Mexico Update #5

Tulum – January 3, 2011

December 31st – Playacar to Tulum

This was my third ride on the Collectivo, and the first time I had to wait for an extended period of time to catch one.  The stop was right across the highway from my hotel and it did take about 45 minutes before the right one came along.  Most of the vans that stopped were local traffic and did not go as far as Tulum.  Eventually a big bus pulled up.  I asked the driver if he went to Tulum and he said yes.  30 pesos.  Light air-conditioning.  Big nice soft seat.  It was a good ride.

I had a little more information about how to find my pension hotel than I had for the trek to Playacar.  I had a little map and some directions from both the bus station and the post office.  The bus I was on stopped at the main bus station so I thought this would be no problem.  30 minutes later, it was clear to me that my map was inaccurate.  I stopped for a cervaca and asked a guy how to find the post office.

This led me to the other side of the main highway and I walked for another 40 minutes or so.  I knew I was close.  I could feel it, but I could not find the place.  Also, once you leave the main road, there are no more street signs, so it is difficult to locate a particular intersection.  I also never found the post office.  I had just about given up.  I was heading back to the main road to catch a taxi – even though it would only be like a 4 or 5 block ride, I needed to find my new home and take a shower.

I decided to ask in a little corner store.  They had no english and my spanish is rather limited.  After asking about the location of the intersection got me nowhere – I mentioned the name of the hostel.  I thought it would do no good.  If they had no english, what would “Mama’s House” mean to them?  But they did know it – it was actually across the street.

From my room - that's the corner market!

The people at Mama’s House are fantastic – both the staff and the other travelers.  My room is perfect, breakfast has been super, drinking water and the internet are free, and they fixed a special evening meal to celebrate new year’s.  I told them I was vegetarian when I arrived and they have been great about that.  The first breakfast was toast and an apple.  Very fine, and more than I expected since the staff was still up partying when I went to bed at 3 AM.  The second day was soft tortillas filled with chocolate and bananas.  Today was eggs with onions and some kind of green bean, re-fried beans, toast and an apple.  For the celebration meal they made the rice plain and had a huge dish of sauteed veggies.

View of my simple but delightful room

I had gone out to eat before hand because I was hungry and I did not yet know how they would respond to the needs of a vegetarian.  But I wanted to be social and eat something since they had gone through the trouble.  All the guests were in the courtyard, as well as the staff and some family friends.  I sat in one of the few empty seats near the end of the line of tables that were pushed together for the occasion, and this was another fantastic accident in a long line of beautiful chance encounters that this trip has presented to me.  The people I sat with were super.  We had a really nice time talking together.

Near midnight, Mama, Ilana, brought out a tray with many cups filled with sparkling wine and 12 grapes each.  We turned on the tv for the countdown.  They ring the bell 12 times at midnight, and you are supposed to eat one grape each time the bell sounds, and then drink your wine when you finish the grapes.  This was not an easy task.  It would have been difficult anyway, but these were huge grapes and seeded.  I made it through three with the bells and then had to slow down.  A few people made it through all 12 “on time”.  There was lots of hugging and smiling and some nice salsa dancing.  It was a beautiful way to ring in the new year.  I do not know where the tradition comes from – some of the guests were European, some Greek, some Mexican, some from other South American locations – but many people formed a circle and poured shots of Rum into a plastic cup.  The game was to pick up the glass and take the shot without using your hands.  I sat that one out and just watched – but it was fun all the same.  It was like some reverse limbo game.

Around 6 of the guests were headed to the beach for late night party action.  My new friend Yuri was going with them and they strongly encouraged me to go as well.  I was actually amazed that I even saw midnight and opted out of that trip.  I know they had a great time (we did not see Yuri again for almost two days – so you know he had a good time hanging with the beach people).

I still have more exploring to do.  I have walked to the beach and for a long distance headed south.  People tell me that the beach to the north is different both ecologically and in terms of the sorts of crowds that choose to go there.  I have not explored the town much yet and I do intend to go look at the pottery today.

I have spent the evenings with Yuri’s family and had a fantastic time talking with them.  It is really amazing to me that this is the second time in one trip that I have met a collection of 5 other people and really liked them all together and individually.  That never happens to me.  But I have a new family (also 5 people) in North Carolina now through the Barcelo Maya!  I have two great Canadian friends also from the Barcelo Maya!  And now another new family in Washington State.

Maybe it is more “me” than even I suspect.  I have been pretty closed off for several years now.  Some of it was culture shock at being back in America after so much time abroad.  Some of it was my inability to really share or talk about my experiences overseas because I had not internally reconciled the difficulties I faced personally and in business.  But, I also just do not often meet many people that I feel that deep internal resonance with.  Hopefully you will recognize what I am attempting to describe.  When you connect with someone and your spirits seem to hum or harmonize together and you get so excited when you talk together that you can feel it like a chemical release in your brain and your blood and you get tingly, or sparkly.

I could count the number of people I have ever felt that way about on my hands and toes.  For the people that i still feel that way about, I do not need both feet.  And now, on one trip I have found that thing with at least 8 more people.  I have enjoyed everyone, but you do not get sparkly with every person.  And 8!  That is an amazing number to me.  8 in a lifetime would be fantastic.  8 in one trip – 8 in one 3 week trip – it is astounding.

Anyway, I am having a lovely time.  I will probably write some more today, but I thought it would be best to go ahead and get some updates out there.

Some Random Notes from Yesterday –

Traveling Equipment –

I did a pretty good job packing for this trip.  I have used everything that I brought with me, which is nice.  I do still wish that I had less stuff, but I am not sure what I would choose to leave behind.  For weight considerations, a transition to the iPad would have been a good move.  That would have cut down significantly by replacing my 15” MacBook Pro and 6 Mass Market paperbacks, one hardback, and a heavy Trade Paperback.

The Most Useful Items:

  1. Dictionario!  This should be one of the obvious, self explanatory items like ‘sunscreen’, but most of the people I have seen do not have one.
  2. The really thin plastic bags you put your veggies in at the grocery store – I brought 6 or 7 of those.  The main purpose is for paper back books.  I figured this one out many years ago.  If you put your books in a thin bag, it is much less likely the they will be damaged in your suitcase on the plane, or in your shoulder bag as you trek around town/beach.
  3. Quart sized Freezer bags!  I brought about 25 with me and they have been invaluable – keeping things organized in my shoulder bag, protecting items from sand, water, rain.
  4. 25 feet of really light hiking cord for a clothesline – great cord, easy to tie half hitches to quickly vary the tension and drop of the line.  Reflective!  I just brought the line with me and bought clothespins here for cheap.
  5. My new suitcase.  I got a Delsey hard-sided (though still flexible) case that qualifies as carry-on.  The zipper is good and “self-repairing” and the case seems water-proof.  The wheels and handle are quite sturdy and have definitely been put through the paces on this trip.  It did great on the 2 mile trek around Akumal over mixed pavement, stone, and dirt paths.  It did great on my strange 3 mile trek through Playa Del Carmen trying to get from the Collectivo dump point in Centro to my hotel in Playacar.  It has a built-in TSA approved lock which has been great.  I have not had a safe everywhere, and have not used them where available.  I do agree with the arguments for using the safes, but you still have to have faith in the staff.  Someone on staff knows how to open the safe and re-set the lock.  When I leave the room, I put my computer backpack inside the suitcase and lock that.  Sure, someone can take the whole suitcase, but that is more conspicuous and you can only spend so much time worrying about your gear.

Technical Side Note – I have been using Pages ® on this trip instead of Word ® and I like it.  It does all the stuff that I like in Word, but much less of the automated tasks and auto-formatting that I do not like in Word.  I imagine that I will still have to use Word for collaboration on work projects, but for my personal use, Pages wins.  The button to toggle into full screen mode is awesome!

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