Friday, June 29, 2012
Funny things happen when you travel. Inhibitions loosen, the stars align and stuff unfolds. I've written about the Mayan magic that seemed to float through the air during the spring solstice in Mexico but I didn't even touch on what happened at Chichen Itza. This sacred pyramid is an iconic Mayan landmark, watching the sun's shadow, in the guise of the feathered serpent god Kukulcan, creep down the pyramid's steps was a an otherworldly experience that I'll explore in my next post. For now, I'll discuss the other kind of magic I witnessed. His name is Piero. As crowds gathered to watch the sun descend, a woman shouted, "there's a living god walking!" My group turned to gawk at Piero, pictured above, bronzed skin rippling, wavy hair blowing. Clearly, he was used to being admired and he seemed to pointlessly stroll past us several times. But we were there to see the sun's shadow descend over Chichen Itza so we rushed closer to the pyramid. We snapped pix and stared at the spectacle. Until we realized there was another spectacle evolving.
There was Piero, talking to a member of our group, whom I'll call Polly. The sun had descended, the crowds were scattering but there was Piero, still talking to Polly. When she returned to our fold, dazed and starry-eyed, she had only his name and a vague story about him living in New York but headed to Columbia because of a green card situation. Of course he was Italian. Of course he wanted to see her. So what does a group of journalists do in this kind of scenario? Research! In five minutes we had his profession; model, of course. And the fact that he had been on Big Brother Barcelona. Now how's that for a meet cute? Italian model woos American girl during the Mayan solstice in Mexico. They're's still texting each other and he's back in New York but none of us are holding our breath for a stateside romance. Travel romance often loses its luster in the everyday glare of real life. But it's always fun while it lasts. Do you have any travel romance stories?
Friday, June 22, 2012
I am not a massage person. I get antsy laying still for the process and frankly, strangers touching me is not my favorite thing. But the chance to experience traditional Mayan massage in Mexico changed my mind. The natural rituals of the Maya are fascinating to me so I jumped at the chance to view this culture from another perspective. The hallmarks of the traditional massage, called Hunab Ku, are the ocarina wind instrument, copal plant leaves, flowers and balche bark, pictured above.
Barbara was the lovely masseuse who escorted me through the ritual. The beginning of the treatment starts with the Mayan chant, "Tene u susilem/Tene u ya cuma/Tene u dzimodo/Tene u kmac a holalem," which translates to "I am the light/ I am the peace/ I am the love/ I am the harmony." Mayan massage is noted for its deep tissue technique, especially around the abdominal area. Barbara stretched my arms and massaged my shoulder blades to release tension before she started.
The sacred balche tree plays a significant role in Mayan rituals. The bark of the balche tree is traditionally mixed with fermented honey to produce a ceremonial drink but for my massage, Barbara mixed the pounded balche bark above, with flowers and honey and slathered it on my body. It felt tingly. Traditionally, copal is burned but it's so strong that the spa substitutes Nag Champa instead. She vigorously massaged my toes, fingers, face and body. I drifted off as Barbara blew the ocarina at the end of the massage and the soothing tones filled the room. After what seemed like an hour but must have been 20 minutes of the 80 minute massage, she gently wiped the balche off my feet and legs and helped me into the shower.
My skin was unbelievably soft and supple from the treatment, no lotion necessary. She guided me to the relaxation room, where I lounged on a chaise and sipped chilled cucumber and lemon water and green tea with lotus and lemongrass. The spa therapists at the Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa train with Mayan elders to learn the traditional techniques. They support the communities by buying the traditional ingredients and tools as well as promoting these ancient rituals, which I think is an important part of cultural travel.
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Friday, June 15, 2012
My travel blogger and author friend and fellow Chi-Town girl Kiratiana Freelon is on a mission. After guiding readers through the riches of multicultural Paris with her book, Kiratiana's Travel Guide to Black Paris, she aims to tackle London's colorful ethnic enclaves with Kiratiana's Travel Guide to Multicultural London. I have to admit, London is one my favorite cities so I'm a bit biased but I think this is an essential project that needs to happen. Her guide will explore Brixton, Southall, Brick Lane, Dalston and Chinatown and include extensive listings of multicultural festivals and events throughout London. She'll also introduce readers to the food, art and music that define these cultures. But she needs your support to publish the digital book by July 15, in time for the opening of the Olympic Games. Please visit her Kickstarter page here and pledge what you can. She's very close to her goal. Check out her video that explains the significance of this project below.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
June officially opens the summer season in Chicago and that means a schedule packed with street festivals, outdoor cafes and of course, the beach. I don't know what it is but whenever the weather turns balmy, my thoughts turn to Brazil. Memories of salty air swirling over my skin, sipping fresh cashew juice and samba beats vibrating through the air, keep running through my mind. For me, nothing captures the energy of Brazil like the music so I've been listening to one of my favorite Brazilian artists, Ceu. Her name means sky in Portuguese and her easy blend of bossa nova, African rhythms and jazz stylings recalls the the dreamy blue Brazilian sky I remember, pictured above. Check out her video for "Malemolencia" below. What's your soundtrack for the summer?