I write this from Mexico City. Sorry but blogging about our experiences as been put on hold while we travel. Time now to catch up but inevitably recalling much of the stuff we have got up to and the peoples we have encountered is going to blur somewhat as one day blends into another in our memories.
We would not be making this journey save for our idea of documenting and promoting the stories of bereaved parents but travelling without an agenda has in a way been a much needed escape from the Good Grief Project. Not that we have forgotten our objective, or all those who have so generously contributed their time, their energies and their testimonies to our film. Sharing stories of tragedy, of the death of a wonderful child, of talking with others about the life of that child is both an honour and an essential component of a ‘good’ grief. We carry all those stories with us, talk about them often, and acknowledge that we have been changed because of them.
And occasionally on our travels through Central America we have found other folk who too have survived loss and have found comfort from sharing their story with us.
But the last six weeks has been much more holiday than work and the following photos reflect the serendipity of chance encounters as much as they are an expression of my interest in the wonders of human nature, above all in the way we celebrate both life and death.
This is Catarina a small town overlooking Laguna de Apoyo a crater lake just outside Granada. Wherever one visits in Latin America you will find a celebration of one Catholic saint or another; in this case Santa Catalina. We arrived in the baking sun as the procession wound through the streets accompanied by fire crackers and a marching band. The centrepiece was a ‘litera’ containing several very young girls and carried on a the shoulders of some very hefty guys. The heat was intense and both needed frequent refreshment stops.
Below Catarina and near the town of Masaya is El Coyotepe fortress. Built in 1890’s to defend Masaya from the American’s (and their local support in Granada) it was used by the Samoza family from 1943 to 1978 to dissappear political opponents. At anyone time 800 prisoners could be held in horrendous conditons, with much torture and extra judical murders. Some survivors were liberated by the Sandinistas in 1978 who then used it for much the same purposes. Both Jane and I took a keen interest in the Nicaraguan Revolution and the struggle to defend it from the right wing forces known as the contras. Josh was born at the height of this war and we both wanted to know something about the scars it had left. El Coyotepe had in fact been abandoned in 1983 (hence much of the graffiti) and is now administered by a branch of the Nicaraguan Boy Scouts one of whom who showed us round the two levels of dungeons – the second with no light at all – a recent and gruesome history.
We stayed in Nicaragua for just over a week, just enough time to get an appreciation that despite grinding poverty, it is a proud and generous country that operates with a fully functioning democracy in which political power swings from left to right, much the same that it does in the UK. Here’s a few more fairly random photos from the area around Granada.
Santa Cruz La Laguna sits high above the shores of Lago de Atitlan in Guatemala. These pictures are actually from our last day after a week basking in the sun and enjoying tremendous views of the lake and its surrounding volcanoes. We have been invited by our Air BnB host (one Jeanne Mendez) to observe the graduation ceremony for a community education project that she helps to run. See here CEPAC
Jeanne (above left) is one of those who after discovering the reason for our trip and The Good Grief Project spoke about her own loss. Her husband Joe died from cancer in 2004 and while recognising that this wasn’t the same as losing a child, we were able to share some heartfelt stuff in ways that in the course of just a few days brought us to a close and valuable friendship. This is the power of grief – think about it – putting aside all those new friends that we have made in the course of our travels that are the result of tragedy, we have also met many more who have not really been touched by the pain that follows from the death of one who is so loved (or at least they haven’t mentioned it) and as you would expect these encounters are limited by the length of our stay. But add a willingness to talk about your grief and all sorts of possibilities arise.