S: The Maya and More: Belize, Guatemala and Honduras 2012
FC: The Maya and More Belize, Honduras, Guatemala October 2012 | Lost World Tikal Guatemala
2: A | Belize Zoo
3: BELIZE CITY 10-11-12 English is the national language of Belize. Most people also speak Spanish and a Creole to each other. Even in the Mayan village everyone speaks those three languages plus their own Mayan dialect. Creole expressions casino = 'contribution center' speed bumps (upon entering and exiting all settlements) = 'sleeping policeman' unBELIZEable The education system is a combined effort of church and state. The church builds the buildings and teaches their own religion and the state pays the salaries of the teachers. Belize is the size of Massachusetts, with about 350K citizens, and 6 traffic lights in the country. Roundabouts frequently substitute for traffic lights. Belize became independent from Great Britain in 1981. The queen is still on Belizian coins and currency. Any Belizian citizen over age 18 can get a free plot of land from the government, size depending on the location (100x50 in the city, 75 acres in the country). Houses are built as families save money, meaning that the countryside is full of partially built concrete structures. at the end, most Belizians own their own homes. The administrative capital Belmoran had a population of 7K, doubled in recent years by refugees from El Salvador. Belize exports raw brown sugar, orange juice concentrate (Minute Maid and Tropicana), bananas, lobster, conch, shrimp and farm raised tilapia, chocolate (Hershey) and crude oil. They decided not to refine oil in country to avoid polluting their Great Barrier Reef and 3 atolls that draw the tourists. TO SAN IGNACIO 10-12-13 We visited the Belize zoo but missed the jaguars due to construction. The zoo is a refuge for wild animals used in making documentary films about rain forests. Visiting San Antonio, a village of 3000 Mayan farmers, we learned about plants used for healing, Mayan cooking (sampling home ground tortillas, atole and pumpkin cooked in honey). A woman's cooperative also makes pottery from clay harvested locally. We are experiencing the rainy season, with 100% humidity, rain this am and 3 times this afternoon. "Please do not flush the toilet with your foot" In the hotel shuttle "If you must accept a ride with someone write down a description of the person and vehicle and leave on the front seat of the disabled vehicle" Toilet paper is not flushed but put in a basket next to the toilet. Elderhostel's first trip was this one, the Mayan ruins, and it has been running for 18 years. Our guide Julio is guiding this trip for the 99th time. The group has an unusual number of single people (3 couples, one threesome, 9 singles and 1 from the travel agency). We do have the usual complement of nurses and teachers plus retired military, including one WAC. One couple is joining us late due to a blizzard in Vermont. The bus is designed for smaller people and we have just enough seats for everyone, with no extra room for carry-ons. Guess I can't shop until the end.
4: Mayan Shaman | Making Tortillas | Cooking area
5: SAN IGNACIO BELIZE 10-13 We walked to the San Ignacio farmers market this morning. Our guide Patrick is a native and he is very proud that the city is renovating its downtown area. The Belize government granted a group of Mennonites 45 sq acres of jungle in Spanish Lookout in the 50's. For 20 years the Mennonites were not required to pay taxes as they developed their land, cornering the market on chicken and eggs, dairy (Brahmas), imported tires. Their prices undercut other local entrepreneurs. When oil was found on their land in 2004 (and no where else in Belize), oil wells were added. The area looks like anywhere in the American Midwest, rolling fields, farm implement stores, tractor sales. The small initial group (5k to 7k) is now marrying into Belize and facing the problems of most modern parents - kids fascination with dirt bikes and motorcycles and the consumer life style. despite the big pickup trucks, the big billboards and the car dealership style buildings, the community has only one road in and one road out and it is marooned during floods. Since Belize has no car manufacturing and the tax on new cars is 54%, many Belizians make a living by buying cars in the US and driving them down to Belize in 3 or 4 days. Taiwan is working with Belizian agriculturalists, offering scholarships in Taiwan to Belize citizens and offering other aid in an effort to gain support for recognition as a nation in the UN. We visited the green iguanas. At one point I had 8 crawling all around my head. They tickle. The iguana is one of only three animals in the world to have 3 penises. Cahal Pech, city of ticks, is a very early Mayan site. It contains 7 courtyards and 2 ball courts and lots of mud. The Mayans had 6 directions East red, West black,, North white (for salt), South yellow, Up blue and Down green, 13 layers of heaven and 9 layers of hell. The calendar has 13 lunar months. The change in counting the dates in December is not an end of the world but marks a new creation and the beginning of a new cycle. Previous creations included Mud Man, and Straw Man and we are now in Maize Man. | San Ignacio market | San Ignacio street
7: CAHAL PECH Oldest Maya Site in Belize
8: XUANTUNICH The Stone Woman
9: BELIZE AND GUATEMALA 10-14-12 Belize: We visited Xunantunich (Tuna sandwich ) or the Stone Lady, named for ghost with red eyes and a white dress who vanishes into the stone walls. Perhaps she is one of the four bodies buried in each corner of the stelae shrine. To cross the river to the site, a ferry is tethered to a cable, which is laboriously turned by the boatman to ferry us across the river. Guatemala: The land is limestone, with very thin soil so that farming is difficult. Skinny cows graze in the open land. Pits dug into the limestone or lined with stone gather rainfall for the livestock. People still herd cattle with horses here. Chicle cutting is making a comeback due to demand by the japanese for natural gum bases for nicotine substitutes. Our hotel has both no smoking and no gun signs. At the gas station, a guard was armed with a rifle and we have been escorted by the tourism police but no one is saying so. Cars are sprayed with insecticide before crossing the border into Guatemala. We enjoyed lunch under a huge round thatched roof, walked the island of Flores and enjoyed a very peaceful boat ride on the lake. When the lights went out after dinner, I thought some one had made a mistake with the pool lights, but no, a coconut birthday pie appeared. Everyone had signed a card with birthday greeting and I had no clue. In retrospect I recall several people asking if I was having a good day. | The hand cranked ferry to Xunantunich
10: Island of Flores | Black Christ
11: Julio, our group leader | The Black Christ of Flores
12: Tikal in Star Wars | View from Temple IV
13: TIKAL 10-15-12 We ate at 6 to get to Tikal before the heat and tourists. As a special concession to us older folk, we were driven to the highest point. Between slight rains and overcast skies and paths and stones slippery with moss, we explored most of the site and climbed the highest tower to see other temples rising out of the jungle. Our guide recapitulated the closing scenes of Star Wars that show Tikal. We trudged along Mayan highways, walked through jungle paths, saw the Lost City, the temple/burial site of Lord Chocolate and Lord Stormy Sky. At 20 year periods new temples were built and a some specific cycle, existing temples were knocked down and new temples built on top of them, at all Mayan sites. So far we haven't seen the beautiful carvings and no one has mentioned the plundering of artifacts. The temples are built of limestone, were covered with whitewash (in brilliant colors of red, blue, yellow and orange) around plazas that were also covered with limestone and whitewash. Rain water was directed into storage pools and canals. Life was lived outside in the plaza and the buildings were for administration or kingly appearances and for sleeping on stone beds covered with kapok. The police and military still have a huge presence here. We see trucks of military with machine guns mounted on the roof of the truck. The ticket taker at Tikal, in t-shirt, was casually holding an automatic. This morning I was drenched in sweat and wet all over, this evening I am sitting with the window open after a dip in the pool. Night comes fast here. The dinner plate sized turtles who entertained us at breakfast have disappeared until someone starts throwing bread at them again. | Hiking in Tikal
15: Living Quarters | Great Plaza
16: In Guatemala City we saw the only privately owned Catholic Church in the country. | View of Lake Atitlan and volcanoes from the hotel
17: PANAJACHEL GUATEMALA 10-16-12 LAKE ATITLAN My fellow travelers: 85 year old Yvonne who has taken 68 Elderhostel's tours. Bob spelled with one o. A travel agent from the tour operator. C who may have snuck out to Burger King last night I lucked out today with a wheel well seat, out of rotation, for the 5 hour bus ride with luggage on the great Pan American Highway. We flew from Flores (Tikal) to Guatemala City. At. 4500 feet the temperatures are cool and not humid. GC has 4m inhabitants. The American embassy has crowds of people in front waiting to pay $300 nonrefundable to apply for a visa interview. Favelas spill down the cliffs surrounding the Mesa containing the city. Our local guide extolled the invading fast food chains for providing employment hours shorter than the standard 12 hour foreign factory days so that he could attend school. Gas stations here seem to be staffed with armed personell. Everyone talks about the great end of the civil war in 1996 and the need for highway checkpoints due to the drug traffic along the highway. Our guide's father returned from political exile and the Maya are reclaiming their traditional dress after the genocide of the war, but racial prejudice is still very strong. Depending upon your day of birth, an animal spirit protects each person. The national hero of. The Maya killed the horse of. The conquistador thinking the horse was the spirit protector of the mounted Spaniard. My spirit guide appears to be a deer (stephen an owl), unless I believe the other calendar which has both Stephen and I as monkeys. I like the monkey sign because it is the sign of the weaver. Corn is the the major food here, wheat and rice are imported from the US. As we drive we can see the 1m deep layer of topsoil here. On the Day of the Dead, the people come to the graveyard to ask their ancestors for advice. When the doors of the underworld open, the bad spirits also emerge. People fly kites then to make noises to scare away the bad spirits. Lake Atitlan is stunning, an endorheic lake (no outlets) surrounded by volcanoes. 17 rivers feed the lake and the water have been rising. Pre classic (1500 BC) remains have been found in the lake and in recent years waters have risen 7 meters. Three groups of Maya live around the lake, so 5 languages are spoken here. The volcano named Atitlan last erupted around 1863. The lake is 1120 feet deep. Unfortunately, the land around the lake is heavily farmed and is full of coffee plantations planted under the forest, so much fertilizer and pesticide leaches into the lake. Tomorrow we have a boat ride across the lake and a visit to two villages. Just outside the hotel the streets are lined with shops and street vendors, all skilled in selling. I found a fabric shop and found some great tablecloth fabric.
18: Lake levels have risen by 7 meters recently
20: Pulpit with angel, quetzel bird, corn and lamb | Mayan with jaguar skins, friar and Mayan presenting offerings to Maximon, Dominican friars
21: SANTIAGO ATITLAN 10-17-12 SAN ANTONION PALAPO We crossed Lake Atitlan from Panajachel to Santiago Atitlan to San Antonio Palopo driving through Santa Catarina Palopo. The great volcano did not show his top once. In Santigo Atitlan the men wear a short pant with stripes and embroidered birds. In San Antonio the women wear indigo huipils, in Santa Catarina turquoise huipils embroidered with cats. On top of the mountain, the men wear a long pant, a wool kilt and a cowboy hat. Although we did not get the lesson, Mayan can read in a woman's huipil her marital status (single, married, widowed) and how many children she has. During the civil war when the Mayan were forced to speak only Spanish, they developed other ways of communicating such as dress. In Santiago we visited Maximon (the spirit of the volcano) to ask blessings for our trip. The carved face of Maximon is spanish, he is dressed the scarves of another saint, he smoked two cigarettes and one bottle of whiskey during the ritual. The shaman had all his front teeth plated in gold. Hanging plastic decorations, gourds and greenery let us know that the room represented a sacred cave. We visited the Catholic/Mayan church. Our guide pointed out the combination of Mayan and Catholic, for example, the carving of an angel facing the quetzel bird, the pilgrim carrying a staff with a cross in one hand and a head of Maximon in the other, the Virgin holding the two twin gods of the Popol Vuh. | Mary with the Hero Twins from the Popol Vuh | Commemorating priest killed here in the church during the civil war
23: SAN ANTONIO PALAPO
24: Chichicastenango market. Notice the boys checking out the girls below
25: ANTIGUA GUATEMALA 10-18-12 Chichicastenango, place of the poison ivy, was a fabulous market. I even purchased a backstrap loom, and tomorrow we get a weaving demonstration, so I can resolve my questions about the loom. Tourist business is slow right now, so the vendors are tenacious and they all have the same sales pitch. Hello, you like, I have many color, what is your name, my name is (some western name), I give you good price, final offer, business is business, and after the final price is negotiated, they try to increase the price. If you don't have the exact amount good luck getting any change back. If the vendor is young or female, the money is for my school, my lunch, my baby. A no is interpreted as maybe and they will wait for your return. When you return, you promised to buy. If another vendor is near, you buy from me and you are surrounded by an insistent mob convincing you that your duty is to buy from each. The concept that you might not want the item is ignored - buy friend, buy Christmas, buy mother. If they didn't make the item themselves their mother made it, by hand, not machine. Machine means a foot loom like my looms and not a backstrap loom. I have my doubts about the handmade since so many pieces are identical in pattern and color, but the guides say the items are handwoven and we did observe weavers in the towns. I found a very nice tapestry crochet bag too and observed a few women doing needlework. After a week in Mayan communities, Antigua is almost a shock to see people in western dress again. The architecture here is baroque earthquake, meaning baroque influence, lots of beautiful plaster work by Mayan artisans (they are very skilled in wood carving), but short and squat. Walls are 4 to 15 feet thick. Our hotel is 400 years old with 3 courtyards, gardens and fountains. My room looks out on the courtyard, with the bathroom window on the street outside, and the windows open wide and have wooden shutters. Unfortunately, a beautiful courtyard with rooms surrounding it on the cobblestone street side means a very noisy morning in the room. When the Spanish abandoned Antigua and moved the capital to Guatemala City, they took all their furniture and doors. Our hotel has the biggest collection of old doors in the whole city. The doors are double doors- one door open, peek in, two doors open, come right in, or one door open, people enter, two doors open, horses come in. Because the city was abandoned, the buildings were only damaged by earthquakes and neglect, especially during the civil war, so that when Antigua became popular as a place to come learn Spanish in the 60s, the city was ripe for preservation and it has been lovingly restored to its original appearance and colors. The Maya ballcourt game may have been played to the death of the losing team. But, the losers were reborn to live as butterflies for 3 months, then they went to live in the night sky in the Milky Way, the highest goal for a Maya. When a Maya dies, the death is seen as one step closer to becoming a star and the person is not truly dead until they are buried and a sign appears to indicate that they have been accepted into the underworld, like a bird on the windowsill or the appearance of a cat. Our guide Bronson told us that his most traumatic memory as a child was the mourning ritual for his mothers best friend. The casket stays in the home for 12 hours before burial. About 6 hours into the mourning, the casket exploded. This was taken as a sign that the woman was not accepted into the underworld. Our hotel the Hotel Posada de Don Rodriguez was built in 1683 and takes up a quarter block.
26: At the weaving co-op
27: The Mayan are known for their plasterwork. | Central square in Antigua | Behind the remaining church front are the ruins of the cathedral | Spirits in the crypt
28: Dancing at Posada Don Rodriguez in Antigua
29: ANTIGUA GUATEMALA 10-19-12 In the Maya world, the woman is a triangle 3 and the man is a sqare 4. When a feminist objected, the guide said, look at the metate. The three legs support the 4 cornered stone and both are necessary. Together these make a couple and represent duality and balance. Mayan textiles convey important information about social status. In addition to showing location, the intricacy of the work shows how much time the woman has for weaving and therefore how many servants she has or doesn't have and/or extended family and her status in the family. Grandmothers got lots of time to weave. Traditional textiles were woven from cotton and if a woman could not weave she could not marry because she needed to clothe her family. Women's huipils are still evolving in style and a village may even change the color worn. I disagree with the anthropologist who presented (and I suggested that he try weaving himself to understand the process better). He claimed cochineal for red, indigo (telar) for blue, a salt water mollusk (murex) for purple, carrot for orange? and St Johns wort for yellow? He did point out that the cotton needed to be dyed many many times to produce a lasting bright color so bright colors were another sign of status. Women begin weaving around age 7 and are buried with their weaving tools so that they will not be bored in the afterlife. Our anthropologist made a big deal about the number of different weaving patterns on the cloth and the amount of blank cloth, but he was most impressed by double weave on a backstrap loom, where the backside does not show the pattern. The process does require one more step, but isn't a big deal to understand when you see it demonstrated.The textiles were lovely and I purchased few nice pieces. The men stopped wearing traditional dress because Mayan men were not hired as laborers. Our next speaker was the journalist Carlise Johnson who just drove home from Denver to Antigua thru Mexico. When his car broke down, he was taken in, given a bed and fed by some Maya. He told us the story to point out the good Guatemala before launching into the problems of a 'failed' Guatemala. The average educational level is 3rd grade which is what you need to become a policeman or soldier. Family planning is a forbidden topic due to the Catholic Church. No one will vote for a woman. Corn is cheap and filling, so children are fed lots of corn, resulting in malnutrition and fat women. 80% of the cocaine in the world passes through Guatemala. Profits are so high in the drug trade that cocaine is flown in twin engine planes to the Mexican border, the planes are crash landed, the cocaine transported by jeep and the planes torched. The government cannot control its borders, cannot guarantee the safety of its people, can't educate its children, corruption is rampant. "Why hire a lawyer when bullets are cheap". Carlise stopped producing his radio show due to death threats. His hope for the future is diversified (specialty) agriculture, tourism and licensed labor, meaning inexpensive legal work visas in the US. Our group has an unusual number of ex-military. When Carlise proposed life sentences for drug use, one career military man said "stiffer penalties do not work to stop drug use. The army has tried for years to stop drug use with stiff penalties." BTW, the Mayan royalty inlaid their front teeth with jade and gold. When the Spanish conquerors declared jade evil (green=growth) and jade was sacred to the Maya, only gold was used. We saw the tomb of one Mayan prince who died due to the inlay process drilling into a nerve that became infected. Metal holds the energy of prayer, so Mayans leave coins in crypts at churches that have become Mayan caves for worship. The dots in the photo are spirits in the crypt. I only saw them in the photo. | Metate
31: The school year is from Jan to Oct and the kids just got out yesterday. The year was originally based on the farm year but now the coffee picking is just at the beginning of the school year so many children miss school. 50% of Mayan girls have no schooling. Guatemala has run out of postage stamps, so you need to take your items to the postoffice to have them metered. 70% of the Guatemalan economy is not taxed. The Spanish governor moved away to GC 1764 taking away the doors and windows. Abandoning the city preserved it. The santo domingo monastery and church are spectacularly restored and would be a very special place to stay. Property values are very high in Antigua.
32: ANTIGUA GUATEMALA 10-20-12 I am having a wedding a foot outside my hotel door, so I must sneak in and out. I hope they don't mind. And I hope they are finished by bedtime. The first night I had a cocktail party outside that went late. Young people from Guatemala City drive the 37 kilometers to Antigua to party on the streets each weekend. The music museum was charming, peopled with life size corn husk figures in local costume and included both a Catholic Church and a shrine for Maximon. Do you know which instrument has a belly button? Pre hispanic music was percussion (turtle shell, drum and deer antler, rattles) and wind, long ceramic trumpets and flutes. The slit drum has one longer tongue to give two sounds. Today marimbas are popular. The first marimba was in Java, then Africa and then Central America with the slaves. The sound comes from the wood used and the thickness of the keys. Each key has a gourd underneath to amplify the sound and each gourd has a little belly button covered in pig intestine for a buzzing sound. String instruments arrived with the Dominican fathers. Most stringed instruments are still made by hand. The Maya of the area are master wood carvers. The museum was started by a mestitzo man who went out to record maya music while his girl friend shopped for textiles. They accumulated, and finally created a museum on her coffee plantation. Agriculture in Guatemala from the viewpoint of a cultural anthropologist- Change, tradition and diversity Guatemala has lowlands with poor soil over limestone good only for maize and cattle, which we saw around Peten. Guatemala has mountain highlands with deep topsoil and steep hills that isolate villages enough to lead to the creation of 22 different languages. We visited Lake Atitlan in the highlands. A volcanic chain separates the mountain highlands from the Pacific Ocean. Below the line of volcanoes lies the flat area of the pacific and the fincas that grow sugar cane. Three tectonic plates meet in Guatemala and earthquakes are a daily occurence. The volcano at Lake Atitlan erupted just a few weeks ago. So Guatemala goes from sea level to 13,120 feet and includes people of hispanic,mayan and african descent. The Maya cities were densely populated and probably did not subsist only on maize. The diet probably included other protein grains like amaranth and the ramon nut. maize was also grown with beans and squash to make efficient use of space and to add nitrogen to the soil. To make tortillas, maize is treated with lime to remove the husk. Lime adds calcium. Ears of maize could be saved from year to year for seed. So maize is an example of persistence or tradition. ow corn is grown with chemicals from hybrid seed. This is an example of change. Major export crops of Guatemala and diversity Sugar cane which is grown as a monocrop in the south. People from the highlands come down to the sugar cane plantations to earn cash. Coffee is grown on private land taken from the villagers. Before coffee, only men worked in agriculture. Now men, women and children pick coffee. Coffee is grown under trees. Four kinds of trees are required to avoid monoculture and sometimes black beans are grown under the coffee. The mixed ecology is better for animals. Other specialty crops are flowers and tiny vegetables and organic produce.
33: Bananas were commercially exported in 1904 when United Fruit built a railroad from southern Guatemala to the Atlantic. Passenger travel on the railroad stopped temporarily 20 years ago while the government worked on improving the system. Cardamon grows in the same environment as coffee and most is exported to Arab countries to be added to coffee. As a specialty crop the profit is much higher and the Maya who make money on cardamon use the money to buy land, not for roads even though they carry the cardamon to market on their backs. We had a traditional Maya cleansing ceremony, where we used rue and flower water (should have been whiskey) to brush away the bad energies, lit candles for the four directions, the animals, the earth and the sky, smudged and hugged. Other specialty crops are flowers and tiny vegetables and organic produce. | Traditional Mayan cleansing ceremony
34: Mayan Arch | Hieroglyphic staircase
35: COPAN RUINAS HONDURAS 10-21-12 Sleeping in on Sunday next door to a church is a contradiction. The nuns go to mass early 5:30 am and someone bangs on the church bell to rouse them. I am fortunate to have the front seat for todays trip, but , although the seat is spacious, the foot room is non existent. We had to turn off the AC to have enough power to climb the hill out of Antigua toward Copan. The chicken busses that we see on the roads are old school busses from the US refitted with caterpillar truck diesel motors. The busses used to be color coded so that everyone could recognize the route. The bus driver pays rent on the bus each day, as well as gas and the driver pays the bus monkey. After all those expenses, the driver gets to keep the remaining income, so every bus competes to get to the bus stop first. The bus routes are also owned by a coop. Toyotas and other Japanese cars are the most prized. SUVs that can be bullet-proofed are the car of the rich. During the many were kidnapped for ransom money. The two richest families in the country are the family that owns the Gallo beer company and the family that started in chickens (fast food chain Chicken Campesto). Rigoberto Menudo ,sted a chain of pharmacies with her Nobel prize money, offering the first affordable medicines to Guatemalans. Because Guatemala cast the deciding vote for the creation of Israel as a nation, many Jewish investors have come to Guatemala. Del Monte is a Guatemalan company. Guatemalan avocadoes are not allowed in the US due to the influence of the California avocado industry, despite the fact that the chief scientist for Chiquita stole the avocado from Guatemala in the early 1900s. In addition to selling used clothes from the US, we saw Pacas Peluches y Zapatoes (teddy bears and shoes). To claim land as a squatter, you must be able to prove that you have lived on the land for 20 years. In the favelas, people do obtain squatters rights to stay on their lands. Guatemala still claims part of Belize and a national referendum is scheduled soon on the question. It is uncertain what action Guatemala might take at that time, hopefully making the claim in the world court. The last time Guatemala decided to invade Belize, the invasion was scheduled for the same day the big earthquake hit. Guatemala has only one port city on the Atlantic and wants more. The border crossing is so tiny that you could drive through without noticing. The dogs cross with impunity and many people seem to walk across. The border between Guatemala and Honduras was determined by the UN after examining land deeds. Guatemala's border extended an additional 100m east after the decision. The lecture on Copan by the U Penn archaeologist was fascinating. A string of seemingly chance discoveries led to the gravesite of the founding king of Copan, who came from Tikal and not from Mexico as previously theorized. National Geographic supported much of the excavation and has published articles about the work. Copan has carvings which we have not seen on the other ruins.
39: COPAN RUINAS HONDURAS 10-22-12 Iam sitting in a charming room, with a roof but open to a lovely fountain on one side and a lovely garden on the other, with a view of tiled roofs and hills. Copan Ruinas is the town built on the hill near the Copan ruins. The town grew up to service the archaeologists who came to excavate the ruins. Our hotel is full of courtyards and gardens and outdoor rooms, much nicer than roaming the streets outside. Julio's wife teaches computers to grades 1-4 and is connected to everyone in town. They had 170 family up to first cousins for their wedding, for a total of 340 people. Her cousin is the mayor. A tropical storm has headed for us and heavyish rain this morning gave way to mist and finally to dryer overcast skies. I was more comfortable standing in the mist without a raincoat than wearing a raincoat and sweating. This afternoon was warm but humid, and I feel refreshed after the pool, hot tub and shower. I can actually rest in our 3 hour break. Tomorrow a school visit and making chocolate. The Maya had many calendars, but the main ones were the sun (360 days 3*13) plus 5 days that don't exist, possibly the five war days. A person born on the five days between Aug 13 and Aug 17 was unlucky and was scheduled to be sacrificed. The moon cycle was 260 days (20*13) and the cycle of Venus (fertility) was ? The Mayan in Copan tatooed themselves with scars, using obsidian knives. In the process they passed hepatitis G to each other, shortening their life span. Archaelogists have also found evidence of severe protein deficiency, TB and some other diseases. The Copan ruins have more carvings than others we have seen. The heiroglypic stairway was 64? steps. Early archaelogists put the stairway back together in random order, making deciphering the story written on the stairs open to different interpretations. Most of the stellae on the site were erected by the 13th king 18 Rabbit in different guises, like the sun god or the female corn god. An altar showing the founder of Copan handing the septer to the 18 Rabbit with a procession of all the preceeding kings was intended to authenticate the his rights to the throne. Many of the original sculptures are removed to the museum on site. The temple Rosalie is recreated there in the open air to show the drainage of the temple in the rain. Most Mayan temples were destroyed before new temples were built on top but Rosalie was painted white to desanctify it and then it was covered by a new temple. Archaeologists found that Rosalie was preserved because underneath it was yet another temple that contained the bones of the founding king and his wife. When Copan was failing the last temples were built using only mud for mortar. Of course those temples fell quickly to the weather. Probable causes of the fall were deforestation due to the need for firewood and the burning of limestone to create the lime used to plaster the floors and temples, leading to drought. The Mayan sites have wide paved roads used to roll stones for building and the courtyards were all paved as well. An outer plaza was public and a smaller inner plaza was for the nobility only. In the house sites of the nobility, archaeologists have found people buried under the front steps of the houses.
40: Temple Rosalie
41: Killer Bat
42: Singing for us at the Mayatan Bilingual School | Gym class | Grinding chocolate
43: Modern stone carving
44: Hotel Marina Garden
45: COPAN RUINAS HONDURAS 10-23-12 Education System in Honduras The doctors were on strike Monday because they had not been paid since January. The teachers will probably strike soon because they have not been paid for six months. THe government has declared that the school year will go for an extra month because the teachers were out on strike so much. Schools hold 3 sessions each day - a morning session, an afternoon session and an evening session for adults. Average class size is 35-40 children in class. Education is free but parents must pay for copybooks and school uniforms. School books do not exist in public schools and everything is copied down from the board. Students who do not complete school can go to weekend school for 3 years to get a GED. Private schools are prohibitively expensive, around $10K to $20K. We visited the Mayatan Bilingual School in Copan Ruinas which offers grades 1-12 for 330 students. Students can even graduate with a US high school degree and the school attempts to place students in US colleges. The school was taken under the wing of a retired US architect from Missouri who has made the connections. The school has a wish list on Amazon and laptops for the students to take home for homework. Chocolate Cocoa grows in the forest understory, like coffee and is pollinated by a midge that grows in leaf mold. The flowers and then the fruit grow out of the trunk. Picking and preparing cocoa is womens work. Squirrels really like to eat the fruit around the cocoa seeds. The flesh around the seeds has a sweet citrusy taste. The seeds are fermented (the men like the liqueur from the fermenting), dried in the sun, roasted over a low fire. After the dry outer skin is removed, the seed is ground and smells like chocolate. The cocoa powder is steeped in hot water, aerated by pouring between two gourds, and the foamy liquid is drunk. The Maya may add toasted corn, annato seed or ground chile to make a red drink (for blood/life). This sacramental beverage is served in gourds that look like skulls. Archaelogists can find traces of theobromine in clay shards from the Mayan era. The archaelogist from U Penn retired early to Honduras and worked with his family on finding ways to reforest steep slopes. They settled on the noni tree, morinda citrifolia, which is the new miracle fruit and tea, good as an anti-inflamatory, for arthritis, diabetes. Their products are available at mayaglobal2012.com. Our afternoon included a visit to the stone carver who carved the reproduction temple Rosalie, a visit to Macaw mountain to see the rescue birds, and a swim. Our evening lecture was by Paramedics for Children in Honduras. The organization hires a young doctor, pays part of the doctors salary and lets the doctor keep the money from seeing patients. The doctor agrees not to charge more than 70 lempira per visit ($3.50). To fund the doctors salary, the organization rents out rooms to tourists.
46: Guamilito Market Stall
47: SAN PEDRO SULA HONDURAS 10-24-12 We visited one last ruin on our last day, Las Sepulturas, or cemetary, the residences of the scribes. The dead were buried at the doorsteps of the homes. Julio described his experiences with the medical system in Honduras. The first visit is with the midwife who does not dispense any medicine, then a registered nurse who can suture and give some medicine and also vaccinations, then a health center with doctors, dentists, ob-gyn, then a regional hospital and finally the national hospitals. The process can take forever, so some people go to private doctors to get faster referrals. Julio's son needed corrective surgery for his feet at 3 years, which he received from American Brigade?. The hospital did not allow parents to stay with their children overnight, so Julio pulled as many strings as he could (and he seems to know everyone) so that his wife could stay with their son. The hospitals do not have any supplies or medicines, so Julio stayed outside and ran errands. The government is quite determined that all children be fully vaccinated. If the child is not brought to the public health event, the nurses track down the parents and children and vaccinate on the spot. I haven't kept up on Honduran politics. Apparently the president who was outsed in 2009 instituted reforms with some drastic results, like raising the minimum wage by 63% in one day to $332/month and paying parents to keep children in school. Then he declared that he would run for a second term, an act specifically prohibited by the constitution. All politicians seem to be distrusted here. Most families get by because all the adults work and contribute to the household. Average family size is 2 adults and 5 children. San Pedro Sula, founded in 1586, was burned down several times by pirates. Now it is overtaken by american fast food chains, Wendys, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut, Fridays, etc. Fast food costs as much as in the US, so a fast food meal is expensive for most Hondurans. A huge Cocoa-Cola sign sits up on the mountain and glows at night. World textile companies bring pre-cut materials to Honduras to be sewn. Children can work in the factories at age 14 with parental consent. Workers are paid minimum wage and can earn additional money with piecework. The city feels jarring after the country side, somewhat grungy, too modern and commercial. We did visit a market to observe the tortilla ladies and fruit and vegetable vendors, but the merchandise was geared to souvenir buyers. The festive mood of our last dinner together was marred by the cancelation of our morning flight. We tried to ignore our travel concerns but they kept surfacing. The evening ended with a birthday cake for Julio and a 5 piece mariachi band. Julio prepared a lovely slideshow with photos from the trip and presented each of us with a souvenir cd to enjoy. And Holbrook Travel, the tour agency for Road Scholar, re-rebooked my flight so that I could make my connections.
48: Annato flower and seed pod | Chinese slipper | Coffee beans | Noni fruit - new miracle plant
49: Cannonball fruit and flower
50: Papaya | Fan Palm | Banana flower and fruit | Wide leaf teak
51: BOOKS AND MOVIES The books that stick in my mind are two about apprentice Mayan shamans - Secrets of the Talking Jaguar and Sastun that discuss traditional Mayan healing practices, medicinal plants and religious practices. Sastun describes the collaboration with the Brooklyn Botanical Garden to identify and test medicinal plants. The Talking Jaguar describes not only the apprenticeship but the structure of Mayan village society and the rituals and prayers performed by the village elders (men and women) to preserve the health and happiness of the village. My old favorite travel book Travellers Tales contains some unique perspectives on Central America. And I Rigoberto Menchu is an unforgettable tale of the political persecution and systematic exploitation and killing of the Mayan. For some background history and anthropology, as well as travel narrative, Time with the Maya is good. The Nature of the Rainforest has some great photos. The Mosquito Coast was a terrible movie. Others I haven't seen Breaking the Maya Code. Lost Kingdoms of the Maya Dawn of the Maya TRAVEL TIPS La Quinta North in Miami has a great selection of restaurants nearby. The ceviche at Las Tortitas was mouthwateringly citrusy and spicy. The rooms were very useable with enough light for reading and a desk. If you need to put on makeup while traveling, you can use the camera on your ipad as a mirror. | Cocao tree | Grinding chocolate