Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Good maawnin!

That's how the locals say it. This was my first full weekend here in San Ignacio, and it was packed with a lot of fun.

(This post was for the weekend of July 7 and July 8).

After class on Friday, a group of friends and I decided to go canoeing. It took us a while to figure out where to go, and what tour to go on, but after we talked to a couple of locals about it we were finally able to get a good price. The place was called Barton Creek, and it was a cave. It was awesome - the cave used to be used by the Mayans as an entranceway to the "Underworld," which I mentioned in an earlier post. Inside we were able to find a couple of skulls (mostly babies :/) and a few pieces of Mayan pottery. In fact, the guide mentioned something about the cave being recently abandoned, maybe one hundred years ago though I don't remember the exact date. Either way it was really cool to paddle our way through the nooks and crannies, avoiding the stalagmites and stalactites that hung close by overhead. When all was said and done, we raced back to the entrance (Boys vs. Girls), and jumped off a rock hanging about 50 feet over the water. It was a great bonding experience, and we all just had a ton of fun laughing and taking videos of people yelling ridiculous things as they jumped into the water. (Though my video got lost in the process somehow....)

There are a bunch of Mennonites on the way to Barton Creek, but they don't like getting their face put on out of respect, this is the only picture I will post.

We had to drive across a river to get to the cave, lmao. 


This is the ladder we all had to climb to make it to the top of that rock.

Saturday was a bit different. We started the day with our classmates, actually, back at the Green Iguana Project. All of the adults needed a bath and to be checked for tics. It was amusing trying to catch all of them, let alone bathe them all in a pool of iodine. After a couple hours we finally managed to finish the job, and all 40 of them were happy to be rid of us. Volunteering at organizations like this feels great, and I know that this is just one of the many ways our class gets to help the conservation movement. I can't wait to continue doing these sort of activities as the month progresses!

Can you spot all of the lizards??

Happy Iguana :)

My roommate Christian, trying to restrain the most dominant male at the reserve.

 Unfortunately, this lizard looks like it has some type of trauma occurring at the front left corner of its mouth....

Once done with the iguanas, a small group of us decided to go zip lining. Unfortunately, there was a slight mixup on the place we were going, and we somehow ended up back at Barton Creek. A key lesson to anyone planning on studying abroad: ALWAYS keep an open communication with the people watching over you. Either way, they had zip lines open at the Creek and we ended up having a blast. Afterwards we all enjoyed a couple of drinks with the owners, and even tried a new Belizean dish (I need to look up the name again). The food was delicious, the zip lines were fast, and the people were really nice...they even invited us back, free of charge (as long as we bring others willing to pay). It's great making friends out here, and pretty easy too. Just be yourself.

Us looking out at the path leading to the top. 

For those of you who have never zip lined, we use that ladder to attach ourselves to the metal wire hanging overhead.... this was just the practice line, so no big deal.

And then came Sunday. What an amazing trip. A whole bunch of us travelled with one of the professor's friends to Guatemala to explore the Mayan Ruins. It was about a twenty-minute trip to the border (and then a two hour trip into the country), and after getting a sweet new stamp in our passports we were all itching to explore Tikal. Needless to say, the whole site was breathtaking: forest enveloped all of the buildings with howler monkeys and spider monkeys filling the trees. Ancient stone towers rose up high over everything, and a small village stood in the middle of all of this...we even got the chance to climb one of these towers, overlooking the entire canopy. I highly recommend this trip to anyone interested in ruins. I learned quite a bit too - each cardinal direction has a meaning, the North for instance representing Heaven. Our guide also tried to explain to us why people often times confuse 2012 with the end of the world, but this was all technical and really hard to understand...something about going through thirteen cycles, and then restarting things with a new placeholder (almost like going from 999 to 1000, except instead of being based on 10 digits like our number system they base everything on 13). If you didn't follow that, that's ok - just trust me. The world is not ending!

"Hey look what I found!"

This flame is used in a sacred Mayan ritual...notice the four outer flames extending towards the four cardinal directions. Each flame has a different color.

One of the two twin pyramids facing each other.

The other twin pyramid. There are four sets of these pyramids in total.

It's the Mask from "Legends of the Hidden Temple!" Hahaha

Group shot on the top of the pyramid.

This is a panoramic view at the top of the tallest pyramid in Tikal. Simply breathtaking.

This was the first time I actually started to feel homesick. I don't know why, but Sunday night I was really starting to miss home...but I got over that pretty quickly. After glancing over a couple of old photos on my computer, I was full of energy and ready to go back to class on Monday.

But, that's a post for another day. Talk to you all soon!


PS: here's a video of a wild coatimundi I found at the ruins:

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