Another great day, different from yesterday.
I woke up feeling that I needed more sleep. The hotel experience was not good, even though the lady-owner was very sweet, telling me how much she liked Greece and that she wanted to visit one day. Well, I think she did anyway, given the state of my Spanish :-) (just joking… we “talked” about the islands and how beautiful it’s there)
I got into the car and stopped at the Internet cafe I visited the night before. I wanted to send a couple of book-related messages that were sitting in my outbox but, most importantly, to post my “day 2” entry. Unfortunately, it hadn’t opened yet. I thought of trying to see if their wireless was still on (I felt bad trying to “steal airwaves” but I thought I wouldn’t have another opportunity for few days… I didn’t know at the time that the plans were going to change again :-)
As I opened my laptop, I encountered THE surprise of the day: ants coming out of the keyboard. I was writing the night before (that Web book) but quickly felt tired so I put my laptop inside its bag, on the floor, and left it charging. Little I knew that there were ants in the room and that they were the laptop-loving kind, curious, and hungry for binary data. I remembered the origins of the term “bug” from the “computer history” session in my “computer architecture” class as an undergraduate.
I do hope that no ants were harmed and, more importantly, no remaining ants (if any) will be harmed/fried in there, converting in the process my laptop to a heavy brick. So far the laptop seems to behave ok.
After leaving most of the ants behind in Progresso, I headed towards Dzibilchatum and the ruins there. It was a short drive and the stop was totally worth it. Again, lots of photos. The ruins were only recently discovered and so it’s not a very popular site but it’s a very rewarding one. They have paths that go around the area. I arrived very early there so I was virtually alone at the site. The entire site spans many sq. kms. There are different kinds of birds and plants in the area so the walks around the site are a combination of archeology- and ecology-experiencing. I must have spent 2-3 hours walking around there. The small lagoon at the site was absolutely magnificent. I wish I could swim in it. It goes 40m deep! Also, the environment, the sounds, the atmosphere, the vegetation reminded me of the Mediterranean and a Greek archeological site in particular… a very warm feeling.
At the end of my hiking around the Dzibilchatum ruins, I visited the museum; a small but nice one. One of things that stayed with me was a paragraph talking about the arrival of the Spanish and how it was connected to the abundance of natural resources in Mesoamerica. However, the exploitation of those resources never benefited the Indian natives :-( Not a surprise given the history but always a sad reminder of the negative impact invaders/imperialists have on native populations.
While in Dzibilchatum, the skies opened. The showers were refreshing but I didn’t want to explore another site under the rain. While driving Julio (my car now has a name… will explain another day) towards Merida, where I was going to buy maps and briefly visit the city, I thought of changing my plans and instead of going to Uxmal today, stay there for the night.
So, I arrived at the city and drove towards the city center. Oh man! Traffic! Not as bad as 520 (Seattle-Redmond) but, nevertheless, traffic! I drove around a bit in case I could find a hotel I liked and, indeed, I spotted one with its own parking, not far from the city center. I checked my two travel guides and they both had it listed and recommended for a budget hotel. “Hotel Dolores Alba” is beautiful, absolutely gorgeous (well, apart from the new wing, the one with the swimming pool… I don’t know what they were thinking there). If I ever come back to Merida, I’ll definitely stay here again.
As a result of the change of plans, there was no significant driving today, which was nice. Instead, I walked all around the city. I tried to get lost in the streets and neighborhoods, like I always do when I visit a big city. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to get lost in this grid system of roads :-) You can tell how the city was developed without cars in mind… narrow streets, narrow pavements, and very very narrow corners. I had a good lunch break and continued walking.
(Apologies for the contrast-related problem in the cathedral panorama… I left the camera to automatic so I didn’t make sure that the contrast was consistent throughout all the pre-stitched parts.)
Later in the afternoon I arrived at what seemed like an interesting building with lots of people in it. I talked with a guy outside and he told me that it was a university building and that an ecology-related conference was taking place. He started explaining the concept of a conference… “every year these scientists gather together” :-))) I went inside and I was absolutely amazed by this wonderful, for a university, building. It’s funny how, no matter where on the planet I am, I find that a university environment has something very familiar, very comforting to offer me. I love it. BTW… the conference was the “Congreso Mexicano De Ecologia 2008”.
On the way back from the university building, I run across the local theatre (Merida is the cultural capital of the Yucatan peninsula and the administration center of the area). I thought of checking out what was on, in case there was something interesting. I long wanted to experience Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana so I was very excited to see a poster of it. Unfortunately, it was for Nov 24th, which is too late for me. Hopefully I’ll be scuba diving then.
I continued walking around and went back to the hotel for some rest and some book-related email. In the evening, I tried to absorb more of the city’s vibe. I sat at the plaza observing people, ate some nachos with chilies (I am sure I am going to regret this), and found my way at a remote grill place where I ate some tasty takos. Yes, I was also doing some reading, which reminds me… the main reasons for this trip.
There various reasons I am on this trip alone:
- It was a very last minute thing. This trip marks my transition from Microsoft Research to Live Search.
- I always wanted to explore the Maya civilization.
- I needed some time alone and away to concentrate on writing my part of the Web book (with Jim and Ian).
- I wanted to do some reading on “knowledge representation”. The book in the photo is Sowa’s “Knowledge Representation: Logical, Philosophical, and Computational Foundations”, which is absolutely fantastic. I am going through it again since it’s going to be very relevant to my new responsibility in Live Search.
- I wanted to combine all the above with some fun and time to think (about personal life and the universe :-)
Lesson of the day: Check the hotel room for ants before leaving the laptop bug on the floor.