Cold - crowded - amazing!

Trip Start May 19, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2010

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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Saturday, July 17, 2010

17th July – After another bus trip we arrived in San Cristobal in the afternoon, unpacked, and went to the markets. The problem here is that they make so much pretty jewelry that it is really, really difficult to choose anything and not everything. They also do not like to barter a lot here but I found a place where they had fork bracelets and the guy I talked to aid he got the idea from Germany. He was pretty stoked when he found out that I was German! Oh yea. And my bracelet was prettier but he did not want to admit it. Lol

So after strolling around this place for I do not know how long and looking at the village a little bit we returned to get ready for dinner. It was a nice local place again, not too fancy and with live music again. My ham and cheese quesadillas were a little disappointing but I was not hungry afterwards anymore so it was all good. When the group went back to the hotel I walked around once again by myself, to go through the streets, which are very crowded – and to the church, which is also very cute from the outside and surprisingly plain on the insight. What surprised me was that on the description it said that because this church was so fancy it outshined the other ones at that time. I'd really like to see what those other churches look like then.. All in all it is an adorable town and possibly my favourite.. also because we are pretty high in the mountains and women walk around with black, traditional and funky looking skirts because it is pretty cold here without mosquitoes!! Tomorrow we are going to see a Mayan play and Mayan villages. Wohoo!

18th July – Today we went on a half-day trip to two Mayan villages. Please don't ask for their names because I could not give you an answer.. But they were two different tribes with different ways of life. After our guide's faux pas to ask a bridal pair at the main church if we could go inside and take pictures of them as well we took off to a meeting room where spiritual leaders were doing a dance (all day long), which they do every Sunday in order to please the gods. They wore long robes, red and gray scarves and Geisha looking shoes. While they were dancing on the spot (more a shifting weight from one foot to the other) they were also chanting or singing accompanied by a little music group. Their saints all have necklaces, which the spiritual leaders take with at the end of the day to return them the week after. Also, all their saints (well most of them) have mirrors hanging around their necks and those are the one that people pray to. Of course I forgot why they mirrors but the ones that do not wear any are not prayed at. Then we proceeded to a market where children were sleeping on the empty corn things on the floor and people were selling food, clothes and CDs in their traditional clothing. Actually all the women in this village wear the traditional outfits whereas the men do not because they prefer to look more western. I had a steamed corn on the cob with mayonnaise, salt and salsa picante. YUM! I love corn.

Lastly we visited a weaving place where we heard all about the way they make table clothes etc and also where we listened to our awesome guide about the way people prayed, used herbs and animals for medicine and about information of the Maya. He was part indigenous and knew so much that I just could not stop asking questions!

Here a little of what we learned:

1.     Mayan cultures pray and heal using candles of different colours. The main colours are white, yellow, black and red. Do you know why? It is because those four colours are the colours corn comes in! Corn is so important to them that they believe that when you die you are reborn as corn actually. Fascinating. Back to the candles. When they go to church they put up the candles in certain colour coordinations because it depends on the alignment of what you would like to get out of the prayer.

2.     Sickness of the body or the spirit is healed with animals and herbs such as basil, chicken, eggs, soft drinks (same colour of corn).

3.     Women have children at the age of 18 and women at the age 25 not married are considered old and will struggle to find a husband.

4.     Women cannot choose who they want to marry but they have the choice to say yes or no to a man.

5.     Mayans accept any religion or belief if you respect theirs and do not try to convert them

6.     Shamans and spiritual leaders, and chiropractors exist and are widely used.

7.     Mayans do not like to have close up pictures taken of them.

In the second village we walked onto another market where the counsel/court was meeting. Around 100 men in traditional costumes sitting all next to one another to discuss issues or claims by citizens. When we got there they did not seem too busy. Scattered around the plaza were the policemen, which war something that looked like a chicken/feather jacket with Mexican hats and sticks. These are the policemen who also make sure no tourists take pictures of the counsel! Apparently in these village the crime rate is very low and there are no true crimes. This is probably also because if you do a minor delict or misbehave you are put 1-3 days in prison, which reminded me of ancient times. The cells were outside next to the markets, opposite of where people were selling food and other stuff, visible to everyone. We saw one inmate who looked like he either did not sleep at all or had a fist fight. What was super creepy was that he poked his head a little out and his eyes followed me until I hop-ran to where he couldn’t see me anymore.

Before returning we went to the main church which had a magical atmosphere with pine needles on the ground, standing candles everywhere, chicken, eggs and the strong smell of incents.

Back home we met for dinner and I had chicken with mole and rice and tortillas. Mole is a typical gravy and has chocolate in it!! After I watched the movie Chocolat for the first time I always wanted to have chocolate sauce over chicken  

The theatre did not work out today but we got our tickets upgraded and are going to sit in the first row the next day for the same show.

19th July – Yoghurt and a banana for breakfast and off to the Mayan medicine museum which was so close on the map! Walking there turned out to not be that close actually but as Mexico is all about their markets we walked through streets where you had to squish yourself through and dodge cars because they will not stop for you. My friend Cat was a couple centimeters away from one van that cut the corner a little too tight and that was nothing unusual. Oh well – I put my camera away when, after asking for the way again, we turned onto unpaved roads with less cars and obviously poorer people. This was only the second time during my Mexico trip that I felt a little uncomfortable. We eventually made it to the Museum and it was small but was very interesting because it showed all other kinds of candles with explanations used for treatment and healing as well as explanations on what they eat to heal sicknesses. My least favourite one is the Kolibri (Hummingbird) to cure Rheuma. But in addition to that the museum talked about the use of midwifes and how they were and are used in the life of a Mayan. For example the parents that are going to have a child go to the midwife to ask her for assistance and the midwife does not come to someone’s house automatically. This woman then fully takes on responsibility until the child is born, through the whole pregnancy. Another fun fact was that, to speed up the contraction the midwife rolls the stone press used to grind corn from the shoulders to the hips of the mother to be.
The way back seemed much faster and we went to a tiny Mayan chocolate place that I discovered yesterday when I was strolling around through the roads. It had a paper sign on the outside of the store and hardly fit in 6 people at the same time, including the owner. The owner gave us moka chocolate and traditional chocolate to try and so we decided to each get a cup of hot chocolate. It took a little while but just because he had the stove in front of him on which he roasted and prepared the hot chocolate freshly! After we left the store we tried to figure out where he was from because he was very attractive for a Mexican. We figured French maybe. Anyways – him and the two other people that were in the store with us wanted to see our expression when we drank the chocolate. Let me tell you – it tasted like something I have never had before! It still had a little oil film on top from cocoa beans, which taste quite bitter and gross if you eat them plain. But then what topped this experience was that he gave us each a little piece of cake (cupcake shape hehe) to dip into the chocolate because that’s how it was supposedly done. Indescribable!! We took photos as well as him, to print them out later on, write him a little thank you note and say Hasta luego!

Dinner this time was on us and we went next door after being soaked for the second time of the day. I forgot to mention the first one, but Alex, Cat and I were drenched by the time we got back from our city adventure and Cat almost lost her fliflop in the river in the streets. So half drenched, half dry we proceeded to the theater for our show Palenque rojo. It was the story of Palenque and how their ruler was captured by another tribe led by a woman.. This show was a little like the Lion King, but only a little!! Just to give you an idea of the costumes and the animals that played in it. The crocodile was funny because it was a guy laying on a skateboard haha Very sweet!

Third time to get drenched and this time the worst was on the walk to the bus station. We could not get cabs because they were stuck in the streets due to the flooded streets. We got to the station around ten and waited until our night bus took off at around 11pm. I cannot remember much of it because I slept pretty much the whole way but when we stopped for breakfast at 3am I went outside and watched one lonely but pretty firefly (Gluehwuermchen) fly around back and forth.. 
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