Wednesday, March 5, 2008 ;
3:02 AM
Mar 3
Mon

I'll start with my day, since it's very brief. I stayed with ds2 in the room. As he had fever, he slept most of the time. Whenever he roused from his sleep, he'll cry and look for me, and I'll give him some water and pat him, then he'll sleep again.

For the rest of the day, I read, emailed and blogged. The wireless network is very dodgy though, so the connection was dropped many times and speed was slow, so I didn't do any surfing. I also stood at the hotel room window and observed Mexicans and tourists. For meals, I kept ordering room service.

Their room service menu is not varied, and consists only of sandwiches or Mexican tacos. However, I had no choice since I could not leave the room. It was very reasonably priced though, and with $7.50 I could eat till I was really stuffed. For lunch, my biggest order, I spent $7.50 on 3 chicken tacos with grated cheese, cream, guacamole and beans, and they gave me a bowl of green salsa-like thing. I tried it, and it was very spicy, tasted like a blend of jalapenos, tomato, lime etc, sour and spicy. I didn't know what to use it with, so I just put a little on the whole lot of lettuce they shredded for me at the side, and ate up all the lettuce. I did tip the guy who brought the food all the time, so perhaps I spent $10 on average, for each meal.

ds2? He ate a plain waffle in the morning (from my room service breakfast), some watermelon and milk and cereal (our own) for lunch and some crackers and watermelon for dinner. He didn't have a good appetite, so I just kept giving him water and milk, if he asked for it. We brought milk packets and milo sachets along, so the kids can have snacks whenever they wanted. Now he was consuming them as his meals.

Mid-morning, the housekeeping lady knocked and was surprised to see me in the room. I said "Hola, como estas, buenos dias " and that's about half the Spanish I know already. She then rattled on in her fast and furious Spanish, so I said "non comprehendo". I gestured for her to come in. And she gestured if I wanted to make my beds. I said no and gestured that I just wanted my trash cleared and change 1 face towel. Then she just went "Si, Si" and brought my trash and towel out. She gave me a new towel (good, our gesturing worked), and returned my bins, then I said "gracias, gracias" and bowed (don't know why, but felt like it is more polite to bow, even though I'm not Japanese). Then she disappeared.

Shortly after I closed the door, she knocked again. When I opened the door, she shoved 3 bottles of distilled water into my arms. So I "gracias gracias" non stop and bowed till she left again. Haha.
Actually we thought we'd have to buy lots of bottled water here for drinking, cos we drink a lot of water, but so far, the friendly hotel staff has been giving us all the bottled water we ever needed. Nice.

At 4pm, Dh and ds1 returned. Ds1 was brimming with excitement and he first excitedly told me how the guide gave him some sweet water from a cactus in the desert to drink. He spent at least 45min relating the whole day's events to me, while Dh added in details if I was confused.

They went to the Teotihuacan pyramids (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in the morning, with 4 other Canadians. An elderly couple from Quebec region, so they spoke only French and some English, and a father and teenage daughter from Vancouver, who spoke both Spanish and English. It was a 40 min ride to the pyramids and the Avenue of the Dead. I had wanted to see this very badly. The ancient civilisations had always been fascinating to me. The Chinese, Europeans and Mesoamericans. The natives of the New World had very sophisticated systems in place already, long before Christopher Columbus landed, or before the Spanish landed in Mexico.

The Aztecs are famous, and their empire was really great. They are one of the first people in the world to have compulsory schooling for both boys and girls of any background. But, the Teotihuacan pyramids and amazing city structures were already in ruins when the Aztecs arrived and found it. They were so shocked to see the great big pyramids and complicated structures that they felt it could not be the work of any Man, hence they called the place "Teotihuacan" meaning "the place where Gods are made".

So the plant ds1 was talking about was growing all around the dry arid areas there, and it's actually the Agave americana, or "maguey", as it is known here. It is native to Mexico but is now cultivated all around the world. The natives used the whole plant, so amazing. The fibers in the leaves are used to make ropes, mats, cloth, leather etc, the center of the plant has a sharp spike that the women use as needles. If the flower stem is cut without flowering, a liquid gathers in the center of the stem. I think, together with the plant sugars/ juices, it becomes very sweet ("agua miel"), just like what ds1 described. He said it tasted like honey in water. When fermented and distilled, it forms pulque and mezcal respectively. They were asked to try also, but Dh and ds1 didn't try that. Dh said the father and daughter didn't try also, and he later found out they are Mormons. :-) Just a side note, the tequila comes from the same family of succulents too, but specifically the Agave tequilana species.

ds1 said he was shown how to peel the outer membrane of the "cactus" also, and when dried, served as paper for the natives. They were then shown how the fibers are weaved with cotton into scarves, table cloths and other handicraft.

About the pyramids, I viewed the photos and they are so magnificent, despite being in ruins for so many hundreds of years. There are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon. Ds1 climbed both right to the top and down! There are 248 steps for the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Moon one is about half the height of the Sun's. Dh said the Canadians were very impressed with him. haha. Pictures will come after I get home to download them.

The excavations of the ruins are still not completed yet! But from what was excavated, a lot more was learnt, about the ancient civilisations. Some say the population died out probably from a combination of attack from enemies and long drought. Some juvenile skeletons obtained from the site showed signs of malnutrition. But it was obvious that they were a very thriving population in their peak. Tools and other artifacts like arrowheads made of obsidian were found in the pyramids too. (Dh bought an obsidian chess set from a souvenir shop nearby! He said must try and help boost their economy. Ermmm, ok, now we have like so many chess sets at home. He said the poor quality ones kept getting broken, and obsidian is like such a hard rock.)

The Aztecs were also known for their human sacrifice rituals and cannibalistic practices. Drawings and other codices were found that documented their slaying of warriors to present to the gods. They had elaborate altars erected, and rituals too. The Avenue of the Dead was probably named after that? The avenue was flanked by numerous ceremonial architectural structures, probably tombs or sacrificial platforms.

After that, they went on to view other significant architecture in the area, including the Palacio de Bellas Artes (like an arts theatre that's very grand) and the hilltop Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (considered by Catholics as the holiest site in the Western hemisphere and visited by famous dignitaries, incld JF Kennedy).

That was their interesting eventful first day.


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