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Published: February 19th 2009
When I made the decision to stay for the duration of the five months here at Pasajacap, I was told I would have to vacate the apt for just one week, and then I could return. Joyce Maynard, the American author was giving one of her writing workshops....(she lives here in San Marcos six months a year). So, I decided to just travel around the lake, as I was not feeling up to planning much of a travel itinerary for myself....rather to just check out the various other villages on the lake, instead. My vacation from my vacation began
on Saturday, Feb. 6th. I met a woman from Lonely Planet Thorntree forum, with whom I had only up until then conversed with via the forum or email. We had planned an overnight in Chichicastenango (Chichi)...where the largest outdoor market in all of Central America takes place two days a week. Our reason for going the night before was to see the market vendors setting up their staging and preparing for the market the next day. The staging is all built by hand with poles made from trees...very rough hewn and by using one long pole with a "V" wedge cut into
the top of it...and some typical rope (clothesline rope) they wrap and tug...wrap and tug...and continue this process until their staging is completely up and secure. Into the poles were nail heads protruding at intervals, onto which was hung their particular craft.
I got up the next morning early, and went out into the street to observe the hustling and bustling of the vendors going up and down the streets carrying thier huge bundles on their backs. Once the market got underway, the whole mood was quite different. The prior day we were able to go into the cathedral Santo Tomas which had no tourists inside but Janice, Bob and I and our 'tour guide'. Otherwise, it was observing the local Mayans lighting their candles on the floor atop stone square tablets....saying their prayers. If one single white candle was lit, it was a prayer for 'cleansing'...if it was two white candles together, it was for the healing of a marriage, blue was for rain for the crops, and green was for prosperity, another color was for illness, etc. We watched Mayan woman on their knees shuffling down the aisle all the way to the alter. Later our guide,
took us to see Maximon, the Mayan idol to whom people deliver liquor and cigarettes and money, and then we climbed all the way to the very top of the village, where the sacrifices were done in a ceremony by the shamans of the village. Very interesting...we visited different casas where ceremonial masks were hung from the ceiling and walls...and another...where a young man was hand painting them.
The shopping itself was really just more of the same that you would find in Panajachel....having become quite commercial...which was a big disappointment to me. The authentic aspects were watching local people purchase grains, which was weighed with a very antiguated system, of weights and measures.
Bob our driver, who was a man that Janice met on her previous trip to Lake Atitlan in Oct. '08, was a wonderful person to have with us, as he knew the area and also how to bargain. I bought some nice handmade candles...and some little clay dishes for holding soaps, or something?
When we got back to Pana, we had a nice lunch at the Sunset Cafe, and then Bob dropped Janice and I off at the boat dock for our trip over
to La Casa del Mundo where we spent the night.
The next day I headed over to the village of Santiago to Posade de Santiago for two nights. I got a tuk-tuk to the hotel and was immediately approached by a boy asking for money. I told him "you do not just get money...you must do something to earn money....so what is it you are going to do for me?" He looked at me blankly, and I suggested, he carry my bag up to hotel receiption, and I would give him money. I paid him 5Q (less than $1.00)
The next day I walked into the village and it was very interesting. Very authentic. Here there were woman sitting on the side of the streets and street corners...with their baskets of authentic backstrapped loomed textiles. I immediately stopped and started playing with fabrics...seeing what combinations would look good on my new "sofa" for pillows, etc. Anyone who knows me well enough, knows that this is a process that could take me hours and days and months to accomplish! Well, after sometime of 'playing' and being totally engrossed in it, I stood up to ask about the price of two
particular pieces, and there behind me was a small 'village' of about 15 woman, all dressed in their typico traje...craning their necks to see what I was doing...or buying!! My response to this scene was one of such surprise that I must have let out a sound with a huge smile of pure delight, and they all just started laughing!! I said, OHHH...I must have a picture of this, and asked the group as a whole if it was okay?? I could see a few of them saying, NO.,,so I put away my camera, and unfortunately cannot share that moment with you, other than with my attempt at describing it...which falls short of my actual experience.
As I went about asking the price...'Quanto questa, por favor", and was given a rapid fire response, to which I was obviously puzzled, a little boy standing right next to me, interpreted for me. For the next several hours this same boy, helped interpret and to even negotiate for the woman. At one point, I said, "You are not helping me, you need to go on your way!". Later on, I was about to turn a corner and walk home, when there was my
little friend again, asking where I was going, and I told him. He said, he would walk with me as he too lived in that same area. He asked if he could carry my bag. I let him. We passed the women doing their laundry on the lake shore, and a man who I thought was dead on the side of the road. He was lying there with an unlit cigarette in his hand. My little friend, Miguel, told me the man was not dead...he drank too much alcohol. When we got back to the hotel, he wanted to see my room. I showed him my perfectly charming little stone casita. He swang in my hammock outside until I was done getting ready for lunch. I asked him if he would like to join me. He said yes. As we were about to turn into the restaurant, I heard a voice call my name!! It was Bob, who had taken Janice and I too Chichi! I asked him if he would like to join Miguel and I and he did.
After lunch, it was time to send Miguel along his way. It was at this time, that he told me
that he was the boy who had carried my bag the day before. He gave me a big hug goodbye and told me with the biggest smile and the brightest biggest eyes...that he was going to give the money to his Madre. He asked if he could come by the next day to say goodbye to me. I told him I was leaving at 1:00..he said he would come by at noon.
The next morning, I came down to breakfast and was told by the owner of the hotel, that Miguel was waiting outside for me. She had given him a cup of coffee. I went to the door and invited him in to share my breakfast of blue corn pancakes with me. Bob came to join us, and helped me to resolve my issue with how I was going to get my bags to my next hotel, which reportedly had 500 steep steps up to the hotel. He suggested I take Miguel and go by private launcha. Brilliant. We then needed to go find his Madre to ask her permission. Miguel took us to his little casa which was a tin hut with a dirt floor...and his family
of 9 all lived there. Outside was a small toddler sitting in the dirt and the woman next door, on the other side of the fence, who was obviously watching the baby, said that Miguel;s mother was at the market, but she gave the okay to take him with me on the launcha to Tzununa. Bob did all the communicating. After that, we peeked in a house for sale...a great stone house. Santiago is known for it's excellent stone craftsmen. It is a precise art. If you notice the walls of the cottage I stayed in here at Posada, you will get an idea of what I mean.
When Miguel and I headed back to the hotel for our lunch, there was a young indigenous girl and her little daughter outside selling something. Miguel spoke to her in their native language of Kachiquel...
and then Miguel told me...her father was selling the house we peeked into that was for sale. Within moments the whole family was greeting me. We did our best to communicate. One of the daughters sold me a little change purse she made. Upon getting the price of 500,000 quetzales, we all hugged tightly, like we were
dear close friends, and went on our way!
After lunch, Miguel and I boarded our private launcha and were on our way across the lake to Lomas de Tzununa where I was to spend the next two nights. The stairs up were killer, but a helper was coming down the steps and helped carry the rest of my luggage. Then I headed back down to the boat to get Miguel back on safely, for his return back to Santiago....which meant I now had to make the flight up the 500 plus stairs again!!! The photo of his huge smile that I took while on the boat, says it all about his feelings concerning this BIG adventure! He wanted to know when I would be back, and I set a day and time for my return. Sunday, Feb 23rd at 12 o'clock noon. He will be waiting. My otherwise blank agenda, now has a confirmed date...one which absolutely cannot be broken!
I find everyday such richness in this culture. I wish I had visited this part of the world before raising my children. There are values here that don;t come from having bigger, better and more of. They come
from the heart, from caring for each other. You can see how strong the value of family is. It is such a gift to me, to be so lucky to be observing and even in many cases feeilng a part of their lives. It is rich. Very, very rich.
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