Shortly after the end of WW2, Mom and I sailed to Europe, finishing our six week’s trip in England. London, still in a state of disaster, was hurriedly putting the finishing touches on her favored tourist areas while leaving the rest for later. We saw many bomb craters and ruined buildings. Leaving the city, we took a train to Shakespeare’s England. Passing a large ruin, I said, “Look at that! It must have taken a direct hit!” Mom exploded in laughter as she began to describe the ancient castle, left as it fell centuries before.

            My recent trip to the Mayan ruins outside of Cozumel brought back memories of that earlier time. These ruins were definitely ruined, but still showed by their narrow, short, steep steps how tiny the people were. Our guide, proud to be a Mexican, went into a long rant about the remarkable Mayans, and how the Spanish had successfully obliterated the race by separating the women and forcing them to breed with other people. By mixing the blood, they created a “new human being.”

            A tent-like structure of thick heavy canes, lashed together, attempted to  preserve what was left of the Mayan life. Small rooms divided by columns, a kitchen with its fireplace, plainly exhibited their needs. We walked along ancient and broken stone paths, hard on the feet. At the far end of one, a large stone arch led to nowhere. Our guide believed it to be a Mayan symbol. But of what?

            I believe we were all glad to board our air-conditioned bus and be on our way to a swimming spot. A long ride later, we arrived. The hour was late and my stomach groaned with hunger. A large covered eating area lay next to a long buffet. I was looking it over when a waiter came and said I couldn’t eat there. I asked him why. “You don’t have the right bracelet. You can only have a drink,” he said.

            “I have money,” I told him. He left, telling me to take a seat.

            Big black birds, their glossy feathers shiny even in the shade, swooped over the tables, gathering the remains of the diners’ lunches in their long beaks and dropping excrement on tables and chairs as they flew. Diners needed to be wary. A sentinel bird, perched on a support pole, constantly scouted the area. When she spotted an empty table, she screeched at the top of her lungs, calling the others. A table near me emptied out its ten guests, a veritable treasure  trove. The sentinel, stationed nearby, quickly surveyed the situation and set up a wild cry for the troops. The black birds flew in from all over. One found half a sandwich. He picked it up and flew to the floor, placed one clawed foot on it and pronounced the prize his. No other bird approached.

             The waiter, finally seeing my desperately waving arms, arrived. I ordered a quickie, I thought, a cheeseburger and my promised drink. We had been given only an hour and a half before our bus and guide would leave for the boat. “Anyone not here will be left,” he had threatened. I just made it. Never have I known a cheeseburger to take so long to cook. The guide counted us all in but came up two short. I had seen them eating at the table next to me. They paid. She stripped down to a bikini and they left to swim. Wrong decision; they were left behind. Our guide meant business.

            We arrived at the docks hot and tired. Mistaking the bus driver for the guide, I handed him my tip. That guide was quick. He tore the five dollar bill out of the driver’s hand, barely  allowing him to feel it. I never saw so many stalls and hawking natives. So many that I had trouble finding my way back to the boat. What a beautiful sight!

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