The last week of our retreat, we went crazy with activities. Monday was volunteering with Coco’s and talking on Lainie’s show For The Love of Learning, Tuesday was volunteering with Akumal, Wednesday was touring Chichen Itza, Thursday was more Akumal volunteering, and Friday was a writing workshop and improv day. Phew! That doesn’t even include our weekend on Isla Mujeres before sending all of the participants home on Monday.
We had so much fun! All of our volunteer opportunities brought us total joy and a connection to Mexico, our host country. Volunteering is a key part of PWS retreats, because we want the participants to give back to the people and land that’s having us. It’s a major part to not being “those tourists”. Now, I’ve already written two posts about these volunteer days which you can find here and here, so I don’t spend a page repeating myself.
On Wednesday we went to Chichen Itza, and it was a very different experience than most of our days of visiting ruins. We went with a tour group and did the real tourist experience. We were picked up in a huge bus, had people try to sell us things on the 3 hour ride there, we swam in a cenote that definitely was not supposed to have that many people in it, and went to a market that had some ruins in it. Chichen Itza is beautiful and incredible, it really is. It is, however, tainted by the venders at every turn and the ropes stopping you from getting within 10 feet of them. It reminded me of a Mayan Disneyland almost. Everything was catered towards the tourists that just hopped off the bus, and we actually as a group decided to leave our tour guide due to an overwhelming number of people in our English speaking tour. It was difficult, and almost sad. The visit did spark many insightful conversations from the group about what it is to not know any differently, about comfort levels in different countries, and about tourism as a whole.
I cannot even explain to you how fast this week went by. I blinked and it was Friday already. It was our first rest day all week, and well needed. We had a leisurely morning, and played improv games all afternoon. It was wonderful! Jeannie came back, and we all got to perform the monologues we wrote earlier in the retreat for her. Everybody had such different writing styles, and it was an honor to get to hear them. We were joined at dinner by a special guest, our dear friend and guide, Nelson! Crepes made by our own personal Frenchwoman, Lorene, never tasted so good.
And then there were only 2 days left. We went to stay on an island, the only fitting way to end a retreat in Mexico. We took the ferry over to Isla Mujeres for a weekend of fun in the sun and final goodbyes. Our hostel was full of interesting people and live music, and we all got to practice our new dance moves together one last time.
And then suddenly, it was Sunday night. We were at a hostel in Cancun, and the most sleep achieved by any of us was 4 hours. It was a night of games and community, exactly how it should have been. We taught everyone at the hostel our favorite game, Werewolf, and ate delicious food until the early hours of morning, quietly mourning the end we knew was coming in a few hours. The airport was hard. We said goodbye to each participant, one by one, until it was just us again, heading back to Playa Del Carmen alone.
A big major I LOVE YOU and THANK YOU to each teen that came and made this retreat as fantastic as it was. You rock!