March 17, 2007

The last two days were very exciting, so watch out for another long blog! Also, sorry for the small letters in the last one – I try to make it bigger now.

Yesterday, I spent the whole day talking – to start off, Dustin and me met with Manuel from CTSK for breakfast in Tulum. This was basically my first contact with somebody that I would actually be working with closely, so obviously a very important day! During breakfast, we had some casual talk, but actually coming back to the CTSK office, Manuel and I started getting deeper into the topic of how to help the folks from Xyaat and how CTSK could help them. It was soon clear to me that  Manuel is a great guy to have on board of such a project! He was very clear and focused, providing me with an overview of what could be options for internships for Xyaat people in the CTSK office and with their staff. Basically, there are three areas: The guiding and handling of tourists, the office and reservation management, and the marketing and sales part. We were talking for a while about this and also the possibility to discuss their problems with the Ejido with them, so that maybe CTSK could provide their experience of working with three communities. All the people in this area seem to have the same problems…

For lunch, I had arranged a meeting with the folks from Global Vision International in their home base in Tulum. This organization is having volunteers in Tulum for up to 10 weeks, and organizing English classes and environmental projects (mainly concerned with the coral reef and coastal ecosystems). My goal there was to find out about possibilities to cooperate with Xyaat, mainly for teaching them English.It turned out not as easy as thought. Although they seemed very interested in Xyaats tourism activities, they do only have a fixed program for English lessons in Tulum. After the fixed part of the program, there are per group about one or two who then would like to stay in the area and go to some community to do work there. This basically means for us that they are willing to help, but can not provide any guarantee for continued work. Still, the meeting was interesting, as Nicolas (the cultural manager of their project) and Kat (I think she’s the overall manager of this base of GVI) were very interested and had a couple of other ideas for cooperations, which I think will be gladly perceived by Marcus  and  Santos: They are interested in helping them with the environmental education program Xyaat is sponsoring for the schools, and also could help with the distribution of the tourism product (by sending volunteers, and also they work closely with the public tourism information in Tulum). We hope to welcome them for the cross-training day on Thursday next week. My goal is more to set up everything for them, so they can get in touch with the right people and also continue working after we leave – if I do everything for them, all our work would probably be lost after our plane takes off…

After lunch we sat together as a team at our current office – the lobby (it’s just so much more comfortable than the conference room!) – and discussed a bit our current work that we were doing. I felt this was really important, because it kind of gave us the working spirit back. Honestly, I had the feeling we were all a bit lost after Heber left, but it seems we’re getting more up to speed the last two days now.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay until the end, because I had arranged to meet Manuel again in the evening – which was when we discussed more details of the internships that they could offer to Xyaat. Manuel made a good point – he told me about different people that had been working with Senor for years, mainly in order to get things with the Ejido straight – so there is a good point in saying that doing one or two seminars in the community is not really what would help set things right. We finally decided to include that in the Cross-Training day, which I guess is a good idea, as people from several communities working with CTSK will participate.   So that was yesterday – a lot of talking…. Today we went on the Forest & Float Tour of CTSK, which was a great experience! Dan, David, Beth and me met with our guide Antonio at 8:30 and headed off to Muyil, about half an hour down the road. We first went to the ruins of Muyil, which was great because I had never seen Mayan ruins before and also they were hidden in the forest just as I imagined it!
Then we had a walk through the forest, slowly moving into the wetlands (the path was made of wood about 20 cm above the ground –we did not get wet J ) and luckily the first time in my life I spotted birds when I was supposed to see them (up to now, on every tour I did that included birdwatching I couldn’t see anything except for green leaves).
From there, we arrived at the lagoon, which had crystal-clear water. After a fruit snack we headed with the boat to the canal in the savannas. The first that we passed was a man-made one (first constructed by the Mayas centuries or even millennia ago – apparently they don’t need to maintain it because the current does it naturally).
After passing the second lagoon, we entered into a natural canal that actually was half savannas, half mangroves (my checklist done – I absolutely wanted to see mangroves on this trip!) and here started probably the best part of the day: We put swimming jackets on, however not in the usual way but like diapers, and jumped into the water – floating down the canal for half an hour. We didn’t have to do anything, just  relaxing, enjoying the green around us, the sun and the refreshing water! It was fascinating, because while in the water you can’t actually see the surroundings, so when then we entered again into the boat and could see we were actually floating in the middle of a seemingly endless green savanna!
After coming back to our starting point at the first lagoon, we had some tasty traditional mayan lunch and then headed for the last part – the cenote. Dan showed me how to snorkel (my last experience was not very good, always had the feeling I could not breathe properly…) which I was very glad about – maybe still going out to the reef on one of the next days? We’ll see…. 

Barrie just arrived, and from just a moment knowing her can tell we will have a great time during the upcoming week! So, we’re soon off to dinner –can’t wait to eat! 


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