Sabbatical 2010

(Due to numerous photographs, this page loads with patience)



San Cristobal de Las Casas

Agua Azul, Misol Ha, & Palenque


Cañón de Sumidero

San Juan Chamula & Zinacantán


J usto Mwale Theological University College



Updated November 3, 2010: San Cristobal & Zambia

I/we have the privilege of being on sabbatical from June 2010 thru January 2011.

From June through the end of August we stayed in San Cristobal de Las Casas in Mexico's most southern state of Chiapas. We were enrolled in three months of Spanish language training. Currently, I am teaching at Justo Mwale Theological College in Lusaka, Zambia, and then we will visit with family in South Africa over the Christmas period.

Do follow us here on this exciting journey of learning, reflection, and restoration.

San Cristobal del Las Casas

This city of 142 000 people is a mix of many cultures. Dating back to 1528 when it was a Spanish regional base, the Spanish made fortunes from wheat, while the indigenous peoples lost their land and traditions. Here too one finds the familiar story of colonialism. The city is named after Bartolome de Las Casas, a Dominican Bishop who took up the plight of the Maya Indians. San Cristobal was the state capital of Chiapas from 1824-1892 and one can still find beautiful, regal buildings. Around San Cristobal one finds the "Cinturon de Miseria" (Belt of Misery), a circle of small impoverished towns mostly inhabited by ingenous peoples. Many of the Mercado Municipal (market) sellers in San Cristobal come from these towns.

Spotting the indigenous Tzotzil Mayans and Tzeltal Mayans were easy amidst other Mexicans, Rastafarians, and many other ethnicities, though I was not able to distinguish the different Mayan peoples. San Cristobal is an historic town known for much more than the Zapatista uprising. We stayed in hotel Casa Vieja's family unit/apartment. Do visit their site to see the beauty of a building dating back to 1740!

The language training we received daily from 9am-12noon was at Instituto Jovel.

Our daily schedule was simple: Waking around 7am; reading the newspaper on our Kindle; breakfast; followed by language training; lunch; a "brief" workout (P90X); more practicing of Spanish; and, then a walk to the markets and the town center. Most evenings we had a "Sol" beer with guacamole and "chips" at a restaurant while the girls enjoyed an orange Miranda (which they know as "Fanta" in South Africa). The fact that everything was in walking distance was a blessing and the late afternoon/evening showers did not bother us much. Fresh produce were readily available, but after walking the meat area of the main market, where eyes and guts and more stare at you amidts a pungent smell, we mostly skipped meat products unless we were in restaurants...

The people of San Cristobal were friendly, but they avoided eye contact at first and they never seem to greet one when one passes each other on the narrow streets.

Visiting Na-Bolom, a local musuem, introduced us to another tribe who calls this area home. Frans Blom and his wife Gertrude Duby Blom became protectors of the Lacandon Maya. Gertrude took more than 50 000 photographs during her life and many are on display in the museum.

Despite our best efforts to peel, boil, or cook our food, and to drink bottled water, we acquired "turista" or traveler's diarrhea. Previously we had upset stomachs but it did not linger. Bless the system here in Mexico. We walked to the local pharmacy and within minutes we had Cipro (an antibiotic), additional medicines, juices, and more. Total cost about $20! The effect of the meds were almost imediate. We were somewhat unsure how to proceed though, for we thought we were careful. I had a deep suspicion of the cheese, maybe too rich or too local...

Here are images and additional thoughts from our time in San Cristobal:

Our apartment below a White Sapote ("Kweper" in Afrikaans) tree:


Casa Vieja / House of the Old Woman

Buying milk, yogurt, ice cream, and fruit: Our stomachs had to get use to the local bugs

La Lupe: Our favorite watering whole

Instituto Jovel:

The girls with Maestras Rocia and Lucy and Maestra Laura and Meastro Antonio for me. We made steady progress, or so it felt

San Cristobal Main square ("zocalo")

Real de Guadalupe y Real de Insurgentes y Real de Utrilla: Walkways

Age old roofs and homes with crosses on



With rain most afternoons, we saw some beautiful clouds


We were in San Cristval during the rainy season. Where water flows or pools, green appears, whether on the sidewalk or on a wall...

Na-Bolom: House of the Jaguar

Templo de Guadalupe, with a beautiful view of San Cristobal, and Templo y Arco del Carmen

Litchis...and papaya, prickly pear, bananas, and more

Brightly colored crafts and people like Fernando from Argentina (who made me a elephant bracelet). Seek out Fernando near the center of the market at Temple de la Caridad.


Jami had a birthday!!!

Our favorite restaurants: La Lupe, Malevo, & Falafel

It was World Cup in Mexic, and we skipped language training to go to a local watering hole and watch the opening match between Mexico and SudAfrica. Bafana Bafana came so close to a HUGE upset! We left one place to watch the second half at our favorite hang out place, La Lupe. Our other favorite place was Falafel, all 6metersX8meters of it! Hugo is a gracious host. And Maleva, an Argetinean Stake House and Martini Bar (ask for Dario or Rigobert)

The girls had their hair braided at the mercado and loved ice-cream