Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Xochicalco Ruins and More

After a morning of meetings and activities, we packed our lunches for our afternoon trip to Xochicalco. This was the activity I most looked forward to: the ruins.

Xochicalco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is vast. It literally means, "in the place of the House of the Flowers" and was an important center for rice cultures: Toltec, Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, and Aztec. It's height was between 650-900AD. This is an old place and full of terraces, plazas, and pyramids of various function.

A short hour ride and we were there, surrounded by tree covered hills. We walked up the long winding stone path and into the main plaza. There you looked up to the Great Pyramid and the two smaller pyramids in the square. Down in the distance was the large field and another ruin. Our main purpose lay up, so up we went, climbing the steps of the pyramid to the first level.

The vantage point kept getting better. From here there were remnants of various buildings and roads. There was the small playing field, the road where animals were brought up--the carved stones were still visible representing the various animals. The contrast of colors couldn't have been better: blue sky with intermittent clouds, green cut grass, flowers up and down the terraces, and the various colored stones. My camera eye was feasting.

Around the bend, the view was even more spectacular of the mountains and ruins. Atop the Acropolis, there were a group of little kids who all said HI in eager voices and bright smiles as they passed. Soon, I had fallen behind the group (taking heaps of photos) and found myself the only one up at the ceremonial plaza. I wandered around reading placards and feeling totally content in this solitude. I walked around and hiked up the Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent, the only building with still decipherable carvings. A gorgeous structure right out of the history books. The steps up were steep enough that I decided to sit on my butt to get down. Knees got a little wobbly!

Once I was down, I took a look at a few more structures, and then it was time to take all the stairs back down. It was at that time that I wanted someone to be there to get help when I fell. Luckily, I didn't fall, and the feeling of climbing down all those stairs made me fully feel the historical experience of what it must have been like to be doing that everyday: exhausting.

Then, we all met back up and headed back to the shuttle. Those who went to the ruins outside Mexico City, Teothihuacan, while massive and impressive is crowded and not as accessible as Xochicalco, making it a more intimate ruin for the girls to experience. Since we are experiencing these activities and keeping in mind he girl experience, it was an impactful day.

On the way back to Cuernavaca, the driver took us to a nice ice cream shop, and sorbet was available for lil ole me. Then, it was dinner and our final evening wrap up session. While we talked, the clouds gathered and Apocalyptic Storm Part II arrived. So we huddled up and talked and watched segments of the new "Girl Rising" video off of YouTube. Eventually, it stopped the craziness and we could rush back to our dorms.

We woke up this morning to rain, but it was light and not frightening. After breakfast, we went to a local orphanage for a morning service project. A service project is a part of all trips, and this orphanage is their project for the summer.

These kids are placed in the orphanage primarily due to problematic family situations. The hope is that they will be reunited with their families when situations improve, but some may end up staying for a long time, even up until finishing school at 18. Only some children are up for adoption, and if they aren't adopted while babies or young toddlers, they may not be adopted and will also stay there most of their childhoods. He good news is that this appears to be a well run orphanage and school.

We all split up into different are groups. Those who worked with babies could tell how much the babies craved he extra attention and cuddling. I was with the 2-3 year olds, and we played with kids as they wandered around the room picking up little toys, showing them to you, and then dropping them or throwing them. Those with 6-12 year olds walked in to find all the boys physically fighting (a product of spending a lot of time indoors due to he storms) but once separated and he craft was started, all were happy.

It was a quick hour and a half. On the drive home and at lunch, we talked about the experience. We talked about whether this type of service did more for us or the kids, and if it was helpful or harmful to them. How much time is impactful without it feeling someone else is leaving them? Would this experience be meaningful to girls or too difficult for them?

Our afternoon was full of logistical work, with Ashley and I working on how to get our Chicago sponsored trip to Mexico up and running. So much to do for a 2017 trip. It's exciting that we have already been working together for three years and now we are here. Volunteering pays off in mysterious ways.

At 6pm the Cabana workers came in and "pinned" us with the official pin that you only receive by completing a program here. It was a great final GS Mexico moment.

Now it's time for our last dinner - a night out at a local restaurant. Tomorrow we are up and out early. Adios Mexico.

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