We did an early thanksgiving at Catskills this year. Then I was off to Mexico, for a two week vacation.
I had dutifully learned the rudiments of conversational Spanish, I had prepared loose itineraries, I had even tried to unify my travel documents to bear the same name and date of birth (what novelty!). I had packed beach clothes and warm clothes. I have a travel umbrella in my luggage always, and I looked at it when packing. I have been carrying it around in vain for a while, but I hoped Mexico might have rainy days, and I took my umbrella along. What is a proper vacation without rain? I did not want to take my laptop with me, but last minute havoc made that impossible. I loaded up books on my kindle, packed stationary and music, and was all set.
Mexico City (CDMX) was loud and big, full of people rushing about from work to revelry. The day I arrived, there was a free concert in the zocalo, and the roads were all barricaded off, and riot police stood about at every street corner, alternating between routing vehicles to different roads and drinking cokes. I was dropped off by my cab a few blocks away from my hotel. So I had the pleasure of dragging my luggage across cobbled streets, and every riot police officer asked me where my boyfriend was. I should have heeded the warning sings, because I was tired and jet lagged. I began to see the pattern once the concierge at the hotel, the waiter at the restaurant, the bartender, the security guard in the lobby all repeated the same question. They sincerely seemed to think it their solemn duty to fix this deplorable situation. The concierge in particular was exceedingly and uncomfortably helpful, and attempted valiantly and continuously to set me up with so many locals and guests, in a rather frighteningly casual manner. This prepared me for the rest of my trip. And I needed the preparation; taxi drivers, men on the street, men at the restaurants, men inside a church during the vespers – they flirted, they asked nosy questions, they bought me coffees and helados and offered to take me dancing. I had intense culture shock. I am used to nobody making eye-contact, to everyone carrying about with their own business, to sacrosanct cultural norms of privacy. I tried my best to get used to these new ways, saw the city and its sights, and ventured out to climb the Aztec pyramids and further away to Puebla and Cholhulla. There were museums and the quaint oasis of Coyoacan. There were floats on a lazy afternoon, and there was the incredibly tacky lucha Libre wrestling matches. I fell in love with ant eggs and mezcal. CDMX was so taken with me that I never paid for a single mezcal. I came away confused and happy.
Then I was off to the Mayan riviera, where tourists and English were trending more. Flights were delayed and canceled, and it was past midnight when we arrived. I ended up with a stick shift car, and drove it about a bit before heading back the next morning, and getting an automatic transmission. That saved my hands quite some work in the days that followed.
I attended my first Spanish mass at Merida. It was an ideal locale for rediscovering religion. Knowing my catechism helped connect with the pious locals a great deal. They were kind to me, offering me parking for the nights I was there. For many of them, I was the first person from my motherland that they had met. They were endlessly curious and nosy. From Merida, I went to Uxmal and Izamal, to Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. I ate fermented corn fungus and drank Chaya juice.
On my way back from Chichen Itza, a man by the roadside near a toll booth opened the placket of his trousers and leered at me, while fondling his cock. I looked away, and wondered what my life had come to that I consider this too commonplace to be bothered by anymore. I have seen this happen on public transportation back in my motherland, I have seen this happen on the roads, and recently, over the past few years, I have seen various versions of this in workplace settings. The last is the worst, because I cannot just look away and get on with my life. It is tempting to generalize, to paint broad strokes of stereotypes, but I strive to remember, always, that many of my closest friends, that many I respect, that many I love, are all men.
After pyramids galore, I put on my tourist headdress and headed to Cancun. There were beaches and cenotes and crowds everywhere. Playa del Carmen was quieter, but no less crowded. Further down, Akumal and Tulum were full of cults and 101 ways to find yourself. Life coaches sought the unwary and the weak at cafes and at bars, on the main drag and at the beaches. I had my fill of mainland beaches, and headed off to the island of Cozumel. It was beautiful, and I enjoyed surfing and snorkeling there.
It did not rain a drop and I brought my umbrella back unused.