I drug myself out of bed at 8:30 in the morning. Today was not going to be a routine Saturday morning college sleep-in. My bags had been packed the night before in anticipation of our Study Trip to Mexico. I hurriedly got around and went out to Wal-Mart to grab a few last minute supplies for the trip. After I returned about two hours later, I packed the last minute stuff in my bag and got ready to go. At about 11:00 am, Jason, one of my classmates, and his girlfriend Sara came by to pick me up. I quickly loaded my things in their car. Then, we headed off to Indy. I was informed on the trip to Indy, that we had to pick up one of his fraternity brothers in Plainfield. This was so Jason could have his car parked at his brother’s place and avoid the expensive charges that he would have accrued by parking for a week at the airport. After we picked up his friend Jake, we arrived at the Indy Airport ATA check-in station. Jason, Sara, and I grabbed our bags and went inside to check-in our luggage. We got our bags checked in and received our tickets to go to gate C10, which was our boarding gate. While waiting for the plane, I pulled out my CD player and discovered that I had forgotten my headphones for it. I went to the airline store there and picked up some neat collapsible headphones that I could use for the trip. With still some time on my hands, I realized my hunger had started back up so I grabbed a bite at the McDonald’s at the airport and woofed down a quarter pounder with cheese meal. I ate my food and afterwards, we met up with some of the other members that were with our group that had just arrived. About an hour later, it was time to go to the boarding gate. I was seated in seat 8H on flight #469 on an L-1011 aircraft. I was lucky to be seated beside Valerie Sharp, an EE that I had known since freshman year. After we all grabbed our seats, we had to wait about another half-an-hour for the plane to take off. About an hour into our flight, the beverage cart was brought around. I debated about what to get, but decided to settle on a Sprite from the flight attendant. Finally, after approximately another 2 hours in flight, we arrived in Cancun, Mexico.
This was the first time that I was outside of the United States without my parents. I was not sure what to expect but I knew the responsibility for looking after things was mine. When we departed the plane, we were bussed over to the Customs building. After the 9/11 terrorist attack, none of us was quite sure what to expect. We waited in line for about an hour and were finally able to get through. The lady in charge of the line that I went through stamped my passport real quick and I passed in an instant. We then proceeded over to the baggage claim area to pick up our luggage. After I picked up my bags, I headed to the exit check out thinking this had been a breeze. This is where my luck changed; my blue bag was checked at the checkpoint. I was searched and was clean of course. We then regrouped and went to the Enterprise Car Rental to get the two vans that Professor de la Cova had reserved ahead of time. This wait proved to be longer, so we waited patiently to get it all approved and checked out. Finally, we received the vans after about half an hour; we arrived at the Solymar Hotel. De la Cova opened up the door to the van and the back door handle broke, so we had to unload bags from the front of the van. When everyone had his or her luggage, we headed to the check-in desk. I was paired with Richard Thacker and Matt Isbell as my roommates in room 1311. We put our baggage into the room and then went downstairs to eat at the hotel’s all-you can-eat dinner. I had been pre-warned about being careful where and what to eat and drink in Mexico. Playing it safe, I had chicken, pasta, corn, and bread along with several Sprites to drink. I then walked around the hotel for a little while in order to get a feeling of where things were located at the hotel. Afterwards, I went back to meet up with the group and discovered that Happy Hour was going on. We went down there to take advantage of it for a while and chatted. After about an hour, I returned back to the room and watched a little Cinemax, which was in English but dubbed with Spanish subtitles. I then wrote in this journal and afterward hit the sack.
I awoke at 6:30 am. Thacker, Isbell, and I went to the breakfast bar at 7:00 am. It was not ready, so we sat around for about an hour. Lex and his crew were awake but only because they had trouble sleeping and had only had about 2 hours of rest. At about 8:00 am, the restaurant officially opened and we started eating breakfast. At about 8:30, Tony and the others decided to come down to breakfast. They had forgotten that the time change had taken place over night due to daylight savings time; we were an hour late taking off. Breakfast was not to bad. I had some ham, hash browns, and some fruit for breakfast. About 9:00, we finally all got ready to leave. When we went out to the vans we discovered that two of the hubcaps fell off of our van. We finally got on the roadway and on the way to our destination, we saw a police station, but this was not like the police stations that we find here in the United States. This station was just a small little tower that would have only housed, at most, one or two officers. Along the highway, at stoplights, we saw several people selling newspapers in order to make a few extra pesos for a living. Soon the road narrowed from 4-lanes down to 2 lanes. The Mexicans started using a 3-lane rule, which if one tried it in the United States, one would be written up for wreckless driving. For example, we would be driving down the highway and a car would try to pass even though another car was quickly approaching in the other lane. So, in order to accomplish passing, the car would straddle the centerline and the other two cars would hug the shoulder. We even saw bikers using the highway, which for the most part is prohibited in the United States. Now I know that when people say, “Man, he drives like a Mexican,” they have actually witnessed some of the driving that takes place on the roads in Mexico and not being stereotypical. We also saw a taxicab try to pass a bus and two cars while going around a curve and almost sideswiped the on-coming car. Lucky, all knew what they were doing and got back to their appropriate lanes in time. Then, when we spotted the small sign to go to Coba, we went down a little 2-lane road. When we turned down this road we discovered that there was no speed limit posted anywhere, so we decided to set our own.
When the two vans approached a small town along the way, we learned what ‘topes’ meant real fast. Topes are speed bumps that are placed at the edges of the towns in hopes they will make people slow down before driving by. After we made it through several small towns, we arrived at Coba. By now, most people from our group had to use the bathroom. To our surprise, each person had to pay 2 pesos in order to use the facilities. With the exchange rate at that time 2 pesos was 22 cents of US money. There was a 30-peso fee in order to be allowed to use a video camera, which Skippy had brought along. Finally, the tour by de la Cova got under way. He first started by explaining that the history at all of the sites is presented first in Spanish, then in Mayan, and finally in English. Then as we began walking toward the actual site, we were stopped by one of the Mexican tour guides. He informed Tony he would have to pay 400 pesos in order to have a tour guide because he was not certified. Tony argued that he was a professor, did not need a tour guide license, and had done this trip twice before. So, we had to do a silent tour of the place for a little bit until the guide left. While at Coba, we were able to see many of the Corbel arches that the Mayan used in all of their architectural structures. They believed it to be the best way to help support the hallways. The Mayans also built ball courts where they practiced their ball games. The game was played with a rubber ball. The object was to get the ball through the hoops located on the sides of the court. The game was used to fight their battles with and the losers of the game being sacrificed to the Mayan Gods. We also got to see some of the stela. These are stone slabs that contain the ancient Mayan hieroglyphs that are carved into the stones located along the side of temples.
We then continued our adventure to the pyramids. The first one that we ran across was a pyramid with a temple located at the top of it. This site was called the Conjunto Pinturas, which was the name of the building located at the top. This building use to contain many fresco paintings on the outside of it, hence the name. We then started walking again and encountered more of the hieroglyphics. We got to see some of the Maya stone skulls, which were used as a symbol of the tribe that was located in the area at the time. After walking about a mile, we were able to climb the 140ft pyramid with a temple located at the top. At the summit was the sacrificial stone. This was where the leaders of the tribe would go to place the hearts of humans in order to sacrifice them to the gods. After climbing the pyramid, we went back down to the ground and headed back toward the vans. However, before we boarded the vehicles, everyone went to the stores there and grabbed something to drink. It is very easy to get dehydrated, since you have to make sure you drink bottled water. I was able to purchase a 20 oz. Sprite for one dollar, which is fairly reasonable seeing that it was a tourist site.
We then took off and headed to the ruins at Tulum. When we arrived there we were able to eat lunch at the Subway fast food that was located there. I had a #5, which was the Turkey Sub with bacon and cheese along with a 7UP to drink; that should be safe. After we finished eating, we went to see the ‘Four Seasons’ performance of people free-falling from a tall pole. Each one of the four Voladores was to represent one of the seasons and each one went around the pole 13 times. So, when you take 4 times 13, one gets the 52-year cycle that the Mayans used in order to keep a dating system. Tony gave the Voladores dancers a nice tip of 200 pesos and in turn they allowed us to have our picture taken with them. We then purchased tickets to ride the tram out to the actual site of the Tulum Ruins. When our group arrived at the site, we had to go around the side and enter in through another way, which had been changed since Tony had been there the last time. We entered into Tulum and there were lots and lots of tourists that were looking around at these sites, so it made it difficult to try and take pictures without having other people included in the picture. We were able to get our picture taken in front of the Castillo pyramid. We also got to see the Temple of the Frescos. Towards the top was spotted a god named Ix Chel, which of course had two images of the Mayan rain god called Chac. Afterwards, we walked down towards the beach area and went for a swim in the ocean. This was the first time that I had been in salt water. It was not much different except when I got some water in my mouth; it was very salty and unappealing. After about an hour, we dried off and our group started walking towards the exit. Along the way we discovered one of the Chultuns. This is a water storage facility that was used by the Mayan’s in order to hold and store their water for drinking during the dry season. We then walked back towards the shuttle tram, hopped on it, and went back to the parking area.
After we got back, de la Cova bought us each a water to drink. It was refreshing! We then headed back to the vans and drove back to Cancun. On the way back, I took a nap until it began raining right outside of Cancun. This was rather ironic because April is still considered as part of there dry season. After a few hours, we arrived back at our hotel. We then got cleaned up and went down to our hotel and had dinner. I had some rice and some eggs with ham. I decided to stick with the more American style of food. After eating at the hotel, we got ready to head out to Sr. Frogs. We left the hotel and got to Sr. Frogs, only to find that to get in there was a $4 cover charge. Tony paid it, however, the guy at the window wanted to charge him $65 dollars. It should have only been $64, another example of why you need to be very alert at tourist traps. We stayed at Sr. Frogs for only about an hour. They were only playing music from the USA and it was old music from the 70’s and 80’s. I was a little disappointed about that. Finally, we went back to the hotel and I was able to get some much needed shut-eye after the long but very interesting day that we had.
I woke up at 6:30 a.m. once again. This time however, it was not in vain. The restaurant was actually open on time at 7:00. I went down and had a bunch of sausage, milk, and cocoa rice krispies to eat. While eating breakfast, Tony came down and started chatting about some of his college years and how he did not get to do anything like this back in college. Then after the group got done with breakfast, it was time to hit the road. We all got packed up and ready to go off to Merida. Along the way, we had to stop at the gas station, which was a Pemex. In Mexico all gas stations are owned by the government, which controls the price accordingly. We were able to buy gas at approximately 5 pesos for a liter. When this was converted to English units it averaged about $2.25 USD per gallon. We then drove for approximately an hour until we arrived at the historical Maya site of Ek Balám.
While there, we got to see some more of the Corbel arches in use throughout the site. We looked around the site first and got to see some more stelae. These stelae contained images of ancient Mayan gods such as Chac, the rain god, that the Mayans worshiped. After walking around some more, we got to see the main pyramid. However, it was noted with markings on the wall so that one could see where the old foundation remained and where the new rebuilding began. The new foundation is what the architects used to figure how the old Mayan ways had been able to have these sites built. We also were able to see how the architects used a numbering system in order to keep track of where the stones were located and where they were pulled from for temple restoration. They also put these numbers in to computer programs and ran patterns on it, to try and find a match for how the building was assembled back in the Mayan days. When we went up the side of the pyramid, the group saw a new site that was being excavated and was almost finished. We were able to see some of the stelae that contained the Mayan rain God, Chac. The reason the Mayan’s prayed so much for rain was because fresh water was very scarce during their time. The only way they felt they could obtain this rain was to offer human sacrifices and pray to the rain god every day in hope for a rain shower.
Next, we scaled the rest of the temple at Ek Balám. When we got to the top we had our group photo opportunity. We got to relax for about 15 minutes, but then it was time to climb back down the pyramid. On the walk down the pyramid, we saw some little bunnies that were found in the wild, but were malnutritioned. The guide there picked them up and gave them some water. Afterward, everyone was back down off of the cliff; we walked to some of the water holes. These chultuns, or water holes, were the storage bins for the Mayans to help them get through their dry season. It was a big cistern that could hold anywhere from 1,200 liters to 25,000 liters of water, depending upon the size. After taking a few pictures of the chultuns, the group went back to the entrance. However, before we left, the visitor’s center was selling water bottles for $1 USD or 10 pesos. I opted to pay with the dollar, because it was slightly cheaper that way. After several group members got drinks, we boarded back up and went to the town of Chichen-Itza.
When we finally arrived there, we went straight to the pyramid to climb up the inside tunnel. We did this part first, because Tony knew that the inside part of the temple tends to close down early. The Toltecs, back in their day, would build their pyramid and every 52 years they would build another pyramid on top of the original. This was how the Mayans and Toltecs were able to make their pyramids as big as we see them today. So, even though this is one of the very few places that you could climb inside the pyramid, it would not be uncommon to find this at some of the other sites, when they receive enough money to excavate the sites better. After our entire group left the inside of the pyramid, we went to eat lunch at the local restaurant that was there. They invited us to come into the restaurant that was supposedly air-conditioned. I had a Philly cheese sandwich, along with some fries and a Sprite to drink. We ate and talked for about an hour and decided what all sites we would be able to see. We first went to the observatory. This was where the Mayan astronomers would go to look at the stars and figure out more about how the constellations were formed. They studied the placement of the sun and stars in order to better figure out how the 52-year calendar went into play. Afterwards, we went to their humongous ball court where they used to play the game. However, at this ball court, there was a temple for the rulers to sit in while they were watching the game. There was also a stairway that would allow for the commoners of the city to be able to watch the game that was going to be played. We then went to another small temple. Along the side of the temple were some snakes along with Quetzacotl. The figure Quetzacotl was the snake that is on the Mexican flag. The flag contains an eagle with a serpent in its mouth on top of a prickly pear cactus. This flag is still in use today throughout Mexico. We then walked toward the entrance towards the Old Chichen Itza; however, it was blocked off to the public because repairs were being done on the old site.
We headed back to the main temple and climbed it, from there we were able to see most of the ancient Toltec city. I was able to get an excellent shot of the Temple of the Warriors, which was in the background. The temple was built so that it would be geometrically aligned with the sun. This is proven during the summer solstice when the stairs along the side of the pyramid appear to light up and cast a shadow so that the snakes appear to be in full figure. After the group got done climbing the temple, we took a group picture. This is the same group picture that can be found on the home web page for the GL399 class for next year. We then headed on over to the Temple of the Warriors. When we got over there, I saw one of the Chacmools guarding the temple entrance. The Toltecs, and not the Mayans, designed these figures. They are always in a seated position with their head turned to one side of their body. Their hands would be holding a dish that would lie upon the tummy. It is believed that the dish was used for the placing the human hearts in order to sacrifice them to the gods. We continued our tour and went to the sweat baths that the Toltecs had designed. This would be very similar to the saunas that we use today.
We then left for Merida, which took about 2 hours to get there. That was because when we arrived in the city of Merida, there was a lot of one-way streets, so in order to get to the street that we wanted we had to go around the block. We finally got to the hotel and were able to try some of the complimentary juice that the hotel provided. We then put our belongings up in our rooms and got ready to go eat at the hotel. I had some rice and chicken for dinner. When ordering my drink, I wanted to get a Sprite but soon learned the substitute for it, which was Toronja, made by Cristal, which was the main refreshment company from Mexico. I was surprised because it actually tasted very similar. Afterwards, I talked to some members of our group for a while and then went back to the room and got some shut-eye.
I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and went down to eat breakfast and had eggs, hotdogs (yes), fruit, and some milk. Then after I got done eating, I went up to my room and got packed and ready to go for the long day ahead. Tony had to call Executive Car Rental to get new windshield wipers for our windows, which took them about half an hour to bring. We then got ready to leave, but had a lot of trouble backing out because other cars boxed us in. Finally, we were able to get out of the parking lot and on our way. We had to stop at a gas station to fill up once again. We then resumed driving and saw the road sign “Obedezca las señales” for about the tenth time, which in English means, “Obey the Signs.” After about an hour drive we ended up in Oxkintok. This place started out bad because they did not have an official bathroom at this site. So, if anyone had to use the bathroom they used the woods. We soon entered the site. We had to pay 27 pesos each, but it was worth it. While at the site, the first thing that we saw was the sacbes, or roadways. These roadways were used to help interconnect the temples within the city all together. We then walked over to the Observatory. We were able to go inside of it and saw how the blocks would line up during the different seasons of the year. The observatory was also controlled by the sun and the seasons under the same manner as many of the other Mayan astrological temples. When the summer solstice occurs, it will light up the entire building so anyone can see inside the entire building. Next, we got to see some more temples that were paying tribute to Chak, the rain god once again. We also were able to see some more of the stellae, which more of the Mayan rulers likenesses were carved into. While walking around some more, we encountered more corbel arches throughout their architecture. We walked a little bit further and were able to see a statute, which is believed by some people to be the god of death. However, other people believe the statue was a meaning for extra terrestrial life forms. We were able to see a lot of grinding stones at this site. The Mayans would use stones in order to grind their corn. When the stone was worn out the Mayan’s would use it to store any water that may have accumulated through the rainfall that would occur during the wet season. While at the site, the tour guide informed us that they had over 100 Chultuns located at this site, however, not all had been excavated because of the lack of funds from the government. They are so good at storing water, that they refurbished one of the chitins and are using it as one of their storage bins for water. While there, we were also able to see the old Mayan bathing house and dressing rooms. One thing that was weird was the entry way for the bathhouse was only through a small crawl space about the size of a regular room window of today. The tour guide did such a good job that Tony treated him fairly and gave him a 150-peso tip for his hard work. The guide was so impressed that he thanked Tony many times over. After loading back up in the vans, we headed off to Uxmal. We first ate lunch at the restaurant that they had while at Uxmal. I went the American style once again and had a ham and cheese sandwich and a Sprite. After we got done eating, the tour provided by Tony became underway. The first thing we saw when we entered into Uxmal was the Temple of the Magician. The Temple was shut down because the architects were repairing it. They were replacing the stones and also using the numbering system in order to keep track of where everything went. The numbering system will help them put the pyramid back together. The information is entered into a computer to try and discover better matches of how the pyramid looked back in the time of the Mayans. We then walked around to the backside of the pyramid where most of the reconstruction was taking place. While we were back there we saw some more of Chac, atop one of the smaller buildings on the side of the Temple of the Magician. We also saw one on one of the side buildings. The Indians that lived at this site were the Puuc Indians. They placed birds atop some of their temples. These birds were parrots, which were quite common during their reign. While we were walking around the site, we saw some more of the Corbel arches used throughout much of their architecture. After walking around for a little bit, our group encountered the Place of the Governor. While there, we were able to see an arrow pointing up towards the sky and at the top of the structure, as usual, was a corbel arch. One thing that was different though, was the arrow. It is the only one that has been spotted in Mayan architecture pointing up towards the sky. Afterwards, we went back down the stairs of the governor’s palace and went to another Mayan pyramid, which was taller. From this view, we were able to see the palace, Temple of the Warriors, and many of the other Mayan sites. This made for a good photo opportunity that I even took advantage of. We then headed on over to the Temple of the Dead. When we arrived there, we saw many of the stones that had skull bone crossings on them. These are very similar to those found today in graveyards or as danger symbols. A few of the group members went into the temple that was there. The others of us stayed out in the graveyard and relaxed for about 15 minutes. We then got around and went back to the front and left because the site was getting ready to closedown. When we arrived back at the entrance area, everyone from our group went over to the local shop and were able to purchase an ice cold water for 10 pesos which is a pretty good deal considering it was at an attraction site. As we were leaving to head back out to our cars, the ladies started haggling with Tony to try and get him to buy a T-shirt. Tony was able to get them down to 30 pesos or 3 dollars for a shirt. However, he walked out to the van and discovered that Matt and some of the others in the van had gotten her down to 25 pesos for a shirt. Tony decided to forget it and left. On the trip back to Merida, we stopped at a little town and went to the local Catholic Church that was there. When we entered the church we saw several pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which is very similar to the Virgin Mary that is worshipped in the Catholic religion here in the United States today. We then went out to the town square and saw a statue of Benito Juarez in the middle of the city. Tony said that this was quite common throughout the cities in Mexico. They would have a town square and would usually have a statue paying respect to the first Indian president, Benito Juarez. When we were walking back to our vans, we ran into the town drunk. He wanted to be our tour guide, but Tony rejected him and gave him a 50 centavos piece. We then got back into our vans and went back to Merida. On the way back we got a little lost on some of the streets because most were one-way. However, we finally made it back to the hotel. When I got back, I got my $20 USD exchanged for pesos at the hotel so I could actually have some spending cash. I then went back up to the room, wrote a little in my journal, and got ready for dinner. I had some rice with chicken again along with some angel food cake to eat. I then had a Toronja as my drink. At the dinner table, Tony asked us to name something that was good and something that was bad about the day. I responded that the trip to Oxkintok was a good idea because we were able to do basically whatever we wanted and did not have to worry about all of the tourists coming along like we did at Chichen Itza or Tulum. One bad thing about the day was that it was very long and not a lot of time to relax and enjoy the trip. After everyone in the group had given a reply, everyone from the group went back to their room and either chatted or got some rest. I chose the latter option.
I awoke at 7:04 am. Dr. de la Cova gave us an extra half an hour for rest because we were spending the day in Merida. I then got around and went down to eat breakfast. Once again, I had some nice safe fruit, cottage cheese and chicken to eat. After breakfast, I went across the street to get some of my money exchanged at 8.85 pesos per dollar. Then went back to the lobby and got ready to go to the market. We then boarded in the vans and headed about 2 miles down to the market. When we arrived, we walked into one of the markets and started learning how to haggle in the stores for the best price. We first started by walking into the three main clothing stores. Tony would ask for the best prices and the best deal and then he would haggle for a lesser price. We then haggled around for about an hour. I was able to buy 2 guyaberras and 9 postcards for 400 pesos or about 40 dollars, which is a pretty good deal. It reminded me of going to a garage sale at home but being able to buy new stuff at the lower price. Tony had told us in class that the bigger stores have a number code that they follow. This code is how they keep track of what the prices are on all of their items. Sara and Jason were able to decipher the code at the store. A ‘P’ represented a 1 and an ‘S’ represented a ‘0’. We then had to cut our marketing short and go to the cities square. While there we walked around and saw that it was set up in much the same manner as the one that we saw in the small city that we had passed through on our way back to Merida. After we made our way around the town square, we then went and had something to drink at one of the local stores. I had a large bottled water because I was feeling slightly dehydrated. While we were drinking our drinks and socializing, some of the local street venders came up and started harassing us to buy their product. It reminded me of New York City and how the suitcase watch salesman would always be trying to make a sale. Except here, it was better quality stuff. After we finished with our drinks, we walked back towards the vans, but along the way we encountered a pharmacy and decided to stop. While we were there, I was able to buy two boxes of Cipro for 91.30 pesos or $10 in USD. If I was in the United States and tried to buy the same medicine, it would have cost me approximately $300. This was yet another example of how much cheaper prices were in Mexico as compared to the United States. We walked a little bit further down the block and saw a liquor store. I was able to pick up a liter of pop and a bottle of Vodka for $25 pesos or $3. That is the cheapest prices that I have seen for alcohol in my life. After everyone got what they wanted, we went back to the vans and drove to the Anthropology and Historical Museum at Merida. While at the museum, we were presented a Mayan recap of all of the things that we had seen and done while at the sites. Also, while at the museum, we got to see more about how the Mayan calendar worked and could be used to determined dates of data that were recorded by the Mayans many years ago. We also got to see more of the grinding stones, which the Mayans used in order to grind the corn so it could be used in their food. We were able to see how the Mayan’s established their numbering system back in that day. We learned that a circle stood for an Arabic 1 and a bar stood for an Arabic 5. The group also got to see some more of the Chacmools with, of course, their head turned off to the side of their body. We then got to see what the guide at Oxkintok said happened to one of his or her own sites. It was a statue with its legs chopped off. While wandering around some more at the museum, we saw some of the replicas in the form of models of what the sites looked like at many of the sites we had visited. Some of the models that we saw were the Governor’s Palace at Uxmal, the Ball Courts at Chichen Itza, and the pyramid at Coba. After touring the downstairs of the museum, we decided to go upstairs. While up there, we were able to see how the ladies were back in the Mayan age. Also as a group, we were able to see how the stones were used in the Mayan bodies. For example, we saw pieces of jade that were stuck in their teeth. In order to achieve this they would carve out part of the teeth and insert the jewels, mostly jade, into the empty spot. Also, we went back down to the lobby area and I walked back through the first site and saw how the colors of red, black, and green were used on the pots. I found out from Tony that the reason they used these colors in their pots and plates was because they would not fade or lose their color when they were fired or when used for cooking. Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel. When we returned to the hotel, Casey, Pavey and many others such as myself went over to Wal-Mart and picked up some of the supplies for the next day. After I got back to the hotel, I put the stuff that I had purchased in my hotel room and went downstairs to get some dinner. I had some fettuccini alfredo which is my favorite dish to have so I loaded up on a lot of it. I also had a Toronja to drink. After I finished eating, Tony started talking with me about the ups and downs of the day. I was all for the market and getting to shop because it just seemed liked a big garage sale to me. The thing that I disliked about the day was what most people agreed with. That was the lack of time at the market. So, Tony decided that he would give us Saturday morning before we left to go back to Cancun to go to the market. Afterwards, we went back to our rooms. I wrote a little more in my journal and then decided to call it a day.
I awoke at 6:15 am to begin yet another adventurous day. I got around as usual and went down to eat some breakfast. I had some eggs and ham, cottage cheese, peaches, and some milk. When I was finished with breakfast, I went back up to my room and got packed for the upcoming daily adventure. At about 9 am, we left our hotel. As we were driving toward the site of Santa Rosa, we got lost and Tony had to ask for directions twice. He wanted to make sure the Mexican town-folk were giving him correct directions. Then, when we got on the correct road, it had more potholes in it than a slice of Swiss cheese. Whenever we hit a bump, the van would slide all over the place because the pothole would jar the car so bad. In fact, one time, Tony tried to pass a car and splashed the other driver with a crap load of water. Of course, he was not very pleased and gave Tony the finger. However, that did not make us slow down any. We kept on plowing our way down the road. Luckily, the townspeople were telling the truth and we finally reached the site at Santa Rosa. While at the site, we were able to see more temples. The group was able to go see the House of the Serpents. This building actually looked like what it said it was in our book. A serpent actually went around the outside of the door forming the lips of the serpent and the door represented the dark space of a mouth. Of course, along with all of the serpents, there were also the gods, and once again, of course, Chac, the rain god. As one can see by now rain was very scarce for the Mayans. Praying for rain was not uncommon at all, as strange as it may sound to us. On some of the temples at Santa Rosa, we were able to see more of the Mayan hieroglyphs. They were just like those seen on the stela at some of the other sites. While at the site, the guide allowed us to climb on one of the temples there. If Tony would have opted not to take a tour guide here then probably we would have not been able to climb up on the temple. One of the great things was that you could see some of the other temples while you were up at that height. After we got done climbing the temple and touring some more parts of the site, like the many chultuns, which by this time we had already seen hundred’s, most of the group was losing interest in them. So, shortly after seeing a few chultuns, we headed back towards the vans. When we returned most people had to make a pit stop, including me. The reason I mention this is because the best facilities that we had been at for an archeological site that was not one of their most popular ones in a long while. Tony was so frustrated at the bad road, that he talked to the people that ran the site. They said they tried to get the government to come out and fix it but they would not because there was not enough interest. So, Tony decided to write a letter to the government to tell them to come out and fix the road and advertise so they could get more people to visit the site. Hopefully, when he takes the trip next year, he will be able to drive back to the site with greater ease. After he wrote the letter, we went back down the bumpy and corroded road towards the site of Tahock. Along the way, we stopped off at one of the Pemex gas stations to ask for directions. Come to find out, we were only a mile away from the site. So, after we got some small snacks at the little convenience store that they had there; we went to the site. This site was different from all of the rest. This site was a governmental site instead of being owned by the archeological zone like all of the others. Due to some quick talking in Spanish by one of the members in our group, the tour guide decided not to charge us for admission to the site. While there we did not really get to see much that we had not seen before. There was only one temple that had been excavated at this site. So, there was a little bit of stellae at the site with some hieroglyphic carvings on it, but nothing really out of the ordinary. However, this site did have one of the ball hoops that the Mayans used during their ancient game. So, the group was able to see what the hoop actually looked like up close. We then walked around the site a little more to some parts that had only been partially uncovered. While walking around, Casey spotted a leave that had fallen from a tree. Come to find out it was off of a peach tree. She wanted to know what the seeds were used for and the guide said that the inside juices could be used in order to drink, but he did not recommend it. He also said that the tree’s trunk or wood was used to make chairs. Afterwards, Tony gave the guy 150 pesos tip because he did not charge us anything at the gate. That only figured to $1 a person which was not bad at all. We then boarded up in the vans and headed towards Edzna. When we arrived there it was 4:30pm and the place was to close in half an hour or at 5:00. Tony pleaded with the lady so we could stay another hour. Tony bribed her with 200 pesos and she said O.K. So, finally we got in and got to see some sites. We just went to the basic general open area because of lack of time. We were able to climb the Great Pyramid at Edzna. When we were at the top, we had another group photo taken. Got to love those group photos! When we climbed back down we walked around and saw another ball court that the Mayan’s used to play their specialized game. We also were able to spot a big chultun, or so we thought. Instead the item we discovered was the Platform for the Ambassadors. This was the first site to have anything like this on display. So, it was nice to see something different. Soon, 5:30 rolled around and we had to start rolling out. When we reached the front entryway, we used the facilities and then were able to purchase a soda for only 4 pesos. What a steal, especially at a tourist attraction place. The gate guard was just sitting there patiently getting ready to let us out. In order to insure that we would get out, Tony gave the guard 50 pesos and he gladly let us out, no questions asked. We then took Highway 180 back to Merida and arrived at the hotel at 8pm. This was just in time for dinner. I hurriedly got around and went down to eat. I enjoyed some steak and some types of fruit to eat. It was probably one of the better dinners that I had on the trip. After the group finished eating, Lex, Skippy, a few others, and myself had one beer, which was Leon Negro. In English it means Black Lion. It was a dark draft but it was good. I gladly paid the 26 pesos for it and hit the sack because my roommates were already in bed due to the long day that we had just had.
I awoke at 6:35 am. I got around and went down to eat breakfast. I had a ham, cheese, and egg omelet, along with the regular cottage cheese and peaches that I always had. When I was finished, I went across the street to get money exchanged at 8.96 pesos to the dollar. Then I returned back to the hotel and awaited the other members of our group to arrive. When everyone arrived, we boarded into the vans and headed off to a small town called Ake. When we arrived in Ake, we went to the local town’s church because it was one of the few buildings we actually saw that looked historic. Then we drove over to the rope factory and we were able to take a tour of the factory for $30 pesos a piece, which I thought was reasonable. While at the factory, we were able to see how the old 19th century system for making rope was still in use today. One of group members asked since the system was so old how did they replace parts when it breaks. The guide said that they repair it by hand. For example, when one of the belts would break they would take a patch and start to replace it by stitching the two ends back together. When the system was operational again, they would resume work. The guide even gave us part of the twine that they had used for making the rope. The group also learned that the plant called henequen was used in making these fibers. He told us later that they also used it for making tequila. I was just in shock that some the machines dated back from the 19th century and still are functioning and being used to make rope today. The guide said that he would not be surprised if they still use the same equipment 50 years from now, just because the newer machinery is not as durable. After our tour of the factory the guide took us around some more. We were able to climb one of the pyramids while we were there. After a brief overlook of the city, the guide took us over to his master’s house and showed us around. While inside of the house, he showed us some of the paintings that his master had collected and mounted on the walls. We were able to basically see how a Mexican traditional house was laid out. There was even a pool at this house; however, it had not been kept up so there was insects and algae growing in it. While at the house, we saw many paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This was further proof that most Mexicans are very religious to the Catholic faith and strongly practice it throughout their household. Afterwards, we walked back up to the church and was able to go inside of it, because the guy had the key since his master was the head keeper of the church. The first thing that we saw of course was the Virgin of Guadalupe. This figure is very similar to the United State’s Virgin Mary and basically serves the same purpose. After we finished with the small tour of the church, Tony tipped the guy a few pesos and as we were walking back down to the vans, we were stopped by some local kids. They were asking us for some extra change because they knew that we were tourists. I hooked them each up with 5 pesos apiece. Then Tony got a hare-brained idea to have Pavey and myself act like we were taking money from the children. The children did not figure out what was going on at first, but finally caught on and had a big laugh. After everyone got their photo opportunity, we got back in the vans and headed down the road towards the town of Izamal. Along the way to the city, we hit a box that was lying in the road when we were passing another vehicle. Luckily, it was empty and did not hit anything on the underside of the van to damage it. When we arrived at Izamal, a tourist traffic cop directed us. By the time we arrived it was lunchtime, so Tony asked the guy if he knew where a good restaurant was. The tourist cop took us to the “El Toro” restaurant, which was our first real Mexican restaurant on the entire trip. I had arroz con pollo; it had chicken with ham and cheese inside of it along with a side of rice. It was one of the better meals of the trip and I would highly recommend it if another group is allowed to go on the trip. After we finished eating the gourmet Mexican cuisine, we started taking a tour of the city. The first thing that we noticed was that the entire city was painted in white and yellow. This custom was set forth many years ago by the settlers that started the town and is still in use today throughout the entire city. We started our tour with the Great Chapel, which was located almost in the middle of the city. The tour guide surprisingly spoke English and was able to communicate with us, but he had a Mayan accent, which was fine with me. The first thing we saw as soon as we walked inside of the building there was the Virgin of Guadalupe. The church was built back in the late 19th century and he gave a tour of the monuments inside. We also saw how Jesus was still used as a tributary figure throughout the Catholic Church. As we continued walking through the church, we passed through a small tunnel that connected the upper and lower parts of the church. Some of the old crossbeams that formed the top of the arch were still intact and were still the original ones like those back when the church was built. After we passed through the tunnel, we went to the upper room. There we were able to see where they kept the tomb with a stained glass window of the Virgin of Guadalupe depicted in it. Afterwards, we went back through the tunnel, we headed to the outside of the church towards the pyramid at Izamal. The guide allowed us to climb it, but the skies were getting ready to rain. So, after we scaled the pyramid at Izamal, we went back down to the market. While we were there shopping around, it started to rain. After the storm picked up the stores began shutting down. Tony decided to give us an hour to shop around at some of the stores at some of the other locations. After about half an hour, most people were ready to leave. However, Sara, Jason, Emily, and Jay went to shop at some of the other local stores like Tony permitted us to do. So, we had to wait the entire hour before everyone was ready to go. After everyone got back to the vans we loaded up and then went back to the hotel. When we arrived, I went up to my room and decided to take a 2-hour nap. At about 8:00pm, Matt Isbell and Richard Thacker returned back to the room from their trip to Wal-Mart. At about that time I awoke and decided to go down to eat dinner. Unfortunately, it was the same old stuff that had been there every night before. The only thing that was added was some fried rice so that did help. Afterwards, I talked with Valerie and Skippy for a while, just to find out about their opinions of the trip so far. They said that they had enjoyed it. Later, Tony came down to the dinner table and we talked about the good and bad things of the day. Afterwards, I went up and got some dessert. Then I went up to my room, wrote a little in this journal, and then decided to go to bed.
I woke up at 6:35am. When I got up I packed the rest of my stuff
in my suitcase and got ready for the return trip back to Indiana.
I got cleaned up and then went down to breakfast. As usual, I had
a bunch of peaches and cottage cheese. For some reason my stomach
was not feeling very good and I figured that I should not upset it even
more, so that is why I ate very lightly. Afterwards, I went to Wal-Mart
and picked up some of their water and bread for approximately $1.00 USD.
Then I went back to the hotel, had some bread, and got ready for the trip
to the market. Everyone got into the vans and went down to the market.
When we arrived, I went with Lex, Brent, and Matt through the market.
While there, we went through several shops, but did not really find anything
to appealing that caught our eyes. They had everything from
hammocks, to hats, to rugs, to you name it that they wanted to sell.
Finally, Brent broke down and found a hat that he deemed of his high standard,
but he had to pay 160 pesos for it. We shopped around for the liquor
store, but were unable to find it just because the market was so huge.
In order to better visualize the market think of a humongous anthill and
it has just been sprayed with RAID. Now, everyone is scurrying around
from place to place just trying to get what he or she needs to stay alive.
That was what the market was like, a mass chaos. Of course, it probably
did not help that one of Mexico’s big celebrations was that evening so
a lot of people were coming into town for that. After Brent got the
hat he wanted, our little group headed back toward the vans because it
was almost time to leave. Along the way back however, Lex and I spotted
two of the Virgin of Guadalupe Candles we were able to pick both of them
up for 25 pesos, which was a good deal. After we had purchased our
candles, we walked on out to the vans and surprisingly everyone was about
ready to go. We left about 11:45 am and went back to the Holiday
Inn again so everyone could grab their stuff and load it into the vans.
While I was waiting for everyone to put their stuff in the van, I went
over to the store and bought some postcards just to see how they would
go through the mail system’s customs. After they were sent, I returned
to find the group had packed up the stuff and we went to eat lunch.
The group ate lunch at McDonald’s, which was different because the restaurant
was almost spot free. Something that you would never see in the United
States so, it was quite a site to see. Also, when we pulled into
the place there was a parking lot attendant to assist parking, and that
too was a little different. While we were eating people in our group
began to run out of soda, especially Skippy. She wanted to know if
they had free refills. So, I went up to the counter and asked in
Spanish. They said yes but only one. So, basically everyone
in our group then went up to get another refill. After everyone was
finished with his or her meal, we headed towards Cancun. We got on
the expressway and there were only four cars on it the whole entire way
to Cancun. This was great because we could make great time.
Of course it made logical sense because in order to drive on it. Tolls
were charged along the route. They were 200 pesos or about 20USD, so it
was quite expensive. The ride was smooth. However, as we approached Cancun
we got into a severe thunderstorm. Rain was coming down so hard that
it was almost like a hailstorm. After about 30 minutes, the rain
let up and by this time everyone in our van had to use the bathroom.
Finally, after another hour we got to the airport. I guess I was
in such a hurry to go that I forgot my one-liter of Toronja similar to
our Sprite in the van. Oh well, one of the van rental guys is going
to enjoy that. I then got into line and my bag went through the conveyor
belt and everything checked out ok. I then went through the baggage
check and was stopped again and had to give up my scissors because they
were over the desired length for a blade. I was ticked off by this
time because everyone else had left and also because my scissors were taken.
I then went down to my desired gate which was B13 and come to find out
they moved the flight to gate A5. By this time I was really ticked
because I knew good and well that the gate change was not posted anywhere.
So, anyways, I went to gate A5 and waited an hour for boarding to start.
When the plane was ready to board, I was able to set by Lex who was the
driver in our group and we got along ok so it made for an enjoyable return
flight. The flight was approximately 3 hours long and I listened
to music the entire way back. After the plane landed in Indy’s International
Airport, I had to go through customs again. For once, I did not have
any problems with the customs. I went through just fine. After I
got out of customs, I went to Plainfield and got dropped off at Jason’s
fraternity brother’s place. From there, we went back to Rose-Hulman;
I got dropped off at Scharpenburg Hall. I then took the stuff up
to my room and called it a day.