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   April 18, 2003
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Hello everybody!

It's been a little while again, but here we are with some more Guatemala news! 

Everything is going great here. Nathan and I are having half a week off from work (that we gave ourselves, how cool is that?) to celebrate Semana Santa. This is the one week in the year that everybody has the week off, and following the previous chiropractor's advice we shut down our clinic too. 

Today when I am writing this is Good Friday. Good Friday is part of Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Antigua is celebrating it boldly with processions, alfombra's and more processions. 

Alfombra's are "carpets" made on the street from sawdust, fruit and/or flowers. It is a true neighborhood activity, and reminds me a lot of decorating streets in Holland on Queen's Day (or the Fourth of July in the USA for that matter!). People hang out on the street all day long, making the carpets sometimes in the middle of the night.

 

The carpets are made as an honor for the procession, I think similar to the idea of covering the streets with palm leafs on Palm Sunday like described in the bible. The procession this morning left the church at 6 am. That means that all the alfombra's have to be ready before that time, or at least the ones on the beginning of the route. Hence the staying up all night. The people at the end of the route are more lucky: they have all morning to finish since the processions normally take about 12 hours to return back to their home church.

   

Which brings me to the topic that there are a lot of churches in Antigua, all with their own processions. Today there will be 4 major processions, maybe some more small ones, who knows. All of them have hundreds of people participating, and hundreds of people involved in making the alfombras. Interestingly enough there is only one small procession on Easter Sunday, the day that Jesus rose from the dead. 

In the procession, they try to act out the whole last days of Christ's life. Really impressive. Complete with Roman soldiers, walking and on chariots. (Look closely at their hats, they used broom brushes to make the plumes on top!) The funny thing is that it looks like the brushes were just used the day before to clean the streets.

 

 

The floats of Jesus and Mary are carried lastly. First Jesus, carried by all the religious men, dressed in purple. In all the processions we have seen so far the men are dressed in purple. I am not quite sure why purple, but I bet it is the color of Jesus' suffering. The other men in the picture below is wearing a cream type outfit to signify that they are monks. Around the time of a procession you will see men in purple all over town, because men walk in and out of line or even the procession in a seemingly unorganized manner. However, they are nice and take turns in carrying (not pulling!) the float with the statues. We got to look at a float closer earlier during the week, and this one in particular is designed to be carried by 80 men! Made of solid wood, by the way.

 

And while the men are all dressed alike in the same outfits, the only thing that makes the women look the same is the head covering they wear. It also seems that the float with Mary is a little less heavy, bless its creators. 

 

By the way, only the people that carry or direct the floats touch the carpets. All other people that walk in front of the floats or walk next to them. I could not leave the next picture out: what the carpets look like after two big floats and two little brass bands following them trampled over them. Too bad, but now they can start creating a new one!

   

 

On a more personal note, we are really starting to enjoy are stay here in Antigua. We consider ourselves very lucky that we get an opportunity to be part of such a different, vibrant culture. As part of that culture we also had dinner over at our landlord's yesterday night, white Thursday. We were invited for fish, as the tradition calls that you only eat seafood Thursday and Friday of Holy Week.  As we arrived almost perfectly on time, we had a couple of drinks with our hosts, practiced some good Spanish, and hoped that dinner would not start right away because our lunch ended up being both too late and too big.

That hope turned in to a reality, however, when we finally started dinner at 11.00PM. I was yawning already! We walked the enormous distance home around 1.00 am (just look at the old webpages to see how far that was again), with the advice given that we had to be at the Merced church around 5.45, to be there in time for when the 6.00 am procession started. The pictures you saw earlier were a result of a nice 4.5 hours of sleep. Brrrrrr.

Which brings us back to were we are right now, 5.58 pm Good Friday. This means we still have 2 days of vacation\ to enjoy, don't worry about us!

Lots of love,

Annette and Nathan

By the way, most of the world has changed to daylight savings time, we did not. So at the moment Guatemala is one hour behind Dallas, two hours behind Toledo, Boston and Florida, and eight behind Holland.