Teachings of Ethnicity, Culture and Financial Class Traveling Taught Me
by Astrid Ferguson
My frien! Como estas? Como va todo? Todo bien? That is how the normal traditional Hispanic conversations commence. Followed by a kiss on each cheek and a huge hug regardless of sex. It is our way of showing appreciation, love, affection and building friendships in a matter of seconds. Ironic behavior to teach when in the US touching can be considered a form of harassment if the other person feels their personal space is invaded.
Don’t worry this is not another blog about harassment in the workplace or a me too movement campaign. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those important topics and/or platforms; it’s just for the purpose of this blog we will be focusing on understanding how different cultures in third world countries impacts human behavior. If many of you follow me on the gram (which I hope you do) you will know my husband and I recently went on a cruise visiting Roatan, Honduras, Harvest Caye, Belize, Costa Maya, Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico. This was a gift we gave each other to celebrate our three happily married years. Well most of the time happily married years (wink wink).
Cruise line Hidden Fees
Now that we got those little details out the way, let me tell you and nag a little about the vacation/cruise. We flew into Miami with Delta airlines (shout out to them with the TV screens and great free movie options) to hop on the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship. Now this is where there will be a little nagging. While cruises are a great way to visit multiple locations at once without the high prices of hotel and airlines, it can be a set up for disaster if you don’t budget for extra fees.
At the beginning of booking at cruise vacation you’re not told about the hidden fees. Well you are in the very, very small print and the amount is not disclosed, as it varies per cruise line and cabin type. The service fees they apply per person, per day, per cabin for example, and/or the 20% automatic gratuity charge. If that is not enough it’s $7 for a bottle of water or approximately $17 for a case of six. There is no free bottled water on board, only cups in the cafe that you can drink from while there and personal water bottle refills are not permitted. If you are still feeling generous, at the bottom of your receipt you will have the option to give any additional tips to your server. Luckily for us the service charge was $15 per person, per day. Therefore, during checkout it was $210 for just service fees. While that is not too bad in comparison to others, imagine how much it was for those who traveled with their mother-in-law, aunt Sarah, uncle Jimmy, baby Johnny, little Sally, big brother Mike and oh yea the parents paying for the whole trip. Yikes! Yep there was a big group of drunk folks really, really angry.
In the cruises defense, they give you a daily newsletter that does tell you towards the bottom left hand corner that the service fees applies to anyone in the party over the age of 3. If you’re in one of the high-class, spacious rooms with a balcony, it’s $18 per person, per day. We were with the peasants just like the movie Titanic, in the bottom with our one window below the life boats. Hey, we ain’t got it like that, yet.
After getting over how poor we were going to be towards the end of this vacation, we started to get into party mode. First stop on the itinerary was Roatan, Honduras. Yas! the beaches are really as clear and as gorgeous as your friends have told you. Their favorite thing to eat are iguanas (they say it taste just like chicken) and barracudas. Now for those who are not familiar with this fish, they can carry toxins. Apparently if they are not checked for toxins you can lose your nails, teeth, hair and even portions of skin. Yikes! So I wasn’t even going to attempt eating one. We just ate a margherita Honduras style pizza.
Next was Harvest Caye, Belize, which is a private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. So just like the curious folks my husband and I are, we ventured off into Mango Creek Village. There we learned about the peaceful independence they gained from the British, mingled with everyday people, witnessed some dancing, ate some magos with peppers (delicious), learned some English-based creole and got to drink out of some fresh coconuts.
Following Belize we visited Costa Maya and Cozumel Mexico. In Costa Maya we toured the Maya Ruins known as the Chacchoben Maya Ruins. They are known as the “Place of Red Maize". To this day no inscriptions referring to the original name of the site have been found, therefore it is officially called Chacchoben, the place of the red corn. This was something foreign to me. I had no idea about the past history of the MesoAmericans. So naturally I started doing tons of research because I wanted to know why they had ruins in the territory of Brittish Honduras (former Brittish Colony, today Belize) and into Guatemala. As you will see in the YouTube video I created below:
Archeological evidence suggests that after the collapse of the Maya civilization, Chacchoben, as well as many other sites in the region, was still used as a ceremonial center and that a number of rituals took place at the abandoned temples. After the arrival of the Spaniards in the XV century and the eventual conquest of what today is Mexico and Central America, there were major changes in the Maya population, their religion and in general in the way how they lived.
By 1847 the landscape had changed dramatically and there was unrest among the Maya population, that unrest ignited one last conflict, "the Castes War", when the Cruz'ob, went to war against the Mexican Federation for the control of the Yucatan Peninsula.
During the 50 years of the Casts War, a number of atrocities were committed as entire towns were burned down to ashes forcing the Maya families to abandon their homes and flee from the conflict areas into the territory of Brittish Honduras (former Brittish Colony, today Belize) and into Guatemala. It is during these years of conflict that the rituals and visits to Chacchoben stopped until the site was forsaken by the Maya becoming one of the many Maya sites lost under the jungle. To continue reading and find out more please click here.
Our last stop being Cozumel, Mexico. I want to say was one of my favorites. Here we got to do some cooking of traditional Mexican food with a well known Chef. I was throwing back piña coladas like it was my last day on earth, so I don’t remember his name. I am just glad my food came out good. Hey, it was compliments of the chef and we were on vacation. Don’t judge me, judge your momma, ok! So we made some sope with shrimp, fish with tamarind sauce, and some maduros with chocolate ganache, yum! If you are interested in doing this with your loved one while in Cozumel Mexico click here.
In closing, I would like to say this trip was great for us for so many reasons. I got to spend time with my husband without the kids. To all the parents reading this please do things with out your children. It is ok and necessary! They won’t hate you and your partner will thank you. I also got to strut my gut and this imperfect body hunty! Yes, I was working it on this trip like a true fashionista!
We also got to reflect on life. Obviously, we did things on the boat like attend an art auction, do a wine tasting class and party! I mean why not? However, what will always tug our heartstrings is seeing how others live outside the US. For me it was a reminder of my home as I was originally born in Dominican Republic.
Reflecting how in America we spend millions for an ocean view; these people were very poor but still managed to pull out a chair, sit by the water with a Presidente in hand, and with little ones running into the water butt naked. That is the real definition of happiness and carefree living. Something we all lose sight off. We all get so caught up on money and having it all that we forget those little moments. On the boat they were charging us an arm and a leg for a bottle of water and in these countries they would gives us free water. I also enjoyed learning about the Maya Ruins and understanding that history just continues to repeat itself.
It is sad that even through great technological advances and strides we are still more divided than ever today for any given reason; race, religion, social, political or economical class, sex and it continues to grow. I used to pray for the day that we would reach equality but now I am understanding that it’s a foreign language. The more I read about our humanity the more I realize we can not teach each other what we have never learned. Maybe the universe will change one day (just like potty training) and we will stop being so stubborn. Until then I am just glad I had an opportunity to see and learn from distinct cultures who took us in with open arms. To them I just want to say, Gracias.