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Posts Tagged ‘San Cristobal’

Another city, i sit and observe, watching life stroll by, drink coffee, smoke and write. A sadness overwhelms and i do not know what i do here, why i am here. Awoke this morning to the sound of cars rather than of birds or dogs or something. I sit here watching – i know that i am part of the interplay of life that goes on, just as i see others, others see me, but despite all the people i feel alienated and cut off in a cafe in the main square. San Cristobal is both a tourist town and a real city with people going on about their lives, and i do little, like i have in many places, and here i feel lost. I know the calm inside should be regardless of where i am, but i dont know why i am here. Life goes on – work, study, family, friends, suffering and indulgence, but i cannot relate. I want to talk to god and the spirit, but i do not connect with the spirit that lies inside us all. And i walk up and down the streets, over and over like i have so many other places. looking but not seeing, hearing the noise but not the voices, feeding myself on coffee, smokes, a bit of food, but not on god, or so it seems, though i try. I do the circle of the churches, not ornate and welcoming as i remembered (but i now think that was another city, or was it just my imagination) but they seem harsh and cold, with flat ceilings and bloody crucified Jesuses on crosses, and dark painting of pious looking saints in the front above the altar surrounded by gold (or copper) – it is austere and not joyous – though one on the hill was full of flowers on the altar and people praying and a louder procession left from the cathedral yesterday – but they are not places that lift my spirit and call to me. in a few i sit briefly and others i walk around, stare blankly and leave, feeling cut off and wanting to join with god.
So i sit and drink coffee – the pace of life goes on with little boys incessantly, persistently, selling their wares, forceful at times, almost aggressive and refusing to leave until you get harsh on the 6th no. And the women and little girls and grandmothers left alone selling. And i remember this feeling – as i sit here, rich compared to them, indulging in a coffee with time to sit, becoming at times closed and hostile, not a five minute break, cannot be.
And i remember thinking, in san marcos, thinking of my return to the us, where i am on the outside, one of them, that we/they – the beggars, the homeless, the poor, are but shadows – shadows of poverty and wanting that exist in the shadow of indulgence and ¨the good life¨ – a life not for all, denied to many, and with the disparity borders get drawn even more intensely, and the gap grows and i sit here drinking my coffee – a privilege, a normal habit but a luxury for some. And it is more here, a little barefoot girl – 3 or 4 goes around asking for pesos, learning to beg – but am i really any different. And the guilt grows, i buy a trinket, but it is just a drop in the bucket, more to assuage my guilt. At times i think they are there to teach compassion and loving and giving.
But it is more in the tourist zones and in places where the gap is big. The eyes that look longingly at the table – mainly of the young who have not yet learned to avert them, the young like the shoeshine boys who later sit outside another cafe indulging in a frozen mocha. But i know that look, face to face with what you cannot have, standing outside, looking on, longing, for i too have had that look many a time.
And the peddlers and beggars are more intense here than they have been elsewhere in central america. Is is just the gap – for you go through much of the rural areas (except near here) where people are poor, but still seem to have something – not as ground down. Or is it also another loss, a poverty that is not only material, but spiritual, a poverty that is deeper, that cannot be solved by buying a trinket today. I think of my time in Nica, which was poor in material things, but also seemed rich – a sense of spirit and connection that existed in places with the very basic simple life. Or is it the people – but no – i have seen the maya in their communities and know that not all are pushy sellers, the aggressive merchants, but here with those who now live in the slums on the edge of town, the aggression is worse. Or where there is the gap – tourist land, pana at the lake, or the frequent thefts in san marcos. but i drift away from this place.
And is that what i see here, amongst those, like me at times, the travellers who wander, looking, or those who live the good life – possibly materially wealthy, but spiritually poor, and seeking to fill up. A woman with goods walks by, i avert my eyes, do not want to see, cannot buy from all, she reminds me, i hang onto what i have, close my heart instead of open it, or do i, for it aches with pain and guilt. A smile, a kind word is not enough, and their resentment of me turns to resentment of them. i try to open my heart, send love, a smile.
And the traffic circles on and people walk through and i am back to searching, on how to leave this place, feeling trapped, no where to go, enthusiasm down, flight to usa in a week and have no home, my temporary privilege, the one sitting on the seat facing the square is over, to i the one who looks on longingly and cannot join in. And in many ways does not want to – the feeding of emptiness, of internal poverty.
And in the city i long once again for where i am not – a place to be in nature, commune with god, and light up and see the spirit inside all. and perhaps i am here to learn, to do that here as well, the calm inside when there is noise without, and to feel the interconnectedness of all, and not apart, and to remove the veil from my heart and soul in the places where it is more difficult.

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I was right last night when i said that i would miss the oppressive air of the jungle (entry still to come) and in some ways i was right. Tonight i find myself in San Cristobal and i wonder what i have done. I have been here before, three years ago, and it was a significant place in my travels then for it was here that i turned back and did not continue on my journey south to Guatemala and to las pirimides, a journey that i now have done. And it was here that i made that phone call – to my mother – after no replies from her on my last blog – and realized that she no longer wished to speak with me and that i had been cut off – and that i would never see her again. So this place is significant, and maybe that is why i had to come back to truly let it all go. Or at least that is what i thought this morning, laying in bed, in shoddy cabana, listening to the sounds of the jungle – i had bought my ticket yesterday. And this was the place i imagined going way back in October, when i planned this journey on rainy october day in Buffalo – the place where i was born. And maybe this central american journey has been a bit of the same as my last trip to mexico – a fleeing when i felt rejected. But i finally made it to the other places, and now maybe i can break free – not let old pain stop me or block my path – or twist me up inside.

And so i am here, already thinking of leaving but to where i do not know. i am not giving it my full energy i know – maybe i already had let it go. Again i am at that point – my ticket out of Guatemala City in a week and a half, into NYC, but there i have nowhere to go, and returning here, and to palenque the other day, i question my previous desire to return to the west coast. But i must make a decision.

It is interesting returning to a place you once visited, (but unlike the circles i have been making – in the more distant past – 3 years – but a lifetime ago) memories of place return and in some ways you question them. I am staying in the hostel where i stayed last time – but i remember it as calm and nice – now twice as many beds in the dorm, packed. And the city seems bigger, and livelier with more tourists around – prices still low, but the tour operators no longer have discounted prices listed outside. And another street, so it seems, has been closed to traffic and is filled with restos and cafes and people wandering up and down. Or maybe it is just a saturday night, where people come to let loose.

And maybe my discontentment has to do with where i have been – Antigua, Granada, colonial towns – and in many ways so similar – tourist zones. The central square, the old churches, the cobblestone streets, and the restored historic buildings and the dedication to tantalizing the senses – much a pleasure to the eyes (especially compared to the chaotic practicableness of regular towns of concrete) with nice places to stay, to eat, to drink, to live the good life but on a cheaper budget. All so nice, but somehow lacking a soul – devoted to tourists pursuing please with historic ambiance mingled with modern conviences. A place to relax, being ¨cultured¨, though without the plethora of museums and arts – some, for us. It is nice here and cool (maybe even cold), but it merely seems indulgent, the ¨good life¨ a surface pleasure and not a deeper resonance. A tourist place all the same – the colonial town – a zone, a place though it has many different physical locations in different countries – it is oh so similar. I look at more crafts, drink a coffee, walk the cobblestones, eat a meal, look at a church and feel empty. The novelty gone.

What will tomorrow bring?

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