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Postcard from Guatemala

Friday, March 3, 2006

This exquisite and unusually outgoing Maya girl was on her way up Volcan Chicabal to pray for rain. Yep. We were watching birds; she was lighting candles and praying for rain with her extended family.

Hello from Guatemala! What a trip to go from haggling with Quiche speaking Maya women for textiles to signing on for two hours of high-speed Internet in our Guatemala City hotel in the evening. Man! This country is out of this world, so beautiful that to try to describe it in words would take much more effort than my travel-fried brain can put forth. I'll give you a few pictures for a taste. Think volcano cones, some active and regularly belching poisonous gases and lava, towering over a green landscape peopled by Mayans, most decked out in breathtakingly beautiful region-specific textiles. The color sense of the Mayans is beyond sublime, and their way of combining patterns, textures and color in their everyday clothing makes me feel like a peahen among peacocks.
The birding has been spectacular. I have lost all count of how many life birds I've added to my list; I'm sure it's in the double digits, and we've made a grand slam of all the highland endemics we wanted. We've earned them, though, having climbed two volcanoes.Uh-huh. We climbed it.
Our legs shriek with pain just getting in and out of our bus--shin splints that encompass the entire leg.
This group is just fabulous. Going birding with people who guide bird tours for a living is like having Birds of Guatemala (which doesn't exist yet) on legs right beside you. The Guatemalans who are hosting us are just terrific--funny and fun-loving and knowledgeable and so incredibly considerate.Genus, anyone? I've no idea. I just know it's perfection.

We stopped at a roadside rest and found this orchid wired to a tree trunk in the picnic area. It was like seeing Excalibur rise out of the lake. I could not tear myself away from this enormous plant, which was emanating a perfume that varied from muguet to gardenia depending on which flower I chose to worship. Everyone else had birds in the spotting scope, but Bill finally gave up calling me. I flashed back to a prediction my dad made when I was barely in my teens. "One of these days this kid will get serious about plants and she'll forget birds ever existed." It was an exaggeration, but I have to say that botanizing in Guatemala has been a total trip. I've taken several hundred pictures of flowers and leaves, and amused myself on the excruciatingly steep volcano hikes by trying to place each plant I notice in a family, and maybe even the right genus. So, in between bird sightings, I am thoroughly engaged. Diversification in natural history interests is the way to go.
Phoebe has been faithfully posting my wintry missives, prepared before our departure. Thank you, sweetest girl in the world. This will give you a little break and a glimpse of what we're experiencing here. Today's Bill's birthday, and we celebrated it several times over with spectacular views and coveted bird sightings. Imagine getting a pink-headed warbler for your birthday!
Tomorrow we depart for Tikal, where we'll be sweating to the oldies in the lowland rain forest--my favorite birding habitat on the planet. Toucans and flatbills and tody-flycatchers and motmots, here we come!


It may be some years after your trip,
but the name of this beautiful orchid,
is Encyclia cordigera....
You paint a beautiful descrition of my adoption country, thank you...

Hello, I'm placed that you visited my country, expect that you feel like in home, you are welcome !!!

Posted by Anonymous October 17, 2009 at 10:47 PM
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