For the second Thanksgiving, I travelled abroad. This one was just as eye-opening as the first; when my best friend from high school and I went to Venice and I saved her dignity after she fell into the Venetian Canal in the blistering cold (no, we weren’t drunk; the walkways were dimly lit and very dark outside). This time, Montegraphia and I went to the Yucatan to a small city called Merida staying with friends who recently moved there.

First off, I finally got to see flamingos in their natural environment. I have always been fascinated by the plumage of flamingos and how the coloration waxes and wanes with their diet; becoming pinker with more sustenance and white with less sustenance. We also ventured into the mangroves and saw HUGE termite nests and a variety of birds ranging from kingfishers to spoonbills. Oh yeah, we also saw a croc peek out above the surface.

We also ventured to one of the seventh wonders of the world; the Mayan pyramids and ruins. It is truly remarkable to see these monstrosities created long before contractors, construction crews, and modern day equipment. These carvings and artwork were also outstanding as there was lots of reproducibility despite everything being free-hand.

One of the seventh wonders

One of the most interesting ruins to see was the site of sacrifice. Within a 24 hour period of sacrifice, the heart would be carried on a tray up to this altar. Timing was crucial to the Mayans, who worshipped the sun, because the aim was to make it look as if the rising sun was eating the sacrificial heart.

Ancient Quidditch

We also visited the ruins of the violent sport played by the Mayans that is frankly similar to quidditch. Teams would wield long sticks and try to shoot these balls through hoops placed at least 40 feet high in the air. There was lots of sticking whipping, lashing, stabbing, and the captain of the losing team ALWAYS got his head sliced off. One cannot deny that humans gravitate towards watching violence in the realm of athletics. The gladiators were not the first.

The altar for sun consumption of hearts

And now for the most saddening experiences of our trips. First, we were forced to bribe a federal officer who “randomly” stopped us at a checkpoint. “Random” because we were gringos driving a Mexican rental car. The officer insisted that we carry our passports because there seems to be an issue with people smuggling Chinese folks into the US via Mexico. Oh, really? For the record, the Mexican consulate recommends that you NOT keep your passports on hand while traveling the country. The moment that we knew that we were being hustled came when the guy pointed to the camera and asked us to move away. And so we gave him 500 pesos and he happily shook our hands and sent us on our way. Basically, law enforcement does not make enough in this country and so they’ve developed a system to survive. I can’t blame them. The day before this bribe, we also learned about the roots of a really troubling riot taking place in Merida. It is interesting that this riot was concurrent with the Ferguson verdict because this was WAY worse. Not to be racially insensitive, but it is. Basically, this local politician and his wife were expecting 43 children to protest one of their public speeches. To circumvent this, the husband and wife hired the drug cartel to resolve it. The cartel stopped their bus en route to the protest, dragged them out to the desert, made half of them dig their own graves, shot them, burned the other half, and threw them on top of the ones who were shot. How is this not on some news channel in the US or elsewhere? Truly sickening.

The trip ended with a significant bout of Montezuma’s revenge but honestly, I was expecting it sooner than I got it.