Tag Archives: Guatemala

The Magic of Santiago on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

The Magic of Santiago on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Wandering through villages around Lake Atitlán is a spiritual respite from the mundane. I didn’t get to choose when I came into this earth nor will I choose when to leave but in between, I get to choose. Spending time with people who are actually living on next to nothing but are happy, is a breath of fresh air. Traveling in Guatemala is a privilege I savor; exploring beauty in every form.

Mother & child en route to Santiago on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Mother & child en route to Santiago on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala


Mother & child - Santiago, Lake Atitlan

Mother & child – Santiago, Lake Atitlán

Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Four children - Santiago, Lake Atitlan

Four children – Santiago, Lake Atitlán

Self portrait - Santiago, Lake Atitán, Guatemala

Self portrait – Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Woman @ Santiago, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Woman @ Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Preparing tortillas-Santiago, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Preparing tortillas-Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Children inside Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apostol

Children inside Iglesia Parroquial Santiago Apostol

Santiago, Atitlán

Santiago, Atitlán

Three young boys, Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Three young boys, Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Children, Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Children, Santiago, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Hannah_Kozak_Guatemala_2014_0204

Self portrait, Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Self portrait, Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Who's your mom?

Who’s your mom?

Mother & child, Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlån, Guatemala

Mother & child, Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlån, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Hannah_Kozak_Guatemala_2014_0228

Aldous Huxley said Lake Atitlán was the most beautiful lake in the world. I agree!

Aldous Huxley said Lake Atitlán was the most beautiful lake in the world. I agree!

The Magic of Santiago on Lake Atitlán, Guatemala


Return to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Returning to Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan, the womb of Guatemala is one of the prettiest places on earth. The sun and breeze dance on the water. Three volcanoes surround the lake like silent, but dominant bodyguards. Out of these primordial waters the Maya world was delivered. The Mayans are proud but friendly people who greet me with a buenos dias and real smiles. The lake is calm in the mornings – the volcanic peaks evident in every breathtaking direction.

Lake Atitlan is believed to be formed by a series of three violent large eruptions that blew the lid off the top of a super volcanic mountain, which was possibly the biggest Guatemalan volcanic eruption, and perhaps American in a million years. The first was 14 million years ago. The second was one million years ago and the third was 85 thousand years ago. The lake seems to go on for an eternity though it’s only 12 feet long and five miles wide with depths of one thousand two hundred feet.

Laguna Lodge is a quiet retreat, a private slice of heaven with volcanic stone and adobe in the suites. There are perfectly built stone walks overlooking the lake and volcanoes.The reserve trails begin at the back of the building. Rock steps begin on the third floor-the start of one hundred acres to climb. The organic food is exclusively vegetarian and deliciously prepared with love by the local Mayan community that works there. I’m not even a coffee drinker and found myself savoring the yummy, smooth, locally grown Guatemalan coffee. The toasted coconut French toast alone was worth the boat ride from Panachajel. If you need a place to recharge your batteries, or time alone to unwind, this is it. Breakfast with a side of volcano, anyone?

Once on the lake the best way to see the different villages ( My favorite village is San Juan; known for textiles and artists) is to wave down a boat or lancha. You just stand on the dock and wave at a passing lancha. Then, the wandering begins.

San Marcos, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Marcos, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Marcos, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Marcos, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

@ hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Juan, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan from Laguna Lodge

Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan from Laguna Lodge

Frijoles, arroz, tortillas de maiz y jamaica: Lunch at Laguna Lodge, Lake Atitlan

Frijoles, arroz, tortillas de maiz y jamaica: Lunch at Laguna Lodge, Lake Atitlan

View from   , Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

View from Laguna Lodge Eco Resort, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Returning to Lake Atitlan


Return to Guatemala

Returning to Guatemala

From the time I moved to Israel when I was twenty years old, my intuition has been a guiding compass in my life. I’ve never been satisfied with only seeking to understand my own culture in America. Guatemala and Israel are places I’ve returned to over and over again.

This is my sixth visit to Guatemala. Each time I visit I know I will experience something magnificent along the way. Twenty-two distinct Mayan indigenous tribes, perfect weather because Guatemala is the most north of the Central American countries, and the weather is agreeable all year round. The climate changes depend on the altitude of the area but it is basically hot. I love it. I started the trip with a stop in Guatemala City for one night before making my way to Lake Atitlan, my refuge.

View from Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort, Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan

View from Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort, Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan


Breakfast - desayuno @ Hotel Barcelo

Breakfast – desayuno @ Hotel Barcelo

Making corn tortillas in Panajachel
Child at Panajachel

Child at Panajachel

Child at Panajachel

Child at Panajachel

Child at Panachajel

Child at Panachajel

Child at Panajachel

Child at Panajachel

Lake Atitlan @ Panajachel

Lake Atitlan @ Panajachel

Child at Panajachel

Child at Panajachel

Little boy - Panachajel

Little boy – Panachajel

Self portrait - Laguna Lodge

Self portrait – Laguna Lodge

Here is a favorite quote of mine from Anais Nin, who was always a source of inspiration for me. Nin challenged conventionally defined gender roles and always sought out travel.

quote-we-travel-some-of-us-forever-to-seek-other-states-other-lives-other-souls-anais-nin-136076

Give the girl a passport

Returning to Guatemala


Write on the Lake – Lake Atitlan, Guatemala with Joyce Maynard

I heard about writer Joyce Maynard years ago. After receiving a full writing scholarship to Yale in 1972, her essay, An 18 year old looks back on Life was printed front page of the NY Times Magazine.  Her life went in a different direction when J.D. Salinger wrote to her, starting a relationship that ended in less than a year after she moved in with him.

Joyce’s love of writing and books was instilled in her by her mother, an English teacher who was passionate about reading, language and books.

My love of books started in elementary school ordering all kinds of stories from the Scholastic Book Club. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a book I reread over and over when I was 12 years old. As Charlie slowly peeled back the tiny wrapper of the Willie Wonka chocolate bar and a flash of gold winked at me, I smiled. I wished Charlie would win the trip to Wonka’s Chocolate Factory because he wanted it more than anyone. Charlie showed me if you want something bad enough, dreams come true.

Guatemala was a dream I’ve had since I was very young. My mother was born and raised there so I have a pull to family when I go and I love the gentle people greeting me with open arms on every corner. I also love the food, the language, the culture, the people; la comida, la lengua, la cultura., la gente. Since I first traveled there in 1983, I have been back on six different trips.

I’ve been carrying around my own story for years. I started writing it two years ago after working with writer Hope Edelman but I allowed my busy life for the past year to stop my writing. I knew it was time to go back to Guatemala. Aldous Huxley said that Lake Atitlan was the most beautiful lake in the world. The combination of studying with Joyce Maynard and the beauty of the lake seemed to be the perfect blend to fill myself up, disconnect my i-Phone and breath deeply.

Joyce has created a space at her home with rocks hand carved in the shape of indigenous peoples, textiles of bright green, vibrant reds, bright blues, happy yellows. Her home is nestled in the side of a cliff in the village of San Marcos on Lake Atitlan. Two cooks nurtured us with a daily breakfast of local papaya, mango, banana, pineapple, watermelon, black beans- frijoles negros, hot corn tortillas, homemade raspberry jelly, eggs scrambled with spinach, onion and Guatemalan coffee con leche. For someone who lives alone and is not much for cooking, I loved the home made, comforting meals.

Another reason to travel to Guatemala is the weather. You can go there anytime of year as the average temperature is 75 degrees. Guatemala has earned its nickname, “land of the eternal spring.”

A group of writers who have stories to tell and need help telling them sat in a circle as Joyce stood at a white board, the blue lake behind her, while she laughed, smiled, and shared her love of writing and books. She taught us how to recognize a dead sentence like “the lake is beautiful” and gave us exercises to paint that picture.

Joyce Maynard – Lake Atitlan 8 March 2012

As the boat pulls away from Lake Atitlan, and I head back to Antigua, where our voyage began, I turn around to see Joyce, waving and smiling, as I take one more hard look at her home and feel grateful for ten days of fresh papaya & guava in the morning and frijoles negros at almost every meal. I’ll be back next year I think to myself as I wrap the black wool poncho around my shoulders that she gifted me with.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

En route to Panachajel near Lake Atitlan

Olivia and her alter ego Olivia the artist

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

San Marcos village at Lake Atitlan

San Marcos village at Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan from Joyce Maynard’s home

Lake Atitlan from Hotel Aaculaax

Lake Atitlan

Joyce Maynard

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala – procession

Antigua, Guatemala procession

Antigua, Guatemala procession


Olivia – missing in Guatemala

I started traveling with Olivia, who is at home anywhere she goes, on a journey to Guatemala two years ago. She’s as happy eating frijoles negros overlooking the three volcanos on Lake Atitlan as she is playing with children in a cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia. She climbed Masada in the Sinai desert of Israel and has eaten fresh parmigiano cheese with a glass of Malbec in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Here’s Olivia in Guatemala two years ago at Iglesia de San Francisco, Antigua. As you can see, she was newly adopted and happy. Very happy.

Olivia in Iglesia de San Francisco - Feb 2010

Here’s Olivia in a favorite restaurant in Buenos Aires, Argentina:

Olivia in a favorite restaurant in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Olivia recently at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala with her friend Sharky, Smiley and Olivia the artist – her alter ego:

Olivia the artist, Smiley, Olivia and Sharky at Hotel Aaculaax – Lake Atitlan

On a recent trip to Guatemala, Olivia disappeared. One moment she was having dinner with us in Antigua, a favorite colonial city and the next moment, gone. Nothing. Nada. I’ve tried to make sense of it all. Why, why, why? One moment we were watching the procession in Antigua filled with purple gowns and feeling fervent devotion. The next moment we were enjoying a bowl of chocolate and vanilla ice cream at a goikey hotel. Then the pain in my stomach and the realization she was missing. I tried not to panic as my friend and I quickly walked up and down the cobblestone streets we took the evening before searching for her. Still no sight of Olivia.

Here’s some recent photos of Olivia loving Guatemala. Olivia has no fear, which makes traveling with her a pleasure. She’s alway choosing the higher vibrational energy of love over the force of fear.

Olivia on 4a. Calle Oriente in Antigua, Guatemala

Olivia lounging at Joyce Maynard’s home at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Olivia on a favorite chair at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Olivia reading Ann Hood’s famous essay

Olivia getting free wi-fi at Paco Real Hotel at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Olivia at a favorite spot on Lake Atitlan

Olivia in front of her favorite volcano at Lake Atitlan

Here is the last photo taken of Olivia in Antigua. Notice the look of happiness on her face. I always loved traveling with Olivia as she has no fear.

Olivia on Calle 4 in Antigua on March 11, 2012

If anyone has any information about her, please let me know. No questions asked.


Awoken by an earthquake

I left Antigua in the late afternoon, arriving in Guatemala City starving. My cousin Esther had homemade matzoh ball soup prepared. Not only does she add noodles but also potatoes, carrots and onion.  She had run out of frijoles negros so she phoned neighbors to find some. Her maid Moda made sure there were plaintains because she remembered from last year that I love them.  We caught up in her white tiled kitchen with a cup of hot tea.

I was born and raised in Calfornia so I’m used to earthquakes. I was jolted out of sleep by a 5.6 magnitude tremblor my first morning in Guatemala City around 5 AM.

“Esther” I called out and wandered into her room in the dark. Her son and Moda were all in her becroom. We sat on the king sized bed for a bit and spoke about the shaking.Esther said it’s called a temblor, which is not quite a full earthquake.

I walked back to my bedroom to sleep. After a shower, in the middle of blow drying my hair, another smaller one hit.

Today Esther and I went to the grocery store. I bought candy treats for my mother that she will remember from her childhood and a comal to make tortillas from scratch. I also bought a six pack of frijoles negros. I’m using a second piece of luggage I keep stuffed in my large luggage to bring home all the food items.

Moda taught me how to make the tortillas. I watched her add water to the dry corn mix.Then she did something with her hands to roll it into a small ball.A handful of dough makes a good size tortilla. She used plastic in between the tortilla maker so the dough doesn’t stick. Then she cooked the dough for about one minute on each side. If someone tried to explain what she showed me I could not have understood. I’m visual, I need to be shown.

Esther made a typical Guatemalan egg dish for our dinner. She chopped tomatoes and onions, cooked in oil. She added a tiny piece of a fiery hot pepper. She cooked two eggs for each of us then added the tomato onion mixture on top. I had hot corn tortillas with butter that I just learned to cook.

At the airport a man confiscated the candy treats I bought for my mother. He set it aside as if he was going to eat it as soon as I boarded. I explained to a supervisor and attendant that I wanted to bring home Guatemalan candy to my mother, who hadn’t been home in fifty three years. I asked a flight attendant if there was anything she could do. She said my candies resembled the material sometimes used for bombs, that nothing could be done to retreive the candy. I was visibly upset.

An attendant mid flight asked me if if was the one whose candy was confiscated. She asked if she could give me some Guatemalan cookies for my mother. I thanked her. She returned with a bag of a dozen small packages of cookies. I was moved by her caring enough to go out of her way for my mother.

Being awoken by barking dogs and the walk by the lake every morning seems so long ago. I’ll miss the exchange of “Buenos Dias” with each person I passed. I’ll be careful about using metaphors and cliches in my writing.I felt so blessed eating those breakfasts of frijoles negros, scrambled eggs, homemade bread, yogurt, granola and all the local fruits at Joyce’s every morning.

Todavia estoy enamorado de la belleza del pais, la calidez de la gente, la cultura, la comida, la lengua. I’m still in love with the beauty of the country, the warmth of the people, the culture, the food, the language.


Antigua otra vez

We left Joyce’s home this morning after the last breakfast. 45 minutes on the boat and then the  van drive back to Antigua.Here is her home up on the hill in San Marcos. I recommend her workshop to anyone who wants to write but has fears or has started and stopped.

I’m not in the habit of telling drivers especially when I’m abroad, how to drive. Our driver was about two inches behind a car in front of us. I told him to back off. Not 5oo feet later there were two accidents in the road. One looked like a rear end. Someone else was in a body bag.

In Antigua at a boutique hotel, Casa Encantada. Only 10 rooms.  I love heavy, wooden doors with iron which is at the entrance. Once you are allowed in, there is a garden courtyard. My room has a wrought iron bed, fluffy white sheets.There were little white candles throughout when I came back from dinner.  Check out the courtyard.

Nice walking through the streets of Antigua tonight completely alone.Came upon a procession of men in purple robes singing Ave Maria. I’m attaching two photos of what they carried.

La Cetedral de La Antigua Guatemala at night, & day.

The small purse I carry when I travel had a small hole in it where my change is falling out. I entered a shop and asked a woman sitting on the ground  if she could mend it. She seemed happy about the tip I gave her. Here she is w/my purse.

I’m so tired i can’t keep my eyes open but I’m happy I’m in Antigua and I was able to chat with my niece tonight.


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