Wednesday, March 30, 2022

putting on a happy face

I like silly things.

At least, things that are silly to me.

Pets that dress their owners in outlandish costumes. Sailing boats trimmed as Christmas trees. Or almost any Guinness record -- like the largest ball of sisal twine (in Cawker City, Kansas, if you are interested). 

Apparently, some people get stuck on one definition of silly -- "showing lack of thought, understanding, or judgment." A perfectly utilitarian use of the word. 

But it is not how I usually use it. "Silly" is anything that is not practical or serious. Something that will make people laugh. And anything that can make people laugh is a good thing. A silly thing.

There should be a special category of silliness for those "Ten Best" lists. You have seen them. 10 Best Places to Retire that are Ruled by Authoritarians. 10 Best Dresses Worn by Women You Never Heard of at Events No one Knew Happened. 10 Best Investments in Nigerian Commodities for People who Lost All of Their IRA on Red at Caesar's Palace. All of the lists have one thing in common -- they seem to be based on some rather eccentric criteria. Dare I say it? Silly criteria?

This morning, a headline greeted me in The Oregonian: "These are the 10 happiest countries, according to 2022 World Happiness Report." The report is produced annually by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (a name that hints at its particular brand of political bias). And despite its "mutton-dressed-as-lamb" scientific fig leaf, the report is good for a laugh or two.

After declaring that the report is designed to measure actual well-being as opposed to national GDP (implying that money does not buy happiness), the report unveils its top 10 happiest countries for 2022: Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Israel, and New Zealand.

With all of the "beyond GDP" talk in the report, I almost expected the happiest place list to feature Haiti, Somalia, and Bangladesh. Instead, the happiest countries make up about one-quarter of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a rich-country club. It appears that money does buy happiness. (Interestingly, the top ten countries of the OECD's Happiness Index includes 8 of the same countries, adding Canada and the United States to the favored ten.)

The reason I find these reports amusing is that they attempt to morph subjective feelings into objective criteria and then weigh the frequency of positive feelings against negative ones. But that sentence sucks me into the report's number game.

These are the numbers that surprised me -- because they involve the countries with which I have the most contact. On the happiness scale, Canada is number 15. The United States is number 16. And, just for you Dan, the United Kingdom is number 17. All three bunched together.

But, my home country? Mexico? Number 46. 46! Below such paradises as Nicaragua (at 45) and Guatemala (at 39).

That alone is enough to make me doubt the objectivity of the report's findings. My frequent trips north and my conversations with Canadians and Americans here in Mexico would not support the notion that Canadians and Americans are markedly happier than the Mexicans I know. If anything, even with some of the terrible problems my Mexican acquaintances face every day, it appears to me Mexicans are far happier than the northern visitors.

And I am not talking about the Mexican mask that figures into Octavio Paz's work. I am talking about a full-throated enjoyment of what life has to offer.

Mexico is not paradise. A number of my Mexican acquaintances cringe when they hear northerners call this part of Mexico "paradise" because they know the struggle life offers. Two nights ago after leaving my house, a Mexican friend, while riding his motorcycle, was injured by a hit-and-run driver that also left his motorcycle inoperable. Without insurance for himself or his motorcycle (a motorcycle that is his sole transportation for work), the incident was a major setback.

It is just one of the many stories of hardship here. Life is often lived on the edge. But, given all of that, my Mexican friends and acquaintances have a Lake Wobegon attitude of getting up and doing what needs to be done.

I suspect what I really find silly about the happiness reports is the very word they attempt to measure. "Happiness."
It has taken living into my eighth decade to realize that the chase for happiness is just as chimeric as Johnny Depp's quest for the perfect cochinita pibil in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. To my taste, happiness is too circumstantial. Too ephemeral. Happiness, by its very nature is an emotion subject to all the tugs and pulls of all emotions.

What I am looking for, and I think I have found it, is contentment. That state of knowing you are at ease with who you are and where you are. And that circumstances cannot erode.

So, my bottom line is that the annual happiness reports provide me a chuckle or two with their silliness.

And I am content with that. Just as I am content to live my life in Mexico.   

Sunday, March 27, 2022

finding my inner maya

I came to archaeology late in life.

That is not entirely accurate. I came to Mexican archaeology late in life. And I am not certain why.

In the 1960s, I was an avid reader of Francis Murphy's "Behind the Mike" column in The Oregonian. Murphy was the television and radio critic for the newspaper.

I found his column interesting not because it was about television (a medium I have never found appealing) but because he was a craftsman at writing. Each summer he would head off to the Yucatán peninsula to participate in newly-uncovered Maya city-states. To me, he was a cross between Tarzan and Jungle Jim. Because of his writing, my undergraduate history degree centered around Mexico.

But not Mexican archaeology. Not yet. I came to the Maya through a back door.

When I was stationed in Greece, I was surrounded by several archaeological sites -- including Olympia, Sparta, and Mycenae. During my year on the Peloponnese, I put my hand to trowel in a couple of digs. It never became more than a hobby. But it is one of my passions. And Mexico has turned out to be a great place to salve that itch. Especially, the Yucatán peninsula.

Mesoamerica was filled with sophisticated cultures. Especially, the Maya.

Unlike the Aztec, the Maya never formed an empire. If the Aztecs were imperial Romans, the Maya were ancient Greeks.

The Maya politically organized their civilization into city-states, some of whom had greater influence over their neighbors, on the peninsula and in what we now know as Belize and Guatemala. Even though the city-states were never joined into a centralized empire, the Maya civilization shared common trade practices and religion, as well as developing sophisticated systems of writing, counting, and calculating the passage of time through an advanced knowledge of astronomy.

There are three types of archaeologists: those who divide Mesoamerican civilizations into three stages of development and those who don't. Let's pretend we are in the first group, if for no other reason than the Maya had a very long history of maintaining their civilization. Almost 4000 years:

  • Preclassic (2000 BC-250 AD) when the first cities were established and corn, beans, squash, and chili peppers were grown as farm crops 
  • Classic (250-900 AD) when what we now know as the great cities thrived (Palenque, Tikal, Chichen Itza) all using the extraordinarily-detailed Long Count calendar 
  • Postclassic (950-1539 AD) when the great cities were abandoned and the Maya settled in smaller cities until the Spanish arrived     

On my prior three visits to the peninsula, I visited the great classical cities of Uxmal (looking into chac's eyes), Chichen Itza, and several of their smaller allies, as well as the postclassic ruins at Tulum that was still an operating city when the Spanish arrived. On this trip, we decided to restrict our Maya exploration to two cities: Ekʼ Balam on the eastern side of the peninsula just north of Valladolid, and Mayapan just south of Mérida in the west.

Ekʼ Balam is fascinating because of its long history. It spanned all three historical periods, starting as a preclassic settlement that grew into a thriving classic city-state dominating the surrounding cities about the time the  western calendar switched from BC to AD-saving time. And just like the other classic cities, it was abruptly abandoned, though a remnant of the population stayed in the city until it was completely abandoned before the Spanish arrived.

Even though it is not as large as the grander sites, Ekʼ Balam has all of the elements of a great city-state.

A ceremonial entrance arch.

A temple with an unusual oval construction -- showing an individual style within a common architectural heritage. Its geographic position indicates it also served as some form of cosmological purpose. Perhaps to calculate rainy seasons.

No civilization is ever complete without a sports arena. This one is for the traditional Mesoamerican ballgame. Only a handful of Maya city-states lack them. Such as, the grand Palenque.

The largest and most magnificent of the buildings at Ekʼ Balam is the Acropolis. A temple that contained the mortal remains of one of the city's most famous rulers -- Ukit Kan Leʼk Tok. His tomb is under the palapa on the upper left -- the one that looks like a Kon Tiki bar in Seattle.

Compared with Ekʼ Balam, Mayapan is nouveau arrive. The city was not built until the postclassic period. Somewhere in the 1220s. But it was important as the capital of the Maya in the Yucatán peninsula (with over 4000 structures and an estimated population of almost 20,000) until it was almost entirely abandoned around 1461 -- just before the arrival of the Spanish.

Like many civilizations, when they head into decline, construction techniques suffer. That is certainly true of Mayapan. Many of the buildings collapsed soon after the city was abandoned -- as opposed to most of the classic period buildings that survived even when covered by jungle.

But there is a visual clue that Mayapan attempted to be the successor of Chichén Itzá. If this temple looks familiar, it should. It is an inferior copy of the much-visited Temple of Kukulkan.

It is what Chichen Itza would have built as a replica if it had a budget of only $100.

That raises the question of what happened to the Maya. Well, what happened to the Maya city-states? We know what happened to the Maya. The people. Because they are still living on the peninsula.

There are plenty of theories. Interestingly, the theories tend to reflect disasters that the theory-propounders are suffering themselves. The list is the usual list of suspects.

  • Drought. The peninsula gets very little rainfall. When it does arrive, it quickly drains off into the underground rivers beneath the limestone surface. Unless the rivers are fed by rain, there is no water.
  • Overpopulation. The cities grew so fast that they may be the only place on earth where Malthusian theory actually had a practical application.
  • Social breakdown caused by warfare and a stratified military social class.
  • A sudden outbreak of war between between all of the city-states and their allies.
  • A combination of the above caused the lower classes to lose faith in their leaders. They rose up, overthrew them, and the social structure collapsed. I call that one the nightmare that keeps Xi Jinping awake every night.
  • Or -- a combination of several (or all) of those causes.

The point is that no one really knows. There are plenty of clues, but like any good mystery, they contradict one another and lead to no conclusion.

And it is just that type of mystery that keeps drawing me back to the heartland of the Maya civilization. Each trip I have taken, I have learned more.

What is not a mystery is that the Maya will welcome you to a land that celebrates their past -- and their present. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

on the back of the snake

Tolstoy had it partly correct.

All happy trips are alike, but every trip is special in its own way.

That was certainly true of our trip to the Yucatán peninsula. The three of us (my cousin Dan, his wife Patty, and I) have a certain fondness for the peninsula with its history that makes it feel almost like a country separate from Mexico.

That may be because it almost became a separate country -- twice. Due to its Maya cultural heritage and its isolation from the rest of Mexico, it was almost inevitable that the people of the peninsula would seek their own national destiny.

The first time when it declared its independence from the Spanish empire in 1823; the second when it declared its independence from Mexico in 1841 following Texas's example. Had it not been for the unfortunate Caste War, those dreams of independence may have been realized. Politically, the peninsula is part of Mexico. But, to this day, its residents see themselves as a people apart.

There was a second reason, though, why this trip was special. Dan and Patty ran a business and lived on Cozumel several years ago. As a result, they have formed some long-lasting friendships. Around September they are making a permanent move (or as permanent as wanderers who are not lost can be) to Mallorca. For them, this trip took on the aura of a farewell tour, where my family's wish of "next year in Jerusalem" was replaced with "next year in Mallorca."

Our first stop was to set up our base camp in Valladolid for the first eleven days of our stay at La Dichosa, a bed and breakfast owned and hosted by Carlos M. Gonzalez and Teresa Castillo, friends of Dan and Patty during their days on Cozumel. Dan told me to be ready to be amazed -- and I was.

La Dichosa is not so much a bed and breakfast as it is a functional piece of art. Carlos is a wood craftsman. No. That does not do his work justice. He is an artist who works in wood -- and soil -- and stone -- and ceramic.

La Dichosa currently consists of two buildings. The main house that offers a master suite, and three bungalows. Each room is decorated with Carlos's creations.

The lamps. The tiles. The furniture. Carlos created each piece to give the rooms their own character with all of the furnishings echoing the uniform theme. It is like living in a disciplined artistic mind.

Rooms are always an important consideration at any bed and breakfast, but Carlos extended his artistic theme into the surrounding pool and garden. One of the great Maya myths is Kukulkan -- the War Serpent, who is probably best known these days in his depiction of a shadow that undulates down the stairs of El Castillo at Chichén Itzá each equinox.

Carlos incorprated the myth into his design of the garden that joins the bungalows with the main house. The three levels are divided by undulating walls echoing Kuklkan's serpentine shape. A pool tops it off.

The overall effect is similar to a secular monastery. Time runs at its own pace. The effect is complemented by the shifts of birds that visit the trees on the property each morning. Each with its own colors and song.

I am not so naïve as to believe that the birds were there for my pleasure. Most birdsong, if translated literally, would go something like: "Hey, birds. Get out of here. This is my property. Go -- or I will peck out your eyes." Sometimes it helps to be monolingual.

Maybe that is one reason I am an advocate of bed and breakfast accommodations when I travel. There is no better way to know an area than to sit down with your hosts and fellow guests during the day to discuss respective discoveries.

Valladolid is not a traditional tourist destination. It is best known as a central point to see the sights of the peninsula. That is how I used it on my prior two visits in 2010 and 2014. But that is changing. And our fellow guests were examples of that. They had come to see Valladolid as much as they had come to see reconstructed Maya cities.

And a cosmopolitan lot they were. Most of them young. Primarily European -- two French couples, two young women from Switzerland, and a young couple from Chile. And all spoke multiple languages, with the exception of an older Canadian couple. 

Carlos may have provided the artistic integration of La Dichosa, but it is Teresa that keeps it running with the loyal assistance of Alonso. Food and drink magickly appear. Dishes are whisked away. All of that is as much of an art as are the individual tiles in the bathrooms.

We have all had the experience of tagging along with people visiting their friends -- people we have never met. For shy people like me, that can be a recipe for social disaster.

Carlos was going to have none of that. Even though he was not my years-long friend, he made me feel a part of every conversation and gathering. He has raconteur's ear for ferreting out interests and avoiding social landmines.

Of course, food is the great leveler. Yucatan food always interests me because it is different than Jalisco food. For Carlos, that meant a meat-fest.

The same thing happened when we visited Cozumel. On one of their last extended visits to the island, Dan and Patty stayed at Rancho Chichihualco, a 77-acre bed and breakfast owned and operated by José Qunitana Ahedo and Adriana Barrena. Her grandfather, while he was the commander of the nearby Air Force Base, had acquired the property. She and José have developed it into a bungalow-oriented bed and breakfast.

Even though we were not guests, they invited us over for an afternoon-long barbeque that drifted into the evening. There is something magic about cooking that much meat for a group of people. Almost Mexican alchemy that turns a pleasant few hours into hours that pass unnoticed amongst the company of people with backgrounds I do not encounter where I live.

Tales were told in a mixture of Spanish and English. Large portions of meat were washed down with ambiguously-described beverages. And people, who did not know one another well a few hours before, were now unwilling to break the circle of fellowship.

I will write about the sights we saw and the journeys we took because they are an integral part of the trip. But it was the relationships that we recreated and extended that will have the longest-lasting effect on me.

To share my life with my cousins, with Carlos and Teresa, and José and Adriana, with the young people from France, Chile, and Switzerland who I suspect I will never see again, was an experience I dd not anticipate, but one that I thoroughly appreciated.

And what could be better than that?

Maybe we will find out in the next installments.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

feliz cumpleaños, benito

No. Not that one. 

The birthday we celebrate this three-day weekend is not that of the late and not-lamented Il Duce, but that of President Benito Juárez.

The beaches and restaurants are filled with Mexican tourists. The orange juice guy on the highway has abandoned his customary post. And Dora messaged me that she would not be in today because she and her family are on their way to Manzanillo to celebrate the man known by some as "The Lincoln of Mexico."

The Mussolini-Juárez connection is not one of my inventions. Benito Mussolini's father was an avid socialist, just as his son would be, and admired Benito 
Juárez's commitment to humanism. So much so that he named his elder son Benito. Juárez most likely would be horrified at both comparisons.

There was much to respect about 
Juárez. He was the only full-blooded Indian (Zapotec, in his case) to serve as president of Mexico. Ironically, he would have disliked the label. As a leading liberal, he railed against what we now refer to as "identity politics." He found his blood line to be irrelevant. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., he believed people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

So, how did a young Zapotec overcome the class restrictions of early nineteenth century Mexico to climb to the top of the greasy pole? As is true with so many of these Horatio Alger tales, it was through the beneficence of one man.

Antonio Salanueva, a Secular Franciscan recognized that the young Juárez was intelligent and motivated, and assisted him in entering school to become a priest. That career did not happen because Juárez felt he had not been called to the priesthood. Instead, he became a lawyer. 

Even though Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, the country was divided over an existential question. How Mexicans would identify themselves.

There was a major political split between conservatives (who looked to Spain and Europe for political inspiration and favored a strong central government) and liberals (who looked north to the United States and to a mythical Aztec past for social and political ideals; they also favored de-centralized power). Each group argued their position was the true Mexican identity.

These battles were not merely intellectual. They were also physical fights for political control finally breaking out in the War of Reforma (1857-1861).

Prior to the war, Juárez married well, and became active in the liberal cause in his home state of Oaxaca where he joined forces with other liberals in challenging the power of the Catholic Church -- the very institution that had provided him with the opportunity to advance in Mexican society.

And rise he did. To become the governor of Oaxaca, where he came into conflict with one of Mexico's true scoundrels -- President (and dictator) Antonio Santa Anna -- the man who lost the northern half of Mexico to the United States. In fear of his life, 
Juárez went into exile in New Orleans in 1853, where he fleshed out several liberal principles that he would support when he returned to Mexico: that all Mexicans should be equal before the law and that the powers of the Catholic Church and the Mexican Army should be restricted. His activism eventually led to his election as Chief Justice of a newly-constituted Mexican Supreme Court.

When liberal President Comonfort was forced to resign in 1858, the constitution designated the chief justice as interim president. The "interim" label did not last long. Juárez would be elected to the office three times in his own right.

His terms as president were responsible for much of what we know as Mexico today. The church was stripped of its income-producing lands and some of its church buildings. The land was then distributed to the Indians from whom the church had taken the land.

Unfortunately, the reform did not last long. The new landholders eventually sold, or were forced to sell, their land to large landholders. When the next great land reform happened after the Revolution, the law entailed the Ejido holdings to prevent a similar failure.

Juárez also survived the years when a French emperor (Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew) put an Austrian archduke on the Mexican throne as Maximilio I -- forcing Juárez to flee for his life. Once again, he was in exile. This time in the portion of northern Mexico the French had not conquered.

Events in Europe and active opposition from the United States forced the French emperor to withdraw his troops from Mexico, leaving Maximilio to defend his throne with the support of Mexican conservatives. Juarez’s liberal Mexicans prevailed, Maximilio was executed, and Juárez resumed his position as president and continued the liberal reform movement.

Like far too many politicians who have faced tumultuous careers, Juárez probably stayed in office too long. He eventually turned on one of the defining elements of the liberals (decentralization of political power) and created a highly-centralized government in Mexico City.

Eventually, a young liberal general by the name of Porfirio Diaz revolted against him when 
Juárez declared he would once again seek reelection. Juárez put down the revolt, but he died soon after. The next 40 years of power would belong to that young liberal general (Porfirio Diaz) who also outstayed his worth becoming a notorious dictator.

Juárez , it was a rather tragic ending to a career that held so much promise.

But it is not for the dreams that were not realized that we celebrate Benito Juárez's birthday. It is because he set Mexico on the modern path that we recognize today.

And certainly that is good enough to pause in our work week, to take off a Monday to thank and remember him.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

there and back again

So, there I was in the final stages of booking my Lufthansa reservation to Kiev for early February when I received an email from my cousin Dan.

"Would you like to join Patty and me on a two-week trip to Yucatan?"

The answer was easy. And you know why. My last two trips with Dan and Patty for a month touring southern Mexico in 2015 and two weeks of Colombia coffee country in 2017 were some of the best travel days I have experienced. They have a jeweler's eye for life well-lived. So, I immediately cancelled Ukraine and switched to the more-sybaritic expectations of Mexico.

There are very simple ways to get to Yucatan from the Pacific coast of Mexico. Airplane. Bus. I even considered driving. In the end, though, I drew a Steve option. That means my choice was far more complicated than it had to be.

Because I had already cancelled two flights that would have kept me on track with my mileage program, I booked a flight on Alaska. That meant that I had to fly to Los Angeles, spend the night there, and fly to Cancun the next day -- with all of the testing and immigration nonsense that accompanies treks across international borders these days. And, when the trip in Yucatan was over, I would reverse the process staying in Los Angeles for three days because of the limited flight schedule to Manzanillo.

Considering how Alaska's mileage program has been degraded now that it has joined a new alliance, I am not certain the choice had even a grain of wisdom. But it did add to the adventure.

The only fly in the ointment was the Cancun airport. Several airplanes had arrived in the same time slot discharging what appeared to be one of Attila's auxiliary hordes into the immigration lines. I had forgotten it was Spring Break season.

Living in Mexico has taught me a little about the rewards of being patient. I did not need to exercise it in the immigration line. It was as efficient as entering Europe through Frankfurt. Customs was another issue.

I smugly skipped waiting for luggage because I was traveling with a small carryon. That did not keep me from lining up with the rest of the luggage-burdened passengers for over an hour to have my luggage x-rayed. Hundreds of people. Two x-ray machines.

But, soon enough, I was disgorged in the Cancun sunlight to be greeted by my cousin traveling companions -- Dan and Patty -- who whisked me off to Valladolid. Where we will meet Carlos and Teresa, our hosts for the next two weeks

That is where our tale will take up tomorrow (or some day in the near future).

And I hope you will enjoy the trip as much as I did.

Monday, March 14, 2022

the lost hour

There was something odd about my flight from Cancun to Los Angeles this morning.

It took an hour less than when I flew the opposite direction two weeks ago.

There were two possibilities. 1) The jet stream was more favorable in one direction, or 2) the cumulative effect of covid, Putin, and people who insist on salvaging the subjunctive had finally formed a rip in the time continuum. I immediately eliminated option one because my flight from Los Angeles to Manzanillo on Wednesday is an hour shorter, as well.

The clue, of course, is that consistency in the differences. One hour.

It is that time of year again -- when the countries get all uppity and think they understand time better than Mother Nature. The shifting sands of daylight saving time are upon us. And because it is primarily a political question, the time change will happen at different times in different places.

This morning Canada and America jumped an hour forward. Mexico did not. Daylight savings time will not come to Barra de Navidad until 3 April. That means that for the next three weeks, the usual time calculations between Mexico and its two northern neighbors will be off by an hour.

For most of us, that is, at best, the foundation of a good bar bet. But, not all. International flights into Mexico will arrive and leave an hour earlier because the airlines use their own national time.

One year in the spring, I arrived at the Manzanillo airport at what would be my customary time only to discover the check-in counter was closing. I was operating on local time instead of Alaska's Los Angeles time.

For those of you who conduct telephone business between countries and for the others who might be flying or picking up friends at the airport, this is simply a public service announcement.

And, for once, I got all the way through the essay without once bashing the very notion of daylight saving time. 

The next hour is on me.

Friday, March 11, 2022

on the yucatan road

It is the small things that count.

When I stay in hotels while traveling, a lot of things matter. The bed. The size of the refrigerator. The presence or absence of a bathtub.

But what will peg my meter are the bathroom amenities. Particularly, the soap and the shampoo containers.

There must be a special engineering degree for designing soap wrappers that are impossible to open without using a shiv or a shampoo bottle's top where no finger can obtain purchase if even a hint of moisture is on your fingers. Somewhere Allen Funt is green with envy that shower cams were not readily available in his era.

Fortunately, I have not experienced that frustration on this trip. For the past three days, my cousin Dan, his wife Patti, and I have been staying in the Hotel Plaza Cozumel on, as you may guess, Cozumel. The hotel is far from a luxury all-inclusive. But it makes up for that in character and its pure utilitarian nature.

Take a look at the photograph. Someone deserving of a Nobel Prize has actually designed a soap wrapper that is both attractive and functional. A readily-recognizable perforation with plenty of packaging allows an adult to open it under a running shower. The same goes for the little shampoo bottle. Its top twists off even with the soapiest of hands. Why a $60-a-night hotel can solve this simple task while $400-a-night luxe pads can't is a mystery.

But even the best of bathroom discoveries come to an end. Tomorrow we fly out. Them to Fort Lauderdale -- and eventually Mallorca. Me to Los Angeles, where I will lay over for three days before I return home.

It has been almost two weeks since I left Barra de Navidad to fly to the Yucatan -- a part of Mexico I always find interesting. I had intended to keep you informed each day on our adventures. But, I did not have time to sit down and think. While I am in Los Angeles, I will update you on the past two weeks. I hope. 

Here is a short list of what may or may not show up in future essays:

  • Our stay at La Dichosa, a bed and breakfast in Vallalodid, owned and operated by Carlos and Teresa, friends of Dan and Patty. A place with a changing cast of international guests that would make a perfectly-serviceable remake of Grand Hotel.
  • Visits to the archaeological sites of Ekʼ Balam and Mayapan -- two of the smaller Mayan city-states that are far more interesting than the over-hyped Chichen Itza.
  • A reprise stop at Mani, one of Yucatan's magic towns that I last visited in 2010 with fellow-blogger Wayne Jahr.
  • A quick trip to Mérida, the state capital of Yucatan, to drop off a family memento to Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado, another fellow-blogger.
  • No trip would be complete without a wildlife segment. Ours was to see the pelicans and flamingos of Las Coloradas.
  • And, of course, our three-day stay on the island of Cozumel, where Dan and Patti lived and ran a business.    
I usually wait to pass on my bottom-line of the places I visit until I share the experience with you. I am far more deductive than inductive. The seductive I will leave to the younger crowd.

Of course, the purpose of this essay is to let you know that I have not been kidnapped by Somali pirates. Any kidnapping has solely been a family affair.

And those details will soon follow.