I hear rumblings the night before about visiting a traditional mayan sweat lodge. In my head I pictured a teepee (I am not sure why, I am under no disillusion that the mayans lived in teepees), some hot stones, and lots of steam. This morning I am conscious of donning appropriate underwear should it be required to be beared in the sweat lodge process (look, this is my first sweat lodge, I don’t know what to expect!). But I think I should be prepared. Like a boy scout.
With nary a mention of a sweat lodge, we get in the trucks and travel to the farming community of Chamaque. In Chamaque, a group has gathered. Reuben translates the stories they share in their native Maya Mam language, but sometimes body language is all that is needed to convey the messages they share.
Smiles cross the faces of the women who have learned how to diversify crops and better manage their land and whose health, and that of their children has improved. They share stories of their capacity-building successes and also of their struggles.
The dissemination of information local farmers and gardeners relies on committed, local project promoters that travel from their communities to a central demonstration farm to learn new techniques in response to climate change, to learn land terracing techniques, to learn the benefits of organic farming and to learn better land management. Promoters return and share their knowledge to better equip groups of people to organize, help each other and work together.
Proud farmers welcome us onto their plots and are eager to share the knowledge, the skills, and even the bounty that they have gained through workshops.
Fruit trees lining crop terraces bear fruit, tiny irrigation pipes gravity feed rain water to gardens, and barnyards include rabbits as well as small animal livestock — none of which would have been seen in the area before local project promoters provided much-needed training and support.
The Chamaque women’s corn silo co-operative conserves food for times of greatest need. Corn is purchased in the local markets when the prices are low, is stored, and sold back to local households for fair prices.
We are invited back to Maria’s house where we enjoyed only the best corn tamales I have ever had. Eating all three that I was served, however, proved to be an impossible task.
Treated with such hospitality and kindness, I almost don’t want to leave Chamaque.
As we get set to say our goodbyes, I glean that there will not be time to visit the sweat lodge afterall. After having heard stories earlier on in the day about hallucinations, losing consciousness, and other-worldly experiences in said sweat lodge, I’ll admit I was a little relieved. I felt slightly unprepared for such an experience.
Appropriate underwear choice notwithstanding of course.