money to support themselves and their eclectic tastes in hair ornaments, handmade jewelry and ludicrously baggy pants. On the other hand, clearly very little of the budget needed to be set aside for such luxuries and razors, bras or, heaven forbid, shoes. On the backpacker circuit these days it seems that barefoot is the new filthy dreadlocks. Although it can’t be easy to afford the frequent tetanus shots.