Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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After Veracruz I went to Merida, an absolutely fantastic city. I arrived in the early afternoon, where I went straight to my hostel to arrange for cheap lodging. With that out of the way, I was free to wander the pastel-colored streets and alleys in a city full of hard right-angles. In addition, in Merida I met my first group of traveling companions. During the day went to the Tres Conotes and Chichen Itza, the most famous of the Mayan ruins, and out drinking and dancing at night. Alas, after several days, my wanderlust drew me on further through the tropics to even more remote locales.

The bus in the picture is actually my bus, that is taking me from Veracruz to Merida. You'll note that I'm not on the bus, and my bus is not actually facing the correct direction. You'll also note that there are people standing all over. You can't tell from the picture, but there is a long line of cars behind the bus, all of which are honking.

It turns out that the bus drivers in Coat... decided to strike, surrounding the bus terminal with a physical blockade of people and vehicles. Also, as we drove through town, a veritable gang of workers surrounded our bus, forcing us to the side, where they then made us a part of the bockade (by backing other busses inches away from the front and back bumper). We sat there for hours, presuambly waiting for a turn in negotations somewhere far away.

We were parked down the street away from the terminal, and someone had the idea that we should be in the terminal instead -- if we're going to be stuck, we might as well be stuck in comfort. ... [more]
Merida is just filled with small churches and quaint squares. This is the first one I saw after leaving the bus station.

Incidentally, when I left the station I determined that I needed to go Northwest to get to the hostel where I intended to stay. After walking a couple blocks and not seeming to get any closer, I checked my compass: I was heading due south. Hm... So, I corrected the problem and kept walking. After a while, I still was no closer to anything. It turns out I was then walking due west. At that point I looked up and saw this church. Then I finally really figured out my bearings, and really went northwest to the hostel.
Hidden back between the buildings throughout Merida are beautiful atriums. This particular atrium belongs to one of the big banks, Bancomer.
Towering over the main plaza of Merida is an imposing cathedral of ancient stone. Over 400 years old and built from the stones of dismantled Mayan pyramids, the Merida Cathedral is an incredible building.
Adjacent to the cathedral is an alley filled with large abstract animal figurines.
In this plaza, like many, there is a statue of a famous figure. This one has the following caption:


I think it says that the state legislature decreed that such a monument should be built on 3/26/1869, that it was actually built on 3/26/1896, and that it's a monument to governor Carlos Peon.

Anyway, while looking at this monument, I couldn't help but notice how demeaning this monument is to someone that was likely perceived to be grander than life. It's this large square and a huge monument to this comparatively tiny person. Not that he's a small guy, but rather that people's roles are generally more impressive than their stature.

It reminded me of when I saw Bill Gates speak at the Game Developer's Conference a couple years back. I cou... [more]
I've been intending all the while to stay in hostels wherever possible to keep costs down, but I've never actually been to one before. Now, however, I've had my first hostel experience.

Hostel Merida, located just two blocks north of the central square, has several private rooms and a dormitory-style room. I picked the dorm room, as its beds were only $40MD ($3.5USD) per night. As indiated in the picture, the dormitory is a bit cramped.

The room itself is taller than it is wide, probably measuring around 12'x12'x15'. It holds four bunk beds, each of which has three levels. Thus, the one rooms sleeps twelve people. Upon arriving you are issued a set of clean sheets, a towel, toilet paper, a key to the outside door, and a lock.

Off-camera to the left is a wall full of large wooden cabinets (2'x3' each), which you can close with the supplied lock. Off-camera to the right is a lavatory with two showers and two toilets, all packed closely together (if they c... [more]
Is that economy or mid-size...?
I don't remember the name of this cafe, but it's located right on the main plaza of Merida, across from the cathedral (it can be seen in the background). This sort of cafe is exactly the type of place I've been searching for: right on the sidelines of the center of things. Sadly the waiters in Merida don't seem to care for giving refills of "agua caliente" for my hot tea, which I could normally understand as they don't make money off of refills, but they are happy to provide refills of coffee. Yo no se.

In the plaza pictured the town holds public performances of music, dance, and festivities, all of which I manage to miss (I see them taking down stages and speakers often, however). The plaza is also host to victrolous political speakers and American hippies doing fire dances (the one I saw invovlved the flaming pole breaking in half and fire going flying into the crowds -- I don't think that was intended).
Next to the central square in Merida is the Governor's Mansion, a gorgeous bulding open to public tours (I don't think the Govenor actually lives here). Aside from a few tourist-related offices, as best as I can tell it's just a large museum of art, all of it by the same artist and on the same theme: the terrible treatment of native Mayans by the Spanish and Mexican governments.
At 7:30am on Saturday morning I met with Franzista and Ester (I think -- they're German students studying Spanish here in Merida that I met two nights earlier, and I never got the correct spellings) at the bus station. After about an hour on a local bus "grinding out its last years" on the Mexican roads, we arrived in the small village of Cuzama, deep in the Yucatan wilderness. The moment we set foot into the empty town square (which was, strangely, filled with tinny music from a big mounted speaker on a large town hall), we were approached by two boys -- perhaps twelve and fourteen -- on hybrid rickshaw/bicycle contraptions.

To visualize these devices, imagine a 3'x2'x2' steel-tube basket, open on two sides (the front and top), and covered by a cloth roof about 2' above. Spanning the rear lengthwise is a 10" unadorned wooden seat on which 1-2 passengers sit. On both sides of the basket are normal bicycle wheels (with beads on the spokes that click up and down when going slow), affixe... [more]
Ok, things are starting to really pick up on this trip. Riding down through northern Mexico was nothing compared to the fun to be had in the Yucatan.

This week my spanish has improved tremendously, going from mere "Spanglish" to officially "Broken Spanish". I hope to be an actual novice Spanish speaker before long, but there's a long way to go. Fluency? Yeah right - present tense is enough for me.

Veracruz was a lot of fun, and I started to meet people on the trip for the first time. One particularly interesting aspect of Veracruz is just how few foreigners (such as myself) are to be found. For the first several days I counted exactly white-folk, including myself. No black, no asian, no anything else. I never realized just how diverse America was until I had left.

After Veracruz I jumped on a bus down to Merida, in the heart of the Yucatan. Halfway along that trip, however, our bus was mobbed -- literally -- by a bunch of strikers that forced us to the s... [more]

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