Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Expedition Yucatan (part 2)

6/ 18 DAY 3
It wasn't just an excuse not to go out with the waiter, we really did go to Dzibichaltun! For those of you still wondering how to pronounce that, (dzē-bēl"chäl-tOOn') is the pronunciation I found :)
And now for my disclaimer: I had to make an anthropology journal while on the trip which included extensive research (pre trip and on trip) about every archaeological site we visited, so in my blog, I will NOT be including much from research; instead, I'll keep it more journal-style. If you'd like to know more about any site, I recommend Michael Coe's The Maya and using Google searches to gain more information.

I admit, I did not swim in this cenote. But pretty much everyone else did! I'm sure it was great, but eh, not for me. Instead, I walked around further back into the site. I actually got to climb up a few different pieces, the most interesting of which was probably the ball court where Maya used to play (think El Dorado if you've ever seen that animated movie). The winner would get the grand prize of.... (wait for it...) ...being sacrificed to the gods! Yeah, not a game I would want to win. Along with pottery, human remains were found in this cenote as well, and it's believed to be a place where people were sacrificed.

I believe this was also the day (if not it was day 4) that we had lunch in the port town of Progresso at a nice little place right on the beach. Afterward, some people swam. Again, I did not. But I did walk the beach and get a little wet. Overall, it was a very busy but also a very nice day.

6/ 19 DAY 4

I got eaten by mosquitoes at Dzibichaltun the previous day, so I did not have a peaceful night's sleep. Cassie, one of the girls on the trip, counted over 50 bites on my legs alone while sitting on the next bed. Needless to say, I was very itchy. But day 4 was busy, like the entire trip. We went to the town of Mani and visited the church where Diego de Landa burned thousands of Mayan artifacts ("idols" and codices) and even Mayan people. The Catholic church here was built around the cenote; "convert or no water for you" was the message of the day. (Again, feel free to Google this. There's a lot of interesting information about Mani!)
After visiting the church, we were off to Loltun Cave where Mayan people lived in prehistoric times. Ricardo, our guide, was very nice and offered quite a bit of information. What I found most interesting personally was the hand prints on the wall from around 1500 BC (I think I got the date right, but my notes are in my anthropology journal with my professor to be graded). There is a picture with some hand prints in it to the right, so hopefully you can make them out. There are two near the middle, kind of one right above the other. I know it's not the best picture, but I was in a cave, so good enough!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Expedition Yucatan (part 1)

First off, let my apologize for my lack of posts lately (though it seems I am always apologizing for that!). I intended to post while in the Yucatan, like I did last year when I was in Lithuania, but let me tell you about internet connection there!! Oh, it was no laughing matter! Granted, in Lithuania, I didn't have stable internet access where I was staying either (most of last year's posts came from a little coffee shop in old town Vilnius), but at least I had the full freedom to wander off and find internet! In the Yucatan, our days were very planned and packed ALL THE TIME. Add to that that Dr. Vick, our lovely host, asked us not to go anywhere alone, and well, no internet for me!

But I admit, getting internet for blogging was the least of my concerns. I somehow thought it would be a good idea to take an online Literary Theory and Criticism course while in the Yucatan. Don't ask me what I was thinking. I now realize that this seems a bit impossible! My professor was anything but merciful about my situation. When I emailed him before I left to inform him I would be out of the country, I was met with a harsh email telling me that I would get no special treatment (although I never asked for any), that he didn't care where I was, and that traveling was a poor decision that might result in my failure of the course.
Anyway, aside from my English Professor Drama, the Yucatan trip was simply indescribably enjoyable! I am going to attempt to give a brief account of it here, but it probably won't be brief at all.

A week before my departure date, I found myself writing "YUCATAN!" in my planner (which, I confess, holds my life together), and I placed a little sticker by it that says "Vacation." (My planner came with there cute little stickers that I use whenever I get the chance!) However, it soon dawned on me that this was not at all a vacation.

6/16 - DAY 1
My plane was to depart Denver International Airport at around 10:30am, not bad at all. Four of the other students who were going on the trip were on the same flight as me, and after the fiasco at security that resulted in me checking the small duffel bag I had intended to carry on, I was the last one of us to show up at the gate. We talked for only a few minutes before we began boarding the plane. I realized for the first time that this trip would be much different than the one I took last summer. Now, it's not that I thought the Yucatan would be anything like eastern Europe, but I guess my realization was more about the people I was with. While I didn't know the students going to Lithuania with me at all, I had at least met these ones once or twice in pre-trip meetings, and I felt a kind of common ground with them in the uncertainty we were all feeling about what we had gotten ourselves in to. We landed in Cancun around 3:30pm, and after another girl, Lindsay, and I helped the other three fix their "nationality" on their visas from "white" (yes, they really wrote that!) to "USA," we went to find our bags and get through customs. This was all fairly uneventful, but I did have to use my Spanish right away to help Daniel, one of those "white" students (sorry, I couldn't help myself) find a customs form. We found Dr. Vick, who was waiting to pick us up, located the rest of the students, and loaded up into two vans that would drive us for over 4 hours to Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan. Professor Mike Kimball (the one I took my Confluence of Cultures class with) told me that Dr. Vick was "a wealth of information," and that she was. She offered so many facts and stories during the trip, I felt lucky I ended up in her van. We reached our hotel in Merida around 9:30pm, and we were instructed to meet back in the lobby in five minutes. After freshening up (which during this trip pretty much meant reapplying deodorant), we all headed down and went to dinner together at a place called Panchos. Let me tell you, the restaurants in Merida have my delighted approval for the vibe alone, not to mention the amazing food like you've never tasted before! After dinner, we got to walk around a bit before returning to the hotel and getting some much needed rest.

6/17 - DAY 2
We were supposed to have a packed day of museum visits, but Dr. Vick realized that all the museums in Merida are closed on Mondays, so instead we took a trip to the Governor's Palace to look at murals painted by artist Castro Pacheco. You can find a pretty decent gallery of them at this site:!i=413609874&k=q9dSPVm (and please do - it's really worth seeing!), but there's nothing like seeing these fantastic works of art in person! We had a lecture by Dr, Vick in the plaza central afterwards about the murals. They depict the struggle of Mexico, from ancient Maya times, through the Spanish conquest, and into the present. This entire story is truly remarkable, but I'll wait until later to talk about it more.

After the lecture, we walked to the biggest market in Merida. Oh, let me just advise you... if you ever find yourself in Merida, please just skip this part if you're at all claustrophobic! I personally enjoyed it, but was relieved when we reached the end! One of the most interesting things I found there were bejeweled beetles (yep, you read that right!). Frankly, I would never wear a live bug no matter how many jewels it had on display. But you know, if that's your thing, more power to you! You'll find quite the selection of jeweled insects in the market in Merida!

So after the market, we broke off into smaller groups and went to find lunch. Looking back on it now (after knowing the personalities of everyone and who I became closest with), my group was quite the strange mixture, but we still had a good time. We went to a restaurant on the plaza central called La Jarana. Apparently, this is the name of a traditional dance, which we actually got to see there. Daniel even joined in on the dance, which was quite entertaining. When we went to leave, I got asked out by the waiter. Meh, no thanks... Conveniently, I had the excuse of "I have to get up early to go to Dzibichatun!" (Try to pronounce that!)

The rest of the day involved wandering around Merida, and we concluded it with dinner at yet another amazing restaurant! (And then we really concluded it with hours of homework back at the hotel, but let's not talk about that.)