4/6/02Sites Visited: Indianapolis Airport, Cancun Airport, and Solymar Hotel
Actual Journal Entry
We met at airport in Indianapolis. Casey and I arrived together fairly early to beat the rush and we checked in early. For the next couple of hours we snacked on food and waited for the others to arrive. By 1:30 PM everyone was there and checked in, so we headed to the food court to eat and pass the next hour quickly. We went through security around 2:15 PM and boarded the plane at 2:30 PM. The plane left around 3:20 PM. Casey and I sat by each other next to an "exit", so we had plenty of leg room. I spent about 90% of the 3 hour flight reading "Phantom of the Opera". We landed in Cancun around 6:15-6:25 PM U.S. time. It was an hour difference in Cancun so it was around 5:30 PM by the time we got off the plane. We then took a bus no more than a couple blocks distance to the actual airport building. One thing I immediately noticed when getting off the plane and entering the Mexican atmosphere for the first time was the very warm temperature. It was around 85 degrees and fairly humid. It was a nice change from the weather I am accustomed to. We then went through the passport line and got our luggage fairly quickly. We went through customs in almost no time as well. We then went through the swarms of Mexicans offering us taxi rides to the hotel while we crossed the road to Executive Car Rental. We waited here at least an hour while the paper work was completed and the vans were prepared.
We then packed the vans up and heading to our hotel, I noticed that the roads were quite bumpy and many people drove a little crazier than we did. We arrived at the Solymar Resort hotel around 7:30 PM. The appearance was very nice. While Tony took care of the paperwork, we all walked around the lounge and balcony to see what everything looked like. We then got our hotel bracelets and room key and all went to our rooms. I cleaned up just a little bit and Casey and I went to meet everyone for dinner.
We ate at the hotel buffet by the pool/beach. The foods varied in the buffet from salads, vegetables, and noodles, to hot pasta, meats, and soups. The food really didn't seem like traditional Mexican; however, it was very good in my opinion. After dinner, Casey and I walked around and then went and changed into our bathing suits. By now it was about 9:30 PM. We swam in the pool while most of the others conversed at the bar/pool. The water was warm but the breeze from the ocean made it fairly cool. We dried off and went for a walk to the beach for a few minutes. We then called it a night since no one was around the pool anymore and came back to the room. We got ready for bed, called our families to let them know we arrived safely, and wrote in our journals. I am now going to bed so I can get up at the 6:30 AM wake up call.
4/7/02Sites Visited: Coba and Tulum
The city of Coba covers an area of around 70 km, and the principal groups of buildings are situated near the lakes of Coba and Macanxoc. It has an important network of white roads (sacbe) of varying lengths. These sacbe connect Coba with other building groups and other settlements. The most notable is Sacbe 1, which is 100 km long and almost reaches Chichen Itza. The stelae of Coba were built sometime between 600 and 800 AD. These were sculptured stone monuments on which the basic events of the ruling class were registered. It is estimated that the population of Coba in the 8 th century was around 55,000 people. Between 800 and 1100 AD, construction development reached its peak. The classical architectural style of Coba resembles more that of the Peten of Guatemala than that of the northern Yucatan. By the time of the Post-Classic period, Coba lost its superior force and other cities along the coast, such as Tulum, began to flourish.
- 1200-1518 AD
- Toltec/Mayan influence
- Surrounded by a wall all the way around - 12-15 feet tall
- Columns, flat roofs
- Built after fall of Maya
The site was probably occupied from the Early Classic period (AD 250-600), but most likely did not develop into an important city until the Late Post classic (1200-1530). In the 13th century Tulum had links with Mayapan, and was still a thriving trading community when the Spaniards arrived. The first Spanish sailors to see Tulum reportedly were so impressed that from sea they said it looked as big a city as Seville. Tulum remained occupied for several decades after the Conquest, longer than other places on the coast. It was actually reoccupied in 1890-1910, by a breakaway sect from the Talking Cross Maya. They were led by a woman "high priestess" who held rituals in the temples of the castillo. Tulum was one of the few walled Mayan cities. Opinions differ if this was a defensive measure or a barrier to separate the royalty and the ceremonial center from the rest of the city. Major things we saw at Tulum included the following: El Castillo, Great Palace, House of the Cenote, House of the Halach Uinic, Structure 20, Temple of the Descending God, Temple of the Frescoes, Temple of the Wind, Tulum Beach, and the walls and watchtowers. We also watched the Totonac Voladores Indian ceremony.
Actual Journal Entry
Woke up around 6:20 AM and took a shower and cleaned up. After we were both ready Casey and I headed to the hotel's breakfast a little after 7:00 AM. I tend to get a little car sick if I don't eat and drink some juices, so I made sure to eat something. We then thought it was 7:30 AM only to find out daylight savings time had kicked in and it was already 8:30 AM. So we were back on Indiana time again. This threw our schedule off a little but we all met in the lobby and packed in the vans. I rode in Tony's van. Before getting in the van we noticed Lex's van was missing two hubcaps. Tony assumed they fell off after the gas station attendant took them off to put air in the tires the previous night. We now left and were set for Tulum and Coba. We would drive past Tulum however and go to Coba first and then planned to catch Tulum on the way back to Cancun. As we drove to Coba, I noticed several things. One was that the roads were pretty bumpy. And these were only the highways. So I could only imagine what the older roads would look like. I also noticed several interesting signs, most of which Tony translated for us. Some read "Drive cautiously", others read "Stay awake", and even some read "Respect the signs". I also noticed on a few occasions some crucifixes and memorialssetup on the sides of roads and in the medians. These were just like the article Tony had sent us via e-mail before our trip. I also noticed several huts with thatched roofs that apparently were homes, although most looked only to contain one room.
We passed several street signs along the way as well. One was the turn for Chichen Itza, which I am looking rather forward to visiting tomorrow. Others were places like Yax-Mul and Cozumel. After about an hour drive, we passed Tulum and turned right off the main highway. This road was a very narrow and old road. Immediately we could tell that the road was in bad shape and very bumpy. One thing I noticed about the roads was that people who drove slowly would just merge into the emergency lane and turn their flasher on to let people pass them. On the old road we were on to Coba, there were
many small towns. Most of the towns, if not all, looked very poor. I also noted that most of the towns had green, black, and red PRI political party signs from place to place. The signs were asking people to vote for the PRI in February. But as we know from our class lectures and reading material, the PRI is no longer in control as of July 2000 since the election of President Vicente Fox from the PAN party. After about 20 miles (30 minutes) on this road we reached Coba. We paid 80 pesos to park two vans. When we got out of the vans I noticed it was really warm and humid. It was only around 86 or 87 but quite a
drastic changed compared to Indiana. I then paid two pesos to use the bathroom. They were not nearly as bad as I expected, but very hot.
After everyone used the restrooms, we entered Coba. It was free of charge on Sunday, as are all Mexican archaeological sites for that day only. We were stopped immediately so we could pay a small fee for Skippy's video camera. We then moved on to the first ruin. In no time we were stopped by guides because they wanted to be our"official" guides. They told Tony that because of the new "tourism law" that he could not explain anything to us about the ruins. Yeah right! Tony talked to them for about five minutes and they finally left. I think they were just blowing smoke and trying to make some extra money by being our guides. We then started examining the ruins. We saw several stelae. Some of which were hard to depict but some were very nice and in good enough shape that parts of the rulers could be depicted (headdress, etc...). We then moved on to some ball courts. They were much nicer to see in person and very interesting to see. The courts were fairly narrow, probably 5-7 feet wide and probably 3 or 4 people could have played at a time. There were a few small depictions on the sloped walls as well. I also noticed that one half of the ball court was still covered by forest. Also much of the site was still being excavated because of lack of funding and the primary focus of excavation in the central Mexico region.
We then walked around to several different ruins and then headed to the two main pyramids. The first pyramid we reached was in fairly good shape and looked to be around 200 feet tall. The pyramid was surrounded by tons of trees and other forestry. We could not get on this pyramid as was true with most of the ruins here. We then walked to the "Big Pyramid". It was around 460 feet tall. We all stopped and listened to Tony's tips for climbing up and down pyramids so we would not get vertigo. Then we took several group photos as we had done at most of the large ruins. We then all headed for the pyramid to climb to the top. I went fairly slow on the way up and stayed close to the "help" rope. I chose not to stand up as I climbed but rather used both my hands and feet. I stopped one or two times on the way up to rest and look around at the amazing landscape. No more than a couple of minutes later, I
had reached the top as well did most of the others. The top was really awesome and the view was both amazing and a little scary. From the top we easily were able to see the other pyramid we had just left and its size was very small compared to this one. We all walked around the top and took a couple of groups photos. I also went in the small temple on the top. It was really dark and musty. After about 10-15 minutes, we started our decent. I began going down first, and I must admit that I was a little scared of going down; nevertheless, I sat down and took one step at a time only pausing briefly to let Lex pass me. About 3/4 of the way down, I stood up and walked the rest of the way down. It felt very rewarding to have climbed something so tall and to actually be part of something that was built over 1600 years ago. We then started our walk back to the vans so we could leave for Tulum. Once we got back to the parking lot, I again paid two pesos to use the restroom. I loaned Brent two pesos as well so he could go. I then changed $5 for 43 pesos so I could buy a drink and look around the stores. The drink cost 10 pesos so I gave the clerk 20 pesos. Instead of giving me 10 pesos back, he gave me $1 USD. I was in no mood to
argue so I left not worrying about the small loss (around ten cents). We then left for Tulum.
We arrived at Tulum in about 30 minutes and parked the vans. We then went to Subway for lunch. We were really hungry and thirsted and kind of tired so it was nice to sit down and relax. We then went and saw the "Dance of the Voladores". The show was just starting and would not completely begin
until they received enough tips. Tony gave them around $20 USD worth of pesos and that was
enough to make them happy and for them to begin the show. We then watched them start twirling
around towards the ground. Four of them spun around while one of them stood at the top and played a flutelike instrument. The four Voladores spun 13 times because 13 x 4 is equal to 52 and the number 52 symbolizes the 52 year cycle much like a century. The flight of the Voladores was just as I expected it be because I had previously learned about them in a couple of Tony's class lectures over the past couple years. It was also fresh in my mind because we had just two weeks before watched a video before the trip called "Food for the Ancestors", which had a nice segment talking about this ceremony. After the show we all got group photos with the Voladores.
We then took a small trip back to the ancient city of Tulum. Apparently it had a new entrance, so we all entered here. At first sight the city looked amazing. After a brief history by Tony we began walking around. I was extremely impressed and excited to see the temple El Castillo. We took several group photos here as well. We then made our way to the beach front and ocean. The scenery was very beautiful. Most of the group got in their swim suits to go to the beach and swim; however, Brent, Lex, and myself, and maybe a couple others, chose to rest in the shade. We also pulled a couple coconuts down from nearby trees and cracked them open to test their juices. Needless to say, they were not very ripe and did not taste very good. We then all regrouped, took a few more photos, and went back to the vans after a short restroom break and short look at some tourist shops. We then made the two hour drive back to Cancun to our hotel.
Afterward we cleaned up and went to dinner at the hotel again. After that we met by the pool and left for Senor Frogs to dance. The atmosphere was nice, but I was tired and not feeling extremely well and chose to watch as people danced. We headed back to the hotel around midnight and went our own ways. I went back and got ready for bed and chose to go to bed rather than write in my journal. This journal entry is being written on the drive to Chichen Itza. The drive is 120 miles. We will probably stop at another ruin before Chichen Itza and then hit our main location for the day at Chichen. After that we will make the remainder of our drive, approximately 60 miles, to Merida, where we will be staying the rest of the week.
4/8/02 Sites Visited: Ek Balam and Chichen Itza
Ek Balam is a Yucatec Maya name, which may be translated as the "black jaguar" or "bright star jaguar". It was founded in the year 100 BC and was probably one of the most powerful Pre-Hispanic Mayan cities economically, religiously, and socially. The leader Ek Balam is said to have built most of the five structures at the site and that the rest were constructed by other captains, under his orders. In total, there were said to have been 45 structures. The enormous dimensions of the buildings are what stand out at this site, as well as the fact that the central part is surrounded by two walls. The most important structures are found within the walled enclosure of less than one square kilometer and distributed within two large connected plazas. These structured are known as the Central and South Plazas. The city is also known for its five sacbe roads, which go out in all four cardinal directions, except in the south, which has two entrances, thus two sacbe. Ek Balam reached its cultural height in the Late Classic period, around 800 AD. At Ek Balam one will also find a ball court, an important series of roads, stelae, and other monuments. The original wells they built were called "chultunes". The structures showed several influences, including that of the Puuc, from the western coast of Campeche. There are also some details, such as winged idols resembling angels, that are unique to this site. The Acropolis is one of the most voluminous structures in Meso-America. It is here where one can find statues, masks, figurines, and hieroglyphs. Major things we saw at Ek Balam included the following: Central Plaza, the five main surrounding structures (Structure 1, Structure 2, Structure 3, Structure 17, and Structure 12), Structure 15, Structure 10, Structure 11, murallas, and the sacbes.
- 550 BC - 1220 AD
- El Castillo Pyramid - on equinox (September 21) illuminates body of snake up pyramid
- Caracol observatory - contained astronomical alignments
- Cenote - sink hole - stores water
- Temple of the Warriors - Chacmool (Toltec invention, later adopted by Aztecs)
Chichen Itza dated back 1,553 years ago. The site is about 90 minutes from Merida. The name
Chichen Itza is derived from the Mayan language: "Chi" is mouth, "Chen" is well and "Itza" is the tribe that inhabited the area. This site is divided into three areas: the north group (mainly Toltec), the central group, and the Old Chichen. All three can be seem in one day; however, we did not visit Old Chichen.
Major things we saw at Chichen Itza included the following: El Castillo (Interior Temple of Kukulcan), Great Ball Court, Temple of the Jaguars, Market, Palace of the Sculptured Columns, Platform of Venus, Platform of the Jaguars, Sacred Cenote, steam bath, Temple of the Large Tables, Temple of the Warriors, Tzompantli (Platform of Skulls), Chichanchoob (The Red House), The Church, House of the Deer, House of the Grinding Stones, The Nunnery, Observatory (El Caracol), Ossuary, and the Platform of the Tombs.
Actual Journal Entry
Today we got up as usual with our 6:30 AM wake up call from Tony. We then cleaned up and hit the hotel restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast we all headed back to our rooms to pack up to checkout so we could leave Cancun and head for Merida. We left the Solymar hotel approximately at 9:00 AM and started our travels towards Merida with an expected stop at Chichen Itza; however, Tony decided that we would go to a new ruin that he had never visited before at Ek Balam. I believe it was only recently excavated around 1994. I knew very little to nothing about this ancient ruin, but it had several familiar characteristics to other sites I had studied. There were major sacbes to and from the town. There were also stelaes that were well preserved. Surrounding the area were several small temples and medium sized temples. At the end of the town was a magnificent temple that had a large stairway up. It probably was between 150 and 200 feet tall.
Upon climbing this, we were able to reach a platform with absolutely beautiful artwork and depictions on the wall. We then traveled up the remainder of the stairs and took some group photos. I then descended down the stair case in my usual fashion, on my butt. It just makes me feel more comfortable. Next we looked at some unexcavated ruins on the hillside and observed one or two chultunes where water was stored. Like I said, I don't know much about this specific site, but I believe it dated in the early 1000s-1200s, maybe even as early as 700 or 800 based some inscriptions. After a restroom break and water refreshment, we loaded the vans up and started towards Chichen Itza, which was about one hour away. I was still a bit tired and nauseous, so I slept most of this drive; however, I quickly recuperated once we hit the parking lot at Chichen because this is the one site that I was most looking forward to visiting.
We decided to go to the main pyramid first so we would not miss our chance to go up the internal stairs to see the chacmool and red jaguar throne. We then entered and got in line for the internal stairway. They only let 10-15 people in at a time because of the narrow passage way and staircase, but luckily our group was all able to enter at the same time. We then all climbed up the stairs. I noticed the
walls, ceiling, and stairs were very wet and moist, probably because of the heat causing so much moisture and condensation. The stairs were fairly narrow and steep. I would guess we climbed up 250-300 feet until we reached the narrow platform. Here we could see the excellent chacmool, with its greenish color, and the jaguar throne with its emerald eyes. Both were gated off so we could not touch them, but we still got an excellent view of them. Because of the heat inside this pyramid, we soon descended and exited the pyramid. We then all gathered for lunch. We got to sit in a closed area with air conditioning, which felt very nice. I ordered chicken/steak combo fajitas chips with guacamole, water, and coca-cola. I would say this meal was by far the best meal of the trip and most authentic Mexican meal so far.
We then re-entered the ancient site around 3:30-4:00 PM. We took a couple of group photos and visited some of the lesser known areas of the Chichen Itza site. Some of these places were the observatory and the nunnery. The observatory was very large and impressive, but we unfortunately were not able to climb on it. We then headed back to the main plaza area in the center and took some more group photos in the front of the main pyramid. By now it was around 4:30 PM and most of the tourists had left, leaving the rest of Chichen Itza virtually to ourselves. We then all climbed the main pyramid. It had several hundred steps and was very steep in my opinion. Luckily there was a rope to assist me
up. I reached the top fairly quickly and marveled at the great overview and scenery. Although a little weary of the height above the ground I was at, I managed to walk around all four sides and look our in every direction. It was quite remarkable to see the entire view of Chichen Itza from this one pyramid. I would guess we were about 370 feet above ground. It definitely did not seem as tall as the main pyramid at Coba, but it did seem much steeper and much more dramatic to climb up and down. After some photographs I started my descent with Casey's camera so I could take some photos of her on the top once I reached the bottom. I went down one step at a time on my butt about 3/4 of the way and then felt comfortable enough to stand up and walk the remainder of the way down.
After this we went to the ball court, and needless to say, it was HUGE. It was, in my opinion, much larger than those at Coba or Tulum. It probably was over 50 yards wide, and instead of only four or five playing at a time, more likely allowed for 25-30 at a time. The hoops were also much higher. We then looked around at some of the other temples and saw the Tzompantli skull rack. I was really surprised to see how large the skull rack was compared to several photographs I had seen before during Tony's class lectures and documentaries. We then went to the Temple of the Warriors, which was also quite impressive. Here we saw a nice mixture of Mayan and Toltec architecture, mainly the large number of round columns that were NOT Mayan, but rather Toltec. This was also mentioned in our class lectures before the trip, but also re-emphasized by Tony as we explored the temple. We also saw several korbel arches throughout Chichen Itza, as well as most sites we had visited, and most Mayan sites for that matter. I was able to identify this type of arch because of the photographs Tony had shown us in our class lectures and the documentaries he had shown us before this class and in my other classes with
him over the last few years. The korbel arch was basically an arch without a keystone, and often referred to as a "false arch". By now it was around 5:30 PM, and we were running short on time since the site closed at 6:00 PM, so we looked at the bathhouse/steam-house and observed its style and architecture and discussed its primary use. We now had to leave without getting to see the huge cenote, but I would have much rather saw all that we saw than just a huge hole in the ground. We then took a break and packed in the vans to drive our final leg to Merida.. We were around 80-90 miles from Merida if I remember correctly. I again fell asleep for much of this drive but woke up when we had about ten miles to go to reach the town of Merida.
Once we reached Merida, I noticed a huge difference in cultures. To me it seemed much more Mexican than Cancun had been, which I think we all expected. The town was very crowded and the streets were very narrow and seemed poorly designed since the street numbers were sometimes the
same in both directions and randomly a street number would go from 50 to 52 to 33 to 90 for no reason at all. The town of Merida had a population of about 700,000 if I remember correctly. We went through several blocks and finally reached the main strip, which was called the Paseo de Mantejo. We soon arrived at our hotel, the Holiday Inn, which like our first hotel was a 4-star hotel. We then unloaded and checked in, where we were greeted with a complimentary beverage, which was some type of grapefruit juice. We got checked in fairly quickly and went to our rooms. We all cleaned up and met in our hotel dining area, which was outside. I had several variations of food and chicken for the main course, which was excellent. Casey and I then walked across the street to the mall to see if they were open. It was around 9:55 PM at this time. The store we entered was a bookstore/music store and did not close until 1:00 AM. So we looked around for a few minutes. Then we went to a silver shop that was opened until 10:30 PM. Here I bought Casey two bracelets and a necklace, which ended up only being $13 USD. I paid with $20 USD since I did not have any pesos at the time, and I got back 54 pesos I believe as my change, which is right around $5 USD. Then we both felt tired and headed back to the dining area at the hotel where we ran into Tony.
As we were talking, a little Mayan girl no more than 12 years old tugged at my shirt and spoke to me in Spanish. After conferring with Tony, I realized she wanted me to by a rose for Casey. At first Tony said "no thanks" in Spanish to her, but she was very persistent. I then asked Tony how much, and he said that she wanted 10 pesos. I felt bad for her, and she was a very charming little girl, so I told Tony to tell her I would buy one from her. So I got a nice red rose for 10 pesos. Tony didn't want any roses but because the girl was so persistent he gave her 20 pesos and told her that he would buy two roses, but for her to keep them for herself. She seemed quite satisfied. In the meantime her sister approached with roses as well. She seemed more shy. I found out from Tony that the little girl's name that I had bought the rose from was Claudia. Apparently Claudia and the rest of her family were trying to build a new roof for part of their house, so they were selling roses constantly to make extra money. Claudia had 6 or 7 brothers and sisters if I recall correctly, and all of them, including her parents sold roses up and down the roads near our hotel. I then retired to my room and made today's journal entry to bring me back up to date with the trip so far. I am going to get ready for bed and get some rest before the 6:30 AM wake up call. It is just after midnight now.
4/9/02 Sites Visited
Oxkintok, Uxmal, and the small town of Muna
Oxkintok is a Mayan word composed by the words "ox" (three), "kin" (gives or sun) and "tok" (pedernal) and means "Three pedernal DAS" or "Three sharp suns". The Pre-Hispanic city of Oxkintok is located half way between the port of Celestun on the Gulf of Mexico and the Dzibilchaltun archaeological zone just a few miles north of our hotel in Merida. It is also near the gateway or passage formed by both the west end of the Puuc hills and the rolling country bordering the Yucatan Peninsula's western coastal plains. This ancient city is around 2,000 years old. The dating of ruins runs from around 300 to 1050 AD.
Oxkintok is characterized by the antiquity of its calendar inscriptions (475 and 487 AD), by its anthropomorphous stone columns: its guardians, and mainly, by the particularity of its earlier buildings, like the Satunsat, known also like "the labyrinth". Major things we saw at Oxkintok included the following: The Labyrinth, Structure CA-4, Pop Palace, Chich Palace, and the Palace of Diablo.
Uxmal is just a few kilometers down the road from Kabah. The Arch of Kabah marked the
beginning of the Mayan road from Kabah to Uxmal (12 miles). Uxmal is the thrice-built city with the colossal Magicians' Pyramids, impressive Governor's Palace, intricate Doves' Temple and Grand Nuns' Quadrangle. Major things we saw at Uxmal included the following: Ball Game Court, Cemetery Quadrangle, Nunnery Quadrangle, Pyramid of the Magician, Quadrangle of the Birds, Governor's Palace, The Great Pyramid, House of the Doves (Quadrangle of the Pigeons or Doves), and the House of the Turtles.
Major things we saw at Muna included the following: main altar in church, image of Virgin of
Guadalupe wearing an indigenous dress, status of St. John Bosco, shrine to the child Jesus, and
a Bier with electric lights containing the image of Christ.
Actual Journal Entry
Today I got the wake up call from Tony around 6:42 AM, and he was singing "Start me up..." by the Rolling Stones. Needless to say, I woke up right away. I decided not to shower this morning since I had taken one so late the night before. Then Casey and I headed down to the breakfast buffet and met with the others. I ate and drank a lot so I would not get car sick later. We then waited for the wiper blades
to get replaced and then loaded up the vans. We then headed to the Pemex gas station and filled up both vans. After that we headed south out of Merida towards Oxkintok. It took about 45-50 minutes to get here. It seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere when we first arrived, and the site didn't seem like much to look at all; however, after we entered the site became much more promising. I was not very familiar with this site at all, but it seemed fairly typical to what I would expect for this region. Based on assigned book "The Mayas", I felt pretty comfortable in recognizing different aspects of Mayan sites, and the site seemed like a typical Mayan site in my opinion. It had a lot of Mayan ties along with Puuc and Proto-Puuc architectures. The landscape, however, was quite different now that we had entered the Puuc hill region. The temperature was also much warmer than the other sites we had visited before in the east region of the Yucatan. I would say it was 95-97 degrees.
We spent a good two hours or more here and were lucky enough to have an excellent tour guide, who seemed very knowledgeable, although he only spoke in Spanish. Therefore, Tony translated for us. The site had many temples, and the largest pyramid was probably no more than 100-150 feet tall. There was one thing different I had never seen or studied, that being the labyrinth inside one of the temples. It also was constructed brilliantly so on the equinox, one day only, the lights from the sun would illuminate the entire internal structure via a series of openings in the walls. The site also had four or five decent sized stelae, one which was only 1/4 still remaining because someone had looted the top part. The site also had several chultuns, which could hold anywhere from 1,200 to 25,000 liters of water. We then wrapped up our visit at this site by looking at a chultun that had been restored for use by the workers at this site throughout the day. We, however, did not try any of this water. We then packed up the vans and headed towards Uxmal.
Uxmal was about 35 miles southeast from Oxkintok. I got to be Tony's co-pilot for the day (and the remainder of the trip) and used the maps to get us around to our locations. We reached Uxmal in about 40-45 minutes, and it didn't seem overly crowded. We then took a restroom break and washed up and met in the Uxmal restaurant for lunch. It was not quite as nice as our lunch at Chichen Itza, but it definitely hit the spot and was nice to sit down to cold water and coca-cola and hot quesadillas. After about an hours break, we headed into the site. Uxmal means "city that is thrice built". It was very pure Mayan design, and the stone work was intricate. One thing I noticed was that the rain god, Chaac, was ever present on almost all structures. This was also typical with most Mayan sites, but was even more
noticeable here in my opinion. Chaac was also something we talked about in our class lectures before the trip and was even discussed in the last documentary Tony showed us before the trip entitled "Food for the Ancestors".
Some of the pyramids I enjoyed seeing where the Pyramid of the Magician, Pyramid of the Owls, and the Pyramid of the Turtles. The Magician's Pyramid was probably my favorite. I also enjoyed seeing the ball court, although it was very small compared to the one at Chichen Itza. It was probably 25-30 yards wide and maybe 45-50 yards long. One thing that did surprise me was the size of the hoop at this ball court. It was reconstructed, but clearly illustrated that the hoop was much larger than previous ball courts we had seen. We also did some more climbing. We scaled a few fully restored temples and pyramids, but I think my favorites were the ones that we had to actually rock climb rather than just go up a steep staircase that was already excavated. This was much more challenging, but well worth the view once at the top. We took some pretty amazing photographs from the top of some of these structures. We also visited a decent sized cemetery, which had some neat inscriptions on the walls. By now it was
5:15 PM, and we were growing tired and hot, and the site closed at 6:00 PM, so we headed back to the vans. We used the restrooms and got some cold refreshments and popsicles/ice-cream before heading out. Before leaving, Tony went to get his receipt showing how much we paid to enter, and they gave him the wrong one. We paid $10 USD per person for our group, but the receipt showed that our cost was only $5 USD per person. He tried to have them change it, but it didn't help. So we took a photo of the plaque showing the real cost so Tony could get his full refund from the school.
I now got to play navigator again and got us headed back north to Merida on the main highway through Muna, Abah, Yaxcopoil, and Uman. We got to Muna around 6:00 PM, and decided to stop in the town of Muna to look at its old Catholic church and town square. The church was having a prayer service, but afterwards, we were able to look around and see some great beautiful images. I, myself, am Catholic, so I probably appreciated some of the ideas and depictions a little more than some others. We then walked around the town square and viewed a shrine to Benito Juarez, who was a full blooded Indian and the most revered president in Mexican history. This plaque/shrine was just to prove how important he was not only to the indigenous people, but to all of Mexico. We also had discussed Juarez in our class discussions before the trip, and he was mentioned several times in the Mexico series of documentaries we watched about how Mexico gained its independence. We then loaded the vans and headed north towards Merida. We made no more stops and reached our hotel around 7:15-7:30 PM. We then headed down to dinner at the hotel. Tomorrow we don't have to get up until 7:00 AM since we are staying in Merida to visit the markets, museums, and other areas nearby. The extra 30 minutes of sleep will be well used, and I am very thankful for it. This trip has been absolutely exhausting from morning until night, but WELL worth every bit of it! This is my first visit to any of these sites, and to Mexico, and the only way to see as much as we have seen, and still plan to see, is to get up early, bust our butts walking, climbing, driving, and putting in the extra hours of seeing all we can see. I'll certainly catch up on my sleep later because this is an opportunity of a lifetime. All thanks to Tony. This concludes my journal entry for the day. It is now time to shower, eat dinner, and hopefully rest.
4/10/02 Sites Visited
Market and Museum
Market and Museum
Major things we saw throughout the market, museum, and Merida in general included the following: Spanish colonial buildings in downtown Merida Plaza, the Casa de Montejo (1542), Cathedral (1556), several shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Municipal Market, Merida streets, Government Palace, the Municipal Palace (1735), and the Municipal Palace clock tower. We also saw the Anthropology and History Museum, where we saw stelae, chacmools, frescoes, human remains, cranial deformation, example burial sites, ancient jewelry, weapons, statues, and ball court hoop remains.
Actual Journal Entry
As usual I awoke with a phone call from Tony around 7:00 AM. I had showered late the night before so I did not take on this morning. After cleaning up, we headed down to breakfast. I had a plate of fruit and cereal because I have been a little nauseous from the other foods I have eaten at breakfast. I felt much better after this healthy meal. Then Casey and I went into the mall for about 20 minutes, but most of the stores were not open. Today we were not visiting any ruins or sites, but rather staying in Merida. We then left and went to the main market to do some shopping, observing, and to finally interact with the real Mexican people. We arrived around 9:00-9:30 AM and things were already really busy. We made a quick run through the main shops just to get an idea of where things were and how much money they were. One neat thing I observed was the meat market. It had tons and tons of rows of chickens, pigs, cows, calves, goats, and about anything else perishable. My dad owns a grocery store with a meat department, so the sight of these raw meats was not too bad, but the smell was much different. The open environment and head made the smell quite nauseating. After Tony found out which stores were going to give us good deals, we decided to go into one of the main shops and experience market shopping for
ourselves. Everybody went their own way in the store and begin getting swarmed by the merchants.
I really wanted a guayabera, but I acted uninterested based on in class lectures from Tony about haggling and trying to get the best deal. The one I was wanting was 450 pesos. I talked them down immediately to 300 pesos with the help of Casey. I then gave up and left for awhile to view some other things. Also a tip from Tony's class lectures and personal conversations I had with him previously. Upon coming back I showed more interest in the shirt and even tried it on. At that point they knew they were close to a sale, but I still was persistent on getting it for 275 or 250 pesos. After saying I was not interested and started to leave, the man gave in and sold it to me for 250 pesos, about $25 USD. The guayabera was silk, so this was a great buy in my opinion, especially considering the cotton ones were selling for 200-250 pesos themselves, and silk is much more expensive. I didn't really see anything else I wanted, but I did want to get my niece and nephew something. I did find a nice matching guayabera that I wanted for my 10 year old nephew. I knew right away I would pay up to 125 pesos for it, but I only put a 100 peso bill in my left pocket so I could plead that I only had 100 pesos. They originally asked for 200, which was very high considering this one was 1/4 the size at size 12, when mine was a size 40 and mine only cost 250 pesos. Not to mention mine was silk and this one was cotton. I got them to 150 pesos quickly with the help of Casey and Tony, but we were all ready to leave so they gave up. I then flashed my 100 peso bill to the man, and he finally gave in and sold me the shirt. I was very happy. I really enjoyed haggling, and the environment the market provided. It was nice to see the heart of Mexico's culture in action, rather than just on a documentary. I had a good idea what to expect in a market like this based on the in-class video "Food for the Ancestors", but to actually be there in person and to interact with the people made the experience much more rewarding. The market was crowded with people and shops and most of the people I interacted with were pretty nice and knew some English. I did feel a sense of uneasiness at times from certain people, probably because we were tourists, but for the most part it felt good to be part of the tradition of the Mexican markets.
We then stopped for water and rest and went to look at some colonial churches and houses. The church was amazing and huge. The crucifix of Christwas phenomenal and probably the largest I had seen since my visit to Italy when I was St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican. The Virgin of Guadalupe was ever present as well everywhere. I also noted the original marble that still resided in the church, and the huge stone columns. Next we moved on towards a colonial house built for the town's original founder, Montejo. On the way here we saw a plague dedicated to Francisco Madero, who we have also discussed several times in class lectures and even heard about in several class documentaries regarding Mexico's 1910 Revolution. By now it was 2:00 PM and we left to go eat. We took a group vote and ended up
going to Burger King down by our hotel. I was a little disappointed because I really wanted some
authentic Mexican food from the market, but to me food is food, so I didn't complain and ate up at B.K.
We then went to a museum close to our hotel to see some ancient artifacts from some of the
ruins we had visited, discussed in class, saw in documentaries, and from sites we planned to visit. Most of the items we saw were from major sites like Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Oxkintok, Cozumel, and Mayapan, but there were also things from other sites as well. I particularly enjoyed seeing the ball court hoop remains from Uxmal and Oxkintok, because we had just visited these sites the previous day and saw that these hoops were missing. I also enjoyed seeing all of the stelae, especially the one from Oxkintok. It was probably about 20 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide. Quite impressive and well preserved in my opinion. We also saw some bones and skull remains and example burials that helped me understand how people were buried. While upstairs in the museum, Lex and I sat and watched a video for 20-25 minutes about the Mayapan civilization. I was amazed how similar Mayapan was to Chichen Itza. It was also like Mayapan was a miniature version of Chichen Itza. After this it was around 5:30 PM and we were all growing tired, so we headed back to the hotel a few blocks away.
Once we got back, I heard some complaints from several people in our group because they did not get to stay at the market as long as they would have liked, and they did not get enough freedom while at the market in their opinions. I'll admit that I would have enjoyed visiting the market longer, but I also understand that we have a schedule to keep. Several of those in the group were going to take a bus back down to the market since they found out it was open until 8:00 PM, and it was only 6:00 PM. One of them was Casey, so I wasn't completely comfortable with letting her go with the others since it was
nighttime, and they would have to take a busy, and I really was in no mood to go back at that moment. Therefore, I simply called up Tony and explained the situation. I told him there were some people wanting to go back to the market and was wondering if we could all go as a group sometime during the week. He completely understood and agreed it would be best to go during the day and all together instead of at night and in small groups. So he said we would go back on Saturday. See, I think people just need to speak up and say something to Tony if they need or want something instead of getting frustrated. But since I feel pretty close to Tony from knowing him the past 3-4 years and comfortable enough around him to say things and ask questions, I felt like I would be the one to say something on behalf of those who didn't. Just as I expected, Tony was understanding and immediately called each group member to let them know we would return to the market on Saturday.
It is now 6:50 PM, and I am going to shower and get ready to go to dinner as soon as Casey gets back from Wal-Mart and gets ready. That's right, I said Wal-Mart! Isn't it crazy how cultures collide over time? Just to think, there are McDonalds, Burger Kings, Kentucky Fried Chickens, Subways, Wal-Marts, and Holiday Inns within miles of colonial churches, buildings, markets, and ancient Maya ruins. Today was nice, but I am really looking forward to hitting the ancient sites again and seeing some temples and climbing some pyramids. By the way, the exchange rate across the street went up to 8.93 from 8.85. I was pretty happy so I changed $100 USD to pesos when we got back from the museum.
4/11/02 Sites Visited
Bolonchen (Xtampak), Tahcok, and Edzna
The extensive site of Santa Rosa Xtampak in Campeche, Mexico belongs to the Late Classical
period of Maya-culture (700-800 AD). It contains a number of buildings which are in comparatively good condition. In the center of this Maya city there is a three story palace consisting of 44 interior rooms and two almost symmetrical staircases. Influences of the weather have considerably damaged the facade of this palace, so that it is difficult to distinguish any clear lines or structures. This site is considered as the largest and most important city in the Chenes region. It became a regional capital in the Maya area.
In Maya, Xtampak means "old or ancient walls". The evidence of the first human occupation of
the site dates from the Late Pre-Classic period (300-250 BC). During the 200 year period from 600-800 AD, in the Late Classic period, Santa Rosa Xtampak became an important political entity of the Chenes region, which is clearly reflected on the extension of its nucleus and the amount and monumentality of its edifices. The decline of the site seems to have started during the early Terminal Classic, from 800-1000 AD. Major things we saw at Xtampak included the following: El Palacio, Edificio con Boca de Serpientes, the Casa Colorada and the Edificio Adjunto, the Cuartel, and the Cuadrangulo del Surestre.
This Mayan city was founded around 600 to 300 BC as a small agricultural community. As the
years passed it became an important economical, political, and religious entity. Edzna reached its
most important era between 600 and 900 AD as a grand regional capital. Over the years an important hydraulic system of aqueducts, holding tanks and canals was developed, allowing Edzna to be independent, as it had water, the vital need for life. It is located about 60 kilometers from Campeche.
The translation of the name Edzna has caused quite a bit of controversy over the years. Some
scholars think it means "House of the Itzaes" (a group of Indians), while others think it is "House of Echoes." To add to the confusion, there are also a significant number that believe it means "House of Gestures".
Edzna is one of Campeche's most visited sites and is considered very important to the Mayan
world. Edzna was discovered in 1906, but excavation did not begin until around 1927. After a long period of leaving the site alone, it has just recently undergone more study and restoration. Major things we saw at Edzna included the following: Gran Acropolis, Edificio de los Cinco Pisos, Temple of the Mascarones, Templo de Norte, the Platform of the Cuchillos, Stela 21, La Pequena Acropolis, and the Platform of the Embajadores.
Actual Journal Entry
We ate breakfast at 7:15 AM and left the hotel around 9:00 AM to go to the ruins at Bolonchen in the state of Campeche. This is the third Mexican state we have visited. We have been to Quintana Roo and the Yucatan already. Campeche would make our third. The name of the ruins at Bolonchen was Xtampak and was located near the town of Santa Rosa. The road to this site was very long and ridiculous. It had pot holes and vegetation everywhere on the road. We reached the site around 11:00 AM. It was a mid-size site and had a few nice temples and a big four story palace. The highest point was around 60 feet high and was mostly unexcavated. There were also 4-5 cisterns as well. It seemed to me that the majority of the site was unexcavated, so it was hard to get a good idea of how nice the site was and how much area it took up; however, what was uncovered was very nice and had amazing architecture.
We then left this site and headed to the small site Tahcok on the way to the city of Campeche. Tahcok was very small and mostly unexcavated except for one or two temples. One of the main features at this was a Chaac mask that had been partially discovered in front of one of the smaller temples. We stayed at this site only for 20-30 minutes. It was now close to 3:30-4:00 PM, so we decided not to go to Campeche, but rather visit a closer site at Edzna. This site closed at 5:00 PM, and it was already 4:30 PM, so Tony tipped the lady working and bought us an extra hour. This site was really cool. I enjoyed the main acropolis that had many Greek architectural styles, although not intentionally to resemble the Greek styles. The Gran Acropolis quadrangle measured 160 meters wide. It was surrounded on all sides by smaller structures and had a huge central plaza. There was also a huge stair case across the site that was well preserved and provided a great view of the site and Gran Acropolis. Inside the Gran Acropolis was also another nice temple. This temple was called the Templo del Norte. I found this was unique because it was primarily Puuc style. We didn't stay long at this site, but it was definitely worth the drive to visit it.
We then headed back north to Merida and got back around 8:00 PM. I cleaned up and ate dinner and am now going to go to bed most likely. One of the things I noticed today where how crazy people were because it looked like it was going to rain. Almost all fields we passed were using a slash-and-burn technique to get the fields ready for a new crop. We had talked about this technique on a couple of occasions in Tony's class lectures, and it was also mentioned in the class films. I also remember it being talked about in the book entitled "The Mayas", which we were assigned to read. This technique is basically self explanatory. It is when you cut down everything on the plot of land you want to use and then set it all ablaze. This all burns into ashes, which in turn fertilizes the ground. It can only be used for a few crops though before the fields will start lacking nutrients. Then they must abandon the fields and wait for the nutrients to replenish before using the fields again. So, because they saw the rain coming, they kicked into high gear in hopes of getting some moisture in the ground. Nevertheless, it only seemed to rain off and on for about 30 minutes. Lastly, I really enjoyed Edzna the most of the three sites we saw today. I think it defiantly should be discussed in future class lectures and possibly revisited for next year's trip.
4/12/02 Sites Visited
Ake and Itzamul
Major things we saw at Ake included the following: main temple with columns and stairs,
ceremonial plaza, some large un-carved stelae, unexcavated pyramid in ruins, old hacienda, and
colonial church. In the church we saw the main altar, photos of a sick child who needed prayers, and statues to various saints. We also go to visit a henequen hacienda. Here we got to see the henequen leaves that were ready for harvesting, a tour of the mansion, the hacienda workshop, and the henequen factory. While we were here we also saw bundles of henequen leaves being delivered, the lift that hauls the leave bundles to the upper loft of the of the workshop, the workshop loft, henequen leaves being shredded, the worn pulleys and gears of the machinery, shredded henequen fibers drying, shredded leaf waste that they use for fertilization, fiber strands being processed, fiber being braided, and the final product.
Izamal is said to possibly be the oldest of cities in the Yucatan. The history of Izamal is very
attached to its religious facts. It was conquered by the Spaniards, and it was the monks that worked hard to convert the Indians to Catholicism that has given the city its distinction. The monks still to this day are very devoted to the Immaculate Virgin. The same history also accounts for the egg-yolk yellow color throughout the entire town. This has to do with the fact that the Maya holy book, the Popol Vuh, says that the gods made people out of corn dough. The important thing to see here is the "Franciscan Convent" that was built over one of the Mayan pyramid using its stones. This convent is also famous for the story of the monk Fray Diego de Landa, its founder, who burned all the Maya codices, and then feeling remorse for what he had done, he tried rewrite all he could remember of the ways of the Indians.
It is also here where Pope John Paul II visited in 1993. This has been one of Izamal's claims to fame ever since. From the opened area in front of the convent there are beautiful altarpieces. There also is a very nice stained glass window of St. Francis of Assisi, as well as many statues along the walls.
Major things we saw at Izamal included the following: Convento de San Antonio de Padua,
Immaculate Virgin, stained glass window of St. Francis of Assi, statue commemorating Pope John Paul's visit in 1993, statue of Our Lady of Izamal, gold leaf paint, crystal chandeliers, flowers, elegantly painted walls, Government Palace, Kinich Kakmo, Itzamatul, the Conejo, city hall, the market, the plaza, and statues of Fray Diego de Landa.
Actual Journal Entry
Wake up call at 6:30 AM and got up right away. Showered and cleaned up and headed to
breakfast in the hotel around 7:20 AM. After breakfast I changed $100 USD. Luckily the exchange rate was up again to 8.96 pesos per U.S. dollar. We then gathered up and left to fuel up on gas for both vans. After this we made our way east to the ruins at Ake. These ruins were on the outskirts of the town, also called Ake. At first site the ruins seemed very small, but after a closer look, we saw there was much more see at these ruins, as well as in this town. One neat structure here was a church built on top of an old pyramid base. There was also a nice sized structure that we could climb that provided a decent view.
Then we saw an old factory and found out we could pay 30 pesos per person to get a tour. Fortunately, we took this tour because it was really awesome. It was a rope fiber factory built in 1912 and still operational. It was very big in the 19th century and made the town very wealthy. The factory had the leaves of plants similar to the maguey plant brought in from the fields, and they used the leaves to make fiber from them. There were 3-4 buildings for all of the different phases needed to make the fiber and then make the finished product. We got to see all of the phases and saw the men at work and the old machinery in action. We also got sample fibers from each phase, and I bought a roll of the finished product for 25 pesos at the end of the tour.
Another neat thing we saw at this town was a zapote tree. The fruit on it looked like miniature potatoes. We cut it open and licked a slice at the suggestion of our guide, and it had a very sweet taste. It was now close to 11:30 AM, so we packed up in the vans and headed east to Izamal to eat lunch and visit the ruins and market. We arrived around 12:10-12:15 PM and asked some locals where the nicest restaurant was and went there for lunch. It was by far the most authentic food we had ate on this trip. We spent a good hour and half here and then started to go on our tour. The first thing we saw was the convent. It was called Convento de San Antonio del Padua. It had many frescoes dating back to the 1500s an only recently discovered in the last ten years. It also had many depictions of the Virgin of Guadalupe's immaculate conception. Outside the back of the convent there was an avocado tree over 200 years old. This convent housed six Franciscan friars who lived in the north part of the convent, which was private so we could not see it. Another interesting thing was that almost the entire town was painted in yellow. This was because the Mayas believed they were created from corn dough (maize), which was a yellow color, so they painted buildings with this color.
Our guide was the one who informed us about why the town was painted primarily yellow; however, we had also learned in one of Tony's class lectures when we talked about the Popol Vuh. The
Popol Vuh was the Maya holy book, their scripture. It depicts the creation of the universe, and is
originally based on oral history and finally written down after the Spanish conquest. The main point of the Popol Vuh is to explain how two gods created the earth. They tried created man out of mud, but the creatures were washed away. They then tried wood, but the creatures could not think and were therefore destroyed by the gods. Next they tried creating man out of flesh, but the creatures became very wicked and were destroyed again, this time by a great flood. Then the two gods successfully created man out of corn dough, which explains the reason why Izamal was painted yellow. Our guide also mentioned a Mayan god named Zabna. The spelling differs I believe between Sabna and Zabna, but based on our guides spelling, some signs I saw with the "z" spelling, and some extra research since the trip, I believe the correct spelling is "Zabna".
Zabna had similar characteristics to Jesus Christ, which made it easier for the Spaniards to convert the Mayans to Christianity, which is also a point mentioned in one or two of the in-class documentaries and "The Mayas" book. Zabna taught the Mayas about astronomy, including the idea of wishing for things on a falling star. We then looked in another room of the church called the Chapel of the Virgin. It had a portrait of the 2nd bishop of the Yucatan, Diego de Landa. The bishop founded this church in 1553. At first he burnt all the Mayan documents (codices), so he had trouble spreading Christianity to the Mayans because he knew so little about them. Therefore, he tried to learn as much about them as possible. Before Zabna died, he requested that his body be cut into four sections and buried in each cardinal direction. His head is in the north, his torso in the south, his legs in the east, and his hands in the west.
We then visited the main pyramid in the north, Kinich Kak Moo. We got to climb this and view the city from above it. Then we went through the market for about 45 minutes, but because it was already 4:30 PM, most shops had closed. Therefore we went to the other pyramid in the middle of town. This pyramid was called Itzamatul. This was only 75-100 feet high, but had a nice view of part of the city. We then headed back to Merida and got back around 6:00 PM. A few of us went swimming, and we all cleaned up and ate dinner. Then Casey, Brent, Skippy and I walked to get ice cream and came back to the hotel. I then bought two more roses from Claudia and listened to her and Tony talk in Spanish for
awhile. She was telling him about the hardships of her family and how she could not go home at night until she had sold all the flowers that she had. I then met up with Casey and Skippy and walked through the mall for awhile. I then came back and wrote in my journal and am going to head to bed now. This is our last night in Mexico. Although I am having a great time, I think I am ready to get back to the states and catch up on some rest. Don't let anybody tell you going to Mexico for Spring Break is easy! We have worked out butts off and had a great time as well.
4/13/02 Sites Visited
Market, Cancun Airport, and Indianapolis Airport
Actual Journal Entry
This was our last day in Mexico. We didn't get up until 7:30 AM today. Today we just ate
breakfast and went to the market again to finish up getting anything we did not get throughout the week. This time we broke into 3-4 small groups and went our separate ways so we could all go to the places we wanted to go easily and quickly. I ended up being the only male in my group. I was with Casey, Val, and Skippy. I have to admit I was a little uneasy about being in the market on our own and especially being the only guy; however, it ended up being great. Casey and Skippy knew enough Spanish to communicate for us all, and I followed the three girls from behind to keep an eye on everyone. We went up and down several blocks and looked in tons of stores we had noticed at our previous visit to the market. We also made a few rounds in the vegetable and food section of the market. We did some haggling at various shops and got most of the things we were looking for.
Then we went back to the original store we had spent the majority of the time at earlier in the week. I still had 1000 pesos or more left that I wanted to spend on gifts for my family. I ended up finding five items I really wanted to get for them. They guy we had haggled with before in the week was also the guy there today. He wanted 1200 pesos for the items, but I knew better then to take that offer because we had basically broken their "secret" code on how they assign their prices. Tony explained to us during class lecture about their secret pricing code, and we were able to figure it out fairly easily by looking at prices on different items and haggling with them for a long time. I ended up getting him down to 750 pesos, but it took a great deal of work to do it. I had to mention Tony's name a few times, and the fact that I knew what their codes meant (P=1, A=5, etc...), but in the end I got the deal I wanted.
We all met back up at 12:00 PM in the market parking lot and headed back to the hotel so we could make the 1:00 PM checkout. Casey and I packed all of our stuff up and checked out. We left the hotel right around 1:00 PM and went to McDonalds for lunch before we left for Cancun. We then traveled east about 180 miles in about three hours and reached the Cancun airport around 5:45 PM. We checked in and went through customs and visited the "duty free" shops and other stores for last minute souvenirs. Casey and I then ate at Dominos and then heard an announcement that our gate had changed, but the take-off time was the same. We boarded the plane around 7:00 PM and are taking off at 7:41 PM, right on time. Our flight should take 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach Indy.
In closing, I just have to say how great a time I had on this trip. I definitely would not call this trip a vacation though. It was very hard work from day one until now. Not only did I have to adapt to a new culture and new language, but also a new environment. Also, we pushed our limits every single day in visiting as many sites as possible. There were times during the evening we had free time, but I would say over 90% of the time was actually school/class related, including the time we traveled in the vans. I saw a lot of neat things while driving, and especially liked going through the small towns on the way to and from our sites even though the frequent topes (speed bumps) in the roads were kind of annoying. I also liked trying to read all of the road signs and political signs and posters with my very limited Spanish skills.
Overall, I give the trip two thumbs up. Chichen Itza was by far my favorite site. I have dreamed of visiting it since the first class I took with Tony over three years ago, and it was absolutely a dream come true to finally have done so.