10 Days Among the Maya: Spring Break in Review

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March 13th 2017
Published: April 5th 2017
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As usual, I like to wrap up my trips with a run down of my favorite places, foods, people, etc. I'll also talk about my trip back home, since I didn't spend any time doing that in the immediate aftermath of the trip. It's been a few weeks since I went on the trip, so I feel it's a good time to reflect.

My taxi for the airport in Cancun was a repeat performance by my favorite cabbie - the one who had taken me to the El Rey ruins on my first day in town. I was as surprised to see her and she was to see me. But there was another guy in the cab, in the front seat. And as usual, she was on the phone for most of the trip to the airport. Hands free, so that was good. Safety first. Plus it wasn't yet 6AM, so I wasn't really in a conversational mood anyway. At the airport, her two passengers were both going to Delta, terminal 3 - and it turns out that I later discovered we were on the same flight back to Atlanta. But the exit procedures are a bit complicated in Mexico.

I got my boarding pass printed, and stood in line at the Delta counter to drop off my checked bag. It was a little long for so early, but it wasn't too bad. It suddenly became too bad when I got to the counter and was told I would need to go over to the Customs desk - leave my place in line, take my bags, and stand in another line about halfway down to the security checkpoint - so that they could stamp my form and make sure I had paid everything. So what can you do? The guy at the entrance to the Delta line had asked if I had my paper, but not if I had gotten it stamped yet. Thanks for that. So the other line was much shorter, in terms of the number of people. But we had some real idiots up there. Not the guy behind the counter, of which there was only one. But the tourists who had no idea what they were doing. The rule is that you have to pay an exit tax if you've stayed 7 or more days in the country. I had not. And it doesn't matter if you were only in the country for 3 hours on your first day and 6 hours on your final day - that still counts as 2 different days. Once I got to the counter, he counted the days on his fingers and stamped my form with no questions, no problems. Back at the Delta counter, I got my bag checked and my exit form confirmed.

Security was fine. No big problems here. Some loud, middle-aged Americans - well, one really; his wife complained constantly but didn't want to speak up. Her husband had no problem calling people names. Thanks for making America's reputation abroad great again!

The terminal where Delta flies into and out of Cancun isn't very big, but the gate was at the very end of it. And I still had about 30 minutes before my flight began to board, so I took the opportunity to get some food. Where else but Johnny Rockets, right? It was unexpected, but they had hot, portable food, and I hadn't eaten breakfast yet. Plus I didn't want to spend money on the plane for food, and I was pretty sure that my airport shuttle in Atlanta wasn't going to wait on my to get some food or bother to stop on the way back to Athens. So Johnny Rockets it was. Greasy food and a milkshake. What a breakfast.

The flight back to Atlanta was uneventful. Customs and Immigration in America has changed - at least in Atlanta. I didn't get an entry stamp for my passport, so I was bummed. I don't know if I've ever gotten an ATL stamp, and that was one of the reasons I wanted a direct flight into Atlanta. But now you go to a machine, scan your passport, and get your picture taken. It spits out a form with your recently-taken photo (mine was badly off center) and information, which you then stand in line with until you reach the counter and hand it and your passport to the officer. They stamp that piece of paper and move you right along. I'm not sure how much time this whole process saves, to be honest. But next it was through customs, where I was whisked through, and then to baggage claim. By this time, the bags had already begun arriving, so at least there's that.

My shuttle was leaving from the domestic terminal, so I had to take the airport bus from international to domestic. I was so afraid I was getting left, because I walked out the door and there it was, pulling away. But I started running, and the bus stopped. The lady driving was my hero(ine). She's the kind of lady you'd want on your team in a post-Apocalyptic scenario. No nonsense and totally ready for anything. We had to wait a few more minutes for some other passengers, but once we got underway, she asked me to count the number of people on the bus. She had to report that via walkie talkie. I was near the front, so I got the honors. The guy two seat down from me smelled of weed, but I was still able to count properly. When we got to the domestic terminal, as we were all departing, the driver kindly told the weed-smelling guy that he smelled of it and that he needed to get his life together. Once again, my hero(ine).

The shuttle bus to Athens was awaiting me, and I was even early. It was a fairly uneventful ride back, and I was so glad to make it to the UGA campus. It was also much colder than I had been accustomed to in Central America. Nevertheless, I got to wait for the Family Housing bus for about 15 minutes. And then I rode the campus bus for the first time in a long time and felt really old. And when it finally got to my stop, I was so relieved. The short walk to my door was almost like a victory lap. And when I got inside, I put all the things on the floor, turned on the heater, and fell into my bed. It was only 3PM.

So here's a list of my favorite things on this trip. I'm only including stuff from Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Top Favorite Memories:

(1) Xunantunich in the rain/Chaakh with TJ and Robert

(2) Agua Azul waterfalls with Gautier

(3) Seeing the great plaza at Tikal for the first time

(4) Climbing the palace and the Temple of the Sun at Palenque

(5) Seeing the Castillo at Chichen Itza for the first time

Least Favorite Memories:

(1) Running over the dog on the way to Mexico

(2) The van ride to and from Caracol (cramped and so bumpy)

(3) Waiting for the bus to Guatemala (leaving behind a friend; and then the wait was pretty long)

(4) Being ripped off to see Misol Ha waterfall (just say no!)

Best Maya Site: Palenque, because it's well preserved and everything is basically out in the open

Favorite unexpected event: Agua Azul near Palenque (scenery and new friend)

Favorite Country I visited: Belize

Favorite Meal of the trip: Lamb burger in San Ignacio (food was good, company was better)

I could also mention how much I totally LOVED the Art Deco tour in Chicago, but that goes without saying.


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