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Polochic Diary:January 10th, 2008/ I Get Sick;We Visit The Village

Okay, so last night was awful, because I was really really sick. I haven´t been that sick since first entering the country months ago(seems like years since I´ve been here). Why? Who is to say-I´ve been really careful about water-been buying it for this part of the trip. I left my purifier at home. Could be something I ate, but since we´ve been cooking for ourselves that seems improbable.

At any rate, had to camp out in the bathroom most of the night, as it was pitch black outside, and you have to walk down a plank bridge to get to it from the station while bats are flying around and hitting you in the face.

Finally got back into my bed in the wee hours of the morning, having resolved never to eat anything again-no really, at least not today, in hopes of having some respite from whatever this is.

Unfortunately, while I was in the bathroom last night, got bit by something quite alot, probably mosquitos, and maybe some ants. There was no way I was going to make it back to the station for the insect repellent, so I had to just deal with it. Thank God there is not much malaria in these parts.

I had a really high temperature all night as well as aches- and my stomach was not happy. I brewed some ginger tea, with some ginger I had bought in the market, hoping that would help-and it did, a little.

We were supposed to go see monkeys this morning(although up til now, I´ve seen plenty!) but just not feeling up to it. The thought of being on a boat made my head swim; and then, Alfonso sprained his wrist while repairing one of the solar panels. A long boat ride was definitely out.

We decided to go fishing instead, using one of the bigger canoes…the day before, we had tried to fish off of the cement dock, using the traditioanl piece-of-a tortilla-and-worm method, but been entirely unsuccessful-having ended up feeding the turtles with our tortillas instead.

We took out a pretty big canoe-the same size as the one we arrived here in-but without a motor, which meant we had to paddle it ourselves. I was still nervous of boats, but relieved we weren´t going to go out on the tiny woden canoes I´d seen(because you sit with you legs straight out in front ofyou, and I was pretty sure even if I could manage to get in it-how would I get back out again?). I had to rather clumsily get into the boat, and once in found myself sitting in the front part. Moira was in the middle, with Alfonso bringing up the rear.

Since I was in the front-I had to paddle the canoe, while Alfonso steered. A rather strenous job, since I felt absolutely awful. But, trying to make the best of it anyway! But the paddling was really hard work, because the canoe was huge …

At a certain point, I wanted to switch with Moira-was feeling rather out of it and hot, but that would require standing up on the canoe and walking. This would be out of the question for me normally-let alone in my current state, so I just kept paddling, until we found a good spot to fish.

When we finally got to good spot, Alfonso stood up and walked to the front of the canoe and then used hisa machete to hack thru soime the water lettuce. He hacked thru enought to make a ¨dock¨for the boat, as well as to clear out some room to fi8sh.

Fishing proved to be more idealic in idea rather than in real life(isn´t everything like that!). First, we had to take a worm and put it, alive and squirming on to the hook. You sort of had to thread the entire worm on to the was rather disheartening, and I found myself already(!) disenchanted with fishing, before I even finished this first part. By the time I had sufficiently tortured my worm, Alfonso had already caught two fish. I only ended up catching one small, very pretty tiny fish, which I had to throw back(after reaching in it´s mouth to take out the hook), since Alfonso said it wasn´t any good.

I basically just ended up sunning myself and enjoying nature, while Alfonso proceeded to catch one fish after another.

We headed back to Selemphim (with Moira rowing, of course! Thank God!) and then Alfonso invited us to his house.

His house was typical of all the houses in the village. It consisted of two buildings, adjoined by a porch with an overhang. Both buildings were made of planks, nailed together horizontally to a wooden frame. There were spaces in between the boards, and the buildings were topped with triangular metal roofs(although some houses in the village had palm roofs). Inside, they buidings had dirt floors and no windows. Light came in from the spaces between the planks and the doorways-and Alfonso did have some solar electricity as well. One building served as the kitchen; the other, the bedroom for 8 or more people.

When we arrived we were met by lots of women and children and given two plastic lawn chairs to sit in in the kitchen. The kitchen was divided into two parts-the first part held stored maiz; and the second part, the kitchen itself.

The kitchen contained a large sturdy wooden table, on top of which there were many stones and rocks. On top of this was a flat piece of metal, and this served as the stovetop. There was quite a fire going under the metal, and one of Alfonso´s daughters was making tortillas and then cooking them on this metal stovetop.

There were also large rocks placed on the floor in a circle, with a fire going beneath them, and a large pot of beans was bubbling away on the rocks.

The only furniture in the room were a few plastic chairs, a wooden table, and a small chair with achild swaddled in it-the chair was wrapped in strips of cloth and seemed to be designed so that the toddler would stay in it and not get near the fire, perhaps(?).
The old decoration on the walls were a series of old calendars. The kitchen was immaculate, in spite of the humidity, dirt, and heat.

People were peering into the doorway-and women and children came in and sat on the floor and stared at us, speaking to one another in Qüiche¨. I felt a little odd, to say the least. We were offered Tang in some plastic cups, which we drank gratefully due to the oppressive heat.
The children were very entertained by us, and us by them-and I was also extremely entertained by the parade of animlas coming thru the kitchen! These included: dogs, ducks, chickens, and of course, pigs-big enormous pigs that were chased out at once with a few sharp words in Qúiche¨.

The children had no ¨toys¨, like the sort we think of when the word toy comes to mind-they played with each other, with the baby in the chair, with a piece of a flower that they turned into a whistle, with a foil bag of chips. We tried to teach them ¨patty cake¨which ended in confusion and some hilarity, as they have no similar games, and could not seem to remember the order of the steps.

I definitely felt very lucky to have the invitation into this kitchen-a place that definitely seemed reserved for women only-as the men stayed outside on the porch the whole time we were there. Sometimes as a woman traveler, it is so frustrating, when you want to go somewhere or do something, and you can´t, becuase it´s not the custom where you are for women to do whatever it is. So the times I get invited to do something or be inclusdded-because I am a woman-are really important and special to me.

We decided to walk back to the station, and ended up being followed by a curious group of little girls from the village. We were all walking down the trail towards our house when we spotted a family of monkeys in the trees above us. Actually, we smelled them first, as monkey poop has a rather unusaul and pungent aroma that is quite unforgettable! It was really amazing to stand under these trees with all these kids and watch the family of monkeys. Just such a vivid picture stiull, in my mind-a very unusual moment, plus having that bond with them made it really cool as we all tried to be as quiet as possible.

When we finally got home, I had alot to think about and Moira and I ended up talking for quite a bit about the Qúiche¨people we were living near. Even though we enjoyed our visi8t( and they seemed to enjoy it also) it was really different than anything I have experienced in Guatemala to date. The people, even the children were very cautious around us and always seemed very distant and remote-even when they smiled, they covered their faces with their hands alot. Some chioldren would play with us, but other children would just stare or even ran away. It was difficult to teach the children a game that involved touching, such as patty cake, because children and adults do not touch very much. I never saw people hug one another or express affection-not to us or towards one another. Of course, this is an observation solely about this one community.

I think the Qúiche´people here are very guarded becuase of all of the years of oppression they have faced, and in part because they communicate differently about feelings than we do.
It´s hard for them to relate to women traveling around on their own-in their culture, such independence is not possible, nor would it be valued, because they act as a collective group.

The people here are very beautiful and have shown such tremendous hospitality to us. I hope the people that decide to visit this place in the future come for the plants and animals and birds, and don´t try to snap photos of these very private people(who apparently have a strong aversion to photo taking.)

Still feeling physically miserable-can´t eat, keep getting chills etc.



4 responses to “Polochic Diary:January 10th, 2008/ I Get Sick;We Visit The Village”

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  2. Im laughing so hard I shit myself.So did Loren.

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  4. Ben Hutchins says:

    I’m heading back to Selempin in about a month to do some cave exploration. Hoping to talk with someone thats been there. If you check this blog (hopefully!) please let me know. Trying to get an idea of what it takes to get up into the Sierra de las Minas from Selempin.

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