And I thought the past was bad. I wonder if I had this much trouble with direct and indirect objects when I was learning English grammar. I felt like my brain actually just stopped working. And I thought Carlos was going to choke me today. Good news is that I´m definitely speaking in complete sentences using different tenses and moods correctly. We did the conditional yesterday and that was fun and easy. For homework last night, Carlos asked me to write a composition about El Futuro de Patricia using the conditional and all I could come up with was what I might be doing in a few weeks. I tried to tell him that me and the future don´t get along as well as me and the present. He thinks I´m absolutely nuts. Of course, I ended up writing about where I would like to travel and something about paying my rent. I bored myself writing it. But he thinks I´m doing really well (sans our hysterical pronoun fiasco today) and even said ´wow¨ a couple of times at a few of my sentences that I didn´t stumble over. Poco a poco I´m gaining confidence. Today, I went to the mercado to get some pechugas de pollo and verduras and I had natural conversations about what I wanted and how much I wanted. IT WAS GREAT!!! This is really a big accomplishment para mi. First of all, markets are incredibly busy and frenetic and while I love wandering through them, I´m a little intimidated to actually BUY something. Everyone speaks so fast and there seem to be rules I know nothing about. Sort of like delis at lunchtime in NYC where if I don´t know the line system, I just go somewhere else. And also, of course, there is the possibility that someone will rip me off 20 cents for cilantro and well, I just can´t have that! I like prices written on, or dangling from, the object I wish to purchase. I bought some basil there last week but I was hoping I could find it, point to it and pay for it. Nope, I had to ask other vendors which stall had basil and then I had to communicate how much I wanted AND be understood, and then ask how much it cost. Twice or three times. Which is why I shop in the crappy supermercado. But I actually enjoyed shopping in the crazy market today. So, bye bye Dispensa, hello scary market behind the church!
Even though I have been working and studying so much, I still took another great little trip anteayer to Zunil after school. It was a small group, just me, Cesar and Rory (a new student at Celas Maya) but it was amazing. As soon as we boarded the camioneta, it started to rain and when we got to Zunil, the rain turned into a downpour of biblical proportion. At one point we were stuck in a house with an evil saint while a river raged outside in what was a cobbled street just a half hour earlier. First we visited a textile cooperative and then the church and then the Maximon (a.k.a. San Simón) shrine, which was the main reason I wanted to visit this small pueblo. It´s one of the few towns in Guatemala that preserve an authentic tradition of worshiping this crazy pagan saint. Cesar told us he´s the protector of prostitutes and drunks and knew where Maximon is living this year so we waded over there. It was the strangest thing I´ve seen in a long, long time. We were lucky to arrive when a woman was performing some sort of ceremony, she was pacing and yelling at this plastic man, dressed like a cross between Johnny Cash and Michael Jackson and propped up on what looked like a barber´s chair and then she gave him some money and left. We also got to see a man ply the effigy with cheap rum. Wait ´til you see the pictures!
Here´s a bit of info I found on a school website about the background of this wild tradition and tomorrow I will post some ABSOLUTELY AMAZING pictures I was able to get of the whole thing. I´ve been chasing Maximon since the Lake three years ago. My friend Amelia saw the whole ritual in Santiago but I only got to see him in the back of a tourist shop in Antigua.
Maximon in Zunil
In addition to Santiago Atitlan, Zunil is one of the few remaining places where the “pagan” image of Maximon is still openly revered with pomp and ceremony. Also known as Maximon or Alvarado, Zunil’s San Simon is a comical-looking, plastic tailor’s dummy dressed in western clothes (cowboy, soldier, athletic, with sunglasses, etc). Every year on November 1, at the end of the annual fiesta , San Simón is moved to a new house. Here his effigy sits in a darkened room, and guarded by several attendants. San Simón is visited by a steady stream of villagers, who come to ask his assistance, using candles to indicate their requests: white for the health of a child, yellow for a good harvest, red for love, black for an enemy, etc. The petitioners touch and embrace the saint, and they offer him cigarettes, money and rum. The latter is administered with the help of one of the attendants, who tips San Simón back in his chair and pours the liquor into his throat. Falling liquid is gathered in a basin below him.
Meanwhile outside the house worshippers burn pom (a kind of incense) and more offerings are given over to the flames: eggs, sugar, aromatic plants and sometimes even chickens. While the entire process may seem chaotic, entertaining and even comic, it is in fact deeply serious and you are expected to show respect. Outsiders have been beaten up for making fun of San Simón.
Well that´s it for me now…back to work and homework.