It was so bloody hot, I went to Mass…

St Ildephonsus Cathedral, Merida

In my fresh outfit, I went off to further investigate Mérida and pray that the electrician was able to fix the power.  I walked past the beautiful Cathedral pictured above I heard the sound of hymns sung in Spanish.  There was no air conditioning in the church but the large airy limestone building was naturally cool.  There were fans up and down the aisles to prevent us from fainting…  It was so comfortable and reassuring that I decided to stay for Mass.  Most of the parishioners were indigenous Maya descendants.

There is a fascinating history to the Saint Ildephonsus Cathedral (Qué?)  It is one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas.  The Cathedral was initiated in 1561, finished in 1598 and was built on the ruins of a Maya temple in the city of Tiho renamed Mérida.  Some of the original Maya stones were used in the construction.  How cool is that?  The gigantic crucifix above the altar is Christ of Unity – a symbol of reconciliation between Maya and Catholics.  I’m pretty sure they just forced them to become Catholic… The diocese of Yúcatan and Cozumel was granted by Pope Pius IV in 1561.  One of the reasons for my trip was to see some of the lesser known Maya ruins close to Mérida (that have less tourists).  It was becoming clear that it was just too damned hot to visit ruins in an area with no shade but at least I have now been in one that is posing as a church.  St Ildephonsus was born to a Visigoth family in Toledo around 607, who knew??  His fame was spread by Portuguese navigators.

Once the nuns started preying on us to give money, I slipped out the back door.  That’s a sin, isn’t it?  I promise to give money when I don’t have heat stroke…  Finally the regular shops started opening even though it was Sunday and one department store was blissfully cold.  The streets and buildings were so enticing that I just kept walking for a few hours, stopping just once to have a drink in a café (that was not enough and I must have been severely dehydrated).  I watched in horror as one of the municipal workers drank from a hose on the ground.  The water in Merida is NOT potable!  It has to be one of the few places were you really cannot drink the water even if you are local.  Regular drought, no rivers or lakes and then flooding means that the water is full of bacteria.  I read some reports that the pristine blue cisterns that everyone swims in are not really that safe.  There was a documentary some time ago that suggested that one of the reasons that the Maya empire may have disintegrated with increasing ritual sacrifices was because of a long period of natural drought.  The population had soared during their glory days but now the crops, animals and people were dying.

My companion on the flight was a charming young man who commutes from Houston to Merida and he had mentioned the Grand Boulevard, otherwise known as the Paseo de Montejo.  I felt like I was back in Spain with a marked difference to the old town with narrow, cobbled streets.

A newly renovated yellow building on the Paseo de Monteja

After I had walked the length of the Boulevard I had to admit defeat and returned to the Hacienda.  The staff greeted me at the door with the news that the power cut was municipal and probably a small substation had failed.  I foolishly asked them when it might be fixed knowing that there was no correct answer.  When the last hurricane came through Houston, most people had no power for weeks…  I looked at my beautiful room pathetically and they came to my rescue with an offer of another room at their sister hotel just two doors down.  I could use both rooms if I didn’t want to pack or they would pack for me.  How kind they were!  My spirits perked up again but not for long…

Bah humbug

Krampus, courtesy of AV Club

Krampus, courtesy of AV Club

Nothing I do can get me in a festive mood – I am so grumpy that it is funny.  Every year I love decorating my 7 foot tall, expensive, fake tree decorated with ornaments from our childhood and from all over the world (but not this year).  I create a snow village under the tree that occasionally a cat has peed on or wrecked.  One year our little Egyptian terrorists (cats) raided Bethlehem and the nativity scene.  I used to say that I was spiritual or an atheist depending on my snarky mood but now I know I am a lapsed Catholic doomed to spend eternity in Purgatory or worse…

Most years I host a Christmas party in the house but this year Teddy said ‘No’!  He was quite right – that would have tipped me over the edge.  While he was in Scotland on business, I decorated ‘somewhat’ with my best ornaments hanging from our chandeliers.  I even painted our outside furniture and adorned the porch with some discreet fairy lights and decorations.

As most of you know, I volunteer at an airport which is a hub for Latin America, in particular.  I love it or I wouldn’t still be doing it after 8 years.  I wore my regulation Santa hat (apparently my reindeer antlers don’t cut it??) and my red and black banded tights, with my non regulation miniskirt…  The first person that irked me was another staff member – I was racing across the terminal to help someone and I said, “Ho ho ho!” to him.  He responded, “Or something” with no smile, looking at me as though I was a ‘Ho.  WTF!  This was balanced by another staff member who stopped me on my return to ask me if the elves were still on strike – the kids loved that.

I often work in the international terminal when the Central American flights come in.  This week it was something special, with Abuela’s (Grandma’s) in full traditional clothing coming in from Guatemala and El Salvador.  Many families had traveled with their whole family from other states just to meet their precious relatives who they may not have seen for many years.   Children from this region look entirely Maya and one little poppet who looked adorable in a little white furry jacket.  She looked like a little Maya angel tree-topper.  After three hours, I wondered if the Maya gods would reward me for sacrificing one of their precious children…who were now screaming and kicking my door (I am jesting, of course).  To my credit I kept smiling and reassuring everyone in bad Spanish that their relatives would be out soon – (hopefully not from holding cells).

It was perhaps all the Christmas social events leading up to now that provoked this Krampus spirit within me.  I am feeling very sensitive and every thoughtless comment bothers me.  You will love this one, “I preferred it when you were the happy, smiling Kerry”.  Really, really??  Guess what, me too!! “Your hair is getting a bit long”.  Are you my stylist?  Poor Teddy said, “You have spilled something on the floor”.  Biting sarcasm ensued regarding my qualities as a serf to his Highness.

Driving is always bad here but right now there are demons at the wheel.  Why don’t you all go through the red light – it’s only there for decoration?  What terrible gift are you going to buy that’s worth racing for – just use Amazon like a normal person.  They employ demons to drive their trucks…  Now the weather Gods have turned on us.  It has gone from freezing to about 80 degrees – everyone is sneezing, wearing fleeces with sandals.  Today, I tried to turn the tide.  I went to my favorite coffee shop to speak Arabic to my Palestinian friend.  I can tell he is missing Jerusalem – it’s colder there.  Then I went to the Salvation Army kettle and chatted to the old man about the stupid weather.  I asked him if he needed a cold drink because it was so damned hot!  I passed by the pet store and bought Toffee a knitted toucan filled with catnip.  Katniss got a knitted dog because I thought she would love to savage one…

On a more serious note, I am deeply saddened that road rage or any bad mood could make someone fire a gun and kill a child.  Even worse, kill innocent shoppers at a Christmas market or attack fleeing evacuees in a war zone.  It is within all of us to find our inner angel and love our fellow man.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Super Solstice to all!

 

 

 

Yucatan

Yucatan I had always wanted to visit Maya ruins, particularly in 2012, and would have been happy to go to any of the Central American countries where they remain but Mexico was cheapest. There have been a couple of State warnings about American travelers to Mexico and some areas are very dangerous especially on the Texas border. There was a terrorist incident in Cancun but generally that area is safe. As A. dropped me at the airport, I turned and shouted, “Don’t pay the ransom!” I decided to fly into Cancun and travel down to the coast to a resort called Playacar which was about 50 miles south. Another 50 miles south are the ruins of Tulum, a UNESCO heritage site, and one of the youngest Maya structures. As you can see above it was situated on the Caribbean for trading and it was well fortified. Read the whole story by clicking on the red link POSTCARD FROM YUCATAN 2012 – click here