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Librarians Without Borders » Day 3 Hike to Mayan Sauna

Mayan saunas are a huge part of the traditional way of life in Guatemala.  According to our guide, showers and baths were not common and instead saunas were used as a way to clean.  So today half of our group hiked up a very large hill to visit a Mayan sauna to see what these are all about. we hiked from our hotel, Centro de Orientation Familiar Padre Javien Alaminos COFA, which is a monastery in zone three of Xela towards the sauna. But I’m not sure about the exact location of the sauna.

The hike took us into the city center and then across town towards one of the surrounding mountain/hills.  Being able to walk through the city was something that I was looking forward to, since the majority of this trip so far involved us being confined to buses and micros (pronounced meek-ros).  I absolutely loved walking the city. we able to see where local Guatemalan people lived which was a great experience.  Being able to understand the living conditions and space of the community that is being served is a key aspect of providing relevant library services. and though a simple walk though the city does not offer a complete understanding, I enjoyed seeing the visual spaces of the city and to have some sort of knowledge of how people live in this part of Guatemala.

The city center of Guatemala has very narrow streets and is very dense, but at the same time very picturesque. Murals adorned many walls and the sloped streets provided wonderful views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. The streets of the city center are much narrower than the surrounding areas, resulting in tight walking spaces.

I will not lie. The hike up the mountain was brutal. at first I thought that it would be an easy walk, but it was not. Instead we hiked up steep inclines for long periods of time, and the cobble stones on some of these slopes did not help with the climb.  I was surprised to see that farming on these mountains is common, and during our hike we came across many locals ploughing the fields in preparation of the upcoming sowing of seeds. one of the most interesting things that I saw during the hike was how involved children are in the daily chores that need to be taken care of for a household to run. I saw children help with the ploughing process and also saw them even help carry large bushels of firewood.

Even though I may have complained a whole lot, and was completely out of breadth by the time I reached the top the sauna was worth it. plus the lime-tea provided by our host made it even better.

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