Lake Atitlan
chicken bus

Santiago Atitlan
Independence Day
language school

a new year
Semana Santa
las Americas
Machu Picchu
year 2
Santiago Sacatepequez
lake weekend
UK in winter
Caye Caulker
El Salvador
year 3
Carnival Trinidad
Rio Dulce
Semuc Champey
journey's end



Guatemala Journal



3 septiembre
Another amazing weekend trip
with the new teachers, this time to visit the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras. We drove out of Guatemala City on the road to El Salvador, and then turned north east towards Honduras. Stopping for lunch in the town of Jutiapa, we walked around the surprisingly modern structure in the town plaza across from the old church, checked out the jewelry and fruit vendors, then got back into the chartered van. The driver stopped to ask directions of two men on a street corner. They both immediately pointed, each in a different direction. I've been told that Guatemalans, when asked for directions, will lie and make something up if they don't know rather than appear ignorant and unhelpful. Back on the road, we wound our way up and down twisty mountain roads, down through farms of corn and valleys with little villages and waving children, through green hillsides into Honduras.

One town that we passed through in Guatemala, Chiquimula, had a hospital that helped starving children from around the area. Students from our school visited the hospital over several years as a community service project. The students asked what they could provide that would help and were told stuffed animals, vitamins and disposable diapers. Returning several weeks later, the students brought stuffed animals that were so big the children were terrified, vitamins that were too solid for their weak bodies to digest, and toddler sized disposable diapers that were much too large for their emaciated bodies. Their next visit was more successful with the students supplying liquid vitamins, infant sized diapers, smaller stuffed animals and beanie babies. Although many of the children recovered, some of the children the students came to know had died between the school visits.

The border crossing was uneventful, with money changers hanging around to change Guatemalan quetzales or dollars into Honduran limperas. The sign at the Honduran side of the border said that the border guards were honest with integrity, and to take your corruption elsewhere.

As Tikal in northern Guatemala is said to be the New York City of Mayan civilization, Copan is compared to Paris. The great plaza, a huge open area, is spotted with stellae, tall rock carvings dedicated to rulers and gods, including calendar pictographs and historical hieroglyphics. The rulers had such interesting names as Eighteen Rabbit, Smoke Monkey and Moon Jaguar. Beyond the great plaza was a large ballfield - we were told the captain of the winning team was killed, it was an honor to be sacrificed. We walked up the steps of the large pyramid structures for a view of the whole city central area. The largest, the hieroglyphic staircase, was closed to foot traffic and was covered by canvas roofing for protection from further decay. There was also a big courtyard area where the rulers and representatives from different cities met, and Indiana Jones like tunnels with underground carvings. Many of the stellae and other carvings outside were actually replicas, the originals were preserved in the museum on the grounds.

The guides used long sticks with red feathers tied to the top to point out parts of the carvings. A guide for part of our group invited them to hear him play guitar at a restaurant in town that night. A couple of us took a ride back to the hotel with a van driver who invited us to his restaurant in town - it turned out to be the same restaurant. We came to the town of Copan that evening to find a festival in progress in the town square with a benefit for the local public library, and young children performing a dance in colorful dresses, the boys with white cowboy hats. The restaurants specialized in shish kabobs and delicious juice drinks, the waitresses carried food, beer and drinks to the table balanced on their heads.

It took us 5 hours to get to Honduras, but only 3-1/2 to get home, we went back a different way. After sleeping in the van much of the way (four of us shared a room, and one snored loudly all night so we didn't get much sleep), I got back to the apartment in the rain early afternoon. The first few weeks in Guatemala there was uncharacteristically little rain, but now intense showers are more frequent. They are short lived though, so if you stop somewhere for coffee or a snack, you can usually wait it out.


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