Guatemala - Monday 29 November 1999
I wake up at 9:00 am when the whole group is about to leave. Strange that we didn't agree on a specific time. Now, they have to wait for me - and I don't think it's my fault.
Today, we're taking a bus trip to Chichicastenango (they call it 'Chichi' here). It's a town about 40 km from Panajachel, known for its enormous market. Many tourists go there by tour bus; instead, we take the 'chicken bus,' the regular public bus.
Nothing is really normal: literally everything is transported by bus here. Complete inventories for market stalls, wrapped in cloths, go on the bus roof. The bus only leaves when it's completely full, but on the way, more people also get in. Quite a squeeze.
The market is very beautiful. The first section mostly caters to tourists, but they sell nice items: cloths, masks, T-shirts, and much more. Haggling is normal here: half the original price is quite common.
A little further, there's a church on a square. It's bustling and has a unique atmosphere.
The church is very special. Almost no tourists come here. The building itself isn't so special; it's even remarkably simple and unattractive. However, with cloths hanging from the ceiling, a very special atmosphere is created. Everywhere, people light candles. Flower petals are scattered, then sprinkled with (special) water. Meanwhile, prayers continue without interruption. I sit breathlessly, watching and listening for 10 minutes.
The part of the market beyond the church is less touristy. Here, they sell vegetables, fruits, and various household items like soaps and lamps.
There's also a large market hall. Every square meter has something for sale.
Here, there's an area with several small restaurants and food stalls. I decide to have lunch here, even if it may not be entirely hygienic.
This time, I wait for the rest. Since I didn't know the distance, I returned on time. Liz and Wolfgang need more time to buy souvenirs. On our way back, we again take the chicken bus.
This time, we all eat together in the restaurant where I dined with Wolfgang yesterday. After the meal, Gail goes back to the hotel, and Wolfgang and Liz plan to check emails.
I chat with Maria, Laura, and Gert about relationships. Maria talks about her last relationship and why she ended it. When Liz and Wolfgang return, we continue our conversation with everyone. It's quite interesting how open everyone is. It's fascinating to hear rather personal stories from people you've known for such a short time!
After Laura and Maria leave, we switch to games. Liz and I play Black Magic. After a while, Wolfgang figures out how it works.
We also solve the strangest riddles, trying to guess the circumstances behind: · a diver found dead in a forest · a naked man in a field with only a straw in his mouth · a car stopping at a hotel that costs its owner a lot of money