On the hunt for Amber

Trip Start Jul 11, 2008
Trip End Sep 30, 2008

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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Claire: Sorry everyone who was expecting to hear from Scott or Han, its me again I'm afraid. I thought the previous entry had not saved (the itnernet crashed before i could save it) so I just popped in planning to rewrite it. But good news its there so now I guess I can just continue and Han will write about Guatemala instead of San Cristobal.

San Cristobal is another town of the cobblestone-streets plus colonial-churches nature, where all the little houses lining the streets are painted brightly and there's lots and lots of wrought iron railings and the like.  The streets are also lined with old VW beetles (the ones with engines in the boot!) and many many women and young girls in rainbow-coloured dresses selling pieces of material and friendship bracelets. The town is centred, as most of these towns are, around a large "parque central", with gardens in the middle where old men with canes and no teeth sit discussing the days' events with each other just like you'd imagine. We had a couple of absolutely delicious coffees looking out over the park watching the world go by.

On our first day in San Cristobal we took a tour to local indigenous villages. Here, older Mayan traditions blended in  unique way with the Catholicism brougt over by the Spaniards and has resulted in a ind of quasi-Catholic town where religious leaders gain their positions of power simlpy by adding their name to a waiting list in the main church and where sermons are so seldomly held in the church that there is one church for 60,000 people. They use the cross, similar to Christianity, but only because it represents the Ceiba tree, an impotrant and symbolic tree for the Maya. Inside the church it is barely recognisable as Christian. There are no pews and the floor is scattered with pine leaves. Shamans offer healing sessions for families or individuals in the church, so the floor was taken up with lots of different groups, all kneeling in front of a vast array of candles (different colours represent different things, but i cant remember exactly what). They take fizzy drinks into the church because they believe burping relives them of bad spirits, and they rub chickens (or eggs, if chickens are not available) over any parts of the body that are in pain torelieve them of ailments. It was so utterly different to anything i'd seen before. None of us knew quite what to make of it.

The next day we went to a nearby Canyon but it wasnt as spectacular as other things we've seen. You know you're getting desensitised when you sit in a canoe and say "oh, another crocodile. Meh".

We couldnt resist staying in San Cristobal another night, so we spent the third day exploring the town properly, taking in lots of museums on Mayan medicine, amber, lenca tribes in Chiapas and so on. Did you know Mayan women give birth on their knees and did you know that amber is amde from sap of trees that lived 30-40million years ago? Well there you go. Han and I succumbed to all the jewellery shops around the town and bought amber, jade and amethyst things even though its completely out of budget but justified by the fact its less than half the price of the UK and twice as special.

So that was San Cristobal. Han's going to do Guatemala next.


PS. Mark, awesome about the dream team thanks for doing that. As long as I beat Scott, that'll do!!
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