Travel Journal #5 — Home, Sweet Mexican Home

Chichen Itza pyramidStepping off the bus, walking through the station, and walking through the wide doorways that the strong sun was pouring through — I was back. After spending five days in Cancun, I was very ready to be back on the busy, bright, and boiling streets of Merida. After 30 minutes of walking with my luggage and backpack through the Centro, I caught a bus and was headed home. Relief.Isla Mujeres
For spring break, my father was able to fly into Merida on Saturday evening. I spent that evening and the next day escorting him all around town trying to package what I’ve been experiencing in a compact handful of hours. An ultimately impossible task I hope and think I may have been somewhat successful at. I found most of our “must do” activities were all directly related to food — pollo con mole (chicken with mole sauce), nopal (cactus), and papas con chorizo tacos (potatoes with sausage) from a stand at Noche Mexicana; fruit cups and marquesitas (Yucatan crepes) at Domingo en Merida; pan (bread), salbutes (open-faced Mayan tacos), and fresh fruit from the local mercado (market); and the main event — my birthday supper with my host family! All of the food was delicious, but the company with my family was remarkable.
Halfway through delving into our pollo con mole delicacies (my requested dish) with rice and platanos fritos (fried plantains), I sat back and caught the moment. Smiles all around. A full table — Pedro and Gonzalo, my older host brothers; and Gonzalo’s girlfriend, Diana, had joined us. It was a splendid carousel of Spanish and English — the extent of my father’s Spanish stretches as far as “Como estas?” (How are you?). Frequently I’d turn to my dad to translate and rattle off in Spanish. The extension of their welcome of me to my father made me feel as if I was a true part of their tight-knit family. After my dad presented them with a two-pound box of the See’s candy my mama fell in love with, we said our goodbyes for the week and headed out the door.market breads
As we headed out of Merida the next morning, I didn’t think I’d end up missing the city as much as I did. Then again, a fraction of the idea must have been in my head because I got out of bed early that morning and got lost on the streets for an hour and a half collecting food for our road trip as I found and ventured into the mercado. With mangos, pan, and salbutes, we stopped for a quick coffee stop and hit the road.
Meeting my stepmother, sister, and brother-in-law in Cancun was the highlight of the trip. Having my family around me was comforting, but I unfortunately cannot apply similar positive musings to Cancun. Hotels, large hotels, bigger hotels, and even bigger malls. Welcome to Cancun. The masses of tourists clearly not interested in the Mexican culture demanded a very modern and accommodating environment. One could get by just fine without speaking one syllable of the national language. It was thoroughly lacking Mexican character. I was sad to say goodbye to my family at the end of the week, but excited to get back to Merida, the city that has swept me off my feet.
That said, I didn’t walk away empty-handed of experiences. Immediately after sending a flying cracked coconut out from under the wheels of the car while heading out of Cancun for Puerto Morelos and Tulum, we were pulled over by a Cancun police officer. My father, God bless his soul, tried to do his best as I let him squirm for 30 seconds before I leaned forward from the back seat and opened my mouth, because, surprisingly enough, in this city chock-full of English, the police officer spoke very little. I never thought the first traffic ticket I would talk myself out of would be in a foreign language. After about 20 minutes of circular conversation and an explanation about running the red light (the officer on the bright yellow motorcycle that was behind us did as well), we were free to go — no ticket just a friendly farewell, “Le ayudas a su papa” (Help your dad).chicken with mole
Back in Merida, I appreciate the solitude, the character, and the family (host and Centre family). I have only gotten a taste of the truth in the phrase we all know much too well, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” But what happens when it’s really gone? When I have to go back home and leave my Mexican hometown for San Diego? With more than half of the trip already behind us, I’ll jump into this city, this trip, this experience with more fervor during these last 33 days than I even think I have in me. Adios, Fear! The clock is a tickin’ and you cause one to dawdle when running is the order of the day!
by Demi Landstedt ’14, currently participating in the Centre-in-Merida study abroad program. Learn more about study abroad in Merida.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): A pyramid in the Maya ruin of Chichen Itza, Teale and me on Isla Mujeres, a remarkable selection of pan (bread) at a market in Cancun, and pollo con mole (chicken with spicy chocolate sauce) for my birthday dinner.

By |2012-04-02T11:01:07+00:00April 2nd, 2012|News, Study Abroad, Leadership Programs|