These are photos from Steve and Elisabeth's trip to Guatamala. There are travel journal entries below.

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Nuestro barrio Anleu Domingues family Creative cake making when the electricity goes out El Patio From the roof looking north
guest workout room La cocina La Sala Looking out to volcano San Pedro Looking out to volcanoes Santiago y Toliman
Nuestro cuarto Office corner Portland to Guatemala Putting on the Guatamalan plates Texas Rosalita
Getting Texas off of El Rojo. Steve's new guitar view from the back gate 2nd level patio Hola de Elisabeth y el lago
The Texas Ulrich family. some ol' cloud flood changes at Cas dos Mundos Jabilito lago atitlan The break-on through mountain outside our front door
Elis' b-day sunset. sun go down dusk overlooks the rooftops sunset day one old and new on the water
Final dinner at Daddy Mojo's. Final breakfast with Lynn and Greg at Beaterville Ready to gooooooo...... sunset

The prelude to Guatemala.

What's it to us, Elisabeth and me? It is where we met and where we began to love each other some years back. It is where we left to be in Portland, Oregon and be married. It is where, in our individual lives some of the most amazing spiritual events have occurred. It is where the Universe smiled and Steve could see it. For Elisabeth, that is also true. It is so beautiful and so full of opportunity. The people are so well spirited. We love Guatemala. So, we're writing a bit of how we got here and how we are beginning to settle-in. A year ago we discussed making this move. It was apparent that there were many things to do. There was putting the financial pieces together, jobs to complete, organizing, home repairs and of course, beginning to separate from all of you while staying connected. There was bureaucracy to solve and decisions to make. We made the great inventory and had the big sale. We gave a lot of stuff away. Rosalita, our 1989 Toyota, received tender care from very good and honest mechanics (The Art of Maintenance on MLK at Ainsworth). If you need auto repairs, check them out and say “Hi” for us. We cleaned and painted and packed and repacked. We went to Kaiser and had foot and hand surgeries. Steve had the more serious condition solved by a man with a knife. We had irons in the fire and we got them out, we kissed friends goodbye and made new ones, too, There were last concerts to perform and the performance DVD to begin, with shoots in Portland at Artichoke Music and later in Texas (we'll probably get some more bits down here). It was a project to make the move and it wasn't easy. The last few months in Portland and the long road here were about as stressful as anything we have experienced. But, it was wonderful. Working as a two person team,with help from a lot of friends, we solved our problems. We made our way. We drove 5000 miles. Everyday we found the greatest strength and respect with each other. The Universe kept us one step in front of trouble. Our faith did sustain us. We got here and the story is coming up. I'll tell you it was a whirlwind and some conversations we had with friends we've mislaid. Lo siento, sorry :( **( For example, we know we're having visitors and we think someone may want to come as soon as soon as mid-January or even December, If you're the one, let us know,ASAP, so we can be ready.) This is a joint effort with Steve starting us out and Elisabeth adding on to the opening piece. Next we're going to switch to a more narrative style and tell you some of the highlights of the trip.

Part One- Portland to Austin.

At 1:30 on October 10, 2010 we pulled away from Greg's and Lynn's house with 230,070 miles registering on Rosalita's odometer. We had a final hug with Karen Irwin and made the final goodbyes at the cemeteries, pulling out of Portland at 4:30 and heading to Malheur Wildlife Refuge. It was the wrong time of year to see many birds migrating and the additional weight on Rosalita made driving the back country gravel and dirt roads too risky for us. We spent the night in Hine, Oregon. We learned that what is now the Portland Youth Philharmonic began as the Harney County Sagebrush Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mary Dodge from 1912-1917. Then she moved to Portland beginning the Irvington School Orchestra. That group became the current PYP, which was going to be performing in Burns at the end of October.

We traveled through Nevada and Utah on our way to Denver to spend a little time with Elisabeth's cousins, Ron and Joanne Katz. We crossed the Utah Salt Flats right before dawn and were dazzled by the magnificent array of stars against a jet black sky; then, the streaks of rose grew to chase away the stars and we watched the blazing ball rise on the road in front of us. While the views at sunrise were magnificent the smells and bleakness of the terrain were easily left behind as we headed into Wyoming. The vegetation in western Wyoming is no taller than two feet and it seemed the only trees were near settlements. We traveled to the sounds of Buena Vista Social Club, Gillian Welch and Bob Marley. Rosalita's odometer read 231,641 when we pulled into Katz's. We had a fabulous Japanese dinner a quick sleep, hugs goodbye and we were on the road again after we spent time at Deborah Buckley's grave. Waiting for me at the Katz's were my New Balance shoes and our Powershot camera. Tamara Lindemann lent us her camera for the first part of the trip.

As we head toward New Mexico we are accompanied by Richard Colombo singing of “...dreams never dying and living with bounty and grace..” It was our prayer that that be true for us as well as we headed toward our new home. At Raton pass, leading into NM, we saw our first bear crossing sign. New Mexico has several different sign designs, but we didn't see any moving bears. The also have very pretty elk crossing signs. We reach 1800 miles away from Portland as we watch a 45 minute sunset that once again took our breathes away and brought prayers to our lips. Ever changing shades of color based on orange, but with no known names for either of us entertained us for miles .Each new or amazing thing was greeted with the Shehekianus prayer and it flowed continually throughout the trip.

We spent the night in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Had a lolligaging morning and then a totally unexpected financial experience. Elisabeth had been checking in with Point West Credit Union to make sure it was all in order as we were going to be using On Point as our main banking institution so had transferred most of the money out, just leaving enough to cover what we thought was needed to pay final bills . In the course of this check-in, we learned that we were over drawn because we had be invaded by three sleazy web porn sites that had been taking small amounts of money from the checking account for sometime. Once we investigated it actually added up to a significant amount. There was then hours of phone calls, paper work and distress to protect our accounts and identity documents Thankfully the overdrafts were reversed, but no money from the scam will returned. We learned that the way these sites work is they send through what apparently is a legitimate on-line payment service, this one was called Web Transaction Services, a charge to the account for 6 or 8 cents, if it's not challenged, then they can enter for larger amounts. In our case the three different sites took about $25 each every month. Since we always had a good balance, neither of us noticed it, Steve thinking it was something I had arranged because it just said WTS on the monthly statement. Without going into the truly gross details, the sites had created fake names and email address for me using all my real data. Now, we have official documentation with the state of Oregon, the federal Labor Bureau and all the credit ratings companies. Thankfully, all our reports were in good standing and the alerts are now in place with additional security. But the hours of stress until it was cleared up, were very unpleasant. So, for all you nonchalant bank statement watcheres- this is a cautionary tale for you. Leaving Las Vegas on a historical note we learned it was part of the Santa Fe Trail and was occupied by Brig. General Stephan Kearney and company on August 15, 1846 at the beginning of the Mexican-American War, claiming it for the USA............ahhhhh and the problems still are continuing.

On October 14th we entered Texas following the historical Route 66 highway. From the rolling hills of New Mexico we entered the flat oil and gas and wind fields of West Texas. Home to the amazing West Texas music phenomena rooted in the music of that big bleak land and brought to us by the likes of Buddy Holly, Joe Ely, Jimmie Gilmore, Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, and the Maines family. We passed through Lubbuck and drove on toward Austin. Then on Highway 277 we came to Abilene Texas, the start of the famous Chisholm Trail that ran between there and San Antonio. We were listening to Steelbeam singing “Cheap Whiskey” written by Steve and performed by that band fronted by PJ Lyles. PJ is a descendant of the West Texas iron workers who worked the oil fields. At 1:06pm on the 15th, we saw the first road sign for Austin, only 105 miles to go. We had a picnic lunch among the oaks at a road side picnic area. Then, on to Austin.

Austin was our final provisions and connections point before heading to Laredo and crossing into Mexico. It was filled with family time with Nick, Quinn, Patti and Mundo, good friends, music, sitting under the stars at the fire pit, videoing for the DVD, preparing to swap Rosalita for El Rojo, Quinn's truck. There was paperwork and some basic mechanical work to do. There were the hours of music around the fire, so fine, the hectic, hectic final running around for supplies and the never to be dismissed- packing and repacking and repacking that Steve did to make it all fit. This last time inventorying each box. We were really grateful he had done it when we crossed into Mexico and then Guatemala. Elisabeth even became an independent Austin driver, at least for a part of the city and never got a ticket, never had a trouble..

We'll close for now with this section sending you our love, best wishes and prayers that all is well for you and yours and reminding you we are holding you in our hearts. Our doors are ready to open for you. Que vaya bien y nos vemos, Steve and Elisabeth

PHOTOS: 1. Final dinner at Daddy Mojo's 2. Final breakfast with Lynn and Greg at Beaterville 3. Ready to gooooooo...... 4. one of the amazing sunsets

Part two- Austin to Panajachel

On October 26th we did the final preparation for leaving Austin. Elisabeth's day started at 5:15, working on the final paperwork we had received just the day before from the fingerprinting division of the FBI. We had submitted our request for our criminal background checks in August and on October 25th we received a letter informing us they could not proceed until we submitted another form of payment as they did not accept personal checks. Elisabeth figured out what we needed to, we did and that task was done. Next, Steve did his magic with packing. Our final departure in El Rojo included 6 boxes on the roof, the truck bed totally jam packed and a little excess on the seat bench between us. It took awhile, but his experience as a household goods mover got everything in except a soft guitar case and two TV trays. (I wish we had that stuff here, but, oh well) Elisabeth drove Mundo to school and Patti to work in Rosalita, now an official Texas car with license plates and inspection sticker to prove it. We headed to the Mexican Consulate in Austin and obtained a six month travel permit for El Rojo and were on our way toward the Mexican frontier.

We spent a few hours with Jerry Rogers, Steve's old compadre and mentor for many years. Jerry is/was an anarchist and earth- firsting tree- hugger from way back and he is a very gentle man. We met him in Tilden, Texas, had a nice lunch and headed our separate ways. Luckily our on-board GPS guide, Lucy, sent us about 20 miles in the wrong direction. At first we were annoyed, then gratefully aware we had once again been taken care of by our guardian angels as 8 miles from Laredo, the engine electric light came on. If we hadn't had that detour, we would have been in Mexico when it appeared. We met up with our Panajachel friends Lola and Kevin at the Super 8 in Laredo, and had a nice reunion. We had planned for the border crossing the next day with them, but we stayed for one more day in the USA and had the alternator repaired. Lola is Kachiquel and always wears her corte, the traditional woven skirt, sometimes with a tee on top or the traditional guipele. Kevin is a jazz/blues guy. He used to be a session player in California, but has been leading the jazz movement in Pana for years.

We crossed the Rio Grande at 7 am on October 28, really it's not a big river at all at this location. ( A few years ago it ran out of water a couple hundred yards short of the gulf. Thank , mostly, to over irrigation of the farm lands in the great food producing Rio Grande Valley) We had an easy border crossing, thanks to Steve's meticulous box lists. The woman customs official would point at a box and Elisabeth translated the contents into Spanish for her. The border was sad. Rows of empty reception windows greeted the almost nonexistent travelers to Mexico. In years past this place bustled and the lines were long We did make instant friends with a woman from Canada, Irenee Sansom-Grant. She was driving from Canada to her second home on the Pacific Coast. Elisabeth helped her with some translation, but wow what an impressive woman. We headed south toward Monterrey, we saw official vaqueros-cowboys - men actually working cattle on horseback. This land of flat planes and low scrub brush we saw under a low grey sky. In thirty miles we saw one billboard. The land seemed untouched, except for the cattle and the cowboys. We skirted Monterrey on the north side heading straight through the Sierra Madres. It's desert, but it is teeming with life. El Rojo slows as we climb the passes, but he's running strong. We passed through Saltillo, famous for its tile making. It is a city of 650,000 people. In the city there were the usual multinationals- Office Depot etc, but we were surprised to to see H-E-B, Steve's local grocery store in Austin. He didn't know they expanded into Mexico. We had our first traffico/directional snafu. We went round and round trying to find the entrance to the toll road highway. There was major deconstruction and Lucy was having a very tough time getting us to the right place. Eventually, we got on the right road and ended at Las Palmas in Matehula. It was a lovely, almost empty resort with a concrete putt-putt golf course among other amenities. We had a nice room near the pool and of course Elisabeth took a dip before dinner. This is where we met Irenee again. She is an impressive woman., had some interesting stories for us and an invitation for us to visit early next year. She is one of the originators of the “Community Sentencing” program concept which has grown from its simple beginnings in 1975 small town Canada to an idea which has spread even onto the trash pickers we saw along the Mexican highways. Mexico is a seemingly very clean country.

As we headed out the next day, Elisabeth noticed signs for Real de Catorce, a place she had visited in 2002 when she went to San Miguel de Allende for High Holidays. There's a Jewish Renewal community there. This is an area we hope to come back and explore as there are many historically and culturally interesting places to visit. We still had adjustment issues with the style of driving, really horrible drivers and signs announcing services after passing the area; Steve dubbed it the “3M's- Mente Misteriosos Mexicoanos”. The landscape began to change with more green among the scrub and cactus. There were rolling hills and formal agriculture. We even saw what we thought were rice paddies. Two types of cactus are blooming- yellow and red. As we entered the outskirts of San Luis Potosis, Elisabeth spotted the first “up against the wall” men's “bathroom” in full use. We made our first money withdrawal from Banco Santander, picked because it is the name of one of the main streets in Panajachel. It worked as easily as the personal banker at Wells Fargo in Austin had promised us. We also had our first traffic jam because of a stalled truck. It didn't take long for the “band of horns” to start their performance.

We move into the state of Guajajuato, it's another day in the Sierra Madres which reminds us of southern Colorado or New Mexico; except, this mountain range is huge; much larger than the Rockies, it seems to us. Steve, who is actually doing all the driving now because the bench seat allows no room for his legs on the passenger side, if Elisabeth has the seat forward to reach the peddles, has El Rojo in third gear most of the time as we climb and climb. Blue skies with a few clouds cover low trees and prickly pear and other types of cactus; there's a brown grass cover with an occasional corn field. The lanes of the Mexican highways, even the toll roads, are not as wide as in the US. The shoulders are narrow, speeds of the vehicles have a great variety and driving requires great alertness, especially because of the wild ways of the Mexican motorist. We're havin' a good time.

Passing into the state of and through the city of Queretara, Steve thinks that the Mexicans drive, run, or walk the way they do because of the cultural connection to warriors and bull fighters. They are fearless and just “go for it”. For example, stopping at a stop sign appears optional. We headed toward Mexico City- District Federal, the “Dayefeee”. We spotted a graffiti artist, orange tee shirted,jeans, gorro on head, markers in hand, gazing out from the overpass he is standing on, looking at the oncoming traffic, as if for inspiration. We also spotted the first giant billboard for MAGNO, it is one BIG black bull, posed on a hill above the highway. Though we are in clouds since we climbed back into mountains, the terrain is interesting and varied. The drivers continue to be erratic and Steve is doing a great job driving defensively. Steve also believes that we, indeed, are being helped and protected by the Holy Highway Helpers (3H's). Elisabeth couldn't have agreed more that they are responding to the 3M's.

After missing a turn on the way to Puebla, we ended up in Los Reyes de la Paz, an awful, ugly suburb of Mexico City. It was the most harrowing 60 minutes of Steve's driving life. “I mean, the 60 top scary minutes., no one yields, stops for signals or signs, pays no attention to lanes, cut in and out, squeeze and push..” This city, which means, “The Kings of Peace” had one more trick to pull on us. As we finally were getting out of the horrible traffic, we were stopped by local police who attempted to obtain 3,000 pesos because, “ We were driving on Friday afternoon, after 5pm and we didn't have a certificate of circulation”. Of course, to have a certificate of circulation, one needs to have Mexican license plates. We did have all the required documents, issued at the border and in Austin. Well, after Elisabeth spent 20 some minutes “discussing” the situation through the car window, the officer then wanted us to move to some back street. She went into “high drama” and told the officer, he was so frightening her she was going to have a heart attack, clutched her chest and started speaking almost gibberish to Steve until the officer just waved us off.. (I'll tell you here that Elisabeth “the bulldog” is my hero)

After getting out of there and back on the road we made it to Puebla. We made our way over the longest highest mountain pass either of us remembers- Colorado, Utah, Montana have nothing on Mexico . Steve was in second gear some of the climb up to Puebla and we saw two snow covered volcanoes. The city was jammed with visitors for the weekend of Dia de los Muertos, but with the help of Lucy, we found our hotel. Once again, we were so grateful for Janet's gift of the GPS. . It was an exhausting day, both physically and mentally, made better by a good dinner and supportive hotel staff. The receptionist made a reservation for us in San Cristobol de la Casas, because he was concerned everything would be full because of the holiday when we arrived the next night.

On October 31st, Elisabeth's mom's birthday, we squeeze through a traffic jam and head back into the country side on our way to the state of Chiapas and San Cristobol de las Casas. We find ourselves among bright golden flower fields, cabbage growing and spent corn husks being gathered into conical houses. These are the special yellow flowers that are used on the alters and in the cemeteries as part of the decorations for Dia de los Muertos. The hills are covered with cactus and the agave spikes are shooting toward the billowing blue sky. Mt Pico de Orizaba's snowy edge peeked out from behind the clouds. Again, the mountain passes are totally amazing. Consulting our journal, once again it was written, “we've just crossed the longest pass either of us have experienced”. It was in a deep deep cloud fog cover for most of the climb. At the top there were men working in what must have been really difficult weather conditions. They were building another lane for the pass using the most basic of tools. As we began the decent, hail began to fall and when we reached the bottom, it was so warm we needed to off a layer of clothes.

We are in the lushness of the valley. Raptors and butterflies crisscross the highway. Steve made a shehekianu for seeing banana plants.(Shehekianu is a prayer of blessing for doing something for the first time or for the first time in more than a month. It's about being grateful for having arrived at this particular place at this particular moment in time.) Really, we're been saying shehekianus quite regularly and for very good reason- so much new and so much to be gratefully acknowledge. We are now below sea level and just west of the city of Vera Cruz, crossing many rivers, lagoons and marshes. The predominate trees are palms and cypress. Heron are flying along the waterways. There is major road repair happening as this section of Mexico was hit really hard by Tropical Storm Agatha in May. Truly, the climb from Tuxtla-Guiterrez, the capital of Chiapas was the longest pass of them all! We climbed for 40 miles to reach San Cristobol. In one day we went from below sea level to over 8000 feet elevation. San Cristobol itself is at 7000 feet. This day lasted for 12 hours until arriving at our posada. It truly was a refuge!

We decided to just take a day's rest in San Cristobol and not push on to Xela. It was a very good choice. It was an extension of Shabbat and an opportunity to give thanks, to the Thankable for our safety and joy. We got involved a little bit with the festivities of the holiday, but hope the next time we come here we won't be so tired. We look forward to playing music here and exploring Chipas and the ruins at Palenque. The whole feel of the state of Chiapas is different from what we experienced in the rest of Mexico. Drivers were courteous! People, in general, were helpful and acknowledging to us. It felt much more familiar and like Guatemala and of course, it is because it was a part of Guatemala in the past and the indigenous community appears very similar. This is a very cursory view and opinion, but we felt the most at ease there than anywhere since leaving Austin.

Mexico is naturally beautiful, and also a land of artistic expression and music. We may never drive this spine of Mexico route again as there are many less mountainous options for Texas, but what an opportunity it has been. We were able to see such diversity of landscape, meet some lovely people, eat some great food, have some harrowing adventures and come out just fine: and we're still great travel buddies.

1noviembre- time to go to Guatemala! No surprise as we leave San Cristobol, we climb - toward the border. The mountains of Chiapas are beautiful, lush yellows and greens, granite and miniature shrines, goats and sheep, turkeys, chickens eating along the road. A fully alive place. Reading the AAA guide book we learned that at some point in times, large numbers of indigenous people were exiled from their communities because they had become evangelicos. It appeared we were driving through the new areas they created because of the many Evangelic churches we saw. After driving for 1 ½ hours Steve was finally able to shift into 5th gear. (for about three minutes) We traveled through wide high valleys with tree covered hills on either side. The valley was filled with towns, flowers, and cornfields. In the town of Comitan, we see our first sign for the fronterra de Guatemala. In the main traffic circle the flags of both Mexico and Guatemala are waving in the breeze. We descend once again into a large tropical valley. Perhaps, the next range of mountains is Guatemala. There are palms and heat, but it's not jungle. This is the borderland.

As we pass through what appears to be the exit out of Mexico there is no officials in sight and we just keep going. At that point we pull over to change the license plates from Texan to Guatemalan. Steve easily switched out the back plate, but the front one was rusted tight. We found a really helpful taxista who lead us to a mechanic and together all the three men got it off and we were on our way to the Guatemalan side. Again, having the detailed list of what was in the boxes and the customs official justat passed us though. Immigration wondered why we didn't have a stamp to exit or enter Mexico, but apparently it's a common occurrence and after checking us through the computer system our brand new passports were stamped for the first time with a 90 day visa for Guatemala. The first thing that Elisabeth did was find a bathroom. The second thing was to call her Guatemalan family in Xela, Quetzeltenango to let them know we'd be there for dinner. We started the drive which would take us through Huehuetenango. (The first great geographical feature I saw was two equally high mountains all green and rising like the thighs of a giant recumbent green woman. The road had an amazing number of tumolos. Tumolos are speed bumps. They vary from a couple inches high to, I swear, a foot high)

What a wonderful homecoming it was for Elisabeth. In Xela. her family, the Anleu Dominguez's, were her host family when she first went to Guatemala in the spring of 2000. She was given the family by her Spanish school because Karla was willing to cook vegetarian. What wonderful heart family they have become over the years. The core family is Karla, her husband Fernando and daughters, Andrea and Karla Fernanda. The extended family includes parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, etc. Two of Fernando's sisters actually helped with our wedding. One made the wedding invitations and the other sewed Elisabeth's wedding dress. We had a great reunion over dinner at their favorite restaurant, Guissepie's. The next day Steve rested, well needed! Elisabeth and family just hung out, visited and prepared for the party. It was so good to reconnect to the girls who have grown into young adults- Andrea will be 15 in February and Karlita is 13. On Tuesday afternoon, the family hosted a refraccion, a small meal usually served around 10 in the morning and at about 4pm. We spent the morning baking a special cake Karlita created which was served with enchiladas. What that means here in Guatemala is a tostada covered with a sweet tomato salsa and sprinkled with parsley or cilantro and a dry white cheese- yummmy. We put on a short “show”, costumes and all for everyone. (well not me. I don't have a costume) It was a lovely afternoon.

Wednesday morning with the help of Karla's oldest niece, Falo, we purchased phones and the UBS connection for the internet. Then, with picnic lunch provided by Karla, we were on our way to Panajachel. We had learned at the party that landslides had closed the main entrance from Solola to Panajachel and we would need to enter from the south. As we saw from Vera Cruz and all the way to Xela, the destruction from the 1-2 punches of Hurricane Stan in '05 and Agatha this summer was profound. The brand new CA1 Pan-American Highway had several places where the lanes on one side were still covered over from landslides. On the road into Panajachel from Las Trampas there was beauty and destruction leap frogging the entire route. Our sadness on making the final turn down the mountain to where we could actually see the river leading into Lake Atitlan was too deep to even register in that moment. The riverbed was almost entirely rock and sand with the tiniest trickle of river running into the lake. All greenery and many homes had been scrubbed clean.

With heavy hearts we drove immediately to the lake shore. We said prayers of gratitude for our safe arrival and healing prayers for the Waters. The spiritual energy of Lago Atitilan did sustain us while we lived here and while we were in the United States. Many of you may recall the image of the lake and the three volcanoes that tower above it adorn our wedding rings and our katubah. This is our sacred ground. We know that a major draw to return is to help restore the balance. We don't know what that work will be for each of us, yet we are sure that will become clear in short time.

Santander is the heart beat street of Panajachel's tourist trade, music scene and the place to see whoever you are looking to bump into. We tucked ourselves into the upscale Hotel Dos Mundos, Elisabeth took a dip in the pool. Yes, the pool and not the lake. A part of our huge sadness is that Lago Atitlan suffers from cyanobacteria, a natural occurring bacteria that has been fed by runoff from the agriculture/chemical fertilizer, soaps and other phosphorous builders and lack of good sewage management around the lake. A very few of our friends still swim daily, but our senses say, 'no, we must wait'. (I'm getting in tomorrow. This Lake is a part of my pshcye) It is a bacteria that has been present in the water for many years, but in the last few the balance has flipped and created blooms which cause the illness.

So, out onto the street we went. Immediately we begin to meet old friends. Many sweet “welcome homes” were received as we headed over to dinner with our dear friend, JoAn Dwyer. Many of you got to meet her at our wedding. She and Kathy Beechey, who we stayed with for a week while finding and getting the basics of our new home set up, have been such great resources and guides as we return to the same place in different times. Kathy was also at our wedding. (She was born and raised in Ocean Park, WA where Scott McKinley's family has had a beach house for several generations. It truly is such a small world).

The first house we looked at was a connection through JoAn. The lady she buys avocados from, Dona Rosa, had mentioned she had some rentals available. JoAn passed the info on to us and we went to look. After some comparison looking, this has become our home and we have been primarily focused on moving in. It is brand new. Dona Rosa's family have been building for four years, not because it is so large, but just because things move poco a poco here. It had everything we wanted, except ground and gardens. There's four large rooms on two levels with a bathroom on each level. In Guatemala it would be very likely two families would live here, one on each level. We have taken the whole space. The upstairs is our living room and kitchen. We are creating the kitchen by putting in a wall length tiled counter with sink. The stove top will sit on it as well. There will be lots of cabinets underneath for storage. Downstairs is our bedroom and the treatment/workout/guestroom.

Of course, the other main thing that we have been doing is reconnecting with the Pana community. Steve has got already playing a regular Saturday night gig at our dear friend Ling's Malaysian + more restaurant. His visited and connecting with many of his music buddies......

Elisabeth is connecting with friends from the healing community and spending daily time with the lake doing yoga, meditation and prayer. The other main activity Elisabeth is doing is at the thermal pools located at one of the hotels near our house. It is good both for her body and is a way she can connect to the waters of the lake without actually being in the lake. She goes at least every other day. When you come to visit, you'll really like this special place.

We have two invitations for Thanksgiving and are planning a small Chanukah gathering for 1st Night to dedicate the house, put up the mezzuzahs and do the Chanukah “do” with potatoes lakes, driedel, decoration and more!

We look forward to staying connected with you all. We've included both our physical address as well as our mailing address.

Much Love to you all and Happy Thanks-giving Day,

Elisabeth and Steve

FROM THE ROOF TOP: THE FIRST MONTH

It has been an adventure of a different sort here this first month. Our house has never been lived in. It comes empty. So we begin the process of making it liveable. This task is complicated by the closure of the road to Solola. When Agatha hit here she caused numerous landslides. One of them washed out the road to the district capital. Instead of an 8 kilometer ride up the mountain it is now a 32 mile ride up another mountain. Here in Pana, I buy a single folding wooden table and we get a 4 burner stove top to put on it and a 25 pound tank of gas to power it. And we get some living room furniture – a sofa and two chairs. We order a bed for our friend JoAnn which we'll trade her for our old bed and also we order a refrigerator. (It takes about two weeks for that to arrive) And on and on. Anyone who has done a remodel knows that getting what you want is difficult and sometimes impossible. Being in a third world country makes it even a bit more complicated. It can become frustrating waiting for the wood to dry sufficiently to be used. An example of the process here is that I needed to get duplicate keys for the house. The first tienda that makes llaves had no blanks until later, mas tarde. The second made the keys, but they don't sell key rings. One hardware store, ferreteria, has the right cabinet knobs, but not drawer pulls. It's like that. It's interesting and as each day goes by the adjustment factor increases, the frustration decreases and the time for savoring life is enhanced. So I'm not going to get so far into the mundane as I had already written. Suffice to say, we drove a rugged beautiful road to JoAnna's. Men met us at the top of the hill (60-70%grade) and carried her mattress down and ours up. We went home, but not without another police encounter. We found out better what papers to have and the next day saw a lawyer and got stamps “officializing” the papers we needed. Surely, I'll get into the day to day stuff more but what I'd rather write about is my experience watching the sky from our roof top.

Most days around sundown I head up to the roof with a glass of wine and my notebook and camera. I take a few shots and look out over the lake and view the ever changing beauty that we live under. In Portland I could sit on the front porch and look up over our neighbors' houses and see a glimpse of el cielo but here, now, I can see 360 degrees around and be constantly enthralled by the colors, by the movement of cloud and light. The other night we slept on the roof and set a clock to wake up and watch the most beautiful lunar eclipse. In Austin they tell me it was cloudy, and in Ely, Minnesota, too. In Portland, I imagine it was too. Not that we don't have cloudy nights, during the meteor showers we were mostly shut out. Usually though, at the twilight hour there is a mix of clouds and clear and the colors run across the sky from the mountains on my right hand all the way to the distant end of Lago Atitlan on my left. I wonder, really how the sun does that. I'm used to seeing sunsets in the west and surely that's what's happening here; but by some lucky happenstance, here I'm blessed with a beautiful view of light among the clouds from Northwest to Southwest. I would say that I have been sky deprived for years and now I'm getting my fill. I sit on the roof and write and sip and think and feel. I make plans on what work should be done to make the area safe for visitors and to block the light pollution from a few street lights. I pray.

Last week one of my best friends in Guatemala died. Sergio Garcia was a linguist. He taught English and French and Cachiquel . He was a guide and a musician. He was a beloved father and husband. He worked with kids and he was just forty-eight years old. Sergio was a good friend to my son Quinn and one of the first people I met here back in 2003. He was the first person I went to visit after we arrived in Pana . We made plans for playing ukuleles and other music. He gave me a book of Spanish verbs which I have opened. But I'm still daunted. We had a couple of visits and then he quickly weakened and died. We went to the funeral in the wee village of San Andreas. Here in Guatemala people are mostly buried above ground. At the end of the service the opening to the vault is bricked over and the cement is finished. I'll never see a cement wall again without being reminded of Sergio. He was the one who showed me in a book about Mayan culture what my nahuals (animal guides) are. They are spiders and lizards. (All that time I was Salamanderman and didn't know why).

Last week we also were without water in our system. We got water by going about 150 meters away to a place where a neighbor allowed us to fill 5 gallon bottles and buckets. Elisabeth said “Now we're really living in the barrio” And we are. There are no other gringos in our immediate neighborhood. And we live among people that have a lot less than we do in material things and living space.

We hear roosters crow and dogs bark, children laugh and tuk-tuks run down the alley. It's crowded. From the roof top with a rock I bet I could hit fifty houses.. Elisabeth is making friends with the neighbor ladies and children.

Twice a week she crosses the Lake to volunteer at clinics in San Juan and San Pablo. Last week, however was the first time for me to get in a launch. I was amazed by the changes in the shoreline. Atitlan is a good twenty feet higher than it was when last we lived here. There are familiar things under water now. The beach where we swim is a bit difficult to get to and has been reduced to a very narrow band. Really, it's better. It took Elisabeth a month to get into the water but, thankfully, she woke up one morning, did a ritual,and decided that it would be safe for her. I like it too. I am hoping to learn how to swim again.

Music here has been a bit limited. Not many tourists, so not many venues. I play Saturday nights at Las Chinitas and play around the house. Today I bought a little Taylor Guitar. I never thought that I'd own a Taylor, so that is pretty cool. And, now that the road to Solola has been opened, there are more tourists I'll probably make a little more money. Thankfully, its not how we live here.

I'd like to tell you about the fireworks on Christmas Eve. We went to our friend Kathy Beechy's (home town of Ocean Park Wa.) and were up on her roof when midnight rolled around. Then, for about fifteen minutes we saw bursts of color and heard bangs and whistles in every direction. We're looking forward to New Year's Eve when we'll be on our own roof and see what it's like here.

Other highlights:

The visit of Karla, Andrea and Karla Fernanda from Xela, Quetzaltenango ( Elisabeth's Guatemalan family). With Karla I had my first real conversations in Spanish.

The visit of my great friend and music partner Mario Rosales and his German friend Linda from Guatemala City.

Sitting in with Ted Lindland at as Chinitas.

Accompanying Ling Tan-she on her dulcimer and me on guitar at the Panachel International School fund raiser.

The great Chanukah party/house warming.

It's great here for us. We miss you and Oregon, Texas, Montana, etc.