Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Santiago La Laguna, Guatemala, el treinte de noviembre, 2016

Walking to school this morning was so nice because Christmas music was blasting in the streets.  So many of the songs are familiar, just the lyrics are in Spanish of course.  Today has been a better day.  Is it because the sun is shining?  Is it because I went to Santiago so wasn't bored to death?  

Rather than go in a lancha both ways, I took a chicken bus there.  It cost 10 Q - $1.79.  The first third of the way was great - new pavement and the bus was just ripping.  Then, the second third was rough gravel and I honestly could have walked faster than the bus.  The last third was back to pavement.  

Santiago is a lovely town on the laguna-

with many typical tourist shops selling textiles-

wood knick knacks-

and now because Navidad is approaching-

nativity scenes.  But who buys this stuff?  And when there are numerous shops in a row, all selling the same???   

The Saint James the Apostle Church was built in 1547 by Franciscan friars who came to settle and convert the Tzutuhil - Maya indigenous people, who had lived in the area since 900 BC.  The church has been devastated numerous times by earthquakes but today is repaired and decorated for advent-

The sides are lined with statues-

And as usual, there are many fresh flowers at the altar-

There were about a dozen wedding banns-

Besides visiting the local iglesia, one of the main reasons to come to Santiago is to see Maximón, the drunken, devilish Maya God.  I just had to ask around town where to find him.  "Ariba!"  "Ariba,  entonces giras izquierda."  So I did-

Everyone knows where a white person is headed in a Maya town.  I caught up to a Mom carrying a child and she said "Maximón?".  "Si."  "Aqui."  "Si?"

You can't be serious?


A family was already visiting.  They brought eggs, baskets of fruit and vegetables and boxes of who knows what and set them in front of Maximón while they prayed, spread incense everywhere and crossed themselves.  I thought that was kind of weird.  Once they were finished, they left with all their goods and I had him to myself-

People bring offerings of cigarettes and beer.  The boys and men in the background were just sitting around the table, drinking beer.  It costs 2Q (36 cents) to visit and 10Q ($1.79) to take pictures.

Santa Cruz-

And Saint Nicolas are also here-

Outside, they sell candles for offerings-

Black candles are associated with Jupiter and Saturday.  They are burned to confuse a doubter, an enemy, or a betrayer and to get rid of a bad neighbor!

Maximón (Ma-she-mon) is known as Satan, a relic of the pre-colonial Maya religion or a Catholic Saint.  He wears a black suit, sports a sombrero and has a moustache.  He either smokes a cigarette, pipe or cigar and is surrounded by rum or Quetzalteca (local alcohol), candles and all kinds of other offerings.

Here in Santiago is where Maximón began.  He's looked after by a group of men who take turns moving and welcoming him into their homes for a year at a time.  He's a leftover of a past religion but revered by many Catholics.  Like today, there were other saints present, however the church thinks prayers to Maximón are witchcraft but he has evolved so Mayas can be Catholics but keep their traditional ceremonies and medicines.  People pray to Maximón when they want something material or nasty and can pray while drinking and smoking! 

Very interesting!  It made me think about people who see Christianity, Islam and/or Buddhism as quackery.  Religions are just cults, made by humans to meet some need - real or imagined.  How is Maximón truly any different than another religion?  

Back in San Pedro, while walking home from the lancha, women were washing clothes-

My family does their washing on a large concrete slab inside the house.  Only cold water is available and each item is hand scrubbed, hand wrung and hung to dry on the second floor.  They don't own a vacuum - raw concrete floors are swept often and washed with a pail and scrub brush.  Maria has more than a full time job just doing household chores!

I've booked my shuttle to Xela and will be leaving San Pedro Saturday morning at 8:30.  I'm looking forward to seeing someplace new.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, el 29 de noviembre, 2016

Not much happened today.  School was okay - as a language teacher, I have issues with the way I'm being taught.  This week I've been learning about the past tense, but how do you do that in an effective way?  I don't think by writing the exceptions on the board and assigning phrases where the verb must be conjugated into the sentence, at least not before the concept has been exhausted orally.    I think there has to be a lot of talking using particular verbs with all subjects:  I, you, he/she, we and they.  Unfortunately we don't do that.  We did, however, spend a lot of time talking, although Mynor did a lot of it.  That's okay, I need to listen and try to understand.

After lunch, I decided to go to Santiago via lancha.  I waited in the boat for 30+minutes , then decided I didn't need to go that badly, especially when it cost $5 each way.  Maybe I'll try again tomorrow on a chicken bus.

Due to the rising waters of Lake Atitlan, this former home-

the trees and this tienda-

are no longer habitable.  

So, I just wandered around town and came across Doña Iyom Chona Rax- a local midwife who delivered babies for over 70 years!  She delivered 6 generations of children - 2000+ babies!  Some days she saw 15 patients! She started when she was 15 and retired as doctors and hospitals came to la Laguna.  She died this past January.  Apparently Maya midwives are born with a 'don' -  a destiny which is marked by a thin veil of skin over a portion of a baby's face.  Parents are told to watch for this sign in their newborns-

This evening, school showed a film called Diario de Motocicleta - Motorcycle Diaries.  It's a true story when Che Guevara and Alberto Granada traveled from Brazil to Peru on one motorcycle.  I left after half an hour.  It was difficult to hear the Spanish and rather than have Spanish subtitles, they were in English, and what I could understand wasn't exactly how it was translated.  In the first half hour, it seemed more about a love story "typical Hollywood" than some cool ride.  Films in a language school should be played in the target language with the sub-titles also in the target language, rather than translated.  Oh well....

Sometimes I get such a depressed feeling walking around these streets.  People are poor.  I just walked by a house where they are sitting on the floor.  They have no furniture and if they do, often it's plastic.  People aren't begging, but many have little.  They eat tortillas- ground corn and water 3 times/day.  I guess that's like us if we eat bread three times/day.  Sometimes I feel sad here and wonder what am I doing here when I have so much at home.  Sometimes all I want to do is go home and live in my luxury, and I think, why don't I just relax and enjoy this place?  People who are "lucky" by my standards anyway, have scooters to get around but most walk or use tuk-tuks. I guess it's important for me not to judge their happiness - from what I've witnessed, they are happy and that is the main thing.  Sometimes I think they are better off than at home.  So many Canadians need to keep up with the neighbors and even though they can't truly afford it, they live in big homes, drive new vehicles and go on all inclusive holidays once/year.  The rest of the year they work hard to at least pay the interest at the bank.  Maybe the people here have it figured out better than we do!

Getting a little philosophical tonight!  Is it age or boredom and frustration?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Mi cumpleaños, San Pedro de Laguna, el 28 de noviembre, 2016

So now I'm 55!  Freedom 55, isn't that what they say?  Well, I had a good day, but everyday seems good - lucky me!

Last night coming home the Catholics were having another procession, making their way to the only Catholic Church in town-

Men carry the float, shuffling along.  It's lit up with big spotlights that are powered by a generator that is pulled along too.  Traffic is backed up but no one seems to mind; it's just part of life in Guatemala!

Today, being the big day that it is, I met Mynor, mi profesor at school and we went out for breakfast.  I had a very fresh croissant stuffed with bacon (my first since leaving home), eggs, tomato and avocado!  It was excellent!  

I started learning the past tense this morning.  It's going to take awhile!

After class, I helped Maria make tamales.  The potatoes were already cooked and mashed and the carne was soaking in a tasty sauce-

First, we put potatoes on the leaves-

Then carne on top-

And then a slice of pepper and 3 raisins-

Then we folded up the leaves-

I don't like tamales with corn mash, but with potatoes they're much better.  They are usually tied up with string, then heated.  They are super popular everywhere I've been in Guatemala.  

I also prepared a piña, manzanas and a papaya for a special frutas drink that was cooked on the wood stove-

After helping, I walked to San Juan, a local pueblo-

back to my favorite restaurant for wine-

On the way are numerous murals depicting Maya history-

This one reminded me of Jane and Nico!  

San Juan is a textile town and this image depicts the loom and dying pots-

Coffee and other crops are important-

After an earthquake and mudslide, complete with coffins for the dead-

The San Juan Católica Church has an interesting exterior but is still in typical Spanish style-

The interior is interesting-

Returning home for supper, I picked up my cake-

Mi familia-

Mynor, a friend who's been eating with us the past week, me, Theresa - Maria's mother , Brenda and Maria.

A Guatemalico tradition is to take a bite out of the cake-

Maria and Elenita enjoying tamales and cake-

Tomorrow afternoon, I hope to go to Santiago, another nearby pueblo. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Panajachel, Guatemala, el 27 de noviembre, 2016

After café and huevos, I headed to Panajachel, the largest town on the lake.  The easiest way to get there is via lancha, a small boat that waits until it has 15 passengers.  It cost $5 for a 25 minute ride.

Panajachel is a typical Guatemalan pueblo with a market for the residents-

If I wasn't paying for my board and room, I would be buying fresh vegetables and making my meals, but that's why I pay the big bucks, to not have to do that so....

La Iglesia Católica San Francisco de Asis-

 was originally built in 1567 but has been restored.

It has a wooden roof and combines Christian statues and Maya paintings-

Closer to the lake, in the tourist part of town, there are a lot of booths selling apparently the best priced crafts in the country.  I didn't buy anything, except I did have a michelada, which was gross.  

First, the bartender who was about 12, salted the glass and squeezed 2 large lemons into the cup-

Next, he added a tomato type juice that tasted a bit like Clamato.  It was nice and spicy-

Next he added chamoy and salsa en polvo-

And finally the beer-

It's my first and last!

It was a day of firsts because I had my first ever ceviche and wow! it's the best thing I've ever eaten-

It was served with plain soda crackers.  It's going to be something I eat at home A LOT!  It was sooo good!  I can't believe I haven't had it before.

I continued walking around.  The view of the volcanoes and lake is superb-

The public playa was a popular spot today because it was pretty hot.  Unfortunately, the lake is really polluted-

This time I wasn't so lucky with my timing on the lancha.  This morning, I only waited about 3 minutes before we left but returning to San Pedro, I waited 30 minutes until the boat was full.  

San Pedro is very pretty-

I bet this is the guy who tries to wake me up about 4 am!

It's back to school tomorrow and the start of learning the past tense!

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