Posted February 14th, 2013 by Cody in Merida, Mexico
What a weekend! The past couple of days our group was able to visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and then we had the opportunity to live with a modern day Mayan family in Tinum. Talk about a memorable experience! It was incredible to be able to see and learn about the ancient Mayan culture and then have the privilege to experience a modern day Mayan family that still has the same foundation of hard work and making a living off the land. What follows is a little about our adventure at Chichen Itza and the wonderful two days we spent in Tinum.
At first glance, the major attraction at Chichen Itza, the pyramid of Kukulcan, is both aw-inspiring and breath-taking. The majority of tourists passing by will take their pictures and continue on to other marvelous architectural structures of the once vibrant Mayan city. Luckily, we were not just any tourists and we were fortunate enough to be accompanied by a guide. There are many fascinating features of the pyramid but unfortunately I only have room to explain a few. Each one of the four faces of the pyramid incorporates a steep staircase consisting of 91 steps that ascends to the top platform. Counting the top platform as an additional step equals 365 steps: 1 step for each day of the year. Do not worry; if this is not captivating enough, it gets better! The Mayans created an acoustic technology that used echo’s to allow conversation from the top of the pyramid to the bottom in a normal speaking voice. Yes, you read that correctly, someone can stand at the top of the 24 meter high pyramid and have a conversation with you in a normal voice! If your mind is not already blown, it should be after learning that there is actually a smaller pyramid enclosed inside of the larger pyramid! It is incredible that they had the technology to build such a marvelous structure 1,300 years ago.
Having the opportunity to see Chichen Itza and all the wonders of the ancient Mayan city may have been enough for some, but our weekend was just getting started. Our itinerary for the next few days included a bunch of fun and new experiences, but everyone was fixed on meeting their host family for the weekend. Through some connections with Central, we were actually able to live with a modern day Mayan family. The difference in lifestyle and culture from what we are accustomed to is completely opposite. My host mom was an incredible lady and her family was a good representation of her personality. She was always smiling and laughing at me, whether I was trying to speak Spanish or trying my hand in making fresh tortillas (I failed miserably). They truly do live off the land and everything we ate was either grown in a garden or the grandmother’s garden. My roommate Sean and I were able to connect with the sixteen year old boy in the family by playing basketball, Uno, and just talking about our lives for hours. At first it is easy to see the obvious differences in lifestyle but eventually I was able to make a connection and understand how blessed we all truly are.
The Mayan people were the most polite and friendliest people I have ever been associated with. They were on every street corner smiling and waving as we walked by. Our group had the feeling after this trip that if people with so little can be so happy and friendly, then we should be ecstatic and exuberant with the life we have. In such a short time in Mexico, I have already had experiences that will last an entire lifetime.