And the winner is…

About 4-5 months ago I submitted three photos from my study abroad to Mérida, México to the BYU Kennedy Center Photo Contest.  After several months I began to wonder if they were even going to select a winner.  Two weeks ago I received an email saying that one of my photos had won.  I was very excited to find out which photo won.  Today I attended the awards reception on campus and was pleasantly surprised to find out that two of my photos were selected!  My photo of the boat on the beach at Progreso, Yucatán, México was selected as Honorable Mention.  After giving those in attendance the background to the photo I sat back down and was anxious to see the top three photos.  I was extremely surprised when my photo of the chairs came up on the screen for second place!  I didn’t think I could win more than once!  To be honest, I actually forgot that I had submitted the photo with the two chairs.  That photo was taken at the Convent de San Bernardino de Siena, Valladolid, Yucatán.  

Ever since taking a photography class in high school I have continually tried to get better and improve my skills.  I don’t have any fancy equipment or an expensive camera.  I feel that half of making a good photograph is having the eye for it.  You have to compose the photo.  I will often take several photos of the same thing but from several different angles or by composing the photo differently.  One day I will have a good camera but for now my iPhone will do the job.  

Cenote X’kekén, Valladolid, Yucatán, México

Cenote X’kekén, Valladolid, Yucatán, México

Valladolid

Valladolid

Is having this much fun allowed?!

I have had yet another crazy week here in Mérida!  I can’t believe how quickly time is going by.  I feel like we have all been going non stop for days now.  I have not even had time to write on my blog and I didn’t even have a chance to call my mom on her birthday!  (Sorry Mom!  I love you!).  This post may end up being somewhat long, but hopefully interesting…anyways, I will give a recap of the week.

Monday:  After class I conducted another interview for my Global Management Certificate.  One of the members of the ward helped me find some expatriates I could interview.  It has been interesting to talk with Americans (and Canadians) who live and work here in Mérida.  

Tuesday:  I had another interview.  This time with a Canadian couple that lives in Progreso.  They have been here 10 months and love it down here.  Their opinions and viewpoints were also very interesting on life here in Mérida.

Wednesday:  I spent the afternoon going to see some members and families around town.  It was great to see so many of them and to be able to see how they are all doing!

Thursday:  This is where all the major events started to happen this week.  After class I came home and took a short nap and then ate.  I was sitting down to write on my blog when I was contacted by some of the group members who wanted to go to the temple.  I asked them what time and they said they were leaving right now.  I quickly changed my clothes and raced over to meet them so we could be on time for our appointment to do baptisms at 4:00.  We got there and the temple was not even open yet.  We waited for a few minutes and they opened the doors.  We told them we were there to do baptisms but they were a bit confused and they couldn’t help us yet because they had not even had their prayer meeting yet.  One of the group members called the day before and set the appointment but the worker who helped set the appointment had been misinformed.  We had to wait until 5:00 till we could start.  It was nice to be there and help serve others.  

After the temple we took the bus home and then quickly changed and then we took taxis and raced across town to get to the baseball game.  The state has a baseball team called Los Leones de Yucatán (Yucatan Lions).  Most people wouldn’t think that baseball is big down here, but surprisingly there are a lot of people that love baseball.  I think they get the most influence from the Dominican Republic and Cuba as far as the sport goes.  The game was a lot of fun!  Unfortunately the Lions are not that great and they lost the game.  They played against the Pirates from Campeche.

Friday:  I think Friday is definitely one of the highlights from this whole experience!  I am on the travel committee here in our group and I suggested that we get a small group together to go to Valladolid, Yucatan.  After announcing to the group what we were planning we realized that almost everyone wanted to go.  Due to such a high demand we were able to use budget money for the program to pay for a private bus for the day.  We left at 6:30 and went over to Ek Balam first (ancient ruins near Valladolid).  We were there for about 90 minutes and then we went over to Valladolid to spend the rest of the day.  We had the freedom to plan the rest of our day and do what we wanted.  We had a small group of about 10 of us that had planned a full day of adventures.  We went over to the main market to look around quickly and then we raced back to the center park to rent bikes.  We were able to rent the bikes for less than one dollar per hour.  Ally and I decided to rent the tandem!  We rode the bikes about 6 km to a cenote called X’kekén.  This is one of the most widely known cenotes throughout the state and probably throughout the world.  We got there and we were so hot, it felt so good to get into the cold cenote water.  After a bit we rode the bikes back and made a stop at the old convent called San Bernardino de Siena.  During the whole time that I lived in Valladolid I never got to see the inside of this huge building.  It was pretty cool to see the inside.  The convent was actually built on top of a cenote.  The cenote part is not accessible to people but it is definitely there.  They have actually discovered lots of cool artifacts and stuff inside the cenote.  After looking at the convent we went back downtown and turned the bikes back in and then we ate lunch!  We were all exhausted by this point and very hungry.  We ate and then had about one hour to look around downtown and go inside the cathedral, the government buildings, etc.  When I arrived in Valladolid as a missionary back in 2008 I was instantly mesmerized.  It instantly became my favorite place in the peninsula.  I was glad we all got to go.  

When we got back we had a small surprise birthday party at my house for Lars.  Margarita made lasagna and bought a really good cake for his birthday.  Last time I had lasagna in Mexico the person that prepared it didn’t realize you are supposed to cook the noodles….luckily Margarita is an excellent cook!  It was delicious!

After the birthday party there were some of us that went over to one of the other host families house for a karaoke party.  I am not going to lie…I was not very excited to go.  Karaoke has never been something that I have enjoyed, probably because I am not the best singer.  It was a lot of fun!  The DJ actually had lots of English music so we could actually sing to music that we know.  Some of the highlights of the night: when we all sang “Wannabe” by Spice Girls, Lady Gaga, and Elton John and Kiki Dee! 

p.s.  I think the seats on the tandem bike were the worst ones out of the whole group.  Ally and I realized that our behinds were going to be a bit sore….we were right! haha!

Saturday:  We had another fun excursion!  We went to a village called Tixcokob where they have a hammock factory.  Many of the students took advantage of the good prices and bought hammocks to take home.  After visiting the factory we went to Izamal.  Izamal is a really cool village that is known as the village with three cultures.  The village has ancient maya influences, Spanish influences and modern day influences.  Combine all of that and you get a village with huge ancient maya pyramids, a massive cathedral and convent, and modern day buildings and technologies.  The whole village is painted yellow including the huge cathedral and convent.  It is a pretty cool place.  We saw the pyramids and then a had short tour in the church and then we had about one hour to explore.  A group of us took a horse drawn carriage tour of the city.  As a missionary I had been to this village before but I had never really seen or explored anything.  It has been an awesome experience to be here and see things from a tourist/academic view.

When we got back we went home for about 2 hours and then a group of us went downtown and had dinner at Los Trompos again!  We got the carne al pastor pizza again!  That stuff is delicious!  After that we walked about 7 blocks to the Noche Mexicana.  Every Saturday they have a Mexican Night where they have traditional dances and songs from different parts of the country.  When most people think of Mexico they have a certain stereotype of how things are and what it is like.  You can’t judge the whole country based on what you see in one state.  Each region of Mexico is very different and unique.  Yucatán is probably one of the most different because of the presence of the ancient maya culture and language that is still used here. 

When we took a taxi home the taxi driver was really surprised that we were going home around 10:30.  He said the night was just starting….which he was correct when he said that.  All the clubs on Paseo Montejo were just starting to get filled with people.  We explained that we were exhausted and that we had already had way too much fun this weekend.  He still thought we were weird!  haha!  

This week has been incredible!  I will try to write more frequently on my blog this week, but I won’t make any promises!  ¡Hasta luego!

I’m Melting…

When I tell people that it is very hot in Mérida, I really mean it.  It is very hot here!  Yesterday it was 104 F with 100% humidity!  When I say that I am melting, I mean that literally!  When my flight landed I had to go through the immigration line to enter the country.  The paper that I filled out asked if I was coming as a student or a tourist and so I wrote down that I was a student.  Little did I know that this was going to cause me to wait in the immigration line for nearly 30 minutes while I was somewhat interviewed as to what exactly I was going to be doing in Mexico.  Turns out that they would only give me 30 days to stay in Mexico before they deport me!  I am hoping I can get to the immigration office here in Merida during the next day or two and try to get more time.  Once I was finally allowed to enter the country I took a 2 hour bus ride inland to my favorite place, Valladolid.  Valladolid is one of the larger cities in Yucatán and it is a real neat place.  The people there are very nice and the city is actually really nice also.

One of the families I know there picked me up at the bus terminal and we took a taxi to another families house.  They told me we were going there to pick up something.  Once we arrived I realized this was not the case.  Nearly the whole ward was there to welcome me!  It was great to see everyone from Valladolid!  They even prepared panuchos and a cake!  (I love panuchos!)  I stayed with some friends in Valladolid and it was great to stay with them for a couple of days.  On Tuesday I found a place near the center park and I rented a bike to ride around a visit some more people.  (10 pesos per hour, great deal!)  Later that night I became famous…

We went to one of the parks with some other families so the little kids could play.  While we were there there was a television program that showed up and started filming their show at the park.  At one point Rigo left me with the stroller and the baby while he went to the restroom.  I was standing next to Ceci and their other daughter when we were approached and they started interviewing Ceci.  After talking with her they turned to me and asked “And are you the husband?!”  I quickly answered no and Ceci explained I was a friend visiting from the USA.  I will make my Mexican television debut on Friday night at 9:00 on the show Que Onda Valladolid!

The next day I took the bus to Mérida.  My good friends the Cetina Family picked me up at the bus terminal.  They took me out for panuchos and salbutes and my favorite, Cristal Negra.  (Cristal Negra is a soda they drink here that is very good!)  

Ever since the beginning of my mission I have always loved all the food from down here.  The Yucatecan diet is different from any other diet in Mexico.  There is one thing I have learned, you can’t just jump right into a pure traditional Yucatecan diet without getting at least a small share of “turista” (diarrhea).