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My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [134] | Scholarship Entry

Seems unlikely that I would find myself at Mayan ruins on the tail end of a work trip, but here I am lying under a huge pine tree in the midst of what was once at important city: Iximche. What remains now, forces your imagination to run wild: important ceremonies, human sacrifices, the comings and goings of people from the surrounding villages, a soccer type game, that ended in death, weddings, births. It was an elaborate and complex society that only the impressive trees remember. The wind rustles their leaves as if trying to whisper the story of this place and the birds chirp and fly by, as they always have. It is the most peaceful and serene place I have been in Guatemala and there are few things better than finding a quiet, breezy place where you can lay and watch the clouds roll by as the symphony of sounds plays a one time show.

Yesterday was an 18-hour day.

6:00 am found me on a three hour“chicken bus” to meet Jose, the Habitat promotor, so we could embark on a three-hour motorbike ride on unpaved roads to the first home. The scenery was stunning as the motorbike struggled to carry us up and down the numerous mountains and along the ridges. The steep mountainsides proudly displayed their crops and were dotted with workers tending them. Textures and hues of green varied as we crossed through many microclimates and in front of some homes, women were crouched down on their knees, weaving away on their looms, as they have for generations. As the day-to-day life whizzed pass, it was so easy to see the connection these people had to the land and place.

Barely able to get off the motorbike, I hobbled down to the donated Habitat home. The Mejia family’s previous home (a one room, adobe walled, dirt floor, tin roof sleeping area) was destroyed during Tropical Storm Agatha and, financially, there was no way to repair or even consider building a new home, so life went on. The family is full of thanks, overflowing with joy and still in awe. Their smiles and kindness wrapped around me like a blanket and made me feel the warmth of the human spirit.

The two and a half hour ride back was bumpy and my legs could barely be convinced to stay in place to hold me on but I was pleased with what I had seen and I felt lucky to be in the moment. Many people don’t see or realize the direct impact they have on other’s lives but I am certain that if we put forth the energy to help others, somewhere things are just a little better.

I arrived back at my hotel after dark and when I looked in the mirror, I saw a dirt-covered face with a huge grin. My body ached, I was mentally drained and I was filthy from all the dusty roads and black smoke of buses, but I felt recharged.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

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