I close the door of my room and walk down Broadway, a mythical name. I turn on the left and carry on the pavement of the 5th, then Madison Avenue, mythical as well. A few steps further, that's a kaleidoscope of colours which livens Times Square. I start again walking, squeeze between the New Yorkers in a hurry to reach the financial district located at the south of Manhattan island. I tread alongside Wall Street before heading north towards the barren area where the twin towers of the World Trade Center rised 8 years ago. Because of the world economic crisis, the winter sales exceptionally began before Christmas in order to boost the household consumption. One of the stores displays a « Recession Special » sign and sells suits for 60$. New York, it's a state within the state. Extremes cross at each other in the total ignorance. The golden boy who handles big money and the homeless who fights against the cold of the winter. My feet are next to the yellow taxis and my eyes slip onto the endless lines of the skyscrapers. New York is also a symbol of heterogeneous communities who live together. No less than 80 languages are spoken here and by crossing the street I pass from Little Italy to Chinatown.
To announce the Christmas holidays and suddenly cut my 6-month life with a swim suit and a pair of flip flops, the snow invited itself. Some light snowflakes fall down by the thousands and cover Central Park. During this trip, there are cities I gladly fled just after a few hours and there are others, like this one, where I didn't stay enough. I have the impression of having flown over the streets and dashed off my experience. But that's probably the quintessence of the big cities which attract so many people and we would like to discover for a longer time. My round-the-world trip ends in the impersonality of a megalopolis. I become again “the man in the street” with this little twinge of sadness because I lived a hell of a wonderful adventure.
Keyword - culture shock -
Saturday 20 December 2008
Friday 28 November 2008
Following the example of the Asterix's Gallic village, a little bit of Anglo-Saxon-cultured land resists in Central America. The only country in this part of the world where English is the official language since Guatemala accepted to give up this land to the British crown. In return, the latter had promised to build a road between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The road was never built up and Belize got its independence a little bit more than 20 years ago. It's a sparsely populated country which is however packed with a striking cultural and ethnic diversity. Mayas and mestizos constitute the largest ethnic group to such an extent that, in the street, the Spanish speakers outnumber the English ones. Beside this group, more than 10% of the population is Mennonite; the Garifuna culture spreads over the coast and the islands of the country; and a great number of Chinese and Indians took over the shops. With hardly 300 000 inhabitants, Belize is an example of integration and tolerance.
However, a long time before the modern man draws arbitrary borders, the Mayan people lived in all over Belize and a lot of remains and old cities can be visited. Lamanai is one of them and has the special feature of being accessible by boat. A 2-hour trip on a greenery-flanked cloudy-watered river. Despite our noisy ride, several animals come and see us such as green iguanas, crocodiles, and spider-monkeys. The cruise finally turns out to be pretty short and we carry on with the visit of the archaeological site. A small park where the main buildings offer a gorgeous view over the canopy and the river. We finish our stroll at the end of the afternoon and sail back to the city of Orange Walk.
Friday 14 November 2008
the New Seven Wonders Foundation, created in order to elect the 7 new wonders of the world, announced the verdict. A nice way to give an inheritance to the 7 glorious wonders of the Antiquity whose Egypt pyramids are the only one standing among them. Despite the entire subjectivity of the final list and the criticism dealing with the reliability of the Internet voting, the 7 new candidates were made public the 7 of July 2007 (7/7/7) and Chichen Itza hanged its name in the ranking. Without waiting for this kind of operation, the Yucatan state had already dressed up one of the spearheads of its Mayan collection to get it as attractive as possible to the tourists from all over the world.
As we pass through the entrance, everything is well presented, neatly-cut grass, pruned trees and well-marked-out path which opens out on El Castillo. This several-storey perfectly-preserved pyramid represents the Mayan calendar. On each one of its 4 sides, a staircase rises like the 4 seasons or the 4 directions. Each staircase is equipped with 91 steps, if moreover we take into account the top slab, the number of steps adds up to 365, like the number of days in a calendar year. Mayan people were clever astronomers and made coincide the orientation of El Castillo with the position of the sun in the sky. So much so that for the spring and autumn equinoxes, the tourists mass on the lawns of the park to observe an optical illusion. That day, the suns draws a snake which seems to crawl up the steps. To us, it's not the good day but the architectural harmony is enough to delight us. We walk around the pyramid and each new meter offers a different and splendid view of the building. Our eyes follow the geometrical lines shaped by the stone. We live this kind of feelings which is worth the trip only to see it. Me move away to visit the other ruins that scatter around with the warriors temple, the observatory, the thousand-column group and the gigantic ball game where according to the legend, the captain of the losing team offered his life into a human sacrifice the Mayan deities claimed.
To get over the feelings of Chichen Itza, we go to discover the colonial city of Merida. A place not necessarily restful but that has the merit or the inconvenient to be located between 2 Mayan sites. And without staying for ages downtown, we leave Merida the next day to the radiant city of Uxmal.
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