Those Moments When.
The following morning, having made my tearful goodbyes, I eventually found my way back to the bus stop and picked up the next coach ride to Chichen Itza. I had to stop and just think about how touched I was by my friendship with Oro. Saying goodbye was hard to comprehend after sharing so much. I had my moment of thought and acknowledgement and then the realisation that I would soon be seeing Chichen Itza, hit me. The excitement I felt at the idea of seeing an ancient pyramid in the beautiful Mexican jungle was building in me. It was the stuff of dreams.
In the coach, I sat alongside a young woman from the USA. Her name was Jill. She was about my age and she told me that she lived in Colorado but had decided to spend twelve months travelling the world. This seemed like a wonderful ambition, until Jill told me that she was dying. She had recently been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and had been told she would live for no more than one or two years. I was utterly stunned. Hodgkins Lymphoma is a vicious cancer that develops in the Lymphatic system and spreads with aggression.
Jill was this vibrant young woman with a beautiful head of long brown hair and eyes that sparkled whenever she spoke of home. She was just in her early twenties, with a beautiful smile, a polite and incredibly friendly disposition and a lust for life. This was her way of taking in a lifetime of travel experience; cramming it all in while she could. Her adventure, as she prepared herself for her impending departure from life. She captivated everyone with her kindness and humour.
For me, having already experienced the pain of losing many loved ones to cancer, I felt the familiar pain of helplessness and sadness well up within me as I thought about how cruel and unfair this was. I thought, too, of Jill’s family and loved ones who, on the brink of losing her, had given their blessing to this time away that she needed. Time without her, when such time would have been so precious to them. Jill encapsulated youthful wonder. She also demonstrated a maturity and wisdom that only comes from the reflections of an end of life. I had seen this before and I recognised it in Jill. Her travels would be her pilgrimage. I will always treasure meeting Jill and often think of her, to this day.
We passed through the bustling and cheerful city of Valladolid. If I had stayed with my coach the day before, I would have been able to stop and enjoy this lively, pretty city but then I would not have had the very special time with Oro and his family. I was happy with my choice. I told myself that I would try to catch a ride back to Cancun that would stop at Valladolid, so that I might explore.
Over the remaining journey to Chichen Itza, Jill and I chatted about our different childhoods and the cities we had grown up in; my London and her Denver. We talked about family, our school lives and before we knew it, we had arrived at Chichen Itza. At this moment I suddenly felt sad that my dad was not sharing this experience with me. I knew he was happily enjoying his rest at the beach.
We emerged from the coach. The terrain was much more neatly controlled. The dirt roads were broader and were well maintained. Rocks, painted white, lined the verges everywhere. As we approached the ancient ruined city, each side of the road was lined by tall trees and jungle foliage. Women at stalls, all wearing the traditional white robes with the same multi-coloured stitching that lined the neck openings of their tops, sold a variety of beautifully hand-crafted items from wallets, to clothes, musical instruments and all manner of objects to decorate one’s home with. Of particular beauty were the immense hand-crafted rugs. I bought myself a small hand carved wooden smoking pipe and a couple of woven wrist bands. The rest of my loose change went to the many children that swamped each tourist with gleeful smiles and open hands.
Once these children received a few cents each, they would politely step away and pull out of their pockets little white bags containing fiery hot chillies, which they munched with the same enthusiasm a little child in England has when given a small bag of penny sweets by a loving Grandparent. I chuckled at the idea of English children being given a bag of these, knowing their reaction would be one of disgust and splattering coughs.
Jill, myself and the other travelers stepped forward into a world one would usually only dream of. A world of the ancients, of mystery and of wonder. I could have been a million miles from home. I have never felt so far away from London, despite having been to Australia just months before. This was unlike anything I could have imagined feeling. I stood and stared at the majestic ancient pyramid, which seemed to be a staircase to the heavens, and I wondered about what the people back home in England might be doing, while I stood in this astounding place.
I felt truly blessed to be so fortunate as to have an experience like this. In that moment, I felt connected to the ancient past, to the awesome present and to my home in London. All seemed inter-connected. I savoured those moments of feeling spiritual.
I spent hours exploring so many fascinating and historic ruins. I did get to bump into Olive and Blossom while I was there. I was so pleased about that. We had time for a quick catch up and they gave me that final squeeze of my hands as we said goodbye. As sad as that moment was, there remained that sense of wondering at whether we would ever again meet. They would soon return to their beloved Chicago. Remember, these were the days before everyone had mobile phones and social media. You simply had amazing encounters with people and then left them behind, ever hopeful of fate bringing you together again at some point, yet somehow peacefully accepting that this would be unlikely.
This is the purpose of this article, in fact. Travel enriches in so many ways. Our insight into people and cultures, our knowledge and understanding of the world; our well-being is enhanced by broadening our horizons and by offering our mind, or neurology, new contexts and our senses new experiences.
Saying goodbye to Jill was all the more difficult. This truly was a definite goodbye. The finality of that moment was hard to bear and so, to me, she will ever be alive and smiling in wonder at the great pyramid of Chichen Itza.
Likewise, I like to think that Oro will ever continue, like me, to look at the stars and wonder at the impossible magic of the universe and smile at our friendship.
Thank you for joining me on ‘My Mexican Adventure.’
© Dean Parsons 2021.