By day 5, culture shock is starting to settle in. I am starting to realize all of the things that I once took for granted, and started to realize how grateful I am for them. To start off, the hotel where Kyle and I were staying had very short beds. Kyle and I are both relatively tall compared to the rest of the Mexican people, leaving our feet hanging off the edge. I am grateful for our bed. I am also grateful that at home, I can take a shower without sandals on, flush my toilet paper, and drink water from the tap. It’s little things like that that make me realize how much I love the United States of America. However, I didn’t let that spoil our trip. I may have realized the things I love, but I definitely enjoyed the growing experience.
There were plenty more growing experiences this day, starting with church. We went to sacrament meeting with a ward near our hotel. It was interesting that I had no idea what they were saying, but at the same time, I could sense their message. I’m thankful that I had Kyle to translate a bit. The best part of that meeting was when we got to see the missionaries serving there. An elder from Utah confirmed a new member during sacrament meeting. Even though I have no idea what he said, the spirit was strong and I couldn’t help but get teary as I was thinking I have my brother doing the same thing elsewhere. I’m thankful for missionaries.
After church, Kyle and I hoped on a bus to drive us to Chichen Itza, another Mayan ruin and wonder of the world. This bus was for locals and not usually used for tourists. It wove in and out of little villages all the way. This also meant a very bumpy and long ride, leaving me with motion sickness. Kyle didn’t mind at all as he is very used to it from his mission, and slept through most of it anyway. I’m thankful for my own car to get me places; buses can be so inconvenient sometimes. However, I am very grateful that I was able to see a side of Mexico that not many tourists are able to see. It was an impactful experience to see how the people work, live, and travel and in the process, realize how lucky I am.
Soon we arrived at Chichen Itza, and within minutes of walking into the park, Kyle and I realized it was well worth the trip. This Mayan ruin was built between 600 AD and 800 AD. It is incredibly large and expansive. It took us a good two hours to walk through everything, but we were speed walking so we could see everything possible. I imagine that if we took the time to read about each building, it would have taken much longer.
Like the other two ruin sites that we went to, there were many of the same types of buildings; a very large ball park (which Kyle deemed the world cup arena of the Mayans), a massive pyramid (the face of Chichen Iza), a plaza of 1000 columns, sacrificial alters with hundreds of skulls cut in the walls representing each victim, an observatory, a nunnery, priest and priestess quarters, and the list could go on and on. This was truly an incredible culture. They were so advanced for their time; even more so that some Europeans. I’m grateful for the experience to be able to see such an amazing place and learn more about this people.
As a quick note to this photo – This is the “world cup arena”. Though the architecture of it is pretty amazing, the game itself is pretty incredible too. Kyle explained it as a mixture of soccer, basketball, and rugby. The players are only allowed to kick the ball with their feet, and bump it with their hips. The point of the game it to hit the ball through the two hoops that are located on each side of the arena (you can see the one on the left the best). They can also bounce the ball off the walls. That takes some serious skill.
There were also hundreds of tourists, making it difficult to get any picture without another person in it, and many little booths set up by salesmen along the paths. That definitely added to the experience. I’ve never been yelled at more in my life. “Hey lady, you like?”… Kyle even was asked to trade his hat for something because the salesman took a fancy to it. It didn’t happen, but that would have been a good trade as Kyle got the hat for free.
Soon enough we were back on the bus enjoying our scant meal of crackers and tuna fish. We tried to prepare ahead so we wouldn’t have to buy any food, which brings me to another point. I’m thankful that I can make my own food, in my own kitchen. Eating out or from a market is not very healthy. Especially when you don’t know where the food came from, or how it was prepared.
Eventually, after a long bus ride, we arrived in Playa del Carmen again and rushed to catch a ferry to Cozumel. Unfortunately, we missed it by a matter of minutes and had to wait another hour or so before we could get on another. We spent our time lounging near the dock, watching tourists, and enjoying a short show by some Mayan men. It was actually pretty incredible. These men climbed to the top a a pole, sat on the top, wound four ropes around the top of the pole, tied a rope around their waists and then dropped themselves off. This left them spinning upside down until the rope became unwound. Meanwhile, another man was left standing on top of the pole playing a flute and drum at the same time.
Time came for us to board the ferry. Kyle saw some members that he knew from his mission, while waiting in line and enjoyed catching up with them. They didn’t speak much English, and I don’t know any Spanish, so that left me enjoying the ocean breeze and smiling every now and then when Kyle motioned to me. I’m grateful when I am able to communicate with new acquaintances. Miming, translating, and arm motions can get exhausting after a while. A short time passed and we made it to the ferry only for me to be greeted with more motion sickness. I closed my eyes to try to deal with it and ended up falling asleep on Kyle’s shoulder for the remainder of the trip.
After being woken by Kyle, we exited the ferry, collected our suitcases and walked out to the road. There, we were greeted by Sam and Ceyla, some friends of Kyle who were kind enough to let us stay at their house for the remainder of our trip. Upon arrival, Ceyla made us amazing quesadillas and served us cold cantaloupe water. I am extremely grateful for Sam and Ceyla who both speak English, and for their hospitality in feeding Kyle and I. We were both quite hungry at that point.
We talked until the wee hours of the night until I started to nod off again. After a wonderfully cold shower, I nestled into the hammock that was to be my bed. Though the hammock was amazingly comfortable to sleep in, the mosquitoes buzzing in from the open windows to make me their midnight feast, were not so welcome. Need I even say that I am grateful for air conditioning and mosquito repellent?