Unlike the title implies, my work does not progress much. It is a bit frustrating. Sometimes I lose faith in all my plans. There are times I want to throw my laptop out of the window. Luckily the windows at the office have bars. So does not work.
In the beginning of the month I feel like going out of the city again. If I can’t be in nature I start to feel anxious and unhappy. So off to nature I go. I find a nice hostel named Chi Bocol, deep in the forest of Semuc Champey. Getting there is a whole adventure on its own, as the place is a 30 minute walk from the road through the hills. Luckily a friendly boy leads me the way, since it starts to get dark. The path is steep and I don’t have a clue where I walk. The boy is going fast, walking on his crocs. He ends up holding my hand, to prevent that I fall. There are certainly times I feel like a stupid white girl. The walk is worth it though. That weekend I do nothing more than swimming in the river, reading my book and socialise with backpackers.
Two weeks later I find myself again in the Semuc Champey area. This time I visit the famous hostel Zephyr Lodge with two of my colleagues. Not for reading but for a big weekend party. The hostel has many local employees and great food. As my social life is non-existent at the moment, times like these are very welcome. A good party is always welcome.
I finally started with working out. The first month I just could not find time and energy. Still had to kick myself in the butt, but it worked. I must say, the people here are insane if it comes to sports. Small people, but strong. And there I am. Panting like an idiot. I am trying to take it easy, but no mercy from the trainer. Cobán is located at 1300 meters above sea level and it is super humid. Totally not used to work out like crazy in these circumstances. I want to believe everything will be so easy for me when I return. The only down side to this regained spirit is that I walk like a penguin now. All the time.
Half May one of the biggest events in Cobán takes place. From all over the world runners have come to the town for the half marathon. It creates a new atmosphere in this normally quite sleepy place. I am waiting for three hours to cheer for my colleague, who runs the half marathon together with her husband (for the fifth time in a row). Thousands of people pass by, but I don’t see her nor her husband. After three hours have passed I start to wonder where she is, when I suddenly here my name behind me. Guess who already finished! I only had one task. I failed.
The majority of the people living in Alta Verapaz, the area I live, is Indigenous Mayan. So being here without learning more about the culture and experiencing the culture is not done. One Thursday I am invited to a full-night ceremony. It is a celebration of the old into the new year and the ‘inauguration’ of Mayan healers. I am warmly welcomed with hot chocolate (water, lots of sugar and cacao) and a Tamale (link to this dish) by my pal from a local restaurant. In the Mayan culture there are 20 signs which are connected to 13 levels of energies. During the ceremony every sign is mentioned and all 13 energies are addresses. After each sign we throw a candle in the fire as a sacrifice. When my own sign is named, I throw 2 candles. People are praying out loud, speaking the local Mayan language Kek’chi, handing out seeds as extra gifts. There is Marimba music, and we dance around the fire.
Before the second ceremony starts, a healer blesses everyone by placing a grey stone on our hands, feet and head. Wishing us good fortune for the next year. After a short break it is time to inaugurate the new healers. All three say their prayers and promises and a whole lot of things are done which I do not follow or understand. Then for each person a chicken is killed and beheaded. The blood is poured over the legs, the arms and the face of each new healer. I must admit, I think this is all quite intense. The rest of the night we do the whole ceremony over again, starting with a different day sign. 20 signs each, 13 energies, 21 candles in the fire, clockwise dancing, liquor spitting, Marimba music on the background. At 5:00 in the morning, when the sun rises, it is time to go home. What an experience.
To learn about your own Mayan sign: www.mymayansign.com