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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Ladies Who Lunch

CECAP on Lake Atitlan

Santa Cruz de La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Living at Lake Atitlan has some curious features in regards to keeping tabs on friendships. There are a dozen towns dotted along the lake, and it's very common to have friends living in several of them. Sure, Panajachel is the most updated, modern and touristy of the towns, which is exactly the reasons why some prefer to live elsewhere on this gorgeous lake.

I was invited to meet for lunch with a couple of women friends who live in Santa Cruz, a 15 Quetzal boat ride (about $2USD) from Pana.

Approaching San Pedro dock

Since we were to meet at the Santa Cruz dock at around noonish, I leisurely strolled from our hotel in Pana to the San Pedro dock, about a 15 minute walk. I wanted to take the 11 o'clock boat.

A man on a bicycle spoke to me at the top of the street and asked where I was going. I replied "Santa Cruz." Off he sped on his bike, and by the time I reached the dock, helpers and boat captains were all prepared to help me board the right lancha to get me to my destination. Every one of them knew where I was going!

 

"How much to Santa Cruz?" I asked in Spanish knowing full well what the price was.

"Fifteen Quetzales to get to Santa Cruz, 20 with a tip!" the boatsman replied.

We laughed together because no one gives the boatsmen tips...

Boarding the boat, the waves of the lake were a bit dramatic and the distance from the dock to the landing step inside the boat rose and fell 2-and-a-half-feet with every wobbly wave.

How was I going to get in without falling on my face?

A young Maya man stood up and took my hand, which is all the steadying that I needed and I entered the boat, thanking him profusely.

A sign advertising the Women Weavers Co-op

After 20 minutes or so of motoring in the direction of Santa Cruz and dropping passengers off onto private docks along the way, I arrive at about 11:30 am at Santa Cruz dock. My plan was to wait under the covering at the edge of the dock for my friend to arrive.

Meanwhile, this particular lancha picked up a few more passengers and went on its way to San Marcos, San Juan and San Pedro.

Santa Cruz is a traditional Maya village located on the steep mountainside of Lake Atitlan nearly 325 vertical feet above the lake's surface. The village has no roads, telephone system or commercial center and - uniquely - is accessible only by boat or footpath.

While waiting, I watched construction men lift up 20 or more concrete bags into a truck and saw children eating paletas which are like popsicles while their mothers rearranged the items in the bag they carried on top of their heads.

It wasn't long before one of my girlfriends arrived. We flagged down a tuk-tuk to take us up the very steep hill into the town of Santa Cruz.

"CECAP!" she says to the driver and off we go.

CECAP reception area

Santa Cruz is home to the Centro de Capacitacion, or Center for Training trade school, commonly referred to as CECAP. Amigos de Santa Cruz Foundation, started in 1998, and private donations fund the school and the school officially opened in the fall of 2010 to the residents of Santa Cruz.

The school features a computer lab, craftsman workshop, culinary area and numerous classrooms. The school aims to educate and empower the residents of the village.

The sewing classroom of CECAP

This class is being taught how to use a sewing machine and also how to weave beads into bracelets, earrings, ornaments and other items that are sold in Guatemala and also internationally.

Amigos is the parent company which overseas all the other trade schools located here at CECAP.

The population of Santa Cruz is roughly 6,500 people and Amigos has chosen to focus on the rural communities that make up this town. They are directing a generational change in the villages and have been watching what can happen when a generation becomes educated for the first time.

Samples of items made here in the school which are for sale

Bags, aprons, shirts and jewelry that you see in this photo are examples of what the school produces and sells nationally and internationally. At this time, the sewing school is self-sustaining.

There is a general lack of accessibility to the outside world that has limited the progress of this community in an obvious way. The villagers must travel by boat to shop or to obtain resources of any kind. Some of the more remote small villages of Santa Cruz located in the mountains are often inaccessible even by foot during the rainy season when landslides are common and the road is impassable.

Cafe Sabor Cruceno

CECAP began in 2007 as a vision of a place where people of all ages could come to learn new skills that could lead to meaningful work and a more prosperous community. In 2010, the center opened its doors with programs for students and adults.

The culinary arts program trains young people for successful employment in the tourist business. The Cafe Sabor Cruceno is a graduate-run cafe and has been hugely successful.

This is where we ladies were going to have lunch!

Two graduates of the culinary program

After meeting up with our other lady friend who was teaching English to students in one of the classrooms, we walked into Cafe Sabor Cruceno. The menu was a full page and offered a good variety of items including beverages of various sorts.

Service was attentive and we placed our orders.

Enchiladas with black beans and various salsas

Beautifully presented, meals were also quite tasty. The graduates did a good job with the knowledge they gained going through culinary training at CECAP.

Tostadas with salad and fresh morning cheese

Piled high with a bounteous salad, these three tostadas were scrumptious!

A specialty soup of Santa Cruz

With a broth made up of unusual spices and flavors, this favored local soup had a scoop of rice in the center and chicken and vegetables on the side. Delicious!

Million dollar view from Cafe Sabor Cruceno

What a view! One whole side of the restaurant is windows opening out to this spectacular view of Lake Atitlan.

More view from Cafe Sabor Cruceno

Here you can see more of the town of Santa Cruz below along with the dock in the center.

The Computer Center was made possible by these generous donors

There are a dozen or so computers in the school that were donated by both the Taylor and Hutchens families, and also by Jeanne Mendez who used to work at Microsoft. This training in computers will change the lives of those who attend.

 

Computer room

There were no computer classes when I came to visit this day. The classroom itself is about twice the size of what I show in the photo.

Woodworking shop

The woodworking shop was bustling! Young girls and boys both learn to use the machinery and make a variety of saleable items such as wooden toys, wooden buses and cars for young children and also cutting boards for kitchens.

Santa Cruz de La Laguna dock

After visiting the school and having a terrific lunch, we walked down the very, VERY steep hill to the dock area where I caught the next lancha to Pana. My wait time was about 5 minutes.

This time the ride back to my home town was a bit rough with the lancha bouncing on the waves all the way back! Lake Atitlan is no pond! At its depth it is 1,100 feet deep.

Arriving at Panajachel dock, the boat jumped up and down and the dock was not easily accessible. I stood on the boat's landing step and thrust my flailing arm out hoping someone would assist me in getting out of the boat. Once again, a Maya man grabbed my arm and allowed me to grasp him as my security and I was able to get out of the boat.

What a GREAT day!

Lunch at CECAP and I was able to see the school and visit with my friends. Total cost for the two lanchas, the tuk-tuk ride and lunch was $11USD!

Awesome.

For more stories and photos of Guatemala, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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