Notes from the Field

Its January 5th, 2008. We, Iniyal and myself, have just returned from our Christmas excursion in Toronto. Saturday… a day for coffee and breakfast and lazing with a book until the afternoon comes to take us out of the house into the heart of the city to visit a couple of galleries. I am supposed to be reading – a brilliant book that Iniyal read through a weekend during our stay in Toronto; The Kite Runner… instead I am writing. I have a little bit of catching up to do, as I mentioned a trip to Tikal previous to this.. but have not yet had a moment to discuss the subject. It will be from memory, which will likely bring a less clinical day to day discussion and more of a “from the gut” account of how I felt while I was there. We can read all about Tikal in most travel or Central American History books, or catch a documentary on it from the BBC if we so wish… but.. Tikal is more than just an ancient city… its more of a punch in the teeth. I will write about how getting punched in the teeth feels when you stand at the base of a structure that had been completely covered in soil and vegetation for much of the last thousand years and has only just been exposed within the latter part of the last century.

More recently though… we arrived in Toronto to a snow storm that brought what I always refer to as two feet of snow. Its irrelevant to me whether it is 6 inches, a foot, or more. It snows and snows and when it stops, you really don’t know where the earth is and where the snow begins. Everywhere you look – a blanket of snow… beautiful, quiet, calm, cold. Our visit was wonderful. We stayed in as much as we could. We wandered here and there. Spent time with family. The only thing that was not quite right, was my missing my own parents, whom we had spent Christmas with the previous year out west, in the mountains of British Columbia. Increasingly I wish I had the means to get on a plane whenever I felt the desire and go to visit them. Perhaps one day. They are planning a trip to visit us in Guatemala, which we are looking forward to very much.

We left Toronto, snow on the ground, chill in the air. Already missing Iniyal’s family, we took a cab in the wee hours of the morning to the airport. Missing family, and knowing that a return to Guatemala meant seeing my mom and dad very soon. Family.

We arrived in Guatemala city this past Wednesday. We were given and early warning of the next few days weather by one of the single most unstable descents into Guatemala city by plane. The plane rolled violently from side to side… dropped several meters; jerked up again… not once or twice, but, probably for ten minutes… before finally gliding above the tarmac at what felt like full speed. I stared out the window watching the landscape pass as the wheels smashed into the earth and the plane hesitated to bother to slow. It did… eventually and we taxied along to the gate. Its a funny feeling being on an airplane. Its funny because, though for the last hundred years or so, we have boarded airships and placed our faith into the hands of bolts and steel and electronics… and the elements. Funny absurd. During our ten minutes of Vancouver PNE wooden roller coaster ride reminders… I calmly dazed about how pointless it is to be frightened. How pointless it is to be concerned about the outcome of such a flight. We paid money to fly… its not a new thing for either of us. I calmly held Iniyal’s hand, whispering to her “next time we will take a bus”. HA! Even in the face of death… well, thats an exaggeration. Flying is the safest mode of transportation in the word. I am more likely to scratch a knee walking down a deserted street.

Someone was clapping. We reached the gate. We disembarked… we fled the airport into a tiny white cab… Iniyal on my lap… luggage filling the hatchback and spilling into the back seat. The skies were immediately blue and clear. Sunny. In the far distance I could see a black front of clouds looming. I pointed it out to Iniyal and said “storm coming”. She nodded.

The wind picked up over the next two days… wind brought chilly air… though, a far cry from -15c in Toronto. Our first night at home, we stayed in, ordered pizza and started to watch a movie on the laptop. five minutes into the film, the power went out. We looked to the hillside. No lights. The battery in the laptop allowed us to continue watching. The phone rang. Pizza man says “no electricity, no pizza – so sorry”. No sweat… life goes on. We wind up meeting up with our neighbors downstairs… pack into a cab and rush off into the blackness to find somewhere with light. Somewhere with dinner. We had all arrived on the same day, and all had neglected to eat much through the day. Traveling does that. We find a giant mall blazing with lights… the food court is packed. We eat tacoInn and have a laugh. We all go home and the lights come on…

Friday comes. Iniyal only had two days of school, and Friday was still a delight for us. We went to the local grocery, picked up a few simple items, returned home and made dinner. A super delicious pasta dish that Iniyal magically throws together. But, this Friday isn’t about pasta. We are watching a movie we brought back from a Rogers Video previously viewed rummage bin. The Flags of Our Fathers. We sat together on the couch enjoying the film. The power goes out again. No big deal. We luckily have already made dinner.

Without warning, the building rumbles and sways. We look at each other. The swaying increases. The window makes a low rattling sound. Everything is dead silent.. except for the movie of course… but.. the outside is silent… no car alarms I think… nothing. “Earthquake” I speak. Iniyal nods… “yeh”. I asked Iniyal if we should go somewhere safer in the apartment. No response. We sat for a moment kind of just experiencing it. The swaying was increasing slightly and we felt our insides shake. Strange feeling and earthquake. The last time I felt a real earthquake was in Vancouver. I was living with Jme and Jon. I sat in my bedroom on my futon couch reading and in the broad sunny day. The futon rolled like a boat on an ocean wave three or four times… very lightly and it was gone. A small earthquake that one… I remember reading a footnote in the newspaper the next day. In Vancouver, every few years, the news goes on an “Earthquake is coming!! – one day!!” rampage… and nothing… though I am sure it will eventually bring glass to the city streets… one day. This is what the news groups do when, either nothing is happening (there is always something), or when something really huge is happening.. and they need to distract us from it. Patterns.

I am off topic… the earthquake, in Guatemala City, on Friday, January 4th was strong and rather long. It lasted long enough to consider it for a few moments as it was happening. To relish it in a way. To experience. It subsided. For a few pregnant seconds and then a minor aftershock… reminding us that there is always more than we thought.

This morning I scoured the news sources. I checked Al Jazeera, the BBC world… but found two interesting mentions… on a blog predicting the earthquake in Guatemala City, published on the 1st of January, the other a daily news source. The earthquake measured 5.6.

The Present Tense.
It is 11:10am, Saturday, January 5th 2008… I am writing in the blog… Iniyal is preparing addresses of Art Galleries. We have a “resolution” to visit at least one new gallery a week… or… repeat when the show changes… I need that. And we both enjoy visiting the galleries. They are somewhat difficult to find here in the city. The internet is not helpful. We need to look in yellow pages, try and divide the gallerias between the contemporary arts and frame shops… we are making progress. I will shower now… prepare for the day trip into the other zones…

We are both looking forward to a casual day in the sunny spring-like weather…

When we return, I will discuss Tikal… and post a few of the 700+ photographs that I took, while we were there. I will tell stories of monkeys, dead wild turkeys, alligators, toucans (and other birds) and of course the giant ancient city of Tikal rising out of the dense jungle.


Mr Hryhorczuk