Friday, June 25, 2010

Adventure Time!

You've read the blog and you've seen the pictures. You've said to yourself "Gosh, Kady's life is so glamourous and exciting! I think I want to be an archaeologist/adventurer too!" I have some advice for you. This is also kind of a "things I have learned the hard way" and a rant against stupidity.

There are lots and lots of bugs in the world. I mean lots. Now, lets say I have a bug on me. Let me know, say, "Hey - there is a bug on your (location of bug)". You can also lean over and brush it off or flick it off with a trowel. Do NOT however begin flailing about and screaming - first, the bug isn't even on you, and second, we're in a 3by3 hole about 10 feet deep and you have a pick in your hand. Stop flailing. If it kills me, you may flail, but not until then.

Ticks are the purest form of evil next to dragonflies. They come in sizes from freckles to quarter sized. You have a couple options when it comes to removing ticks - pull it from yourself or go to a friend and ask them to pull it. The other option that I strongly do not reccomend is going into hysterics. It just makes me want to throw all of my ticks on you. - My other tick suggestion...make sure it is a tick and not a freckle. Freckles bleed a lot when you scrape them off with a knife. I would know.

Clothing and Accesories:
You need boots or tennis shoes - not flip flops. Flip flops do you no good in the jungle. Long pants other wise your legs look like they went through a wood chipper. Don't believe me? Take a gander at my legs when I get home. Not pretty.
You know what you don't need? Make-up. Who are you trying to impress? That cute looking tree next to you? Or maybe the bucket of dirt? Nobody cares. All you need is jungle perfume, more commonly known as bug spray. Also the finest lotion known to man - sun screen. Thats all you need cosmetic wise.
Those super cute dangly earrings? Leave them on the damn bathroom counter. Why are you straighten your hair - the humidity is 97% with no rain!!

They know more than you so shut up and listen. End of story. You want them to like you when you've got a big spider on your back.

I don't care how brave you are and how you'll try anything once. If you don't know what something is - ask. Otherwise you find out what it is the hard way. Yeah, go google "gibnut" - I ate a giant rat. Find out what it is, and still try it, but for the love of God - I had nightmares about gibnuts in my guts.
Also, most of the food is made when you order it. If you're going to have a cow over waiting an hour for the most delicious nachoes ever....than order the fruit plate. It will still take at least 15 minutes. Enjoy the company of the people you're with. Talk to the locals. Chill and relax for a bit. Flipping out doesn't make the food come any faster.

Stick to beer. American beer is incredibly weak and so is most of our liquor. I can tell you from personal experince a shot of rum doesn't touch me, a shot of Belizean rum and I'm running around yelling that I'm a fruit bat - yes, we got it on video and no you can't see it. Be smart about it. Have one beer until you know how's it going to affect you. There is nothing worse than being drunk in a country where you don't speak the language, it's dangerous too.

Finally and most importantly...
Your Trowel:
Your best friend next to your bandana. It is more than just a tool for scooping dirt. It opens coke bottles. It removes ticks and other bugs. It can cut rope and roots. In a pinch it can even be a spoon for eating your lunch, just scrape as much of the mud off as you can.

3 Simple Rules:
Eat when you can
Sleep when you can
Party during the weekend as hard as you work during the week

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Guatemala and Tikal

This past weekend was our free weekend. We had the whole weekend instead of just Sunday off. 7 of the group decided to go to the Keys for the weekend. I figure I can go to the beach anytime so I, along with 5 others, opted to go to Guatemala and to visit Tikal. Tikal is the largest Maya site in Central America. It's only about 4 hours from where we are staying.

We saddle up bright and early Saturday morning and set off. Crossing the border was uneventful. Some people in the group were overly excited about getting their passport stamped. I was more interested in the soldiers with the guns the size of my leg. Different priorities I guess.

Tikal is HUGE. It covers over 200 square miles of temples, plazas, and alters. It was a hell of a hike - glad I was one of the smart ones and wore sneakers. We were able to climb three of the temples, the others were too steep. One of the ones we climbed we litterally climb a set of stairs so steep it might as well have been a ladder 150 feet up. The view was worth it. Completely and totally. I was fine going up, no sweat - hell, I could have run up the ladder. Going down was a different story. I went down face first - I was a little shakey when I got to the bottom to say the least. When we got over to the main plaza we were lucky enough to get to watch two Maya Shaman performing a blessing ritual for a man. It's a little like paying the church for a blessing - the idea is in the same vein.

It started to rain, the tourists bolted. My crew climbed a small temple and waited out the storm in one of the Mayan vaults - that was kind of cool. The rain abated so we made a run for it. Bad choice. It started to pour. Thankfully, the tree canopy is so thick we only got a little wet.

We left Tikal and headed out to our hotel on an island called Isla de Flores. It's a tiny Spanish island in the center of a huge lake. At the desk we're told our rooms have AC. We scoff - AC means a small ratty fan. We know the drill.....By God, it's a real AC unit. I cranked the AC down as low as it would go (60F), turned the fan on as high as it would go and slept under a quilt. I have never been so happy to be chilly. The next morning we were going to go shopping in the market!

I have never been more alarmed and amused by the open air market that we went to. I had fresh skinned chickens shoved in my face. I had a lady offer me a dead fish to hold so I could test the weight. I watched a man kill a chicken for a customer. Mind. Blown. The open air market was a little too much of a culture shock for a couple of the people in our group so we wound up going back to Isla de Flores and shopping at the tiny market there. I guess dying chickens can be a little traumatizing.....pansies.

My final tidbit for today. I'm chilling in a bar the other night and this guy comes up to me and wraps an arm around my shoulder and leans in close- no need for alarm, a couple of the guys from our group were near by. He asks me if I know about the 4 men that every woman needs. I shake my head and ask him what they are. He replies - and I quote: "Every woman needs four men in her life. A white man, a Spanish man, a Chinese man, and a black man. The Spanish man to build the house, the white man to pay the bills, the Chinese man to cook and the black man to 'lay the pipe'." - Well I have never laughed so hard in my entire life. I ask him what the Belizean men are for and he winks and says "we're the special treat you get for being a good girl". I love this country.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Have Trowel; Will Travel

Through no encouragement or fault of my own, one of the Mayan workers who is helping us at the site has fallen madly in like with me. He was overwhelmed by the charm and grace that I naturally ooze. My gift is my curse, I know. He never stood a chance. Now, I'm not going to complain if you want to flirt and hey, you want to tell your buddies that I'm in to you? No skin off my nose, have at it. You want to pick up my bar tab in the afternoon? Barkeep - send another cold one my way. Thats all fine. But when I'm taking fieldnotes and you come over and grab my hand? Or I'm excavating something to delicated I have to wear a dust mask and use toothpicks and you come over and pull my pony tail? Oh hell no, son. I go from mild mannered archaeologist to fire breathing death harpy. Thats right. I flip out so hard it makes usual-me look mild mannered. Thank God that I couldn't reach the pick. I would have been excavating his brain from his skull. Doc has suggested to him that he might find a better place to spend his free time than within my grasp. Can somebody send me the number for the embassy down here? They can get me out of prison right?

I'm walking down the street in San Ignacio and this slightly crazy older gentleman comes up to me. I nod and smile, no reason to be a grump right? He leans in close and asks me if I know how "he" is doing. I kind of tilt my head and asked who "he" is. He gets closer and goes "Michael Jackson...he's in your pocket". I kind of giggle....back up a little bit. He shuffles closer. Repeats his question. I told him he was doing well. The old man nods and reminds me to feed him once a day and he walks off. Really? Well all righty then.

15 days down, 15 to go

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Caracol, Blue Hole, The First Week of Work, and San Antonio Day

First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!
Proffesor Powis suprised me with a HUGE birthday cake at dinner. It was chocolate outside and chocolate inside. The man knows me. The workers who are helping at the dig site brought me some Mayan wine for my birthday, I'll be drinking it tonight - with a little help from my friends.

Another huuuuge site. From the highest temple you can see all 360 degrees of the site. This is also the first site that Powis ever excavated so he was running around like a school kid. It was too cute for words. The same as the other sites, the buildings are fully restored. There is still excavation going on at some of the buildings. A lot of alters have been found and so have burial tombs.

Blue Hole:
Our first Sunday in Belize we went to the Blue Hole, which is a local nature reserve. There is a 100 meter deep hole in the center of a creek. The hole is spring fed and the water is a deep very clear blue. It's also freezing cold, like you hit it and you stop breathing for a second. A little bit down the river there was a huge cave. I decided to swim into the cave - no head lamps mind you. I was attacked by a fruit bat. A large one. I have never swam so fast in my life. Now...most people would not go back to the cave. I borrowed a flash light, tied it to my head with my bandana and swam back in. Multiple bats. Next time...I'm taking a head lamp and a tennis racket.

The First Week of Work:
I have never been so tired and so happy in my entire life. I swung picks, I moved 10 gallon buckets of dirt and rock, I sifted through mounds of dirt for shards of pottery, and I drew more maps and profiles than I ever imagined I would. We found a ton and I mean a ton, of pottery. Some pretty big pieces too. We also found some charcol and the bones of a deer. We found some other things, but until Dr. Powis has a chance to publish his finds, I can't talk about them online. We also have about 10 workers helping us. Most of them are Mayan so as a result I've been learning a fair amount of Mayan. I also have started speaking in a creole-slur type of speach where my words run together and I don't make full sentences. The workers were suprised how fast I've picked it up and how much of it I understand. For my birthday Moises and Marco, two of the workers, brought me a bottle of potato wine - it's a Mayan drink. I'm really excited about drinking it....responsibly.

San Antonio Day:
Our site is in a town called San Antonio, aka Little Texas. Today they had their town's holiday - we have no idea what they're celebrating but hey, a party is a party. We played a lot of soccer, and watched a lot of soccer. The town is where all of the workers from the site live so we got to hang out with them all day which was a ton of fun. Powis took a soccer ball to face, flipped over it, and landed on his feet. I think he suprised himself.

Not sure what the next update will be about.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and Actun Pech

First of all, I would like to thank my bandana. You were once a very pretty pale blue - now you are kind of grey-blue and disgusting. It's only be 4 days and you've already absorbed my sweat, tears, and more of my blood than I would like. During the day, you keep the sweat off my forhead and at night you become my wash cloth to scrub off the grime of the day. You've craddled precious artifacts and you've defended me from beligerent bugs. Thank you bandana, you are the best friend an archaeologist could ask for.

Second of all, my legs hate me more than they have ever hated me in my entire life. They're considering a boycott of all things "Kady". I'm sorry legs, welcome to archaeology fat camp.

Finally, before the blog post, I would like to give a message the beettle that took a chunk out of my toe. I hope you choke.

Some Mayan words -
Pech: tick
Tun: stone
Actun: cave

Day two - Xunantunich (shoe-nan-two-nich) and Cahal Pech

Xunantunich means the "stone maiden" in Mayan. The old legend is that young woman is often seen in the temple grounds crying and wailing. She will pass into the stone walls and disappear if she is approached.

Xunantunich is one of the bigger Mayan sites in western Belize. The main temple is 100 feet high and is a throne to the jaguar god. My group was able to climb to the very top of the temple. The site has many many carvings of other gods also. There is Ixchel who is the goddess of medicine and women and then the twin gods who hold the sky up, but that is just to name a few. The site, like all Mayan sites are set up around a courtyard, with a temple or building at north, east, west, and south. The eastern buildings are usually used for burials and offerings.

Cahal Pech means "the place of ticks". Lovely to think about isn't it?

Cahal Pech is a much much smaller site than Xunantunich. It is also where my proffesor first excavated! We were able to climb a lot of ruins there as well. It was a hell of a hike up the stone steps that were overgrown with moss - scary to say the least. The breeze at the top was wonderful though!! The coolest part of Cahal Pech was being able to see the origional red paint on some of the buildings.

Thank God I left without any new tick friends!!

Day three - Cahal Pech

This hike nearly killed me. Seriously. It was three miles straight up into the Maya Mounains. No joke, straight up. This cave, Cahal Pech, was the single most amazing thing I've ever been into. We had to lower ourselves down on ropes into the caves. I can't talk about what we found down in the caves, because it's classified and not allowed to be posted online but I will for sure update everybody face to face!! The farm from where we started had the most amazing fruit. We got to eat fresh coconut from the trees, fresh mango, and knip. Knip is a tiny green fruit with a hard shell, you peel the shell back and the fruit is BRIGHT orange. The seed is almost the entire fruit but the little bit of meat that comes off the knip is amazing. It's tangy and sweet, very refreshing.

Tomorrow is Caracol and the Blue Hole (maybe?)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Belize - Planes, Termites, and the Macal River

So, I'm supposed to leave Tuesday morning at 8:30 am and fly into Miami, and from Miami to Belize. AmericanAirlines calls me at 2 and tells me that my flight has been canceled. Not cool. So instead I have to fly into Dallas and from Dallas to Belize. Okay...not so bad. There is a group of 8 of us from the class, out of a total of 13, who get routed this way. At least we weren't alone!!

We make it to Dallas. We have our 20 minute layover and get on the plane for Belize. After sitting there for about 30 minutes after we should have taken off the pilot announces that we're just waiting on a passenger who is on a late layover. Thats fine. Another half our goes past. Pilot announces that a truck has bumped against one of the engines and we're just going to have to wait while it gets checked out. He's "umm"-ing and "eeer"-ing the whole time, i lean out of my seat, see into the cockpit - he's playing with his iphone. Another half hour goes past, a stewardess announces that we'll be off the ground in minutes. She comes on again about 15 minutes later and says "Off the plane, Engine has been puncture" - HOW THE HELL DO YOU PUNCTURE A PLANE WITH A TRUCK!? okay....calm down. It's fine.

We all get off and go sit in the air port. The 21+ kids get some drinks, thats fine. We wait 45 minutes for another plane. We're all pretty grumpy. We're 3 hours behind schedual now!! We finally get on the plane and it takes off immediatly which is good, because frankly - they were about to have tipsy, rioting archaeologists on their hands.

Much ado later, we make it to Belize. As we're flying in I look out the window and think we're still over the ocean. After a moment, I realize it's not ocean, it's rainforest. I'm flipping out. We finally land and by god, if our luggage didn't make it with us!! We were thrilled. We find Dr. Powis, load our luggage into the van and head off for the hotel. It's a 2 hour drive from the airport to the hotle, from the east coast to the western side of the country.

We get to the hotel, get some dinner and head off for bed. We're all exhausted. There is no AC in the rooms, just fans and screens. It's hot. It's humid. I debate sleeping on the tile floor. Finally, I get cooled off enough and fall fast asleep.
Big day tomorrow, time to go hike El Pilar - the first of our temple visits!!

The next morning, we head down from the rooms at 7 am to the bar/restraunt area where all the meals are served. Breakfast is a delicious combination of a hot bean paste, hot pastries, and freshly squeezed oj. We all eat quickly, load up in the vans, and set off for El Pilar which is about an hour away.

Let me tell you about these vans....the one that I feel the safest in as 780,000+ miles on it - and no, thats not a typo. If that is the safe one, imagine the other one. Terrifying. No AC, so all the windows down. All dirt roads so lots of bumping and bouncing. Fun actually. Anyways, on to El Pilar.

El Pilar is an site in western Belize that has yet to be excavated. Everything is covered in giant mounds of dirt, bushes, trees, and rocks. It's still very easy to identify the type of structures that are under the mounds because of the shape of the mounds. For example, the temples are taller than wide and the houses are wider than tall. Of course, as we're hiking up a mound to the top, I stumble and now have temple rug burn down my leg. I feel fancy. As we're hiking along we come across a termite mound. Dr Powis encourages us to eat said termites. Did you know termites taste like carrots? I know that now! The other very cool thing about El Pilar is that you can see Guatamala from the rop of the ruins and the ruins have an old road that connects them to a sister site in Guatamala. We hiked the ruins for about 3 hours before heading out.

After El Pilar we went into town and had lunch at a small restraunt called Pacz - I had rice and beans and pork. Yum yum yum!! It was incredible. Also, all the soft drinks down here, like coke, are made with real sugar - no corn syrup. You can feel the sugar rush coming as you drink one.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel and changed into swim attire. Dr Powis took us to the crystal pools - about 10 minutes away driving - to cool off and swim around. We spent about an hour there. We then came back to the hotel and hiked down to the river that runs behind the hotel - about a 10 minute treck walking. The river is called the Macal River and it is one of the biggest rivers in Belize. We all spent about 2 hours down there wedge up in the rocks and just letting the current cool us down.

For dinner, we headed out to a restraunt called Hode's (hoe-dee). It's a local place where all the archaeologists hang out. They served the best cheese and chicken burritos with a coleslaw side and rice and beans. We chilled there for a couple hours and then went over to the shopping district - didn't buy anything, yet. Just scooping it out for now. It's so incredibly cheap though!!

Next post will be about Xunantunich and Cahal Pech.

Links for photos will be posted later

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I get a call at 2am informing me that my flight has been delayed and I will miss my flight from Miami to Belize. Not something you want to hear. I'm flying out of Atlanta to Dallas now and from Dallas to Belize.

The super nice folks at American Airlines got the pleasure of dealing with my groggy butt at 5 in the morning! They were really helpful, put up with my mumbling, and solved the problem right away. I know who I'll be flying in the future.