|Friends from the streets of |
San Marcos, Guatemala
|Friends from the streets of |
San Marcos, Guatemala
|On the streets of Guatemala City|
|Jeannette- One of the founders |
of Casa Hillel
|The orthodox synagogue building. |
The members of Casa Hillel are generally
not welcome here
|There's a beautiful building |
hidden in there
|Once inside, we felt safe!|
|Our classroom where |
' aprendo espanol'
|lighting the communal menorah|
|Amir and I making latkes in the |
After our Spanish lesson, Amir (also a resident Israeli) and I got busy in the communal kitchen to make latkes. When they were finally done (latkes always take longer than expected) we carried them over to a restaurant called Ganesh. There was live music and lots of people and Daisy organized candle lighting. It was fun and we were able to share our heritage and ritual with many people who had never experienced it before. It was also wonderful to connect with other Jewish people from all around the world gathering together to celebrate our common culture.
|singing Chanukah tunes together|
|This is what I see when I am in my headstand |
during my yoga practise
|You can see Santiago in the background|
|Ready for Yoga|
|First communion (an interesting |
blend of Catholic and Mayan culture)
|Carless streets of San Cristobal|
|That's me and Franscico|
|A great way to travel!|
|The oldest church in Mexico|
|I bought a gorgeous woolen |
Poncho for my friend Jill
from these women
Palenque…here we are immersed in Mexican culture. It’s 10:30 am and we’ve just been walking the streets looking for a café con café ey wifi. Small shops line the streets displaying goods overflowing out of windows onto the street. Small tables, covered with fresh fruits, vegetables, and newly slaughtered chickens occupy corners. Residents wander purchasing their food. People, busy in the streets, carry on their daily routines.
Music blares throughout the village. It’s loud. Spanish is a loud language even when it’s spoken quietly. I’m learning to speak some. I’m hoping by the time I return to Canada I will be fluent. My formal lessons really start once I get to Guatemala. For now I am learning by trying to speak with people on the street. Ironically I am realizing how much French I know. Too often my ‘Spanish’ comes out in ‘French’. I usually rely on the universal language of communication. I can often make myself understood. But there is nothing like speaking the language of the people. I am trying hard to get there.
I am noticing how different I feel in the Mexican culture. It’s heavy. People speak loudly. There is not much subtlety here. Joyful Latin music blares everywhere. There is no attempt to try to please travellers by playing popular music from the west. There is a simple pride here. I feel it everywhere I go. Mexicans demonstrate their cultural presence just by being who they are. There is no sign of pretence, just a natural way of being. It’s comfortable for me, and yet, I don’t feel ‘home’. I am a visitor.
Military presence is evident throughout the state of Chiapis. Checkpoints occur often on the main roads and security stops are regular occurrences. There is societal unrest, due, mostly, to the oppressive attitudes towards the Native locals here. Like our Native community in Canada, there is fear of losing cultural identification and of being eradicated as a civilization. The culture is strong now, due, I suppose to the cooperative efforts of Mayan people throughout Central America.
As we travel I am very aware of the difference between being a tourist and being a traveller. As a traveller, I feel relaxed. Paul and I wake up where ever we are and say, “What do you want to do today?” Sometimes it’s just about hanging out at a café and experiencing Mexican life around us.
Our accommodation is called The Jungle Palace. It really is in the middle of the jungle. Our room is basic. Fortunately we have our own washroom, and a simple balcony with a chair for sitting. There, I find myself lost in the wild.
I have been practising Yoga daily and loving the experience of laying my mat down on the wet dirt of the jungle. As I smell the wet dirt I make friends with the palm tree that receives my touch with each sun salutation I complete. I get to listen to the sounds of the jungle mingled with the rumble of cars in the background and local builders using chain saws and other construction machinery. It is all a part of what is around here. Yoga reinforces that presence of the whole for me.
As I travel further south in Guatemala I am open to embracing more and learning about this interesting and rich people!
I am sitting cross-legged and alone on the summit of a small hill. I am overlooking the grounds of an ancient Mayan village in Palenque. Surrounding me are five distinct mounds. Atop each elevation stand remains of temples left over from Mayan civilization from over 1400 years ago! Each hill, each temple, exudes an ancient historical energy from its time.
The scene is intensified because the village is in the midst of the jungle. The growling of monkeys, heard clearly through the trees reminds me that this is their home now. The absence of human life is evident by the emptiness of the architecture. Travellers come to visit, but the activity of life that once existed here no longer dominates.
I am reminded of the book Chariots of the Gods that I read when I was a teenager. The premise is that ancient architecture is a unique example of geometric perfection without the technology or machinery available today. Who made these buildings… so perfect and strong that they are still standing today? How, after 1500 years do the solid walls remain erect and usable with even the sculptures carved into the walls surviving?
The green grass and variety of trees, some of them old and wise-looking, keep me grounded. It is hard for me to relate to a life in the sixth century. What did people do back then? What did they think about? How did they find joy? Where did they seek out meaning to their lives? How did they relate to one another?
Mayan culture is so rich in religious and political expression. It seems to be inspired by the perception of close connections between human behaviour and the Gods. It seems that so much of the Mayan activity focuses on making sense of life through death. Much of the art and jewellery concentrates on helping individuals pass comfortably into the other world. Samples of individuals’ lives are placed in the tombs of the dead as a gift to the Gods and a promise for good things in the afterlife.
In the art, there is only a slight differentiation between human and Godly characteristics. Most of the artefacts that have been found in Palenque reflect the very close relationship between the two. Grotesque faces combined with weird flying figures and wild animals come together to accentuate the possibilities of nature’s expression. Complex masks, ornate jewellery and clay representations of the gods reinforce the close relationship. The culture thrives here in Palenque as well as in other regions in the area. The strength of Mayan influence dominates primarily from countries in this part of Central America: Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Belize.
The spirituality that is the expression of the culture is unique for me. It is different from that which I find so easily in India, which is evident in the streets and in the minute to minute living of the people. I suppose that is true here too, and as I learn more about the Mayan civilization I seek a better understanding of how religion, culture and day-to-day life translate into their spiritual expression.