Theresa's time of reflection in Nebaj.


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Published: February 15th 2012
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Between the rocksBetween the rocksBetween the rocks

In someone's back yard, a charcoaled area with melted candles, a cross, and the faint smell of incense... this is a Mayan sacred ceremony site.
Hola,

Entry from Theresa:

As Dave was enjoying his hike in the Altitudes of "way too high for Theresa to handle", I had some time to catch up on emails, watch TV, and read. Nebaj was a bit of a hole in that it rained every day, it was mucky and dirty, only about 10 C, and close to zero at night, and no place had any heat, or closed doors. I wore my thermal underwear and multiple layers all day and went to the only nice restaurant in town, on a daily basis. I was on first name basis with the waiters by the time Dave returned, 3 days later. Whilst checking emails, I had a time-line due to my hands freezing, so I lasted about 40 minutes. In the hotel room, the room was about 5 degrees colder than outside, I watched a few movies in English with Spanish subtitles with my coat, thermals and wool socks on, and the blankets over me, and studied the translations, looking up the odd word now and again. They seem to like shoot-em-up movies in Guatemala. Since there was only one English channel, I was stuck watching all three Sniper
Los ninosLos ninosLos ninos

This Mayan sacred site was on top of a hill. It was for parents to do ceremony on their children. Two ladies came to pray/chant in their Ixil language about their children. One lady lit 8 candles for her children, the other lady lit 4 candles.
movies.

Amongst these "really busy things" of trying to keep busy in the rain....

On the second day, I took a lovely 2 hour tour with a local guide (amongst the sun and rain - did you say sun? Yes, I did... for 20 minutes), who showed me all of the Mayan sacred sites in the town. We walked up hills and down hills, through back yards, between barbed wire fences (with slippery mud - yes, the only thing to grab if I slipped was a barbed wire fence...I opted for the "fall on my arse" option if I did fall. Luckily, no falls...) The Mayan (Ixil) people have preserved much of their ceremonial practices here, with an amalgamated Christian approach (an added cross to the site). Each site had a different focus to setting intentions of the ceremony. The photos will speak more for you...enjoy

On the last day of waiting for Dave, the sun came out! No, really? Really! So I decided to enjoy it by going out to the central park with journal in hand, and do a little bit of "in the now" writing. Hopefully it captured my experience as I sat there
Another Special Sacred SiteAnother Special Sacred SiteAnother Special Sacred Site

This site still had another purpose. As the guide and I approached, I felt like I was intruding and decided not to take a photo. But the guide asked the man if it was okay (without me asking), so I took a photo. The candles buring, the francensence being dropped onto the fire, and his constant talking out loud as he sent out his intentions to his spirit guides/gods.
minding my own business... and reflecting on what my physical senses were experiencing in the moment...

...The sun is out now, it is 11:30am and I'm soaking up the rays with the locals in the plaza where the church was built during the Spanish "transition/invasion". I've been approached by 2 shoe shine boys so far. They like the sight of my brown leather hikers. As much as I'd like to be invisible or to be a fly on the wall, it won't work. Once a Gringa, always a Gringa. No matter how I dress or how I speak the language, I will always be a Gringa Turista. Like all other parques and plazas there are all kinds of things being sold. Watches, jewellery, candies, food, and of course, the ever present "shoe shiners".

To the left of me, a man gets his shoes shined by a young boy. Two other boys sit on their shoe shine boxes and watch as they engage in conversation with the boy working. The shine takes but only a few minutes. The boy's hands are skilled, never missing a beat, his hands blackened with shoe shine chemicals. A small boy approaches me. A
A Cemetery in NebajA Cemetery in NebajA Cemetery in Nebaj

So colourful... many graves were children. And names were painted on, only to fade in the elements... Flowers were common. The Mayan sacred sites were little huts in the cemetary that were smoke stained, with crosses, melted wax, insense and flowers from the worship of the past loved ones.
strap around his forehead carries the shoe shine treasures in the box across his back. Another boy approaches with the same intention. "No gracias," I say. The bench across from me becomes a new shoe shine station as the winning boy wears a smile on his face knowing that the money he makes today will feed him for yet another day. Ladies parade through the park wearing baskets on their heads full of items they hope to sell. A colourful blanket expertly slung around one lady's shoulders carries her youngest child, as she balances the full basket on her head. A preacher's voice fades and loudens as he walks through the park with today's sermon. The smell of shoe shine becomes more pronounced as the 1st boy on my left finishes off his perfect shine. The shoe shine boy across from me had already finished his shine and the workstation had dissolved into an empty bench in the sun. The boy counts his money after giving change to his satisfied customer. The other two boys with him, laugh at a joke, in Ixil.

I am approached by a man who sells watches.

He asks me "Who are you?" in broken English.

I say, "my name is Theresa y tu?"

"Gregorio".

"You speak English?" I ask him.

"Yes, a little. Do you speak Spanish?"

"Si, yo hablo espanol, un poco."

He attempts to sell me a watch on his portable carrying board. He shows me a small and delicate watch.

"No, solo una" as I point to my own watch. He looks at my watch and says, "grande". I ask him if he has good work selling watches, "Bien trabaja?"

"Si", he replies. The man departs to another part of the plaza, looking for future clients.

"Hasta luego", I say to him, as I move to a more shaded bench, the sun burning my head through my hat.

The preacher's voice becomes a steady background noise as he continues his sermon, still fading and loudening as he turns around to face people in the park. Kids frolic in the plaza around me on the brick-tiled pathways, as the adults enjoy a bit of the sun in the rain soaked climate of Nebaj, Guatemala. A truck drives by the plaza, loud speakers blaring their advertisement. As many people do not know how to read, they reach more people this way. A sign with symbols catches my eye. "Libertad 15 de Septiembre 1921" a drawing of a quetzal bird sits on the worded golden scroll. Two rifles and two swords cross each other behind the scroll. The symbol is surrounded by green leaves. A small black and white dog scavenges for food, as do many other half starving dogs, in these parts of the country. It keeps its distance from me like it has learned to be leary of us humans. The smell of smoke fills my sinuses. The smoke from many homes that use firewood to make their meals. Since the beginning of this paragraph, as I capture these many things, 5 more shoe shine boys have approached me to shine my hikers. Possibly some of the same boys that approached me earlier, just in case I had decided to change my mind. In my new seat beneath the shade, a new shoe shine workshop occurs across from me. This time it is the preacher. A young woman walks by me, her red traditional skirt, her colourful blouse. A shoe shine boy approaches me and stares. He says something to me that possibly means "shoe shine" in another language. I say "no gracias." He says something back and I am forced to say, "no hablo espanol. No Entiendo." He stares at me as I continue to write in my journal, then begins to leave. A man sits down to my right and says something to the boy. The boy begins to shine his shoes. A lady approaches me in her colourful, traditional clothes. She is selling things "cosas" in her basket and speaks far too fast for me to understand. I am again saying, "no hablo Espanol. No Entiendo." She departs. A boy with a small cooler approaches. "Helados? (ice cream?)", "no gracias", I reply. There are two people behind me in the centre of the plaza chanting words repetetively, the words of the things that they are selling. They speak too quickly to make out the translation. A girl carrying a tray of tortillas walks by. The cotton pad still on her head that she uses to balance her tray. A boy takes the photo of his mom on the park bench. Her clothes adorned with golden thread, her sandles with purple lace, a strange contrast to the tattered clothes of people working in the park. The boy shining the man's shoes beside me, sniffs, as they speaks Ixil. A horn beeps and the motors of the tuk-tuks sound as they drive around the plaza. A big bang sounds! Fireworks are a cultural thing in Guatemala. As a lady once said to me, they use certain ones during the day and others in the tarde or noche.

By this time, as shoe shine boys continue to ask me for a shoe shine for the bigillianth time, I have resorted to just shaking my head no... and continue writing... Two women walk by. One in latino clothes (western) and one with the traditional red skirt but she dons a winter jacket, reflecting the true climate in this town. A little girl walks by me with a fresh tortilla tray. Smells good... Time for lunch...

Well, amigos and amigas, I hope you enjoyed a bit of the "life and current times" of the Crannster.

Signing out for now,

Theresa

p.s. When Dave returned from his hike, dripping wet, cold and muddy, and did not get a warm shower that evening.... then my 3 days did not seem as dreary as they were. Hee hee.

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