Today is Easter. I awoke well rested at nine AM – a little later than I usual begin to stir, but I did not feel lazy. I looked out the window. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and I debated about whether or not I wanted to go to church or just walk around all day over the trails and rivers of the larger church. I like traditions. I went to church.
It is funny to me how those who study culture have the uncanny ability to find sustenance in all traditions but their own. I chided my Guatemalan archaeologist friend about this the night before after he contorted his face into an exaggerated grimace when I asked him if he was going to church on Easter. I laughed at the thought that I may now be approaching my own culture and my family’s religion as an outsider. I now find myself going to church in the same way as I go to Buddhist temples – curious and wide-eyed with wonder. I think that I have become a perpetual visitor. But I walked to the church this Easter with a touch of excitement and gusto that was not evident when I was a child. Yes, I am beginning to find the vestiges of my own background interesting, although my gaze is now cast from afar – from the other side of the river, perhaps. I think that my resolution is better from this distance.
The Catholic church in Copan Ruinas looks over the central plaza, and is the heart of this little town. On this Easter Sunday, and every other one for that matter, the church was filled to capacity. Bold faced campensinos with big white cowboy hats in their laps crowded in on the wood work benches next to young girls dolled up in their Sunday bests. Mature hefty women wearing stentorian church faces sat eave to eave with bald headed weeny men with starched bright camisas that were buttoned tightly around their necks. Hanging on the inner walls of the church were the late comers who did not occupy a seat and had to stand, as they participated in the worship that would probably last for this entire day. For the Catholic Church in Honduras is nothing, if not fastidious in its ceremonies.
It was with this last group, tucked in against the walls, that Mira and I took up our residence. But as I watched the priest, who was a bulk of a man with a greasy mullet and well groomed goatee, I could not help but to continue looking out of the large doorway behind me. The sky was still blue. The hills just beyond the town were sparkling bright. They were beaconing to me. I knew it. I tried to understand the words of the sermon, but my attention was on the hills beyond. When I finally gave in to my mountain calling urges, I could not help my feet for their rapid movement towards the fresh air of the beautiful Easter day. Out the door I went. I decided that I would rather go to the church of the mountains and rivers and run out this Easter with a big smile on my face. This was an Easter celebration, mind you.
So Mira and I walked down a wide, paved highway that lead through the hills. There was not much traffic today and the breeze blew the blazes of the hot tropical sun right by us. The weather, today, was for the humans. We walked on through this beautiful day, looking far out over the mountainous horizon. I love the mountains. I love far stretching Horizons and chasing them as well. .
We walked on and on until we reached a nice place to call our journey ‘half-way’ and began tramping back into town the way we had come. Just as we were looking over the wares of an un-staffed Mayan stone carving replica workshop, we were hallloooed and whistled at from a house across the highway. We turned with a start to find one of the excavators from the archaeology excavation waving and grinning big in out direction. We smiled, waved, and ran across the road to greet our friend.
The other workers call him Toro – the bull – and he is the funny man of the crew. He actually sort of looks like a bull. He introduced us to his children, and I was rather surprised to find how attractive they were. I chalked this up to the fact that they must have a really beautiful mother, for Toro was not over-flowing with manly beauty. But he was a good spirited, humorous man, and he keeps anyone who can understand his campesino Spanish rolling in laughter all day long. Neither Mira nor I can always follow his words, but just watching Toro as the jokes pour out of his half toothless mouth is enough to keep us in stitches. Then he picks on us. But, alas, the man who has the propensity to laugh at a joke must also be able to calmly bear witness to occasionally becoming the joke. I do not have a problem with being laughed at, if it means that I can laugh good-heartedly when Toro turns his humor upon the rather stiff and timid Japanese men who are the directors of the archaeology project. At the mere mention of these men he begins walking around the site with lowered eyes while bowing profusely in his never over-worn theatrical pantomime of the Japanese temperament. I must say, as someone who has tramped much in Japan, that his performances are not far from the truth.
No, Mario is not the only one who gets picked on at Copan.
After visiting the home of Toro, Mira and I walked lazily back into town, bought skewered meat tacos for $.80 each, and went home to nap. It was a good day to nap.
Tomorrow is work.
Back to the grindstone.