A new city presents itself like an unending supply of field trips. I scour Trip Advisor and local coffee houses constantly adding new places to my Evernote list. Yes, I am finally using Evernote and loving it. Shortly after arriving in San Cristobal, I realized we had a mecca of adventures ahead of us.
Museo de Bichos E Insectos - The Bug and Insect Museum - The kids loved this place. Why wouldn't they? There were lots of butterflies, scorpions, wasps, spiders and other dead creatures for them to inspect. However, the highlight was Tag holding the tarantula. Ela and I stayed at least two feet away from it.
Museo del Ambar - Amber Museum - This place was a huge surprise. We learned about real and fake amber, how it's made underground and why it's often found with dead insects and bugs inside it. There were several examples of different colored amber and beautiful jewelry made with it. The mountains around San Cristobal are one of the only places red amber can be found.
Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya - Center of Mayan Textiles - Here, I was surprised at how much the kids enjoyed looking at several examples of Mayan textiles or traje. By this point in our travels, we were used to seeing indigenous Mayans wearing their traje, and had even worn it ourselves on Orgullo Chapin Day in Panajachel, Guatemala. After arriving in San Cristobal, we couldn't help but notice a new traje material - a black, fuzzy material that was not the most attractive (obviously, my opinion). It looked like these women were wearing thick, matted sheep skins around their waists. This exhibit included several accessories including bags, hair pieces, shawls and shoes. There were other pieces of culture and art in this museum (pottery, religious artifacts, paintings to name a few), but we spent most of our time opening drawer after drawer of traje.
Orquideas Moxviquil - I don't know the English translation for this place, or if there even is an English translation, but this was a gem of a place just outside of town. Basically, it's a botanical garden where we were told (by the owner) that we needed to touch anything we wanted to! This is perfect for kids. No plant, leaf, rock, tree, flower or stick was off limits. Along with all the native plants, there were sitting areas, swings, small hills for races, a river and a unique composting toilet system.
Grutas de Rancho Nuevo - Best surprise park! There was a lot to do in a small area, and we made the most of it. We started with the big slide.
Next we went on the cave walk. The kids had never been in a cave where they could walk far into it. They were a bit creeped out, especially Tag. When we got to the end of the paved path, we had the option to pay extra to go even farther. The extra included flashlights and hard hats. Ken and I were all for it, but the kids were not. After bribing them with 1 hour of digital and an extra movie night (I really wanted to go the rest of the way), they agreed. Ela loved it, but Tag was nervous and skeptical the whole time. The following day, the kids researched caves using YouTube videos. They are now a bit fascinated with them and are looking forward to exploring more caves.
We also had a terrific lunch and Tag got a souvenir.
El Arcoteto - This was another park just outside of town. Our favorite feature was an archway where we could walk high into it. Okay, so the kids didn't like this as much as Ken and I did! They were a bit freaked out by the height and steepness of the walk. They especially didn't like it when they looked down to where we started.
Mayan Medicine Museum - The first thing we did when we entered the museum was watch a 10 minute video in English, and I often wish I could watch it again and again. The video showcased how indigenous Mayans use herbs and food as medicines. While the video wasn't meant to be funny, we found it quite humorous. First, we already know how ridiculous it is that many women give birth lying down (I did exactly this...twice). The Mayans use the concept of gravity to help a woman give birth. Obviously, they're not using epidurals which would have put a damper on my experience. However, their birth is also accompanied with some "unique" rituals and beliefs:
- A machete is waved over a woman's uterus 3 times to give her a quick birth.
- Coca Cola and live chickens are used to give the baby a good soul. Mothers drink the soda in hopes of burping which is believed to help evil spirits leave the body. We also saw this at a church in the nearby village of Chamula.
- If the baby is a boy, the mother is not allowed to eat avocado for 3 months or the baby's penis will swell.
While some of these rituals and beliefs seem silly to us, we recognize the way I gave birth would seem absurd to them.
The museum also had exhibits showcasing daily life. There were religious exhibits and of course many displays of medicine in use. There's a fantastic display that shows the position of the man, the woman and the midwife when a woman is giving birth. The woman is facing the man and the baby pops out behind the woman and right into the midwife's hands. Here's a pic from the museum.
Meeting a Danish Family - Staying at the same apartment/hotel complex as us was a wonderful American/Danish family. Cassie is from the US and her husband Tor is from Denmark. They have two, young boys, and we spent a lot of time together. Their oldest son, Silas, and Tag collected bones around the gardens. They had bowls and bowls of small animal bones. (Tag thinks the bones are in the cartop carrier. Hopefully he will forget about them soon, because, of course, they are not up there. I returned them to the gardens of our lovely home.) It was fun learning about life in Denmark and comparing travel notes.
While San Cristobal wasn't as warm as we would have liked, it is a wonderful town and we have fond memories of our time there.