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Journals from Oaxaca

2010-05-01 In the Jungle

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Mindi Gandara tries on a Zinacantan bride outfit

Blog! It's been a week since we got back from Chiapas, and as of yesterday, 3 weeks until we fly home to the US. I can hardly believe the semester has gone so fast. Our trip to Chiapas was jam-packed, but a lot of fun. We had a snafu with the tickets, so we didn't end up leaving until Saturday evening. We were all supposed to be on a nice sleeper bus, but when the tickets were changed it ended up that only four of us got the nice bus and the rest got a lower class bus. I was one of the first four to arrive, so I ended up on the nice bus, feeling extremely guilty. Oh well, I guess it makes up for all the times I've had to ride in the tiny back middle seat of taxis. We first went to the town of San Cristbal de las Casas, which is in the mountains. The climate was cool and fresh and felt like a blessing and a taste of home. Being able to actually sleep under a blanket at night, what a gift! The town was lovely and had a small, safe feel to it. There was a lovely handicraft market that we visited multiple times that sold a wide range of things, from fake amber pendants to 3 foot tall felt giraffes. We went to some neighboring towns such as San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan, and learned a little about Mayan curing rituals (they sometimes involve sacrificed chickens!). Some of us took a little side trip on our free day with Prof. Markens to Caon Sumidero, an amazingly beautiful canyon that we got to speedboat through. From San Cristobal we went to Palenque, which was a drastic change. Palenque is in the lowland jungle, and was so hot and humid we could barely stand it. You didn't even have to move for sweat to be dripping off of you. We were all happy to be staying in an air conditioned hotel (even though the air conditioning in my room didn't work...). We first took a day to go to the site of Palenque, which was impressive in the size of its monuments. We climbed up several pyramids, and spent some time exploring and drawing in the museum. The next day we went to both the sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak. We had to take a boat down the river that divides Mexico and Guatemala to get to Yaxchilan, which made it feel extra hidden and isolated. The site did not disappoint, and I think it was the favorite of our group (though mine will always be Teotihuacan and Mitla). It was surrounded by lush jungle and we heard the terrifying sounds of the howler monkeys in the trees (they're really scary!). Bonampak was a little less green with foliage, but we saw some truly amazing ancient murals, and went on a jungle hike. The heat and humidity were oppressive, though, and we were all a little relieved to get back in the van after that long day. Now back in Oaxaca, we're all working harder than ever to get through the multitude of projects and essays we have to finish. This last week was the end of our Spanish classes, so now we'll be starting the cultural classes. I'm more concerned about finishing the heap of academic work we have left. But I'm looking forward to enjoying these last few weeks we have in Oaxaca.

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