Thursday, February 15, 2007

South American Adventures- Part 2: Pyramids and Volcanoes

Hola part-time amigos y lovers,

I'm growing a beard. It's getting pretty wicked already, and has nothing to do with the recent events of the trip, but I just felt like leading with that fact... Another quick observation I'd like to note is that the Mayan kings have unbelievably cool names. The major builder of Tikal was named Lord Chocolate, and the two greatest leaders of Copan were King Rabbit the 18th and the 15th rey, King Smoke Snail. Lord Chocolate clearly loved himself some Hersheys, but what the hell did King Smoke Snail do to earn that name? Regardless, he is clearly a man with style.

I'm now in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala. After writing the previous email I returned to my hostel and engaged in an hour-long Spanish conversation with a 18 year-old Honduran kid about the paths of our divergent lives, our experiences traveling foreign and domestic lands, and the absurdities of the fact that Americans tip as much as they do. It doesn't sound like much, but because so few Hondurans ever travel out of their country it was really enlightening to hear his varied opinions and perceptions.

The next morning I took a bus across the border back towards Antigua, Guatemala (this time when the authorities tried to rip me off I began asking questions about why/what I was paying and they immediately let me pass for free) and arrived around 7pm. After checking into my Black Cat Hostel, I went out to the parque central to grab a bite and witness the children's festival they happened to be hosting that night. As I crossed the street I heard someone call out my name and guess who I see... the Jungle guy!! Arturo, my Polish-Californian compadre from Flores had just gotten into town as well and we perused the park while he talked again about sleeping in the jungles- "Yea man in Lanquin it was windy so the mosquitoes didn't bother me at all, but it seems pretty arid out here. The night birds should be nice and the ground is soft bro, hahaha, I love it man! What can I say." Upon entering the parque some 4'6" Guatemalans immediately offered us a multitude of drugs, some of which I'd never even heard of, and Arturo struck up a conversation. I watched the impressive 10-minute firework show above us and next thing I know Arturo had bartered his service of "I'll do anything you want" for a sleeping space on the floor of their home. We took a pic, swapped emails, and his last words to me as he left were, "Haha bro, I hope I don't spend the night in jail! I have no ideas what these little fuckers want from me"... the epilogue to the story is that the next day I saw one of the mini-sized Guatemalans on the street and asked que paso con Jungle-man, and he said he was crazy but that he slept on their floor. The following day I got an email from Arturo that simply said "here's my email, great to meet you." The subject, was "Monkey Brains."

That night I went out to a bar with a German and some Dutch kids, and the next morning explored the massive market before embarking on a tour to climb the Volcano Pacaya that overlooks Antigua. We were supposed to pay 25Q to enter the national park but a band of angry Guatemalans surrounded and boarded our bus yelling passionate Spanish. For a minute I thought I was going to have to go into Jackie Chan mode, but it turned out they were livid with the government for ignoring their pleas for a new as punishment they were going to let us all enter the park for free, thus the government wouldn't benefit from our patronage. Gotta love social activism in action... I definitely cannot accurately describe how cool a two hour hike on volcanic rock is, nor the sweetness of actually seeing active lava within 3 feet of you, but I will just say this. We brought marshmallows and chocolate and made lava smores, which is something I doubt I'll ever be able to do again. We then debated over whether someone should touch the lava simply to get a nasty burn, so whenever someone asked you about your scar you could say, "Yea thats from molten hot liquid magma... no big deal." The sunset behind the volcano was perfect as well, and after returning around 10pm I went bar-hopping with a few friends while our other newly-made amigos "went to score some blow."

The following day I left behind the beautiful old-world city of Antigua and took several chicken buses to get to Lake Atitlan, where I am currently at the Las Piramides meditation center in the town of Los Marcos. However I did spend my first night on the lake in the most popular town here, which has been appropriately named The Amsterdam of Guatemala, San Pedro. It's a very cool backpacker town with lots of people pushing crazy drugs and many a rooms for $2 a night, but it wasn't what I came here for so after one nice night I came over to Las Piramides. I could write many many pages on the magic of this place, but I'll stop the email here and wait until next time to discuss the gifts that this place bestows upon its residents.

Random Trip Statistics
Days- 14
Showers with heat- 1
Beard Status- Moderately respectable in a "aww, he's trying" kind of way
Song of Choice- "Helplessly Hoping", as covered by Richie Havens ( attached. turn it up, close your eyes, and drink in this LYRICAL MASTERPIECE that Richie reworks into his own tasty gem)
Random Person- Rick Flair aka The Nature Boy

Lastly, some of you may recall that in my first mass email on Semester at Sea, I wrote about the powerful symbolism behind seeing two seagulls flying together several hundred miles from land... I'd like to share one thought I had while swimming in Lake Atitlan yesterday, wherein a small butterfly flew past me at a height of a mere foot or two above the choppy waves. It was a hazy afternoon so San Pedro (a mile away across the lake) could not be directly seen, but surely felt. It amazed me to see the butterfly teetering above the water alone, as it boldly flew directly into the path of nothingness where I'm sure it assumed land must be... It reminded me of so many peers, who like myself, feel something great along our horizons but fear reaching for it because it cannot be viewed in plain sight. The message was alarmingly simple. Take a chance. Fly alone for a little while in the direction that your soul tells you is right... There just might be greatness on the other side of the lake.

I hope this email finds each of you strengthened with health, happiness and fulfillment.

Challenge the assumptions,

No comments: