Backpacking Teacher

Travel, teaching and things in between. Saigon is the focus for now.

Archive for July 2008

Maximon’s Altar

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A number of years back I was travelling through Guatemala and came across this church full of activity. It happened to be a church worshiping Maximon a saint combining Catholic rituals that I recognised and Mayan rituals that I didn’t. Whilst reading a website the other day I noticed a mention of Maximon and that prompted me to dig up my old notes …. these are my (brief) recollections of Maximon.

Burning candles, black, red, yellow, blues, white and green. For envy and money. Luck, travel and enemies.

Self flagellating supplicants before the altar of the greybearded cigar smoker. Prayers from the ranks rising through teeth clenched ’round broomstick thick cigars. Priestess in kitchen woman’s apron spits strong spirit upon the altar.

The air is thick with burning wax smoke. The walls dotted with plaques thanking San Simon for services rendered. The faithful pray to themselves with serious intent. A woman before the entrance lights many a red candle, perhaps she thinks about St Valentines tomorrow. A curious juxtaposition between religions.

Cloyingly thick and burning black,the smoke and bright flames of clumped together candles soon force the curious away. Outside men sweep up the ashes of another burning, placing them ever so gently upon leaves and a bed of flowers lining an ages old dented ‘barrow.

A man on the steps to the church, in pirate red scarf, berates, pleads and gesticulates at a half burning, half smouldering pile of black candles. He turns to poke angrily at the mass before him and in doing so spies a young gaily dressed child to whom he smiles and waves.

Image of Maximon: Used under Creative Commons Licence courtesy of


Written by backpackingteacher

July 18, 2008 at 1:26 am

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Coogee Beach – or a winter’s morning in Sydney with yummy mummies and world youth day pilgrims

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Went down to the beach this morning and thought I’d post some of my notes. I did think about tidying them up but decided instead to go with the stream of consciousness style they were written in ….

Coogee beach, sun shiny, kids chasing birds chasing food, flights every few minutes on the exact same route from corner just above cliffs, bikini clad girls and those in ski jackets – this is Sydney winter,

world youth day pilgrims here to see dead bodies in coffins walk past with gaily coloured backpacks, nations flags and joie d’vivre, yummy mummies talk over coffee whilst kids frolic, greenday my soundtrack for today,

frisbee, afl , soccer and rugby the beach games, swimmer in cap seemingly going slowly from south to north when suddenly I look up and he/she has moved from the father playing catch to the teen girls trying to catch a tan, a sail moves across the distant horizon, a trendy Sydneysider in de rigeur Palestinian kafiyya walks by while overhead another plane zooms by,

a kid chases a bird on the same plane as the aeroplane, boats pulled up to northern shore their purpose unclear, the pilgrims walk by shoes in hands, trousers rolled they’ve dipped their toes in today’s holy font, the sun is warming and seeps into my demeanour I smile even though my coffee’s gone cold

Written by backpackingteacher

July 15, 2008 at 4:50 am

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