A local homestay, one of our Chula Tours, is a unique way to feel a part of the community and get an insight into daily village life, here in El Paredón, Guatemala. It provides income for the local family and memories that you will cherish for a life-time. Traveller Haley and her friend Charlotte stayed with Doña Angela, one of La Choza Chula’s homestay hosts, and shared this taste of their experience with us…
Ten pairs of eyes stare at us from the floor at the foot of our beds. These eyes belong to ten smiling children who sit in surprise at the two foreigners who will be staying with them for the next couple of days. Angela, the grandmother to these children, stands in the kitchen just outside our bedroom door. Her kitchen feeds the entire family; every morning she makes 2 and a half pounds of corn tortillas. She sends her grandson to buy chicken from the neighbour and her husband, one of the local leaders in the village, gets fish from the mangrove waters that surround the town. Her granddaughters are beautiful and full of curiosity, while her grandsons are mischievous and full of energy. During the day she sews and cooks and feeds us more food than we can ever eat.
I tell her at breakfast that today is my friend’s birthday and ask where I can get a cake. An hour later I am sitting on the back of a motorcycle with three cakes staked precariously on my lap. Angela’s son is driving and a pink pig piñata hangs from the handlebars. People in local shops that line the street stop and stare, a few even whistle. I burst into laughter several times because I know how funny we must look. Cows are being herded along the roadside and their muddy odour mixes with the sweet aroma of cake wafting up from my lap. We arrive at the port and board a boat that will take us back to El Paredon. The brown water we float on contrasts with the bright green of the mangrove leaves. Amongst their protruding roots white birds with long necks and legs feed on small bugs.
5 hours later the birthday celebrations at Angela’s begin. She serves us enough food to fill our bellies and our hearts. We all laugh and drink and despite the language barrier we feel connected. All 10 grandchildren help me light the candles on the cakes and we begin the march back to the birthday boy.
Everyone joins in singing the most authentic Happy Birthday song I have ever heard. Our voices drift into the street and squeals of joy erupt when we realize the candles are not blowing out. They are magic candles that come back to life with even brighter light after you try to blow them out. Finally, with the help of all the children, the candles are out and the cake is ready to be cut. It is delicious, sweet and cold, the perfect treat on a balmy evening like this. Icing lines everyone’s mouths and with a burst of energy the children blindfold the birthday boy and lead him into the streets. He is eventually lead back into the yard and handed a stick. After several attempts to hit the piggy piñata the stick is passed off to the youngest grandson. After each hit a few candies fall to the ground and everyone rushes in to grab them. Finally Angela’s oldest grandson manages to decapitate Ms. Piggy and candy flies through the air. Squeals of delight surround me and I realize this entire time a smile has not left my face.
A 15-minute trek through deep black sand leads us to our final activity of the night, the Grand Baile! Ocean on one-side and mangrove forest on the other, a large covered pavilion comes into view. It is surrounded by palm trees and filled with music and people dancing. We twirl, we laugh, we sing and we embrace. The music is alive and I think to myself, this is it. And in that moment I feel nothing but happiness. I try to pocket this moment of pure joy so that one day when I need to I can open up the feeling again and smile.
Our homestay in El Paredón is what created this beautiful moment. Developing familiarity and comfort somewhere you’ve only just arrived at is an incredible feeling. This is exactly what a homestay can create. It immerses you more quickly and deeply into the lives of the local people so that you feel at home even though you are thousands of miles away from your home. To me the real beauty of travel lies in this feeling.”
Chula Tours is the award-winning community tourism operator of La Choza Chula, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in El Paredón, Guatemala. We offer authentic experiences in El Paredón, including day packages, individual tours and week long cultural immersion experiences for groups, volunteers and students. We aim to support, educate and train local people to provide quality, informative, and sustainable tours to visitors of the beautiful village. The tours provide an alternative income stream for local people and contribute to the conservation of the area. All profits are then reinvested back into La Choza Chula’s EDUCATION, ENTERPRISE and ENVIRONMENTAL projects.
To find out more contact: Email – firstname.lastname@example.org / Phone – (+502) 4643-9769