I got up early to meet for the 7:00 shuttle ride. The shuttle wasn't at all crowded, and I got a chance to chat a bit with our guide, Reynaldo, who had also guided us to Fuentes Georginas the other week. Chatting was good because he's kinda struck me as a little distant, but I think it's just that he's quiet (actually, that's what a lot of people think of me on meeting, so...) Then we switched over to the bus out toward the coast. This is on of the famous "chicken busses", and I thought it was full when we got on, but no! Every time I thought there was no way they could fit another person on the bus, they packed in another 3 or 4! Amazing. I wish we could have gotten a picture of it before we got off, but there are some cultural tabboos about photo-taking and I'm not clear enough on them to know when what's okay.
We got off the bus into very warm, humid, coffee-growing hills, and walked down a sandy/muddy road to where a bunch of men were working to put down concrete. We passed them and started onto finished road -- this is the road that the community is building by hand as part of their development.
San Fransisco was, in many ways, like third world cohousing. It's a community of people who escaped from the despited coffee "fincas" (plantations where working conditions are dreadful, the bosses are worse, and there's a downward spiral of debt for workers and their families) and managed to gather together and buy this land. They started with 22 families 9 years ago and now they're up to 45. They're a representative mixture of the religions of guatemala: Mayan, Catholic and Evangelical Protestant. Amazingly, they all manage to get along, although, apparently, they didn't always, and had some rough spots early on.
Like the San Fransisco of the US, the community is built on steep hills, with lots of climbing, descending, stairs and other such things. Unlike the US SF, there were chickens running all over the place, and mangy dogs (which, after my encounter with fleas this week, I avoided as much as possible), and lots of green growth, including coffee plants. There was an amazing variety of colorful butterflies, and a dramatic green kite flying overhead.
We got our introduction to the community representative in the corrugated aluminum shed that serves as a school until they get something more permanent built. The community is the first of its kind in Guatemala and has lots of international support, as well as lots of visitors from guatemala, both for the community and for the mayan spiritual element, which I'll talk about more in a moment. There were kids running all over the place, and lots of other activity of the day.
Not everyone in our group is at the same level of Spanish, so we needed someone to translate, so I did that! I did pretty well, too! I got some help from some of the other students, because it's very tough to listen and plan to translate, too, and I occassionally missed things, but it was a really interesting experience, and overall, I did pretty well. Very cool! I also got a nice compliment on my pronunciation of Quiche (one of the 22 Mayan languages in use here in Guatemala). *preen*
After building the physical community, some of the people living there started having dreams, which they followed to unearth what turned out to be stones of an ancient Mayan community, spiritual monuments, with carvings of faces and other symbols. Very amazing. There was a stone that they call the compass stone, which they removed during construction only to have it reappear the next day. After removing it three times and having it reappear each time, they figured out that it was supposed to stay there! :)
We learned a bit about Mayan spirituality, which is strongly earth/nature based, in conjunction with a concept of a higher being. We saw a water spring where, as they say, water is born of the earth, and the guarding spirits (nahuals (sp?)) of serpets with great feathered headdresses, a stone monument in the shape of an owl, one of the mail symbols of the place and where people go for cures of illnesses, physical and mental, and to receive energy from the monument. We also saw the "grandfather and grandmother" monuments, where they make sacrifices, using different colored candles to symbolize the directions, the desires, and the spirits. This is the place that most "business" visitors to the community come because it's a place to re-energize, to cure, and to have good energy influence your business and negotiations.
They didn't know that any of this was there when they bought the land, but now it's become a fairly major center of Mayan spirituality in the area. The man who gave us the tour is a Mayan priest, and lots of other priests come ot the community to take in the energy of the area. He also gave us all readings of our Mayan "astrology", based on birth date. It turns out that two of my spirits, including my birth spirit, which is, basically, your guiding/inner spirit, are spirits of the community, and they got very excited about that. So, my Mayan astrology is:
Origen: 2 Kauoq -- standing for justice, a drive toward Right and balance in the world
Nacimiento (birth): 9 Keme -- Buho, or owl -- this is my spirit guardian, standing for similar concepts that the owl in western mythology has: thinking, wisdom
Futuro: 5 Tzikin -- pajaro, or bird -- indicating travel
The two spirits of the place that I have are the owl and the bird, and my having an owl birth spirit was also exciting for them because the main monument there is carved as an owl.
We had lunch there, and I didn't use any of the bathrooms, as they were... kinda fly-ridden. The bus ride back wasn't nearly as crowded, but still wasn't really comfy. And then I slept for 3 hours before dinner!
So, all told, a very interesting day.