Hey, Jon here covering part two of our “Escuela de la Montaña” adventure. Big thanks to Dylan for part one. Give the man a Pulitzer, 10/10 writing. Anyways, let’s hop right into Thursday, November 9th, 2017. As it’s been explained, we had been split up into afternoon and morning classes. Now, there were two planned times for groups to go the local Mayan SHAMAN at a town called El Carmen.
The first opportunity, for the morning class students, was on Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately, upon conversing with the locals on our walk to El Carmen, we learned that the shaman was predisposed at another town at the time! Disaster! But our gardener/groundskeeper/guide/incredible man Jorge had a backup plan. Our morning troop disembarked for a hidden jungle waterfall. In this group was Doug, Jake, Tori, Ellie, Anna, Katie, Bradley, and myself. The hike was just over an hour and contained portions of clear trail, but also a little bit of trailblazing/bushwhacking our way along. It began to rain on our way there, so we all shared a bug’s life moment as we used some large leaves as umbrellas. It was a blast. Once we arrived at the waterfall, a 60-foot (give or take) tall cascade of misty, aerated water fell, and we immediately decided just seeing it wasn’t enough. Doug, Bradley, and I decided to brave the strong wind and mist emanating from the falls and get a little rinse-off in. We all had a great time experiencing this hidden wonder, and before long hiked on back.
The second opportunity, open to both groups of students because the morning class had missed out on the shaman, was Thursday Morning. Everyone except for Doug, PJ, Maggie, and I went to see the shaman that morning. So, this recap will be from second-hand accounts (sorry in advance). The group hiked on down to El Carmen and gathered in a sort-of horse-shoe around the Shaman’s altar. There were candles, and because this shaman, in particular, is influenced by western religion, there are four small statues of saints with sombreros (because why not). Each person took their turn having their horoscopes and energies read. They gave the shaman their first name, birthday, and where they were from. From this, the shaman first revealed the Mayan symbol corresponding to the date of birth, and then explained how many energies the person had, the most energies being 13, which of course is exactly how many Jake had. After the energies, they were told where they draw energy from. Anya was said to draw energy from trees, and Cate from nature. After that, it was told to each what they are good at, or an ability they have. We have a few natural healers in the group, and evidently, Jillian can heal people with her mind! Good to know! There was a wide variety of opinions of the whole ceremony afterwards, ranging from spot-on horoscopes to completely incorrect ones. Overall, the group enjoyed the ceremony, some enjoyed it only for the spectacle, but it was definitely a very cool experience for all.
After the walk, all returned to the school while Doug and I finished up classes, PJ and Maggie finished up their naps, and we all headed off to lunch with our homestay families. That afternoon, for class, Anna, Jake, Cate, Jimmy, and Dillion (the inseparable blob formerly known as Dylan and Jillian) headed into Colomba, the nearby town, with their teachers. They had a fun, packed afternoon including ice cream, a panaderia (bakery), and playing soccer with a local women’s league! The other afternoon students headed to class (Anya, Maggie, and PJ), and I’m sure they had a blast too. The rest of us hung out and had a relatively quiet afternoon. Eventually, the town group returned, and we all went off to dinner.
After dinner, we had a cooking class. We started off by chopping up tomatoes, onions, green beans, carrots, and potatoes for the filling of the empanadas, and eventually, some meat was added to some of the filling, so we made both vegetarian and meat empanadas. They were dee-licious. We all filled up on empanadas and had a relaxing night.
Friday was our last day of classes. We had our graduation after morning classes and before lunch. This was much smaller of a spectacle than it was at PLQ the week before. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful little farewell where most of us presented a thank you speech to the teachers and staff at la Escuela. Jimmy and PJ also performed songs, and both killed it. We closed it out with our signature Quetzal move and sang Ho Hey. The day went through as normal afterwards, lunch, afternoon classes, then at 3 ish, we had a little conference on what happened in Guatemala, a weekly ritual at both PLQ and the mountain school. Afterwards, we had dinner then participated in Part 1 of Anya’s workshop on sexism and gender norms. The first night was focused on the female story. It was informative and eye-opening for all of us.
Saturday we had planned a day trip to Tak’ Alik Ab’ Aj, which is Mayan for Standing Stone. It is a national park for Mayan ruins and is also an active excavation site. We arrived there after an hour-and-a-half ride in a pickup and began our tour of a small portion of the 300+ Mayan structures and 125 buildings in the whole park. There were also some Olmec statues that we were fortunate enough to see. Our tour guide’s name was Heber, and he was a tour guide and a half. We learned a lot about the ancient Mayan and Olmec culture and got some killer pictures of our group while we were at it. And as if Mayan and Olmec ruins weren’t enough, there was also a wildlife refuge on the property, and we got to see some truly beautiful animals. There was an ocelot, two jaguarundis, mountain pigs, two stunning Scarlet Macaws, Spider monkeys, and many other very cool animals. After the tour and animals, we gathered to have lunch (packed for us in cloths or bags from our host families), then had our group meeting. Our new captain for next week is going to be Maggie! May she rule fair and just.
After our day in Tak’ Alik Ab’ Aj, we headed back to the school, hung out for a bit, then went to dinner. After dinner, we had the second half of Anya’s workshop, and that night we focused more on the male story. We watched a very interesting documentary called “The Mask We Live In.” I’d recommend it!
The next morning we got up, had our last meal with our host families, said our goodbyes, and hit the road for Lago Atitlan. Tune in next week for our wild adventures at the Mystical Yoga Farm and Semuc Champey!
Much love, Juancho