The Mayan Rabbit Scribe

I first learned about the Mayan Rabbit Scribe back in 2000 when my husband and I traveled to Guatemala to explore the ruins at Tikal. I had been to several various sites in the past, including Chichen-Itza, Tulum and Coba because I’ve been fascinated with the Mayan culture ever since I was a child. Perhaps I even manifested these Mayan temple journeys as a teenager while coloring in the drawings of a Mayan-Incan-Aztec coloring book I bought at a second-hand store.

The amount of information that you can find about the Mayan culture online or in your local library is nothing compared with the facts and lore you hear from the tour guides onsite.

While visiting Tikal, I learned that the Mayans had kept journals of their history and culture, called “codices” most of which were destroyed by order of a Spanish padre, Father Diego de Landa, in a great bonfire in a central Yucatan town called Mani. The padre believed that the books were the work of the devil and were preventing the Mayans from becoming truly civilized. By his order, anyone caught with a codex was summarily tortured and or killed. Only four codices (some of them partial) have survived.

For generations, as the stelas and other stone carvings of the Mayans disintegrated, no one could understand what the carvings meant, and an entire culture was about to be submerged by the tides of history until a few archaeologists figured out the mysteries of the glyphs.

I met a couple of archaeologists who had come to Tikal to photograph artifacts and carvings. They had dedicated their lives to understanding the Mayan way of life. One, by the name of Eleanor “Bunny” Coates, had been coming to Mayan sites for many years. She told me about the Rabbit Scribe.

I glommed right onto that entity, as I’m a writer myself, and I know what it is like to be the family documentarian. I know how important the writer is – although unsung – in any movie or video production you will ever happen to see. Without the writer, nothing gets written down! Without the writer, the memory of an event or series of events loses detail and soon fades into obscurity

The rabbit scribe first appears as part of a scene on a painted Classic Maya vase (circa 300 to 900 AD), that may have been used to serve a chocolate beverage. Scribes conducted the important business of recording important events for royalty using a phonetically-based hieroglyphic script. These rabbit scribes appeared on murals and vases usually writing on a fan-folding book, or “codex,” that was covered with jaguar-skin. Writing was very important to the Maya and they recorded important events on everything – walls, stairs, sculptures, ceramics, plates and stone.

Fortunately, the plan of Padre Diego de Landa to completely destroy the written history of the Classic Mayan culture, has been foiled by diligent archaeologists who have, over last several decades, been able to decipher many of the Mayan glyphs. Dr. David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin has been a prominent force in shining a light on the meaning and impact of Mayan culture, and continues to make inroads with his fascinating work.

Destination Wilderness: Wanderlust

When was the last time you let yourself swirl? When was the last time you gave in to pleasure? When was the last time you let your imagination run wild? When was the last time you dreamt? When was the last time you discovered? When was the last time you tasted ecstasy? If all your answers were a long time ago and you want to experience all these sensations at once, try wanderlust and go backpacking: Feel what you feel and you won’t regret a moment!

Ibn-e-Batuta wasn’t just a famed traveler and scholar but also a very eloquent scribe for no one has ever described travelling more exquisitely and expansively, as he did, over 700 years ago. He said ‘Travelling: it leaves you speechless (and) then, turns you into a storyteller!’.

And that is it! Travelling is more than an experience: it’s a phenomenon that a very select few get to taste in its virgin sense; and those who do get to drink from its exotic wells, will rarely settle for anything else. Read anyone accomplished and you’ll find how travel inspired their stories; or read the revered Sufi sage, Rumi, and hear him say that travel brings power and love back to your life.

It is sad to see our generation missing out on this passion and thereby, denying themselves opportunities of a lifetime. Despite the incredible globalization and infrastructural leaps abounding all around us, only a handful of us will ever choose to step foot on foreign shores or even locally remote areas.

We, as a society, have let ourselves get engulfed by paranoia – of the unknown, of economic sustenance and of physical security – and these qualms are depriving millions of experiencing places, moments and lives beyond the realm(s) that we know of. Wouldn’t it be ironic, today, to have your birthplace and tombstone, within a ten mile radius?

Most of us blame the West for its unforgiving portrayal of our society, people and culture; and we loathe their media for not showcasing the real country we dwell in and it’s pretty true. However, another stark reality is that this also works backwards. Imagine all our ideas about all places foreign being equally contrary to facts!

There is a whole lot of truth that is out there – waiting to be explored first hand and yet, here we let our hearts and mind rust amidst hearsay. We are criminally putting a scope limitation on our horizons, knowledge and may I say, our dreams and visions! To quote, Saint Augustine, “The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only a page”.

I could go on and write those typical blog pieces which enumerate a dozen or even scores of reasons to travel but I am looking to strike a different chord here. This is about the very soul of undertaking travel without clinging on to business, educational or other conventional tags: this is about sparking fire in your blood: this is rebellion – in its purest form.

Travelling’s essence is discovery, exploration and experience. This is very different from the mainstream commercial tourism that we see today: this form is more about the journey than the destination: this travel is not about splurge hotels and plush dining but about camping and meeting the unknown: this travel is not about meticulous planning but about letting yourself wander: this is not about finding anything but yourself: this is about getting lost in a sublime immersing experience that comes promised when you prepare to throw caution to the winds.

This sort of travel not only ensues in a completely fresh opportunity to re-discover life around us but this is also going to be surprisingly timeless, inexpensive, easier to plan and yet, it’s going to be a very heartfelt one. All it will ever take is courage and giving in to your first ever expedition. Travel once, with all your heart and this addiction will find its way into the deepest recesses of your heart and soul.

Travelling will allow you to challenge yourself, it teaches some very invaluable lessons to lead a memorable life, it lets in relaxation and celebration, it gives you that much needed escape, it lets you meet the real yourself, it confers upon you new dimensions and perceptions, it fuels an insatiable ambition inside you that is enduringly calm and fulfilling yet passionately electric and finally, it bestows you with freedom!

Haven’t you ever dreamt? Ever noticed where does it all begin from? How do you dream? The first step to dream is more often than not, a flight to another place or setting or environment or situation – and that exactly is how powerful journeys can be!

Humans were bestowed with feet not roots for none of us is exactly meant to stay: It’s not just the mountains that are calling: it is the whole universe calling us to explore and find our own answers. Most unfortunately, it is us who refuse to listen and give in to inertia!

Our society is mostly made up of settlers and you will find a keen sense of lethargy embedded in them but listen to Rumi, he says that when setting out on a journey: do not seek advice from those who have never left home: (and) do not be satisfied with stories or how others have fared: unfold your own myth! And remember that towards the end, you only regret the chances you didn’t take.

I shall again borrow Rumi’s eloquence and expression to sum it all up. “Respond to every call that excites your spirit. Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death!”

And that’s it, we all need to go out there, on our own, for our own and to be of our own! This is when you spread things and fly!

We are not meant to live away in cages and there is no better way of experiencing the climax of free living than packing your backpack and going on your dream voyage that you have been putting on backburner for quite a while now: your time is now: do not let anyone or anything dictate your plans. Go, taste some elixir of adventure; and wherever you choose to go, go with all your heart; and you’ll never be alone!

Rise and shine, everyone!

Drunk on the Sounds of the Spanish Night

I am on a night train headed for Barcelona. I dig the rhythm of the train. It is almost enough to lull me to sleep. There were no more couchettes so I rode in the coach section with all the young college students and backpackers like me who would have to sleep sitting slumped in a seat with the green hills of France rolling by the window.

Its morning when I get to Barcelona. Didn’t get much sleep on the train. Lots of people talking and the rhythm of the train is just enough, soothing enough to relax me and just loud enough to keep me awake. In Barcelona I check into a moderate one star Hotel. It is very clean and modern just very small. But I have my own bathroom and shower and that’s all I really care about. I immediately lie down on the bed, exhausted. I need sleep. There are Spanish construction workers outside my window so I put on my earphones to drown them out. The beat goes on

When I awake it is about five. I have a shower and get dressed and go out. The streets are busy, lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants, bars, hotels, and apartment buildings. I was starving since I had not had breakfast or lunch. I am almost ashamed to admit I ended up at Hard Rock Café but I had promised to buy friends shirts from there anyway so I figured I might as well.

Surprisingly enough it’s packed. I try and find a seat at the bar but no such luck. So I wander around awhile hoping someone will get up to leave. The one good thing about a place like this since its such a tourist attraction you hear so many different languages, not just Spanish, there is Italian, French, German, English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and who knows what else. The new tower of Babel, the Hard Rock Café.

Eventually I grow tired waiting for a seat at the bar so I stop a pretty young Spanish waitress who speaks perfect English and ask if there are any seats in the restaurant? She smiles and I follow her. She brings me the first of two cold beers and then I order some obscure sandwich named after some long dead rock legend. Pre and post sandwich I wrote in my journal and when I wasn’t writing I was listening to the rock music and Billy Idol screaming something about it being a nice day for a white wedding. In between songs I listened to the people, trying to connect the dots.

After the Hard Rock I wandered across the street and into the sun. It was a square like park full of steps, and statues, artwork, people, and pigeons. What we were all doing here together I couldn’t rightly say. The only thing about the artwork and statues was that all the information about them was scribed in Spanish so I was out of luck and just stared. So I walked down another street past more cafés and store fronts and hip clothing outlets. I walked by a hippie couple who made artwork out of aluminum cans, they sat on the sidewalk with their long hair in their eyes selling their creative metal. I walked into a bar playing live music. A young Spanish guy with thick long raven hair sat on a bar stool playing flamenco music. It was cool. He was good. Though most of the customers seemed disinterested. I wandered upstairs as there was an internet café there and checked my mail. Then I wander back down and sit at the bar. I order a John Smith, a smooth Irish beer. The bartender is a beautiful long legged dirty blonde from Australia. I learn that the bar is owned by Australians. Seem to be a lot of English people hanging out here. Now I really begin to dig this Spanish guitar playing music. Its gotten louder or my hearing has tuned in. There seem to be only a few of us in the place who truly appreciate him, the guitarist. Toward the back of the bar are sofas and a big screen TV to watch soccer matches I presume. I order another beer and the hours seem to just roll on. I don’t really talk to anyone but the bartender every now and then. Its strange being here but also perfect and I can imagine if I lived here this is the kind of place I would come after work for a beer. Although I wish there were more Spanish people and less English like me.

The guitarist is then joined by an old Spanish guy in a fisherman’s hat and it seems the guitarist doesn’t really know him but the owner introduces them and seems to say give him a try. This old guy starts bellowing out the most amazing tunes and it’s perfect with the way this younger guy plays his guitar and they aren’t really songs with words I don’t think, more just dirges but you can feel the emotion in his voice! I kept thinking, this is why I came to Spain, moments like this!

After that on my way back to the Hotel I stop at a Starbucks which I haven’t seen or had since my journey began nearly five weeks ago. So I order a café mocha and sit at the bar stool facing the street and pretend to be an artist or just lover of all that is good and beautiful. Its ten O’clock at night and the street is full of people. Where is everyone going? I want to rush out the door and just walk with them, be among them, feed off their energy.

Then two girls came in wearing tight jeans covering their slim legs and little half tops leaving their little navels exposed and dark tans. They sat down next to me. After a few awkward moments where everyone just sipped there drinks the brunette sitting next to me spoke and said she was from Florida and the blonde was from southwestern Spain. They were both very nice. We sat there awhile and talked of our travels. They were leaving tomorrow, the brunette back to Florida, and the blonde home to southwestern Spain. I never did find out how they got to be friends. They finished their cappuccinos and were heading for the Hard Rock Café for dinner. I thought of joining them but then decided I had seen enough of the Hard Rock café. I stumbled back to my Hotel drunk on the sounds and happenings of the Barcelona street night. I still have so much to see, the beach, La Sagrada Familia, and this incredible park designed by the great architect Antonio Gaudi. Tonight as I sleep in my small room I can still hear the flamenco guitar playing in my head and the old mans passionate voice. I can still hear it now.