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Central American Snapshots- Evelina´s Letters From the Road
The trees here seem sharper, harsher against their backgrounds than in Florence, Italy. The tropical vegetation is moist and green, a darker shade than what I am used to seeing. As we walked along the dirt road in El Hato, Guatemala we passed communities made up of tiny tin-roofed houses; their yards decorated with brightly colored laundry hung out to dry. As we travel through Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, I notice how everything is more coloful. In our tight-knit group of 16 independent Traveling School women, we spent a day laughing, playing and practicing our spainsh with children at the village school before making our way back home in the evening.
One of my favorite parts about dinner is when we are all done eating and we gather together for schedule. I am always bursting with excitement over what will come next. Here in Central America, I am continously intoxicated by my surroundings. With so much going on, and so much to do, it is a nice break to wear the same clothing day after day. Here we are in a real world school for 3 1/2 months and do not have time for the shallow high school stress of always looking stylish. We are all gorgeous with our dirt encrusted fingernails, hairy legs, and unruly hair.
It is an interesting lifestyle we have here at The Traveling School; migrating from place to place, perfecting our routines of continuously breaking and setting camp as we go. By the end of this trip we will all be professional nomads. I am growing accustomed to feeling unsettled; that is the beauty of being nomadic. Although we experience sadness for the people and places we are constantly leaving behind, there is always more to come; always the anticipation, thrill, and attraction of discovering a new place. I love the traveling life.
As we drive in our minivan shuttles, we take in magnificent views; our eyes follow lines of waving trees stretching vastly across green valleys to tickle the bottom of mountains in the distance. The grassy expanses are freckled with roaming cows and humble homes. Colorful clothing swaying on clotheslines flirt coyly with the breeze. The sky a spectular gradient of merging blues complemented by the tranquility of floating clouds; pillows of the divine.
Life on the river is mellow and everyone is allowed to be laid-back and have a great time. Rafting the Rio Lacanja, we barely navigated down steep cascadas (waterfalls), swam in the river, and laughed over flipping boats. The stunning blue water added to the magical ambiance.
The giant Mayan ruins stood majestic amongst the trees and flowers. I imagined the ancient Mayans gazing across this land, once enchanted with rich stories and full of life. On more than one occasion that day I had to do a double take, just to confirm that I was in fact looking at a plant growing on a ruin in Tikal and not a mystical tribesman of the past. I knew there were untold stories whispering along with the breeze, ancient tales ingrained onto every vein on every tropical green leaf, secrets carved into the bark of every tall swaying tree, and timeless music slithering through each blade of grass I walked through. When we reached the top of the temple of the Sun God of Palenque, the world lay before us. I stood there panting, utterly enthralled. The wind whipped my hair into tangled chaos. The surface was uneven. I turned around, laid on my back, and viewed the world upside down for a moment. It all made me wonder;
What memories might I be able to hear?
Should I listen to the silent flirting between the grass and the wind,
Or gaze between the cracks of the trodden path upon which we trekked?
Surely there must be forgotten stories scattered across the landscape,
Stories of ancient nature and wisdom that now only the land can pass on,
Should she find the right pair of ears.
After arriving to the top of the Mirador to look upon the view, the scene before me took the little breathe I had left away. In a sudden burst of inspiration, I found myself awake and full of new awareness. I felt so grateful for everything I could feel, smell, see, and hear; it was one of those rare moments in which I simply cannot believe this is reality and I am not dreaming. Those moments are becoming ever more common for me these days.
Cesar, our guide through Tikal´s Mayan ruins, held up an enormous taranula that made me giggle nervously with the grandeur of its deadly presence. Its size alone was stunning; never had I imagined that a trantuala could be so menacing.
Throughout this ever-changing journey of new experiences, I find that the fascinating people I meet light up my soul and change my world the most. I recall waving to some local children as I drove to Antigua from the airport in Guatemala City, on the first day of the semester. My heart warmed to see so many little faces split with grins. Soon, all of us girls were waving, inspired by a contagious joy that can only be spread though the connection of human souls.
On travel days, I spend hours gazing out the window and contemplate the lives of the people we pass by. I always wonder where they could possibily be going because it seems as if the land before them spans out forever into nothing. I wonder if they are warm enough at night with their balnkets wrapped around their bodies, and if their feet hurt from so much walking. I wonder if they are tired or if they dream. I wonder if they are perfectly content or if they wish they were somewhere else. I wonder about how much we as people all have in common.