Striding with a hopped-up buzz back to the US Embassy to collect our visa-stickered passports, what were the odds of bumping into the clerk who’d approved the travel permits just four days previous—within five minutes of stumbling across the Romanian chef whose restaurant we’d breakfasted in that same morning—along the same street? Too uncanny!
My emotions ran the gamut from disappointment at the end of our visit, the wrench of leaving and rueful acceptance, as I bid my own farewells to Yusif. But I guessed such a chain of reactions stemmed from the essence of friendship: in its purest and most powerful form, unconditional. The optimum reality, the glorious of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists. Human goodness.
Up next, Teotihuacán: “The place where men become gods”. Oh really?! Lodging at a nearby trailer park on the fringe of town meant we could walk to and from the ruins. So we taxied there and trundled back. Some 2,400 years ago, various communities occupied the Valley of Teotihuacán. Post a departure of one village people and a subsequent reorganisation of rural life, the first planned urban settlement in Mesoamerica was born. The ancient site is shrouded in mysteries that add to its intrigue and appeal. Experts still don’t know to what ethnic group the people of Teotihuacan belonged, nor what language they spoke. For this reason they are called Teotihuacanos. Makes sense.
Sophisticated with streets and blocks, two large perpendicular roads ran through them: the Avenue of the Dead and the East-West Avenue. The latter bearing a somewhat dry name. Both lined by residential units, buildings and public plazas in an official architectural style characterised as the talud-tablero (“slope-panel”).
The population prospered and nigh on 175,000 people formed a wide demographic—so much so that economic development, conflicting social differences and significant expansion in the arts and sciences became prevalent. Interestingly, state-backed arts and crafts included the production of clay utensils made for elitist religious use. Indeed, the principal element of the government was religion; it dealt with a theocratic society and controlled both the Valley of Teotihuacán and the neighbouring valleys of the Basin of Mexico.
When the city was eventually abandoned around a thousand years from its beginnings but prior to the arrival of the Spanish, various groups such as the Toltecs and the Aztecs respected it as a Sacred City. And thus lived deferentially on the periphery.
One of the most sacred places within the city was that comprised by the Pyramid of the Moon; a broad plaza and pyramidal buildings among other structures that made up the group as a whole. By far, the biggest and boldest of all the ruins to date, in front of which we’ve stood in varying states of awe. The Pirámide de la Luna held a strategic position in the urban plan—the starting point of the city’s main road—the Avenue of the Dead. It also had an open view, as distinguished from the Pyramid of the Sun and the Citadel (city proper). And many speculate an area dedicated to public ceremonies to which admittance was free and unrestricted. Bring your Aunt Mabel, she’ll love it.
The Citadel was the administrative nerve centre of Teotihuacán. From there a broad avenue ran out in its aptly named “east-west” direction. Together with the Avenue of the Dead, it divided the city into four sectors related to the cosmos as viewed in the Teotihuacán mind. According to the pre-Hispanic cosmo-vision, the bearing of the universe broke down into five directions. The first four corresponded to the cardinal points and the fifth represented the centre, seen as the source and core of the universe. Aren’t they all…! Still, Teotihuacán was Jason’s favourite set of ruins to date, one he was particularly enthralled to see. Admittedly, it was an impressively tough act to follow.
Striking more of a cord with me was our campground’s resident bitch. The softest haired Dalmatian with one brown eye and one blue, permanently on the scrounge for food and affection. She had just given birth to nine helpless pups, in an assortment of cuteness and colourings. What became apparent was the mum’s underfed condition, her infrequent visits to her offspring and a mounting apathy towards them in general.
A district in my brain, that which I’d thought of as me, seemed to have been sucked clean. In its place was this steady uninflected drive to do what was needed here. Ordinarily not a dog person, nothing could have stopped me from doing this. Post feeding the four legged dame up with all the nourishing scraps we could find, I playfully ran in the direction of her young. No fool, the mum dialled into my exact intentions of wilfully encouraging her to provide sustenance to her pups. She glanced up with a blistering indifference, as if she wouldn’t deign to notice me and toddled off. I might as well have gone to a pay phone and attempted to call Jupiter.
Damn it, Plan A didn’t work and neither did tying another dog’s collar around her neck in the hopes of employing some physical coaxing and verbal cajoling. She simply lay down like a sack of spuds and growled at me with a toothy, clear-eyed disdain. I guess there are no quiet hearts in states of stifled rage, in angry defeat or the black dog of depression. “Come on girl, your little honey pies are hungry. Come with me, please..?” No! My thoughts caromed from one idea to another, swooping down on strategies for entrapment. A pair of crows glided over us. One let out a raucous cry, like metal twisting on metal.
When it finally dawned on me to stand inside the shed—home to the pups—with food in my hand, hunger triumphed over the head. The mum rushed in regardless of my transparent tactics and woofed the offering. Too late, Jason firmly shut the door confining her to mother-bound duty. She’d no sooner breathed in the bread when nine waddling puppies jumped on their mum’s swollen mammary glands for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I learned to find a chilly comfort in being cruel to be kind. It offered some obscure hope of appeasing the fates and somehow replenishing a bit back into Karma’s pot of ‘give and take’.
The cautious canine having dropped her guard permitted her pups to feed-on-demand but didn’t determine her escape route for another twenty minutes. Starving little mites. I slipped my arm around the mum’s neck while she nursed, and drew her head closer into my own nimbus of warmth. Resigned without reconciliation, she was still as salt.
“Sweetheart, you’re doing fine. You’re doing wonderfully,” I said, all velvety motherliness. It wasn’t exactly what I’d wanted to say. It was what I heard myself saying. Shamefaced with betrayal aside, I skated over the feeling as best I could. I softly praised her some more to which she looked up at me as the owner of a sly grace and a steadfast, unapologetic way of coercing the fair and honorable thing. Righteous humans!