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Day 228 – Merida Bus Tour

May 26, 2011

Location: Merida, Mexico

Date: Thursday, May 26, 2011

I have mostly avoided the city tour bus. You know the one. Sometimes it’s a double-decker with an open roof. Sometimes it’s a caricature of some local icon (in San Francisco, it’s cable cars). In others it’s those open top vehicles that can go on land and water.

Every single one, though, has that taped or microphone-in-the-mouth voice droning on about this bit of architecture or the city’s average rainfall or just how many ice cream stands there are in town.

As a local watching one of these go by you can feel a range of emotions. Sometimes it’s a shrug (“Eh”). Other times it’s a flash of projected embarrassment (“Don’t they know everyone down here’s staring at them?”). Sometimes it’s that feeling you got when you were invited into the cool kids circle in high school and the nerds walked by (“Poor you, but yes, continue to wish you were part of this like me”). Often, though, there’s an into the looking glass moment—while the tourists gawk at wherever you’re at, you stare back and say, “Wait. . .what could they possibly be looking at in this part of town?” As the bus drifts off and the droning tour guide fades into the distance you catch yourself saying, “Wait! Come back! Tell me what’s so cool about being here!” It’s a moment of symmetry. The tourist and the local invade each other’s world and for an instant each wonders at how strangely the other lives.

Today, I cast them aside any misgivings about city tour buses. I don’t have much time in Merida, the capital of the Mexican state Yucatan and tours are a great way to see lots, fast. This evening I boarded a bus that looked like someone had covered it in glue and beat it to death with a couple thousand piñatas.

We rocketed past historic churches and diversely architectured homes (did you know that Merida has a large number of immigrants and even had a significant influx of Arabs?). Sometimes, we spent more time at stoplights then in front of sites.

We paused at Parque de Americas and its library, garden, fountain, and performance area dedicated to Pan-American unity. (Guess what! The U.S.A. also got a monument!)

We breezed past the local zoo(‘s entrance) and into an older section of town where every street has an animal name.

All the while locals stared at us like the sore thumbs that we were. Towards the end, as night fell, a couple metalheads decked out in black and chains eyed us as we cruised by, our guide yammering about how the Spanish had modeled a city gate after the eyes of an owl to scare off the natives. As the two locals and I made eye contact, I felt like a 12 year-old whose mummie makes him hold her hand in front of the football team. I’m a man. I’m thirty (something). Yet for a split second I felt (and there’s no other word for it) “uncool.”

I hopped off the bus and separated myself from the herd. It hadn’t been that bad. I’d covered a lot of ground in a short time. The moment had only been a moment. No one was judging me, most of all not the other tourists on the bus. Mostly, I’m too old to judge myself.

And, when it comes down to it, you’re a tourist whether on a bus or not—cool just don’t enter into it.

GALLERY: Click through to see pictures of a night dedicated to romantic music at one of the nightly outdoor cultural activities in culturally rich Merida. In the gallery you’ll see traditional Yucatan dancers and a Cuban looking band all dressed in white.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 8, 2013 11:50 pm

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it
    or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit,
    but instead of that, this is magnificent blog.
    An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

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