Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 May 12 - 27th Copán Ruinas, Honduras

May 16th

The day I left Ipala I waited for the microbus driver (see my previous post if you don't know what I'm talking about!) for 30 min, hoping to be able to pay him and then be on my way, but it was really hot and this guy who had been speaking to for the last 20 minutes was entirely too persistent with his advances so I finally decided to go to Agua Blanca to leave the money with the liquado girl, Andrea. This meant I paid 10 Q for the round trip journey but at least it got me on my way!

At the boarder I learned that apparently the CA-4 visa is no longer in effect for tourists, meaning I have 90 more days in Honduras if I so chose. Considering my slow rate of travel and no real actual plans, this is great news! Only cost me... well, not much! I am still getting used to thinking in lempira instead of quetzals so I can't remember exactly but it was less than 5 dollars or so. I had met a young Honduran guy (Victor) on the microbus and although I've been feeling increasingly confident about my ability to communicate it was nice to be able to let a fluent Spanish speaker do all the work! We crossed around sundown and I was a little concerned about finding onward transport but it was all good and I was soon checked in to my hostel, "en la Manzana Verde".

Victor and I grabbed some street food together in the park (25 L (~ $1.25) for a bit of steak kabob, beans, veg and tortillas) and then I made us a little coffee at the hostel. We called it an early night and said our goodbyes.  He was a sweet guy and, although he had put the moves on me in the park a little it had happened in a way that was funny enough that I felt comfortable with him afterward. He was so cute and smooth! But he was 23 years old! I was like “I could be your MOTHER in another country”!

Tangent: I just remembered that I forgot to journal about the fact that Tina, the mayan woman who invited Sophia and I to her house back in Nebaj, had thought that I was Sophia's MOTHER! I know I'm getting old but REALLY!? Anyway.

The hostel is a pretty nice little place, with some nicely set up hang out areas, a TV (in Español- excellent!), free internet and a great kitchen. A dorm bed is 115 L / night and they give you a ticket for a free drink at Via Via, a bar/restaurant run by the same owners.  The girls are CONSTANTLY cleaning so it's spotless and all the beds are named, and each bed name has a cubbie in the kitchen for storing your stuff.  Also, there is a chalk board with each bed name on it in the front hall way and when you arrive you write your name next to that of your bed, meaning that any time you forget the name of a fellow traveler you can just look on the board!

Sunday I had a nice day chilling mostly at the hostel, taking advantage of the free internet. Grabbed a baleada for dinner (a flour tortilla with a little beans, eggs, avocado and a bit of queso tipico, 25 L) and went to Via Via to use my free drink tickets. Turned out it was happy hour when I arrived so I took advantage of that and bought several double cuba libres for 30 L ($1.50) each. I had met some other travelers at the hostel and we passed the night with a few people who live here and I spoke a ton of Spanish that night. I met a woman named Wendy who was SO EASY to understand. Her level of English is a little better than my level of Spanish; we switched back and forth between speaking English and Spanish and I felt like we both understood 100% of what we were saying to each other. It was amazing. I kept asking her to correct any errors I made and she told me over and over how perfectly I was saying everything. I can't describe how great that felt, to finally feel incredibly positive and proud of my ability to communicate.

Of course it isn't that easy with everyone and I still mess up more often than I speak correctly! Adding to the confusion is the fact that, whereas the “vos” form of “you” isn't really used in Guatemala, or at least not in the areas where I was, it IS in Honduras so I am having to learn that form (and all its conjugations!) after all.

Anyway, I drank and smoked entirely too much that night and nursed my hangover the entire next day. I DID manage to get to the mercado and the grocery store to get stuff for dinner and my breakfasts for the following days, so that night I cooked a giant batch of pasta, which I've been eating for lunch and dinner basically since then- yay (kidding)! Even though I only get one of every veg it still ends up making enough for 4-6 meals when I cook pasta, meaning that I eat the same thing for days on end often! Oh well- at least it's cheap! Though, here the street food is so economical that it's worth it to pay a little more and have variety, so I plan to do that when my pasta runs out. :o)

I finally made my way to the ruins yesterday afternoon with another girl at the hostel named Jess.  At $15, it's one of the most expensive single things I have done since I left the US, and Palenque had already blown my mind so I considered not going. In the long run though, I HAVEN'T been spending much money at all, and why travel if I'm not going to see what there is to see? It's not like it's ever likely to ever be cheaper than it is now! And, I later found out that the money made in Copán Ruinas subsidizes the operation of the other ruins sites in Honduras that aren't visited enough to support themselves. So, money well spent.

Though Palenque is still my favorite (by far!), I am glad I took the time to check it out. Copán Ruinas is known for its carvings and though the part of it that is open to the public is quite small in comparison to Palenque and Chichén Itzá it was a unique experience that I won't soon forget.

Though the Scarlet Macaw used to fly in abundance in the humid lowland rain forests of Central and South America, deforestation, capture for the parrot trade and poaching for their beautiful feathers have decimated their numbers and resulted in local extinction in some areas.  Macaw Mountain, a local bird sanctuary here in Copán Ruinas, is working toward returning the numbers of free-flying Scarlet Macaws to those seen in the time of the Ancient Maya, who revered this animal as one of the most sacred on the planet.  Carvings of Macaws (among other birds) are plentiful and they are featured in many of their myths and histories.  There is evidence that the Mayan people domesticated Macaws and other birds to keep as pets and to collect their feathers, which were  highly valued for adorning ceremonial costumes and masks.

At the bottom of this picture you can see a small rectangle of cement (that I didn't notice when I took the picture so I cut it out!), which I later learned is the gravestone for US archaeologist John G. Owens, who led Peabody Museum expeditions to Honduras from 1891-1893 and died while working in Copán Ruinas.
Close-up of the same alter in the above photo.
A different alter
Ball court, with (tarp covered) hieroglyphic highway in the upper left corner.
What I wouldn't give to be able to look back into the past through the eyes of this macaw sculpture, which adorns the western wall of the main ball court.

I think this (juvenile owl) is either a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl or a Northern Pygmy Owl. It was seriously only about 5 or 6 feet away from me and it was less than 8 inches tall! Cool!

Alter Q - "below the alter was a sacrificial vault in which archaeologists discovered the bones of 15 jaguars (one for each previous king) and several macaws that were sacrificed to the glory of Yax Pasaj and his ancestors" (Lonely Planet Honduras).

For anyone who wants to know more about the stelae and alters here, this person's site is awesome (you will have to cut and past, I think, because apparently blogger is having difficulties...):

Earlier today I had the most awkward encounter! I had met a guy named Oscar out at Via Via the other night and when I ran into him yesterday he told me he wanted to invite me to have a “healing session” with him. I didn't really WANT a “healing session” but how do you tell someone you don't need something they feel passionate about? So, I agreed. We had talked for a couple hours the night before so I didn't realize he wanted me to pay until after the session was over. Even worse, 1) I hadn't really wanted a “healing session” to begin with, 2) the session was really weird in that he clearly didn't know what he was doing- part of the time the way he moved his hands (it was a massage session on my back and calves) was like he was scratching a dog (strange!) and 3) he blew his didgeridoo over my chakras, which sounds like it could be cool (I guess?), but what that actually translates to is that someone's blowing their (stinky old man) breath down a long tube held above your body, including your face! Gross! So, clearly not my favorite experience since having left the US! I gave him 50 L just to get away from him. Sometimes I REALLY misread people.

The only other thing of note is that Ruby (from Lake Atitlan, who I saw again in Xela) showed up today! :D Crazy.

May 24th

Still in Copán Ruinas.  I've had an amazing time here so far, hanging out with Ruby for a few days, meeting and hanging out with other travelers and a few of the locals, going to Via Via nearly every night to redeem my free drink coupon and usually ordering one or two others (doubles being so cheap during happy hour makes it easy to justify!), and spending my days checking out whatever sounds interesting or just chilling in the hostel reading, checking out stuff on the internet, working on crafty stuff or figuring out where I'm going next. I've been able to hang out with Wendy several more times (although my Spanish was apparently only really great that one night as the subsequent times I haven't felt as competent), and the girls from here at the hostel are very sweet and I might possibly do some language exchange with one of them, Gladys- too bad we didn't start doing that 12 days ago! :D
Me and Gladys.  We DID end up doing a bit of language exchange after-all.  :o)
A few days after I went to the ruins Brie and I, and another traveler named Phil, checked out Macaw Mountain, a bird sanctuary here. It was pretty cool but I don't think it was worth the $10 entry. We bought the ticket through the hostel and they arranged for a free tuk tuk there and back, though we decided we wanted to walk back since we didn't know how long it would take us there.

The birds were beautiful, though there were far less of them than I had thought there would be- only about maybe 10 different kinds- and the grounds were peppered with beautiful trees and flowers so there was more to see than just the birds.   :o)

Phil and Brie

This little guy was super cool!  He was very interested in us!

On the 20th Wendy called one of the girls here at the hostel to let me know that she was having a BBQ at her restaurant, La Terraza, a cute little place that's only like 1.5 blocks from the hostel, so I gathered a crew from here and we checked it out. The menu is pretty expensive and I probably wouldn't have stopped there if it weren't for the fact that one of my “friends” owns it, but the food and drinks were delicious and we had a great time there. Not to mention that the top level is spectacular!

On the 21st Alejandro, one of the “local” (he's not really a local, as he's from Brazil and is just renting a place here for a month or so) guys I had met a couple days before, came to the hostel and gathered a group of us to walk up to some place where they apparently have really good coffee, to watch the sunset. On the way we ran into Wendy and Anjelica and drug them along with us! When we got there we were disappointed to see that the restaurant was closed but we still were able to catch a nice sunset, and the walk was quite picturesque.

Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the girl on the left but, not including her, from left to right, me, Wendy, Alisha and Alejandro.
When we came back we briefly visited the Blue Iguana (another hostel here), because Alejandro was curious about it, where we met this Italian couple, Vincenzo and Rossella. They ended up meeting up with us for a few drinks later at Via Via.
From left to right, me, Wendy, Rossella, Vincenzo and Alejandro
I hadn't gone to the museum the day that I went to the ruins, so on the 22nd I walked back out to the ruins and checked out the museum. A lot of the original carvings and artifacts are preserved there so it was really neat to see them, although I myself honestly don't think I would be able to tell the difference between the real carvings and the fake ones! Also, there is very little information at the ruins themselves so it was cool to take some time to read the explanations and learn a bit more. 

Full scale reproduction of the Rosalila Temple, a 6th century structure so sacred to the Mayan people that the temple was preserved, fully intact, by subsequent phases of construction (usually when a king decided to "remodel" the previous structure was demolished) nearly 200 years after its creation.  

Macaw head bench markers from the ball court

From the museum plaque: "You are looking at a repilcation of the macaw that decorated the earliest version of the ballcourt (Ballcourt I).  The outstretched wings are similar to the ones on the final version (Ballcourt III).  One difference is that the bird was modeled in stucco (like Roaslila) rather than carved in stone.  The transition to mosaic stone carving occurred gradually over the course of the seventh century A.D.  A jaguar-like head that protrudes from below his chest carries a severed arm in his jaws.  We see this as a depiction of the scene where Jun-Junahpu, one of the Hero twins, has had his arm torn off by the fearsome Vucub-Caquix, according to the story written down in the Popol Vuh of the Quiche Maya.  The sculpture was uncovered in 1988.  Red paint was preserved on the original sculpture.  A replica is exhibited in the museum because the stucco is fragile and cannot be removed from the wall underground.  Ballcourt I has the earliest example of the mythical Vucub-Caquix.  It dates back to the founding of the Copán dynasty in the early 5th century.

Cool bench.  From the museum info plaque: "A series of carvings of the sun, moon and planets, grouped together in a long frame are called a skyband.  Skybands are found at sites throughout Mesoamerica, and serve to put the scene they surround in a heavenly context.  The beautifully carved bench you see here is from the interiour room of the larger central structure.  It is the only known full-figure depiction of a skyband in the Maya area.  There are two mythical birds at either end.  They carry the carved images of the celestial bodies.  The figures are from left to right, the graceful image of the mood deity, the sun by day and by night and the planet Venus.  In between are repeating masks of the Milky Way.  These figures parade across the heavenly frame and transform this bench into a seat of power."
Close-up of the central portion of the bench, showing masks representing the sun during the day and at night, flanking one representing the Milky Way.  I'm not sure what the two carvings on the bottom are meant to represent...
Close up of a mystical bird
That night a bunch of us met up at La Terraza for happy hour
From left to right- Rossella, Vincenzo, Frank, a Russian girl whose name I can't remember, me, Wendy and Alejandro.  Yes, I AM double-fisting.  But I blame Wendy, as she bought the last round!
Most people went on to Via Via later but I decided I had drank enough for one day (haha) so I returned to the hostel for tea and an early night of reading my book. I'm reading Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker now, which is really cool in that he put it online for free, and he also posted all his annotations for aspiring authors to read so they can understand why he writes this thing here or that thing there. As I have thoughts of writing my own book(s?) some day I find it incredibly interesting and thought-provoking.

Yesterday (the 23rd) a group of us from here at the hostel, as well as Vincenzo and Rossella, Alejandro, Wendy and Anjelica, went to “Aguas Thermales”, a hot springs up in the mountains about an hour away from Copán Ruinas. At 200 L it was a little overpriced, in my opinion, however, the place was amazing and I wished that I had brought my camping gear, or at least stuff for a BBQ/picnic, as they had little palapa-roofed structures with tables and BBQ pits where you could have a fire and a nice little lunch. As it was, we only had a half day because several people had things they needed to do in the afternoon so we hung out for a few hours and then headed back down to town.

I wasn't surprised to see that the beautiful countryside I saw all over Guatemala also exists in Honduras, and I took many photos (big surprise!) from the window of the microbus! The people who live in these highland areas are likely perceived as poor to the average outside observer but when I see these small cinder-block or adobe houses with their cute little porches strung with hammocks, chickens foraging in a yard full of beautiful trees and flowers while cattle, goats and horses graze in the pasture nearby, with gorgeous countryside all around, I can't help but think what a perfect life they have. As much as I have little desire to purchase my own home in the US I have felt the urge to buy a small piece of land and “settle down” multiple times since leaving the states.  But then I'd have to stop traveling! 

pigs!  Yes, I realize we have pigs back in Wyoming.  But for some reason I am still compelled to photograph them whenever I see them...  :D

Vincenzo and Rossella relaxing in one of the many hot pools
Wendy, all dirty from the mud bath.
Meike and Frank, gettin' dirty in the mud bath
Of course I was all about the mud!  My skin was SOOOO nice afterward!

"Natural foot massage".  Half the pool is hot and half is cold, and the bottom of both is covered with small stones so as you walk around the circle you get a natural massage.  :o)

Spiritual area
From left to right, Anjelica, Wendy, Rossella, Vincenzo, Meike, Frank and me, gettin' spiritual.

One of the picnic areas

Coming back into Copán Ruinas.
Last night Frank and I grabbed some street tacos with Meike, a guy from Costa Rica who I actually really enjoyed hanging with. His English was better than my Spanish so we mostly spoke in English but any time we were around people who spoke better Spanish we spoke Spanish and he would translate if I didn't understand something so that was nice! :D He left this morning to head back to Costa Rica, as he was only on a brief vacation during one of his semester breaks. After grabbing tacos (and Meike bought me a double scoop ice cream cone- what a sweetie!) the three of us went to Via Via to redeem our free drink coupons and met up with Vincenzo and Rossella for a bit since they were leaving the next day (today). I called it an early night and returned to the hostel for tea- yay!

May 25th

There was the most AMAZING rainstorm yesterday evening! The sheer volume of water coming down was incredible and the thunder and lightning were pretty intense. The gutter was transformed into a massive waterfall and every time we thought it couldn't rain any harder the rain intensified! At one point the wind started blowing the rain directly into the front porch of the hostel and the five or six of us who were hanging out ran for cover deeper into the hostel, only to be pursued by dime-sized hail! Crazy!!!

Another mellow night last night- just chillin' at the hostel! I'd been hoping to leave tomorrow but the power was out for a fair amount of the day today, meaning I didn't get much work done on my blog. Also, I wasn't doing a good job of motivating and decided it was more important to watch an episode of Game of Thrones.  :D So, it looks like I'll be here a bit longer...

later that day...

I went out tonight with Frank and this couple that arrived yesterday named Phil and Maru. Phil is from the UK and Maru is from Argentina but they met several months ago at a hostel Maru was working at (I think?) and later ended up deciding to travel together. Though we haven't chatted much they are some of the more interesting people I have met here and I felt compelled to talk to them the minute I met them. I have enjoyed the time I spent with them and will be sad to see them move on (tomorrow). We grabbed some street food on the way to Via Via and then hung out there for a couple hours until I decided to return to the hostel for my tea and ended up randomly getting sucked into a game of King's Cup with these five girls who arrived yesterday who I haven't actually talked to much and who I normally wouldn't have any real interest hanging out with, as they are all super young (early 20's) but it was actually pretty fun. Four of them were horseback riding yesterday when the rain/hail storm happened!

I had been hoping to work on my blog a bit tonight but the internet is apparently having issues so I guess there will be none of that. :o(

May 27th

Last night I went out to Via Via to redeem several days worth of free drinks, then Alejandro and I gathered a crew and moved on to La Terraza for a couple more hours.  It was a very late night but quite a bit of fun, the only sour note being when the guy I'd talked to for two hours (and told I was NOT interested in hooking up with any of the guys there!) asked me if I wanted to have sex with him!  What the hell is wrong with the guys here!?  I am 100% certain I am NOT saying or doing anything to encourage them but they just seem incapable of reading the signs.  Or actually just LISTENING, because I am constantly saying that I'm not interested.  I knew when I came here that the fact that I look differently from all the local girls would mean that I would have to deal with more attention than I was used to but I didn't expect the lack of respect for my (total!) lack of interest that I've found in nearly every guy I speak to for more than about 2 seconds.  Anyway.

We've had rainstorms every day the past few days, meaning power outages and spotty internet service (hence, why I am still here), but I've finally gotten everything uploaded and it's now time to post my blog.

I haven't decided yet if I'm finished with my time in Copán Ruinas.  I might move on to Gracias and a volunteer opportunity I have in a little town called La Esperanza, but I am thinking very seriously about remaining here in Copán Ruinas for another couple of weeks or so.  As much as I feel great about my level of Spanish comprehension, there are still so many times when I don't understand large portions of what's being said around me.  Besides the other travelers who pass through, all of my friends here speak Spanish and there are large portions of the day where I am only speaking Spanish, so it makes sense to stay somewhere I am happy and where I find the people intriguing.

1 comment:

  1. I've read this twice I wonder what you've been doing for the last month... ;p