Friday, September 28, 2007

Akil 18

We barely had time to catch our breath and Juan announced that he had to go visit an uncle in a neighboring town, Teabo. Did we want to go along? As soon as he said it was the town he was born in, we headed for the car! We had thought he had been born in Akil, but he moved there when he was eight years old. So just Juan, B and I headed out for Teabo.

Teabo is a tiny village of maybe 2000 people located about 30 miles northwest of Akil. It is situated on the side of a hill and most of a valley. The streets are quite interesting. Very narrow with the compulsory speed bumps but all at an incline. It made leaving town an interesting challenge and tested one’s ability with a clutch! We parked in front of Uncle Roberto’s house and waited while Juan went inside to conduct whatever business it was that he come for.

His uncle’s house was one of three that were all attached and shared the same front yard. From our vantage point we could look right in the open door and window of the house next door. A cousin of Juan’s was inside busily making a hammock. It is a fascinating process of weaving string on a horizontal loom. What impressed us was her speed. While we watched from the car, three children emerged from the house and watched us watch her. Eventually, after many smiles were exchanged, one of them worked up the nerve to speak. It was the oldest, a ten-year-old boy. He said, just barely above a whisper, but very clearly, “Hello. How are you” in perfect English. We beamed at him and said that we were well. He had learned a little English from friends and older siblings. We found out later that he was a friend of the family and not related to Juan. He was able to count to ten, which he did very proudly. He knew most of his colors, but white gave him a problem. He said it over and over until he could say it with almost no accent. He knew please and thank you. We were very happy to not hear the usual swear words and dirty sayings that the children usually learn come out of his mouth. They say these things without knowing what they are saying but people think it is funny to teach them.

Since we were throughly enjoying our time with this group of children, Juan returned all too soon and we had to be on our way. It turns out that his business was to arrange to pick his uncle up the next day and take him with us to Merida. From there we went to Oxkutzcab, where the only grocery store around was located. It is right across the street from the market. We wanted to go to this market sometime in the morning when it was a bustling hub for fruits and vegetables for all of the Yucatan. Since we would have had to be there by 7:00 in the morning, it never happened. Maybe next time.

Wednesday morning found B and I up and about at our usual time. We were thinking that the family would be up shortly after us, since today was the day we were all going to Merida.
Merida is the largest city in the state of Yucatan, with about 650,000 people. Even though it is a fairly large city, it has not lost any of its’ colonial charm. The influence of the Spanish conquest and occupation of this city is everywhere. Beautiful old buildings and churches, tree lined streets and lots of parks. The streets, loaded and bustling with traffic and pedestrians, are very narrow and the sidewalks are just wide enough for one person! There is much stepping into the street and avoiding cars there! Many of the lesser streets appear to be just a long wall with an occasional door placed in it. Actually, these doors lead into Spanish hacienda type homes and gardens and are really quite lovely. Some of them have been converted into restaurants or hotels. B and I last visited Merida in 2000 and we were anxious to see it again. In 2002, Hurricane Isador veered away from Isla Mujeres at the last minute and crossed the Yucatan peninsula, causing extensive damage and flooding. We had heard that many of the larger, older trees in Merida were now gone and that the city had lost much of its’ greenness.

About 8:30 am we finally heard Juan get up and this was followed shortly by his yelling at the family to get up and going. We were certainly glad to hear this since the trip to Merida was going to take a little over an hour, with no stops. Finally, about 10 am, we were on our way. The family in the car, B and I in the Jeep. We had to make a side trip back to Teabo to pick up Juan’s uncle. He was going to act as mediator in the negotiations that were to take place with the two potential families where Miguel was going to live. Miguel is the oldest (19) son who did not come with us. He is going to college in Merida and needed a place to stay while attending school. There is no such thing as a dorm like we know connected to colleges. Thus, host families had to be found and the cost of room and board negotiated.

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