Well, I tried….
I was thinking that this would satiate him. It does not seem to have taken things in that direction.
It’s gone great so far. I’m not enamored of driving on Mexican roads, though. It’s not that they’re dangerous or treacherous. They’re in excellent condition. It’s just that they are incredibly boring. At least in the parts of the Yucatan in which I’ve been driving. They’ve been mostly two-lane with a decent speed limit, but with vegetation growing slam up to the side of the road and few breaks in the scenery. The breaks that exist are towns and villages, all of which are marked by serious speed bumps which Must Be Obeyed. It’s okay. It gives you a chance to observe the scenery without seeming to rubberneck, but after a while…it can get tedious. I was ready to arrive in Campeche today, and ready to ditch the car for a day.
At one point, a bit up in the distance, a strange animal started to cross the road. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it was…some sort of huge weird badger with a skinny body and long tail? A…what? Joseph yelled, “IT’S A MONKEY!” And in retrospect, I do believe he was correct.
It’s an obvious thing to say, but spending even three days in this climate affords a real education in how culture develops in relationship to said climate. Life is very busy starting about 6am, then by noon is spent…and you can really understand why. And you can understand why things perk up again around 5. It just makes sense. Nothing original about that observation – it’s just good to experience it.
Walking around Campeche, I was twice approached by different trios of awkward high school students, needing to conduct an interview with an English speaker for their English classes. I was recorded answering questions like “What is your name?” and “How old are you?” and “Do you play any sports?” It was very sweet, and it was enlightening to see how difficult it was for these kids to pronounce English, even in this world in which we think that because of the prevalence of American pop culture, it should just come naturally to everyone.
One point I’m glad to see emerging on this trip is this teachable moment: When you are aware of Mayan history, you are aware of a history of a civilization that rose and fell without any reference to Europeans. That broadens the mind tempted to narrowness in a couple of ways. First, it’s always good to learn about an accomplished non-European civilization. Why not. Secondly, the dominant narrative out there in pop history (an umbrella under which I would group most school-taught history) is that if there’s a fallen non-European society…Europeans were probably at fault. Of course, since the Mayans collapsed centuries before Europeans were even thinking about showing up, that undercuts those assumptions nicely.
(By the way, Michael and I went to a totally cheesy but somehow winning presentation of the history of Campeche that combined a desultory tour through a fort (in Spanish), a video projection on a wall of said fort, and some exciting live action up on the ramparts. The mix of cultures was celebrated not decried, and – shock of shocks – the coming of Christianity was presented as a good thing – as the introduction of a God “who asked only love” into the culture. )
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