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January 31, 2003

back in the lacandon, back in the rain

yesterday morning the french canadians and i decided that antigua was too touristy for us, we picked up and got a bus to guatemala city. i should have stayed there, it had a good feel, the opposite of touristy. anyways, they got a bus for honduras, hopefully well meet up, tabarnac!, i headed north for coban, where i am. about 40 minutes outside of guate city, the bus broke down. my 4 hour journey quickly turned into 6. this appears to be a reoccuring theme in my trip. waited around for an hour, another bus showed up, and i sat next to this cool guatemalan guy. we talked about his kids in the u.s., about guatemalan politics, about what i should see in this country.
got into coban, which is on the southern edge of the lacandon jungle, the same jungle that stretches through chiapas, where i was a few weeks ago. it was drizzling when i got here, and i got a cheap room. went out and met a danish guy, we ended up playing chess, he beat up on a me but i got one game off him. he had been in lankin, said if the weather was good its amazing.
woke up this morning, the weather was the same, that is to say, shitty. met an aussie whos heading straight to flores, near tikal, she was in lankin as were here two companions, a brit and another aussie from melbourne, im starting to recognize the melbourne accent much more quickly, more nasily, they all said lankin would suck in this weather. so im going to tikal today, another 5 hours in bus, next time i come to guate im going to lankin though, its said to be fantastic.
not much else, gotta go catcha a bus. with luck ill catch up with team tabarnac in livingston or somewhere else along the gringo trail.

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January 29, 2003

leaving san pedro, plus better fotos

heading out to antigua with pierre, jeanau, heidi and craig, the first two are wacky french canadians who hitched through canada and did a similar stint in zipolite, heidi and craig work in the film industry in canada and were giving me tips how i could break into that market, which they describe as soul sucking but i may have to see for myself. after that, up to coban for more ruins.

heres a better foto of lago de atitlan, and heres one of the volcano san pedro i climbed.

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January 28, 2003

from san pedro, guatemala

san pedro is on the beautiful lake called lago de atitlan, yesterday i hiked the volcano san pedro to the top, got an amazing view, went with two german friends, hope to get a foto of me on the top on here soon enough. today went for a walk around the lake to san marcos, a yoga and raike hippy village, as soon as we walked into the place you could hear reggae playing. had an overpriced veggie dinner that was tasty, then ran into maureen, an irish chick i met first in zipolite, then san cristobal, then tulum, and now here in guate. i guess that stuff happens when youre on the gringo trail, a song im helping to write with two crazy badass new brunswickers, pierre and jenaul, they hitched all of canada then took busses down, theyve started to teach me the important french canadian words, i.e. the slang, tabarnac is a highly common one, apparently its the little box they hold the host in, the host being the hostia, the catholic bread that represents the body of cristo. ive taken to saying tabarnac! at appropriate moments, pascual would be proud. might run into him in the bay islands, going tomorrow with my new travelling crew, which is good but nothing compared the the zipolite gang, to antigua to wreak havoc, then heading up towards coban and the ruins around tikal, which is said to be touristy but worth it.
today i was riding back to san pedro in the back of a toyota truck that had about 10 other people in the back, racing down and slogging up hills, the sun was setting, the wind was in my newly cut hair (thanks to heidi, canadian badass full of good advice) and the stars were starting to come out, and i had the same big goofy grin i always get when i realize how lucky i am to be doing this and how much im enjoying the hell out of it.
one other thing, another observation, that theres something about these countries, where everything moves in balance, theres no social safety net and people generally get enough to eat, dogs move out of the way right before busses hit them, our toyota truck slows down just enough that we dont head on with another truck full of people coming in the opposite direction, just this eery harmony that you start to see at work, its quite amazing.

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January 25, 2003

a nation of 80s music flashbacks

yesterday i was noting things ive observed here, and i forgot one of the big ones, which is: did the distribution of music from the united states to guatelama stop right after 1988? now, dont get me wrong, there is something to say for getting to hear the entire appetite for distruction album 3 nights in a row in the only bar in town, but what in the hell is wrong with this place? in a three song set i heard mc hammer, vanilla ice, and salt and peppa. the internet cafe im sitting in just played who let the dogs out, and the guatemalan boys busily instant messenging with young guatemalan ladies all mouthed along the words. the only good thing that comes from this is that the constant all-consuming eminem craze that is wracking mexico like a plague of cancerous AIDS has slowed to a trickle here, i think ive only heard the fateful (and damn annoying) lyrics the trailerpark girls go round the outside, round the outside here eminating from passing automobiles, unlike mexico, where they play it everywhere, even funeral processions and brises i suspect.

heading out today to lago de atitlan, probably, trying to decide whether to go or to stay here and put in a week with habitat for humanity, building houses. the lago de atitlan scene sounds like tons of partying and hippyness, think id get more out of carting around some bricks, but i can always go there and then find somewhere else to help out habitat. either way im paying less then three dollars a day for lodging, plus i pay a dollar for tons of ingredients to cook my own meals, so my only real expense is the beer, which costs almost two dollar a liter, a sizeable price difference from mexico. they have a really good dark beer though called moza, plus two weak light colored beers.

got to use some of my swedish (that is, one of my 4 words) last night, hanging out in the kitchen with a dutch guy, a swede, and 2 not too terribly earnest canadians, i razzed the canadians about their patron hairstyle, the canadian waterfall, and referenced my mental swedish dictionary for the equivolent word, hockyfrilla. im one international mofo, eh?

truth be told though, mullets are way out of style, its all the about the monobrow these days.

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January 24, 2003

observations on guatemala

1. the kids study english more, today i went on a walk with yet another earnest canadian and as we walked through roads between fields of wheat on the hillside above xela, all the schoolkids we passed had something to say to us in english. everytime they said hello id reply in spanish, and they also would say good morning and goodbye to us. one group of particularly forward girls ran up and asked do you speak english. i told them yes, and asked if they did. no, did you come hear to teach us english? they replied. i said i was leaving tomorrow, and they asked if i would ever come back to teach them english. maye in a few years. i said, which really wasnt the truth, but they seemed so eager to learn. i never had much interest in teaching english while travelling, at least not in spanish speaking countries, but then again ive never had schoolkids beg me to teach them, seeming really interested. you never know.

2. the kids here seem like they have more fun then western kids. i always see them laughing and wrestling in the streets, throwing each other around and running and chasing. ive been speaking to them more, they stare at us blue eyed gringos (blue eyed devils as mark said) and i start talking to them so i dont feel like a spectacle. maye its cause there are more kids on the streets here, or maybe its the memory of those happy lads who threw fireworks at each other and at us in various parts of mexico, but they sure seem content.
there was this one pair, a brother and sister, who always came in to visit anthony at his restaurant, la doa. they were sellers of chicle, chewing gum, but anthony would slip them some friend cheese tortilla rolls and then theyd hang out and ask us how to say words in english. we taught them moon, chair, brother, sister, and whenever id cue them to repeat the words back to us theyd cafefully pronounce broothar then break of into peals of laughter. they were always holding hands and the boy, who was younger, thought it was the best thing in the world when after he told me his sister was named abuela (grandmother), i told her his name was abuelo. (grandfather)
if i ever were to have kids in some far distant future, id want to raise them at least for a bit in a latin american country, dont know why i think about shit like that but i do.

ok dont read the extended entry it isnt done yet, it might be good though if i dont get lazy. speaking of lazy, i went to the farmacist today and got some muscle relaxers for my damn jaw, which is finally starting to feel better after 10 days of ignoring the problem and trying silly natural medicine cures like toe bending and foot massages. crazy natural medicines, its not my feet thatre the problem!!
ok ill finish that entry tomorrow, before i leave for san pedro on lago atitlan, where im gonna try not to get stuck in the splendor and natural beauty and fearsome hippy populations. i might balance some of that out with the natural non-beauty of guatemala city afterwords.


now for the saga of yesterday, the (embarrassing and failed attempt at the) scaling of volcan santa maria.

our crack team of 5 hungover international backpackers left xela at 730, after haggling the damn taxi driver down to 35 quetzal, or a dollar each. he drove us to the base of the mountain, where we purchased the important supplies of shitty white bread, chile and lemon spiced peanuts, and chocolocos, these chocolate puffed rice things. with determination we marched past the

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January 22, 2003

guatemala, kinda like mexico, but different

gotta catch up a bit, left san cristobal a few nights ago, 2 that is, got the overnight bus right after i ran into anna from n.z. and roberto returning from puerto arista, kinda weird cause the same happened when i came down from roberto barrios to palenque. anyways, crappy overnight busride, nothing new there. got a combi to the border from tapachula, which someone described as kinda like tuxla, if that isnt enough to make me instantly dislike a city i dont know what is. crossing the border felt cool, like i was at the end of the world, i imagine that crossing into nicaragua or el salvador will feel even more interesting, weird desolate crossing points with armed soldiers standing around cradling machine guns.
paid $1.40 u.s. to cross into guatemala, the quetzal is their currency here, its 7 quetzal to the dollar. paid some guy 10 quetzal to drive me on his cart bike to the bus station, on the way we talked about his friends whove gone north to work in the states, in the same way that everyone from cuba had someone in miama, im starting to realize that everyone in guatemala has someone in l.a.

the bus station anwered the question what do they do with old american school busses when the suspension entirely completely totally gives out. the yellow carriages of my childhood where there in all their glory, modified with a rack system on the roof and cool paintjobs extolling that this particular bus is really down with jesus cristo. fighting back paranoia, i let them hoist my heavy as hell backpack up on the roof, and after asking about 5 times if it was tied down tight, i hopped aboard. my first official ride on a chicken bus, called that cause they are know to be loaded up with squawking live cargo.

inside the bus 2 teenage girls in traditional dresses and their dad were trying to see how many boxes of cooking oil and galletas (cookies) and crates of pepsi (mexico was coca cola, guess they dont have market dominance in all of latino america) they could cram below, above and in between the seats. i staked out my position, and a minute later we were on the road. for about 200 meters. then we stopped to pick someone up, and we were off again. for about half a mile, then we stopped again to... you get the picture. combine that with topes (speedbumps) that rivaled mexico for frequency and ass rattling power, and the fact that the only part of the bus not riding with jesus was the suspension, and you can imagine my amusement. they say the amusement wears off after the third chicken bus ride. i hope not, i have a lot more of those to go.

so i was sitting by myself for a while, till harry sat down. he introduced himself and we started to talk, i asked him what the slang term of choice here is, in mexico its guey, in spain, tio, in the u.s. dude or bro, here its cuate. i can handle that. i asked harry what he did for a living, and im not sure he understood my question. its not that i mumbled or said the wrong thing, i said de que te dedicas? which means whats your job? his reply: i like to read the bible. inwardly i groaned, but it was my first conversation with a guatemalan so i maintained my expression of interest. the next thing he said was that my name, which i said was daniel, reminded him of that film the titanic. if any of you see the connection let me know, i have no idea. then he decides to tell me the gossip hed heard, that leonardo dicaprio was gay. oohhh!!! i said i didnt know about that, which isnt true i had read something about that on fark.com, but i wasnt gonna spend my first chicken bus riding talking about gay hollywood teen heartthrobs.
he wasnt gonna let us get away from that theme. arent there some states in your country where theyve made gay marrages legal? he asked. there sure are. i told him, then i asked him what he thought about that, and of course he thought it was wrong. then he surprised the hell out of me by adding that he really liked to have sex with women. i dont know if he thought hed breached some male manner of conduct by talking about homosexuality, but his comment came suddenly and he used some weird slang so i compounded the problem by asking him what hed meant, and he used some different, more familar slang, and the people in front of us on the bus turned around to look at him.
he then went into asking questions about english, stuff hed picked up from movies and some old english spanish book he has. his best question was can i use the word ass, like pretty lady, you have a nice ass? he made an ass-slapping motion when i told him he would indeed be speaking correct english if he was to say that, it looked so funny that i followed suit, so he did it again, perhaps questioning my form. soon after that his town came up and he told me if i was ever stopping through i could stay with him, just to look for him at harrys water bottling store or something, i cant even remember the name of that town, but he said he had an extra room at his house with his wife and four kids. ah, latin hombres, ever questing after all the wimmens.

the rest of the busride wasnt as eventful, i watched as we wound up into the mountains. one problem with travelling in the jungle is that a lot of times the view you get out the window is of..trees. lots and lots of trees. oh yeah, and garbage, no difference there between mexico and guate, the proper place for garbage is on the side of the road right underneath the no tire basura signs (dont throw garbage).

finally we arrived at xela, its real name is quetzaltenango but xela, pronouced shay-la, is the mayan name that everyone uses. my backpack, safe and sound, came down off the roof and i hefted it up, looked around, and decided in my exhausted state to get a cab. the driver wanted to stop and wait for 5 minutes in front of his daughters elementary school to pick her up, but i rolled my eyes and he said, but youre paying so well drop you off first. nice guy.

i got a room at casa argentina, the cheapest hostel in town, im paying less then three bucks for a dorm bed, purified water, and full use of the kitchen. everyone at the hostel is in a language school, there are kinda a lot of americans and canadians, plus some germans and israelis, including this israeli i met in san cristobal like a month ago and ate dinner with, then ran into again in palenque on top of the pyramid, and i still cant remember his damn name.

fell asleep after eating and chatting with some canadians, we figured out in san cristobal that the most correct adjective for describing canadians is earnest. the ones i met last night were good fun though, we poked fun at each others nations then got to talking about world events, this impending war thing is the opposite of a good plan. i read an article on salon the other day about how in iraq the common people were bummed when hussein broadcast news the protest marches that happened in the u.s., cause secretly they want that saddam out of there. the thing is that the united states has a shitty track record of backing up the successors of our regime changes, last i heard afghanistan had decended back into warlord feudalism, right after the money we promised wed give them to rebuild their shattered country was yanked away, presumably to fund us getting our war on. check that last link its the latest in my favorite comic strip in the world.

got a good nights sleep in, awoke early this morning, which is my new custom since living in the community. went to possibly the weirdest museum ive ever seen, the natural history museum here in xela. downstairs they had a trophyroom full of soccer and boxing trophys won by local athletes, including boxers looking really tough in their supertight shorts. the weirdness was located, however, on the second story, where i walked into the room of poorly stuffed animals. thats not its actual name, but it stands true, they had all manner of dead creatures, cats, chipmunks, birds, badgers, lobsters and other crustaceans, even 3 lions, and every single one of them looked like it came out of a beginning taxedermy class. the marble eyes were all popping out like theyd suffocated to death, and the faces were bent into to hideous fanged smiling expressions. the actual skulls and bodies were deformed, it made me wonder if anyone from this town, after seeing actual real live and not poorly stuffed animals, was taken aback at the difference in shape. pieces of the skin were falling off, and the highlites i now remember were a siamese twin squirrel with one head and two torsos, and a baby lamb that had one head, two bodies, and 8 legs. thats right, 8 legs. it looked like a crazy lamb-spider. both of those freaks of nature only lived 5 minutes, the panel said, after listing the kind folks who had donated the carcasses.

other then that ive been taking it easy, gonna go hike up the volcana santa maria tomorrow with some other international folks i have met at the hostel, its 3375 meters, not the highest peak in central america but im not into peak bagging enough to go out of the way to get that one. on this trip anyways. after that, on towards antigua then up to coban and some more mayan ruins, including tikal.

a last note, two things youre gonna see in guatemala that you might not see so much in mexico: men passed out in the middle of the sidewalk and dead dogs in the street. it wont be long im sure before they cart some of the dead dog bodies over to the plaza, bend them into unnatural postions, and put them in their place of honor, in the second story of the natural history museum.


looks like salon has a string of good articles, if youre at work and have time:
this one about the anniversary of row vs wade and how bush might be able to stick some evil conservative judge on the supreme court and make our country a disgusting conservative bastion of shit.

germany finally says its gonna appose the war on iraq. with all their citizens who appose it, its about time.

another blog thats worth checking out is drews girlfriend kristas site, i find it quite amusing and wittily written (fuck is wittily even a word? maybe i should have said in a witty manner. oh well, i aint in college no more).

ok thats all, back to the hostel to cook dinner.

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January 21, 2003

quick honey, call the travel agent

dumb dumbs. dumb dumb dumb.

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January 20, 2003

8 ball says, overnite bus in your future

bid my friend genevieve fairwell today, shes off for d.f. and the flight to australia, it was good fun hanging out with her, now who will i make fun of hippies with?
watched love and death by woody allen last night, found it to be the film of his that i like the least, too errudite and wanky.
my jaw set got out of place when i was in roberto barrios, its happened to me before and it always cures itself within a few days, but this time its been 10 days and it still hurts and bothers the hell out of me. asked doa rosita to help out, but her natural medical tecniques involved massaging my feet (gross for her, eh?) and giving me some flower extract to drip in my mouth when i feel unsure about my future. i think that kind of medicine really requires that you believe in it a lot, which i dont. i just cant see a muscle spasm having something to do with my feet or a swimming injury she narrowed it down to, call me a skeptic. i still love her though, when i said that i was leaving tonight she said i couldnt go, but i assured her id be back in the future. today i went to the redcross today and they said i needed an xray, which im not gonna pay for, i think if i had a muscle relaxer it would loosen up and be fine, i think thats what i did the last time, but pops isnt around to hook me up with a drug company sample. i might go talk to a doctor here, but as i understand they want 50 bucks a visit. too rich for my blood, im gonna try the hot towel method instead. my past few injuries have made me realize that getting medical insurance will be a good thing to have again, with luck i wont hurt myself again till then.
gonna bid anthony fairwell, we figured out today that we met almost exactly 3 months ago today, a lot has happened since then, we have tenative plans to go travel in africa in the future. might meet up with pascual in antigua, well see, otherwise maybe someday our zipolite crew will meet up in canada or australia.
next time i write in here, itll be from guatemala. how excellent. may you all be well.

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January 19, 2003

leaving tomorrow actually

heading out tomorrow night, still gotta go buy my ticket. seems like back home there are tons of protests against the impending war in iraq, i was excited to hear that bush is at his lowest approval rating ever.

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January 17, 2003

san cristobal news

im taking off sunday night for good, going to guatemala, though not sure by which route. was gonna go to lago de atitlan but apparently there is a rainbow gathering there, and as much as id like to go sabotage that shit i dont think i can handle the smell of patchouli, its my cryptonite. other then that, the mexican boys are all singing along with the dixie chicks here in the internet cafe, at least the eminem power hour is over.
tomorrow were going to tuxla gutierez, a town a few hours away, to see the lord of the rings film. were geeks.

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a bit about roberto barrios and my experience

paisaje: i was living in the jungle, next to a river. not enough but a few times when the water wasnt muddied by the rainstorms i went and swam in the river, i have a new afinity for dunking my head under moving bodies of water and listening to the passing sound, it wasnt even that cold. the mud there was a pain in the ass when it rained, but out of some sort of luck i was there during a 6 day period of no rain, it dried up and we didnt have to wear the rubber boots all day.
probably the most beautiful water falls ive ever seen in my life were a quick 15 minute walk from our campamento. its a series of 7 falls, but not falls in the strict sense of the word. instead, the water streams down of these rock formations that have been worn down by the centuries of water passing, but the surface isnt slick, its full of ridges so that you can walk right down the falls. its kinda an optical illusion, to walk up this steep slope of tan colored rock with 3 inches of water flowing around your feet, if you look over at someone it looks like they should have fell already.

zapatistas y nios: almost every night the kids would come to our cook shack, which was next to our dormitorio, and hang out, talking and playing chess and telling stories. this one set of brothers were the most fun, they recounted stories told by their grandfather of settling the land and clearing the trees for the milpa (growing field). the grandfather had told them of 10 meter long snakes eating goats, of waist high monkeys that they had to kill with a rifle cause the monkeys would attack, and of some strange 4 foot tall at the shoulder mini elephant that killed the mensdogs with its trunk. i doubted that last story, but they were pretty earnest people and didnt seem to be leading me on about that one. the jungle back then must have had tons of animal life that would have blown our minds had it not been killed or died off.
the also told stories of the oppression and persecution by the government and the paramilitares. a big bone of contention in the community is the waterfalls, the priistas want to build a hotel there and bring in tourists, and the zapatistas wont have that. apparently some paramilitares from the group paz y justicia (peace and justice, the mother of all misnomers for a guerrilla group) killed a man from honduras there a few years ago, and had killed some zapatista men more years ago. back when the military came in, i think it was 96, all the men and boys fled to the mountains, israel one of the youths was with them, he said they had hardly any food, just a little bit of maiz and tortillas. finally they were able to come down, where they found their crops burned and their houses burgled. crazy stuff.

way of life: , they didnt seem bitter much, regardless of all thats happened to them, the indigenous way of life doesnt seem to have room so much for grudges, they all talked about how much they enjoy being out in the milpa planting and harvesting the crops, israel for instance had went to learn to be a carpenter, he said he was pretty good at it, but then he came back to work on the familys piece of land out at the milpa instead. at first glance the village seemed desolate, but they all have the base staples of food and the kids run and play and help gather lea for firewood, they know how to get by in their own way, and thats all they really want.
it must be weird in a way to have westerners in the community, sometimes the younger folks would come up and just look at us, id say hello and ask their names, and half the time theyd ignore me and walk away. the native language there is tsetal, but most everyone spoke good spanish as well. i feel like they warmed to me more after i went to the church, the only place in town that i didnt feel the tension between the zapatistas and the priistas, and helped hook up the vcr so they could watch some movies about the plan puebla panama and about genetically modified corn. earlier id been out on the grass in front of the church roughhousing, swinging the little boys around by their arms and legs and throwing them up in the air, and after seeing that i was a good guy the people seemed friendlier with me. i felt weird at times when i would use my fancy water filter or my cookstove or my mp3 cd player, and the kids would all look at it like it was stuff from outer space. they all get by just fine without stuff like that, i realized that i dont need any of it either, but then again its useful at times and dont mind lugging it around on my back.

fun times: one night in the cookshack where we all sat around the kids, and one of them looked at me, very seriously, and said, that squeeking sound, thats the lizards that live in the roof, the quiquis. theyre very poisonous, be careful. now no one had warned me of this at all before, so i was skeptical, but they all agreed and i began to feel a little worried. poisonous lizards? hell. then a few days later, one of them climbed up my leg, onto my shirt. one of the boys said, kill it daniel! quickly i stood up and launched it across the cookshack, kinda shaky. the next day i cornered their dad, antonio, and he said they had been pulling my leg. damn kids. hehe.

last thoughts: i had a really good experience, think i already wrote that, but it was nice to see a group of people so different then me. i plan to go back to a community the next time i go back. when i left, antonio said i should tell people where i live to come down as well, he seemed really concerned that their would always be international observers there, that it was important for the community in case (or more realistically, when) the government comes back to screw with them some more. they impress the hell out of me with their resolution in the face of the inevitable.

a popular slogan they wrote on the walls of buildings there comes from a hundred years ago when zapata was fighting to free mexico from the corrupt government of back then. la tierra para quien la trabaja. (the land is for whoever works it) i sincerely hope that the zapatistas get the land, they deserve it.

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January 16, 2003

back from the community

my choices were either today or sunday, their wasn`t a ride any other day, so i got back in at 1 oclock today, left at 5 am on the redila (community truck), got into palenque at 7, was on a bus by 8. just finished getting through my emails, had something like 70 pieces of junkmail, that`s incredible.
not gonna launch into my thoughts and stories about roberto barrios right now, need to sleep and get some perspective. i do wanna say that the 2 weeks i spent out there made a big impression on me, such a beautiful place and a strong people to be around and interact with, plus more then enough time to think about things such as my life and future travel plans and things i wanna do with myself. it was really good.


there was one other thing i also noticed on the way back from palenque. mexico is the speed bump capital of the world. all the speed bumps that used to be in your neighborhood but they took out? they brought them down here. literally every 200 meters the bus slowed down to a crawl, and it`s tired, cringing springs bounce us over the bounce strategically places speedbumps, halfway up some steep ass hill, and the semi in front starts to roll back and the busdriver`s repeatedly touching his picture of the virgin mary that`s stuck to the dashboard and i`m half asleep because falling all the way asleep is impossible, the specially designed headrests have been custom engineered to leave your neck at the exact right angle to cause a nice head ache that isn`t helped a bit by the bouncing of the damn bounce bus. i understand why they have them, even with the speedbumps the mexican drive like it was their last day on earth, almost on par with the italians for reckless indangerment of everyone else on the road. you`d think they wouldn`t be so excited to rev their car up to full speed right before they had to slow down for the everpresent speedbumps, but no, they`re happy to slam on the breaks, bounce their cars, all of which have cool things written on the front windshield like (translated from the spanish) my gift from god. what the hell is that about, did god come down and place this nissan sentra on your doorstep? did he put those stickers of the naked ladies on the bumper as well? how nice of him. anyways, as i look out the door of this internet cafe i can see them careening by, and it makes me glad they have high curbs.

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January 09, 2003

fotoshop friday... err thursday

dan-zap.jpg

postcard.jpg

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snuck down from the mountains for a minute

i know i said i`d be away for 2 weeks, but someone had to come down to buy supplies for our campamento and i volunteered, cause i wanted to buy a hammock and some soy sauce and a roll of film, and cause i wanted to update my blog before i forgot all that i`d recently seen.

roberto barrios is about 2 hours from palenque town, where i am now. i went in a big ass ford truck that would make mark proud, bouncing through the countryside, passing indigenous people dressed in bright clothes walking along the side of the dirt road, sometimes carrying big bundles of wood. whenever the road forked, it seemed like we took the worse worn path. i would duck when branches came by, then pop back up. as i looked at the countryside i thought about how all this land was mayan for hundreds and hundreds of years, how they had civilization and culture and gods and monuments. the view was breathtaking, towards the horizon were layers of hills that looked smoky, lined up like sets of waves coming in to a shore. after the river crossing, an amazing moment in which the truck crossed on an underwater rock bridge and i stared back upstream at the waterfalls then downstream at the jungle greenery beyond, we arrived at the aguas calientes. i hopped down and was greeted by two espaolas and a mexican guy. i checked in my visitador card and dumped my backpack in the bunkhouse. the ground was covered in mud, and i switched quickly to my rubber boots. we sat around cooking and i filled them in on my experience of the zapatista protest march that i`d seen a few days before.

the town of roberto barrios is not entirely zapatista, there are priistas living there as well. priistas as supporters of the government, being called that because the pri was the ruling party for 70 years, think i already wrote about that once before. anyways, about half the people in the village are nice and friendly to us, and the other half either won`t look at us or give us mildly dirty looks, while their children call us gringos and feign throwing rocks and stick at us. it`s unnerving to say the least, since we`re here because we want to help.
what do we do to help, i ask myself? well, we just sorta sit around in case the government shows up in trucks to move everyone or to murder anyone or stuff like that, which has happened. the first houses on the way into the town from our campamento, which is at the entrance to town, are where the paramilitares live. 2 years ago they killed a zapatista man, i can`t get the details, not really supposed to ask for them, but just knowing that makes the situation a little more real, you know?

so pretty much my day consists of waking up, making some food, maybe painting the women`s co-op building a bit or carrying rocks around to make paths through the mud, swimming in the river and washing my clothes down there like the natives do, making some more food, reading a ton, napping, and playing with the local zapatista kids.

the kids, and when i say kids i mean boys, the girls never come around, well, the boys came around a lot more when the spanish girls were here, always wanting to play this card game called burro, a really really simple game that involves passing of cards and slapping hands on the table, they love it and every once in a while one of the kids will let out this hi pitched aiiiiiiiiiiiiii, from the top of vocal range, it was unnerving at first but it`s normal for them, and it`s kinda cool. my favorite kid is named modesto, he`s about 10. he gets up at 5 every morning to walk 2 hours to the fields to work, and gets back around 4. yesterday he was telling me stuff about his life, while i tried to teach him to juggle. apparently they killed 2 snakes yesterday, poisonous ones, the best method involves either using a machete or throwing rocks from a distance. modesto favors the machete method, a while ago they brought a dead snake up to the campamento, it lives in a pickle jar, it`s severed head bumping against it`s body.

a few days ago had a long conversation with a few older zapastista youths, they were quizzing me about what i thought their chances were to make it to the u.s. to work. the first chilango, also named daniel, was there, and he tried to dissuade them from going. i told them the truth as i know it, that it`s dangerous as hell to cross the border and they could get caught and sent back at any minute. they listened to us trying to tell them that it wasn`t worth it, but i`m sure they`ll make their own choice. israel, the leader of the youths, talked about some guy he knew who went up and came back with a bunch of money. they asked if i knew anyone who could give them jobs, i said no, even though i might. the phenomenon of mexicans coming up and crossing the border is really hard on their families back home, and although i don`t know what my place is as an american in advising them against it, i know from having talked to lots of people here that especially in the north, there are towns bereft of men, left only to unwed mothers and ancianos.

so i just reread what i`ve written, semi inarticulate, eh? it`s like i`m mumbling as i type. i think i`ll chock that up to no speaking any english the last week, i think my dreams have been in spanish, not entirely sure though. i do know that up there i have more time to think then i`ve ever had, it`s almost unnerving, i lay around and make long distance plans for travelling and the future, then erase them and think of new ones. with another 8 days ahead of me, i expect i`ll have sorted out my entire life by the time i come down. yeah right.

una cosa mas, es que quiero decir que por haber visto la pobreza en la que viven ellos los zapatistas, me impresiona un montn su fuerza y su conviccin contra todos que les oponen a ellos. los nios vienen and nunca nos piden nada, todos ellos son nobles y tienen mas sabiduria que cualquier otra gente que he conocido, es increible.

ok, gonna go buy supplies, you might find posted within the next few days some fotoshopped fotos of me, courtesy of my old boss mark gandolfo from unr, he`s a champ eh?
alright, gonna mumble on out of here.

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January 04, 2003

waiting in palenque for the truck out to Roberto Barrios

the bus from palenque was a long long ride, got here at 6 am, almost forgot my shoulder bag on the bus but remembered to go grab it before too late. went and found the camioneta (truck) that will take me out to the community, and i stashed my pack in there. then went and got some breakfast, wrote and mailed a letter to grandma, and now i`m back on the internet, since there`s nothing else to do in palenque town. i have a few hours to kill, i`ll do this for a while then go walk around i guess.
last night was really fun, hung out with genevieve (spelled your name right that time), anna and the canadian folks who showed back up at the hostel cause they couldn`t get a bus to oaxaca. i have to say the last couple of days i`ve done more laughing then in quite a while, the combination of the sardonic aussie/new zealand humor of genevieve and anna plus all the weird people and things we`ve seen had us taking the piss out of (making fun of) nearly everything. every time i hear someone speak in that serious hippy manner about energy and vibrations i`m gonna have to check myself from being a dick to them. it was cool to meet a riot grrrl from australia and to hear anna tell the most lurid stories of my trip so far, i`ll almost be scared now to make it to n.z. just kidding.

by the way, the links on this lower left of this page i added myself, it was probably the most simple thing in all of html writing but i was pretty proud of myself. go check out steve`s webpage, he`s a funny guy.

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January 03, 2003

heading out tonight, but first about the zapatistas protest

so im going to Roberto Barrios, in the northern zone of chiapas. i was a little relieved that i didnt get assigned to the selva or jungle region, thats where the forced removal of indigenous communities is gonna start going down bigtime, in the montes azules area.
i have to take the overnight bus to palenque, a busride ill have done three times now, and the bus looks full and i have this sneaky suspicion that a small child will find a way to sit next to me and poke my ribs all night long. after that i catch the communitys truck out to the community, a 2 hour drive. im hoping it doesnt start to rain, if it does the river that the truck has to drive across can get so high that we wont be able to cross.

Robero Barrios is one of the 5 aguas calientes. each community designated as an aguas calientes is a place where group decision making for the zapatistas takes place, so it should be a really interesting place to be. the name aguas calientes come from the mexican revolution, when zapata and some of the leaders fighting against the corrupt as hell government met in the city of aguas calientes, which i believe is north of mexico city. its a good use of symbolism.
the town is not entirely zapatista, there are also pri supporters there, pri being the institutional revolutionary party, the party that was the only party in charge of mexico up until recently. now the pan is in charge, but as far as the zapatistas are concerned the pan is equal to the pri, both of them pretty much tell lies and offer false promises to the indigenous communities.

the protest that i mentioned yesterday was amazing, heres a story that my friend jenka helped write for it. she also did a radio segment for the pacifica network, which aired yesterday. i helped do the translation for the piece, it was really fun for me,
we waited nearly all day to watch the protest, finally at 9 at night the zapatistas started marching into the square, answering calls such as viva mexico! with a thundering VIVA! the comandantes talked about how the mexican government wasnt gonna displace anyone from montes azules without a fight. they talked about how their struggle was the worldwide struggle against corrupt and evil governments and against corportations that valued profits over the lives of people. it was very inspiring, and although we stood stomping out feet because of the cold, there was an electricity in the air and in the words and ideas being stated that kept everyone there, shouting along and singing the zapatista hymn till 1130 at night.

during the protest i helped translate for my new friend genevive from sidney australia, but im not so good yet and when somene is speaking rapid fire and you have to try and keep up you cant, or at least i cant, relay the eloquence of their spanish into english. with the radio piece i had more time to craft the words and ideas so that they sounded as intelligent in english as they did in spanish. it was good for me.

also got to do some translating last night for this lady from holland who wanted to talk about her form of alternative medicine. her daughter did the first part, where she told us how she started as a dentist but moved on to homeopathic and acupuncture and other forms of alternative medicine. eventually she got an enthusiastic volunteer, this mexican lady who lives next to the hostel. then she whipped out this flexible magic wand thingy with a metal ring at the end, she said she had trained herself to detect from the aura or energy field (cue me laughing) what it was that was causing someone to be sick. apparently she found it easier to make herself neutral when she was carrying (cue me stifling laughter while sitting in a group of semi interested people) cristals and other weirdo talismans. i took over translating then, and first thing off the bat the mexican woman makes some comment about her lungs being bad, and wouldnt you know, 5 minutes later the lady passes her hang across the womans back over her lungs and, lo and behold, the magic wand waggled back and forth in the negative formation. hallelujah!!! its a miracle! i looked over at rosita and saw a glint in her eye, like she wasnt buying this crap either. about that time genevive and anna the dirty joke and story telling new zealander motioned that theyd had enough of this talk about vibrations and cristals and that they were going for food. we went and got some food, then came back just in time to see everyone filing out of the living room of the hostel like theyd seen a mediocre film. i asked what wed missed, and my spaniard friends said more of the same. we went inside and rosita was looking at the magic wand, wait sorry the bio sensor, and she had a little grin. this is very interesting she said, making the wand waggle. so if it bobs up and down it means yes, if it bobs side to side it means no, and if it does this (she waggles it in a circle) it means i have no idea. she motioned me over, and started to pass her hand across my face, then my chest. she looks at the magic wand, waggling it side to side in the no motion, and said its telling me that something is wrong with your foot. she laughed, as did all of us. then she put her own hand behind her head, and holding the wand still. its telling me that i have a problem with...indecision. we were all rolling around laughing, and rosita said if she had a wand like this she would sleep with it every night. very funny i must say.
ill be out of email contact till the 18th i believe, should have some good things to say when i get back.

about how ive never written about cuba, in the extended entry section ive included the first part of what ive written, it isnt completed but feel free to check out it.

on cuba

first of all i have finally arrived back in san cristobal, a 17 hour busride seated right next to an admittedly kind mexican woman and her your daughter. the child was a bit squirmy, but i gave her some of my mandarine orange and she smiled so it was ok, plus i was exhausted and managed to actually get some bus sleep. just got some food with anthony, hes doing good, were gonna have some tequila this evening after i eat dinner at the hostel with rosita who owns the hostel and all the spaniards that are there who i just met this morning. good old spain, i get to say hostia.

so i was sitting in the airport in cancun, which on a side note i have declared first city to get bombed out of existance once someone i know gets their hands on the presidency, which will be never, but i must say that it corrupts the rest of the yucatan peninsula and i hope to never set foot there again, stong sentiments but its true, all i can say is what a shithole. anyways, in the airport i spotted a couple speaking spanish, i approached them and met aa and keez, pronounced case, her being from barcelona and him from holland. hed been travelling a record two years straight, started at the tip of south america, it was inspiring to hear of his travels. on the plane we exchanged glances as the floor of the yaklov 42, a russian jet, had a weird smoky but not smoke mist rising between the seats and down the aisle. the flight was fine, and when we landed at jose marti international airport in havana everyone clapped.
i got through customs after getting 10 minutes of questions about myself, since my passport says new mexico they thought i was lying about being from the u.s., then they searched my entire backpack, the lady was very nice about it, and i had to repack the whole thing. we bargained the taxi driver down to 12 bucks for the ride, one thing ive learned on this trip is that i can bargain pretty well, whenever they tell me the price i look at them like theyre crazy and walk away, when the follow you you know you can work them.
driving into town, we marvelled at the classic 1950s cars, the semis pulling bus trailers that must have held 100+ people, the carts being pulled by mules, the people on bicycles, everyone hitchhiking and only the women getting picked up, and the complete lack of exhaust protection enforced. the driver spoke rapid fire cuban spanish, i adjusted fairly well, i started cutting all ss out of my spanish and mumbling and he understood me just fine. as you drive along there is propaganda all over, the best is a wide painting on a wall that shows fidel castro yelling across an expanse of water at an evil looking uncle sam dear imperialist, we have not the slightest fear of you!
the driver dropped us off in the old part of havana, la habana vieja, near our street on aguacate. we found the house of elvia, the lady whos email i had obtained a while back, and she sorted us out with rooms in casas particulares, which means staying in a bedroom with a family. thats the best way to do it there, the hotels are government run and uniformally crappy. cuba is very much geared towards package tourism, we would have had to lie at the customs agent that we were staying at a government hotel if theyd have asked.
I sat in the room waiting, and 10 minutes later my brother steven showed up. it was a good reunion, hadnt seen him since august when he dropped me at a truckstop so i could hitch to idaho. we dumped our bags and headed out to eat. we ate at a dollar restaurant with slow service but ok beans and rice. we spent time catching up and had some beers, it was good to see him, hes gotten quite good at the spanish, i was stoked for him.
someone had told me that in cuba there are always people on the street. this i found to be true, swarms of life walking in different directions. what i hadnt heard was that many are standing in line for bread. i guess ill get into my rant/thoughts on the whole political situation, not that everyone cares, but im really glad i got to see it before it all starts to change, as its sure to. i spent a good amount of time talking to cubans, from the owners of the casas particulares to taxi drivers to people on the street. i would say that maybe half the people seemed pretty happy with how the country is, that they felt they had enough to eat, that they supported fidel and the government. these were usually the folks who were letting us stay in their houses. the rest, particularly one cab driver and a guy we met while sitting on the dock at cienfuegos, were very unhappy to be in that country and not able to leave. these people generally had family in miama, and it must have weighed on them that their relatives had more freedom and options because they lived in the united states. i asked them who was to blame, thinking that they would say the cuban government, which they usually did. i would ask if they thought that my government had something to do with it, and theyd acknowledge it, but they seemed to feel that the cuban government should change as to better deal with the u.s, if only so they had it easier on the island. the desenters tended to be catholics i also noticed, not very devoted to marxism and the revolution.

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January 02, 2003

leaving tomorrow to the community

i go right now to find out which community, and what ill need to bring with me out there. pretty excited.
yesterday was really cool, there was a huge zapatista protest in the main plaza, indigenous people from zapatista villages marched in to the city and the comandantes spoke in front of a mixed crowd of zapatistas and people from san cristobal about their plans and fortitude against the mexican government.
ill try and find a link with pictures later, right now i have to go find out which village i go to.

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January 01, 2003

the new look

thanks much to drew for helping me switch to moveable type, on new years eve no less, i owe him a beer. still trying to chance the stylesheet, itll look slicker pretty soon, more primary colors or something.
well its new years day, last night we had another big group dinner at the hostel, i ate a bunch of lentils and rice and drank some tequila with ponche, the same punch that had cinnamon, sugarcane, pineapple and other stuff. rosita looked as happy last night as she did on christmas eve, everyone sang songs from their countries and she played guitar and made a little talk about peace and stuff like that. heartwarming in an uncheezy way.
my stomach wasnt feeling so good for some reason and i was hobbling around because of my foot wound, but i still went out afterwords to a few bars. got to play some pool and talk to my buddy derek, hes working on a documentary but i cant quite figure out what its about, last night him and his friend were filming people at the fake rave thing at anthonys work. whatever. ran into some friends id made when i was here before, for instance this crazy basque guy who was the drunkest guy there, he kept getting up on the stairs and making a firetruck siren noise, everyone kept looking back at him and hed pump his arms to the music. funny shit.
today there was supposed to be a protest at 9 am, the zapatista villages were gonna march into san cristobal from their communities, they havent showed up yet, im gonna go back down to the zocalo (main plaza) and see if theyve showed up yet.
tomorrow i find out what community i go to. then friday i go out there for two weeks, man, two weeks without internet, hard to imagine. itll prolly be good for me.
ok ill update this again tomorrow, then off to the communities, im excited.


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