Greetings from Livingston, Izabel, Guatemala, where we have been residing since Wednesday afternoon. More about that in a bit. First, happy Fsther's day all fathers who are reading and following the blog. I hope the joy of fatherhood has been as uplifting as the lives Tom's and my chldren have been to him, and by extension, me.
When left off last, we were laying by a pool in Copan, Honduras, enjoying a sedate life. The next day was quite the adventure into Mayan antiquity. We ventured to the ruin of Copan, deserted some time before the conquistadors found central America. We were fortunate enough to have an outstanding guide who was born, raised, and lived in Copan, and studied Mayan history at the national university of Honduras, and belonged to the society of historians and archeologists, all determined to continue the study of Mayan history and culture. We walked, climbed, and tunneled through ruins of magnificence and careful preservation. We learned that they were u touched somewhat because the Spanish found no gold there. The tamales were magnificent, but what marked this site was the intricate carvings that included Mayan dating, details of you and old leaders, that were carved with great depth, sometimes all the way through the stone, up to eight inches. We learned of these oddest on of the area and the greed of the rulers to continue to oppress the servant people, as they captured more and more lands, eventually collapsing under the inability to sustain. The fourteenth king turned to the people and create a representative system, bit this was scoffed, destroyed and life as they knew it ended. We learned that inside the pyramids were other pyramids and large alters, in full color, that were discovered through tunnels, that we uncovered and now walkable, somewhat. We were able to see the Grand alter in replication in the museum. The plastered, full size, brilliantly painted alter was approximately 40 feet high with multiple figures of the kind we saw in the ruins. The museum also had multiple statues original to the site. The museum was an open air configuration of three levels: the underworld, where we entered through the mouth of the serpent, the living worl, and the heavens, which showed the open sky above. Needless to say, it was magnificent. Something poignant was the absence of the mention of women throughout the entire tour. This did not parallel what we saw in the square in Copan. All other central areas in Guatemala, Peru, Chile, Italy, Germany, etc, people gather in the central square in the evening, but here only men were noticeable, no matter what time of day or night. The next day we learned from our driver that men in Honduras were a bit machismo, and expected women to stay home, hence, no women were around, although some were on side streets, working in shops, restaurants, and sold food from carts, but not in the square. Very different.
We were driven four hours, by our trusty guide Isreal, who only spoke Spanish tom us, even though he could speak English. He patiently waits while I formed careful sentences, hoping for some sense making. He got is to our launch at Rio Dulce, where we boarded a boat for Livingston, Izabel, guatemala, at the mouth of the river and faces the Caribbean. We checked I to the Villa Caribe, which overlooks the river and ocean. That night we arranged a trip to Playa Blanca, which included a walk though a series of seven waterfalls, on the way to the beach. Since all transportation here is aquatic, since there are no roads to Livingston. The falls were fantastic, which were traversed by climbing up the jungle mountain, along rocky, slippery shores. We played for a while below the highest fall, in a pond of crystal clear water. The beach was more grey than blanco, and the water brown, rather than Caribbean blue, green. We learned that there are so many rivers feeding into the ocean here, that the water along the Guatemalan coast, although just miles from Belize, are all like this. I was pleasant enough. The exciting part was the boat ride home in the driving rain, with seas rising all around us in the oncoming storm. When we returned we wandered into a visitor center, in search of kayaks, sailboats, something, and met two ladies fro the US who were here on a Rotarian International project, and got invited to visit a school with them the next day. Needless to say, we said yes. We did arrange the kayak trip for Saturday. On Friday morning, the next day, we boarded a launch with the rotations, and were tours through a school designed for the advancement of Mayan children, set in the jungles, on a small tributary along the rio dulce. The school is 20 years old and focuses on increasing educational opportunities as well as commercial experience for the students in restaurants and hotels in Livingston. The school is centered on supporting the Mayan communities in the mountains surround the peninsula north of the school. It was amazing to see the industry, intent, and concern for increased education. On our final day we went kayaking, which of course, required a launch ride up the river, to the place to kayak. By the time we got in our individual kayaks, it had begun to rain,a nd hard, so we paddled in the rain, which was a break from the stifling heat of the launch ride, slowly meandering along other rivers. We paddled through jungles for about six miles, and a had a glorious time with our garafuna guide, who had lived his entire life here. The rain stopped and started all afternoon and continued throughout the evening, where, as we had each night, watched the storm through the picture windows of our cabana, which overlooked the river and sea.
The most striking thing about our stay here, beside the watery world, was the mix, or non-mix of the garafuna, Maya, and Spanish cultural groups that live in this town of ten blocks on the hill. The garafuna, a group of freed caribe-African decendants, lived in abject poverty at the east side of town, whereas the Spanish lived in the heart of town, although there was some mixing at the docks. On Saturday the Mayan people flooded the small village for shopping, and yesterday, to register to vote. There is more to be learned here, although we did tour the garafuna village with a garafuna guide on our second day.
I have run out of blogging time, as our launch out leaves in 45 minutes, and we are not packed yet. Pictures will be up next week, so keep checking Facebook for the three and a half week photo journal. We find our way to Tikal today, so more to come next week.
Hope all is well for you and yours. Love Jeanne