Welcome to My August 2014 Mayan Yucatan Journey!

Hi Everyone!

Thanks for joining me on what should prove to be a very exciting physical and spiritual journey from Brooklyn, NY to Cancun, Mexico for 7 days of fun and sun and Mayan Civilization jungle explorations!

Since childhood, I have felt a strong fascination for ancient civilizations, in particular those located in overgrown forest and jungle settings. I had planned a trip to visit Mayan ruins last fall, but had to cancel just 3 days before my intended departure due to my father's emergency bypass surgery. Ironically, I wound up using the exact same window of vacation time to travel to Baltimore to support my mother and, of course, my father during a very different kind of journey -- one which ultimately, I am happy to say, proved successful and which has led to a full recovery on the part of my dad.

Luckily, because of the "medical emergency" nature of my trip cancellation, Delta Airlines was very generous in issuing a full credit travel voucher without any change fees or rebooking penalties, to be used for any trip of my choice, return travel to NYC to be accomplished before the end of August 2014.

Skip forward 10 months and here I am -- poised to depart tomorrow morning for 5 full days in Cancun (plus 1 travel day on either side), with anticipated day trips to 3 or 4 Mayan jungle sites as well as various explorations in and around the city of Cancun, including surrounding beaches and resort areas. Maybe I'll even come back with a tan...I wonder if that is too much to hope for?

I plan to practice my conversational Spanish a lot on this trip, which you will all see and hear in various videos that I will shoot and upload to this blog. I will also be taking lots of pictures and writing about all of the exciting experiences I will have there -- in as close to "real-time" as possible, pending wi-fi and internet access in my room where I will be staying as well as possibly in and around town (if I can find wi-fi hotspots at hotels, etc. to type blog entries on my phone).

Thanks in advance for joining me on this very exciting literal and spiritual journey into the heart of the Mayan world!

PLEASE NOTE: In order to have this blog appear on your screen in chronological order, as opposed to Blogger's standard reverse chronological order with the most recent posting first, I needed to creatively adjust the posting date for each entry. Please do not pay attention to the dates in the table of contents at the right of the screen, as these are wrong and merely serve to readjust the blog so that it now functions as a chronological narrative of my trip. This way, you can read about my journey as it took place, in the same order that I experienced these events.  

Because of this creative adjustment, when you eventually scroll to the bottom of each page in this blog, please click "older posts," which will then take you instead to a newer post -- the next one to follow the one you have just read.

Thanks for reading!

Reiteration of Facebook posting letting everyone know about this blog

Hi Everyone!

Please join me starting this evening at my new Mayan Adventure Blog, "One Week in Mexico" (http://www.oneweekinmexico.com/), where I will be chronicling my exciting 7 day trip from Brooklyn, NY into the heart of the Mayan Yucatan.

Everything will be unscripted, and I literally have no idea what to expect, because I haven't really planned anything for this trip in advance. It just sort of crept up on me and, well, here it is!

I plan to update my trip blog as often as possible while there, pending internet access at my AirBnB host's home as well as wi-fi hotspots in and around Cancun and surrounding areas. I will be uploading lots of photos via my new Instagram account, which some of you are already following (thank you very much!), and I intend to speak A LOT of really bad Spanish in an effort to increase my conversational level in that language.

I have already posted my first two entries as well as a third containing two short videos about what I hope to accomplish on this trip. Subsequent videos posted in the next day or two will explain my philosophy on language learning and travel -- as well as, in particular, the resources that I have used over the past few years to gradually teach myself basic Spanish without really having put that much of an "official" effort into learning the language so far.

Native speakers of Spanish will notice that my grammar will really suck, but that I will be able to get by and have a great time as well as participate in some solid, basic conversations with locals while there.

Thanks in advance to everyone for following "One Week in Mexico." See you all in the jungle!

2 short videos explaining my goals for my trip

Viewers will notice that my voice goes UP at the end of most of the PHRASES and SENTENCES at the BEGINNING of video number ONE. That sure is BIZARRE, and I really had no IDEA that I was DOING that, but thank God I STOPPED half way through the VIDEO. 

Note to self -- Don't do that anymore!

Thanks for watching!

Morning of August 14: And we're off...JFK to Atlanta, waiting to board flight...

At JFK Airport this morning waiting for my flight to board: McDonalds sausage McMuffin, hashbrown, and black coffee in hand; plus 2 small complimentary bottles of water given to me by a nice Delta counter lady; plus a $2 apple -- the healthiest snack I could find at the airport.

SIDENOTE: The first of 13 videos shot last fall detailing my Spanish language study methods and resources

Hi Gang,

I am pasting here the first of 13 separate videos, each approximately 10 minutes long, which I shot last fall prior to the cancellation of my original Cancun/Mayan Ruins trip, previously mentioned in the opening entry to this blog.

Each video will detail a different category of educational and pop culture resources that I have personally used to learn basic Spanish -- reviewing specific books, DVDs, and other sources in detail to give my readers ideas as to which items they might want to use in their own language learning odysseys, should they choose to study written and conversational Spanish, and should they wish to teach themselves in a dynamic, creative way that will be both fun and inspiring. I will be posting 2 of these videos each day of my trip, in order to finish posting all of them by my last day in Mexico.

The first video that I will post today is about "Learn Through Pictures" type books, very popular in the US and Europe from the 1940s through the 1960s and perhaps into the 70s. There are even some holdovers still available at major bookstores today -- and of course, all books and DVDs that I will review in this series of videos are easily and cheaply available on Amazon.com. Where do you think I procured most of them in the first place...?

Evening of August 14: Arrival into Cancun and my adventure getting to Walter's home

Hi Everyone,

This is the first of four postings I am typing tonight. In this one, I will tell you about my arrival into Cancun and the adventure I had getting from the airport to my AirBnB host's home in the city center of Cancun (not to be confused with the resort / beach / hotel / tourist area)...

So my flight from Atlanta to Cancun followed a 4 hour layover at Atlanta airport, during which time I journalled, spoke to my mom on the phone, charged my US cellphone and laptop, read some of a teach yourself Spanish-type book, and ate several snacks in lieu of a full meal.

While eating my second Arby's classic roastbeef sandwich, I was surprised to see and hear this fellow playing alto sax to tracks right in the middle of my terminal's food court area at the Atlanta Airport:

Soon enough, it was time to board, and once on the plane, my flight was relatively uneventful but for the fact that the movie, Spiderman 2, which I really wanted to see (crazy that I did not see it in the theater in NYC when it came out earlier this summer), was not coming through anyone's headphone jacks on the entire flight, so a decision was made to pipe the sound through the overhead speakers, with very little success due to the extremely low volume level. This plus it took the flight crew so long to troubleshoot the issue that only 1/2 of the movie was able to be shown on my 2.5 hour or longer flight to Cancun. Oh well -- can't have everything, I suppose...

Though I read the literature that accompanied the Telcel Mexican sim card that I had purchased last fall for my previously cancelled trip, and which I was assured by the US salesman would still work this August, apparently everyone involved was mistaken, and the damned thing wound up being a complete waste of time and an utter piece of crap. No matter what I did -- no matter which of my 2 GSM phones I tried, I could not get a signal in Cancun airport, and thus I could not activate the card to tell my nervous parents that I had arrived safely, nor could I call my AirBnB host Walter to let him know that I had landed and was making my way towards his home.

So, instead of being excited to see Cancun Airport, taking pictures and shooting video like I normally would have done once I emerged from a relatively smooth passport control and customs procedure, instead I was preoccupied with why the hell my stupid sim card was not working, and I completely forgot to document my arrival or the boarding of my bus from the airport to Cancun city center.

My ADO bus was cushy and air conditioned and plush and super comfortable and everything you would think a luxury coach should be, and it was pretty cheap for the almost 40 minute ride -- don't remember exactly how much, but I have the receipt around here somewhere if anyone is interested. I even got to watch part of The Silver Lining Playbook in Spanish during my smooth ride to the Cancun city center ADO bus terminal.

Here is a short video of the ADO bus terminal in Cancun's city center, as I made my way from my bus through the station and out onto the street. I also stopped to use the pay-toilet, which I did not include in this video...:

Once I got off the bus, I immediately headed across the street to the Telcel cell phone store that I saw upon exiting the bus station. Using only Spanish, I was able to choose, purchase, and activate a sim card that now works beautifully. Well, truth be told, during the activation part, which took place on my actual cellphone with a Telcel rep after having been placed on hold for 15 minutes (hope that call didn't count towards my minutes!!!), I finally asked to speak to an English-speaking rep, because I was talking myself in a circle and I really wanted to be done with the process so I could make my way to my room where I am now staying.

Following purchase of the sim card, I walked next door to an OXXO convenience store -- a chain here much like 7-Eleven (which they also have) and I added 100 pesos value to the card (a little less than $10 US dollars). I also made this purchase entirely in Spanish, asking various questions to the cashier as I chose my recharge amount.

Here are 2 audio clips -- one of me initially purchasing the sim card and the other of me recharging it next door. Unfortunately, my recorder was in my pocket and there was a lot of background noise, so the recordings are mainly being posted here for my own posterity. I actually had an amazing Spanish-only conversation earlier this evening while purchasing my bus tickets for tomorrow, which I will get to in my next posting, but alas, I did not have my recorder on me today to record the dang thing! Oh well...

Finally, I was all set with the cell phone. After various trial and error efforts with and without country and city codes, I finally got through to my host Walter and was ready to hop in a cab to his home. Total wasted time lining up a new sim card for my phone: at least 1.5 hours.

The taxi ride was smooth and the driver was very friendly, asking me where I was from and other pleasantries, which I negotiated entirely in Spanish -- and not even that broken, either! I was encouraged with my growing confidence in this language...Luckily, my cellphone was working, because the driver got lost and we had to call Walter for revised directions.

Once I arrived at Walter's, I paid the driver, got out and shook Walter's hand, and was led to my spacious and comfortable room. Here is a video of the place where I am staying, shot today, maybe 18 hours after arriving in Cancun:

After a pleasant and brief conversation with Walter, I asked him for walking directions to a cheap but tasty local restaurant, because I was really hungry by this point and ready for a yummy dinner. Walter had a photocopy of a map ready for me (presumably he has these for his various AirBnB guests throughout the year), and in no time, I was on my way, at dusk, in an attempt to follow his walking directions while at the same time never having been here before and having absolutely no idea where I was going!

I thought that I had gotten lost, but my instincts were actually quite excellent. If I had only walked 1/2 block more, I would have found the exact place Walter recommended, a taco place I would up eating at on 8/15 (see my next entry for that date). Instead, I had a really great double-decker hamburger with fried onions and mushrooms on a delightfully toasted bun at a place called Bronto Burger. Here are a photo and a video of my experience, as well as a daylight shot taken the next day when I walked by it a second time on my way to breakfast:

Upon returning from Bronto Burger, I unpacked my suitcase, took a shower, and fell promptly asleep for the next 8 hours. Unfortunately, I accidentally turned off the fan in my room when I turned off the light to sleep, and I woke up this morning drenched in a puddle of my own sweat. Cancun in August is the most humid, sweatingest place I have ever visited, AND I HAVE NO AIR CONDITIONER WHILE HERE, FOLKS. Oh, the things we take for granted sometimes. Maybe I'll be lucky and lose 10 pounds from all of the sweating. That is another story, though.

Thanks for reading, and onto the next posting.

Digression 1: More Spanish Language Learning Resources Part 1

Here I will take a brief digression to upload yet another video I shot last fall prior to my original, cancelled trip which has now been replaced by my current Yucatan journey. This video is the first of 2 parts on Spanish Language "Teach Yourself" - type books readily available used and new on Amazon, as well as for me at wonderful used bookstores, such as New York City's The Strand in Union Square:

Thanks for watching. I will post Part 2 of this video after my next blog entry, which will be about what I did today, on my first full day in Cancun...