Sunday, June 12, 2005

Guatemala Day Four

There is water everywhere. Wetness, dampness, not dry-ness, whatever you want to call it, is always surrounds you, even coming from inside of you as you sweat buckets. The body is what, 60% water or something like that? In a Guatemalan jungle day, my body is approximately only half that as it loses more than it takes in.

My concern about getting clothes that wick (wick wick wick) was completely unfounded. It's all fine and good to have, in theory, clothes that draw moisture from your body. In a dry climate, that would probably be nice, although in a dry climate, the sweat would evaporate quickly anyway, eliminating the need for clothes that wick. In a wet climate, you sweat, the air sweats, and you are your own constant little rain cloud -- emitting water and absorbing water. I picture myself as Eeyore with a little rain cloud following me around. Yep, that's me.

I have a poncho to protect me from the rain. Other than the fact that it smells slightly disturbingly like marijuana, it really doesn't do much to protect me from the rain as it just causes me to turn into a little steam bath. It protects my clothes somewhat, and definitely my shoulder and camera bags. Other than that, I think it's staying here for the next group.

The edifices here are surprisingly water tight. I wondered at that, as the rest of the living conditions seem so very rudimentary. But it's because they all have corrugated tin roofs. Not every building or house has windows or a proper door, but they all have tin roofs. It's a necessity. The roofs are layered as required so as to provide the maximum protection from the rain.

The women's facility is comprised of three separate buildings on one piece of property. The middle one that I am in is separated by a corridor from the back building, which isn't used except to hang clothes in or to get to the sink. The corridor is mostly covered by tin roofing. Many clothes get hung there to dry. Many clothes do not get dry because the rain comes in at slanting angles, or the clothesline acts as a conduit for the water.

The rain water does serve a nice function for the house, however -- it makes it easy to collect in large quantities in the large blue bucket so that the toilet, el sanitario, can be flushed when the town water supply is cut off.

The water is currently not running, at 6:35 p.m., despite our optimism at the regular schedule of 6 - 9 in the morning, and 6 to whenever at night. Perhaps it is because it's Sunday that the water's not on yet.
Too bad the person that left the toilet full of ugly brown poop didn't figure that out. I have a feeling it was Ceil, who I am beginning to attach a mental, "Shut up," to each time she opens her mouth to speak.
She knows all. She has a bad case of one-upmanship. She simply has to be better than everyone else, know more, have been more places, have experienced more, and repeat herself over and over, I guess in an attempt to be acknowledged. The problem is, the way she presents herself is so obnoxious that you really don't want to acknowledge her for fear it will merely encourage her to keep on talking. It's a vicious circle - if she doesn't get acknowledged, she keeps on talking anyway, repeating herself, following your around until she gains an audience, says what she needs to say, then finds something else to talk about. There is no talking above here, around her, or over her.

The greatest part about the tin roofs and the rain is that it sounds like being inside a snare drum, and is about as loud as that would be too. The best part about being inside a snare drum is that you can't hear Ceil. I shared that insight with Mike today, and he laughed heartily. He agreed also, and it felt good to know I’m not the only one quickly tiring of her.

Sadly, our facility has the padding of a wooden ceiling between us and the tin roof, so Ceil can still be heard. Hmmmmm, "ceiling," and "Ceil." Coincidence???? I think not. I must be really tired to try to turn this into a conspiracy theory!

I have started to getting accustomed to showering at night and simply washing my face and wetting my hair in the morning, because it seems foolish to get clean only to begin sweating and toiling in the mud an hour or so later. The water's not on right now, though, so I guess I'll wait until tomorrow, or maybe after dinner.

Yesterday morning I ached when I got out of bed. My neck, shoulder and arm muscles let me know that the sifting work the day before had not been an entirely pleasant experience. Starting the sifting labor again yesterday morning made my muscles scream. Luckily, Saturdays are short field work days, so we knocked that off at noon.

Then it was time to work in the lab. Though not physically demanding like lifting 30 pound buckets of dirt, pouring them onto the screen, and making repetitive shaking motions, it is still physically taxing in that it involves sitting in a chair and scrubbing pottery fragments, shards, with a toothbrush until clean. If scrubbing isn't your thing, you can sort through the dry shards and label them, which is also painstakingly hard as the writing and labeling process involves scrunching up your shoulders and neck so as to be able to concentrate and use fine motor skills.

Neither chore is desirable. Both are miserable in different ways. None of this is archeology like "Indiana Yones." But archeology it is.

You would not believe the clap of thunder I just heard and felt. "Clap" is not really the word for it. It's rolling only because you can feel it begin and end. If being in the rain under a tin roof is like being in a snare drum, then the thunder that accompanies it is like being inside the bass drum. A timpani. Or the grand bell of Notre Dame.

The lights are very respectful of the "relampagos," or thunder and lightning. Even though I am not by a window and cannot see the lightning, I know when it happens as the lights shut off for two or three seconds, then come back on at the same time the thunder hits. That's how close it all is.

When we were "down the hill" today at Takalik Abaj, it didn't rain until we were in the van coming back to Chocola. Even then, it didn't start raining so much as we entered the rain as we drew closer to Chocola. The closer we got, the more it rained, until the streets were running rivers of water. Then we knew we were in Chocola.

Guatemala, or perhaps it's Chocola, averages 5 meters, or a little over 15 feet of rainfall per year. Per YEAR!

We have, it seems like, gotten half of that in these four days alone.

Takalak Abaj was very fun and quite incredible. Chocola will be like that in another 30 years, since that's as long as it's taken them to excavate that location to date, and they've only been able to do 5% of that location, because the rest is privately owned.

The two sites are contemporary, so many times when they find something new at Chocola, they'll check at TA to see what it means. It was quite fascinating. When something is excavated that far, you can really begin to picture the ancient city and the people who lived there.

After only two days of very physical labor and feeling like I will not be able to adjust quickly enough to the work demands in conjunction with the climate and what it’s doing to my body, as well as feeling used as only a manual laborer and not really learning anything about archaeology yet, and as sore as my muscles are and my body is tired, I wonder, "What the heck am I doing here?"

But today was a good recharge day. I don't know how I'll feel about things tomorrow after working in the field. I think I need to ask Jonathon if I can work in the field until noon then go to the lab after that, because working in the field until 3:00 will kill me, I think. Or make me so miserable so as to not to want to be here.

I'm enjoying the dad/son team of Dave and Mike. Chris is fun, but very quiet. I like most of the students here too. Yesterday as we were working in the lab, Diana, Margarita, Tony and Victor started playing a game, that at first I didn't get because I didn't understand it was a game, but after listening to them, I caught on.

They labeled themselves as "Un limon y media limon" and "Dos limones y medios limones," up to four. One would start and say, "Un limon y medio limon llamando a cuatro limon y medio limones," and the Four Lemon person would have to say, "Cuatro limones y medio limon llamando a..." and would call someone else. If someone faltered or got tongue tied, they would cry, "Penitencia!" When they saw I was catching on, they assigned me to be Cinco Limon. I sucked. I could do it, but not as fast as they could, nor as gracefully, so I got tongue-tied early on. They tried to give me penitence, but I said, "I'm just a little gringa!" They laughed, and we went on.

Oh, one more note about Ceil before I forget. Today at Takalik Abaj, Juan Pablo was going to translate for us, but Jonathon had also said that Ceil could translate, since she knew Spanish. I said nothing, and Ceil said, "And Laura too!" Jonathon agreed, and asked us to do word-for-word translation so the others could catch the innuendos and discrepancies that the guide would probably throw out there about the Olmec influencing the Maya culture, etc. So today at the site, the guide started, but Juan Pablo wasn't with us quite yet. I started translating word for word. Ceil, of course and however, jumped all over it and started to translate, but in the middle of translating would interrupt to ask a question and would then leave off the rest of what he had originally said. I took to quietly speaking to Mike what he had really said. At one point I just stopped because it was stupid for me to try. Mike looked at me and I rolled my eyes. He said, "How ya doin’?" I said, "Oh, just fine! You??" He laughed and said, "She just really wants to me the alpha female, doesn't she?" I was gratified that I wasn't the only person to have noticed that. He said, "Oh, no," in a way that led me to believe this wasn't the first time he had thought of it, or possibly even discussed it with the others.

Okay, it's dinner time. I'm not going to wear my boots or shoes to dinner tonight as it is still pouring. I shall do it like a native, with poncho and flip-flops. Then a nice, cold shower awaits me when we get back. Then, more work tomorrow. Yippee.

Day 4 Continued

Coupla things I need to mention:

I saw a store front today with a crudely painted Mickey Mouse on it, thereby proving Cim's point that everyone everywhere knows Mickey Mouse. However, in my defense, this one was in San Antonio, about 7 km from Chocola.

Also in my defense, the literature about this trip led me to believe that the natives in this area didn't speak Spanish, only Quiche Maya. They ALL speak Spanish, and only 30% of them speak Quiche, or Kiche.

This morning I was washing out some socks and my shirt from yesterday, since our cleaning lady doesn't come on Sundays. As a side note, I didn't know we had a cleaning lady, and the first day after work, our little areas were completely picked up, everything off the floor, sleeping bags folded neatly, etc. It was then I found out that if you leave dirty clothes, she will wash them, all for the astronomical price of 75 Q, or about $10. That's for the whole 15 days -- we pay her at the end. It's like the shoemaker's elves.
Anyway, knowing she wasn't coming today, and it takes a couple of days at least for things to dry all the way (if such a thing is possible), I was washing my shirt and socks (another side note -- the first time I tried washing my underwear and some socks with my bio-degradable spiffy "camp suds," they never really got clean. There is a wonderful soap here that gets these clothes completely clean, with a little elbow grease on the built-in washboard in the concrete sink, and they smell good too! I was uncertain about the whole "let the cleaning lady do it" thing, but with that wonderful soap, they're cleaner than I could get them.) and Ceil comes up to the sink and sees me washing these clothes and says, "Oh, are you doing the laundry?" inferring that I was going to do her pile of nasty clothes that she had left out for the cleaning lady. I said, "No, I'm just doing some of my own (emphasis on MY OWN) since Mikaela isn't coming today."

"She isn't? Oh, well, I'll just leave these here for when she does," she drawled, leaving her pile of dirty clothes on the edge of the sink and pretty much in every one else's way.

Tonight at dinner I asked Jonathon about working in the field until 12 then the lab after that. He said I could, but discouraged against it saying that I should give it a couple of days and let my body adjust to it. I agreed to that, but said that I worry that I'm not pulling my weight, because these guys never take breaks, whereas I need breaks for them to move the dirt so it's a flat surface for me to stand on, so I can drink water, whatever. He said not to worry about it, just take the breaks as I need them.

Warning: The next section contains graphic bodily function information. Read at your own risk.

The only thing I don't need a break for is to pee. In normal life, I drink enough water to need to pee every hour, practically. Here, I pee when I get up, providing the water is turned on. If not, I wait until we go to breakfast and use the facilities at the big house. I pee once before going to the field, and hope for more too, so I don't have to worry about that, then pee at 3:00 when we get back. If there's water, that is. I'm just sweating everything out, apparently.

Yesterday, after about 2 hours of dirt sifting, I looked down at my legs and saw that they were attractively sweating in such a way as to make it look like I peed my pants. This is not a job for the vain, which I am, but I just can't be worried about how I look out here, or else I'd go crazy.

This concludes the “too much information, thanks for sharing all about your bodily functions, Laura” portion of this program. Back to your regularly scheduled journal entry.

Tonight, even though it's still pouring (at 9:30), when we got back from dinner, I took my cold shower. I psyched myself up for it by reminding myself how hot I had been at Takalik Abaj, inhaled deeply, and got under the faucet, all the way, instead of just dunking my head and doing it little by little like I've been doing. It was a wonderful shower. So wonderful, in fact, that I even prayed to the shower gods a bit and relished the cool water. I feel so refreshed today.

So today was good. I'm clean, I'm actually (mostly) dry, I'm making friends, using Spanish, and working my butt off. In Guatemala, it doesn't get much better than that!

No comments:

Post a Comment