Finding calm among chaos

I hope that everyone had a happy Easter and/or Passover! Here in Mexico, we celebrated the holiday as well.

As you can imagine, Easter is celebrated a bit differently south of the border. No colorful eggs, no bunny rabbits or Cadbury Eggs; instead there are a ton of church events and the holiday lasts for one or two weeks. I think that the whole country was on vacation last week. Well, that is, everyone but me and my colleagues.

We work in a national park that is day-trip distance from Mexico City- home to approximately 25 million people. Therefore this is our busy season; no vacation for us. Instead, we have been working overtime describing campsite amenities, suggesting hiking routes, and explaining park rules ad nauseum. We even did some minor law-enforcement.

To illustrate the drastic change in visitation: on a typical busy day the park is visited by about 200 people. Most of these visitors head for open fields with barbeque fixins, soccer balls, and the whole family packed into their car. It is a pretty quiet place. In contrast, during the busiest three days of the holiday, we received an influx of about 35,000 people in our tiny five square kilometer park!

To maintain some semblance of tranquility and peace of mind during this torrent of visitors, I took some free moments to hike the lesser-known and currently unmapped trails. I took a GPS with me to collect data since I am hoping to make a map and guide for visitor use. It has been nice to take time for myself and enjoy the diversity of plant life here. Check out some of the floral-gems that I discovered along the way:

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This week is all about clean-up.Where shall we put all of the newly generated trash? There is still a mountain of campsite trash from last year in a nearby privately-run tourist destination…maybe we should partner up with Sweden, a country so efficient with trash reduction that they need to import waste from other countries to run their trash-fueled power plants!

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Making me smile:

    • Rescuing lost visitors on the trails and catching grafitti painters red white-handed
    • Being corrected when I was using the “wrong side” of the tortilla
    • Successfully leading two-hour nature hikes for tourists in the park…in Spanish
    • It is the hot season: it is finally in the 70’s during the day, and five  mangoes only cost 70 cents
    • When politely refusing a request to dance, I said “no thanks, later…later,” which means “immediately” in Spanish. Oops!
    • Making the local news from an impromptu interview from the State’s Office of Tourism. They told me that my Spanish made sense…I am trusting them on that one
    • Learning words and phrases in Nahuatl, the most-spoken indigenous language in Mexico. So far I can remember the num ber four, the word for tortilla, and the phrase “I love you with all of my heart.”
    • Attending a local Food Festival that celebrates traditional, local foods. Highlights included gorditas filled with insects that live in mesquite trees, ant larvae gorditas, and tacos filled with meat from skunk and squirrel. Reminder: I used to be a vegetarian.
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Dubious about the squirrel foot found in my taco. Turns out, squirrel isn’t that bad.

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Skunk cooked in a Maguey plant with chilies, onion, and cactus. Much less gross than you would think!

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Sucking the meat from the skunk’s bone.

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Ant larvae gordita: the local delicacy.

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