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Meeting History – A Mayan Adventure
I’m Isabella Bunnelly, or Izzie, for short. I’m twelve years old, I have brown hair, brown eyes, and an annoying fourteen year old brother named Michael. I love singing and acting, and I swim and play squash.
This year is my dad’s 50th birthday, so my mom, Michael and I wanted to plan an amazing summer vacation. We decided to go to Central America, to tour Mayan ruins.
July 20th, we took a plane to El Salvador. Today we drove to Quiriguá; one of the smaller Mayan sites, to tour their steles (stone Mayan totem poles), which is pretty much all they are known for, due to their small population when Mayans thrived.
Quirigua is in Guatemala, and near a banana tree plantation. In the entrance, Guatemalans sell handmade dolls, clothes, and jewelry. The air is humid, and the sun scorching.
I try to ignore the air and the sun, although Michael is doing just the opposite! As I listen to the heavily Guatemalan accented voice of our tour guide, we learn that the Mayans believed the world would end in 2012. I don’t know if I should believe it or not, but I guess I will just have to wait and see…
The next day I stared out the car window as we rumbled down a dirt road overlooking green, rolling hills.
“Are we there yet?” asked Michael.
“No,” my dad replied tartly. Michael had been asking that question about every five minutes. I was grateful I had remembered to bring more than one book; I’m a bookworm. I was also glad I brought my iPod; for entertainment. Soon the rhythm of the car lulled me to sleep.
An anxious shake awakened me to an evening sunset.
“Wake up, we’re here!” Michael exclaimed.
“Yeah…” I floated back into dreamland, only to be awakened once more by Michael.
“Get up, lazy head! We need to get the bags out of the car!” I slowly roused myself out of the car, pulled out my suitcase, and took a look around. We were in the front of the Tikal Inn, which was surrounded by a dense forest. We were in Tikal, just not in the middle of it. Our doorman led us through the hotel, out the back into a courtyard with a pool, then into one of the room surrounding the courtyard.
“Watch out for jaguars!” he teased. Michael filled me in with the details.
“We saw Jaguar Crossing signs on the road near the Inn! We didn’t see any jaguars, though.”
“Let’s go eat dinner,” my mom suggested.
“That sounds great! I’m hungry,” I said.
“We have to make it back to the room before 10:00, though,” my dad added.
“Why?” Michael asked.
“Apparently, all electricity goes out at 10:00,” answered my dad.
“Darn it, I was going to email my friends some pictures!” I said.
My dad turned out to be right. At 10:00 Michael and I were plunged into darkness. I tried to ignore it and fall asleep…
The next morning, after eating breakfast, we got ready to walk to the Tikal ruins. Michael threw a fit after learning we were going to be walking around for about six hours! Finally, after my mom promised him Oreos™, he obliged.
We saw and heard Howler Monkeys, climbed up extremely vertical ladders (to get to the top of ruins), walked, talked, and enjoyed the park. We were literally in a rainforest. One set of “stairs” we climbed was so steep and slippery; it was so scary climbing up to the top of that ruin. Safety concerns are scarce here. We had already taken note of the death of one lady in Copan, who fell down one of the ruins. But we were careful. We also climbed stairs to the top of the tallest ruin in Tikal, which had an amazing view of the canopy of the tree tips, and ruin peaks. Once we had climbed down, we continued exploring.
"Pssst!" I glanced over my shoulder. Michael had found the opening to a Mayan ruin, hidden beneath some vines. He motioned for me.
I stepped out of the group and walked over to where Michael was standing. "What is it?" I asked.
"Come-on!" said Michael. He walked a few steps in to the opening.
"Stop! I'm not sure we are allowed to do this," I said.
"Whatever Izzie, I'm really bored, come on." Michael gave me his best puppy face, which wasn't very good. The tour was getting long, and pretty boring. I finally agreed. We crept into the dark opening of the ruin, out of the sunlight, and into a dark and damp passage…
It got darker and colder as we walked down passage after passage. "I'm not so sure about this Michael; we might have trouble getting back out," I said.
"Just a little farther?" he asked.
"Fine," I replied.
On the walls of the passage, we saw drawings in the stone and dirt. We also saw more stone steles, like the ones in the fields of Quiriguá.
At the end of the passage, we reached a fork in the path.
"Which way should we go?" Michael asked.
"We’ve made all right turns so far- go right," I snapped back at him. I secretly thought it was pretty cool, though.
After a while he finally decided the first path. The next corner we turned, we were in a burial chamber. More steles, jewelry, and lots of chests filled the dim room. The ornate chests looked like they had more treasures in them, and surrounded a big tomb, which I figured held a ruler.
"Wow!" said Michael, "Look at all these ri-“ Suddenly he stopped saying anything and grabbed my arm.
I turned to see what the matter was…and what I saw scared me half to death. The tomb had opened, and a translucent figure emerged. My heart skipped a beat when he took a step forward, drifting out of the tomb. He stepped over chests and around steles.
"Ba'ax ka wa'alik, which means hello in my Mayan language,” the translucent figure said.
“Maybe I should think twice about this ghost,” I thought.
"I am Great Jaguar Paw One. Why are you here?" he said. Great Jaguar Paw One was wearing only a simple robe, but lots of jewelry.
We explained to him how we got here. “We came from Atlanta, Georgia, and came to Central America on vacation. We were just in Copan, and now we are touring Tikal.”
After we had explained, he told us about himself. "I became ruler of Tikal in 360 A.D. I was the seventh ruler. The temple you are in now is the temple for my tomb. It took years to build my burial temple. It is one of the biggest temples in our city. Tikal is one of the biggest cities of my time. But during the duration of my reign we were at war and were conquered by the Teotihuacán. I was a great ruler, though. My palace was revered and never built over."
"What do you mean, 'built over'?" Michael asked.
"Well, over the years, Mayan rulers usually added another layer to other palaces. Over time, the palaces got bigger, and bigger, and bigger! But mine was left alone and revered by Tikal's people.”
"My body has stayed in my tomb since I died, but my soul still lies in the heart of this Mayan city. I can sense the big things that happen to my old city. A couple hundred years after my death, the city became quiet. My people died out, now their bodies are part of the land, just like me. Soon after, all of the wooden structures completely deteriorated, and the stone structures crumbled and trees and foliage obscured them. Years past, and then finally, a few decades ago people started digging into the land and uncovering the remains of some of the big temples. This digging is still going on today because it takes so long to uncover the temples."
"Wow!" I said.
“You are lucky you are alive… It’s very lonely down here, but I’ve been busy,” he said with a sour edge to his voice. Michael started looking at the Mayan hieroglyphics. Before our trip, our mom made us study the some Spanish, and we had made a game of recognizing the Mayan hieroglyphics on our tour. Michael was the most interested in this topic, and was pretty good. As for me, I was a little less enthusiastic! Michael turned his attention back to Great Jaguar Paw One as he started talking again, with a worried expression on his face.
Great Jaguar Paw One slowly started walking towards us, and Michael nudged me. “Listen,” he whispered, “the hieroglyphics- and I can’t read all of them, but what I got is that dead leaders can reclaim the lives of themselves and raise the dead of their people. He needs to trade our soul. He could raise up his army and reclaim this land.” Michael sounded serious. I had to take him seriously. I mean we’re talking to the ghost of one of the greatest Mayan rulers!
“When I say ‘run’, run, ok?” Michael said. “Gotcha,” I tried not to sound too scared, but really I was. Great Jaguar Paw One continued to slowly glide towards us. Suddenly I saw small golden dagger in his hand. “Run!” Michael and I raced out of the burial chamber, and into the room with the three passages. “Which one did we come from?” Michael asked.
“The right! No, the left!” I replied.
“Follow me,” Michael said. We ran into the middle one, and I looked behind me to see how far behind Great Jaguar Paw One was. Then Michael screamed, and I turned back around, face to face with the Mayan leader. “I know these passages!” he growled. Michael and I turned around, and raced back towards the room with the three hallways in it. We ran into the second hallway, with Great Jaguar Paw One gliding right behind us.
“Quick, Michael, into here.” Michael and I quickly slid into a small room and shut the door. It took us a moment to get used to the light, but when we did, Michael had to muffle my scream. We were in a room full of giant spiders; my worst phobia. They started to climb up our legs, and Michael and I tried to wipe them off. Once we were spider free, we advanced to the back of the room, where a small piece of light shone the hole of a missing stone. Suddenly I stepped on a loose stone, tripped and fell as an arrow whizzed above my head. “Watch where you step, Izzie,” Michael said. I stood up, but felt a cold draft coming from behind me. I turned around, again face to face with Great Jaguar Paw One.
He whipped out his dagger, but I dodged it. “Michael, start prying loose the stones around the hole!” I said. Luckily Great Jaguar Paw One had a terrible aim, and I could easily avoid his frantic stabbings. But soon I was caught in a corner. “I will live again, ha, ha, ha!” he laughed an evil laugh, giving me goose bumps. I was determined to get out. I ducked as he tried to stab me, stabbing air. Then I ducked out under his arm, suddenly feeling a sharp pain in my back; his dagger had grazed my back. It wasn’t deep, but it hurt. “Over here,” Michael yelled. Great Jaguar Paw One focused his attention on Michael. “You can kill me, but not my sister,” Michael yelled. “Michael! No!” I yelped. Quickly, he winked at me; fortunately it went unnoticed by the Mayan ruler. Great Jaguar Paw One grinned. “Finally, a willing subject!” Michael stood as still as a stone against the stone wall. The Mayan ruler was right in front of Michael, when Michael stepped to the side, unblocking the sunlight, which pierced Great Jaguar Paw One. “The light, the light,” his voice faded… From the bottom of his robe, he began to dissolve before our eyes. Soon his heavily jeweled necklaces disappeared then finally his grimacing face. All that remained of his ghost body was a short pile of gold dust. We were rid of Great Jaguar Paw One, and his greedy want for life. Silence settled in the room, which after a while was broken by Michael. “Let’s get out of here,” he said, “We can make this hole large enough to crawl out.”
As we emerged from the temple, I saw guards searching for us. Oh no! If they saw us we would be in big trouble. "Shhh!" I said to Michael. "Try to stay in the shadows, and when I say ‘when,’ step out and pretend you are lost." We squeezed out of the temple and into the shadows of the leafy long vines.
"When!" I whispered urgently. We stepped out of the shadows and into the dimming evening light.
A guard caught my eye and proceeded towards us. "You look for parent?" he asked in his Guatemalan accent.
"Yes," I said, trying to look like a panicked, lost, child.
"Come this way," the guard said. As we walked along a dirt path towards a visitor building, my mind raced to find a decent explanation for our disappearance.
My mother and father hugged us until it hurt! "Where have you been?" my mother asked, sternly, but gently.
"Well," I said, "It's a long story!"