Rotary Insiders’ Tour of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
In February 2023, the Rotary Club of Lake Atitlan (RoCLA), Guatemala, hosted members of a US Rotary Club on a visit to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. This visit was the official inauguration of RoCLA’s Rotary Insiders’ Tour of Lake Atitlan. These curated tours are designed to highlight the cultural and natural attractions around the lake while introducing visiting Rotary members to RoCLA-approved projects needing funding. Kathleen Best and Stephanie Schrode members of the Rotary Club of Mount Clemens, Michigan, arrived to meet RoCLA members and tour RoCLA-approved projects around the Lake. Stephanie and Kathleen were scouting projects for their club’s international service committee. The Tu’ik Ruch’ Lew Improved Stove Project was one of the projects hoping to receive a club-to-club grant.
The visit began with a short stay in the beautiful colonial town of Antigua, where Stephanie and Kathleen spent the first days adjusting to the wonderful warm weather and to the riot of colors so striking to visitors to this Central American country. Their favorite activity in Antigua was exploring the fascinating artisans’ market. It was also Super Bowl Sunday, and our guests found a welcoming sports bar where they reveled in the camaraderie of the game, agreeing that “Overall, the charming town of Antigua was definitely one of the highlights on the itinerary.”
Arriving at Lake Atitlan the next day, Stephanie and Kathleen spent two nights in Panajachel, one of the lake’s happening tourist spots. Duncan Aitken, RoCLA’s president, escorted them on a visit to San Andres Semetabaj, where a water project is awaiting funding. They saw “the area where a water tank will hopefully be built.” They met with villagers and “took the hike to the spring that the women make daily to get fresh water and wash their clothes and dishes.” They also visited the local school, where they saw “bathrooms and wash stations already built that cannot be used without the tank and running water.”
Leaving the northern shore of Lake Atitlan, Stephanie and Kathleen crossed the 18-mile-long Lake Atitlan by boat, arriving at the southern end in the village of Santiago Atitlan. There they stayed at the “charming” Hotel Bambu, their “favorite hotel on the trip,” which is surrounded by lush gardens plus a swimming pool and a hot tub, which they “enjoyed on a chilly night.” Upon their arrival, Stephanie and Kathleen were greeted by Rotarian Candis Krummel, who joined them for dinner their first night at the hotel restaurant. Bambu offers a varied menu of traditional Maya and international cuisine, to be savored while enjoying a lovely view of Santiago Atitlan across the bay.
The next morning, Candis accompanied Kathleen and Stephanie on a Tz’utujil-guided, cultural walking tour of Santiago Atitlan. The tour included a visit to the ancient church of the martyred Oklahoman priest Stanley Rother, a presentation on backstrap and floor-loom weaving, plus a stop at the cofradia that houses the Tzutujil grandfather deity, Maximon.
Stephanie reports: “The cultural walking tour was a lot of fun. Our guide did a great job with giving us the history of each location we visited, without making it overly done. She kept our attention the whole time!”
Kathleen and Stephanie then enjoyed a “WONDERFUL lunch at Candis’s home [Cojol’Ya].The presentation was beautiful, and each course was served by Candis’s son Cameron with the utmost attention to detail. The food was absolutely delicious. Candis’s daughter in law, Isabel, prepared our four-course meal, and each dish perfectly complemented the next. Make sure you come hungry!!”
Following the festival feast Tz’utujil luncheon at Candis’s home, Kathleen and Stephanie were off to attend a stove installation, joining the Tu’ik Ruch’ Lew (TRL) Team who awaited them in TzanChaj.
In the context of this neighborhood, Kathleen and Stephanie were rather like exotic quetzal birds who just dropped in for a visit. A throng of spellbound children followed them to the entrance of the family compound where the stove was to be installed. Women peeked out from between the corn stalks of their walls as they passed by.
Stephanie and Kathleen immediately charmed the family by engaging the children in affectionate play while keeping a discerning eye on the details of the family home…before and after the new stove installation. Although the adults were a little uneasy with their visitors at first, they were all hugging and laughing by the time they left! In Stephanie’s words.
”We also had the opportunity to watch a stove installation, and that was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. From seeing the current open wood stove that the local women cook on, to seeing the new stove that was installed was so incredible. Bring tissues!”
The following morning, Candis accompanied Stephanie and Kathleen Laguna for an opportunity to enjoy the most picturesque village on the lake. They commented, “We did get a chance to walk around the town a little bit and visit a place where they showed us how they dye all their thread using natural products such as berries and leaves. The main street of San Juan La Laguna is an umbrella-lined street full of shopping and dining. The few hours we spent there were well worth it.”
They then continued around the lake to Tzununa, where RoCLA member Shad Qudsi met them and showcased his RoCLA-approved reforestation project and women’s artisan cooperative, WELLKIND. Stephanie explained, ”We got a chance to harvest some seeds from an endangered species of tree that they will use for their reforestation projects. They also showed us what the women from the fair trade beaders are making and the designs are so intricate! It’s amazing what they can make out of beads.”
After a farewell lunch, Kathleen and Stephanie would leave for the airport in Guatemala City early the next morning.
I hope you enjoyed sharing Kathleen and Stephanie's adventures in Santiago Atitlan, I encourage YOU to come and see first-hand the impact of your donations.
Candis E. Krummel
Co-founder & President, Board of Directors