I'm always on the lookout for immersive volunteer and study opportunities south of the border and there are a plethora in southern Mexico.
"ASK ME ABOUT VOLUNTEERING IN A MAYA VILLAGE!"
That's what it says at the bottom of my first email from Grace Lloyd Bascopé, Ph.D., Director of the Mexico part of the
Maya Research Program , a fantastic multi-approach non-profit organization. So I do.
The Maya Research Program, she tells me, has an active volunteer program  which works mostly in Yaxunah, a Yucatec Maya community about 20 minutes south of Piste and Chichén Itzá.
"Participate in one of our archaeological projects," invites their website, "help conserve a Maya city, or live in a Maya village with our researchers as we visit the spectacular and breathtaking world of the ancient and modern Maya." (Read their page thoroughly, application deadline is May 1 each year.)
No matter which activity you are signing up for, the Yaxunah Centro Cultural offers 15 simple, clean rooms (with bathroom, $30) to rent in the village. Dr. Bascopé admits: "They are not fancy at all, but my students and volunteers and other visitors to the community stay in them all the time. Bring a hammock or use one of theirs for a fee."
This would be a great place to be for the December solstice in 2012, especially for the big "morning after party" the village is holding on December 22, 2012. Come eat traditional foods, brunch, and cultural entertainment to celebrate the dawn of a new era (but don't bring any booze. Yaxunah is a dry village. No liquor is sold, and there is no cantina).
Dr. Bascopé, who has traveled and lived in southern Mexico for decades, has one last reminder: "the state of Yucatan is the safest state in Mexico— probably safer than many of the cities we live in in the United States."