September 12, 2002
We have most certainly had an exciting week.
Saturday, we took a day trip to visit Dzibilchaltùn, Maya ruins that are a mere 20 minutes away from Mèrida. Our tour guide Miguel Mendez, who will be our tour guide for all of our trips, filled us in on all sorts of interesting Maya tidbits, and pointed out some of the interesting flora and fauna. We were able to hike on the ruins, and it amazed me how the Maya, who were a short people (tallest was around 5 feet) were able to build so many steep steps.
The most interesting ruin at the site was the Temple of the Seven Dolls, so named because when it was being excavated seven ceramic dolls were found in the middle. The temple is built so that at the Autumnal Equinox (September 21) the sun shines right through the door as it rises, an occurrence that hopefully we will be able to observe.
Sunday we explored Chichèn Itzà, another site that plays games with the sun on the equinoxes. The Maya were very attuned to the patterns of the celestial bodies and had several calendars that coincided with the movements of the moon, sun, and Venus. Most of the Maya buildings are also aligned with the four cardinal directions, because of the religious importance that the Maya placed in them.
Over the course of the week, we also visited such Maya sites as Cobà, Tulum, and Ek Balam.
Another interesting feature of the Yucatan Peninsula is that they usually don't receive much rainfall; therefore, they have to depend on cenotes, or sinkholes, to provide them with water. We were able to swim in an especially beautiful one named Sagrado Azul (Sacred Blue), as well as one at the site of Dzibilchaltùn. We also went snorkeling once at a town called Puerto Morelos and the next day just of the coast of Isla Mujeres, where we saw a great variety of fish and a submerged statue of the Virgin Mary.
However, full our schedule was, we did take a few moments to commemorate the anniversary of September 11. We gathered on the beach behind our hotel on Isla Mujeres, lit candles for each of the crash sites, and shared a moment of silence.
Upon our arrival back at Mèrida later today, our families will be waiting for us, and we will officially enter the next phase of our stay here, the homestay.