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Dear Dad,

My Jaguar Millennium Tour to Guatemala and Belize was even more remarkable than I had hoped it would be. Rather than a reprise of my Wilderness Travel trip at the “dawn of the Millennium”, this trip was an intense new look at sites and monuments that I had been merely introduced to before. The new sites and places we visited were fascinating and memorable. My fellow travelers – many of whom I had met before – were wonderfully bright and talented and an endless source of surprise.

Nick Hopkins and Kathryn Josserand are linguists who have specialized in Mayan and Mexican languages. They were our instructors in early 1998 at a week-end glyph class put on by the Mint Museum of Art, where I took you to hear George Stuart speak. I had run into them many times at the various Mayan conferences in Austin and Philadelphia. Then, this past March, they were the instructors for my Long Workshop session in Austin. Though I had good appreciation of their skills as instructors and liked them a lot, I had no idea what fun they would be as travel leaders and companions. They were super!

My roommate on this excursion was Bea Koch, a lady I also knew from the various Maya get-togethers. Spunky little Bea, who looks like she is in her 40s, just retired from a career as a legal secretary for a firm specializing in public interest law. Originally from Boulder, CO, she lives in New York City. Her two daughters are still living in the Boulder area. Daughter Rachel suffers from a condition that borders on schizophrenia - - a tragedy for such a talented young woman. Daughter Galen teaches math. Bea is trying to figure out what to do with her new retirement status. Mayan studies will play an important role in that, I’m sure. Among other talents and an art school background, Bea had a good voice.

Al Meador, from Melbourne, FL, was a special surprise. I had run into Al also at a variety of Mayan functions, had enjoyed our brief conversations, and had found him somewhat serious and quiet. The trip allowed me to be exposed to his amazing wit and humor. More belly laughs came from his impromptu comments than anything. He had only been involved in Mayan studies since 1998, but is way ahead of me. He works as a computer programmer, enjoys diving as a hobby, is a tequila aficionado, and is a Gilbert & Sullivan fan with a good singing voice.

Greg Reddick had been on my 1998 Wilderness Travel trip to Copan, Tikal, and the Yucatan Peninsula, and we had stayed in touch afterwards. Greg, from the Seattle area, was a programmer with Microsoft some years ago, but has been working in recent years as a trainer. He travels all over giving computer classes. He developed the Mayan calendar computer program that I use, and has been working on a portion of the Venus tables from one of the four remaining ancient Mayan books or codices. A delay caused Greg to miss his original flight into Guatemala. It was some time before his misplaced luggage caught up to him in Flores.

Bette Zipin, from Philadelphia, was, as Bea described her, “a zippy lady!” Multi-talented, she had worked as a psychologist after raising a family with five children. The story of the arrival of the fifth child – a surprise bonus twin – was hilarious! Bette sang beautifully, and would do so at the least provocation. A serious Mayanist with a wonderful sense of humor, she was ready for anything. Though she looked petite and bird-like, she was completely undaunted by the most adverse situations, and handled things with admirable grace.

Her roommate and life-long friend Sunny Schencker, also from the Philadelphia area, had come on the trip because of Bette more than because of her personal interest in Mayan culture. She bore our great adventures with good humor, though, and gave us all a different perspective. She had worked as a choreographer with children in the early days of television. In later life, her second husband had suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, and she and I had much to talk about on that subject. She had also studied at the Barnes Foundation, the private art institution that I have raved so about near Philadelphia. Her voice, too, was a good addition to the ensemble.

Marco Antonio Tello, our Guatemalan guide, was also a man of many dimensions. From Highland Guatemala, near Huehuetenango, he had seen much of the pain and devastation of the prolonged war there. A kind and generous man, he looks after his brother’s children, as well as his own, and funnels aid to widows of the Guatemalan war, according to Bea. When he isn’t guiding, he enjoys fishing on the Caribbean coast around the Rio Dulce and Livingston. Among other things, he is, by all witnesses, an excellent cook.

On our way to Uaxactun, we caught up with Warren and his girlfriend Dayna, a delightful younger couple from the Chicago area. Warren had attended a week-end glyph workshop and had traveled with Nick and Kathryn before to the Yucatan and Rio Bec area, where I went with Jeannie last January. Both Warren and Dayna are computer folks, but both were intensely interested in archaeology. Dayna had spent time in Greece and had been quite interested in Greek and Mesopotamian archaeology. Though the Mayan material was new to her, she was jumping in with both feet.