Day 8: Chichen Itza and the Maya Dollar

Okay, so in Changes, the 12th book in the Dresden Files, Harry Dresden finds out that the daughter he didn’t know he had is going be sacrificed by the vampires of the Red Court as a part of a powerful bloodline curse. Harry, of course, immediately does everything he can to save her. He calls in every favor owed him in the supernatural world, brings all his considerable strength to bear, and, when that’s not enough, forces himself to compromise his values to gain a darker power.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, you see, the final epic battle in this book took place at Chichen Itza, an ancient Maya city. The same Chichen Itza that we went to on this day.

Needless to say, I geeked out a lot.

But I mean, who wouldn't? This beautiful building was the first thing we saw walking out of the main road.
But I mean, who wouldn’t? This beautiful building was the first thing we saw walking out of the main road.

Like always, we left as early as we could manage to beat the rush of tourists that would be arriving by the bus-fuls by the afternoon. I’m glad we did that because by the time we left, all that bare ground you see up there was just covered by mounds of brightly covered American and Chinese flesh. It was as if a giant god had vomited up a colorful mixture of lumps with hats and selfie sticks all over the grounds of the city.

Okay, I’ll stop. I shouldn’t speak about tourists with such disgust, considering I’m one of them. But still.

Anyway.

The building that we had first walked into is called the Temple of Kukulkan and is definitely the main attraction. At first, it doesn’t seem that imposing. I think it’s because it doesn’t shoot up vertically in the air like a skyscraper does and thus doesn’t seem to tower over you. But once you get closer, you realize the sheer size of the thing and how massive it really is.

Imagine climbing all those stairs. Without any guardrails either.
Imagine climbing all those stairs. Without any guardrails either.

Actually, Harry Dresden did have to climb up those stairs, fighting off bloodthirsty vampires the entire way, only to reach the top and…

Okay, okay, you’re not interested. But I was imagining the whole battle in my head while I stared up at the temple. And it was fucking incredible.

Whatever, I’ll move on, you bunch of haters.

Remember that ball game from my previous post where you can't use your hands and feet? Yeah, this is the same game except the field is about twenty times bigger.
Remember that ball game from my previous post where you can’t use your hands and feet? Yeah, this is the same game except the field is about twenty times bigger. Look at how tiny that hoop is.
The Skull Platform is where they, well, put the skulls. The skulls of enemies, political dissidents, and people who chew too loudly.
The Skull Platform is where they, well, put the skulls. The skulls of enemies, political dissidents, and people who chew too loudly.
This is the Temple of the Warriors. If you look closely, you can see Steph Curry carved into the second pillar from the left
This is the Temple of the Warriors. If you look closely, you can see Steph Curry carved into the second pillar from the left.
The Maya were very into astronomy and time-keeping as you can tell from this observatory. Remember when stupid people thought that the world would end in 2012 because of a Maya calendar?
The Maya were very into astronomy and time-keeping as you can tell from this observatory. Remember when stupid people thought that the world would end in 2012 because of a Maya calendar? It was just 4 years early. 
This is the Sacred Cenote, The Maya believed that this particular sinkhole led to the underworld, so they constantly threw in sacrifices such as jade, gold, and small children. Just kidding. They threw in adults too.
This is the Sacred Cenote, The Maya believed that this particular sinkhole led to the underworld, so they constantly threw in sacrifices such as jade, gold, and small children. Just kidding. They threw in adults too.
And here's a picture of a lizard on a stone serpent.
And here’s a picture of a lizard on a stone serpent.

Pictures do not do this place justice. I mean, they rarely do, especially when they’re taken by a complete photography amateur like me, but even so. I simply walked around for a couple of hours, enjoying myself and the incredible views.

Eventually, however, I broke out of the spell and allowed myself to finally listen to one of the salesmen that had been calling out to me constantly for the entire walk-around.

Look at all these trinkets.
They would call out “One dollar! One dollar, everything one dollar!” And when you fell into their trap, they would inform you that they meant it was a “Mayan dollar” and the actual price would be somewhere between 20 and 1000 pesos. Sneaky.

Now, of course I had a vague idea that when you deal with street vendors, especially in touristy areas, you have to haggle. Unfortunately, I have little to no experience haggling and was unsure of how to go about it. Also, I had drifted away from Chan who was decidedly more experienced in these matters.

The local merchant I first walked up to immediately knew I was an innocent little lamb.

“You like that pipe?” he asked.

“Yeah, I do,” I replied like an idiot. “How much?”

“300 pesos,” he said, grinning, “It’s real bone! I carved it myself.”

“Hmm…” I pondered, unconvincingly.

“For you, I’ll take 200,” the merchant said.

“Deal,” I said happily. You should’ve seen my dumb face, so proud of my bargaining skills.

Ten minutes later, I saw almost the exact same pipe at a different stall. The starting price was 150 pesos.

So yeah, I suck at haggling.

But I got better, especially with Chan’s help. He taught me the process. You have to master the incredulous ‘pffft’ you do when you hear their starting price, which immediately makes them say ‘But for you, 10 pesos off!’ Then you laugh it off and say no thanks, but keep the item in your hands, looking it over. That’s when the merchant throws up his hands and asks for your best price. Now, this is the tricky part. You squint your eyes, checking the item for flaws, you ‘hmm’ and stroke your chin and finally you give them a price that is roughly a third of their original price. Of course, they will scoff and laugh at your funny joke of a price and say no way. Then, a counteroffer. In this way, you both move slowly towards a price in between. And finally, when there’s only a slight gap but the salesman won’t budge, that’s when you pull out the finishing move. You put the item back in its place, thank the merchant for his time, and begin to walk away. Don’t flinch. Just keep walking and walking…until he finally calls out and agrees to your price. You turn back and smile.

Congratulations, you’ve gotten a souvenir for half the original price or lower.

It’s an art. A verbal dance, if you will, and I’m still not the greatest at it. But with Chan’s help, I was eventually able to grow from a sweet naive lamb to a fierce cynical, uh, sheep. Or something. I got souvenirs is what I’m saying.

Finally, with bags filled with trinkets and legs sore from walking, we left Chichen Itza. We had spent 5 hours and a decent chunk of money there. It was worth it.

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Day 6 and 7: The Road to Merida and Strange Characters

DAY 6

We decided to go to a biosphere reserve south of Tulum called Sian Ka’an. “Biosphere” sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?The word made me think of the pterodactyl cage in Jurassic Park 3, even though I knew the place we would be visiting would be more like the Florida Everglades. I would have to say, either one of those are much cooler than Sian Ka’an.

Although, the blossoming of a bromance is always beautiful to watch.
Although, the blossoming of a bromance is always beautiful to watch.

That’s not to say that it was a bad place. It was certainly pretty.

Even with Chans big head in the way.
Even with Chan’s big head in the way.

And we definitely had our fun.

Just because were wearing life jackets like giant diapers, doesnt mean were playing around.
We’re manly, mature men. The fact that we’re wearing our life jackets like diapers doesn’t mean shit. (Get it?)

Chan asked for a smaller life jacket to put between his legs because he has a small, uh, leg. S.

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My X-Large life jacket keeping me afloat between the mangrove trees.

Clearly, we had a good time and it’s nice to simply float along with the current of the canal. But we also paid 600 pesos, or around $30 for the hour-and-a-half experience. There were not enough animals or anything interesting to make it worth 30 bucks.

Especially the walk back to boat after our float down the canal.
Especially when we had to walk back to boat after our float down the canal.

I did hear that other parts of the reserve make for better viewing, with crocodiles and manatees and such. But for that, we would have to go to the southern side of the reserve to a place called Punta Allen, which would have been a four-hour drive. Not to mention it’s even more expensive for the tour. So if you plan on visiting this part of the Yucatan Peninsula, be ready to invest a lot of time or money, neither of which we had.

But we didn’t feel too disappointed about it. Instead we headed straight towards yet another cenote.

I dont know what it is about sinkholes that make them so fun to go to. Probably because it reminds me of the pit in my soul.
I don’t know what it is about sinkholes that make them so fun to go to. Probably because it reminds me of the pit in my soul.

The first cenote of the day had a large hole at the top, which shone a brilliant ray of light into one patch of the water. Of course, the basic tourists that we are, we had to take those classic pictures that we convince ourselves is cool, but realize how tacky they are as soon as we get home. Good thing I’m not home yet.

Look at those abs. Like a Greek god that is Cambodian.
“I should’ve tied the string on my swim shorts.”

 

David is pointing towards a section of the stone wall that is pretty much exactly like every other part of the wall.
David is pointing towards a section of the stone wall that is pretty much exactly like every other part of the wall.

 

I have almost the exact same image tattooed on my back, except its a mermaid instead of a skinny Asian guy.
I have the almost exact same image tattooed on my back, except it’s of a mermaid instead of a skinny Asian guy.

And then we visited a second cenote because why not?

This one had bats flying around in them, which made me recite a Joker monologue from "The Dark Knight." Because Im cool like that.
This one had bats flying around, which made me recite a Joker monologue from “The Dark Knight.” Because I’m cool like that.
This cenote also had the fish that eat the dead skin on your feet.
This cenote also had the fish that eat the dead skin on your feet.

I feel kind of bad for the cousins of these fish that are in little tanks along the side any touristy coastal boardwalk. What if the tourist has a bad case of athlete’s foot? Do they have to eat around the fungi? If they go through even 10 pairs of feet per day, at least one of them is bound to taste terrible, no?

Anyways.

After the cenotes, we kept driving until we hit Merida.

In case I was unclear about where we went.
In case I was unclear about where we went.

We ate dinner that was amazing per usual and decided to walk around for a little while.

The Grand Plaza in the middle of the city is not only pretty; it also has free Wi-Fi and outlets everywhere. Step it up, America.
In the center of the city is Plaza de la Independencia. Not only pretty, it also has free Wi-Fi and outlets everywhere. Step it up, America.

After wandering around for a little while and getting some delicious ice cream at a nearby gelato shop called Hola Pola!, we stumbled across an exhibition of modern art, a large Christmas tree, and a international chess tournament.

Of course, we had to sit down and play a game. Just between us noobs though; we wouldve been crushed by anyone competing in the tournament.
Of course, we had to sit down and play a game. Just between us noobs though; we would’ve been crushed by anyone competing in the tournament.

After feeding my nerdy side (which is most of me), we headed back to our AirBnb to rest for the next day.

 

DAY 7

Merida is the capital city of the Yucatan state and the largest city in the entire peninsula. It also has less tourists than Cancun or Playa del Carmen, which made us feel smug about ourselves. Road less traveled and all that. Even though it’s still pretty well-traveled.

A different angle of the Grand Plaza in the daytime.
The central Plaza is always packed.

But still, Merida definitely felt more lived-in by the locals. It also helped that our AirBnb was in a place where other tourists rarely venture to. Just walking along the streets was a enjoyable experience.

Reminded me a little bit of Ecuador streets. Which isnt too surprising, I suppose
Reminded me a little bit of Ecuador streets. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, I suppose, considering the influence of the Spanish conquering and destroying everything to rebuild cities in their own image.
A used-book sale, which had me grinning ear to ear, flipping through random books even though I dont know any Spanish. It made me happy.
A used-book sale, which had me grinning ear to ear, flipping through random books even though I don’t know any Spanish. I like books.
We then visited the public market, which was pretty much like every other public market Ive been to: loud, cramped, and filled with the best food.
We then visited the public market, which was pretty much like every other public market I’ve been to: loud, cramped, and filled with the best-tasting food that will give you diarrhea. 
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Surprisingly, my bowels were fine after this spicy mango and a street-vendor sandwich. Maybe I’m finally adjusting.

After all that, we went to the Merida Cathedral.

It would take a couple of days for me to recite all my sins.
It would take a couple of days for me to recite all my sins.

While wandering around the Cathedral (respectful wandering, of course), a short, pudgy man came up to me and asked, “Do you know anything about trees?”

‘What a strange pick-up line,’ I thought, and answered that I, in fact, knew almost nothing about trees. He went on to explain to me in a slightly disdainful manner, that the wooden Jesus that I had been staring at was actually the largest wooden Jesus in the Americas and had been made from birch wood imported from Minnesota. I replied that that was pretty cool.

We made a little more small talk, lingering on the subject of trees only for a while longer, until my friends caught up with me. The little man said that he was a historian and if we knew anything about the Cathedral. Since we obviously didn’t, The Historian said that he would teach us a few things in a slightly derisive, but also welcoming tone. It was strange, but we weren’t going to say no to a free tour. So we just went along as he explained about how the base of each pillar was made from the stones of the original Mayan pyramids that the conquistadors had torn down, or about the smaller wooden Jesus on a side wing that was the only item that had survived a church fire. It was very informative, if a little off-putting, as he would often speak condescendingly.

The Historian eventually led us outside to show us something and that’s when we found out that he owned a shop right next to the Cathedral. After showing us whatever he had to show us, he tried to sell us items. When we refused politely, he even tried to sell us some, ahem, herbs of a medicinal nature.

All in all, it was a very surreal experience. It was impressive how The Historian was willing to become our temporary tour guide for the chance to sell us a bamboo stash box. Impressive, but also, isn’t trying to attract customers from within a cathedral somewhat…blasphemous? Maybe it’s just me.

Anyways, thanks Historian, for a good time.

After that strange encounter, we stuck around the plaza to watch a round of a traditional Mayan ball game called pitz.

They're only allowed to use their hips and torso, which made the game ridiculously hard.
They’re only allowed to use their hips and torsos to get the ball through the hoop in the middle, which made the game ridiculously difficult. My hip-eye coordination is terrible. 
Every goal was met with loud cheering and whooping from the crowd. So, twice. Its a difficult game.
Every goal was met with loud cheering and whooping from the crowd. So, twice. I told you, it’s a difficult game.

After the ball game, we decided to go home and sleep early. Because the next day would be the highlight of the trip: Chichen Itza.

DAY 4 and 5: Beaches, Holes, and Getting Wet

I have accumulated exactly 26 mosquito bites in the last 5 days. Whether I will have any blood left in my body at the end of this trip is uncertain. Or I will become just one giant mass of swollen red flesh with glasses.

Okay, I’ll stop complaining. I’m on vacation, for goodness sake.

But if I get malaria, I’m going to complain like no other.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t write a blog post yesterday, it was because I was tired and didn’t want to. I also was not able to take many photos as we went snorkeling in a cenote, or sinkhole, while it was raining. Dark and wet do not make for good pictures. Here are some anyway.

Doing my best Gollum impression. I think I got the malnourished look down.
Doing my best Gollum impression. I think I got the malnourished look down.

 

Literally the best picture of us we were able to take that day. Told you I lacked good pictures.
Literally the best picture of us we were able to take that day. Told you I lacked good pictures.

After spending time in this particular sinkhole, we went back to Tulum to our AirBnb residence to wash up and rest.

Yes, this is the view from the balcony of our AirBnb. Who needs fancy resorts?
Yes, this is the view from the balcony of our cheap AirBnb. Who needs fancy resorts?

We went to a famous restaurant called El Camello Jr. to try their famous ceviche, a cold seafood dish that’s eaten with tortilla chips. It did not disappoint.

I can't get enough of Mexican food. Even if my innards can.
I can’t get enough of Mexican food. Even if my innards can.

Satisfied, we went back to the AirBnb to relax and get ready for a busy next day.

We woke up at a little before 7 to get to Ruinas de Tulum, or the Tulum Ruins, before too many tourists get there. I highly recommend doing this, even if you hate waking up early like me, because it gets absolutely packed and you can’t take pictures like these.

Being able to see the ruins with only a few people crawling around them is great.
Being able to see the ruins with only a few people crawling around them is great.

 

We found that it is also possible to visit during the sunrise or sunset, but it does cost significantly more.
We found that it is also possible to visit during the sunrise or sunset, but it does cost significantly more.

 

The Mayans sure knew how to pick a view.
The Mayans sure knew how to pick a view.

Afterwards, we headed towards Akumal Bay to snorkel and swim with the fishes. We had rented the snorkel gear the day before from a small shop towards the center of town. We’ve been using it all of yesterday and today, wherever we like, so it is definitely cheaper than renting some at each place. Although, straight up buying it might be the cheapest option in the long run.

You are also required to wear a life vest at Akumal Bay. It’s in order to prevent people from stepping on the coral reefs as that could damage them. Of course, this also means that the shops there that rent out snorkel gear make bank. Two birds, one stone.

DCIM101GOPROG0665211.
Unfortunately a lot of fish move too quickly to get a proper photo of them. At least, that’s what we told ourselves. So here’s a picture of my legs.

 

Yes, we swam with turtles. I love turtles.
Yes, we swam with turtles. I love turtles.

 

I got this sweet picture of a turtle surfacing for air though.
I waited 10 minutes to get this picture because they can hold their breath for so long.

Finally, to end the day, we went to yet another cenote. The water was extremely clean and fresh, so much so that it tasted better than the bottled water we were carrying around. I mean, sure it was filled with the filth of dozens of people, but still.

That is, dozens just for that day.
That is, dozens just for that day.

 

Chan probably contaminated the water for the next couple of weeks.
Chan probably contaminated the water for the next couple of weeks.

 

Just to be clear, it wasnt like I was just sticking my face in and gulping mouthfuls of water like a maniac.
Just to be clear, it wasn’t like I was just sticking my face in and gulping down mouthfuls of water like a maniac.

 

I used a cup.
I used a cup.

 

Off to find funnier jokes. Im disappointed in myself.
Off to find funnier jokes. I’m disappointed in myself.

DAY 2: Never Skip Leg Day

Oh, how I’ve missed sharing a bed with Chan. Him hogging the covers, my snores waking him in the middle of the night. Just like old times.

Today, we decided to take a ferry out to the island of Cozumel. It’s only about an hour’s ride from the coast of Playa del Carmen and looked to have nice beaches. What could go wrong?

But first, we had to eat breakfast. We stopped at a place called Nativo because it had a lot of good reviews.

The reviews were solid.
The reviews were solid, unlike my bowel movements.

If you’re wondering what the hell is on my plate, the waitress recommended me a dish so I decided to just go with it. She definitely just told me the most expensive dish on the menu, as most servers are told to do, but whatever. I like to try new things. It’s called La Nativita and consisted of tamal, tlacoyo, cactus, and steak. It was surprisingly good, if a bit heavy for breakfast. And no, I don’t know which one is the tamal and which one is the tlacoyo.

Also, the portion sizes made me understand how Mexico overtook the United States as the obesity capital of the world.

Full and satisfied, we got on the ferry to Cozumel.

Look at those poor, unsuspecting fools.
Look at those poor, unsuspecting fools.

The ferry itself was decent. It rocked a good amount, but not enough to cause seasickness. However, they started off the ride by playing the theme song from the Titanic, which was a rather ominous choice of music. It made me irrationally worry about icebergs off the coast of Mexico.

They soon switched to a live band, which was much better than the song that is essentially a symbol for sunken ships.

Once we made landfall in Cozumel, we had to decide on what method of transportation we would take to travel around the island. There is only one road that goes around the coast of nearly the entire island and we could choose to traverse it either by car, moped, or bicycle.

A car seemed too easy and boring. David was all for mopeds, since we could just get two and it would require less effort than cycling. But the rest of us shot the idea of mopeds down, thinking that we could ride bikes at a leisurely pace and it would be easier to stop wherever we wanted.

It was only around 40 miles around the island.

40 miles. Only.

Clearly, none of us had any idea what kind of distance that was. So, like idiots, we rented bikes from a little shop inside a sketchy alleyway and started pedaling.

Riding through the town, unaware of the toils to come.
Riding through the town, unaware of the toils to come.

 

Look at that stupid face.
Look at that stupid, stupid face.

We rode for about an hour or so before we decided to rest for a little while. We found a path that led to a small area of beach and we quickly dove into the cool water. It was only a short respite however, since we had to return the bikes by 6pm and we still had a ways to go. The shirts stayed off.

Bare-backed boys blissfully biking like a bunch of bozos.

So we biked and biked and biked. Sweat dripped down our faces and our legs started to strain with the effort, but we kept on, confident in our belief that we would be at a large stretch of beach soon.

However, that confidence soon turned to uneasiness as we realized that the entire length of beach that we would’ve gone frolicking in was closed off. Apparently a bunch of resorts and hotels and restaurants had established themselves there and made their little patch of land exclusive. It was ridiculous.

And so we decided to ignore all of it. Not because we couldn’t afford a drink or something at a restaurant, but because of the principle of the thing.

So we pressed on.

We wanted to reach the beach on the south side of the island, the part that was free. But it was slowly dawning on us that maybe getting bikes had been the wrong move. Especially when a few people completely decked out in professional cycling gear passed us from the opposite direction. And when dozens of mopeds zoomed by us, the drivers calling out in encouragement.

But it was too late. We were already committed.

At least it was sunny and not raining.
At least it was sunny and not raining.

 

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“I should have done more squats.”

After roughly 3 hours of riding, we finally arrived at the beach. We went to a part in front of a bar and ordered food. So much for principles.

Still very pretty though. I thought that leaving the chairs in the frame would make the picture seem more artistic. It just looks like chairs.
Still very pretty though. Also, I thought that leaving the table and chairs in the frame would make the picture seem more artistic. It just looks like they’re in the way. 

We weren’t able to stay long, however. We had a deadline to meet so we got our aching butts back on our bikes and kept going, albeit with a nicer view.

I cant deny
You can see that the view was amazing. What you can’t see is how I nearly killed myself trying to catch up after taking this photo. (Also, I realize that the picture is slightly crooked. Too bad. I’d like to see you try to take pictures while riding a bicycle.)

There was the option of turning back, of course. But that’s hardly an option at all. Besides the fact that we were already halfway through, we were also MEN. We manly, masculine men weren’t going to allow little things like burning muscles and slow progress to stop us from completing our task.

Vultures waiting to tear into our manflesh.
Vultures waiting to tear into our manly manflesh when we collapse to the ground. 

Towards the end, we pretty much stopped talking except to complain how badly our legs and asses hurt. The sun was setting, both literally and figuratively.

All aboard the struggle bus.
All aboard the struggle bus. Making stops at “This Seat is Making My Ass-cheeks Numb” and “Why is This Road So Goddamn Long.” 

At long last, we made it. We successfully biked around the island, the entire 40 miles in just over 7 hours. Fuck yes. We were all pretty happy to see civilization again.

No matter how touristy it may be.
No matter how touristy it may be. 

Sore legs and stupid jokes aside, I still enjoyed my time in Cozumel. The scenery is beautiful and the water is great. Going around the whole island, hopping from beach to beach, can be fun and give you a sense of accomplishment. Although, I was disappointed at how so much of the coast was exclusive. If you can get over that, I recommend giving Cozumel a visit.

But be sure to rent a moped.

DAY 1: Before the Wall is Built

WELCOME TO MEXICO!

A couple months ago, Chan asked me if I wanted to go to Mexico for a few days. I hesitated, my status as an unemployed bum looming in the back of my mind. But Chan said the plane ticket would be $232 and spending ten days here would cost only an additional $500. Which is ridiculously cheap.

So, what the hell. Why not? You can always earn more money. Memories are much more valuable.

Plus, it feels like I’m defying Trump somehow. Fuck you and your wall.

(No, it doesn’t actually make sense if you really think about it, so I’m not going to think about it.)

So, here I am in Mexico, with Chan and two of his high school friends, Dennis and David. Four dudes about to bumble around the Yucatan Peninsula, hopefully without getting into too much trouble in the process.

We left Logan International Airport at noon and landed in Cancun four and half hours later. Cancun is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico, the Mecca for American college seniors, and a total tourist trap. So when we arrived in Cancun, we immediately took a bus and left.

We ain’t going mainstream.

Instead, we headed to Playa del Carmen. Although admittedly still somewhat of a tourist trap, less so than Cancun.

Bright lights, colorful shops, and lots of tourists. They even had the holy trifecta of McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret, and H&M, along with a plethora of other stores.

It actually reminded me of a shopping district in Korea called MyungDong. Except everything was in Spanish. Duh.

As you can tell, was raining when we arrived in Mexico. Unfortunately, the weather forecasts cloudy or rainy weather throughout most of our stay here, but hopefully our luck will change.

At least it’s warm.

We dropped off our bags at the place we rented through AirBnb. It was a 15 minute walk through light rain, but worth the cheap price.

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Not a bad place. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a balcony. And free Wi-Fi.
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Plus, it had inspirational shit on the walls. And no, I do not care how you look in my pictures.

We hadn’t eaten anything besides a quick breakfast before the flight, so we eagerly went to get some real Mexican food. We were not disappointed.

Simple but delicious tacos. I think we ate around 5 each.
Simple but delicious tacos at Don Sirloin. I think we ate around 5 each.

After regaining some energy, we decided to simply walk around the area with no real destination in mind.

That’s one of my favorite things about traveling. Going off the beaten path and exploring the local area without a plan. Not enough for it to be dangerous, but enough to get your heart pounding, your senses tingling. It’s fun wandering. How else will you find hidden treasures, places that aren’t on blogs and websites, people who aren’t simply trying to sell you a souvenir? To truly appreciate the beauty of a unknown community, you need to get a little lost.

And that’s how we got mugged.

JUST KIDDING. We’re fine.

We eventually found our way to the beach. And even at night, it’s beautiful.

The moon was amazingly bright this night. Very romantic. In fact, we interrupted a few couples...oops.
The moon was amazingly bright this night. Very romantic. In fact, we interrupted a few couples…oops.

After walking down the length of the beach for a while, we headed back to the AirBnb. It started to pour. We ran through the rain and got absolutely soaked. In a sexy way, though. Definitely.

I’m worried about tomorrow, as we’re planning to take a ferry out to Cozumel Island and traverse it on bikes. We’ll probably do it even if it rains, but it would be nice if it didn’t.

Piece of advice to those planning a trip to Mexico: bring a rain jacket. Umbrellas are too cumbersome, but rain jackets are perfect for traveling. Especially ones that can also cover your backpack that contains a laptop because you insisted on writing a travel blog like an idiot.

Anyways, we have a long day of exploring to do tomorrow and I need all the sleep I can get. Until then!

President Trump: How Did We Get Here?

Yeah. So that happened.

Like it or not, Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

There are people who have been saying “well, he isn’t my president.” And I understand the sentiment. These people are disappointed and angry and scared and they have every right to be. The hateful things that Donald Trump has said that many of his supporters have taken to heart, the violence that is erupting in places all over the country, what a Trump presidency could mean for our future; all of these are legitimate concerns. I think it’s healthy and necessary to take a few days to process these emotions.

And yet, I’m still uncomfortable with saying, “he isn’t my president, I didn’t vote for him.” Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy that Trump won. At all. But a friend of mine pointed out that saying that he isn’t my president seems eerily reminiscent of the same rhetoric that the Republicans used when Obama was elected.

Sure, they’re different cases. One is because we elected someone who is racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally insulting to people of kinds. The other is because we elected someone who is black. So yeah, slightly different.

But still, I don’t want to use that kind of language. It may seem like mere semantics to some, but I think that the way we choose to say things matters. This kind of phrasing distances me from the decision we made as a country and shifts the blame away from myself. I didn’t vote for Trump, but I think that viewing this loss without some serious self-reflection will only lead us to make the same mistakes all over again. And another mistake like this might be even more damaging to the country.

So, yeah. Donald Trump is my president now. Unfortunately.

This brings up two questions: How did we get here? And what do we do now?

How did we get here?

It’s a difficult question with complicated answers. My thoughts will be in no way comprehensive in scope or depth, but rather more general observations that I can make while sitting in my room in middle-of-nowhere, PA. Which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but whatever.

First of all, we underestimated how deeply rooted the racism, sexism, and homophobia is in the United States. Even I was caught off guard and I’ve studied this shit. I knew that while we’ve come a long way since the founding of the nation, we still had a lot of work to do. And yet, I thought we had made good progress in at least addressing the overt forms of bigotry. I didn’t believe that people would be so goddamn nonchalant about the things Donald Trump said. Clearly, I was wrong.

But that’s only part of the problem. As much as we’d like to label all Trump supporters as racists and bigots, it’s much more complex than that. You can say that anybody who voted for Trump gave validation to the bigots and I wouldn’t disagree with that. But to use “them all racists” as the sole explanation for Donald Trump’s win is vastly oversimplifying his appeal.

As you’ve probably heard by now from various writers, the rural voters showed up for Trump and that’s what gave him the push for the win. Many of the responses to that go along the lines of, “fuck those ignorant, racist hillbillies.” And I don’t think that’s fair, not to mention, kind of mean.

This is where I think my location lends me some perspective. I often exaggerate the rural-ness of where I live for humor, but I’m not lying when I say that I have to drive an hour to the nearest movie theater. My dad witnessed two deer fighting in our backyard yesterday morning. I wear flannel and nobody thinks it’s weird. And when I went to vote, I saw exactly 1 other Asian and maybe 4 black people in a sea of white.

All I could think of while standing in line was, ‘why would they care about me?’ They wouldn’t. Not in a malicious, “I don’t give a shit about you, you slant-eyed chink,” but more in a, “I have literally met two Asian people in my life and they deliver great Chinese food, but otherwise I got other shit to think about,” kind of way. Rather than social issues, they’re focused on the economic problems that plague rural America. In other words, they’re focused on their own interests, which I have some trouble faulting them for.

Okay, yes, you’re right of course. It doesn’t excuse the fact that they’re basically condoning bigotry as long as they get jobs in return. It’s not okay. But just because I can’t excuse their decision doesn’t mean that I don’t understand why they made it. Especially when both parties decided to ignore them for the last however-many years until Donald Trump came along.

To be clear, I highly doubt that Trump will be able to bring back economic prosperity to the Rust Belt. Those jobs are long gone. But he talked to them and promised them sweet things and that was enough.

It also didn’t help that we, the liberals, were not only dismissive of the rural population, but downright contemptuous. It was a phenomena that I had vaguely picked up on, but was never able to my finger on until I read this article. It details how American liberalism changed from believing that the opposition had a different stance on policies to believing that half the country is simply too stupid to know better. We’ve created an echo chamber that feeds our smugness and self-righteousness that when we look at anybody outside of it, they seem dumb.

I’m not excluding myself from this either. I’ve participated in and perpetuated this culture many times. I’ve cracked jokes about the ignorant, uneducated folks out in the country, supposedly voting against their own interests. I’ve made fun of Donald Trump’s inability to string together a coherent sentence many times, even though it’s clear he’s more than a bumbling buffoon. I’ve said that you just don’t understand, you’re wrong and I’m right, I just need to show you the way to reason.

That’s not to say that I didn’t believe in my policies and my stance on social issues. I did. But I didn’t understand the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness and got addicted to making the perfect mocking statement to feel the rush of people ‘liking’ my comment, instead of authentically attempting to reach an understanding. I’ve been condescending and arrogant and so goddamn smug.

And that’s what I believe turned the rural communities off of the liberals. People absolutely resent being looked down upon and that’s precisely what we have done.

This isn’t solely on the shoulders of the voters, however. Far from it. It’s clear that the DNC is the epicenter of the smug liberalism culture. They consistently refused to acknowledge the will of the people and pushed forward with their own agenda, taking their voters for granted. They were wrapped up in their own little world, haughtily dismissing every new scandal, ignoring the toll it was having on their image. If anything, the election has exposed the rotting core of the DNC and hopefully we can move forward in digging it out.

By now, some of you may think that I’m being too harsh on the very people who voted to keep Donald Trump from becoming president. Why am I blaming you guys when it’s the Republican party that enabled and endorsed him?

Well first of all, I don’t think that the Republicans are going to read this blog. So I don’t think anybody is going to listen to my rants about how there’s a deep undercurrent of white nationalism that runs underneath the entire Republican Party, or how they allowed the rampant growth of obstructionism and partisanship with the introduction of the Tea Party, or how the mindless opposition to anything Obama dipped a finger into, regardless of whether or not they agreed with it, led to further polarization of American politics, etc. I think most people who read my blog would understand that I think that the lion’s share of the blame lies with the Republican party.

I just happen to think that we aren’t completely blameless either. I understand that it’s difficult to take a step back after a loss and examine where we went wrong. It’s also necessary.

I get it. It’s easy to point fingers and yell that those other people are ruining the country. But if we do that, what makes us any different from them?