Mike and I explored the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula for 2 weeks of flyfishing (Mike), diving (Stacey), snorkeling, Maya ruins, a colonial city, cenotes, quite a few hammocks and lots of great food.

When Mike flew home I headed to San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas for 2 weeks of Spanish study with a small group in tow. We lived with host families and visited area sights including villages, museums, and ruins.

When the group flew home I bused to San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala for a week of planning for future growth of the Beca Project (link below) and meeting our sponsored kids and their families.

When our daughter Mariah and her husband Greg invited us to share a timeshare in Quintana Roo between Christmas and New Years, a new chapter to this blog was added. HAPPY TRAILS!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Little More Rain, Some Jade, and Lots of Spanish

Classes continue to go well. Although the rain has continued it isn’t as fierce; I think we’ve had the worst of (now) Hurricane Alex and will fall into a more typical summer pattern with nice mornings and possible rain in the afternoons or at night. Next week we’ll have classes from 4 to 7pm in order to take advantage of that.

Some of us have private lessons (including me) and others are in a group; we switch teachers half way through the morning. The photo below shows Sandee, Andrea, and Andrea (yes, 2 Andreas) with their 2nd session teacher Jorge who is my teacher the 1st session.

Here's a birthday message to my husband Mike from my other teacher, Rosalena. I'm missing him more than ever today.

Family matters are going well, too. I really love my family, pictured below: Isabel, Hector, me, Elena with Dubi, and Susana. The girls are from a Maya village and live here part of the year to help with cleaning and the family business, a tortilla and hamburger shop; it’s run by Hector and a grown daughter.

I’m getting a feel for the town which is a bit confusing because the streets are named after people with unusual names and the names change as you move along, sometimes 3 different names for one street over a dozen blocks. There are trendy areas and local areas with narrow streets, bright colored paint, and lots of graffiti.

We’ve continued to explore despite the rain. The man below is wearing the typical attire of men in the village of Chamula which we’ll visit next week; up close the tunic looks like bear fur.

He’s walking by the church pictured near the top of the blog and the next photo was taken of the ornate gold altar inside.

We’ve done some shopping but not a lot of buying yet, though Jan scored a beautiful new scarf today.

We also visited a really nicely done jade museum and associated store. HAPPY TRAILS!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Feast for the Eyes

Today was a feast for my eyes - not exactly sunny but brighter and much less rain. It was incredible to me how much more colorful and beautiful everything looked; somehow I hadn’t noticed how gorgeous the school garden was or how wonderful the view from the 2nd floor. Everything I did today was a pleasure.

My house is very pink outside and my room is very purple. Here’s the view from the door of my room into the courtyard area; the kitchen and the main living area are on the left and the stairs to the right lead to the family’s bedrooms.

This is a wonderful place to live - great food, very accommodating, friendly people, and I even have my very own puppy, Dubi (Doobie). Well, he’s not mine but he loves my room and is very sweet.

In addition to classes and meals and conversations in Spanish we visited the beautiful Templo de Santo Domingo….

….and the neighboring market. Look closely in the top photo and you’ll see masked, armed Zapatista dolls among the piggies and bunnies.

A few of us also visited 2 nice museums, one featuring amber, a unique and important commodity in Chiapas....

....and one featuring coffee, one of the most important agricultural products.

We also visited an organic paper making cooperative.

You just never know what you’re going to see when you travel ("Help - we want out!"). HAPPY TRAILS!

1st Full Day in San Cristobal

1st, the bad news: Rain, lots of RAIN! It has continued to pour and the streets run like rivers. I am concerned about the marginalized people in Mexico and Guatemala who can ill afford more landslides or even continued rain when shelter is scarce from the last round.

Now, the good news: The group is great, our homestays are great, we all like our teachers, the school is beautiful and accommodating, and there are lots of cheap, interesting activities available to us in addition to the museums, churches, and markets that come with the territory. So far we’re planning for traditional cooking classes, salsa dance lessons, traditional Maya sweat baths, jewelry making, cinema night, and visits to local indigenous villages and several major Maya ruins.

After classes and lunch with our families we met back at school with ponchos and rolled up pants and headed to the closest indoor market; my favorite section was the sweets.

We also took a tour of the city in a street-car looking vehicle with Spanish explanations for the things we peered at through the rain. I’ve posted a few scenes below because I don’t want to be just a fair weather blogger.

We checked out a few artisan stores and wound up at a coffee place before heading back to our families for the light evening meal, usually served after 8:30. HAPPY TRAILS!

Monday, June 28, 2010

More Merida and Transition to San Cristobal de las Casas

I woke up in gorgeous surroundings, alone but happy, and grabbed the banana and biscuit I bought the night before and set out to find the Museo de Arquaeologia and more churches. The museum was gorgeous, inside and out; the photos below show one of many fascinating sculptures, some tiny 1500 year old shoes, and one of a collection of strangely, purposely misshapen skulls.

Short on time I hired a cab driver to take me to see a few more churches; he waited while I gathered my things and said a quick goodbye to Raul at Hotelito Las Arecas, then whisked me to the airport. I was sad I hadn’t prioritized spending time with him instead of seeing more churches, though I loved them all.

Time on planes and in airports waiting provided the perfect opportunity to devour the Chiapas Moon Handbook I purchased months ago but hadn’t read. I flew from Merida to Mexico City where I caught this shot of a fellow passenger sharing the live Mexico vs. Argentina World Cup game on his laptop.

Next I flew to Tuxtla Gutierrez (no Tropical Storm Alex flight delays - yay!) where I met 3 of the 4 members of my group before we climbed into prearranged taxis and were delivered (an hour later) to our separate host families in San Cristobal de las Casas. My first impression of SC was narrow streets, colorful buildings, and lots of graffiti. My room is comfortable and my host family warm and welcoming; I chose not to subject them to my camera this evening. I decided to explore a bit and find some internet access and it POURED (sample below). HAPPY TRAILS!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mike goes home, Stacey goes to Merida

Mike and I dodged the raindrops to head down the street for just our 2nd breakfast out this trip, the 1st and the last mornings. We organized and packed and headed out from our little apartment to the ferry dock 3 or 4 blocks away. I have lots of unfinished business on Isla Mujeres - may have to take care of that some day.

The transitions from apartment to ferry to airport went really smoothly, leaving us hours to spare before our flights. We shared chicken burritos for lunch while we watched part of the US vs Ghana World Cup match (Ghana won) before parting ways - Mike through security, me outside for a shuttle to another terminal for my departure to Merida. Miraculously neither of our flights were delayed; from my terminal most were due to Tropical Storm Alex, the sky's excuse for dumping lots of rain on us the last day or 2. Except for the extra waves on the whale shark trip it was a blessing to have the rain and the breezes cooling things down.

I liked Merida immediately - all the airport workers were laughing and talking and my taxi driver was very friendly and helpful. He dropped me off at my hotel, Las Arecas.

From the outside it's quite plain but inside it's like taking a step back in time to a more beautiful, restful era - lots of antiques, cheery blue paint, garden areas and spacious rooms. The elderly owner, Raul, and his elderly German Shephard showed me my rooms and left me here alone - they live elsewhere and there are no other guests.

After exploring a bit I left with map in hand to visit as many churches as I could before darkness fell. Merida is much larger than Valladolid and not as polished and painted, but has a friendly feel and I was impressed with the variety of churches and neighborhoods. After dark there was live music in nearly every park area - from jazz to Mexican ranchero to rock. With only this one night in Merida (and TS Alex threatening to dump more rain tomorrow) I'm happy to have seen so much already. The 1st 2 photos look amazingly like the zocalo and church in Valladolid.

Some sort of ceremony for girls in fancy white dresses

This church is just a block or 2 from the hotel - that's a soccer game going on in front.

San Cristobal de las Casas tomorrow - HAPPY TRAILS!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quiet Day on Isla Mujeres

After yesterday's adventures it was good to have a quiet day. No alarm clock (we've had a surprising number of days with those due to fishing, diving, and beating the heat and crowds at the ruins), breakfast in, strolling around town, a bit of preparation for our flights and my upcoming weeks. Mike flies home tomorrow afternoon and I fly to Merida for the night, then on to Chiapas Sunday. Pictured below are bits of our last day together in Mexico:

Mike's dream breakfast - good coffee with cereal, oats, granola, milk, yogurt, and a whole mango

People watching from the balcony

The outside of our apartment - 2nd floor surrounded by the balcony, door is the dark one at lower left

The old guy by the beach I bought a shell necklace from

A beautiful flower I found on the sidewalk after a heavy rain

A 4 eyed butterfly fish from our (not very productive) snorkeling foray off the beautiful Playa Norte (North Beach)

Our last sunset

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Whale Sharks!

Part of the reason Mike and I decided to come to Isla Mujeres is because during the summer there is the possibility of swimming with whale sharks. The world’s largest species of fish, whale sharks are filter feeders and can grow to lengths of more than 40 feet. You can read more about them at

As often as I’ve dreamed of seeing whale sharks, I don’t think I ever expected to do so and with rough seas this morning (and my stomach not dealing especially well with the waves despite dramamine) the odds today of finding a fish or 2 - even a really big sort - seemed akin to the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Low and behold after about 3 hours at sea and with all eyes on multiple boats searching for dark fins above the waves - there they were!!! There were 8 passengers on our boat plus the guide and captain. The captain would maneuver the boat in place and we’d enter the water 2 at a time with the guide, sometimes seeing more than one shark at once; one of the sharks Mike and I snorkeled with was especially large. The boat would circle around and pick us up and the next 2 swimmers would take a turn. We each had 4 opportunities to snorkel with the sharks before heading back to Isla. Enroute we experienced a thunder and lightning show and torrential rain but the success of our adventure minimized the inconvenience.

I am so incredibly honored to have shared the sea with these beautiful beings and I know Mike feels the same way. HAPPY TRAILS!