A surprisingly peaceful day, considering the main attraction was one of the Seven (Existing) Wonders of the Ancient World.
Today, I went to Mexico.
This was a big one. Even though I’ve already added a new state to my traveled-to list this week, today marked the first time since landing in Israel almost exactly 10 years ago that I’ve been able to add a new country to that list. This brings my grand total of countries visited to a whopping four. Well, I’ve been saying for a while now that I wanted to See America First, so I guess I’m making good on that goal. Granted, getting to Maine was a bit easier and cheaper than getting to Mexico…
I wish I could provide a grand, sweeping piece of exposition about my overall impressions of our southern neighbor but, alas, my exploration of the Mexican people, culture, and countryside was limited primarily to a tour bus (which did have all of its safety information written in Spanish, at least). But even from there, I could tell that the Yucatan peninsula appears relatively flat and scrubby – despite my expectations that it would be hilly. Despite being the site of the largest impact crater on Earth, and despite my best inside-the-bus-looking-out-the-window efforts, I could find no evidence of the Chixilub impact that killed off the dinosaurs. Although, 65 million years of continental drift and erosion probably didn’t help.
After 2 hours on the bus, we arrived at our destination for the day: Chichen Itza. One of the largest and most complex ancient Mayan cities ever discovered, its centerpiece is a 10-level pyramid temple, dedicated to several gods, taking the form of snakes, elephants (which the Maya had never seen), and a tall white man with a beard (which, presumably, they had also never seen at the time the temple was built). This, and most other buildings in the city reference the practice of human sacrifice, which I had never associated with the Maya before. Apparently, though, other pre-Columbian people who conquered the city brought with them the practice, which appears to have caught on, at least to some degree. On the famous Mayan ball court at Chichen Itza, the captain of the winning team would proudly allow himself to be sacrificed at the conclusion of the match. When athletes today talk about “going out on top,” they have nothing on Mayan ball players.
There was definitely a vendor presence at Chichen Itza, but the merchants weren’t nearly as obnoxious as they probably could have been. This appeared to be one of those places where bargaining is expected so, naturally, I stayed as far away as possible. Besides, even if I found the best trinket ever, where would I put it in my 670-square-foot apartment anyway?
The vendors threw into question what I had assumed was a fairly restrictive conservation status at Chichen Itza. At first I thought it was a national park, but it’s not. Then I thought it had some special Mayan designation. Or a degree of preservation status as an archeological site. I’m still not sure if any of that is true, and internet access here on the Carnival Hamentaschen is too precious to use up on such research (although, I’ll definitely be using a few of my internet seconds to figure out who played the bad guy in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie that popped up on every channel this afternoon. Geoffrey Rush maybe?).
All in all, Chichen Itza was a worthwhile trip. Although the 2-hour ride each way ate up a good chunk of the day, when else am I going to be within 2 hours of a Wonder of the Ancient World? Besides, we’ll have another opportunity to do tropical beach things tomorrow at Cozumel. Today, at least for a few hours, it finally felt like I was on an adventure.
Oh, by the way – it seems that today was some sort of festive occasion both on and off the Carnival Constipation. I knew nothing about this celebration, but I did observe some strange goings-on. As we drove through one town that Tour Guide Carlos 1 told us had a particularly high Catholic population, we saw a 25-foot fake plastic pine tree decorated with glass and silver balls standing proudly outside the local church. This seemed odd, since pine trees do not grow naturally anywhere within hundreds of miles of this town. Well, I guess if this group of Mexican Catholics wants to celebrate the birth of their God by following a German winter tradition, that’s their call.
But the people on the Carnival Fellatio were acting strange, too. Before dinner, many of them gathered in the central atrium to sing boring non-tonal songs about how quiet of an evening it was, and about how cold it was back in their home towns. And then the most baffling thing happened – as they sang about winter, fake snow started falling through the atrium. Silly goyim, what are you doing? You leave your cold homes in the middle of the winter to escape to a tropical country, only to pretend it’s snowing and lament the fact that there won’t be a white Christmas in said country? Very strange. And I still don’t see how Jesus figures into any of this.
Rather than go watch an evening show filled with more of this craziness, we decided to make it an early night, returning to our room and greeted by a towel giraffe. I prepared for tomorrow’s aquatic adventures by wedging the camera into its special dry bag. I’m a little nervous, since I haven’t done a real submersion test with it, but if it dies, it will die happy.