I can’t believe this semester has flown by so quickly and that I’ll find myself in what, to me, will feel like a very chilly Bay Area in one week. With seven days still remaining between me and my comfortable bed, I leave Mérida tomorrow to travel to Belize. For the first time in my life I will be visiting another English speaking country. While I know simple things like finding a hotel will be much easier, I will miss speaking Spanish everyday. Still, I am excited to relax on the beach, especially after the nonstop busyness of the last week.
These past few days have been a complete whirlwind. I had four final papers to finish while trying to make sure I got to spend sufficient time with everyone before I leave for the United States. (Advice for next semester: start final papers ASAP.) Luckily for me, I only had to really say goodbye to the people in the IFSA-Butler program rather than all the friends I have made here. Regardless, it has been difficult. My best friend here is Paige, and knowing she will not be apart of all my adventures next semester is hard to imagine. While I am anxious to meet the thirteen new students coming next semester, I am going to miss the long walks, movies, and dinners with the people who I have grown to love and admire within the program now.
In spite of all of that, this last week has been by far my favorite of the semester. On Monday I traveled with my friend Ezer to his pueblo where we took his motorcycle over to Itzamal, a small pueblo about an hour southeast of Mérida. Every 6th of December, Itzamal serenades la Virgen. We were only able to hear the last song, but hundreds of people had turned out to sing. Many of them had participated in peligrinos or privileges, often times running or biking for miles, to honor the Virgin.
It was also in Itzamal that I saw my first Corrida de torros (or bullfight), which is nothing like they are on TV. While I was not anticipating enjoying the fight, I firmly believe that one needs to witness one for themselves before judging it completely. I was expecting a single matador to spear a charging bull—blood dripping down its flank and the smell of sweat filling the stadium. Instead, six matadors stood in the ring none with spears. They would wave their dull pink capes and as soon as the bull got within 30 feet, they would drop their cape and run for cover. Most of the time the bull just stood there with an irritated look on his face. When the crowd grew tired of the bull, a group of ten cowboys would sprint out of the gate to try to lasso it. The bull would be dragged out of the stadium, put in a truck, and returned to its owner. Only the first bull is killed (behind closed doors) and its meat is sold to those in the town.
Motorcycling back to Mérida was beautiful. Thousands of stars lit up the sky and the Milky Way spilled overhead. It’s very surprising how fast the stars appear as soon as you leave the city limits. With few lights outside the cities, darkness takes over almost instantly. That night I slept in a hammock, and while I slept soundly, beds are much more comfortable for everyday sleep.
Yesterday Paige and I went to the beach at Progresso to meet up with two of our friends. There we went swimming in some Cenotes (waterholes) before we returned to eat fried Mera, a fish that comes bones, eyes, and skin still included. Delicious. Later that day, while we sat around, Manuel took out his guitar. We passed the evening singing a mixture of 70’s and 80’s rock songs in English and Spanish. Some of the favorites were Journey, Queen, and Pink Floyd. Yesterday was so special because it was so relaxing. There was no hurry nor any last minute Christmas stress. In fact, most people don’t even give gifts on Christmas. Through days like those, I have learned to just relax and roll with the punches. I never realized how stressed out day-to-day living in the United States can be until I came here, to such a relaxed environment. Although sometimes the slow nature of the city still boggles my mind, I sincerely hope I will be able to bring some of the relaxed culture back with me to America.