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Archive for January, 2006

Church in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

Church in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

After leaving Xela we had six days before we had to be in Nebaj for some volunteer work. More to follow on that on a later post. We decided to go to Chiapas, Mexico and headed for San Cristobal. The trip was uneventful except for meeting a couple from France. Philipe and Anouk were working in Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean. They were teaching German to French residents. I hope they read this and that they keep in contact. San Cristobal was a very beautiful colonial city. The reduction in pollution was noticeable compared to Guatemalan cities. However, the people seemed less friendly, quite possibly the results of tourist burnout. It seemed like a was a popular destination for European travellers.

Church close-up, San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

Church close-up, San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

Mayan women huddled together out of the rain. It was a cool day.

San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

Snake guy at the market, I think he was selling things that the took out of the snake. You can see some bottles in the foreground.

San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico

As in Guatemala, there were many dogs around. They’ve all been very docile so far.

One of the highlights of the trip to Chiapas was a day trip to Canon del Sumidero. The canyon was an amazing river with sheer sided cliffs and abundant wild life. We saw spider monkeys, crocodiles, and our favourite, vultures.

Canon del Sumider, Chiapas, Mexico

Canon del Sumider, Chiapas, Mexico

Vultures, Canon del Sumidero, Chiapas, Mexico

Vultures, Canon del Sumidero, Chiapas, Mexico

In San Cristobal, there was a private orchid museum and cafe run by a Mayan woman named Irma. She came to Chiapas some years earlier from Guatemala. During the civil war, Mayans came to Chiapas to avoid persecution and execution. Apparently, the Mexican government offered citizenship and many remained. We aren’t quite sure that this was the case with Irma, but it’s very possible. (from Laura) Our stay in San Cristobal wasn’t very exciting as I got sick with vomiting and diahrrea. I was sick for five days and still today I don’t feel 100 %. Anyway, Irma helped with some tea and advice that helped. She was really nice. Lenny hasn’t gotten anything yet, which wasn’t what we were expecting. Lenny and Laura.

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Laguna Chicabal, outside Xela, Guatemala

Laguna Chicabal, outside Xela, Guatemala

Staying in cities and towns can be noisy and stinky with car pollution, so we decided to take a day trip in nature. There’s a lake, called Laguna Chicabal, on top of a volcano. We went with a guide, Rogerio, as you can easily get lost if you go on your own. Also with us was a woman from Spain and a couple from Holland. All nice people. Last year 2 Israeli women went on their own and got lost. They were found the next day.

Rogerio, our guide to Laguna Chicabal

Rogerio, our guide to Laguna Chicabal

We started the hike from a small village, San Martin Sacatepequez, 22 km from Xela. We got picked up at six am and were driven to the village where the guide lives. By 8 o’clock we were climbing up the mountain to the sounds of evangelical music from a small church in the village. Men, women, and children were working the corn fields perched on the steep hills.

Hike up to Laguna Chicabal

Hike up to Laguna Chicabal

Laguan Chicabal is considered a centre of Maya-Mam cosmovision. It is a sacred site, therefore you are not allowed to swim in the lake. Worshippers go up there to perform ceremonies and leave offerings at one of the two altars.

Laguna Chicabal

An altar at Laguna Chicabal

An altar at Laguna Chicabal with offerings of

Another altar at Laguna Chicabal with offerings of beer, grapes and other food.

The hike up was 2 1/2 hours, and 1 1/2 down. We spent about 1 hour at the top. Rogerio gave us each a corn kernel to throw in the water as an offering to Chicabal. We first asked Chicabal for something we wished and then threw the seed in the lake.

Laura.

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momo and salcaja

We visited two small towns just outside of Xela, Momostenango and Salcaja. Momo, as it is called by the locals is about one and a half hours north of Xela. It’s a friendly town with a very lively market. Like many other highland towns it is built on the side of a mountain. Momo is noted for its adherence to the Mayan calendar. The market had both produce and animals — dead and alive — whole and in part.

Market in Momo, Guatemala

Market in Momo, Guatemala

Live chickens destined for the plate, market in Momo, Guatemala

Live chickens destined for the plate, market in Momo, Guatemala

Pigs going to the market, Momo, Guatemala

Pigs going to the market, Momo, Guatemala

Church in Momo, Guatemala

Church in Momo, Guatemala

At the center of the market was a Catholic church, no great surprise. Everyday there are people worshipping, praying devoutly, and lighting candles.

Spooky woman in church, Momo, Guatemala

Spooky woman in church, Momo, Guatemala

When we were in Momo we visited a Mayan priest — Rigoberto Itzep. While we were there we had our Mayan horoscope done. Apparently, Laura and I are compatible. His family was very friendly and the children were looking for attention. His wife, Maria Atlantis, produced lip balms and skin creams from natural herbs. There house was really simple, but they did have a sauna. The chuj (a mayan sauna) was made from adobe. It was really small and you had to crawl through a small opening. Rigoberto mentioned that it was similar to native sweat lodges in Canada.

Rigoberto's family, Momo, Guatemala

Rigoberto's family standing by their house, Momo, Guatemala

On the way back from Momo we stopped at Salcaja. Iglesia de San Jacinto is located here and is thought to be the oldest church in Central America built in 1524.

Church in Salcaja, Guatemala

Church in Salcaja, Guatemala

Salcaja’s other claim to fame is two local homemade brews, Caldo de frutas and Rompopo. We had to ask around to find a place to buy Caldo de frutas. Coincidently, it was right across from the church at a woman’s house.

Lenny.

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After one week studying Spanish and walking around Xela we needed to move on. We had heard that Xela wasn’t that nice and that it would be cold in the nights. The part about the cold was right on, but the city itself was very interesting and the people were very friendly and helpful. They were patient when I mangled their language and smiled but never laughed. Just walking the streets was an adventure. The streets themselves were sometimes very rough – due in part to the floods from Hurricane Stan and in part to the nature of the construction.

Xela, Guatemala

Xela, Guatemala

Xela streets

Everyday we saw what was for us very interesting people, sometimes at work and sometimes just stroling themselves. Here are just a few examples.

Paper Vendor

Flowers Sellers

Friendly Neighbourhood Senior

One thing that caught us by surprise was the number of pastry shops. You were never very far from your next doughnut or croissant. The quality was on pár with or superior to the pastry that we had in Vancouver. A truly pleasant experience. Although it was visually very engaging there were times when it was also emotionally trying. There is a lot of poverty here and seeing children working so hard , carrying loads that I would want to carry or shining shoes all day can be difficult. Before leaving Xela we visited two villages tht were close by – Momostenango and Salcaja.

Lenny

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Our visit to Xela was coming to an end. Here are a few more pictures of our homestay. There was music playing all day and the children, Enrique and Cecilia, played continously. It made for a very entertaining week.

Xela, Guatemala

Xela, Guatemala

This is our bedroom and study.

Xela, Guatemala

Xela, Guatemala

The house was a typical style with a courtyard and the rooms surrounding it.

Xela, Guatemala

Xela, Guatemala

Romelia spent a lot of time in the kitchen – and we were happy for that. I doubt that we will have such great food again on this trip.

Xela, Guatemala

Xela, Guatemala

Cecilia was very active but quiet. She became very affectionate as she got to know us. The chair was a roadblock for her.

Lenny

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It’s good to be back to Guatemala and to forget about life in Vancouver. We now have to think about communicating in Spanish, getting used not throwing toilet paper down the toilet, being sure not to eat raw vegetables, building up a constitution for beans and eggs, and so on and on. We arrived in Guatemala on December 30th. On our way here we met up with Ron Specter in Dallas. We met Ron at Mountain Equipment Coop in Vancouver where he was selling Mayan woven textiles. We started talking to him and found out we were heading to the same place on the same day. This turned out to be quite lucky for us as he introduced us to a nice house to stay in the beautiful city of Antigua,

Antigua, Guatemala

House we stayed at in Antigua, Guatemala

and Ron also invited us to visit the organization he has set up and that is now fairly self sufficient. The organization is called Association Maya de Desarroyo (www.athreadofhope.com). Mayan women from the mountain village El Trionfo produce modern textiles that they sell in Guatemala, Canada, and I believe, the US too. Thanks to Ron we were able to visit this mountain village. From the town of Solola, we hired a pick up truck to take us to the village. We were welcomed for lunch by Maria (the association’s production manager’s) and her family.

Village Outside of Solola, Guatemala

Lunch at Maria's house at a mountain village outside of Solola. You can see Ron (LS), Ken, and Lenny on the right.

We got a rare opportunity to see how they live and we talked about the construction problems they were having with their houses. There was another Canadian with us, Ken, who is involved with a Christian organization. Ken sells the textiles in Toronto an has been fundraising money to help the villagers repair or rebuilt their houses after hurricane Stan’s damage. There seems to be a bit of a soap opera love story between Ken and Maria. Ken has been travelling back and forth to Guatemala about 4 times in the past year. It seems that people are trying to set the two up. Will Ken propose? Where would they live, in El Trionfo or Toronto? These two places couldn’t be more different. How would Maria fit in with her Mayan clothes, traditions, and values? We hope to get updates from Ron on this very sweet love story.

Village outside Solola, Guatemala

Maria, Marcelino (her brother) and her sister Juanita in front their house.

Going down to the village there were a lot of cornfields. While we wore our hiking boots, the villagers wear fairly dainty shoes. The terrain was quite rough in parts.

Village outside Solola, Guatemala

Cornfields outside Solola, Guatemala

Anyway, here we are in Xela or Quezaltenango in the central east part of Guatemala. Xela is the second largest city in Guatemala. The sky is blue, there’s a nice breeze, and it’s a pleasant 20 degrees. This is day six and so far no diahrrea. We have started our 1 week of intensive Spanish study. They teach one to one here. It’s intense. We cover a lot of stuff but it’s not necessarily the best way to learn. It’s an interesting experience. My teacher is Eddy and Lenny’s is Marlin. We are are also staying with a homestay family. Their names are Romelia and Willy, they have a six year old son, Enrique, and a daughter who is 14 moths old. They have parrot, Pepe. Our lodging is quite spartan. The food is excellent. You can’t get any hot water, just warm, so we decided to have showers in the afternoon after school when the air is warmer outside. It gets pretty cool at night and the morning are chilly until the sun comes out.

Xela, Guatemala

Enrique, "el loco" with me in Xela, Guatemala

Xela, Guatemala

Having my Spanish lesson with Eddy in Xela, Guatemala

Well, I could say more but the internet is pretty slow and this process is taking longer then I expected. We will be here until Sunday. We will probably do more Spanish but in Colombia. Hasta luego!

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