Saturday, June 27, 2015

Toto, I've a Feeling We're Not in Utah Anymore

Today was a chillax day, which was nice (all this running around has made me quite tired, even if said running has been enjoyable).

Started out by arising late at 10 AM (mainly because I could.  Mainly because I'd stayed up late writing my blog last night :) ), getting dressed, and eating breakfast.  (My MM came into the kitchen as I was eating and said, "You woke late today" or something like that.  I just smiled sheepishly at her).  After that, Connor, Brandon, Scott, Christina, and I decided to go to the city center, where Wal-Mart was (Scott needed to buy pillows).  So we walked to where we catch the bus for school, and caught the Copo Route 3 bus to the city center.  Here's some pictures from the walk to the bus stop:

Isn't it pretty?  It's important to note this is not the flower on the plant.  These are just the leaves.
This little tiny white flower is the actual flower :)  (Cool huh?  And they have this plant everywhere in Merida, in lots of different colors).
Here's a picture of a lime tree - they also have these everywhere, I believe.
This is another pretty flower I found, growing under a window.
Here's some other flowers, actually growing on a tree.
Another another tree flower.
And Another.
And a tree with colored leaves that only look like flowers.
 Anyway, after the bus (on which, I accidentally sat on my pack the wrong way.  By that I mean, I sat in such a way that I hit the spray button on my sunscreen.  I don't know how long I sat on it, but by the time I noticed, my bag and dress were soaked.  Luckily, it dried pretty quick), we headed into Wal-Mart.  Let me tell you, Wal-Marts in Mexico are not like the Wal-Marts in the US.  For one, everything is in Spanish.  (As seen here).  Well, not everything.  Lots of stuff is in English because it's been imported. Which suddenly explains why everything in the United States is in English and Spanish (#lightbulb).

Another difference is the products.  I don't believe they sell mopeds in the American Wal-Marts...

Or sell, "pack it yourself" meat.  (There are gloves, Styrofoam, and wrap provided.  The meat is kept in these chilled boxes).

Or whatever this comfy, swingy thing is...

 They also don't play catchy Latino music (which was SO fun to listen to.  I had to resist the urge to dance).  Annnd, in the Wal-Mart they have little "try this!" vendors everywhere, which was fun.  I didn't try anything, but we did ask one if they knew where the umbrellas were.   Anyway, at the end of the Wal-Mart escapade, I ended up buying a Sunny D tasting drink and this delicious treat:

It's marshmallow with a Strawberry jelly on top.  (Can you say yum?)
 We then walked out of the Wal-Mart and proceeded to stroll through the 'outdoor' mall connected to it.  I have outdoor in quotations because the walk way, playground, a food court, and stuff was outdoor, but you still went indoors to the different stores.  It was fun.  Again, there was booming Latino music playing (though actually, I've come to notice that most times, there is English songs playing.  Kind of interesting).  I think the reason the walk way is outside is because it's cheaper and cooler.  It's cheaper because, well, they don't have to pay to AC an entire mall.   It's cooler (temperature cooler) because if they had it indoors, but were unable to AC it, it would have been roasting.  An outdoor mall is better than an indoor mall with no AC.

Anyway, after that (and after two of our group members got shooed away from the playground meant for the 6-12 year olds) we came back to our bus stop (which looks like this.  Yes, we are standing under and overpass):

This is where it gets exciting.  So, we get on the bus, all confident that we'll be able to get off the bus at the right time.  Which, well, we would've, if not for the fact that the bus was jammed full by the time we got to our stop.  See, normally, the bus driver knows to pull over because you stand up.  Well, when you have a whole isle of people standing up (when the seats are full, you can stand in the aisle, holding onto the metal bar above your head) that kind of goes out the window.  We found out later that there is a little button you can press to let the driver know to let you off.  We shall definitely remember that for next time.  So, long story short, we ended up getting off at the end of the line.  Luckily, the end of the line was el Centro.  So, we just walked the four or so blocks to the buses we used last night (luckily Connor had it all mark on his google maps on his phone.  #ilovetechnology).  Here's a pigeon I saw at the bus stop (the one to take us back home).

And this is a picture of us on the bus ride home (with Scott doing a true rendition of what we felt like).

Left to Right:  Me, Scott, Connor
 When we finally got home, MM had lunch waiting for Christina and I.  It.  Was. DELICIOUS.  See?:

All this food here was mixed into a bowl of broth (MM left it separate cause she didn't know if we wanted it mixed together or not).  So, at the end, there was broth, cilantro, onion, pork (delicious, succulent pork), beans, rice, and sauteed tomato.  This is actually a traditional Mayan dish.  And it was YUMMY.  (Oh my yum).
 After lunch, Connor came over to do homework (memorizing a sexy poem - at least, that's what our teacher calls it - and doing a vocab reading thing) with Christina and I, as well as to get help with his blog (because, totes obvs, I am a pro at this).  We tried to do it up here on this balcony, but there was no good WiFi.  So we ended up going into the classroom off the balcony (which is where MM's husband teaches English).  Here's a pic of the balcony:

The popcorn our MM brought us while we were blogging.

The spicy dip MM brought us to try with our popcorn.  It was actually pretty good!
 After our homework was done, we (Scott, Brandon, Chrstina, Connor, and I) headed out to a fiesta in the calle montejo!  Which apparently happens every Saturday night (and we are TOTALLY going.  Every.  Single.  Saturday).
A bad pictures of the dancers performing there.  Next week I'll try to get a video posted!!
The sketchy vendor food I ate :P  Just kidding, it wasn't sketchy.  And it was a yummy cheese tamale!  (We're gonna go with that because I can't remember the real name of it, lol).

The enormous ice cream I bought.  You should've seen the look on everyone's faces when I rejoined the group.  Conner exclaimed, "What did you get??" (Also, note the charro on the left side of the bowl there).
The best part of the night happened as we were sitting eating our different desserts.  So we were sitting there and this vendor comes up, and he's selling these hand fans.  He asks me if I want one, for 50 pesos, and I say, "No gracias."  He then said, "Ah, you speak Spanish - very good" as he was walking away.  I then burst into laughter, and had to try to contain myself as I shared the story with my other four companions who were like, "wait, what?"  THEN this guy comes back and asks Connor if he would like a fan for 50 pesos.  Saying he could give it to his girlfriend.  Then Connor said, "But I don't have a girlfriend," and the guy was like, "Okay, then 40 pesos."  Still unwilling to buy, the man made such a funny, classic face -  kind of a big *sigh*/comically exasperated face - and says, "35 pesos."  Sold!  Connor, Scott, and I bought one.  I half bought it because the seller was SO funny, and it was such a treat to do business with him.

After all that, we decided to head home as it was getting late.  So we caught the bus home (we didn't get lost this time, thank goodness).  MM had dinner waiting for us (well, she told us she'd have dinner waiting if we needed food when we got back) but we ended up not eating it (I was stuffed, mostly from ice cream).

And now it is time to hit the sack (sleep sounds SO good right now).  And to randomly mention that something else I noticed today is that in Mexico, instead of .com on the end of website addresses it's .mx.

'Til tomorrow!

~R J Carr

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Star Fish Club

 I have A LOT, and I do mean A LOT of pictures from today.  But that's because it was Excursion day!  Which we will have each weekend, except one weekend where I believe we are free to do whatever.

So today we got to sleep in a little, which was nice.  We got up at 7:30 AM, then got dressed and ready for the van picking us up at 8:30,  (That van was sweeeeet.  Super, SUPER comfy chairs.  And the back two rows were elevated, like a mini nose bleed section, but not as high.  I'll have to take a picture of the inside next weekend).

Our first stop was Dzibilchaltun (Yeah, that's okay, I don't remember how to say it either).  It.  Was.  AMAZING.  Talk about your Mayan ruins.  And the best part is, we got to climb on them!  Here are the pictures from that:

The Welcome Sign

Pretty little alcove next to the gift shop
This was outside the entrance to the ruins (modern day decor)

The Catholic Church built by the Conquistadors when they invaded the Mayan (Side View)
Side View From afar
Front View From Afar

Front View Close Up
This is one of the ruins to the left of the Church.  Cool fact:  Mayans built/added on to old buildings.  So, the inside of this building is a lot, lot older than the outside.  But it has a corridor that leads from the outside to the interior (old part).  Also, for the other captions below to make sense, note that this building here is the only one I explored and stood on top of.

This is the corridor in the building seen above that leads into the interior/older part of the building.

Random Centipede I found atop the ruin.

Couldn't resit taking a selfie on this ruin.

Birds eye view from the top of the ruin, looking to my right.
Closer up birds eye view (it's the same thing you seen in the picture above, just closer)
I just thought the details were pretty cool on this ruin.  By details, I mean the smaller rocks they used to form a continuous design throughout the bigger rocks.  This is seen throughout the whole ruin.

This is the view from the left side of the ruin.  I think this specific ruin we are looking at is cool because you can clearly see how nature played a big part in destroying the remains of the Mayan civilization.
This is a closer up of that same ruin.  See the trees growing on top of it?

 After looking at the ruins, we got to visit the cenote!  Unfortunately, because it was cloudy, it's hard to see the clearness, as well as the green color of the water (the green color is caused by the limestone rock that resides in the cenote).  Here's some pictures:

The cenote!!  It was actually pretty shallow (as far as cenotes go).  I think the shallowest part was 1 ft and the deepest probably 8 ft?

The iguana next to the cenote (apparently seeing an iguana in Merida is like seeing a squirrel in Missouri.  They are everywhere.  And after today's trip, I'd believe it.  I think we spotted over 10 iguanas?)

The fish in the cenote (also known as peses).  These little fish were SO fun.  The moment you put your feet in the water, they swam up and started to nibble on your toes, ankles, you name it, eating the dead skin.  It was like getting a spa treatment.  My feet have never felt smoother :P

These are the ladies I spoke with as I sat in the Cenote.  Because I didn't want to swim in the deeper water, I went and sat in the shallow end where this family was hanging out (these are just two of the five or six that were there).  It was super fun to try talking with them in Spanish.  They told me several times that my Spanish was good :)  When I got out a walked over to the other side, where all my friends were hanging about, my professor said, "You get the brave Spanish speaking award today" or something like that, calling me his hero.  Lol.  It was nice.  I hadn't realized I'd done something brave, but I guess I must have!

I can't remember the name of these thingys, but we saw them as we walked up to the most important Mayan ruin.  I guess, during Festivals, they would paint information and pictures on these pillars, as well as decorate them with fruit and other things - offerings to the gods.
This is one of the normal city walkways coming off of the huge walkway that led to the temple.  Back in the day, traders and other people would walk on these streets, doing business and socializing.

This is the view of the temple from afar.  See the door on the temple?  (the square opening), the Mayans had it positioned so that the sun would shine right through that door.  Then, as you walked closer and closer to the temple, the sun would rise up above the temple.  They were really good with their astronomy.

This is a close up of the temple.  Apparently here is where the religious Mayans (for only the religious/sacred/important/leaders were allowed in here) would come.  For ceremonies this is where the person in the ceremony would offer up their own blood to the gods.  Then, after this small ceremony, they would go into the public plaza to finish up the ceremony.  (There was dancing, music, festivies, etc.  The Mayans sure had a strange sense of celebration.  I am SO glad that there is no such things as human sacrifices anymore).

The ruin I'm sitting on is right in front of the temple.  It probably was a wall or something, used to keep unwanted/unworthy people out of the temple area.
Here's those same ruins, from afar.
Found these flowers near the ruins :)
Here's all of us in front of the temple.
 After viewing this ruin, we headed back to the cenote and actually got to swim in it this time (which I already mentioned earlier).  But here's a picture of me actually in the cenote (it only looks deep because I'm actually sitting in the water):

After the cenote and the ruins, we packed our things back up, but kept our swimsuits on.  Why?  Cause we were going to the beach!!  I think it was about a thirty minute drive, but totally worth it.  I should probably mention that this is the beach club, so it's a private beach.  Which I didn't realize until one of the workers brought us ice cream while we were out swimming (I was like, dang, these beaches in Mexico are really nice.  Then someone was like, yeah, that's cause this is a private beach.)  I should note that this is where we also had lunch and met up with our Mexican Mamas.  Normally we wouldn't do so on excursions, but I guess this was a little welcome party for us.  Here's some pictures.

This is the view of the beach from afar.  Look how green that water is!  (And the water was also very warm).

This is the food we had - Rice, Beans, Fish, and Chips.

Claire and I built a Mayan temple sand castle (the sand was super soft.  The only downside was the amount of seashells the waves brought in.  That was where it got a little crunchy and painful to walk.  Luckily, it's only a thin, but pretty, line at the edge of the ocean).
This is me holding a star fish that Connor found on the beach while Becca, Claire, Connor, and I were exploring.  We walked all the way back from where we were so we could grab a camera and take pictures.

Here's a close up of the little guy.  (You can't see 'em here, but the star fish has little orange suction cup feet).
But then we ALL found star fish (I found one, Connor found 2 - though he's not in this photo - and I think Claire found 1) and founded the Star Fish Club.
Left to Right:  Me, Becca, Claire
 We played around and looked for shells and all that jazz for a good three hours.  But then it started thundering and the tour guide came by and said, it's time to go, so we departed hence.
This is my hair at the end of the trip.  Very sandy.  That would be because I laid down on the beach and let the warm waves wash over me. 
This is a picture of the club as you enter.  They had a nice shallow pool (as seen here) that you could swim in.  I don't think any of us did though (who would with the ocean nearby??)

 I think now is a good time to mention the fact that there was a good 1/4 mile where the water was only waist deep.  It was cool to be able to walk so far out in the ocean.
These are the shells I found :)  Some I got in the waves.  Some I got from scouring the ocean floor as I waded in it.
 After the beach, we piled back in the van (after dutifully washing our feet off with the hose.  Then we were each dropped off back at our houses.  Of course, when Christina and I got home, the first thing we did was shower.  (I had so much sand EVERYWHERE on me).

Then, after some discussing, we went out and explored the neighborhood around us with the boys (Connor, Brandon, and Scott.  They are the peeps that live closest to us).  We stopped by the bank to pull out some cash.  Then, as we walked round, we stopped by a panaderia (bakery) and got the delicoius brownies pictured below (so good.  I liked how they weren't super sweet.  AND they were only 9 pesos, or $0.60).  We also stopped by the boys' house (so we could see where they lived) followed by a stop to Super Aqui, a grocery store, at which I bought some Aloe (yeah, I'm a little burned) and found the Mayan Horchata (picture below.  Note, the H in Horchata is silent).

After that, we all returned to our respective houses.  Christina and I had dinner with our family (delicoius eggs with a Mayan sausage called Longaniza).  Then we finished off the night by playing Clue with one of MM's daughters.

Well, that's it for today!

'Til Tomorrow.

R J Carr