Yucatan Project: Day 20, Elon

Jan 23rd: I submitted my final version of the video today. I feel a sense of profound relief and anticipation. Without Jessica’s leadership, Dan’s coding skills, Cassie’s Illustration Techniques and the talents of the rest of my team we could not have done as well as I thought. The video that I have created is but one small part in the whole website. Included we have an additional gallery of videos explaining the message of the center, a PR video,  a donate page linked to Pastor Wilson’s account and several other features. As I look back the project itself was a profound cultural immersion, more so than any other destination I’ve traveled to.

I not only increased my knowledge and experience in a potential future job position but also had the opportunity to make a direct, positive impact in the lives of several children. I truly hope that the creation of my team’s site will be sufficient to bring much needed financial support for the hundreds if not thousands of children in the Yucatan area. As of right now I’m thinking back to a story that the Pastor once told me. He explained that the idea behind his action was to provide the area’s children with he means to lift themselves up. It is one thing to give aid to those in need, but an even better action to be a part of someone’s self determination and to watch them set out on a path that was unavailable to them before. In the end the most effective way to make a difference is to render mutual respect towards others. Here ends the lesson.


Yucatan Project: Day 17, Elon

Jan 20th: It’s been sometime since I last wrote. I’ve been assigned to work on the Yucatan Cultural video for my group’s project website. I decided to tackle this section with several ideas in mind. The first idea was to create a two minute presentation on footage of the Christian and Mayan heritage of the area. I largely used footage of our time in the Izamal area. I had a sneaking feeling that it did not do the area justice as I left much of the images of the other areas out. I remedied that with several photographs that included the Academia Nataneal, Merida, Cancun and other places. When consulted by Prof. Negin and Jessica my project manager I was told to use a variety and not stress as much attention on visual continuity. With this knowledge I was ready to tackle the visual aspect of the presentation. However the soundtrack was a different matter entirely.

Jan 21st: I opted originally for a more subdued, tribal sounding track that one could easily time according to the beat. When presenting to my group I was told that the track was in fact somber and quite a few of the accompanying images gave a more morose outlook of the region. I once again decided to change the film’s tone by adding a more Caribbean, Yucatan beat that was more uplifting and positive. I also supplanted most of the still images with one that were bold in color composition. The added vibrancy of the images and the accompanying music virtually changed the tone and outlook of the video. I was very amazed. The lesson here is that even the slightest changes can alter a presentation entirely, even down to the smallest frame and sound bite.

Yucatan Project: Day 9, Chichen Itza and Cancun

Jan 12th: The previous day my group and I discussed severals aspects of the website with the Pastor. We agreed that the community center would administer the site itself, calling upon us when technical difficulties arise. After we finished our session we decided to shoot footage of the children assembling and welcoming audiences to their center. It was very difficult to do this. I remember that every place that I visited for an extended period of time, I grew attached. I often think about if it’s really enough to provide them with this type of awareness. I also tell myself that the right of self-determination should be decided by these children alone. It was important for us to contribute to the foundation of a well run organization.

Our ride to the city of Cancun included a visit to the ruins of Chichen Itza. The thousands of years since it’s completion, have been reasonable to the structure. As we toured the area I asked several questions of our guide, most of them explaining the differences between the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. My previous knowledge was disproved as the Mayans did not actually sacrifice human beings to appease their gods (an Aztec norm), did not play poc-a-toc as a game with a sideways hoop (instead a ritualized creation story), nor was the Cenote or giant aquifer a sacrificial lake for aquatic gods. These false opinions were spread by visiting American and European anthropologists from the turn of the last century. The lesson my group learned that day was that the culture we were told was very similar to their Northern Mexican cousins was quite different. They were a civilization of Astronomers and Mathematicians rather than Warriors. Point in fact, they built the Pyramid of Chichen Itza as a relatively large calendar to track the movements of the sun. After viewing this monumental area my group headed to the ocean for the remainder of the day.

Out in the pale blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico I reflected on how the project went. As a team we bonded to the point of succinct professionalism and familial relations. I also thought about how we would weave the story of this remarkable place together as a cohesive story. That is a story for another time whe we return home.

The Temple of Kukulcan, built in Honor of the Serpent God
Poc-A-Toc Ring, were a large rubber sphere representing the fleash of the gods is passed through the "Sun"
The ill-famed Cenote, misjudged to it being the main water source for the Mayan city. Unsuitable for sacrifices.
Serpent's head at base of pyramid, essential architecture piece in honoring Serpent God

Yucatan Project: Day 7, San Antonio Sodzil

Jan 10th: I spent the night with Pastor Wilson and Professor Sang at the youth community center. It was interesting to learn how to sleep in a hammock, unfortunately I received a crick in my neck in the process. The day that the pastor, professor and I spent involved touring the community and seeing the projects Academia Nataneal was involved in. Our first stop was to tour a housing project for a couple that couldn’t afford a separate place to live from their families. The house was a single room building made entirely of concrete. The kitchen, living quarters, and other areas that Americans think of as separate areas were all centered in a single small area. Essentially, privacy is a luxury that few people can afford to have. I saw similar features in buildings across the county.

The water maintenance facility that we went to in Ticul was built in part by Academia Nataneal as well as other religious organizations in the area. The plant incorporated reverse osmosis as well as a filtration system allowing the community to have access to clean drinking water without fear of contamination. As we left the Pastor spoke to a woman named Senora Blanco who was suffering from a debilitating illness caused by industrial chemicals. As I saw the pastor reassure her I understood that the ability of a few people in an area such as this could have as big an impact as him. You cannot just provide relief but also leadership in these types of environments. In regards to camerawork I’ve gotten better at determining the use of lighting during daylight hours. I would say that my skill has become fairly well-honed.

Aligning Slats on the roof
Former Henaquen plant
San Antonio Sodzil's outdoor kitchen


Yucatan Project: Day 6, San Antonio Sodzil

Jan 9th: Today my team and I decided to head to San Antonio Sodzil, an ethnically Mayan village an hour away from my unit’s campsite. The center in this village is for orphan children and kids whose families are unable to support any educational opportunities they may have. The journey through the site included viewing the cafeteria, their radio station, the future pool area and the living spaces for both boys and girls. I was honestly moved by how these children would also want to spend their lives as educators and doctors. I was upset by their troubles as young kids growing up in a less than favorable environment. I know that working on this project can give some chance in helping them achieve not only their dreams but directly helping their community grow.

Pastor Wilson with Students
Student manning Radio Jockey station
Community Center Logo
The center's friendly pack of goats

Yucatan Project: Day 5, Merida

Jan 8th: Today we had the opportunity to travel to Merida, modern capital of the Yucatan state. The town has a history stretching back to Spanish Colonial times. At the center, facing the town square is a sixteenth century church attended famously by Pope John Paul the Second. In walking about, my friend Kwan and I befriended a street musician named Rafael. Coincidentally, Rafael is a music teacher and a member of the international Saw-playing foundation. I was struck by how easy absolute strangers can connect here. The people certainly have a certain joy of life, as though they can move on no matter what. A lesson I can certainly take to heart. On another note I attempted to do a bit of night photography. I find that if I open the lens

Merida Cathederal

I can gather as much illumination as possible.

Merida Streetlife
Kwon and Rafael, Pupil and Teacher

Yucatan Project: Day 4, Izamal

Jan 7th: Today was truly amazing. On our first day off we decided to travel to the town of Izamal. It’s the center of the Yucatan State. We went to the town center and climbed to the to of the hill, were a monastery dedicated to Anthony of Padua was. It was literally one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. I saw frescoes of the life of Christ, 500 year old murals of the Virgin Mary, and a large worship hall made of teak wood. After our visit and with the help of a monk, we went to the top of the town pyramid. The ancient Mayans built the structures as a means of appeasing their gods, and as a method to track time. Standing on top of the ruins I felt the weight of time as the structure was easily a few thousand years old. My descent was filled with a sense of wonder at the panoramic vista. Later that night I went to the Cacalchen Bull fiesta. A Carnival like atmosphere was there including children’s games, cook-out areas, etc… At the center of it all was a flimsy wood and twine Bull Ring. Contrary to popular beleif, most Mexican Bull events do not allow the killing of the Bull. Instead a bunch of local men run after and coax the Bull into chasing them! Despite the potentially fatal consequences, the crowd seemed to enjoy the event.

Front entrance to St. Anthony of Padua
The Pyramid Kinichi Kokmal
Part of the countryside view
The risks of the Bull Ring