Well... what a fun week in Merida: This was by far our biggest pop-up with 28 attending families with a total of 100 amazing humans. Man, we love you guys!
Our families represented the US, Hungary, England, Canada, Malaysia, Wales, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, and Romania (and I probably missed a few). It never fails to impress me with how many different families, from different backgrounds, resonate with a worldschooling lifestyle.
With such a large group of individuals, our pop-up was very flexible schedule-wise. We had multiple options each day and the families participated as they were interested, so there never was one time when all 100 of us were at the same point. That would have looked pretty strange if all of us were walking down the street together.
Merida's weather was always sunny! And hot!! But we definitely made the best of it by finding the shade. Plazas, family biking events, chilling in small groups, setting up "shop" and selling the the things we found in nature by using leaf money... we kept ourselves busy.
*Photo credits: Mike Rapley, Chong See Ming, Rachel Carlson
Though we had plenty of parks and outdoor areas to explore, we also wound our way through Merida's amazing museums, art centers, historic homes, governmental buildings, and indoor market... this area is chock-full of history, art, and cultural appreciation. Some of our stops included Casa Montejo, Catedral de San Ildefonso, Palacio de Gobierno, Mercado San Benito, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, and ice skating at Galleria Mall.
Our days were busy, but the activities didn't stop when the sun went down. Merida offers nighttime cultural events all throughout the week: traditional dance, live music, plays, light shows, pok-ta-pok Mayan ball game exposition, dancing in the park, plus street vendors, fair rides, and food carts.
Families often split up and went to the activities that appealed to their kids. Highlights included the Mayan pok-ta-pok game, dancing in the park to live music, and the light show at the cathedral. As the families with younger kids found fair rides, electric cars and bouncy houses... the teens got to hang out around town and have a few pool parties. And, not to be outdone by the teens, the adults also had some very quality hang-out time, too (maybe tequila was involved, but I'd never tell... and am not posting any proof)!
*Photo Credits: Rachel Carlson & Chong See Ming
And last, but not least, our group took a few trips out of town to explore the nearby history and nature. Though there were many choices in the region for ruins, nearly everyone chose to visit Uxmal which is conveniently located across the street from Choco-Story Museum (where we learned about the history of cacao including a sample cup we could flavor with sugar, cinnamon, & chili).
Uxmal was impressive with multiple buildings of different purpose. We were lucky enough to tour the premises with an archeologist who explained bits what we know - and what we've lost - about the Mayan culture. Throughout the settlement there are clues as to which buildings were utilized for everyday use and which were dedicated to the gods. We noticed recurring motifs of clouds and animals, spirals and snakes... plus she told us that the entire buildings were plastered and painted -- the whole site would have been very colorful!
*Notice the handprint on the rock, this was inside the triangular shaped walkway.
Though we've don't know for certain the nature or amount of human sacrifice (quite likely there was more blood letting than actual killing), our archeologist shared a story of why there is a rumor that the pok-ta-pok winners would be sacrificed. This has actually been disproven because enough people questioned why the winners would be killed while at the same time Mayan rulers and upper class carry names that indicate they were ball players.
Someone took the time to track down the rumor and apparently at Chichen Itza, a tour guide got tired of being asked who was sacrificed. In order to give a solid answer and stop the incessant questioning, he started telling his groups that the pok-ta-pok winners would be sacrificed upon victory. And if enough people believe it, it makes its way into history. Glad we were set straight!
Another interesting tidbit about ancient Mayan culture is that they had a written language and roughly 10-15% of the people who live on the Yucatan Peninsula speak Mayan as their first language, up to 70% speak Mayan overall. But this culture was so oppressed by the European settlers that we have lost those who could read and write the Mayan script. There are still symbols in the Mayan language which we do not understand.
Our other day trip was to the Santa Barbara Cenotes, complete with three different underground pools, showers, bikes/horse cart ride, and restaurant. Man, they were just beautiful and each cenote had a different vibe to it. Some were warmer, some were completely in a cave, some had areas which were open to the sky and jungle. Such a neat place to enjoy each others' company while we played around in the water. The meal afterward at the onsite restaurant was delicious!
So wow, what a week! We've made so many wonderful memories with you. We seriously had a little bit of everything... oh wait, I didn't include any food pictures. I'll end with those. Sorry, I don't have a marquesita picture (it's like a crepe made with waffle-cone dough... the Nutella and gouda filling was a fantastic combination). There were multiple marquesita food carts every evening... you'll just have to go order one yourself! Also try the cochinita pibil which is a slow-cooked pulled pork dish that's cooked in bitter orange juice, so good.
Thanks so much to all our families for an unforgettable adventure together. We love spending time with each and every one of you. Thank you for showing up big, and going with the flow, at our biggest event yet. We are grateful for you and cannot wait to see where we meet next!
PS I forgot to mention the day I sent everyone to a strip mall... not everything planned goes as planned. Read more here.