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IslaVerde – the island where we “came ashore”

Algae on the Lake

Cyanobacteria. The blue-green algae choking up Lake Atitlan due to pollution from the people living around the lake. This was the sight that greeted us throughout our 15 minute boat-ride across the lake from Panajachel to Santa Cruz de la Laguna, where our new host, IslaVerde awaits.

And it perfectly reflected our state of being at that time, too.

Val - otra vez, where do we go from here?

Choked up –
By the intense poverty that surrounds us
By the sheer desperate-ness of the people around us
By the immense sense of helplessness as our reaction to all of that
By the enormous realization of how small we seem, really

The night after “Shit You” happened, Val found herself in tears as she whispered to Tay, “Let’s leave Guatemala. I don’t know what else we can do here. I don’t know how to handle this ‘everybody wants something from me’ feeling. This place, the people, this lake… is engulfing me. I feel like I’m sinking.”

The day after, we received an email reply from IslaVerde, one of the places we wrote to, to request for accommodation around the lake:

“Dear Courageous Val and Tay:
Firstly, we would like to thank you for your interest in our little hotel and the dream of Anna the owner and creator of this magical place. Indeed we have availability for the dates mentioned (20 to 27 May) and will be happy to have you as guests during your stay at Lake Atitlan and participate in this interesting project of hope in Latin America and the world. IslaVerde can support you in this adventure with lodging room for 7 nights.”

Knowing that the Universe has always provided whatever we needed, at the time we needed it. We took it as a sign to our prayers, a guide to the next step in this journey.

Bags packed, bicycles entrusted to our host in Pana; we left on a “lancha” to IslaVerde, arriving on a blue Monday afternoon…

We found ourselves at Isla Verde

We sat at the reception, taking in our surroundings
“Welcome!” Juliana, our hostess, greeted us
“This place, everything here – is the owner, Ana’s dream come true.”

Embraced by an actual living dream
It felt like a subtle reminder
Nudging us,This is why you are here…”

Isla Verde - a place to relax and restore

In one moment, it suddenly felt safe
Safe enough to just be
To “Relax” our burdened minds and “Restore” our slightly-broken souls
As we Retreat into IslaVerde’s gentle embrace…

For 5 days and 5 nights, we gave ourselves permissions to practice the lessons this journey had taught us. We were gifted a cabin nestled among trees on the side of the hill, all to ourselves; which gave us:

Plenty of space for us to greet each day with our Dawn Yoga
A safe and quiet abode to be still throughout our Morning Meditations
The view and presence of Lake Atitlan when we sang and chanted through our Evening Satsangs
And a non-judgemental embrace as we exchanged feelings and thoughts during our Bedtime Reflections

On the 7th day morning, we emerged from our cabin, almost ready to resume our responsibilities on this journey. We had made arrangements to interview and film the owner, Ana’s story of IslaVerde; and she had kindly organised a sharing session for us to present our project and share our stories with people around the lake.

We asked Ana, “Why IslaVerde?”
Ana said, “I look around me and take in the beauty of Mother Nature
And then I feel ashamed.
Our children may never have the opportunity to enjoy the Nature that we have.”

Ana (owner of Isla Verde) and Yago and their dreams

Ana (owner of Isla Verde) and Yago and their dreams

We shared “Lemar’s” story with Ana.
Ana replied, “I started Isla Verde thinking I could employ the local girls
And give them a better life by paying for their education
It took me a while to learn that
What a ‘better life’ means to me
May not be a ‘better life’ to them (the local girls)
To them, it could be going to a cooking school
And learning how to make French pastries!

Girls, what you are doing is important.
You are taking time to ask them –
What is it that they want in their lives?
And you listen to them
That act itself, is an empowerment
Is the beginning of a self-fulfilled life
Is dignity restored…back to the people.”

We listened in silent gratitude. Up to that point, we have exchanged “Hola”s with Ana twice during our entire stay in IslaVerde. Yet, just like how the hotel had gently nursed us during our retreat – without a doubt, without judgement… Ana understood what we’re trying to do on this journey. In fact, she saw it clearer than we did.

Her reminder and her affirmation helped us close our chapter of this retreat at IslaVerde. We were ready to commence on our sharing (hands collected from the sharing session at IslaVerde):

On a Sunday morning
People from all around the lake
Took time off
Took the bumpy boat-rides across the lake
Took hearts

And held space for us
As we poured our hearts out
And shared “I Believe That Dreams Can Come True”
And shared our fears, apprehensions, and helpless-ness

“I hope from the bottom of my heart –
That you will keep going in Guatemala.”

“The people here need your reminder –
That everyone has the right to dream.
We all have that right.
And your question reminds the people who have forgotten.”

“I want to share what my dream is…”

Affirmation after affirmation
Opened declarations of dreams
Honest encouragement for each other
To just keep keeping

It was our very first sharing session in Guatemala
Yet, it made us certain
It would not be our last

This is why you are here…”
The subtle reminder that nudged us gently when we first arrived at IslaVerde
Now roared resoundingly

And as the sharing session concluded, we were left with 2 more days in IslaVerde to let this entire Retreat experience integrate. 8 days after we first checked into IslaVerde, we found ourselves back the reception.

Collected thoughts, Restored souls

With collected thoughts
And restored souls
We are now ready

To give our thanks
To say our goodbyes
And embark on our journey once more

Thank you, Isla Verde - for this is where we came ashore

Dear Ana and the wonderful women (Karen, otra Ana, Juliana) @ IslaVerde,

Thank you very much for the space for us to reconnect back to ourselves. We arrived in Lake Atitlan – one lost soul, one sinking ship.

You took us in – and just held space for us… without any questions, doubts or comments. You gave us time and privacy, to put ourselves, little by little, back together. You taught us, that sometimes being strong, means being gentle… especially with ourselves.

Thank you, IslaVerde, for this is where we came ashore.

Tay - ready to move on

“The day we left IslaVerde, the continuous rain has cleared the algae in the lake.  The waters are clear again.  I said to Anna, ‘Estamos listas.””Tay

Opened Doors, Opened Hearts – Our Hospitality Sponsor

“IslaVerde is the hotel where you can reconnect with nature, where you will live without the constriction of time enjoying a simple, organic and eco friendly lifestyle, knowing every single detail will be carefully arranged for you – gourmet cooking, beautiful decoration, gorgeous surroundings and breathtaking gardens.” For more information about IslaVerde on Santa Cruz of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, click here.

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