<h1>Month: April 2007
This morning was a lazy morning as I only had class at 2pm. However my first task was going to the bank as I am out of money, and I need to pay the hotel and the school. The hotel cost Q600 and the school Q1550. They charged me for the 4th day at the homestay. At first they wanted to charge me for the full week, $75 US. I feel that I have been cheated and this unfortunately leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and it makes me sad. I didn´t argue with them further. I learned some interesting things from Nelly today. That the pepita they put on mangoes is ground pumpkin seeds and that their pumpkins are green and much smaller than ours.
After sleeping in and a leisurely breakfast, I sat in Central Park Square, people watching. I love watching the kids eat ice cream or mangoes on a stick. I love the mangoes, so juicy. For Q5 they peeled and cut it all up in the pieces and put it all in a bag... yummy. I have at least one every day. I like mine plain, no sugar or pepito. Most o the shops were closed today. Went walking around and visited some high-end shops, lots of nice and expensive things. Some of the jewellery was amazing, the turquoise pieces were very attractive but at $350US... or $460US... I will pass. I tried finding the shop that I saw a small reproduction of a painting but I didn´t see it, the shop must be closed. I did see an Italian hair salon form Q350 I could get highlights way cheaper than what I paid at home. Don´t know if I would have time to do it before leaving though. Walking down the street and seeing the colourful remnants of the alfombras between the stones, this year´s semanta anta already par of the past, makes me wonder what other pieces of history I am walking on, and if it is the sum of the cities traditions and celebrations that holds it together. I actually went to a pub this evening called Locomonkey. It was like being back home... Before going to bed I had the pleasure of seeing the procession of Chris Resurrected. It went in front t of the hotel. What got my attention were the loud sound of firecrackers popping, and the loud music and drumming. It was not solemn but a celebration, people were singing and dancing in the streets. I closed my eyes, the air full of the smell of sulphur, and listened as the drumming and singing became less and less loud, until it had disappeared completely, leaving me with the memory of a very full and uplifting Semana Santa.
Disappointedly, the Maximon Tour didn´t happen. They couldn´t find my hotel, although I have Alex ocag´s business card with all the details, including the phone number. By the time I called the tour had already left. I started sticking photos in my journal until I ran out of tape. Happily all the photos will fit with about 8 pages to spare, so I will be able to start the Antigua pages leaving all of the Holy week in the second album. I am excited that I have taken so many photos, but I will have to be ruthless in my selection. After having a late breakfast at Fernando´s I scooted to EB Tours for my refund as I thought they closed at 1pm. Elizabeth was there and she apologised that the info wasn´t written down properly and promptly gave m my refund in US cash. By coincidence, I met up with the young girl and her mother whom I met on the walk foot the Hill of the Cross the other day. They raved a about the waling tour that they just did with Elizabeth. I am glad that I told them about it. They also thanked me for binging them to the San Fran church vigil. They invited me to have lunch with them. I had soup at a fancy restaurant by the arc. The chicken soup had rice instead of noodles fresh coriander and pieces of avocado, which I actually enjoyed! Fresh coriander is very yummy. We had a mice conversation about Guatemala, the children and education system. The mother is teacher and daughter is at teacher’s college, now going a 3m exchange here in Antigua. Her last three weeks will be in a rural community. We walked to the San Pedro????????????????????? And walked about a bit. Guided tours only happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After giving a small donation, and wishing both of them well in their studies and travels, I headed back to the hotel, just in time before the downpour. I continued my scrapbook until I heard the drumming of a procession. On Saturday, it is a procession of the Virgin Mary only, being carried by women all dressed in black, in mourning. It explains why it was so noisy at the hotel. The whole family was there kids running amuck. The procession came and went and everything went quiet again. This is the problem with having the room in the front, you hear everything. I went to bed early again!
It is 7pm and I am knackered. It has been an exhilarating all be it full day. I got up at 4am to take a shower and wake me up. At 4 30am I left walking towards the Merced, taking photos of carpets along the way. There were many people out on the streets even though it was still dark and cool. Funny to see people with coats and hats on. By the time I arrived at the church there were tons of people waiting for the float to exit the church. The ones with the best view was a cameraman on the roof and the two lads who climbed up the. I did not feel the heightened emotion as I did yesterday in the San Fran church but then I was inside for part of it. The food stalls were already set up and people were eating pizza and deep fried pastries at 5m... strange. After the crowd had cleared a bit, I went walking around looking for more alfombras, and came across many, some were inspiringly gorgeous. I took many photos. I then heard drumming and realized that the Merced procession was coming down the street I was on. I was able to get a close up view. Because I was walking in the opposite direction of everyone else) basically doing the procession trail backwards= there were many carpets that I missed. Once the cucurucho walk over them, there is nothing left but a mess of swirling color. There is a dump truck, a gru and a crew of men in red t-shirts with brooms, hovels and rakes who efficiently sweep everything up immediately. They make piles and the gry scoops it all up into the dump truck, where someone inside the truck makes it all compact. I wonder what happens to it? Recycled? Compost? Do they burn it? Or is it just umped somewhere? I wonder... Now fully satisfied I went back to the hotel to recharge my camera battery (I forgot to do it last night= and I slept until about 10am. Afterwhich I walked towards the Escuala of Christ Church I came across and photographed many more carpets and went inside the church at about 11am. I was there for the next hour as they ceremoniously took the statue of Jesus from a crypt, brought him to the front, then exactly at noon put him on the cross and hoisted the cross up. There are no benches in this church. Everyone standing up made it hard to see. Everyone lifting their arms snapping their cameras hoping to get a good photo. I felt badly for the Mayans who are all so short. And for the children, too big to be hoisted onto their parents shoulders yet too small to see. Although they are good at squirming their way to the front. Which is what happens as the people who were in the front leave. My original thought was that the crucifixion was going to be a reenaction) theatrical with actors=. This ceremony was moving. Everyone waiting in anticipation at every stage of the ceremony. If there was a theatrical re-enactment somewhere I missed it. I exited the church; the Merced procession was going by. I love the sound of the marching bank. I bought some badly needed water and cooled off in the Cathedral at Central Square for a while before buying a mango and lunch. After a little nap I headed off again at almost 3pm for the Cathedral procession. I followed the procession trail and came across many alfombras in various stages of completion. I find it equally interesting to see the mechanics of how they are done, as well as the family dynamics of getting them done. I then sat on the sidewalk, half a block away from Central Square and the Cathedral and waited for the procession to exit the church and head down the street. It didn´t take long. The procession was short compared to the Merced. What was different is that Jesus was laying don, in death, and the cucuruchos all wore black gowns and caps in mourning. At the beginning of the procession, their faces were covered. When the procession passed me, I then followed the trial for the Escuola of Christ procession. I came across many more alfombras in the making, as I was walking down streets I had never been on before. I was taking my time and when I was close to the San Fran Church, I could see the floats detailing the different stations of Christ´s death down the street. After a while they came closer and then it all stopped. These floats were pulled instead of carried but since the sculptures made in Spain back in the 50´s, some repairs were needed, to ensure that they didn´t fall off the float. Once they started going again the floats went by quickly. I took a many photos as I could. The cuuruchos wore black, and the passing by of Christ in a glass case was very moving, as his is the most realistic of them all in my opioin. What distinguished this procession from the others was the amount of incense used. Everything was in a haze of smoke; hopefully some good photos will come out of it. If nothing else, I have been purified by the incense many times over. I am now tired and have had enough for one day. A glorious day it has been! I am truly grateful for being here in this time of celebration and devotion. It is a gift.
I woke up early and packed all of my things before going out for the day. My first stop was a photo shop where I printed 99 photos from Copan, Tela and Livingston. The ones for El Salvador will have to wait until I get home as I need the smaller 3x5 format so that they fit nicely in my journal and they don´t print that size here. The photos printed out nicely, although there are few that aren´t usable. I printed less than half of the photos I had taken, and everything fits in 1 journal, which was what I was hoping for. I am hoping to find a proper pen so that I can start writing and gluing my photos. I then went to the San Francisco church, as there was a procession at 1pm. I arrived early, as there were swarms of people there already. I snuck inside the church by the side entrance (to San Pedro's tomb) and could see the float. The priest finished by saying his mass and the cucuruchos hoisted the float on their shoulders. The crowd awed at this moment, the whole affair was quite moving, especially with the solemn music that the march band played. The float swayed side to side with each step and it slowly inched its way forward in wafts of incense. I then went outside to where crowds of people were waiting for the procession to head their way. There seemed to be an equal amount of lads to men dressed in the traditional purple gown, all eager to have their turn at bearing the weight of the float on their shoulders. I saw the young lad holding a placard with a ·, which indicates when a change happens. Although it seems like chaos, it’s all really well organized. Behind the Jesus float there was a smaller float with the Virgin Mary carried by 20 or so women dressed in white wearing a black veil over their heads. When the procession was out of the church gate, I went back inside the church to soak up more of that powerful, devotional energy. There were still steams of people everywhere praying and hanging candles at San Pedro's tomb and lighting candles at the entrance. I make my way down the street and by chance came across the re-enactment of Roman soldiers giving Jesus' sentence of crucifixion. They were being filmed. Judas' realization of what he had done was particularly poignant although the solders on horses looked bored. Regretfully I didn´t manage to take any photos of Judas and his tantrum, but I have some other nice shots. The whole thing seemed a big over the top. I can´t wait for the re-enactment of the crucifixion tomorrow. I stopped in a cafe for a much need rink as the sun was pounding down pretty hard and came across several carpets. It was quite windy and one large red one was lowly being blown away. I really love this. The fact that everything is just so ephemeral. There was a beautiful carpet made of flowers, which were slowly drying out in the sun. I saw a few people spraying water on the carpets to help them to stay fresh. Upon my exit from the cafe, I was overjoyed to witness the huge and lovely float form the San Cristoval Church, The cucuruchos seemed to all be carrying spear and the float manoeuvred around a corner, decorated poles lifted the electrical wires so that Jesus could pass. A very satisfying day. The last thing to do was to move out of the homestay into the ocag hotel by the market. The room is simple but clean. It rained again so the night air is cool. Going to be early so that I can get up early for the procession at the Merced Church and hopefully the viewing of many more carpets.