Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Wish I was a Nomad, an Indian, or a Saint

This past Saturday I got another early start for my trip to Lake Atitlan. I got picked up in a van with other Spanish students and we made our way to Panajachel, one of the towns near the lake. Luckily everyone was nicely showered and fresh this time around.

We stopped for breakfast before we came to our first views of the lake. Unfortunately, it was a little bit cloudy, but the lake was still absolutely gorgeous. We stopped for a few pictures and made our way to our hotel. The hotel this time around was also an enormous improvement over the “hotel” we stayed at in Livingston. No creepy crabs crawling around, just a nice clean room.

We took a boat ride from Panajachel to the pueblo of Santiago Atitlan. There are many different pueblos around the lake and they are all known for different things. Many of the pueblos have a majority of indigenous Mayan people living there. Santiago Atitlan is known best for its artists and paintings. There were many art galleries as we walked around. I personally found the people even more interesting to look at than the art.

We also went to the most interesting cemetery I have ever been to. It almost didn’t look real to me. The tombs were all different shapes, colors, and sizes. Each different color has significance. The tombs were different based on gender, job, status, etc. It is definitely more exciting to look at than any cemetery in the US. There was even a Shaman there while we visited preforming a ceremony. It didn't feel like walking through a cemetery at all. The colors were so bright and cheerful, which is supposed to help the dead start thier new lives in a positive place.

After the cemetery we walked to the main church, around which there was some sort of carnival going on, complete with rides and a large Ferris wheel. This wasn’t quite the Ferris wheel you would see at Navy Pier or Northbrook Days though, it was completely manual. There was actually a man pushing the wheel around the entire time. He must have been pretty darn tired.

The next village we headed to by boat was San Antonio Palopo. This pueblo is known for its textiles. Everything is made by hand and it can take about two weeks to make one item, like a scarf or table runner. It was all beautiful and I couldn’t resist buying two scarfs for about 5 dollars each.

Our group had dinner at a fun place back in Pana with live music and a great atmosphere. It’s definitely a fun town.

I was very excited in the morning to wake up to a crystal clear view of the volcanoes and lakes. It was breathtaking.

We left the lake to make our way to Chichicastenango, a pueblo known for its market days. After a while all the stuff at the markets start to look the same, but the live animals for sale all over was a bit unexpected. Also, the scene at the famous church, Santo Tomas, was quite unexpected. It was so crazy and chaotic that we could barely move. The steps of the church are where all the action takes place, where both tourists and locals congregate. A few minutes after this picture was taken, there was a woman preforming a religious ceremony while lighting incense and a big group of tourists getting their picture taken right behind. It was a scene of total contradiction, but very interesting.

Instead of shopping more, I chose to get a drink with some friends at the beautiful Hotel de Santo Thomas, sit back, and take in the whole experience.

I visited Lake Atitlan two years ago on my trip here, but this time was very different. Last time was filled with physical activity and this time was dominated by cultural activities. It was interesting to see the same place from a completely different perspective.

"World Falls" -Indigo Girls

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