Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lake Atitlan

Found a little reclusive paradise in San Marcos ashore the lake Atitlan. The city is made up of winding pathways through temperate\tropical forrest. It consists of many holistic schools and centers for care. There are fruit and avocado trees and a small market. We stayed at El Unicornio where there was cocina and enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast with Amigas Charlotte and Susie. We made sweet potato empanadas, refried beans, rice and avocada. Yum! Today we caught a boat back to pana jachal and are planning our adventure into Honduras. We are staying at the Villa Lupita on a third story next to trees and bird songs. Found a small cafe nearby along back streets with less traffic. There was a kindly drunken gentelman from Australia who has been living here for 10 years. He chatted with us and made many reccomdations for the directin we are going. We are looking at traveling to Copan ruins and from there to the Miskito coast on the Carribean coast. Our friends from New Zealand parted ways with us a couple days ago to go see TIkal, but we all made plans to meet up for Chritmas on some small islands off the coast of Coasta RIca and then we might join them in labor on a cocoa farm in the Cloud forest. Hope all is well back in the states. Having the time of our lives and staying safe in our adventures.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Post Modern Pop Civilisation

So very tired of the city. Of course, Antigua is muy bonita; its aching ruins around every cuarto and the whisps of fleurs and weeds sprouting along rooflines and even surrounding telephone cables. However, this county is globalising like mad. Personas have too much pride in their cellular phones and it seems that dinero is at too high a motivation. While comfort and quality expectations seem to be at a higher level of awareness here than in the States, the popular culture of American cinema has brought its powerful influence over these people. They are shocked, with mouth agape, at my torn jeans, and when I make a modest offer for something at market there is resentful laughter howling over my gringo face. The grocers are stocked with foreign label packaged foods, and maize, bean, and other local produce is far too scarce for comfort. The attitude seems to be, what good is a gringo without a wallet full of $? Looking forward to my shuttle to Lake Atitlan in the morning. Going to take it easy and forget about this over civilised neuva atttitude of Post Modern Guatemala. Hopefully I´ll find some fruit on the arboles and keep my hands on the land.

On Sabado Manuel y Yo went on a trek. We survived. It was disheartening at first. So silly to think how victorious our venture became when the chicken buses are an everyday event for Guatemalans. We began our morning at 4 am when I awoke and tried to revel in a cold shower. We left the house in time to trek across town to the market in search of a bus headed to Chitentanga. We were going on a mad hunt for some ´lost´Mayan ruins. Our directions were to find a bus that traveled along the Pan American Hwy Norte. We wanted to get to Tecpan and from there cross the center square and look for a path that lead into the temperate jungle. It cost 4 Quetzales a peice to ride the bus, and we realized we only had 100 Q bills. So off I jumped from the bus in a haste to find some change. The bus started off as we bumped along for an hour and half with a man yelling out the side door, ¨Chichi! Chichi!¨jumping on and off on and off again. Somewhere along the way we discovered that our water had leaked all over my lap (Oh! Thats why my bag felt so cold). Squished 3 to a seat with personas carrying bundles of fresh picked fruit in baskets on their heads, warm wrapped breakfasts in bundles, plastic bags full of juice and and a straw, and questioning stares in our direction.
In Chitentanga we almost missed our transfer as a poor girl dropped her small orange-colored fruits all down the stairs of the bus and I wanted to help her pick them up but the bus suddenly emptied and the ¨Chichi! Chichi!¨gentelman pointed us to hurry in the direction of the bus going to Tecpan.
¨Tecpan? Tecpan?¨asks the driver over and over. He looked at us like, what are you silly gringos going there for? We thought, we are on to something good now. Not even the locals know why we want to go to Tecpan. Ah! Fantasies of a small village with maybe an authentic woven wrap for these chilly nights. And then a long quiet walk through wilderness and into an ancient land of peaceful peoples. Perhaps we´ll meet a Shaman to walk with us along the way and show us his knowledge of the local flora.... Heh.
The bus swerved in and out of stops and villages. From fifty miles per hour to zero for a pickup. There were few coherent stops, and mostly the bus just spotted people with looks of exhaustion and keeled over to the edge of the road. Then took off again at top speed. We were jerked from side to side, meshing into locals and feeling their basket propped against our shoulders. It almost felt like those roller coaster rides at Disney land as they let people off, on, off, on at a time.
As we pulled into Tecpan it seemed as though someone had built a world of concrete boxes plastered with advertisements for cellular phones, Quaker oatmeal, Diet Coke, and every other name brand stemming from American culture. As we climbed off the bus, stiff from three hours of being tossed around we could hear Oingo Boingo blasting from a nearby box-ad. It was so loud we walked in tempo the whole way across town. Locals coming out of their box-ads to see the gringos. Children stared in curiosity and soon we were alone...with seven small boys following us with machetes on their hips.
The road was dissapointingly paved. As we asked every local nearby, pointing to the word Iximchel in my notebook, and asking ¨Donde esta Ece-M-tel?¨with our horrible American accents and then still following the pavement. There was curiosity abroad. As we passed farmers on their rooftops I noticed them pull out their cell phones, one by one with a look of excitement and confusion at our sudden appearance in their funny little village. As we walked on and the farmlands became fewer I began to worry about the tribe of boys with machetes. Did they mean us harm? Fantastic paranoia set in. Were they waiting for us to get beyond the boundaries of town and then beat and rob us? Were the locals really part of some conspiracy gang, cellularly informing their neighbors at the jumping off point? So, I decided to make friends. I began joking with the boys and dancing around like a clown. They laughed! and Laughed! So enamoured they became with me and my silly name on their spanish tongue, they were not ever going to go away. So we caught the next truck with our thumbs and sped up the rest of the paved drive to Iximchel.
A nice picnic. Feeling victorious. Papaya and herb bread. There were cows grazing on the Mayan landscape that appeared to be a series of networking, stone-built sewage systems. There were also tall mounds of steeply inclining stairs and oak tree looming graciously at the top. Then we noticed it.
Not a few. Not a dozen. Not even a class size. There were hundreds coming. Every direction. Guatemalan children singing, dancing, playing, romping over every pillar and hillside. We tried to hike the steep decline down to the river below and every few paces had to stop to let children hike past. There was sweat dripping off their foreheads, and eyes bulged with the incline. Then there was the release of about 30 children a time down the hillside. Jumping out of the way to let them down, we finally gave in to our disappointing fate and left in half the time it took us to reach the hidden and remote Iximche.
The children knew better what to do at a place like that anyway. It is their country after all!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

¡Antigua hermosa!

We arrived safely in Guatemala City yesterday afternoon. After traveling for 20 hours straight we felt exhausted and crazy. At immigration I found two amigas who were planning to attened Sevilla as well. They had been working on a cacao (chocolate) farm in Costa Rica for the last month and wanted to improve their communication skills. Somehow, everyone seemed to beleive I had a good idea of what I was doing. Before I realized, there was a parade of gringos behind me headed for a shuttle to Antigua. The ride was very long, but was wonderful to watch Guatemala fly by. I also found that is much easier to try speaking Spanish when it is expected of me. There was a nice gentelman in the shuttle named Brenden from Costa Rica, and we tried to converse a little. While I often unknowingly slip with some of my poor high-school French (¨Merci,¨ ¨Noir,¨ Ës toi?¨...), Manuel and I figure it makes us seem more Canadian. We could not find our school, and so went with our Ginga friends (Susie and Charlotte, New Zealanders) to El Gato Negro Hostel in the city center. There we found a wonderful little bedroom and good food and beer. After walking the city streets that evening before dark we found a small package of Cuban cigars and ended our night with a small celebration and poker in our room. Today we found our school, and they were most hospitable and understanding about our tardiness. We moved to the Student house where it is quieter and our room is huge with fireplace, window, tables, chairs, shelves. There is also a wash area and garden on the upper story of the building to enjoy our time. We have three meals a day included and the atmoshere is much more to our liking. We are very excited and happy to be in this beautiful and exotic city; With Spanish architecture crumbling, grass and flowers growing out of rooftops and citrus trees bending with the weight of their fruit. So far our travels keep getting more comfortable, and I feel as though part of me has always been here. Our classes begin right after lunch at 2.
Hasta más adelante....

Estudia espaniole es muy difficile. Primarily because it took a half hour of rambling along cobbled streets in el hot sol with locals bothering us for shoe shines and various fliers of no interest. How fast the marvel and beauty in my minds eye can turn on itself. Yet, back at the hostel after a tedious four hours of feeling quite imbecile and illiterate (I am exagerating) I found myself ¨home sweet home¨and perched atop our roof with a spectacular veiw of the nearby active volcano. This AM Manuel and I contentedly threw our belongings into our room and gave our beds a test jump....and....the shaking didn´t stop. There was a pleasant earthquake which is still evident in this luminous volcano as we sit in the moist night air and watch the red lava flow forth through its fount. The molten steam rises up into the air towards a chesire moon which grows larger day by day. Darkness falls here around seven in the evening, which is also when dinner is served. There are five other guests at this house. Two Iranians who currently reside in Sacramento and Manuel and I are in dispute amoung two young women who I beleive to be Dutch. Another lady who I like very much is from Portland and the conversation was not lacking in curiosity nor enteratinment. For the rest of the evening we have diligently been studying our notes as I do hope to progress quickly and blend in a little more everyday.

Buenas Noches mi familia y amigos.