I am not sure who lost paradise but I know for sure who found it. We did. Address: Moon Palace, Cancun, Mexico.
Moon Palace is an all-inclusive resort; all types of food—steak, sushi, Asian, Italian, Mexican, Polynesian, hamburgers—at all hours of the day, unlimited drinks—even the pop in the frig in the room, international phone calls, Internet access, bikes, mini-golf, real golf, popcorn at soccer games, arcade games—including wii, Flowrider, room service at all hours of the day and night, rides up and down the escalator…..all at no extra change; everything was included in the price of the room. Thanks to Parents Hislop—whose previous wise frugality and current extreme generosity financed the entire trip—we spent eight days and seven nights in paradise. Absolute paradise.
Predictably, there are lots of stories in Paradise……I will share a few.
Getting to paradise was tricky. First Grace left water in her water bottle so she had to exit the secure area, drink the water, and re-navigate the Disney Land length line to re-enter the airport proper. At another check point I waited and waited and waited for Grace as she stood waiting and waiting and waiting beside the scanning machine. Finally I asked her what she was waiting for. “My backpack,” she patiently explained. “The one you have on your back?” I questioned. Yes.
Unfortunately the backpack did not stay on her back. In Mexico City we had to retrieve our luggage, go through customs, and then return the luggage to the airline. Grace put her suitcase and her backpack (that was totally unencumbered by identification of any kind) onto the conveyor belt. As it whisked out of site, into the vast innards of the Mexico City International Airport, Grace told me what she had done. “I am sorry,” I said, thinking that she would never see it again.
Her sad eyes coupled with her good attitude forced me to try to get it back. I wouldn’t have known what to do in English a domestic airport; I really did not know what to do in Spanish in a foreign airport. Several officials and a few lines later I found someone who promised to help me. Later (rather than sooner) a man miraculously appeared with the backpack. I thanked him profusely and reached for the shunted bag. Not so fast. Because it had no identification, the Federal Police had to search it before I could reclaim it.
We were able to reclaim Grace’s bag in Mexico City. We almost had to go to San Salvador to reclaim Grandma.
I was relaxing at Gate 25 in the LAX airport when Tanah approached me. “Mom,” she said, “Shouldn’t we be getting on the plane?”
“Mom, it looks like people are boarding the plane. We should be getting on.”
“It is not our plane.”
“Mom, people are getting on the plane. We really need to get in line.”
“Tanah, it is true that people are getting on the plane but it is not our plane. That plane is going to San Salvador. We are going to Mexico City. It is NOT our plane.”
Tanah got a very peculiar look on her face, said “I’d better go get Grandma”, and rushed off. My eyes followed her to the gate where there indeed was Grandma. The kind airline official, seeing her motorized scooter, was generously giving her pre-boarding privileges and helping her onto the jet way.
This was the first time Grandma entertained us but not the last.
The family joined Tanah and I at the sushi bar one night for dinner. Grandma gamely tried what was clearly unfamiliar food to her. Grace’s yell “No, Grandma, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!” caused me to look at Grandma just in time to see her put a marble-sized ball of wasabi paste into her mouth. Her eyes watered and then bugged as her tongue tried to decide what to do. Decorum demanded that she keep it in her mouth; I yelled “Spit it out, spit it out!” After what must have seemed like forever to her taste buds, she removed it from her mouth. All of us were in tears; she from horseradish and we from hilarity.
Grandma was entertaining and endearing. One of the trip’s most tender moments came when Grandma kissed a dolphin. Seven year old excitement shone through her seventy year old eyes.
The children loved their swimming with the dolphins adventure too….and their deep sea fishing adventure….and their cenote swimming adventure……
Deep sea fishing was Lance’s “bucket experience” of the trip; he was like a kid in a candy shop as we headed out to sea. Sea queasy almost from the start, it was a bucket experience for me too…..but a bucket of a whole different kind.
Because deep sea fishing does not always mean deep sea catching and because the adventure was Lance’s dream-come-true, it was decided that Lance would get to reel in the first bite; that way if there were only one bite the entire 8 hours, Lance would get his experience.
Lance got his experience. The first fish hit, the reel whirled as fishing line zipped out, Lance pulled in a fat tuna. Mission accomplished! Lance’s grin was a big as the fish.
An hour or so later, a second fish bit. Again, the reel whirled. This time it was Grace’s turn. She pulled in a fatter tuna….about 4 times the volume of Lance’s fish.
Another hour passed and there was a third bite. Tanah grabbed the pole and the guide grabbed a hook. Together they landed a king mackerel that was twice the size of Grace’s fish that was four times the size of Lance’s.
Over an hour later a fourth (and what proved to be the final) fish took the bait. It was Miles’ turn. The little scoundrel reeled in a wahoo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wahoo) that four times bigger than Tanah fish which was two times bigger than Grace’s fish that was four times bigger than Lance’s fish. The thing was almost as tall as Miles and Miles’ grin was almost as big as the fish.
Miles was thrilled that he caught the biggest fish AGAIN (something he has made a habit of doing). He also loved swimming in cenotes, a thrill the rest of us shared with him.
A cenote is a natural sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenote) They vary in width and warmth; some are completely open, river-type channels, others are cave-like, their exposure to the atmosphere limited to a comparatively small skylight. There are an estimated 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula; we swam in five of them.
Glorious! It was like swimming in the garden of Eden, except that we had clothes on. J We cliff jumped into our first cenote—some of us more easily than others; Miles stepped off the edge without a thought, it took Lance multiple tries. We snorkeled and kayaked in the second cenote, swam with bats and black fish in the third cenote, and zip lined into the fourth.
I loved the cenotes, particularly the third one where the water was a cool, clear aquamarine color, the sunlight filtering through a small opening in the domed roof created a cool, surreal effect, and thousands of bats clinging to the ceiling and flitting over the water were just plain cool, but the highlight of my trip was the visit to Chichen Itza.
Chichen Itza (http://www.chichenitza.com/), selected in 2007 as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is a large archeological site containing pyramids, temples, and a stadium built by the ancient Mayan people. Seeing the ruins was incredible in and of itself but it was seeing them through a House of Israel perspective that made the experience a truly powerful one.
The Mayans were post-Book of Mormon era and clearly in a state of apostasy but the influence of their Christ-worshipping ancestors was everywhere. Helaman (his real name—HONEST!), a Mexican Latter-day Saint guide, taught us the following:
- Mayan temples were built after the pattern of Solomon’s temple, complete with an outer wall, a washing and purification area, an inner wall, an outer and inner room in the building itself, and an altar in the inner most room.
- When Christ came, He taught that the time of animal sacrifices was over; that he wanted instead a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In the inner room of every temple was an altar, a carved figure of a reclining man, holding a platter. On the platter the Mayans placed the heart, broken of course, of their sacrificial victims.
- The Mayan calendar had 18 months of 20 days each, with an additional 5 holy days, make 365 days over all. The ancient Israelites also had 5 holy days.
- The feathered serpent represented God, feathers indicating the god had descended from heaven. Moses used a serpent to represent the Savior.
- A plain serpent—no feathers, hence fallen to the Earth—represented evil. The use of a snake to represent Satan runs through Genesis. Very interesting is the fact that good and evil were both represented by the same form, one from heaven and one fallen.
- The Mayan worshipped Chaak, a rain god. Christ is often referred to as the Living Water.
- Venus, the morning star, was important the the Mayans. Christ is also associated with the morning star.
- The temples had baptismal fonts where believers could be baptized by immersion. The Mayan word for baptism means to become a new person.
- Tens of thousands of people come to Chichen Itza on the spring equinox to see the shadow of the snake that is cast on the steps of the pyramid, an awesome sight. However most people miss the real show which comes 16 days later when the entire temple lights up, glowing spectacularly, at sunset. April 6th has special LDS significance as well.
WOW! The entire trip was a WOW. Grandpa and Grandma Hislop gave us the trip of a lifetime and we will enjoy the memories for our the rest of our lifetimes.