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Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 (Miércoles, 7 de Enero, 2009)

After yet another delicious breakfast at Imelda’s, Mark split our group into three to prepare in-class presentations on the topics of Ancient Coba, Modern Coba, and Agriculture, based on information gleaned from the course text, “Life Under the Tropical Canopy? by Ellen Kintz. Groups compared the kinship structure, economics, politics, and spiritual beliefs of Mayas throughout history and discussed the community and supernatural ties evident in the agricultural practices of the people of Coba. Mark commented that we all did a spectacular job with the presentations.

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The afternoon was hot but enjoyable. Some went out in the kayak to patrol Akumal Bay, warning snorkelers of the potentially harmful effects of their actions on marine life, the coral reef, and the sea turtles. Others bought fresh fruit from the market that comes to Akumal each Wednesday and Saturday. Still others lounged on the beach, catching a tan, reading novels, or playing chess in the shade of the palm trees. As for Aziz, he caught the Collectivo to Playa del Carmen in another unsuccessful attempt to receive his package of snorkel gear from the States.

The evening brought a pleasant surprise and the highlight of our day. On the previous day (Tuesday), Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA) had collected some baby sea turtles (tortugitas) that had hatched from a CEA-monitored nest. It is unusually late in the year for hatching, so we were lucky to observe the tortugitas. The eggs were laid on October 7 and hatched a full month later than usual. Since they hatched so late, and did so during the day – leaving them more vulnerable to predators, – the hatchlings were collected by CEA and transported to the safety of the ecological center. This evening, CEA planned to release the turtles to the sea, and invited our group to join them for this release.

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We walked together to a calm, un-crowded stretch of beach. Alma Boada Sanchez, CEA’s Communication and Volunteer Coordinator; and Armando Lorences Camargo, coordinator of CEA’s Marine Turtle Protection Program; gently placed each turtle on the shoreline, about five meters from the edge of the water. If the turtles could traverse this distance, they would be ready to endure the long swim from the shoreline to the safety of the reef crest. Our group lined up, forming a protective path, on each side of the tortugitas. We encouraged the little turtles by cheering them on, and quickly bonded with our new friends, even giving them names. (Walter, Scamp, and Stanley come to mind). Some tortugitas took off excitedly while others seemed less enthusiastic (perhaps taking an evening siesta?). Six of the twelve tortugitas successfully reached the water, two others died the next day, one went for care at the turtle hospital, and the remaining three were returned to CEA for protection and care until a future release.

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Another surprise greeted us shortly after we returned from the release: the first (and hopefully last) sustained downpour of our stay. It forced our evening talking circle from its usual place on the beach to the shelter of Mark’s living quarters. We shared thoughts about what we miss from the comforts of home, as well as what we anticipate missing about Mexico upon our departure. After the talking circle, various indoor activities brought an end to another exciting day in Quintana Roo.

-Allison, Marco, and Natasha