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: http://barrysuestevens.smugmug.com/Travel/Yucatan-2008/6509277_Fzvg9C/413609874_q9dSPVm#!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.