We had entered the jungle and had stopped in front of a wooden sign explaining the paths through the lush landscape sprawling in front of us. Our path was the longest. The 2 hour hike to the Laguna Nuevo Horizonte. Our tour guide called me up to translate,¨there are 2 types of monkeys here and watch out for snakes.¨ We turned around and started into the humid trees, gently buzzing with the sounds of hidden and unknown animals. In addition to our tour guide, a small Guatemala women was hiking with us. Dona Tanya, a name she had given herself in the armed conflict to save her family, was giving us a comprehensive story of the nature around us. Although the war had ended over a decade ago, Tanya went by her Guerilla name. She had entered the revolution at 14 as a radio technician. Our guide pointed out a tree to our left and described it as an ornamental tree. Don Tanya described the huts that her and her comrades would make in the jungle out of the fronds of the tree. We moved deeper, our guide pointed out a 76 Ceiba tree towering over our heads. The guide had described that the tree had been there longer than the cooperative. Guerillas were able to hide behind the thick roots during active gun fire to avoid being shot. If the Guerillas became separated, they would use machetes on the roots, which would créate a clear path to draw the group back together. We continued through the forest, Tanya pointed out different plants she had survived on in the forest. She has told stories of her life as a soldier, and her experiences recovering and growing after the war. When we reached the first stop we encountered a mock Guerilla camp, and heard tactics of the revolutionaries and their life in the jungle. Tanya described smuggling children into Mexico and the risk she took spreading information. We moved to the lake where I sat looking at the moving water, which was supposedly swimming with crocodiles, cracking open musty nuts and eating the meat with a women who had lived a life I couldn’t even begin to imagine.
A note from the instructors — We are going on our 3 day trek tomorrow. It will be 50km through Maya jungle that ends at one of the most spectacular sites in Central America — Tikal. We will be out of internet range for 3-4 days. Attached please enjoy photos of the graduation ceremony from our first week of Spanish classes!