So, it´s clearly siesta time again. I´m not ready for a nap, but the air con in this internet spot will do the trick.
After yesterday´s post, I stepped out into the cooler afternoon when the sun was far enough through its arc through the sky that there were shadows starting to stretch across the streets and the town had clearly awoken. And I encountered the first of my friendly natives. Had a good 15 minute conversation with this guy who walked up and began talking. Well now, my USA radar went off immediately. Kind strangers???!?? Seriously? After chit-chatting awhile, I couldn´t really decide. He pointed out some of the things to do, yadda yadda. More on that in a bit.
Next stop was an ever so brief stop in the cathedral. I couldn´t play tourist there as there was a mass in session, but I did stay for part of the mass in the oldest Cathedral in the Americas. It´s a rather grim place. With the afternoon sun leaking through, you could see that it has some beauty, but it is very much an old, stark, and imposing edifice, clearly aimed at both awing the local populace as well as providing some fortification. Their were poor people sitting by the doors begging (so far the only beggars I´ve seen) and photos of a visit by Pope John Paul near the entrance. It´s closed during siesta time so I will go back for a tourist visit later.
I took a short tour of the government palaces, about the only thing open for touristy things on Sunday. I´m not sure if it was because of it being Sunday or because of the elections that are going on. There are campaign posters all over and I saw campaign workers outside of what I guess was a polling place. The government palace is full of giant murals telling the story of the Maya and the Spanish. It´s a grim story to be sure. The artist, and I forget his name, worked on them for 25 years and they are quite beautiful.
Afterwards, I managed to order chicken nachos in a little mall type location off of Plaza Grande. A challenge as I basically had to stare at the menu and wish for pictures. I found the word nachos… ahhh… but then all the options were still a mystery. I glanced in my spanish guide in the eating section and managed to suss out the pollo option was chicken. Again, I´m on compact language travel guide #2 and neither have my wished for index with the foreign word and my language rather than vice versa. They all assume that you are trying to translate what you want to say rather than what you are hearing or reading. Pretty one way little guides.
Afterward, I strolled through the main square. There was music. These guys were playing drums and putting on quite a nice show. Appeared to be impromptu as they kept passing around the hat for pesos. I didn´t have a wonderful view as I got there after it had been going on a few minutes, but it wasn´t awful either. I´ve found a place in the world where I´m above average height. It´s not that there are no taller Maya here, but they are few and far between. Most of the taller people I see are also tourists. Yesterday I managed to smack my head on a low door way if that gives you any idea, but I digress.
Stomach and desire to be out satisfied, I decided to turn in with that vague hope that I would get an early start in the morning. Yeh, right, what was I thinking. Oh, and for any wondering whether I slept in a hammock or not, the answer is no. I just couldn´t get comfortable, probably more mental than physical. Oh well, I´ll try again!
Today, as I said, was not the early start I had hoped for. It´s not that I couldn´t have gotten up. I certainly had the odd wake up and “oh look there´s daylight” moments, I just ignored them all in favor of more sleep.
Once up, I took a long meander north of the hostel. I had plans to check out a market that I´d been told was there as well as the Antropology Museum. Struck out on both accounts. If there was a market, it was well hidden. And the museum is closed Mondays… which is a familiar theme including another museum, and the zoo.
Defeated on all fronts, I found a pharmacia and bought some gel insoles for my boots. I´ve been off my feet for a bit thanks to the knee issues. I think my feet would have kissed me for these gel insoles if I let them do that sort of thing. The only insulting part was that the package said they were for people over 40… harumph! I´m going to assume that was 40 lbs and not years… That was literally the only english on the whole package…
I went back by the hostel a bit and cooled off with a bottle of water and looked in the guide for something else I could do. According to the guide, the City Museum was open on Mondays… So, I set off for the center of town and two things, the City Museum, and something frozen…
I got about two blocks before my next friendly local. This one had the same story about being a university student. Not sure if it´s true, but it´s getting a kind of redundant tune to it. He had similar interest in my background, time in Merida, etc. And a familar recommendation for this little Maya Market near my hostel that supposedly sells objects made by Maya orphans… I give credit because I still can´t decide how much is salesmanship and how much is genuine friendliness but this one even had a business card!
As I managed to pry my second friend loose, I ran into a couple of women, who I think were Aussies, who laughed and asked if he was genuinely helpful or if I´d been accosted. I told them I´m afraid it was the latter and not the first time. They said best get used to it as we don´t blend in well here. This is true. I had realized that already earlier as a I sought in vain to find a hat that would not leave my head a sweltering mess. My baseball cap is dark colored. I might as well wear a frying pan. My other hat is very gringo, a big floppy hat one might wear on a safari. It does a great job, but it also hits me as a calling card for not from around here. But as I was trying on various hats that I never would have worn back home, I realized they weren´t going to do anything for me. I´m obviously not from around these parts! Getting my safari hat was the second reason I had gone back to the hostel.
Anyway, I got on to the city museum…. equally closed… no hours posted… oh well… maybe later… So, I found a frozen yogurt and a bottle of water and sat down in this small mall for a minute… and friendly local #3 appeared… wow… this one had a business card as well. He also recommended the shop for the Maya orphans (only I had to help him with what the word was for people with no parents…). But having heard the story once before, it was easy to help him along with it. Of course, I´m helping in his english training as well, which they´ve all been open about. Unfortunately, not helping me so much with my spanish. Luckily there´s a little similarity with French, so I figured out the numbers close enough last night (not understanding the currency requested of me was rather demeaning and demanded some bed time reading). I´m working on replacing gratzi with gracias. We´ll see. I don´t think I pick up languages that fast.
After friend #3, I made my way over to the local contemporary art museum. By local, I don´t just mean that it´s here, it focuses on works by contemporary artists from the Yucatan. Some was quite beautiful. There were a couple of photography exhibits that were just beautiful. There was also some contemporary art that was completely open to my esteemed interpretation considering not even the titles were meaningful to me. Unlike the art in the Governor´s palace, nothing there had English translations. Oh sure, I could pick out a word here and there, but not enough to matter.
Leaving the lovely air conditioned art, I ran into local friend # 3 again. Yes, again… And standing out like a sore thumb nowhere near the Mayan orphans handicrafts, he offered to walk me there.. uhm… I´m fine thanks! Exit stage right!
I think next is probably the bus tour I´ve seen running through the streets of Merida. If the guide is to be believed, it´s not only open today, there´s a tour leaving in less than an hour. Still want to get inside the Cathedral today as well if possible.
Tomorrow I think will be a day out. I´d like to meet some local friends at Chichen Itza.