Monday, May 7, 2012

Where the heck have we been the last 3 weeks?!

In short: Tumul K'in ----> Big Falls ----> Hopkins ----> San Pedro ----> Houston ----> Salt Lake City ----> Idaho Falls ----> Jackson Hole ----> Las Vegas ----> Princeton Junction ----> New York City ----> Boston ----> Princeton Junction

And why is this?! (The extended version):

It all started with Maya Day. Not the psuedo-apocalyptic end of the Mayan calendar, but rather an equally mystifying week long cultural event scheduled shortly before Easter. The photolog we left off with in our last post concluded with a 15 mile torch relay race and a healing ceremony performed by a Guatemalan Shaman. It was after this, and throughout the next week, that the Maya Day (sic) festivities brought roughly 2,000 people, our families, and a nasty tropical disease to Tumul K'in. Our specific role didn't play out until the final day of celebration, so that will come later.

About half way through the week, Matt's brother Will flew down from Elon to help finish up our hunt for undocumented Maya archaeological sites. We decided to haze him with a first work day consisting of a 10 mile jungle march up and down every mountain in 100 degrees, across every river, and ending with us and the Maya elders (generally spectacular guides) completely lost. The rest of the week passed without drama and with two new sites discovered. It was then that we were joined by Matt's parents who came to visit.

Maya Day football tourny! 

Considering both Matt's mom and dad were generally horrified of our work environment (heat, scorpions, snakes, ants, stinging plants, etc...) we hoped to show them it wasn't all that bad by bringing them into the field for a day. With them we dug our first holes of the season and began excavating a classic era Maya house that was bulldozed sometime in the 1990's. We found some cool pottery including some nice black-glazed pieces eyed by Nancy! After work that day we were invited for lunch by the Chairman of Aguacate whose wife prepared a delicious caldo (spicy and very traditional Mayan chicken soup) for the family.

Family excavating the largest site we have found thus far 

Finally came THE Maya Day! This was the day where a couple thousand Mayas descended upon our tiny school to take part in a cultural festival. Many booths were set up displaying and selling traditional Maya food, products, education, and information. Many people sold stews containing jungle creatures they killed. Once group buried and pit roasted a pig right outside our bedroom window without telling us. Other people sold hot sauce, fresh homemade chocolate, and HIV tests (actually one of the most popular booths). There were also contests, lots of contests. Most notable included the Caldo eating contest (won by the same elderly woman every year), chili pepper eating, corn husking, wood cutting, and to end it all....the slippery pole. That's right, a 75 foot tall, crisco rubbed pole placed upright in the ground with 100 bucks and a handle of rum on top. First person to get to the top without falling and breaking themselves, and then down without breaking the rum, won.

The Deer Dancers arrive at Tumul K'in

Leader of the Deer Dancers 

Our involvement in the festival was the running of a small booth dedicated to showcasing our archaeological work in the area. We had quite a turn out as word had quickly and vastly spread that three gringos were traipsing around the jungle in search of 'gold' and 'jade'. We also had many locals who were very excited about our work and had great information to share.

After Maya Day, it was our spring break! From the village we said goodbye to Will in PG, joined forces with Matt's parents again, and steamed North to the Garifuna village of Hopkins. There it was your typical Belizian holiday of pina coladas, snorkeling, and lots of beach lounging. We ate some absolutely wonderful meals and had a blast exploring the villages and nature preserves near bye. We even had the luck of seeing a black and white tree-anteater and hearing more howler monkeys!

The hard life in Hopkins

Lunch in Hopkins! 
They'll let anybody drive these things

After Hopkins we drove further north to Belize City where we hopped on a flight to San Pedro (the Isla Bonita of Madonna) and joined Rebecca's mom Stephanie. On San Pedro we stayed at Ramon's Village, a famous resort for divers. The first day there we all hit the water and dove, snorkeled, and boated around the barrier reef. This was the beginning of the end for Matt, and a phenomenal trip for
everybody else.

Sunset cruise off of San Pedro

It was around this time that Matt began getting an awful fever once a day and every day for nearly two weeks. While on San Pedro he was diagnosed with Malaria, Dengue, and then Typhoid.  About halfway through that it got more complicated and we decided it best to return to the US for proper treatment and investigation. We flew straight from San Pedro to Salt Lake City where Matt got 25 vials of blood drawn, multiple tests taken, and no diagnosis. He got on some heavy antibiotics and got better but we still don't know exactly what it was. However, the doctors suggested we take a couple week breather so we returned to Jackson, WY for a spell and then headed back East to Rebecca's home. We are getting ready to return to Belize on Wednesday for another week to help finish up and will be sure to post updates!