XOCCHEL - Franky Pons (38) and his wife Adriana Flores Lopez have been living in the Mexican jungle for eight years, not far from the wonder of the world Chichén Itzá. Their self-built house is far from finished. It may never be completely finished, but isn't the road to it the most interesting? About being one with nature. About the undiminished fascination for the Mayan culture. About a rigorously turned life. “When the chachalaca sings, it will rain here.”
In the center of the two-hectare site is an elevated circle. This largely serves as a terrace. It shows their square house, eleven by eleven meters. These are visible Mayan influences; the square represents the man, and the circle the woman. There is still a lot of construction going on, they are working on an extra room in the back of the house and an extra floor. Step by step, their dream home is created here.
They are not in a hurry. They came here in 2014 with no money. How do you clear such terrain without machines? Without professionals? “If we had the money, it wouldn't have been a question. But actually, this route is much more interesting,” says Pons. A few days a week, two men come from Xocchel, the small Mayan town just around the corner. The men are good at their job. With their bare hands, that is.
But building is more than building itself. For four years, the couple lived without electricity or running water. Every day, Pons charges his phone in the town hall. It doesn't matter, he enjoys the whole process. “You suddenly start living, as nature once intended. At 8 o'clock it is dark here. If you don't have any lighting then, go to sleep anyway.”
The huge terrain costs almost nothing. The stones from the ground are reused for the house. In due course, the couple hopes to receive guests. They have already built a cabaña in Mayan style at the back of the site. These three months, Pons' parents sleep there. They make the crossing almost every year and see their son's dream come true little by little: a place to be together. To meet. To be among equals. To find peace. To discover.
Eco-hotel Ich Ki
The idea: eco-hotel Ich Ki, which means something like: 'enter the good'. On booking.com it is not yet, but it is on Google Maps. Pons expects researchers because it is located in the jungle, far from civilization. People who want to escape the crowds. People who want to know more about the Maya. He wants to put up informative signs near the plants and trees. Wants to create a sort of botanical garden. Wants to design the site more and more as a place to spend the night. With public toilets and showers. With a restaurant that serves food from the area. The chef prefers to come from Xocchel.
The couple's dreams are alive and well, in between work. He works as a tourist guide, and she works online. Pons effortlessly speaks Dutch, German, English, Spanish, and French and mainly guides French people around the peninsula. “After Corona I received a lot of requests. Then you are on the road for quite a few days a month. Fortunately, we also have to earn money.”
Punch inhales knowledge. Languages have always come easily to him, but his interest lies in the Maya world. In philosophy, poetry, and science. In his twenties, he came into contact with Reiki for the first time. He has questions about life and finds them neither in faith nor in Western science. He immerses himself and becomes more and more intrigued by the ancient Maya. While traveling through Yucatan, he encounters Adriana. At that moment she is processing the death of her father. The two get into a deep conversation and fall in love instantly. They are already full of life dreams: Pons wants a piece of land in Yucatan, Adriana fantasizes about her own hostel.
Pons reinforces his dreams. “Facebook Marketplace wasn't there yet. I started looking for real estate owners. And then I asked myself: who do I actually know in Yucatan?”, he thinks back. No one. Yes, well, a man whose books he reads. Whose thoughts, philosophies, and sayings inspire him. Which he looks up to. Hunbatz Men, a kind of Dalai Lama for the Mayans. He Googles and finds his contact details in passing. Pons contacts him in a trembling voice and tells his story. Pons is welcome, he can sell him a piece of land.
Adriana has a well-paid job in Guadalajara at the time, but curiosity wins out for her as well. They both radically change their lives and go for it. Want to become part of the community of Xocchel. Not the typical rich foreigners who live outside the village, but really belong there.
Adriana: ,,Guadalajara is a city of millions. I am seen here as a foreigner and yes, it is very different here. Life moves slower, every day is different. I just learned to hurry, just like the Dutch. It's unpredictable. And funny: even in the language it is different here. I wanted to buy iceberg lettuce, lechuga. They hadn't. Frankie just came home with it. He tried other words, such as romana.”
You have to move with it, she wants to say. Don't assume you're right, but above all listen very carefully to the locals to be able to participate. Here it is dead quiet on the street around 2 o'clock in the afternoon. No full days are worked. That is not possible, with temperatures that can rise above 40 degrees. Sunday is an absolute rest day. When Franky wants to take their daughter Grace Maria (4) to school in the morning, he returns a little later with her. Because it's raining today, there's no class. Pretty annoying, but that's how it goes here.
Grace herself takes it for granted. Plays with the four dogs, Brodie, Bonjour, Niño, and Niña. And with the frequent bleating goat Petunia and with rooster Baby Kippie. Grace is raised bilingual; in Dutch and Spanish. “I was afraid she might be a bit out of place. Xocchel is almost literally one big family and then a girl comes along who also speaks a strange language and looks a bit different. But she already has a lot of girlfriends”, it sounds relieved.
Pons was full of fears in those first years, partly because of the natural environment. Not surprisingly, the area is home to snakes, scorpions, and dangerous spiders, such as tarantulas. “We slept on a table so scorpions couldn't get to us,” he recalls.
In the middle of nature
Now he recognizes nature more. They observe. Know very well when it will rain, not only by the said chachalaca. The blazing sun makes you take it easy. “You are much more one with nature. You can relax by looking at the amazing starry sky. You marvel, you look at the big picture and order your thoughts. Netflix is not relaxation, but a distraction from your stress.”
The two talk about it a lot. “You go with the rhythm of life. Listens to your body, your emotions, and your feelings. Living here really makes you richer. In the Netherlands, you have to deliver, consume and continue. Emotions are slowed down and switched off as much as possible. That's how we are raised. Here I know: I am allowed to feel gloomy, or grumpy, or angry. There are negative feelings. Accepting these will give you a much deeper life. And you also feel much more alive.”
Mayan Ceremonial Center Lol Be
Opposite their land is the Mayan ceremonial center Lol Be. Punch has the key. Non-religious energy healings take place here. Pons is Reiki Master and Essenian Master. ,,I do energetic healing sessions. Reiki initiation. I did that from the start, together with Hunbatz Men, but you don't fill your weeks with that.” Hunbatz Men passes away in 2016.
Pons is een piekeraar, een man die vragen stelt. Over de wetenschap, over de logica van niet-wetenschap. Iemand die kritische vragen stelt. Gelooft in energieën, in het dogma ‘er is meer tussen hemel en aarde’, zonder daar een religie aan vast te hangen. ,,De Maya’s waren hun tijd ver vooruit. In taal, in wetenschap, in wiskunde, in architectuur, in alles”, zegt Pons.
Who now moves daily in the land, the environment, where the ancient Maya lived. Adriana and he both feel the energy fields here, especially on the path leading to the house. Feel that they live in a special place. A place that is passed by tourists and traffic at great speed on their way to Mérida or Chichén Itzá. A place where quiet is really quiet, dark is really dark. Far from the hasty life. A place that is undeniably between heaven and earth.