Please, Have Some Tact. Some Tiactact?

Greetings, space travelers.  Much has occurred since the last entry, as is wont to happen when the last entry was many more than several days ago.  But before we begin, the link to the pictures from the aforementioned graduation of our contemporary, la Licenciada Eulalia, which took place in—where else?—Santa Eulalia.  The town officials clearly renamed their pueblo after her in honor of her licenciatura: [Eulalia’s Graduation] 

Last weekend was full of Tiactac.  Tiactactful.  An aldea (smaller than a pueblo) about 6 km outside of San Mateo—3 hours on foot, 1 hour in car—Tiactac is home to several of our students, ranging from, among others, Diego of segundo, to his brother Felipe of tercero, to Izabela, one of our sexto students.   

After a beautiful, relaxed, 3-hour trek through surprisingly rugged terrain, we arrived at a little cluster of wooden and adobe huts, the likes of which can still occasionally be seen in nooks and crannies around San Mateo, but not in nearly the numbers we encountered in the village.  From Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon we hung out in a complex of 1-room buildings, all of which belong to Izabela’s family.  Unlike in San Mateo, where bigger, multi-room houses are becoming the norm, the several hundred families of Tiactac make due very well with many small buildings: one for the kitchen, one for the shed, one or two for the bedrooms, and of course, one for the requisite tienda. 

The atmosphere was impressively relaxing.  In fact, aside from sleeping, eating, and walking around in the surrounding woods, there was nothing else to do.  No electricity.  No running water.  Strange for a little while, but truly liberating for the rest of the time.  As a result, I ended up with over 100 pictures of the 24-hour excursion, at least 50% of which were of…the chickens.  That’s right, the chickens.  They were everywhere, and man did they have personality!  And great hair dos.  I tried as hard as I could to capture the glory of some of the foul coifs on camera, but am still not convinced of my photographic prowess.  You may judge for yourselves: [Tiactac] 

The most interesting naturesque excursion we had took us to a couple of wells in a bowl-like valley at the bottom of a steep hill, about a 10-minute walk from Izabela’s house.  It wasn’t so much the curious, scum-covered wells (used only for animals) that made the scene surreal, but rather it was the entire vista: acres of huge, fallen, scorched trees.  And the echoes of the one little lamb screeching in what otherwise was dead silence.  [You’ll see my attempts to capture the primeval nature of the place, also at the above link.]  Apparently the huge forest fire that enveloped the area had taken place about 4 years ago…we tried to get further explanation of what exactly happened, but haven’t been successful so far.  We were assured, however, that the fire was unrelated to the war, which ended in 1996, and which Izabela said never made it out to the tiny enclave of Tiactac.     

As the sun began to set, we were ushered to yet another one-room building a hundred meters down the road, where the four of us shacked up for the night after taking the requisite and excellent Saturday-night Chuj.  The peacefulness in the place was astounding; however, I also discovered that, unfortunately, Buddhist monasteries in Thailand aren’t the only places that have unpadded boards for beds…  As the sleeping experience was slightly less than ideal, I must refer you to the amazingly Buddhist and inspired account written by Heather, the UVa grad who taught music and English here last year, when she returned from her trip to the aldea.  It will be posted immediately after this entry. 

We thought we were going to take it easy on the way back by paying Q10 to ride in the back of a truck.  But as it turns out, riding on the pot-holy roads through the [significantly deforested] Guatemalan wilderness is quite a bit harder on one’s body than the three-hour hike!  Regardless, we returned to San Mateo refreshed in many ways, even if our faces had been baked a little in the sun.

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