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Posted: May 07, 2014

It started before dawn… Preparations had been laid over the last couple of months for our trip to Cobán. There were numerous lists with details. Past pilgrims, staff and Social Justice Commissioners shared packing and traveling tips! Finally, 3:10 am arrived and I was on my way!

A large group of travelers had formed a long line at the airport. It was the tail end of the spring break crowd seeking warmer weather. After a brief check at security, I made my way down to the gate. I was traveling light, one small carry on suitcase with a backpack!

I waited for my colleague, Jaclyn at the gate. Our flight departed at 5:30 am. It was on time. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Guatemala City was our first destination. Fr. Pedro and Brother Leonardo were waiting for us after customs! It was great to see friendly faces when we arrived!

We jumped in their car and started the five hour climb winding our way through the city and up through the mountains. As the city disappeared, our view was filled with green that stretched in all directions. Guatemala is called the country of trees! It is breathtaking!

Conversation filled the car. We caught up on news from St. Patrick’s and Cobán! We stopped about half way at a small, roadside restaurant and enjoyed the most delicious ceviche! There was more conversation in Spanish and some Q’eqchi. There are 24 different Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala. It is like 24 small nations living together. Each has its own customs, traditions and languages.

I enjoyed the threads of conversation that I understood. After a wonderful dinner, we set off for the long anticipated “Cobán.” I noticed as we got farther up into the mountains that the sun was starting to set. It was a bright pink with streaks of purple. It made a beautiful backdrop! I noticed men and women walking along the side of the road with large bundles of sticks on their backs. I was surprised by the foot traffic. As we got closer, there were many people out enjoying themselves. Small shops were selling drinks and snacks to young and old. Dogs roamed around with few cares.

When we pulled up to the Monastery, Fr. Pedro tooted the horn to announce our arrival. A man is posted 24 hours at the front entrance. He opens and closes the large, iron fence. The Monastery has tall, white washed walls approximately three feet thick. It was getting dark, but I could still see all of the buildings. It is a spacious, enclosed campus, an oasis in a dense city. 

The main building where guests and monks stay is enclosed within another set of locked gates. When we arrived at the interior, we were met with lush flowers. Fr. Pedro is a gifted gardener. We would receive a full tour the following day! We were escorted to our rooms which were located in separate wing from the monks.

There is a lovely courtyard with trees, flowers and a covered patio with chairs and a small table. I immediately noticed the warmth! It was 30 degrees warmer than Minnesota! We joined the monks for evening Vespers in the small chapel. Dinner was served afterwards. There was a new rhythm that I would discover over the next couple of days. (continued…)

Early Wake- Up Call in Coban…
Roosters crowed and dogs barked to announce our day! Lauds, morning prayers were recited and sung in the chapel starting at 6:00 a.m. Breakfast was served promptly at 7:00 a.m. Fresh, hot tortillas were served with every meal. The local cook and monks prepared all of the meals. It was simple and delicious. Most of the food served is grown on the grounds or out at the farm. This was the beginning of our adventure in Coban!