Yahja: "Jan the Survivor"

Flores, Peten

Guatemala, C.A.

January 5, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

Hat Co...Sa Qax,

Yes, I am a survivor!

So far on this trip to Centro America I have survived the four hour angry-bull-ride disaster of a mountain road to Caracol in Belize. By contrast the Guatemalan countryside highway this morning to Yahja was mostly almost Interstate.

I am surviving tacos, burritos, quesedillas, re-fried beans, rice and beans, fried bananas and the incendiary Chile Habanero.

I am surviving heat, humidity, a little rain, bugs and iguanas.

I am surviving the ultra high volume ear bone splitting third world ethnic music pumped and pouring and roaring through every multi-speaker sound system on every public bus - surviving of course with my Bose Acoustic Noise Reduction Headphones that I now carry everywhere. HA!

So. Did any of you unapologetic unrepentant Barcalounger addicts of Reality TV notice my morning's destination? Yahja, pronounced YaSHA. My driver Hugo informed me (I have never ever viewed even one episode of this offering) that Yahja was the site of the Survivor series in Guatemala. Small world.

I looked everywhere for leftovers of tribal artifacts but I could not find any charred campfires, bandannas, ballots or burned bras. I did spy several sentient and sensible cousins of those TV ragamuffins - a family of spider monkeys - mama y dos niños - cavorting through the branches overhead, and a troop of howling monkeys, hanging by their tails and munching a leafy lunch and surviving quite peacefully.

In the middle of the Guatemalan jungle between the Belizean border and Flores, Yahja is another impressive Mayan archaeological site. There are dozens of tree and root and dirt encrusted high circular pointed mounds that no doubt encase ancient temples. The excavated and restored temples and plazas and acropolis buildings gleam a bright blinding white as they reach far above the jungle floor and treetops towards the irresistible sun.

Hugo leads and I follow him around the jungle paths and up the wooden stairs and stone steps. For two hours we are alone here except for a tourist now and then and several restoration workers and the uninterested monkeys above. My bandaged knees survive the hike.

The town of Flores is actually an island in the middle of Lago Peten Itza. Here at La Casona de la Isla Hotel, the modest guest rooms and restaurants and pool deck all look out on the expansive calm breezy mountain lake.

I have survived a monumental lunch of Ensalada Capressa - diced fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, oregano in a balsamic vinegar dressing; and Isla Bonita Tacos - three soft pancakes covered with chopped beef, tomatoes, cheese and sauce...a dash of Habanero for excitement. Three cups of Guatemalan Highlands charater-building coffee.

This afternoon I expect to survive a swim in the pool and a jacuzzi, if I can ever get those young kissy-face giggly playful-toe-touchy Latin couples out for a moment.

Tomorrow morning I travel to Tikal - supposedly the biggest and best Mayan site.

To arrive in time for amanaser, the bus leaves at 05:00. Now THAT I may not survive.

Xah...Xuan Chic.

Juan Roberto

PS I am thinking about putting in a call to Mel Gibson to ask him my name in the Mayan language. But I decided I really like Juan Roberto. It has a certain Latin American rhythmic ring. Don't you think?

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