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!