Where’s Jeff Now?

I have been off the radar for a while. The reason why is that the Internet is a 30 minute boat ride away, or a 1 hour bus ride. So I don’t get over here to Flores to send out updates very often. When I do, the unreliable power system has been foiling me. Last time I was in Flores, I hardly had enough time with power on to get critical stuff like bills taken care of. Then the power inside the Internet cafe failed, partially. During this week’s visit, we have already had two city-wide power outages, so I am going to be saving this early and often!

I have been in San Andrés for three weeks studying Spanish, as planned. I’ve really enjoyed San Andrés and have learned a huge amount of Spanish. I’ve finished up my classes here and will be moving on. More about that later, if the power doesn’t go out.

Last weekend I visited Flores for the Semana Santa (Saint’s Week, leading up to Easter) procession on Friday evening, and then visited Tikal on Saturday. The procession was interesting. They carried huge float-like things through the street. In the front was Jesus, lying in a casket thing. He was carried by the men of the church. There were at least 8 men down each side of it, and from the look of them, they could have used a few more. The next float back was the Vigrin Mary, which was carried by the women of the church. Then there were a couple more who I didn’t recognize carried by the young women of the church, and the boys. Along the procession route, which passed the 12 (I think?) stations of the cross (in front of people’s houses), people made designs in the street. They mostly used sawdust dyed different colors, but they also used things you might see in a table centerpiece for Thanksgiving, and chalk, and leaves from the forest. The leaves were especially fragrant after everyone walked on them. I got a few pictures of the designs they made. Most were very Catholic, and included the name of the sub-group of the church that made them. Like the Womens’s Group of the Church of So and So. Or the youth group, etc. One was quite different, and I found out from someone next to it that it was a Mayan god. Cool! Even infidels are invited to processionals here in Guatemala!

The “proper” way for a backpacker to go to Tikal is to head up and spend the night, then bribe the guards to get in before sunrise and have some kind of mystical experience on top of the ruins at sunrise. This is no doubt fueled by the massive quantites of cheap pot they smoked the night before, probably with the same guards. Being older and lazier, and not really of a mystical bent, I just did the vanilla one day trip on a bus to see Tikal. I suppose I really should have partaken of the pot and whatnot, because to me, Tikal was just a bunch of very hot rocks in a very hot forest. I’m not the kind of person who goes crazy over rocks from old civilizations, but I suspect if I’d arranged to be there at a less hot time, I might have enjoyed it more. I’m really glad I went, but I’m even happier I’m not there right now, and won’t be ever again.

How hot was it, you ask? Funny thing… I made the observation to my Spanish teacher this week that in places where is is very hot, you don’t see thermometers. I think it would just be too depressing. It is really difficult to judge the temperature anyway, because the humidity changes a lot from day to day, and that makes all the different to us vapor-cooled mammals. The best measurement of how hot it was in Tikal is that I drank over 3 liters of water that day and still got noticibly dehydrated. It took two days or so after I got back to get my intake and outflow of water to match up into the stable pattern I try to maintain while traveling. (Sorry to lapse into a discussion, however delicately put, about the color of my pee. It’s one of those things you just kind of have to learn to keep track of when you are on the road. As you all are virtually on the road with me, you get to find out all about it!)

I did see a monkey with a baby on its back though. And some birds. But as I was there in the heat of the day, the wildlife viewing was less than average.

One final note in my defense… it so happened that the best time for me to see Tikal was the weekend of Semana Santa, which made it impossible to get a hotel room. Again, if I was the intrepid backpacker type, that wouldn’t have stopped me. (One guy told me you just drink with the guards and when they pass out drunk, you sleep in their hammocks. Clever guy, but not my style.) Being older and more boring, I opted for the one day trip.

I spent my third week in San Andrés learning more Spanish. I’ve had several real world conversations with locals which were not limited to the normal stuff (where from, where to, what time, etc). I met one guy who is a mechanic, and somehow the conversation turned to San Francisco and movies and how ther are always great car chases in them, and the guy blurted out, after thinking for a bit, “Steve MacQueen!”. Much laughter ensued.

I’m going to finish up and post this now, in hopes I can beat the next power outage, which as I type is probably on its way. Stay tuned for more about my plans for the next week.

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