March 24-26

I arrived in Isla de Flores, Guatemala very very late the night of the 23rd. The bus ride, meant to be 9 hours was 2 hours late in arriving. Very very late and very very long.

It was a most uncomfortable situation...not exactly a chicken bus, but the chairs were all broken, it made stops whenever and wherever anyone wanted, picked up people from the side of the road, and was so crowded the aisles were always full of people standing. The staff made sure I got a seat, being la tourista and all, and it was fun to chat in Spanish.

In Flores at last I checked into a place that was big enough to have a night clerk, which was not very nice as it turns out, so early the 24th I changed to this place, and here's the view out my back patio of Lago Petén I'tza.
These pictures are a combination of the three days I've been here. It has been so hot so very very hothothot. HOT, that literally I cannot enjoy being out during the day.

SO H.O.T. that I decided I might as well have a few more days of school if I'm going to stay here.

And I am going to stay here because I like it here. What's with That? A charming Plaza Centrál.
Inside the church with purple for Lent.
That's my place, La Posada de San José where I am paying $12 for the room and $6 more to use the a/c. But SO worth it.

And yes, that truck Is a Toyota.
A street.

The town is on a little bitty island at the edge of an ok lake.
Here's the lake. It's not the dramatic scene of Lago Atitlán, but sweet, and the nearest place recommended by the guide books for a stay in this area and to see the great Maya city of Tikal.
Lake views.

It's such a small island, you can stroll entirely around in 20-30 minutes, that most every place has a lake view.
How about another...
...and another. Not so much to do here but escape the heat during the day and then hang out in the restaurants hoping to catch a breeze.
Some pictures from the school. I'll do 3 days - it's fun. Here it seems the students really are trying to use Spanish instead of immediately breaking into English. It takes a long time for anything to get communicated though.
Some staff on break.
My teacher who, I think, has no idea what she's doing. My best teacher so far was 18 years old, so it's not the age. That young woman back in Copán was a gifted teacher. I'm so glad to have had the chance to say that yes, there are good teachers out here in Guatemala. Oh but wait, Copán is in Honduras.

Anyway, it's fun and no doubt I can say more than I could before. I can even get through whole paragraphs in the paper, which is mighty impressive to me when it happens!
March 27

Who can resist the sounds of kids in a band. Clearly not me.
More of them.
And then they put on a show!

Can I tell you how hot it was out there? The running temperature is 95 degrees most of every day but the humidity is 'only' maybe 50%. During April and May, and several people have told me this, the temperature is 105 and it is 100% humidity...raining. Yikes!
They did the show in the Plaza Centrál here reflected in the bell of a horn with me looking like I've grown a foot and lost 20 pounds. That's cool.
The practice space was at the cultural center also on the square with these big windows made for sitting in.
Check out this instrument! There were maybe six more of them making quite a sound - a cross between an accordian and a bag-pipe. It's a really nice low-tech music machine and put out plenty of sound.

Who remembers the world before there was extruded plastic?
They had some adults too who took a turn during the show.
This is one of my favorite streets. When I arrived it was just a street and two days later it was this. What they're doing is putting all the overhead wires underground. It's going to be Great.
And of course there's the nightly display of sunset to be enjoyed.
March 28

Tikal! Time to explore the largest of the Classic Maya cities. I took a small tour meaning a small van and a guide to attend to five people. It's a huge place - literally miles of trails and about 220 square miles of sites in the protected area with most of the more than 300 structures still covered in jungle.
The National Tree, a ceiba, and mighty grand it is.
This is the first of the revealed monuments we came upon and since it was one of the smaller that you could climb I decided to go up there in case the others were too daunting, and I'll tell you right now that a few of them absolutely were.
One of my tour mates.

The Maya started building here in the 4th century BC, built one thing on top of another, had a golden age (200-900 AD), and then abandoned the area around 1,000 AD.

Our guide gave a long story about why they left, for lack of water he said. Because there is no natural water anywhere near here. They had to save rainwater and channel water from Lago Petén, which was eventually depleted. The population multiplied, there was a drought, etc.

BUT guidebooks and the internet have other theories. It seems there is no general agreement as to the cause of their disappearance.
All this has been restored. Everything that looks 'right' has actually been restored. You'll see what the stones look like under the dirt and jungle in later slides.

Originally too all the stones were covered by stucco and painted bright colors and decorated with designs and images.
Wildlife sighting!
And speaking of wildlife...there were spots where we were amazing at how quiet it was and places that looked like this.

Whenever we ran into crowds our guide led us... a 'short cut' where we slogged for a very long time on these jungle paths to emerge much later back on the main road.

These little side adventures were especially fun because the guide was enjoying showing us all the amazing diversity of the plants there.
This guy has been only partially excavated, so you can see the mound that it was and the structure revealed beneath it.

Guide book notes: the Maya were the first to use the number 0 in a system of mathematics; they calculated the lunar cycle that is different to today's by 7 minutes; they had no metal tools (but obsidian, a really sharp rock...); no beasts of burden (but plenty of slaves...); and they never used a wheel for anything but children's toys.
Another one.
At the top section of the stone steps you can see some stairs as they were found with the rest of the stonework restored.

Although 'the kids' went, I did not climb those wooden stairs which were, like, Straight UP, meaning of course, straight Down too. Nope, didn't need to do it.
The back side of the temple above has not been excavated and you can see a little of what it looks like here, with the crown piece peeking through the trees.
Here's our Plaza Centrál. I did climb up a semi-big one to get this photo.
Everyone came except the guide. He didn't climb Nothin'. He sat in the shade and chatted up all his guide-friends who were also sitting in the shade.
And more from the Plaza Centrál.
...again too many. When I get back I'm going to snag some stories off the internet to make this maybe a little more interesting...
Back into the jungle for another 'short cut'.
And then a very late lunch with the Tourista Mundo, being as we were touristas after all. There were maybe a dozen places just like this preparing a not-too-bad banquet style lunch.
Then on the ride back...a nice snooze.
Arriving on the island, there is some kind of huge fire or dust storm, I don't know which, with the wind blowing more than ever before, such that you couldn't even see the shore from the island. It was weird. I just went to bed.
March 29 and 30

On Sunday the 29th I stayed in all day except for a few forays for food. I had to let the tops of my thighs come back to life after their workout of Saturday.

Back on my first day of class we sat out in the garden with everyone else, I with sweat pouring off my face and wetting the workbook where I was writing. On the second day my sweet teacher set us up here under the fan. I was SO happy.
Here is what turned out to be my favorite restaurant. I went here many times and only abandoned them to try out some others for comparison.

By my third visit they brought everything just the way I like it without asking. A whole fresh fish from the lake, grilled. No french fries, extra salad instead. Ceasar dressing on the side. YUM.
All the restaurants have their patios facing the lake and are lovely places to lounge.

It's a good thing too because I think this was true in every place I bought food in Guatemala, including truck stops, there is no prep. If your salad has a cut tomato they cut the tomato after you order your salad. They slice the steak fresh, or open the can of tuna, everything after you order.

The consequences of this are that the best thing about the meal is its freshness and you better not be too hungry when you arrive.
Sunset pictures from the back patio.
Of course...
...more. It really is a kick to know that for sure every evening I will be treated to some new sunset delights.

It's been very quiet here in all respects. The reasons are many. 1) no one stays here for long it seems. For example everyone on my tour of Tikal was going somewhere else either that night or the next morning. 2) there were a total of four students at the school - me and three others two being a young couple from Holland and the other a teenager from Germany. 3) it's so hot that I have not been motivated at all to chase up activities.

And I leave tomorrow. I hope during the day tomorrow I will gather the necessary energy to visit some of the surrounding towns. We'll see!
HomeCentral and South America • Guatemala • '09 Mar: Flores & TIKAL, Guatemala

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