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Reveries and Soliloquies: July 2011

Reveries and Soliloquies

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Vacation Part 7: Caves, Colonial Towns, and a Travelling Zoo

Chichen Itza was checked off my bucket list and we were all ready to get out of the heat and down in the caves. There are hundreds of rivers running beneath the ground in magnificent caves and it was the perfect pit stop after sweating buckets at the ruins. 

Matthew: Hey! Look at the bats!
Rebekah: [ducks and grabs her head] Where?! Is it on me?

There is only so much you can do in a cave after getting over the initial sense of wonder. On to the next stop: Vallalodid. We had 30 minutes to power through this small colonial town before heading back to the resort and I was determined to make every second count. 

Me: Matty, what's in those trucks that everyone is honking at?
Matthew: Run! It's a zoo on wheels! I want pictures.

The architecture of this small town was fascinating-a hyrbid of Spanish colonialism and crumbling concrete facades built upon stones from the Mayan ruins.

It was an exhausting day but completely worth it. The rest of the vacation went a little like this: wake up, eat, read at the beach, eat, lounge at the pool, eat, sleep, repeat. In other words: perfect.

Family Vacation Part 6: It's Called Chichen Itza, Not Chicken Pizza

I don't usually like going to the same place twice unless I am going to do something completely different the second time around. The main attraction for this trip was Chichen Itza (one of the new 7 Wonders of the World) and the colonial town of Valladolid. 

The day could not have been more perfect. Matty intentionally picked the day that it was supposed to rain because Chichen Itza is notorious for dangerous heat. Even with the overcast skies and intermittent showers, the heat was oppressive in spite of our guide calling it "A good day."

The first leg of our journey took us through the extremely impoverished Mayan villages of the Yucatan jungle. Children playing barefoot in the rain puddles and washing beneath the stream of water flowing down the thatched roofs, women grilling meat on open fires in front of dilapidated shacks, crumbling prison walls surrounded by kiosks selling hammocks made by the prisoners-this was the landscape that flew past the van window for an hour. Our guide said that the Mayan people living in  this area have maintained the lifestyle of their ancestors and they sell handmade artisan crafts in order to survive. 

Chichen Itza (which our hysterical guide claimed is sometimes called Chicken Pizza by the less than proficient Spanish speakers), is a wonder to behold. The site is alive with historical richness, architectural and engineering genius...and 72 kinds of snakes.

The Mayan people set up a market in the shade of the trees surrounding the historical site to sell hand carvings that sound like a roaring jaguar when you blow into them. Every 30 seconds the air was pierced with someone screeching like the enraged cat. My mom marched right up to a vendor who was screeching in her ear...and she hissed at him. With hand claws and all. 

Rebekah: Oh gosh! Walk away! Faster, faster. Don't be seen with them. How are we related to these people?

filming a segment for Matty's vlog


Family Vacation Part 5: Mexico, Land of Contrast

"I'm melting like a snow cone in Phoenix." Mrs Doubtfire has provided me with a wealth of quotes for life. By the third day I really felt like I was melting like a snow cone in Phoenix and needed a respite from the beach. We decided to take a short excursion into the closest town, Playa del Carmen for a little cultural immersion. 

As the short shuttle navigated through the congested streets I was in awe of the contrasts that surrounded me. Opulent resort entrances set beside dilapidated roadside stands and graffitied buildings. As we drove into town, the poverty became more visible as the buildings got brighter. The poorer the area, the more colourful the walls. My eyes couldn't take in my surroundings fast enough as every turn of the corner brought something new and fascinating. 
The shuttle dropped as off at the tourist trap of the town, otherwise known as 5th avenue. Block upon block of shops, small restaurants, excursion peddlers and scammers. You couldn't take three steps without someone screaming at you "Senorita, come into me store," "Can I talk to you? Come here, I want to show you something," and all derivatives. Men dressed in traditional Mayan garb encouraged you take pictures of them-but only if you paid. 

Man: Senor, you come take a picture with me. Only 500 pesos.
Dad: Do you know who I am? You should be paying me.

That stopped them from ever asking again. When we didn't respond to English they started calling out in French, German, Italian and Spanish. This is not what I had in mind when I suggested we experience the real Mexico. We forged on ignoring the calls and hand gestures, even though I felt guilty for being rude. There was so much to see and I wasn't going to be deterred. 
Yes, that is a baby lion. The man behind the sign also had a monkey on his head, but Matty had to sneak the picture. 

We came, we saw, we conquered.