Monday, April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011

Greetings from Jeanne

We had quite a weekend.  On Saturday we went on a long, long walk to find the maker of a set of placemats and napkins we like and found the person's shop after several attempts to follow directions we obtained.  What we discovered was a tiny shop of three weavers who make very fine fabric for placements, napkins, and tablecloths.  Two of the weavers were men, and one woman.  All three worked independently on hand looms that were approximately 36 inches wide.  One other man was seated near the first weaver and was using a bicycle wheel and pedal to separate threads for the weavers.  There was an old fashion yarn separator there, but the bicycle wheel worked much better.  We watched the weavers for a short while and learned from the nephew of the owner that if we wanted to order the items we wanted, we would have to place the order with the owner, who was one of our servers at Welton's.  We met him on the way home and spoke to him briefly about the possible order.  One day we'll work out the details and place the order.  What distinguishes these placemats and napkins from others we see is the fineness of the weave and the delicate representation of the Quetzal bird, the national bird of Guatemala. The bird is woven into the napkins so that when the napkin rests next to the plate the length of the bird's tail is evident and not truncated, as is done in some stitching.  We have become quite enamored of this long-tailed bird, so prefer the more elegant representation.

We returned home and I worked for a while on an article about Fiesta Math Night that I am trying to finish, and Tom hung out reading.  Later that afternoon we returned to el centro for the children's procession.  We were cognizant of the schedule, but were surprised to find the children arriving earlier than announced. We learned that this is the way.  What came down the square toward us was a procession of boys, in purple gowns that went from head to toe, who carried a wooden float of statues of Jesus on their shoulders.  There were many, many boys in the streets along side the float where were substituted as the float moved in a swaying way through the streets.  The float was approximately 12 ft long and seven ft high, with statuary of Jesus, angels, etc on the top of the float.  There was a band that followed and played derges as the procession moved slowly through the streets.  Shortly after the boys and their statues had started west towards their town Santa Ana, a second float, honoring the virgin Mary, was carried by girls in white dresses and white lace mantillas. This float was not quite as large, and there were ladies under the float assisting the girls in the carriage of the float. A second band accompanied this float and sad music emanated from the group.

We had a light cena, watched a few movies, and readied for the bigger day on Sunday.  In the early morning we found a tuk-tuk (motor cycle with a covered carriage) and went to the Colegio Boston to watch the first Boston marathon in Guatemala.  The school children, people from the surrounding villages, and national champions in marathon participated in this fund raiser for the school. The school event was a huge success with over 100 participants, lots of prizes for winners, food, live music by a village band, recorded music from the Gallo (beer sponsor), and excitement on the part of our hostess Maria del Carmen, who was instrumental in thinking this up and making it happen.  Tom and I mostly watched, but for a long time had a great conversation with a sixth grade English teacher, Juan Carlos, who is Guatemaltecan, but lived with his mother in NY, Chicago, and around the US for 20 years.  He got some training in teaching ESL in Guatemala City, so now teaches at Colegio Boston.  It was eye opening to hear his story of his mother's work as a nurse in the US, and their eventual return to Antigua in her retirement.  He had many interesting stories of life in Brooklyn as a young child learning English and doing mathematics in English, yet not understanding what was what.  His story contributes to my study of learning mathematics here then later transferring it to US learning and the difficulties of the exchange.

After the race, we found our tuk-tuk driver who had returned for us, and went to Santa Ana to participate in the adult procession of the floats from Santa Ana to el centro en Antigua.  We found the church and along the streets leading to the church, we found streets lined with carpets made of long pine needles, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and scented nuts.  There are pictures of these in a facebook album.  We were told that the best thing to observe was the beginning of the procession coming out of the church.  This was indeed an amazing event.  Just outside the steps of the church was a carpet that was fashioned of sawdust, died in brilliant colors, with a template of religious designs, put together to represent a path along which the statues of Jesus and Mary could be carried in the procession.

We were right at the farthest edge of the carpet in front of the church, participated in the last 20 minutes of the mass before the procession began, and witnessed the arrival of the Roman soldiers, Egyptian/Middle Eastern dressed men, many men in purple robes, and some with white yokes.  The float that exited from the church was astounding. It was a carved wooden structure, approximately 40 feet long, fifteen feet wide, and fifteen feet tall. About 30 men were posted on either of the long sides, several underneath, and a few in the front and back guiding the float, which was carried on the shoulders of the men. As with the younger parade the day before, a band followed this float.  They walked across the carpet and by the time the women exited the church with the second float of the Virgin of Dolores, the carpet was completely destroyed.  We watched the women come out, along with the four men who carried a smaller statue of John and Mary Magdellan.

We had decided to walk behind the procession to Antigua, which is about 2 miles away.  We walked behind the first float and observed a very interesting phenomenon.  People behind the float with Jesus were picking up the fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc after the carpet had been disrupted by the carriers of the first float.  Many of the remains were undisturbed and usable.  We equated this to a reverse Mardi Gras. The wealthy in the Mardi Gras parade throw beads, etc to the less wealthy observers. In this procession, which was observed by many, many people along the route, the wealthy create the carpets outside their homes and the less wealthy who walk behind the Christ figure receive the remains of the visual tribute to Jesus.  It was amazing to observe.  Another interesting observation was the use of 40 poles with 10" wide flat faces with dowel rods sticking out of the top, to lift the many, many telephone, electrical, etc wires so that the floats could get through. This was particularly challenging when the float had to be turned on streets that are about 15' wide.  The people carrying the floats had to lower the float if the wires could not be moved, particularly in the turns.  From our vantage point, behind the band, it was a marvel to witness the lowering, lifting, and turning of the floats.

We stayed with the procession until it reached town, and arrived 3:45 minutes after it had started.  We left the procession, but it continued through el centro, then returned to Santa Ana.  Although there are only two miles between the city of Antigua and village of Santa Ana, the time it takes to move the float, wires, and complete the stations of the cross along the way, it is likely that the procession arrived in Santa Ana after 11pm.  Another intestesting part of the procession was the clean up crew who swept, shoveled, and cleaned the streets of all carpets, trash, etc as the procession completed its route.  We were some of the few who walked all the way from Santa Ana to Antigua, as most others left when the procession entered the city.  We learned the nature of the event, to suffer as Jesus did on the cross for us. Our feet, backs, and knees were in pretty bad shape after so much stopping, standing, walking really slowly, on cobble stone streets, plus standing for an hour to wait for the procession to begin.  Our age was showing last night.

We treated ourselves to limonada con soda at Angie Angie, where Tom has his Spanish lessons, then made our way over to a new place, a gallery of art by a Cuban artist, and shared some ceviche and pizza.  We arrived home content, but tired, took showers to clean off the dust, and settled in for a long night of rest after a long day.  This kind of event for cuardesma continues for the next two weekends.  More to come... Hope all is well with you.

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