Friday, October 29, 2010

Letter from Kathy in San Antonio Palopó

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Greetings to all,

I arrived in Guatemala on the 20th and spent 3 nights in Antigua, recovering from an overnight flight and the tail end of a cold.  The weather is lovely, quite hot in the daytime, cooling in the evening.  Everything is green and comparatively dust free (usually I am here in our winter – the dry season, or summer, here).  Today I made the trip to San Antonio Palopó.

Most of you know that Guatemala was hit by  tropical storm Agatha last May and it apparently rained every day until the 4th of September when there was an unusual deluge that lasted 18 hours.  All this rain caused an awful lot of damage in the country.  Today I first saw the highway damage where quite often 4 lanes were diverted into 2 lanes and there were incredible gouges and drop-offs or mountains of dirt piled up.  Most credit it to bad engineering… where the roadway was cut into the mountainside the bank wasn't stepped but left sheer and the amount of rain finally made it give way.  One good thing is that there wasn't much traffic.  And right now it is dry although I do hear there is another storm coming.

Once we got to Sololá the descent into Panajachel turned into a one-way road where enormous boulders had fallen at one sharp corner near a waterfall.  In Panajachel when we crossed the river on our way to San Antonio, there were many buildings in odd positions and the road surface was deplorable.  All the way there were areas that were obviously washouts but have been cleaned up somewhat.  More huge boulders, piles of dirt, mudslides, etc. Occasionally, where there had been streams coming down the mountainside to the lake there are now huge boulder-strewn gullies. All very disconcertingly different from last April when I left.  The vegetation is so verdant and lush right now that it made the road seem much narrower!
Finally I arrived in San Antonio and it felt like the tide had come in!  The lake is about 7 to 8 feet higher.  It is odd to hear it lapping so close to the road and the hotel. San Antonio was perhaps the hardest hit village in Guatemala with 2 mudslides that damaged many homes, commercial buildings, roads, footpaths, waterlines, electric lines, and drainage pipes.  Even the new little sports field that the schools were using has been reclaimed by the lake. I am trying to take it in bit by bit.  Furthermore, people are living in fear of more of the mountain coming down.  It is a very changed place that is trying to get back to normal.  There are no tourists.  The Lake is still beautiful, although the algae is beginning to come back, I´ve been told, though this is not evident right here. 

After dark tonight I walked around the village and was warmly greeted by a few people I know; so wonderful to see them safe.  Shelter Box is much in evidence with their grey tents dotting the hillside.

I have a feeling my time here is going to be very full.

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