- I finished my research in Tikal. That felt really good.
- I said goodbye to Tikal. People were sad and I was glad to be done.
- I hiked the Cuchumatanes Mountains, the tallest non-volcanic mountains in Central America, at a break-neck speed because of the guide. That messed up my Achilles tendons, which did not feel good.
- I experienced the small step revolution (more on that later). That was revolutionizing.
- I summitted La Torre (3837 m), the tallest non-volcanic point in Central America. That was exhausting.
- I met lots of cool people in Tikal and Xela. That was invigorating.
- I decided not to volunteer with Quetzaltrekkers in order to return to the USA. That was bitter-sweet.
- I entered data and transcribed interviews. That was an accomplishment.
- I felt good about Guatemala while in Xela. It's such a cool place. That was good.
- I finally discovered the Menonite bakery in Xela. That was like being in the USA with all the doughnuts, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and whoopie pies. MMMMMMM.
- I knit a hat. That was relaxing.
- I sat in chujs/temascals/Mayan saunas. That was refreshing.
- I learned to weave. That has yet to be judged.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
At the end of my first day in Tikal in August, 2007, it seemed that everyone knew my name, which developed the affectionate nick name "la famosa Nancy"or famous Nancy. When I returned to the park a week later I was greeted by hundreds of workers with "hi, Nancy! Good to see you Nancy! You're back Nancy!" I was surprised that so many people remembered me. That recognition continued throughout my study as every day staff greeted me and talked to me with great interest. In Flores, store owners, Rotary members, and taxi drivers came to know who I was and greet me as well. Interesting, I thought, since I only interacted on a sporadic basis with all of them.
Then, my last week in Tikal, when I was saying my goodbyes to Don Salamon, the maintenance staff, Don Ramon, Carlos, and the other park staff, I realized that I had made a difference here. People knew me and liked me and seemed sad that I was leaving their small community. I received so many hugs, cheek kisses, trinkets, and handshakes that I finally saw that the park staff enjoyed my company. They recognized me as Nancy who sits in the Plaza and always asks how we are doing. Or as Nancy who says hi. Or just as Nancy the researcher. When both Carlos and Don Salamon seemed overcome with emotion at my parting, I was amazed that such small interactions over the course of 5 months could impact them so.
For me too, it was a sad parting from Tikal. I will miss hearing about Mayan cosmology from Don Salamon, joking with Carlos in American accents, and smiling when Rotary members shouted my full name gladly when they saw me. It was a great experience being part of Tikal and Flores' communities. It warms me to think that people cared about me there. And for that I will always be thankful.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The only act of rebellion against the mega power that I've seen was a grafitti on the side of la Despensa in Xela. It read, “ No a Wal-Mart. No al imperialismo. No Wal-Mart. No imperialism.” Ironically, the next day the message had been painted over and the wall returned to its brainwashed state of no recognition.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Today in Eat, Pray, Love, I listened to Gilbert’s reflections of her time in
- Blossoms everywhere in every color, shape, and texture.
- Warm weather and blue skies.
- Pupusas – stuffed tortillas filled with cheese, meat, beans, you name it. They’re actually from
, but they’re quite popular here. El Salvador
- Vibrant colors of weavings and traditional fabrics.
- Horrible Guatemalan-Spanish accents that make everyone sound like they’re constantly whining.
- Mayan temples.
- Xela aka Xelaju aka Quetzaltenango aka my favorite town in
. Guatemala Antigua.
- Chocolate from Chocotenango.
- Hot chocolate with cinnamon that tastes like the elixir of the gods.
- Smiles and encouragement at the gym.
- Micro buses that get me around the country.
- Refaccion, even though I hate snack break.
- The Westin Camino Real where Rotary meets weekly.
- My apartment, gray walls and everything.
- The toothless woman who sells tortillas and always grins when she sees me.
- The Curves security guards with their gold-lined teeth.
- The afternoon sun that turns everything golden.
- Toucans and parrots.
- Spider and howler monkeys.
- The checkers at the grocery store who all know me and always say hi.
- Vista Hermosa Bookshop, my local English language bookstore.
- Rainbow Room café in
Antiguaalthough I never find good books there.
- The very effeminate waiter at the bagel shop who knows exactly what I want every time I go in (1/2 dozen bagels, everything, onion, and some more everything).
- The fact that the Café Barista waiters always pretend not to know who I am, even though they really do.
- Gelato samples at Café Barista.
- Plants that survive in the canopy by absorbing mist from the air.
- Peten Itza and Yaxha lakes.
, even though I don’t like it. Lake Atitlan
- Cookies from the Menonite bakery in Xela.
- Cement slides I fly off of and crash spectacularly and scrape my knee on.
- Fresh tropical fruit like pineapples, zapotes, bananas, strawberries.
- Hot atol on cold mornings.
- Museums about the Maya, even though they need to work on their interpretation.
- My taxi driver, Juan Alonzo, just because he always gives me rides and looks out for me.
- Solitude, although I am frequently lonely.
- The back road to Curves.
- The poor taco stand boy trying to cross the street with his Pepsi Cola shaped grill.
- Rotary Club Guatemala Sur, for all its machismo actions and bingo playing.
- Triple days for Tigo cards.
- Calling internationally on my cell phone.
- The view of Volcanes Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango from the cross walk by the grocery store.
- Fruit venders who know what fruit I want to buy and the price I want to buy it at.
- Rex II, the golden retriever, who is always glad to see me.
- The fact the dog down the street and I made friends when I let her back inside her gate after she had somehow gotten out and didn’t know how to get back in.
- The crisp contrast between clear blue skies and fantastically painted walls, brightly colored flowers, and green leaves.
- The road to Xela. It takes forever, but the whole way is a beautiful mosaic of volcanoes, corn fields, and valleys.
- Sunsets and sunrises.
- Having time to write.
- The clipped Spanish spoken by the indigenous Maya.
- The way national tourists in
say they go to see Tikal to make sure it really exists. Tikal
- Travelers excited to be in
- Lightening storms.
- Crashing waves and black sand beaches of Monterrico.
- Watching baby sea turtles get released into the ocean.
- Two for one movie nights at the movie theater.
- Poporopo, the word for popcorn.
- Licuados, or smoothies, delicious whether they are made with water, milk, or yogurt.
- How it takes so long to get anywhere you notice the changing scenery
- Beberly and her hugs.
- The ambivalent nature of Guatemalan relationships.
- The fact that
imports cranberries, cheddar cheese, Silk soy milk, Twix, and maple syrup. Guatemala
- How the insanity of this country makes me laugh, shake my head, and jump on board… sort of.
- Chicken buses (like the Orellana Chicken Buses with their naked lady emblems).
- Crowding over 100 people into chicken buses
- Sitting in the back of a chicken bus and flying feet into the air whenever the bus goes over a speed bump (about ever 10 minutes).
- Pollo Campero and everyone’s obsession with it (it’s soooo good).
- Really ugly necklaces and embroidery thread covered pens that end up in Goodwill.
- Guatemalans perseverance even when the going gets tough.
- Scrambled eggs, refried beans, tortillas, and chili sauce being the only meal in the entire country (besides Pollo Campero).
- The number of tortillas one person eats per day (at least 20).
- Canyons, mountains, and plains.
- Watching Pacaya spew out lava.
- Being close enough to the
that people come to visit. USA
- How random people always offer help or advise, even when I don’t ask for it.
- Ceiba trees.
- Hearing awful ranchera songs for hours on the bus (“Si fuera ladron, te robaria tu cuerpo, te robaria tus besos, te robaria tu amor” If I was a thief, I would steal your body, I would steal your kises, I would steal your love).
- How very inflexible people are when it comes to sizes of things (“We only have the large size.” “Can’t you just fill it less?” “But we only have the large”).
- Too many people employed in one store so that my table gets mopped around at least three times while I’m sitting at it.
- Zip lines in
. Chuiraxamolo Municipal Park
- How shoestring backpackers think Casa
in Xela is the bomb, when it’s really just a gross, dirty hostel with broken beds and toilets that don’t function. Argentina
- Teresita from
- Church ruins in
- Pops ice cream and people’s obsession with eating it, especially in banana splits.
- Vesuvio Pizzaria, the only good pizza I’ve ever eaten in
Latin America(besides one other place in ). Ecuador
- Trees at 4000 meters.
- How excited people get about weather changes like snow in the highlands.
- Carlos Peña hairstyles. Nothing is hotter than the skunk cut.
- The Cathedral in Xela.
- The traditional dress of women from Zunil – florescent colors.
- Esperanza and her family with their ready laugh, jokes, smiles, and welcoming embraces.
These things make me happy everyday. They’re beautiful even when I don’t always think they are beautiful at the time. Although life in
Monday, January 7, 2008
Oak trees are one of the most familiar and homey trees I have experienced. Although I love the trees of
When I landed in
Seeing the bare limbs of the deciduous trees and the ice on Cedar Lake, feeling the warmth of family, and enjoying the spirit of the season through Christmas carols, caresses, and compassion, I felt safe and whole again for the first time in six months. What a remedy to months of solitude. The wintery symbols were all I needed to feel complete again.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
For the past 3 days tremors have shaken
On Friday, I sat in my flimsy chrome chair at the kitchen table resolutely punching numbers into my
My eyes went wide in shock and fear. I’d never been in a big earthquake before, and this was big. This was moving my whole house in a circular skewering movement. What was I supposed to do? Frantically I stood and shaky-kneed moved over to pick up my passport, debit cards, water, and camera from a nearby chair and shoved them in a bag. Now what? Was I supposed to run outside to escape a collapsing building or hide in a doorway, closet or bathroom like in a tornado?
Within 10 seconds the quake stopped, leaving the world as stagnant, yet unsettled, as before it started. The world seemed inert again, but also suddenly alive and full of the human tension that permeates
The rest of the day, while I tried to ignore the thought that “the earth is still very much alive,” as Pibs says, I couldn’t help being hypersensitive to subtle movements. My shaky table continued to shake as I typed on my computer’s keyboard. Was that the start of another quake? I occasionally lifted my hands from it to see if the world was moving. The forceful 80 mph wind outside howled and shook the house. I turned off the music to listen.
I fell asleep that evening to restless dreams where The New Pornographers’ “
The following morning Bridgette, who was over 70 miles away from me called to say she had felt the night quake too. Fear slunk coldly into me as I thought of how strong a quake had to be for both her house and my house to move to the same tremor. The day past quietly and the earth seemed to have scratched the itch that pestered it into shaking. My nerves calmed a little, wondering how many more “study abroad moments” I really wanted to experience in
Today I went and talked to Rosemarie and Roberto about proper earthquake protection. Rosemarie’s eyes went wide as she said, “Yes! It was a very big quake! They are normally very small quakes but this was big.” Roberto interjected, “Yes in the papers it said it was a 5 something.” Roberto informed me that upon a tremor I should lie down next to the bed and throw a blanket over me. Going under the bed meant I could get squashed. I refrained from saying that I was sure lying next to the bed would do little to stop the ceiling from killing me either.
I had just returned to my work when I felt it again. The earth shuddered and twisted. The earth-monster was trying to reappear. Again, my eyes popped open with fear as my breath came low and shallow. The world shook and I thought, “I just want to go home, please.” Maybe the earth heard me as the world righted itself seconds later. Maybe I’m just hopeful that it listened. Mostly, I want to leave before the sky crashes into the earth’s hungry mouth.
Friday, January 4, 2008
Friends made all the difference. Having someone to talk to and share with, experience and wonder with, and inspire me to explore
Thank God for Pibs with his words of inspiration and support, for Hanne who got me out there, and for Bridgette’s calming and cheerful presence. They saved December and
Then I went home. I went home to the warm embraces of family for Christmas. I nearly cried when I set my feet on the homeland again. There was
Even though the Christmas traditions were different from
This December blessed me with family and friends. They saved
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Her apartment lies in the basement of a quiet residential street in
Back on the N train, we commuted to mid town
We followed the rush of people trying to make their way to see the ball. I walked along trying to figure out why everyone makes such a big deal out of New Year’s anyway. All people seem to do is get dressed in outrageous clothes, go to some party, get drunk and try to make out with some person. Or maybe that’s what we always think people are doing. My New Year’s eves normally consist of going to a movie or wishing I had some place to go out to while my parents and their friends eat roasted chestnuts and shrimp cocktail and put together puzzles at home. Well, now was my chance to see what New Yorkers do.
After following the crowd ever further uptown away from
The Snug was packed with all sorts of people as the final half hour ticked by. The bar tenders handed out party hats and noise makers in preparation for the madness. Instantly, the bar was full of loud hoots, shrieks, toots, and crackling noises as people tried out their respective noise makers. Girls went into the boys bathrooms when the line for the girl potty backed up so far the call of nature took over.
Finally, the final two minutes approached. The crowd went wild blowing on their noise makers and shouting, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!” The ball began to drop, celebrating its 100th year of existence. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!” the crowd in the Snug exclaimed. The three of us stood and laughed as people began downing champagne, jumping in the air, kissing their significant others or whoever else was around, and crying joyfully about the New Year. Old Langs Ain began playing and people drunkenly tried to sing along. Their attempts were noble, but we didn’t stick around to hear them. It was time to head for the subway.
On our walk there, we passed by separate groups of people hollering happily, “HAPPY F****** NEW YEAR! HAPPY M***** F****** NEW YEAR!” Hell yeah! Other groups were unhappily crying and screaming at each other saying, “I can’t BELIEVE you kissed her!!!!!!” “Well, you went off with TOM!” Bad idea. New Year’s ruined. Not smart to randomly kiss people. Hopefully the rest of the year kicks off better for them.
Finally we reached the
Wishing you a very happy and fruitful 2008! It's gonna be great in 2008!