– Eckhart Tolle
Standing on top of a fifty meter tall Mayan pyramid; late at night; wind lifting away heavy tropical air; a full moon; it’s hard not to believe that the world moves you, that the world moves, in exactly the way it should.
I spent my first full day in colorful Antigua intent on inquiring of every tour operator in town their price for a 2 day adventure to Tikal: quite an undertaking in this town of Spanish schools and foreigners. My first visit of about twelve to come was with a jolly, cleavage-bearing, artificially-blond Guatemala woman. We chatted for awhile and I got a great vibe from her. She offered me a reasonable price for airfare and lodging. Did I take her up right then? No. I wandered around the city for hours on end and only in the waning hours of the afternoon did I return deciding to book my very expensive splurge trip through her. Well, by four o’clock on Thursday, the Saturday flight sold out. So I was forced to waver a bit, change my plans, and push the Tikal trip back until the end of my Guatemala sojourn. Frustrated with my indecisiveness, I went to bed early, intending to get up the next day and catch a bus out of Antigua in the afternoon.
The next day, I wandered out early and bought a to-go latte (a novelty these days) and wandered through the leafy and beautiful central plaza. And then I heard: “Megan? Megan!” I turned to see a former DU professor, the very professor who in fact introduced me to Rob via email and set this whole crazy year in motion. How appropriate; and so I said ‘okay then’ to what life was throwing at me and stayed an extra day in Antigua to go out to dinner with the crew. Matthew was in Guatemala beginning a research project with a colleague, and had brought three DU undergrads along with him. They were headed to northern Guatemala to take core samples from hundreds of year old trees and then analyze to find historical climate patterns and make projections; and so I got a fascinating crash course in climate change studies. We dined at a delicious Guatemalan restaurant, the very same one that President Bill Clinton patronized in his presidential days (indeed, they commemorate his presidential rear end with a plaque on the very chair he sat in).
Saturday morning, I headed to Lake Atitlan, a ‘magical’ lake in the highlands of Guatemala. There are about ten little cities scattered around the lake, accessible by winding roads or by little speed boat taxis tearing across the cool blue waters. I chose San Marcos, one of the smaller villages nestled among coffee and banana trees. San Marcos supposedly has an enchantment that draws all sorts of hippie types, people like one girl in my hostel who paid for an hour-long course to determine the color crystal that corresponds with her spirit. I, for one, did not indulge in the crystal healing course, nor any of the plethora of other options offered (acupuncture, meditation, with perhaps some drug induced healing as well).
In spite of my skepticism (and lack of dreadlocks), I settled nicely into the pace of the town. I stayed in a leafy lodge called ‘La Paz’ (peace) and it sure was. I woke up slowly, did two hours of yoga in a thatched-roof veranda, strolled back to the hotel in windy green paths of purple begonias, and then ate wonderful yogurt with granola and honey and drank coffee and read Steinbeck. La Paz offered communal vegetarian dinners, so every night at 7, the long yellow table in the quiet and verdant living room came alive with chattering and steaming veggies. I sat between a spunky Israeli girl and an Argentinean-French girl who spoke no English, so I ended up being the default facilitator of the conversation. At one point, the Israeli girl—Jasmine—started chattering away in English to a Canadian woman (who was sitting next to her young children and simultaneously smoking pot and talking about acid trips?), and my Argentinean-French friend looked at me lost and said, translate please?
After 3 days of yoga and banana bread, I felt like a vibrating golden ball of Megan energy. I will admit, there are certain parts of yoga I normally have trouble swallowing with a straight face; but—perhaps I needed someone to tell me to harness the energy of the sun and draw it around my body, and then to have to do it, and after enough permutations, sun salutations and being told to be aware of the sun and moon and shadows and rain, and to be on a lake in Guatemala under a thatched roof in a garden, to maybe believe it.
The golden ball of Megan energy arrived back to Antigua in the pouring rain, and became a little less golden and a lot more cranky when I had to walk clear across town weighed down with two backpacks, cold water dripping down my nose. I awoke the following day at a painful 3:30 a.m. for my treat trip up north, a flight to the ‘king of all Mayan ruins’ (thank you LP)—Tikal.
My tour of Tikal was at first frustration and exhaustion and humid heat. But it soon became silly and then completely inspiring. I stayed in the park in my very own hotel room, and napped in a double bed in a corner below two windows, yellow light (or maybe the walls were painted yellow) pouring through green and birds chirping. Staying in the park allowed me access to a sunset show on top of Temple IV, which in turn introduced me to my guard friend, who offered me the chance to meet him at 8 p.m. for a tour of the park under the full moon. Bring friends, too! and you can offer me a tip, he said, maybe 100 quetzals? Or 50 for you? So, no, this was not an authorized tour. It was a bribed tour. And it was the breathtaking. It was—the world has a plan for you. I stood atop the Lost World pyramid (normally forbidden to climb during the day) in the wind and saluted the full moon and believed in the way that world moves me, so that I was in Tikal tonight and here, just where I was, when I was, and there wasn’t any other way it was going to be. (So, the threads…a sold out flight and a random encounter and thus I had to be in Tikal on Wednesday otherwise the moon wouldn’t be brilliantly shinning down on thousand of year old Mayan ruins, and I clambering up a steep and crumbling stairs to breath in ancient air.)
I arrived back to the same hostel in Antigua (‘ah, home’ it was becoming) and in a fit of boldness, decided to try the bar across the street for dinner… by myself and sans book. So, unshowered and in my wrinkled traveling pants, I ventured in, took a seat at the bar, and ordered myself some veggie soup and a beer. Now, I realize this does not seem much of a feat, but I’ve never actually ‘gone out’ by myself. So, I drank a beer at a bar where I knew no one, and soon enough, I was engaged in conversation from all sides, perched on my little bar stool. The bartender is a fellow from Guatemala City and he kindly started chatting with me whilst I awaited the arrival of my soup and stared blankly into space. Turns out, he studied Latin American literature at university, so we got to chatting about Latin American studies curriculums and generally literature. He invited me to coffee the next day and we spent a lovely couple of hours discussing literature and his dreams to open a publishing house/coffee shop/bookstore to house translated literature from Central America, so I told him to call me when that opened—like, seriously.
And now…I’m on the plane heading home. Were half an hour into the flight; the attendant walks through and hands out masks to protect us all from the swine flu molecules floating throughout the cabin. Or, to protect us from the unknown infected person who could be sitting next to us. So, yes, I am typing this wearing a surgical mask, although I am aware of the complete nonsense of wearing it: thirty minutes into a flight, were I going to get swine flu, I would have gotten it by now. Additionally, the drink cart is coming through, so unless I get creative real quickly, I’m going to have to take it off to sip diet coke and eat my crackers.
I can’t wait to be home.