Upon exiting the plane, I instantly felt the tropics in my hair as every fiber of it frizzed in the warm salty breeze. We had arrived to the promised-land. I was expecting the pungent fragrance of a palm tree and pina colada nirvana, so as I drew the humid air in through my nostrils I was totally unprepared for the assault on my olfactories. Cancun smelt like a basement. Since this was our friend's fifth trip to Mexico, I asked them about the musty odor wafting through the airport and they replied something like "ahhh, that's the sweet scent of Paradise, you'll grow to love it!" Cancun didn't look much like paradise from behind the windshield wipers sloshing through torrential downpour so our friends were eager to divert our attention towards it's more positive attributes and show us the heart of downtown, roads less traveled by most tourists. A few miles beyond the hotel zone we saw why they were less-traveled.
Where I come from, the roads are structured like perfect mathematical grids, making one's daily commute tidy and efficient.
|Portland, Oregon U.S.A.|
I was not prepared for Mexico's Walmart. Eggs piled four-feet high in plastic crates, met us at the door. The pastry section was three-times as big as in the states and bread was less than thirty-cents per pound. And, mmm, nothing like heaps of grayish New-York steak left on an open table for all to touch and sneeze on at room temperature. But the candy isle did not disappoint, I mean, who could pass up on these?
Of course, we couldn't leave without perusing through the juniors clothing dept. The Mexican's know style and they like their bling...though I'm not sure these shirts were made on-purpose?
|"You are like a sports car, I am slow but I am fit.|
And eventually I will find you, you are so fast.
The smell of sex and money.
And crush you like a little sh*t"
Our second day in Cancun was nice and sunny, we started off with a Mexican buffet and spent the day lounging between the beach and pool.
That's the day we discovered one of these amazingly ridiculously delicious quesadillas for twelve pesos, that is only one US dollar!!!
On the third day, it rained. We spent it noodling through the local outdoor malls and I got my first taste of vendor harassment. I felt like a case study on that OCD reality show that exposes people to their worst fears and drives them to max-out at their most suicidal levels of anxiety. I could feel the sweat on my brow and my jaw clenched as the merchants cried out, "Senorita, over here!..My Turn, be nice... You come check out my store now!... Almost free!..We make a deal!...Money talks!...Chippy Chippy!" I couldn't handle the stress of snubbing them anymore. I hastily bought some trinkets and we drove ourselves to a real shopping mall, got some Starbucks, purchased some drugs that require an Rx in the US...you know, they typical touristy things. I felt much better.
But on our way home from the cinema (five-dollars per ticket) we got pulled over by the Policia. Three cops in one car, steered us into some shady trees at the edge of the bay. All I could imagine was our bodies being thrown over the embankment and my mom saying "I told you so." They made our friend get out of the car and interrogated him for more than twenty-minutes. They accused him of speeding and threatened to hold his license until he paid a fine, either down at the station or "directly". All we could see out our rear-view mirrors was our friend making large gestures with his arms, miming a bus that had passed us when we were supposedly 'speeding.' He was saying things like "vroom, vroom" and "Big bus pass us, it go very el-fasto." Apparently, his exaggerated motions and cave-man spanglish made the cops think our friend was drunk so they gave him a breathalyzer test. In Mexico, breathalyzers consist of an officer cupping his hands together and having the suspect blow into them, then he smells his hands. Fortunately, our friend, a Pastor, doesn't drink alcohol and when no booze registered on the officer's palms, he appeared to get bored and let us go.
On day four, we drove to Xel-Ha. It's a tropical wonderland just an hour and a half outside Cancun. A Natural water park and snorkelers dream, replete with tropical fish, sting rays, dolphins, manatees, parrots, rope swings, water slides, zip lines, water caves, cliff jumps, and all you can eat buffet all day.
Day five it was raining, again, so we tried to escape it by driving to Playa Del Carmen, another tourist town about forty-five minutes from Cancun. But not before we got pulled over by the Policia, again, and he made our Pastor-friend step out of the car, again. After ten-minutes of bartering, the policeman wanted fifteen-hundred pesos to let us go. This came as little surprise since we'd noticed the only people getting pulled over were tourists, about one every mile. A local had warned us at the quesedilla stand that police in Mexico only get a three-thousand pesos a month salary (that's less than three-hundred dollars)...of course our Mexican informant also warned us that there were "secret cities" under-the-ground in America, doing all sorts of crime and plotting world take-over" *snort.* Anyway, our friend finally offered the cop two-hundred and fifty pesos (twenty-bucks). We think the cop was disappointed with his offer and let us go, thank-the-Lord. I mentioned to my friend that I thought God was trying to tell him he should be praying more, 'cause the only interceding we were doing was in the car while he was being interrogated. We eventually made our way to Playa and parked in a shady little back ally near the shopping center. But the boys felt uncomfortable with our parking spot so they went back and moved the car to a well-lit and bustling street.
We shopped until the markets shut down, I bought one of these pretty lamps made from a gourd...
I'd also purchased some shoes earlier in the day. While in the shoe store, I was entertained by the droves of little children running-a-muck, climbing, jumping, yelling. As my eyes wandered looking for the parentals of these rambunctious children I noticed they were all accounted for, albeit they were totally ignoring them. They just didn't care their kids were acting like such...kids! No sideways glances or stink-eyes darting between the parents. It was perfectly acceptable for their children to act like the world was their playground. As I looked a little closer I observed everything about Mexican culture was kid-friendly and family oriented. Even the posh little bistro on the bay sported a tiny little play structure for the kiddies tumble around on.
|(Look to the upper left of this pic)|
That night, the boys enjoyed a full hour massage for twenty-five dollars each while my girlfriend and I power shopped. I even began to enjoy (just a little) the bartering after I talked a jewelry shop owner down from eighty dollars to twenty for a silver bracelet. All of us were feeling pretty good about our day despite the crappy weather. That is, until we got home.
Once we unpacked the car we noticed our beach bag was missing. We'd been robbed! I realized my makeup bag had also been swiped after we got to our room. No big deal except that it contained my spendy brand-new 45 spf makeup, my stomach-ache pills, the illegal Rx I'd just purchased and my border ID. However, I would have traded all of my losses for the dog-tags that were also in my bag, a keepsake from my son when he'd graduated USMC boot camp last year. It was his very first pair. I felt sick, I wanted to cry and I sulked the rest of the night.
Fortunately day-six was hot and beautimous, just as Cancun should be.
|This is Jeff, catchin' some rays|
|This is me, catchin' some shade|
Day seven was sunny and clear. We enjoyed an all-you-can-eat breakfast at the mall and drove to another sister Hotel for a change of scenery. The water and waves were spectacular. The sea licked those sunglasses clean off my face. But I gave them up with a sigh, and watched matter-of-factly as the waves flushed them into the deep. Apparently Mexico was just determined to keep a part of me there.