Hello, Hola, yeetel Ma’alo’ob Ki’in!
It’s been a few weeks, and I would like to apologize for the considerable delay on this final post. I’ve been moving around quite a bit over the last few weeks, and I have not had much time to sit, reflect, and really think deeply about my experience.
First of all, I have to express my extreme gratitude towards everyone involved in my Yucatan adventure this July.
To my host family, the Pat Cocam familly: thank you so much for accomodating me in your home for three whole weeks! For an only child like myself, it was such a wonderful experience to live with such a vibrant, engaging, and interesting family like you. I will never forget all the experiences we had together during my stay with you: getting lost while hiking in the jungle, arguing about how to name the new rabbits, watching dubbed television, riding on the moped to pick up tortillas, biking as a pack to go swimming in the pool, celebrating Jnorman’s 5th birthday with a traditional piñata and music— the list never ends! From the first day in your household, I really felt welcomed and at home. Only after a month I miss you all so much, and I extend my best wishes to you in your future endeavors. Once Javier learns more English we would love to host him in New York in return!
To Catherine, Molly, Poppy, and everyone else at Na’atik: as much as I love speaking other languages (both Spanish and Mayan in this case), it was honestly a much welcomed relief to talk in English with you guys. Thank you so much for supporting and watching out for me during my time in Carrillo! I really enjoyed meeting you all, and I really hope to return back in the future to soak up even more Mayan. Also, expect more Exonians soon!
To my teacher, X-Linda: although we were not able to speak each other’s languages at first, we clearly understood each other from the very beginning of my Mayan classes. Despite the difficulty studying Mayan, the most complex and distant language I have every studied, for five straight hours every day, I truly enjoyed each and every hour of it, from reciting verb conjugations for minutes on end to memorizing the name of each and every bird, fruit, animal, and tree in Na’atik’s backyard with your flashcards. I’m looking forward to sharing my new knowledge with interested students at Exeter and beyond. Thank you so much for all your time and patience with me!
As much as I hate to admit it, for a city boy like me, it was indeed a little bit of an adjustment at first to sleeping in a hammock, spending leisure time sitting on the dirt floor of a Mayan hut watching dubbed television, and eating food spicier than I had ever encountered before, not to mention using a tortilla as the main utensil. However, I not only accustomed to all these changes within days, but also embraced them. After all, what I really enjoyed about my experience was, as I predicted in my pre-departure reflection, the opportunity to acclimate into another culture and live as a local and not a tourist. As one of very few Americans or English speakers in Carrillo, I certainly achieved that goal. I learned so much about both Maya and Mexican culture, language, ritual, and daily life, and I am very eager to raise awareness of that at Exeter and America in general. For too long have the modern Maya people been unknown to the rest of the world, and, while I cannot change this, I intend to combat it.
Learning a language not commonly studied was also quite rewarding. Yucatec Mayan, as described in some of my previous posts, was quite the linguistic challenge for several reasons (foreign vocabulary, grammar wildly different from english, tonal pronunciation, etc), and I really enjoyed every minute of it. In general, one of the aspects I found most interesting about the language was its reflection of its Maya speakers, their history, and their geography— from its rich vocabulary of local flora and fauna to its heavy borrowing from Spanish. Although studying for 5 hours straight a day was often tiring, every single minute was well worth it and highly rewarding.
Overall, I’m really happy that I undertook this experience studying Mayan for three weeks in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Living in a culture so close yet so different from mine really broadened my perspective as a person, and I have come to appreciate much more the very things back home in America I used to take for granted. I deeply miss everyone in Carrillo, from my family to Na’atik, and I am strongly considering to learn even more.
Thank you all for reading my blog! Don’t worry, I’ll find a way to recycle it in the future. Stay tuned…
Until next time,