Trip to Tiaktak

Chat was invited by Isabella Jacinto, in sexto magisterio, to spend the weekend at her family’s house in Tiaktak, a small aldea about a 3-hour walk away. Chat asked if he could bring the other gringos, she said “of course!”

left @ 6:30 –> 3 hours walking
cut ovr road… up mtn from SMI– foliage change to tall skinny pines with long needles (taj) and shorter needles(k’ub’ taj)

sunny! clay-y mud, rocks

left road and followed path… let Felipe and Diego (brothers, tercero and segundo) borrow Nikon point and shoot

Diego took pictures of cows “paisaje” and gringos! and friends

passed people cutting trees… could hear chainsaw in the distance (Felipe aid the trees were mostly used as fuel, maybe for construction… most houses are cement block or poured concrete now)

also piles of “abono” for the milpas. Felipe said no milpas here, though.

asked him how he knows the names of all the plants (he was teaching me the names of pines and spiney things in spanish and chu’j… i told him what they were in english— similar to the plants that i saw in washington last summer) he said “nuestros antepasados los supieron, entonces nosotros sabemos también”

last 45 min on a dirt road… houses in aldea scattered among trees… land = public? ~70 families in Tiaktak

Isabela Jacinto’s family–>
1 concrete block house in construction for her older brother across the street
wooden slat tienda, connected w/ roof to kitchen, 3 other wooden-slat houses… one with bed
chicken hut–> dead chicken (adolecent) stuck between slats and roof!! while i was sitting and writing, a weasle came up and gnawed it’s head off…. dropped the head from the roof, scampered down to pick it up… dropped the head when it saw me and ran off… came back 30 seconds later and picked up the head. i think it lives under the rock where i was sitting– dog barking at it earlier

in the kitchen:
concrete hearth w/ metal area for pots over fire
smoke goes out pipe in side wall, or up through slats in ceiling (to loft) and out space btwn roof and slats of walls
table up against the wall next to the door, four chairs to sit
three other chairs by the hearth… something is always on the fire! either bebida or food

lunch begins as soon as we get there… sweet boiled coffee and the pancito we brought, followed by cauliflour soup in a chicken-y broth and lots of tortillas wrapped up in a pañuelo

water to wash our hands before lunch is collected in the gutters on the house, flows down into a black cyndrical tank– not purified

telephone in the tienda rings… connected by an antenna…

talking to isabela’s dad– very much looks like his oldest son, Juan Jacinto (father of María de Jesús)… this is “tierra fria”, short growing season. plant corn in march, harvest in october

sheep, chickens, turkey-like birds running all over the place… no pigs! weird… lots of pigs “in town” but none here

Asked isabella about the phrase “every mind is a world”… said that in Chu’j it is {ch’ok’ ch’ok’} but not sure if i caught that correctly

other notable things that have struck me:
•every student has two names– one in Spanish and one in Chu’j… when talking among themselves, in Chu’j, students use Chu’j names. Fernando (student in cuarto) said that sometimes a student only has a Spanish name, or their Spanish name translates directly to Chu’j.

•the phrase “Every mind is a world”…. every student seems to recognize it… Verónica was able to explain it’s meaning to me, as was Isabella (only two students that I asked specifically)

Back at Isabella’s Family’s:
snack = rice drink!!!

took a paseo to land owned by Isabella’s family (I asked… families do own the land they build on here, unlike– it seems– in town, where land is seen as communal property? at least re: the road)

we were taking turns standing on a rock at the top of a hill… trying to get down, i lost my balance and fell. couldn’t stand up right away!! dehydration?? dizzy and shakey…

Isabella says it’s because gringos don’t know how to walk! we’re not “acostumbrado a pasear”… ha ha!

follwed a path along a barbed-wire fence… came up on a very large (1/2 mile across) clearing… eerie first impression. downed, charred trees against a misty sky (the clouds are starting to roll in) with gray-green, short grass everywhere… surrounded by scrubby pine trees, dark green

there was a forest fire, it seems, Isabella says 5 years ago or so… very large trees lying on the ground. in a bowl between “mountains”, surrounded by pine forest

some sinkholes filled with water, bordered by fallen trees. about 3 ft deep (shallower one) and 5 ft deep (deeper one)

lots of brush, vines, thorns

sheep graze and drink here… path goes through to another bowl, eventually to peoples’ milpas. some houses seen in the distance.

talking to Isabella– she is one of 4 girls, 5 boys… oldest boy is Juan Jacinto (about 35). She is the only girl in her family to have gone to school… says that she is the only one that wanted to go to school. Her older sisters either live at home, or are married and have children– they didn’t want to study and don’t speak spanish. She has one younger brother. Her mother never went to school, because there was no elementary school in the aldea when she was younger.

She says she would like to continue and go to university after finishing at Yinhatil Nab’en. She doesn’t really want to teach primary school… she’d rather study pedagogy in the university. but, she says, her father is almost out of money, so she’ll have to get a scholarship.

She asks me how much I have left to study at university… i told her one class, but that i wouldn’t be able to get a job that i want after i finish my degree (i told her i want to teach college students), so i want to go to graduate school, and will also need scholarships. she asked me how much it costs to go to university in the US, and I told her it depends on where you go, that there are state schools and private schools, and that the private schools cost about as much as an average person earns in a year. and that students in the US don’t usually work full-time like many university students do here… she asked me what i studied… i told her “spanish literature, latin american studies, and anthropology”

we compared how long each of us had been studying… she for 15 years, me for almost 16

Isabella says that the war didn’t really reach Tiaktak, and that the forest fire was a result of people, probably burning land for milpas.

dinner = soup that tastes (and looks!) like “Sunday Market Chuchito” filling… orange, maybe squash? with chuncks of beef… lots of tortillas, this time just stacked on a plate and not in a pañuelo.

above the table, on the wall next to the door, are a bunch of hooks with various pots and pans, a gas canister, and utensils hung from them. around the corner from the table, the wall juts out a bit and there is more storage area. there is another counter top/ table against the far right wall (if you’re sitting at the table) and a door next to it, to the right. on the wall behind me more pots and pans are hanging, there is a cupboard, in the pots and pans, as well as the cupboard are big ceramic mugs, white, with machined designs on them.

shortly after dinner (and more coffee), Isabella offers to show us to where we’ll be sleeping and prepare a chu’j for us (steam bath).

we walk down the road, past her sister’s house, and through a milpa (her family’s). about 1/4 mile away the family has another wood-slat house, where Isabella and her sister sleep (i assume… Isabella’s sister is gathering clothes from the wardrobe when we come in). Jess and I are given the bed in the far left (standing in the door) corner. it is already dark and hard to see around the room. Brian and Chat get a wooden platform covered in blankets on the other side of the room.

the chu’j is outside, behind another wooden-slat house next to the one we are sleeping in. it is slightly bigger than the one we use in SMI, and built into/under a hill where a milpa is planted. Isabella explains the ritual to Brian:

First, you smack yourself with the branches provided, to clean yourself. Then, you mix hot and cold water and douse yourself. Wash with soap if you so desire. Rinse. Dry yourself by smacking yourself with the branches again. Towel off. If you want, you can pour a little bit of the hot water over the coals in the far back right corner (standing in the door) to produce steam. if you’re not careful, you’ll create too much steam and can burn yourself (i did this the first time i did a chu’j… i dumped two small buckets, about 1/2 liter each, on the coals and nearly suffocated!) if you dump cold water on the coals, the fire goes out. the hot water is very hot, and needs to be mixed with a bit of the cold water provided in order that you don’t burn yourself! the chu’j isn’t big enough to stand up in… to get in, you crouch through the doorway (careful that your towel doesn’t fall off!) and then sit on a bench along the left side of the structure (about 3.5 feet tall, total). Traditionally, chu’j is done twice a week, the night before market day. our neighbors upstairs also prepare one when they are ill.

dark by the time we do chu’j… afterwards, all climb into bed! candles on a small altar in the center of the room, against the back wall. towel with print of the last supper up on the wall, figurine of the virgin mary next to a stuffed rabbit next to a candle.

miserable sleep!!!! woke up feeling like things were crawling on my scalp… COLD!!!!!! strangely refreshed at 8 am, though. was hoping to get up earlier, but oh well.

breakfast was (and it might sound strange) chicken noodle soup and tortillas… SO good! and sweet boiled coffee.

relaxed for a bit, went for another paseo without isabella to the same place as before.

came back to catch a car back into SMI… ate a bowl (BIG bowl) of chilicayote squash first, sweetened.

one pickup was leaving at 12:30 (which is really 1:30…) we all crammed in to the back bed of a pickup, with a rack on the top to hang on to. bumpy ride! Brian + a couple of kids hung off the back.

it took about an hour to drive back along very windy, bumpy roads… two guys (older, forty or so) started talking to Jess and me. they asked what we were doing in San Mateo, and then said “oh, so you speak a little spanish, then?” then they asked if Chat and Brian were our husbands. Umm, no. Did we plan to get married soon? Ummm, no. Did we want to marry someone from San Mateo? Uhh, maybe? How do you answer that question without being offensive?!

Back to San Mateo for a total of 10Q, and in time for dinner!


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