Remembering the first time…

Come Sunday, Jorge and I will be leaving on a little trip… the house &  kitty sitter and garden watering person are all lined up… we have both put in a busy week so as to clear our slate. Although we have been to Chiapas on many occasions, each time feels like the first time… We both love this achingly beautiful state.

After our inaugural trip there, I wrote a short story, and over the next few days, I am going to share parts of it with you…

Part One

The ADO motor coach with servicio directo to Palenque would depart at 7 am. This was to be a modest trip.  We like small hotels and eateries as much as large chains. We actually prefer bus trips to driving. Some years ago, I lived in Peru and became seasoned to travel on the spring-less seats of recycled school buses. Since then, riding long distances has never been an issue.

Once we got on our way, Jorge said he was reminded of his days as a guide, when he and I used to journey this very same road with his groups of European tourists in tow. I smiled contentedly.

It had been too many years since we last passed along Campeche’s lazy stretches of jade and emerald colored coastline. As we snaked through the fishing village of Champotón , we snickered over the name of the seaside shrimp bar we saw on the left-hand side of the road – El Viagra. That quirky naivety, unique to the pueblos is something we’d nearly forgotten.

As our bus splashed through puddled wetlands – bananas, heliconia, and dieffenbachia grew right up to the pavement, and the steamy, humid air heralded the proximity of the rain forest and Palenque. This Mayan city is considered to be, the most spectacular of southeastern Mexico’s more than 1,600 archaeological sites.

La Posada Tucán, located a block off Palenque’s main plaza would be our home for the next two nights. I headed straight for the tiny shower, and the pleasure of the hot, sudsy water washing down over my body made me realize that it doesn’t take very much to make me happy.

Off to find food, we felt like two kids playing hooky. Brightly colored scarves, wall hangings, pillow shams, and table cloths temped me to put off finding sustenance until Jorge said, “Don’t buy anything here.  You’ll see all the textiles you could ever want when we get to the highlands.” Not fully appeased, I nonetheless set down the placemats I wanted, and followed him up a flight of stairs. He claimed there was a restaurant on the second floor and he was right. Not for the first time had my husband’s prodigious memory served us well.

Seated on a breezy balcony that overlooked the action, we drank several very pleasant margaritas and ate a hearty meal of carne a la tampiqueña – seared flank steak accompanied by refried beans, cumin-seasoned rice, tangy guacamole and a crispy golden enchilada.  Too, too good!  We watched the bouncy marimba band and the enthusiastic gyrations of the dancers until our eyes could no longer stay open.

Back to El Tucán we crept, and crawled gratefully into the two twin beds. Flat out exhausted, we slept like the dead, but woke up fully refreshed, long before the sun had risen over the distant hills. Jorge slinked to my side of the room and holding me in the dark, he filled my head with stories of the wonders we’d see today.

Dressed and out on the street by six, we felt lucky to find a still-operating night shift taxi; the sleepy driver smiled, happy to accept his last fare before heading home to his café con leche, a soft cotton hammock and his plump wife.

On site at first light, we stood humbled by Palenque – the City of Kings, soaring up through the dense and bountiful forest. Howler monkeys cried out, and bright green parrots darted between the sunbeams that shone through the branches of the broad-leafed breadfruit trees. All-pervasive creepers twirled up and hung down from every tree trunk. Dewy moss coated the flat rock roadway into the site.

It seemed as though the buildings were besieged by the ever-growing green. They strained toward the sky, attempting to release themselves from the sinuous vines that tethered them to the earth. Jorge’s stories of King Pacal, The Red Queen, and Chaac Balum swirled through my head as I immersed myself in their splendid sculpted company and read carved testimonials attesting to their greatness. At one point, it poured rain. We huddled together in the recessed cavern of the Foliated Cross, mesmerized by the steam rising, veiling the ancient city in gossamer.

After cavorting with the kings all day, we returned to the same second floor table we’d occupied the evening before and wondered over all we’d witnessed. I cannot describe the depth of joy that bubbled up through me. I told Jorge I wished that I’d brought my sketchpad instead of my camera on this trip.

“Why?” he asked.                                                                                                                                                                                                             

I answered him as best I could. “A camera locks an image in. Drawing creates a memory but allows the subject to stay free.”

He frowned in confusion, then gave me a hug and said, “I’m sure we could find some paper and pencil crayons somewhere.”

I’d like that,” I replied.


Filed under Vida Latina, Writing

4 responses to “Remembering the first time…

  1. Elvira

    Hi Joanna, can tell me how long and how much was the ADO bus fare?
    I would love to put this trip on the list! Elvira

    • Hi Elvira, I’m sorry… the trip I’m writing about was a long time ago so I can’t say exactly… but the trip from Merida to Palenque is about 8 hours and I think it must cost about 600 pesos

  2. I love the ending of that chapter, Joanna. Such camaraderie! People who accept our different perceptions, are accepting US, aren’t they?

    But in defense of the photo media, let me add this: I took a self-portrait for a class umpteen years ago. The instructor liked it for it’s capture of “vulnerability.” I still, to this day, appreciate that critique. I’d have forgotten it, had I not had I not taken the photo.

    I believe even now–all media are critical to our understanding of ourselves and others. In fact, until seeing “El Artista”, I’d totally forgotten that my mother had won a particular contest in her youth. (Nobody reviewing this movie wants to give away anything, so I’ll not say what kind of contest it was.)

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