living maya experience
Anita and her husband do a great job with this tour. You really learn a lot about Mayan culture and how they lived. The Mayans make great use of the plants in the jungle. The bark of a tree is used as a mattress, wood and bamboo to make a marimba, and then different plants for food and medicine. Anita made one of the best meals that I had on this trip - jipijapa, yams, homemade tortillas, and hot chocolate. It was wonderful. I highly recommend and would do again.
At first we were only going to do the "Arts and Crafts" portion of the Living Maya Experience, but I am so glad we chose to do both. In the morning we went to the home visit where Anita showed us around a traditional Mayan home and told us about how they lived. It is a pleasure to learn about someone's culture feeling like you have ben invited into their home. We were extremely impressed by the Marimba her husband had built. We enjoyed making tortillas with one of her daughters, and later eating them with her 5 year old daughter who was happy to tell us all about her favorite foods. Like my 8 year old she loved the chocolate drink.After the home visit we drove down the road to the home where they teach about the traditional Mayan Crafts. Again it was like being invited to visit more than being "taught". We gained a lot of respect for the Mayan Craft traditions, you will never look at a basket the same after seeing what it takes to harvest the fibers that are used to make it. We were very happy to have spent the day with both of the lovely families.
We chose to do both home visits and we're very glad we did. The Cal's home and family and garden was really lovely - Anita and her daughters are very charming, and do a great job of explaining everything, and Cris did a great job of explaining the plants around the house. The meal was delicious and such a nice change from regular Belizean food! I need a lot more practice at making corn tortillas but they still tasted good. The Chiac's make amazing crafts and after seeing all the work that goes into a basket, you will never think they are overpriced again!
In an era of consumer societies, these two families are preserving a way of life that is close to nature. We should all take note of the lessons they teach us. Both families were warm, welcoming, and eager to share their knowledge. My granddaughter and I were delighted in learning to play the musical instruments and to help prepare the food before eating, carefully washing up first with soapberries. At the home of the second family, we participated in weaving some baskets and a strap for a bag. I hope the new generations of the families will continue the operations. Our runaway societies may need these basic skills sooner than we think.
The Living Maya Experience is actually two homes in Big Falls village about ten minutes walk from each other. At the Cal's we had a great time helping to prepare a meal of fish wrapped in large leaves, grinding cacao and using the soap berries to wash our hands. everything in the house is natural; even the bowls are made from the calabash fruit. Anita, her daughter Amina and husband Cris show how well but how simply people can live by using things naturally available in the forest. The Chiac family make different kinds of crafts and we all had a chance to have a go ourselves at weaving hammocks and making fans from palm leaves. We were not very good at it. Juan Chiac gathers the materials for making baskets and hammocks from the forest. His baskets are made from a vine and the hammocks from a long leaf like an agave. We had loads of fun at both homes. The vegetarian meal at the Cal's was delicious.