Marcala, Honduras – Day 14
Up early for breakfast and getting kiddos to school. Here, the children walk to school often times in the mud. It’s approximately 2 miles each way. Seven year old Anna is brilliant and puts plastic bags on her feet over her shoes to keep them clean. Their return can sometimes be in the dark. The older kids (Carmen and Ernesto, Jr.) help with the little ones. Elena is up every morning early for work too. She rides a bicycle. The togetherness and fluidity of this family is truly amazing to watch. When you have only each other, the fact that family is all you need in life is more obvious to the “naked” eye. I’m putting together care packages to send to my Honduran family so if you want to participate, please reach out to me either via a post here or at my email address at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will let you know what they need.
Another amazing thing to learn is how they survive mostly off the land and trade for goods and services. Neto fills a a gallon bag with basil grown on the land. We walk the children to their respective classrooms and head to market to obtain cheese and milk and other sundries necessary for survival.
After that we go to meet Remi (a family friend who is an artist and is also helping us to schedule the Temazcal ritual for later in the day). Remi’s shop is filled with sculptures made out of old bicycles, auto parts, bottles and whatever else you can think of. It is quite astounding how talented Remi is. As a token of friendship, Remi made for me right there in front of me an opal necklace – it is said the necklace will protect me from evil spirits. Good thing given we are headed to open a few doors to the spirit world!
Now onto our real journey for the day and the main reason for my trip to Marcala (second only to meeting the family) and that is the shaman ritual in the Temazcal. I had no expectations regarding this ceremony except that I must do it. No one said it was an experience I must ENDURE.
A temazcal is a type of sweat lodge which originated with pre-Hispanic indigenous people in Mesoamerica and is believed to be a curative ceremony detoxifying your mind, soul and body. They use volcanic stones as they do not explode from the unbearable temperature (like your body might it’s so dang hot). These stones are placed in a pit located in the center of the structure (which is usually a stone structure unlike the one shown here). It takes hours and hours to heat these stones as does the preparation of the medicinal water they toss with tree branches onto the stones (and no it doesn’t feel good when the steamy water sprays all over you) and the preparation of the clay tortuga and other ritualistic items.
While I encourage everyone to always try something new, I must report that this ceremony was excruciatingly difficult. I was sitting on rocks in nothing but a bathing suit in a pitch black tent, ceaseless vapor of medicinal fragrances filling my nostrils, with 7 other people incessantly chanting around me and it was well upwards of 120 degrees Fahrenheit in there. I have no idea exactly but akin to the temperature of hell which is exactly where I was. I’ve never been so claustrophobic and miserable in my life. I was screaming internally to get out of there within 60 seconds of door one of the four doors we pass through (earth, water, fire and wind) and almost was willing to knock over a shaman to do it. I hung in there though as I was unwilling to have another failure on my record like with scuba but it just about killed me. At least I left a few pounds lighter both physically and mentally, detoxified, with new friends in our shared suffering and with no desire to do anything like it again. Ha!
That’s all for now a few LBs lighter physically and mentally from a sweat lodge in Marcala.