¡Hola, reader! Thanks for visiting. My name is Melissa Denchak, and I’m a writer/editor who lives in Panajachel, Guatemala. Where’s that, you ask? Pana, as the locals call it, is two-and-a-half hours outside of the capital (Guatemala City) in the southwestern part of the country on Lake Atitlán, the deepest lake in Central America and the most beautiful. Okay, that last point is subjective, but it is the opinion of many, including Aldous Huxley, author of the book Brave New World (a book that I have admittedly not read):
“Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.”
Yes, we’ve got volcanoes here, folks. Three.
Guatemala, for anyone who needs a refresher, borders Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. The majority of its coast lies on the Pacific, though a bit meets the Caribbean, too. Guatemala City is about a two-and-half-hour flight from Miami and five hours from New York City, my beloved former home.
I moved here in April 2012, along with my partner, Shon, and my dog, Chaddy. Shon’s doing good in the non-profit world, Chaddy’s getting back to her street dog roots (she was once one in Paraguay), and I’m gathering fodder for travel- and food-related stories, brushing up on my Spanish, learning as much as I can about local foods and Mayan culture, becoming an expert on coffee and cacao farming, and doing my best to satisfy a raging sweet tooth by baking cakes and cookies in a seriously sub-par oven.
We live in Guatemala, but we’re exploring many other areas of Central America, too. And while we’re certainly not living large, we’re also not quite roughing it: Our lives include cheap but good manicures (well, mine does), the occasional bottle of bubbly or bourbon, whatever ripe, stinky cheese we can sniff out, a cushy hotel room now and then, and the best luxury of all–the chance to explore new places.
Apart from pursuing freelance gigs, I’m also a contributing editor for Fine Cooking magazine and have worked for other publications including Departures, Black Ink, Publishers Weekly, Budget Travel, and Food & Wine. My writing has also appeared in Adventure Travel, American Way, and Digital Nomad magazines. I have a culinary diploma from the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan.
Have a question, suggestion, or comment? Please e-mail me at mdenchak (at) gmail (dot) com. You can also visit my professional website melissadenchak.com.