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Of “Uncles” and “Aunties” in Antigua

Once in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, our host, Angelina said to the couple who were giving us a ride to Palenque, “It’s from my hands to yours. Please take good care of them.”

And when we reached the house of our host in Palenque, the couple said to her, “It’s from our hands to yours. Please take good care of them. And make sure they go into a pair of good hands next, too.”

That was how we coined the term, “Collecting a chain of Humanity” for this journey. From the very beginning, without our knowing, our chain of “Dreams inspiring dreams” linked itself with an invisible chain of “humanity”, where people “pay it forward” through us and we in turn “pay it forward” through sharing (our stories).

And in Latin America, a place where it’s deemed crazily dangerous for two girls to be travelling “solas”, let alone on bicycles – this chain seemed more evident than before. It was as if no matter where we went, a pair of hands cradled us, keeping us safe yet giving us room to grow. And when we were ready to leave, the hands passed us onto the next pair of hands.

In Antigua, “Aunty” Arlaine (from Panajachel) passed us to 4 pairs of hands – “Aunties” Judy and Bev, and “Uncles” Gene and Paul:

Email from "Aunty" Arlaine to introduce us

Email from "Aunty" Arlaine to introduce us

Aunty Judy had never met us in her life. Yet when she heard about us and our project from Aunty Arlaine, she readily opened the doors to her house to host us during our stay in Antigua. When she knew that we were going to have a sharing session in Rainbow Cafe and needed a projector, she immediately borrowed one from Uncle Paul and Aunty Bev on our behalves; and even invited them to the sharing.

Uncle Paul was introduced to us as our "projector and screen benefactor"

Uncle Paul was introduced to us as our "projector and screen benefactor"

The sharing wasn’t due to start until 5PM, and that in Guatemala timing meant 6PM. Yet at 4.30PM, our “Uncles” and “Aunties” arrived at the Rainbow Cafe promptly and helped us set up.

With everything set up, we were ready to begin

With everything set up, we were ready to begin

Despite having held many sharing sessions on this journey, speaking in front of “elders” always make us more nervous. Perhaps it was because we feel that they have more life experiences to share, perhaps it was because we were afraid of offending their accumulated wisdom… Yet on that evening, all of our “elders” sat through the entire presentation:

For 1.5hours, we had everybody's undivided attention

For 1.5hours, we had everybody's undivided attention

Not only that, they actively participated whenever we asked questions during the sharing, and even gladly wrote their dreams on their hands to share with us!

We are usually ravished after a sharing session; but food in the restaurants is expensive, so we would only order one dish to share amongst us. That evening, Aunty Judy said to us, “I wrote you an email that we are going to have dinner together. And we are paying for yours. C’mon now, sit down and join us!”

Over dinner, we answered the questions our Uncles and Aunties had about our journey and presentation. It was then when we found out that Uncle Paul was a film festival judge, and Aunty Bev was a professor in Public Relations. We were so glad that we only found out after we made the presentation 🙂 They gave us feedback on how we could improve. Aunty Bev said, “You had Paul and Gene’s attention the whole time. It’s hard to touch their hearts.”

That made our day. In fact, it made our fatigue from the sharing disappear…

It was like a "family gathering"!

It was like a "family gathering"!

After a much needed restful slumber in Uncle Gene and Aunty Judy’s home, we woke up to a beautiful morning:

As Uncle and Aunty were preparing breakfast, we observed how it was like they were dancing – I’d fry the eggs, you’d do the toppings, I’d warm the tortillas you’d set the plates.

At the same time, Uncle and Aunty also shared their adventures of sailing from the United States down to Guatemala with us. Yes. Sailing. They were in their late 60s, early 70s when they embarked on this adventure. “Dreams do come true.” Uncle Gene said to us with a wink.

Retiring in Antigua was a dream come true for them – and people living in their dreams tend to have a special glow. Even something as simple (and to some people, even mundane) as preparing breakfast could be infectiously wonderful.

Bon Appétit - To good food, good life, good company!

Bon Appétit - To good food, good life, good company!

After breakfast, it was time to say goodbye. We were going to catch the chicken bus back to Guatemala City and then walk back to our hostel in zone 10 from the bus station in zone 1.

“I believe your Uncle Gene has made some arrangements for you.” Aunty Judy said to us. Uncle Gene was making phone calls to the various trustworthy taxis in town, and asking if anyone was available to take us back to the city.

It wasn’t just the money for the cab ride. It was how, on a Sunday morning, he made phone call after phone call until he found someone who would take us. It was how he hugged us twice, walked towards the house and then came back to hug us one more time as we boarded the cab. It was how he said to the cab driver,

“These girls are precious
Please take good care of them
They are now in your hands

That we knew we’d forever remember our Uncles and Aunties in Antigua, in Panajachel, in Mexico, in Hawaii… For they have carried us, hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart, each step along the journey.

“When I was a teen, I used to roll my eyes whenever my mum insisted that I call an elder “Uncle” or “Aunty”. I thought it was rather unfashionable and totally uncool. On this journey, I learnt that these terms were not for mere showing of respect. These terms to me, now meant family. And family watch out for each other.” – Val




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