The story of my existence is an unusual one.

My parents met on a bus in Guatemala back in the late 70s. My mother, a Canadian who traveled whenever she could take an extended holiday from work, found herself on a bus from Guatemala City to Panajachel. 

An American man slowly approached and asked "Is this seat taken?" 

The rest is history. 

My existence is thanks to the wonders of travel and the fact that these like-minded people met on a chance occasion so many years ago.

At the end of 2013, I traveled back to Guatemala for the first time since my childhood and re-shot many of these photos from my parents' first encounters, mostly in Panajachel. 

I named the series Volver a Guatemala -- an ode to the Mexican song by Vincente Fernandez, and a play on the romantic idea of returning to a place or a moment one has strong ties to.

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1977. After a fateful meeting on a Guatemalan bus, my mother took this photo of my father in front of his house in Panajachel. During this inaugural trip, my mother explored Guatemala for about a month before returning to her native Canada. After she left, she and my father exchanged letters back and forth until they could meet again.

"This was well before children, well before marriage, and during some of my first moments in Guatemala. I loved the country's simplicity and charm -- I fell in love with it right away."

-My mother, Barbara 
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My grandfather, James, visits my parents in 1979.

In jest, Jim would introduce my father as his "sin-in-law" since my parents were not yet married. In this photo, my parents were moving Jim's belongings over to their friend Jean's house.

Jean, an American whom my father had known from his earliest moments in Panajachel, was also the editor of his first travel book on Guatemala. As Jean's health declined, my father purchased the house and it became our family's home.

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My grandfather, Jim, was a man of steadfast devotion to his family and of remarkable character. Later in life, he became affectionately known as "Grumpy." He was young at heart and used the most ridiculous puns -- the kind that are so bad that you just can't help but laugh at them -- until his final days. He passed away in 2004.

As I set up this shot, as with many others, time froze. I imagined my Grumpy standing in this exact same spot all those years ago. While I was overcome with a certain sadness, I couldn't help but feel a great sense of calm and pride. I could feel him right there with me, eternalized through this photo.
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Papa with Corn, 1979 // Papa with Corn, 2014

Guatemalans consume corn mostly as tortillas, but also as tamales and in a drink called atol. Eating an ear of corn--elote--is much less common. So when it came time for this shot, tracking down an ear of corn proved to be just as tricky as finding the location itself.
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My mother, ever the social butterfly, would frequently organize picnics with her friends around Panajachel. "There was a small, connected expatriate population. We kind of stuck together and looked out for one another," she said. "One of my favorite parts was having visitors and watching them be enchanted by Guatemala, too.

This particular photo was taken just before a picnic with my father and their friends Donna, Rod and Donna who were visiting from Canada and Australia.

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This photo was one of the most rewarding to track down. My mother and I spent the better part of a morning in search of this exact location in San Pedro La Laguna. With the help of friendly locals, we eventually made it to Cantón Pacuchá and shot this photo.

It was very interesting to note the differences and similarities between past and present. The view of Lake Atitlán is now obstructed by new construction and virtually all of the buildings have changed. The electricity pole is in the exact same place and the view of the mountains is unchanged.

A Curious Boy on Lake Atitlán

After showing this photo to the groundskeeper and explaining the project we were working on, he smiled and slowly shook his head. He told us several times that unfortunately, we would not be permitted to visit the grounds. After a couple of minutes of discussion, he finally acquiesced, but stated firmly that we only had a minute to take a photo.

The photo didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped -- as with many from this series -- but I did come to a significant realization. What was most important was that we were revisiting these locations and telling these stories in the first place. Though obstacles presented themselves at several points along the way, we persisted... even if, in this case, our efforts led us to being chased off these grounds!

Never let your curiosity wane.

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After witnessing countless places that were no longer recognizable, it was astonishing that this space remained untouched. My mother's eyes were alive with wonder as she told me the story of how one of her best friends had captured this photo of her and my father nearly 35 years ago.

There is something magical about things that stand the test of time. Whether it's a tradition, a place or a relationship... there is beauty in the eternal.
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