Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Guilty in Antigua

Okay.. so I feel incredibility guilty.. bailed on homeschooling today and totally sluffed off .. didn't even feed the kids lunch! I'm blaming it on bad tv. Our great little apartmento comes with TV in both the bedrooms and I think we've all been a little starved for passive entertainment and we've been overloading.. feels like we are in a tv/video over indulgance hangover day or something. Here we are in this beautiful, historic, World Heritage Site town and we're sitting here vegging on American tv shows. Did I say we were content cruising in 1st gear? But today I feel like we've just reversed or something.. or maybe this is what you'd call neutral. Maybe I can work it and say I've been working on my spanish (sub-titles) or maybe I can work it and say this will help me appreciate the authentic culture around us or maybe I can just indulge and not feel guilty.. isn't Lent coming soon or something?

Anyways.. here are a few pics of our happy little apartmento...

It's the one with the fresh paint.. not the fixer-upper next door!

It's like a little Hobbit house

view of Feugo Volcan from the roof top terrace.. it is actually smoking!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

213 days of travel

I can't quite figure if the pace we have adopted is a result of travel fatigue or if we have truly managed to shift down into 1st gear and happily cruise at that speed - probably it's a bit of both.  We had a slew of things/places we wanted to see and show the boys but lately we are more content to just stay put and live day by day and not rush to see any tourist things or visit the main attractions. (hence I haven't really had too much to blog about).

We arrived in Antigua, Guatemala after a 7 1/2 hour van ride which was pretty gruelling.  For the final leg we sat in traffic in Guatemala City (at rush hour) after already sitting for 6 hours (much of which both Sean and I felt car sick as a result of the winding mountain roads).  Sean and Liam were amazing - no complaints, no worries... they just accepted that that was what we were doing for the day. I think back when we were planning our trip and worried how they would manage driving across Canada and here they are managing long treks on public transportation in Central America!  We are  proud of their emerging travelling skills. (now if they could be that relaxed about the food!)

We get a lot of looks, we stick out as a family backpacking (we haven't come across any other family travellers lately) as most of the travellers tend to be youngish backpackers.  Eric and I are reminded of earlier times when we traveled though this territory, about 18 years ago!  Every time I say that I baulk a bit... was it really that long ago?  I try to imagine what we look like to the other backpackers. I think mostly people think it's kind kind of cool that we are travelling with the kids and we do get some comments along that line, but mostly it feels like we are the oddity. And  though it feels isolating sometimes to be the odd ones out on the travel circuit... it is also kinda  cozy with our little nucleus family, always sharing the experience, the space, the time together.  (though sometimes it's a bit too cozy!)

We are slowly (slowly) giving up comparing things to when we were here last time.  Our vision of sharing a trip like last time with Sean and Liam is gradually being redefined and a new vision of slower easier travel, with lots of time together as a family, is emerging.  The desire to "see it all, soak it all up, get off the beaten track" does not seem as critical.  Instead a 1st gear approach where we can all cruise comfortably and just let being here envelope us is emerging.  And... I'm liking it!  There are little travel agencies on every street enticing Volcano tours, Lago Atitlan tours, coffee tours etc... etc... things to do and see but we just walk past.  We've been in Antigua for about a week and we just got around to visiting the main Cathedral two days ago.

When we first arrived we stayed in this great hostel - with friendly travellers and an owner who was so sweet and helpful we really didn't want to leave.  But we couldn't keep the boys energy level contained for too long in a communal living environment  so we hunted around for our own space and Ceci, the owner of the hostel, found us this amazing Apartmento in a primo part of Antigua - and it was available!  What luck (Liam says our Bald Eagle is still with us!).  So, we are "hanging" here in Antigua in 1st gear (perhaps even neutral?) for the next 3 weeks.

Here are pics from when we left Copan, Honduras and a few glimpses in to our experience in Antigua.  More to follow soon.

Copan... Lugging our stuff.. didn't have too far to go... so it was okay.

Honduran-Guatemala border crossing 

Hello Guatemala!

Too tired to eat (we arrived about 7:30pm) so we just went to a local panaderia and
got some yummy banana bread for dinner.

Roof top lounging... loved it!

Agua Volcan in the distance
Cobbled streets and colonial Spanish architecture...

Mayan ladies with their bundles of crafts to sell

Well, homeschooling was a success today..  no major revolts.. the sky is clear.. sun is out.. off to La Bodegona for a few more groceries.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Ancient Maya World of Copan

We have been in Copan for a week and Eric is feeling much better (it took about 9 days for him to recover).  We really haven't done much in that week but somehow it feels completely okay.  We did get to the Mayan ruins of Copan when Leah was down visiting and that was a nice stroll through ancient temples and carvings and ball courts and all sorts of remnants of the ancient Mayan city.  The coolest part was seeing the trees and tropical forest crowding around the ruins... waiting to reclaim it's spot.  Some of the trees were huge with long big roots spreading down amongst the rubble... like an octopus ensnarling it's prey.  The wildlife is still around too... brilliant scarlet macaws that are indifferent to all the human activity and we've also seen a few blue crowned MotMots around as if they are as common as robins back home.  And some ground creatures like Agoutis and a possum.... no evidence of the jaguar which was revered in the time of the Maya.  The Scarlet Macaws were revered back then... the Ball court at Copan is decorated with Macaw head markers (stone carvings) and seeing the live Scarlet Macaws still hovering around made the connection between the era of classic Maya (about 1300 years ago) to now seem much more tangible.  This whole valley was once an important hub of the Mayan world with powerful rulers and prosperous chiefs peaking from about 400 A.D to 900 A.D before things went down hill - theories on deforestation and warring with neighbouring kingdoms.

Copan famous for it's carvings and Stelae

Looking down into the principal plaza

Alter depicting the lineage of Copan Rulers 

blue crowned MotMot



The boys weren't that impressed but Sean showed peaks of interest in the ruler called 13 Rabbit and we tried to equate the building of the temples and palace complex to building in Minecraft which helped Liam make some sense of it.  When we explored the Museum a few days later they were really not impressed except for the wide open gallery spaces to roam around but again there were glimmers of interest when I told them bits of the Popul Vuh, the creation story of the Quiche Mayan - stories of twin brothers in Xibalba (the underworld) fighting demon scarlet macaws and stuff like that.  Sean wants more of that... so I'm a bit heartened to know there is some glimmer of interest there.  Eric and I soaked it all up and were able to appreciate the glimpse into this ancient civilization that used a lot of animal mythology and symbolism.  All the carvings were done with stone-age technology!... ie no metal tools... so it's pretty impressive how they managed to make the intricate carvings and so much of it! The glyphs.. their language was not understood until just the last few decades only.. they think it's more phonetic based and most of the glyphs on the Stelae talk of the succession of rulers and their deeds.

Red structure in the back is a model of what they found underneath the main temple..
the Mayan built newer temples over the older ones.

I thought they were actually talking about the carvings...
but they were looking at a dragon fly.

The cultural exposure has been great... the rural town of Copan alongside the ancient site of Copan has been a rich place to see the workings of a small village community.  The town of Copan has grown quite a bit since we last visited and seems more prosperous but there is still the evidence of the subsistence living with little kids coming around to sell you corn husk dolls and if not successful then to ask for some food.  People on the street corners selling their green mangos or a bushel full of tangerines. Women with baskets on their heads wandering from store to store to sell their prepared foods, young men laden with plastic baskets of all kinds hanging around them going from street to street to make a few Limperas.  On the weekend there was a stir of activity with trucks arriving with their loads full of pineapples and eggs and people setting up their wares and taking up a whole street to take advantage of the non-city people coming in to do their shopping.  The boys haven't said much about the little kids or people coming up to us trying to sell things but Liam does seem to be trying to make order out of it.  He has come to the conclusion that people that sell food already have food but they need money to buy other things and people that sell non-food things need money to buy food.  The need for money and doing what ever they can to make some is definitely a theme we see daily here - very industrious people.

Though I think what Liam will remember the most about Copan are the steep streets... he loved to run down, and back up, and then back down again.

We are  now off to Antigua, Guatemala (change of plans... not going to Belize just yet)... we have a 6 hour shuttle bus ride ahead of us today... wish us luck!