Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mother at age 14 in Guatemala

This is a difficult entry to write. About two months ago, I got an email from Sharon, the head of Mayan Families, with some troubling news about our sponsored student, Juana.

Hi Holly,

I have some not very good news about Juana. Her mother came to see us this week with Juana and a few of the kids. It turns out that Juana is pregnant. She is nearly 6 months pregnant, I think. She has been keeping this hidden by tying her belt and corte [skirt] very, very tight. When she came she did not look pregnant. We sent her to the doctor; he examined her and said that the baby is very small and that she is doing damage tying her belt so tight to try and hide the pregnancy. He convinced her not to do that anymore.

Now according to the mother, the father of the baby is 18yrs old. He comes from a wealthy family, and when she went to them to ask for help, they refused and said that they don't want anything to do with Juana and do not want her to marry their son.

Apparently, from what I can gather Juana may have been working in the house of the baby's father.

So we have arranged to take legal action against the father. She is underage, and she may need a cesarian. We want him to take some financial responsibilty and have started the process......we now have to wait for the baby to be born before any more steps can be taken. I don't want to have the boy go to jail, but I would like the family to take some responsibility to help this new baby.

As you know the mother of the family barely has enough food for her own children. She was crying and saying how will they be able to feed this baby? She said that they are often only eating tortillas with salt.

Juana seems very disconnected from what is happening and doesn't seem to really realize the implications of what this will mean to her future. She is still in school at the moment but she will not be able to be for much longer.

Sorry this is not better news,

When I found out, I sent money for medical care and food. I didn't publicize what was going on since this was a very sensitive situation, and I didn't know what was going to happen.

To those new to my blog, Michael and I have school sponsorships for two sisters, Juana, 14, and Candelaria, 12, whose pictures are featured at the top of this blog. The girls have a brother Rafael, 8, sister Maritza, 7, and infant brother, Antonio. The mother runs the family by herself, and says the father, an alcoholic, is "dead to her." The family live in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala, and they are extremely poor.

Here's a picture with Juana's mother, Antonio, Maritza, and Juana picking up the food in August:

I emailed Sharon at the beginning of this month trying to find out how Juana was doing. She had not heard from the family, but since Juana's mother usually comes when they need something, no news was probably good news.

Then I got an email from Sharon last week:

Hi Holly,

Well, co-incidence!!! Juana's mother came yesterday and told us that Juana had a baby boy a few days ago. He was 8lb or so she says...they don't really have a scale, so it is just a guess. But they are both healthy, she had the baby at home. We gave the mother clothes for the baby, and she received a blanket and some goodies for herself.

The mother said that they will come back in 20 days which is the customary time that mothers have to stay at home with newborns and then they leave the house after that.

Warmest regards,


Here's a picture of Juana's mother that day:

I asked Sharon if she thought it would be a good idea for me to post about this on my blog, and she thought it was fine. She said, "If it brings help to the family, thank goodness because they are going to need it."

So that's why I wanted to let you, my readers, know. It's very difficult to be a 14 year old unwed mother anywhere, but even more so living in extreme poverty in rural Guatemala.

I am relieved that both mother and baby are healthy -- especially since the conditions of Juana's pregnancy were very far from ideal. But I'm sad that she will no longer be able to attend school, since she will have to take care of the baby. As Sharon said, "Her mother can't because she already has that little one that she is caring for, and she can't carry two of them on her back."

Without school, there will be little chance for Juana to break out of the cycle of poverty. I still hope that perhaps in a few years she will at least be able to have some skills training. One of the projects Mayan Families sponsors is a sewing program, where women learn to sew and support themselves that way. I would gladly sponsor her education through something like that, once there is an opportunity.

For now, though, she, her new baby, and the whole family need food to survive and be healthy. As I have written in earlier posts, food prices have gone up dramatically in Guatemala, as all over the world. And I'm not holding my breath for the father's family to pay or be forced to pay child support any time soon. Without assistance, this family normally subsists on tortillas and salt, when they have them, so any and all help is needed.

If you would like to contribute to food for the family, please go to, where you can donate through PayPal. They will send you a receipt via email, and the donation is US tax deductible. After donating, you just need to email and say that the donation is for #603 Juana's family. (Otherwise the money will go into the general food fund.)

Any amount will help, and our combined contributions will help this family get the nutrition they need.

Mayan Families' mission is to provide a hand up for impoverished indigenous families in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. While food might seem like a "handout," these people have so little that they need to start from somewhere. Food donations give families like these the nutrition to be healthy, go to school and work, and to start on the path toward getting out of poverty. Without the right food, it is difficult to concentrate in school, work long hours or stave off illness. It truly is the basis for any hand up to work.

If anyone has any other ideas for how we could best help Juana and her baby, please let me know! Particularly if anyone has experience with assistance for teenage mothers in developing countries.

Thank you very much for reading and for your support. I'd greatly appreciate it if you could pass this entry along to any friends, family, or colleagues who might be interested or link to it on your blog.

Thank you, also, from Juana's mother. We met her, along with the rest of the family, when we went down to Guatemala in April. She was SO grateful -- I'll never forget how she said "gracias" for every single thing we gave her family. I can just imagine her thanking each of you now.

Juana is such a sweet girl with a beautiful smile. I'm very sorry she has had to grow up so quickly. Her birthday is in January, so she might have become pregnant before she even turned 14. Truly, I cannot imagine what it is like to be in her shoes, before the baby and now. But I'm glad that we are involved, and that this family is not alone.

I will be updating this blog with news and pictures of Juana and her baby as I get them.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Djemma el Fna by night

My coverage of our honeymoon to Morocco last November continues. Michael helped write this post.

One of the unique draws of Marrakesh is the Djemma el Fna: the legendary square and market in the city's old medina quarter. Michael and I had been looking forward to visiting it right away, and despite our jet lag, it was our first stop after we arrived our first evening.

The Djemma is the center of activity every night for both tourists and locals. It features hundreds of food stalls and bright lights that are wheeled in by donkey carts in the late afternoon. Vendors tempt customers to stop and sit down for dinner with lavish meat and vegetable displays and touts who call you "my friend" and prevent you from walking any further.

The square is rimmed with cafes and restaurants featuring outdoor patios overlooking the show. Here's a picture we took from one such cafe.

The other section of the square hosts a dizzying variety of entertainers. You find small groups of Arab and Berber musicians, story tellers (interesting even when one doesn't understand their words), male bellydancers dressed in drag (female bellydancers would not be tolerated in a public space like this in Morocco), snake charmers, traditional dancers, and more. Each has a lantern and a large group of Moroccans and tourists around them.

Here's a view of this area from the same cafe:

Each entertainer has his own shtick. One sings with a chicken on his head or his instrument. Michael took a picture of me with the chicken man. Of course, this was in exchange for a number of dirhams. If anyone attempts to take a photo of an entertainer without paying up, said entertainer will make a spectacle of the photographer. We saw this happen with one particularly scary looking male bellydancer.

We had to work up the courage to actually eat at the Djemma. Well, let me correct that. I had to work up the courage. Michael would have eaten at a stall the very first night. But I wanted to go with something "safer" at the beginning of the honeymoon -- a well-known restaurant on the square called Cafe Argana. But later on in the week, we decided to try the stalls.

Here's Michael as we sat there at a stall, waiting for our food.

We had traditional Moroccan fare: I had a seven vegetable couscous, and Michael had some sort of meat dish. After that, we actually tried out a few more stalls. I got a freshly squeezed orange juice, and Michael tried a steaming bowl of snails!

Imagine the feel of a county fair, but with twenty times more food vendors and all of them right next to each other. Then imagine them with strange and exotic dishes, signs in Arabic script, and sounds of tribal-like drumming in the background. That's what it's like to be in the heart of the Djemma food stalls.

For more Djemma pictures, check out This is a VERY accurate representation of what the Djemma looks like at night...including snails.

For some travel advice, check out this NYT article about Marrakesh that was published exactly when we were there!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ali Ben Youssef Medersa

Back to Morocco! I'm onsite at a conference right now, so I don't have much time. But here are some of the sights we saw at Ali Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakesh, once the largest Koranic school in North Africa.

Now it is a historical site and a beautiful testament to Moroccan art. Consistent with Islamic tradition, there are no representations of humans or animals in the tilework and carvings. Instead, we see geometric shapes and inscriptions in Arabic script.

What amazing design!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Haiti update

Through my job, I have had a good deal of contact with US and Canadian military service members who work as doctors, nurses, and medics. These are truly some of the most honorable and humbling people I have ever met. They care for all the catastrophic injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they also do humanitarian work. I never see this covered in the mainstream media, so I thought I would post this article I just read. I thank all the Kearsarge troops and all the military medical professionals for their service.

Kearsarge Medics Begin Health Assessments in Haiti
American Forces Press Service

MORASE, Haiti, Sept. 19, 2008 – The amphibious ship USS Kearsarge expanded its assistance to disaster relief operations in Haiti on Sept. 17, dispatching medical teams to conduct health assessments of Haitian communities suffering in the aftermath of tropical storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Hurricane Ike.

Kearsarge medical teams were the first to arrive in the small village of Morase, quickly setting up operations to determine what services the population needed most. With malnutrition topping the list of concerns, the medical teams conducted health assessments of residents, especially children.

Medics from USS Kearsarge examine residents of Trois Ponts, Haiti, during a health assessment survey Sept. 18, 2008, to determine future relief operations. Kearsarge is providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief aid to Haiti after three tropical storms and a hurricane devastated the region. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Danals

The Kearsarge medical teams, which include partner-nation military medical personnel, are working in concert with the U.S. Agency for International Development and other multinational relief groups.

The medical personnel join Kearsarge's nearly two-week support to the relief efforts. Since Sept. 8, helicopters and landing craft from Kearsarge have delivered more than 980 metric tons of relief supplies and 26,000 gallons of water to devastated communities isolated by damaged roads and bridges.

"Today is a big day, because we are finally 'boots on the ground' with the medical part of the mission to see where the people are, and the needs that they have," Cmdr. Angelica Almonte, a Navy Nurse Corps officer, said.

Navy Lt. Hector Acevedo and Navy Cmdr. Angelica Almonte measure a child's arm circumference and height while gathering data to assess the health of the village. They embarked with USS Kearsarge, which is supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Haiti after a series of tropical storms and Hurricane Ike devastated much of the country. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo

Heavy rains and major flooding destroyed much of the region's crops, driving food prices higher than the villagers can afford. Medical personnel, concerned about malnutrition, began taking weight-for-height and mid-upper arm circumference measurements to conduct surveys to determine the village's current nutritional needs.

"We are trying to get a nutritional assessment of the children," said Capt. (Dr.) Tim Shope, a Navy pediatrician. "We are also sending a group of health officials into the community to test water and get a general sense of their food and water supply."

The Kearsarge medical team members said the overall health in Morase is good. However, there is a concern that, with difficulty of getting enough food to outlying areas due to washed-out roads and bridges, the population will begin to suffer from severe malnutrition that can impair the immune system, leaving children more vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea, measles and tuberculosis.

Canadian army Lt. Stephanie Lavoie, embarked aboard USS Kearsarge, speaks with members of the Haitian Red Cross regarding medical care for Haitian residents who were displaced by recent storms. Kearsarge is using helicopters and amphibious landing craft to reach storm victims in areas of Haiti where the roads are inaccessible. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Ernest Scott

Additionally, an inadequate supply of fresh water could lead to disease outbreaks such as cholera, typhoid and Hepatitis A.

"From the initial assessment, it looks like the people are generally healthy," said Lt. Candace D'Aurora, a Navy Nurse Corps officer. "The main issue right now is the villagers are saying they don't have food or water. That is the biggest issue we must address."

The areas needing the most immediate assistance have been prioritized by USAID‘s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

Medical teams from Kearsarge will continue to meet with other agencies working in the country, such as the Centers for Disease Control, Doctors Without Borders and the Pan American Health Organization, to plan what services to provide after the initial assessments.

Kearsarge has about 150 military, Public Health Service and nongovernmental organization medical professionals aboard. The medical team was part of the ship's five-month Continuing Promise 2008 humanitarian deployment to the region.

(From a U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet news release.)

Related Articles: Special Report: Disaster Relief in Haiti

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hurricane update — relief in the US

I got this email from the Red Cross on Thursday:

Dear Friend of the Red Cross,

Hurricane Ike crashed into Gulf Shore communities then up through the Midwest — leveling neighborhoods, submerging homes, and leaving many families and individuals with nothing except what they brought with them to disaster shelters.

Red Cross staff are working endlessly to ensure shelter residents — including children and the elderly — are receiving the food, water, and comfort they need while dealing with the changes in their lives caused by Ike’s powerful forces.

There’s also an uplifting spirit of help and camaraderie among Red Cross staff and hurricane victims, like young Raymond McGee from a shelter in San Antonio, TX. Thirteen year-old Raymond turned from victim to helper… his spirit of lending a hand in the midst of his hardships is inspiring.

The reality is, the Red Cross is still on the ground helping Hurricane Gustav victims on a huge scale. We have served more than 2.8 million meals and snacks to those impacted by Gustav — while thousands of our workers are serving Ike victims too.

You were quick with providing compassion through your recent donation to help disaster victims. Would you help in spreading the word about disaster relief needs to your friends and family?


Gustav relief and assistance is expected to cost the Red Cross as much as $70 million, but we’ve raised only a fraction of that amount. And now, we know Ike will exceed Gustav’s cost for relief. All this while

  • We are looking at a very large, lengthy relief operation that could stretch into the coming months

  • We are just half-way through the season and Hurricanes Dolly, Fay, Hanna, Gustav and Ike have taken their toll on the country and on the American Red Cross.
Thank you for helping spread our message to your friends and family. Hurricane relief is badly needed by tens of thousands. Disaster relief truly relies on all of us.

Warm Regards,

Joe Becker, Senior Vice President, Disaster Services
American Red Cross

P.S. In the interim of these mass operations, our disaster relief fund is depleted and we’re borrowing money to cover the costs of the hurricanes of 2008. We have not cut any of our services to disaster victims and are committed to delivering the same level of service our clients have always relied on.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Museum of Marrakesh

Ok, in order to do my story any kind of justice, I'm going to have to tell this out of chronological order. I will save the tale of the sensory overoad that was our first night in Marrakesh for this weekend, when I have more time to write.

On our first day in Morocco, we went to several different museums. The most impressive was the Museum of Marrakesh, housed in a former palace.

Wow! Check out that chandeliere. This is a room that just took my breath away.

I tested a lavish relaxing nook.

How's that for a chill-out area?

Can you believe all that tilework? This is the real deal, folks! How amazing would it be to have a house -- or even a room -- like that?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thought of the day - Hurricane Ike and Haiti

I read a really eye-opening article today:

Children in Servitude, the Poorest of Haiti’s Poor
Published: September 13, 2008

GONAÏVES, Haiti — Thousands of desperate women pushed and shoved to get at the relief food being handed out on the outskirts of this flooded city last week. Off to the side were the restaveks, the really desperate ones.

As woman after woman hauled off a sack of rice, a bag of beans and a can of cooking oil, the restaveks, a Creole term used to describe Haiti’s child laborers, dropped to their knees to pick up the bits that were inadvertently dropped in the dirt....

Read the whole article here:


Earlier this summer, I had become aware of the plight of poor Haitians through Nikki's blog. It's really hard to fathom the depths of despair now, especially for the children portrayed in this article.

Rebecca, I know UNICEF is doing some great work here, so I just made a donation.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Morocco Part I: Accommodations

This has been quite a week. Last Friday, I was promoted to a new position, so my days have grown longer and more intense. As a result, I have not had as much time at night to write here. But I am going to do my best to get back into a rhythm! Now, as I promised last weekend, I am going to start coverage of Michael's and my trip to Morocco last November for our honeymoon.

Why Morocco for our honeymoon? "How did we come up with that crazy idea?" Michael and I take a moment to ponder. Well, we decided pretty quickly that we didn't want to go to any of the typical honeymoon destinations. We wanted to go some place exotic...but it also had to be relatively close (no more than one day of transit time). It also had to be some place that neither of us had been to before, which ruled out some options in Latin America and Europe.

I found a package trip online for a trip to Marrakesh, Morocco that looked very interesting. It included a stay in a riad (a traditional Moroccan house or palace that has interior courtyards or gardens), candlelight dinners on the rooftop overlooking the city, a daytrip to the nearby Atlas mountains, a visit to a fancy hamam (steam bath spa), and more. I showed it to Michael, and he said, "Let's go!"

Now, this was a rather expensive package, so we decided to put together our own trip, using the web and Lonely Planet. TripAdvisor led us to a French-owned riad, Dar Silsila. At that time, it was the #1 rated hotel in Marrakesh (it's since slipped to a still exceptional #4 out of 309 properties).

The hotel looked great, and it was very reasonably priced -- no small feat, we found out, in surprisingly pricey Marrakesh. The reviews were all glowing, and reviewers said that the best part of staying there was that the owner helped his guests put together their trips: making reservations at some of the best restaurants in town, planning daytrips, and recommending the most interesting things to see and do. Ah-hah! A hotel that can help us create our own package! And the top of the TripAdvisor list to boot!

I got in touch with Jean Patrick, the owner, via email, and we quickly made our reservation for the Junior Suite. When we went, Jean Patrick was just finishing up some additional guest rooms. Originally, the place had 4 rooms, but now there are several more to accommodate all the people who want to stay.

But enough with the description! Here are the pictures we took!

Our room, the Junior Suite -- not an actual suite, but it was very romantic and it did have a sitting area. We sometimes would return to our room and find red rose petals strewn on the bed.

The sitting area of our room -- the narrow doors are to closets

Tiles at the threshold of our room. The tilework everywhere was amazing!

One of the courtyard sitting areas. There were candles at night, and the sofas were very comfortable.

Looking down at the courtyard from our room -- water feature to the left and a table set for dinner to the right. We had dinner here twice.

Breakfast in the courtyard: coffee, fresh orange juice, local bread, fresh yogurt, honey, preserves, and butter were included in the room rate.

Dar Silsila is along a narrow, unassuming alley. You have no idea what beauty lies inside!

Next up: our first taste of Marrakesh!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Great news!

After much uncertainty, it is now official: Michael and I will be going back to Guatemala in December!

We are very psyched to return and see more of the country AND be able to help in a larger capacity. We will be taking part in several different projects while we are down there, including Tricia's orphanage Christmas party, Mayan Families' Tamale Basket project, more Christmas parties for kids, a vet clinic, and computer support.

We have already started to get to know some of the people who will be going down, and we can't wait to meet everyone in person!

I will be blogging about our adventures, so you'll get to hear all about it.

Can't come down to Guatemala, but want to take part in the festivities? Michael and I will be looking for gently used or new toys to bring down as presents for the children. Let me know if you have anything you'd like us to bring down!

More info to come!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Michael!

It's my wonderful hubbie's birthday today!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Catching up

This has been a packed week, hence why I didn't have a chance to post the past few days. But I haven't forgotten about you!

First, I want to give a shout out to my friend, Kristine, at K's Apartment. Kristine writes delightful accounts of her travels and life in New York City. Kristine also features her friends, and the other day she wrote a really kind post about me! Thanks, Kristine!

Now, my plan for some upcoming posts: I realized that I haven't written anything about Michael and my honeymoon in Morocco last November. That was such a fabulous, different trip, and I'd love to share some of the highlights. Here's just a taste -- a photo I took at the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakesh:

More tales from Arabian nights to come!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Making a change through handmade goods

It's my pleasure to feature a guest blogger, Alex from Alexlady Designs. I asked Alex to write an article because she has made a change in her life: becoming an entrepreneur. Alex makes beautiful jewelry, and she has started a virtual business on an important website not everyone has heard of, Etsy. I've invited Alex to my blog to provide inspiration for starting something new and to give some ideas for shopping with a conscience. Here she is in her own words...

Making a change. Why does it seem so intimidating sometimes? All of those great, apropos clichés… The devil you know vs. the devil you don’t. The famed golden handcuffs. Time for a bit of wisdom from the Bhagavad-Gita: Action is superior to inaction.

I’m an actor with a day job that gives me great health insurance. It’s fairly flexible with hours. But the problem is that each day I find it harder to get excited about this job, even though it’s my paycheck. I need to feel rewarded by more than just a deposit slip, even though that’s obviously important. And I’ve always loved making jewelry.

I started years ago, doing pieces for friends as gifts. I can’t even really say what it was, but a few months ago it clicked… and alexlady designs was born! Now I have a successful online store chock full of jewelry made by my own two hands, and an up-and-coming blog that features other handcrafters’ items as well as highlights of the New Jersey arts scene.

I originally chose to open up my virtual doors on because I knew it was an amazing showcase for handmade items. Not only is it a much more shopper-friendly format than, say, eBay, but I have found that it’s also an inspiring artists’ community. I discover more about the community every day, whether it’s a thread full of information on doing home showcase sales, or the Street Teams… small groups of artisans that are a more personal group for support and promotion. I recently joined the EtsyNJ Team, and since then I’ve easily doubled my knowledge about starting a business, as well as met some very talented new artists.

Shopping with a Conscience

Check out a few ways that etsy is making a difference:

*On my honor* Take the Handmade Pledge at I’ve always preferred handcrafted gifts, but by signing up and posting this you encourage your friends to support artists as well. And I’ve developed a Favorites list that’s so extensive; no one can ever accuse me of being “hard to shop for” ever again!

*Right in My Backyard * Are you looking for an artist in Jersey City Heights ? The Shop Local link on the Buy page lets you search for etsy artisans in your very own town. What an excellent way to give back to the community!

*Boo on Carbon Footprints* If you’re Going Green, check out the “environmentally friendly” link under the Gift Guides. There you can scroll through tons of up-cycled, organic, and re-purposed offerings.

*Tis Better to Give* By entering ‘charity’ into the search bar, you can browse through items that shopkeepers are selling and donating some or all of the proceeds to a charity.

Making jewelry makes me feel like a better person. The process is exciting for me, full of problem-solving, experimenting with colors, and immersing myself in the creation of something beautiful. And joining etsy has been a wonderful way to gain exposure, as well as opening my eyes to a wealth of knowledge and local support. I haven’t quit my day job yet, but who knows where this will take me?

Come visit and see what it’s all about! And join me on the blogosphere at for updates on the North Jersey Arts scene, as well as features on other local etsians, giveaways, and items that you just won’t believe. Jewelry made from octopus tentacles, anyone?

Monday, September 1, 2008

The allure of Antigua, Guatemala by night

When I was downloading photos from yesterday, I realized there were a whole stash of Michael's pictures from Guatemala that I never posted.

For those of you who are new to my blog, my husband, Michael, and I went down to Guatemala for a short trip this past April. You can read all about our experiences in this recap.

I didn't get a chance to write much about our final stop, Antigua. Our time there was a whirlwind of sight-seeing before we flew back home. However, we did get to relax and enjoy our last evening there.

Here are some photos of dusk into evening in Antigua that have me longing to go back.

The Cathedral de Santiago on the central park

We were able to lay claim to a park bench and watch all the activity of that Sunday night as the sun was going down. The park is certainly the center of the town's social life. We saw families strolling, couples preening, and shoeshine boys looking hungrily for customers. Parishioners filed in and spilled out of the cathedral for evening Mass. As the sun set, the lights came on outside the cathedral, and we watched as they grew brighter in contrast to the darkening blue sky. You could sit here for hours and observe. Even the fountains were intriguing.

Of course, we still wanted to have dinner that evening, so as a special treat, we went to Casa Santo Domingo.

The concierge desk at Casa Santo Domingo

Imagine an ancient convent that has been transformed into a luxury hotel. Gregorian chant music is piped through stone walkways, and candles adorn every flat surface. There are fresh flowers and religious art as far as the eye can see. While the dining room has a roof, it is basically outdoors, and fire pits keep you warm. Endless secret nooks beckon you to explore their secrets. At Casa Santo Domingo, you are safe behind stone walls, but free to imagine all that has unfolded here over hundreds of years.

Michael and I had a delicious dinner, and we were left with the most seductive of memories. We have been to some exotic places -- especially during our honeymoon in Morocco -- but I dare say, this one took the cake.

An illuminated Antigua church

We walked back to our hotel from Casa Santo Domingo and encountered some fabulous architecture that was even more enticing with the backdrop of night. The ruins of one church were brilliantly lit up, and we were drawn in like moths to the sight of the glowing religious structure. If I could, I still would be standing there now, gorging myself on the shapes of the arches and the way the light falls.

Ah, Antigua. We cannot wait to go back!