Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Hey everyone! 
Sorry for the long silence.
Today I'm back because I wanted to share some thoughts about a lovely experience which I just recently had: I spent my mid-winter break with my family in the amazingly gorgeous Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico. And what better way to procrastinate on my Love in the Time of Cholera essay which I have to complete for school than talking about the vacation I so unwillingly came back from?! :P

So a quick note on the title of the post: The Spanish word descansar, meaning "to rest," but literally meaning something along the lines of "to de-tire." I've been studying Spanish for about three years now, and this has always been one of my favorite words in Spanish, because I believe that the idea that the literal meaning of descansar conveys is exactly how resting should be at its most beneficial. I thought of this word frequently in Isla Mujeres, as it's probably one of the best places I've ever been in which to descansar. :)
Isla Mujeres is a little 7-kilometer long island located a 15-minute ferry ride away from Cancun. My family had been there on vacation at this time last year while I was away in Alexandria, but this year we got to go all together! :)
On the 15th, my family and I all piled into an airport cab and headed off to a much needed, very warm week in Mexico.
It was pretty astonishing - after a three-hour direct flight from Detroit to Cancun and a brief ferry ride to the island itself, we were transported from the frigid, windswept winter wonderland of Michigan in mid-February to a Caribbean island in southern Mexico with nothing but crystalline water and cloudless cobalt skies as far as the eye could see.
I won't give a day-by-day description of the trip, as due to the rhythm of the trip and the pace of the days, the days quickly began to run together. Now, I can still, of course, remember the events of the trip in quite vivid detail; but I remember few of the specific dates on which they took place.
So I'll just mention some events quickly, and then just some activities I really enjoyed + cultural notes.
The first event I wanted to mention was that one day, in the middle of the trip, my parents, my sister, and I rented a golf cart and drove it all the way to the southern tip of the island (our hotel was on the northern tip, so it was a little ways for us), where there is a colonial house called the Hacienda Mundaca, and also what's left over of a temple to the Mayan goddess of fertility, Ixchel (the island used to be sacred to her for the Maya, and the abundant statues of Ixchel on the island is quite likely the reason that the island came to be called Isla Mujeres - "island of women"). We didn't see either of them from up close, but we did manage to get a good look on some pretty spectacular cliffs over the sea.
The other event I wanted to mention was ziplining. On that same golf cart trip to the southern tip of the island, we stopped at this place called Garrafon Park, and my sister and I rode on their zipline, which consisted of three different towers with four segments between them, two segments of which were entirely suspended over the sapphire-colored water.
At first I remember being very nervous and thinking of reconsidering, but I'm glad I never voiced that consideration, because it ended up being a ton of fun with a great view to boot. :)
I'm no crazy daredevil, but I always have a lot of fun with things like ziplining, I guess stemming from the fact that I've been fascinated with birds since I was a very little kid and I've always found stuff like that which tangibly stimulates flight quite enjoyable.

Aside from these cool experiences, it was very interesting culturally. I had never been anywhere in Latin America before, and after that first taste of it in Isla Mujeres, I can only say I'm intrigued and wish to continue exploring it. :) The culture and the pace of life reminded me a lot of both Egypt and Italy, southern Italy in particular. There definitely are lots of parallels between Latin, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cultures - lots of similarities in the attitudes, the ways of speaking and dealing with other people, the warmth and hospitality, and so on.
I also had a great time dabbling a little bit in the indigenous cultures of the area - we met a few Mayan speakers, most notably our friendly taxi driver on the way to the Cancun Airport when we were headed home, who taught us the word "koix (or at least I think that's how it's spelled,)" which is equivalent to "vamos," or "let's go."
This was great for me, being a person who's always exited to learn about local cultures anywhere I go. And I had been wondering quite a bit about Mayan culture in the weeks leading up to our vacation, since we were off to the Yucatan.
Aside from the one word I now know of Yucatec Maya thanks to our taxi driver, I also was able to practice my Spanish a lot - it surely was not an immersion experience, but I daresay I managed to understand and communicate very well using Spanish.

And I'll just wrap up my thoughts on my trip to Isla Mujeres by telling you all a story about the day that we arrived: So I make sure to listen to music in all the languages that I know and am interested in learning, and Spanish is no exception. One of my favorite Spanish songs is "Pasos de gigante" by the Mexican band Bacilos, which I was first introduced to by my 9th grade Spanish teacher, who had us listen to and translate it. I had just been listening to it on the flight to Cancun. And while we awaited our ferry to Isla Mujeres from Cancun's Puerto Juarez, it came on the radio. A bit of an odd coincidence, but it made me very happy for some reason.
Y ahora unas fotos (and now some pictures):
From the descent into Cancun. 

On the Ultramar ferry.

The town (it was siesta time).

The view from a window in the lobby.

Our first sunset on the island.

One of the world's hidden gems, Piscina del Rey. 

Our hotel

The cliffs of the southern coast.
There were tons of these big, grey iguanas on the cliffs there.

Seagulls roosting on what seemed to be an old dock. 

I'm so happy I got this one. :) 

On the way home.
And now I'm going to leave you guys with my favorite Spanish songs, which I listened to quite a bit on the trip. :)

^(This one is in Portuguese, not Spanish. But it's still lovely, still Latin American, and definitely perfect to listen to on the beach :))

Thanks as always for following me and keeping up with my adventures. :) 

Not much to report other than the trip to Isla Mujeres. Things are stressful but flowing forward at school, and I actually just took the ACT today (we don't have to talk about that...). I just returned from an emotional but very enjoyable gathering with my father's extended family in New Jersey prior to a service to honor my grandfather who, sadly, passed away in January at the age of 92. And my second choice for NSLI-Y is no longer Russian, but now Korean, mainly due to the fact that I have gained great interest in Korean language and culture in my participation in a club at my school known as Everyone's Free, which works to raise money and awareness to save North Korean refugee children. 
I still have no news from NSLI-Y, and I'm beginning to go crazy for that reason. I'm trying as much as I can to keep calm and go about my daily activities normally to keep a level head. :) 
That's all one can do, no?

Thanks again for reading, folks. 
I'll hopefully be back soon enough. 
안녕히 가세요 for now (practicing my new second choice :) )! 
Nico / 니코

(I'll leave you with one more video, my favorite Korean song :P)

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