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   February 16, 2003
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Hello friends and family,

Hope this letter finds you all well.  Annette and I are doing well.  It is Sunday morning Feb. 16th.  We had a wonderful valentine dinner last night at Panza Verde restaurant.  Panza verde means green belly.  That is what they call the locals of this area because of all the avocadoes they eat.  The restaurant is beautiful, it is a large home transformed into a restaurant and hotel.  We sat around their front courtyard.  The picture here is our desert.  The tiramisu was good, but the presentation was very cool and easy to copy.  I know there are a lot of chefs out there looking for new ideas. They placed a fork a spoon near the desert and dusted it with cocoa powder. They then removed the silverware.  Doesn't it look good! It sure was.

Annette went back to the states for six days last week.  She went back to Dallas in order to pick up a few things we now knew we "needed".  She also visited her parents in Boston while she was there.  We originally purchased round trip tickets for our trip here. She took her flight back and then bought a one way ticket back to Guatemala.  Sounds like a curse you may here in a bar " Hey buddy you just bought yourself a one way ticket to Guatemala!".  Anyway it turned out to be less expensive than shipping.  We brought back a lot of things for work as well as comforts of home that we missed.  What did I do?  I missed Annette, worked for a week and climbed a volcano. Don't worry mom, it was one of the inactive ones.  We are saving the active volcanoes until you arrive.  Volcano Agua is one of the largest mountains in Guatemala.  We can see the volcano from our office if we step out the front door and look south.  It's hard to miss it.  If you look at one of the past sites you will see our street with the volcano in the background.  I was told it would be a four hour hike up and a three hour hike down.  They were right about three hours down...but not so good on the way up estimate.  Antigua itself is 1530m above sea level and the top of Agua is 3766m.  So it was quite a hike.  The trail was well maintained, although in some parts there was a lot of trash.

 

This is a picture of the volcano as you begin the climb.  It really doesn't look so bad at this angle.  The second picture is me at about 1/3 the way up.  Seventeen of us pitched in for a guide..I suggested we could save some money here because I just new the direction was up.  We decided to get a guide anyway.  We paid him about six dollars, split between the 17 of us it sounded fair to me.  The country side of Guatemala is absolutely beautiful.  We saw flocks of wild parakeets flying through the sky.  I am including a few more pictures of the hike.  You can see the destruction of the trees as you get higher up on the trail.  This volcano has been inactive for many years, but the trees have still not grown entirely back.

 

Here I am at the top of the crater.  We are well above the clouds.  On a very clear day you can see the ocean from here.  It was not that clear on the day I went.  It was a great day however because usually it is a lot colder at the top.

I am sure you all are wondering just what does the crater look like?  I was surprised to see a relatively shallow crater.  It is just dust and rocks down there.  Someone made a stone building and still others put up two soccer goals down there.  Someone spelled I "heart" U with rocks.  That does nothing for the game of soccer, but I am sure someone scored a lot of brownie points with it.

 

The picture is not that good when the size is shrank so much, you will have to come up with us some time to really appreciate it.  We miss you all and hope to hear from you as well.  We are happy and really enjoying our life here. Stay in touch.

Nathan and Annette