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Thursday- Thanksgiving November 28, 2002
Exploring Merida and Jaji

It felt like we had just been rushing from one point to the next since we left Margarita, and hadn't really had time to just wander and take in the sites. So today, we opted to meander around Merida a bit. We found a bustling coffee shop near the main plaza and had more heavy doughy pastries and great café con leche while we people watched. We found Merida to be a bustling metropolis. It's largely a college town, and hip twenty-somethings are everywhere to patronize the cool little stores and coffee shops that abound. The people are exceptionally good looking and contemporary. They could have stepped into the Mission District of San Francisco and looked perfectly at home.

In the afternoon, we trekked off towards a village called Jaji. Now that we didn't have to be anywhere, and knew we had a place to sleep tonight, we could relax and enjoy the ride. The hour drive was beautiful, winding through more small villages and charming scenery. We found groups of men working along the roadside almost continually, using machetes to cut back the overgrowth. And with Christmas just around the corner, little manger scenes were popping up along the roadside. It seems the holiday season is one of their busiest here. The locals have a tradition of re-enacting Mary and Joseph's travels to Bethlehem along the roads. I was disappointed we'd miss the festivities.

We got to Jaji and found a tranquil village of white buildings with red tile roofs situated around a square. A stately church was framed by the backdrop of emerald mountains, and little shops with wares for sale were everywhere. There were very few other tourists there, and I was left wondering how they make any money. We had a nice lunch in the courtyard of a little hotel- once again for astoundingly little money.

It was Thanksgiving at home, and throughout the day I wondered what my sister and friends would be doing. I found what I would most closely describe as storefronts around Merida, where you can go into a phone booth and make a call. I was able to get a hold of my sister and we talked for twenty minutes. She was in her new home, with her new fiancé, and her soon to be step-son, getting ready to head over to her soon to be sister-in-law's house. She couldn't talk long, as they needed to get on their way, but we got to talk at least some about her wedding plans and their new puppy: all new developments from when we left California. It struck me how much can change in such a short time. In just a few short months, nothing in her life is as it was when I last saw her.

Back at Posada Montana, the four of us celebrated the holiday with dinner in the handsome restaurant downstairs. The table was richly dressed, and the ambient candlelight cast a festive warmth. As we sat down, I thought to myself that this certainly wasn't going to be one of those ridiculously inexpensive meals we've had so far. Well, it was. Our entrees were about $8US dollars and after stuffing ourselves with wine and desert, it was about $25US per couple.

The evening was short since the next morning we had to be up early for our adventure up to Los Nevados.


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