Tag Archives: Mexico

Isla! Just the Two of Us….no?

Upon booking our spring break to one of our favorite Mexican hideaways, Isla Mujeres, I had to text one of my friends to rub it in that we were heading back to Isla.  Imagine my surprise when he texted back that he and some other mutual friends from our small town had also just booked a vacation there during the same week! Their group of six soon grew to another group of six and so our private getaway became the best of both worlds–relaxing beach days for two followed by fun evenings out with friends. Like the never-experienced luxury of being on a tropical vacation in your own town!

And so we were off!  Russell gets so excited at the airport when we go on vacation.  russell-airportGlad to see the TSA didn’t crush all of his joy in the security check point.

Once in Mexico, typical days on Isla consisted of a morning beach walk and breakfast at our hotel, NaBalam http://www.nabalam.com.  A few days I went to yoga, once at Na Balam by a true yogi–a, dare I say, shaman?  This spiritual little guy made for a nice alternative to my usual yoga.  He even gave Russell an hour of yoga therapy during the week.  Another day I ventured down to yoga class on the skydeck of Cabanas María del Mar.  That yoga instructor was more California surfer than Indian guru, making me chuckle every time I was in a pose and he would prompt in his Zen-stoner vibe, “Relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaxxxxxx”.

After the morning workouts, we would settle into our daily routine of sunbed surfing while overlooking beautiful North Beach.  After a regimen of read, swim, repeat, I waited until it seemed an appropriate and judgment-free time to order my afternoon bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and some lunch. isla-16 The new restaurant at Na Balam has fantastic food, like these octopus tostadas and fresh seafood ceviche. There’s just nothing better than lying in “bed” all day on one of the best Caribbean beaches while people bring you seafood and pour you wine.  Ahhh…..p1060398

As hard as it was to break up that lovely daytime routine, we agreed to go with our friends one day on a ride around the island on golf carts.  We’ve been to Isla several times and know the golf cart route well.  Our morning began with a ride along the windy, rough side of the island where we stopped to walk around awhile on the rock formations.  My friend Ron, doing his best impression of James Franco from 127 Hours.  Luckily he did not have to saw off his arm…p1060363

After working up an appetite from our climbing, we continued south to Colonia La Gloria, the neighborhood housing most of Isla’s residents.  Here we would find Mango Café, one of the top rated restaurants on Tripadvisor.  www.facebook.com/mangocafeisla

It seemed the word was out as this place was packed so we were told it would be about a 25 minute wait for a table.  We made the most of our wait by strolling around the neighborhood and befriending some little girls.  Some of them decided to use Russell for their hide and seek spot.  “Hey, let’s hide behind this big, white guy!”p1060366

And so our playdate was interrupted by a wave across the street signaling our table was ready.  ¡Adiós, chicas! The Mango Café did not disappoint!  Do not come here looking for a “light breakfast”.  Some of us ordered breakfast quesadillas while the others ordered the Stuffed Poblano Chile which came out as large as a deep fried football!p1060370An hour later we all waddled out of the place and continued further south, passing the Crayon Housep1060375and making our way to one of the island cemeteries.  If you’ve never visited a Mexican cemetery, it is a must.  Nothing scary here, looks more like a mini-golf course than anything from a Halloween movie. p1060380p1060376 The tiny mausoleums are interesting and made for a nice little digestive stroll.  *Side note, one should not consume 3,000 calories before noon. And so we were off again to Punta Sur, the southernmost point of the island, where conveniently there was a bar in a judgement-free zone so many in our group partook in a piña colada.  Nothing goes better on top of a deep fried football than a 600 calorie frothy drink! Ahhhh……vacation.

After a walk about and some photo ops on the lovely south end, p1060386

we were back on the carts and northbound up the calm, eastern side of the island.  With no agenda, we decided we would make stops as they called our attention so it was no surprise when our lead golf cart pulled into the Ice Bar.  A tourist trap if there ever was one, we went for it and donned our yeti-esque parkasp1060390 in the 90 degree lobby and entered the solid ice bar and its freezing temps.  I loved that we paid thousands of dollars to escape the cold and then paid money to be in the cold.  p1060395We Americans are so strange! Anyway, it was a fun thing actually and I know we really did need two more margaritas on top of the deep fried football.

After the Ice Bar, we stopped for lunch(????!!!!) at Playa Lancheros, a requirement when on the island.  It is a great spot to take a swim, which we did, and chill out for awhile before making the final journey north back to town and the hotels.  Of course we went out to dinner that night, don’t really remember what or where as I think my clothes were so tight it blocked circulation to my brain.  No more 10,000 calorie days on this trip I said the next morning.  Through sheer will power and restraint I was able to keep the rest of the trip below 5,000 a day.  I know, you are thinking about my sacrifice and I appreciate it.  A “diet” on vacation—what??

Anyways, the week went on with more sunning, swimming, reading, and wine, with a little snorkeling by the bridge mixed in for cardio.  Nights were a whirlwind of one great seafood dinner p1060416after the next at places like Rolandi’s Pizzeria, Asia Caribe, Muelle 7, Olivia’s, and Jax.  There were also some nice breakfasts at the market stands behind Na Balam and, of course, the out of this world Lobster Eggs Benedict at Rooster Café.

There were a lot of celebrations too that week on the island.  While sitting at a bar one evening, we watched the set up of a child’s birthday party in the street and restaurant next door.  Russell was instrumental in helping them hang their piñata p1060412and it was great watching the kids smash it in the street as tourists walked by.  We also got to celebrate our friend Karen’s birthday one night.  I think her birthday wish was to not get back on the ferry at the end of the week!  We started her big night in style with sunset cocktails on the balcony of their room at Ixchel Hotel.  It was so romantic watching the sun go down from that vantage point, till our friend Andy photo bombed our big moment….or did we photo bomb him?  Whatever.p1060441

As we had come to the last day of our trip, we decided that since we did originally book the trip as a romantic getaway that we should have one intimate dinner just the two of us, so we headed back to the south end where we dined at Maria’s Kan Kin. This was a truly memorable evening with patio seating overlooking the infinity pool.  We were there in time for sunset, which made for an even better view looking across the bay at the lights of Cancún. We started out with a shrimp appetizerp1060450 and finished up with a seafood pasta and this beautifully prepared grouper. Fantastic!p1060455

And so ended another great week on Isla Mujeres.  You just can’t go wrong with a vacation here.  And you never know what new friends, or in our case this time, old friends, you’ll run into!

As a parting note, whenever I go to Isla I try to think about jobs Russell and I could get here and maybe stay awhile.  I found that my translation skills could be needed at this supermarket. Mmmmmm….nothing more refreshing on a 90 degree day than a “cool” beer!



Gluttony and Sloth in Cozumel

Normally we like to choose destinations that are somewhat off the beaten path.  My favorite response when I tell people where we are heading next is “Where’s that?”  However, with the price being too good to pass up and a recommendation of great diving, we picked the Mexican island of Cozumel for this year’s Spring Break.  We prepared ourselves for the throngs of cruise-shippers that we knew would fill the island daily by avoiding the town of San Miguel and southern part of the island during the day.  Usually by nightfall, ships pulled out and the island was a nice mix of locals, vacationing Mexicans, and even some Americans venturing out now that the coast was clear.  Pun intended. P1050321Days were spent being pampered and lazy at Hotel B Cozumel www.hotelbcozumel.com .  This boutique hotel of 44 rooms set on a beautiful coral shore and lagoon was just what we needed.  Starting the morning with yoga class on the pier P1050342over the water or with a brisk walk down to the marina (here is the tarantula I almost stepped on during one of these walks) IMG_0282 was the perfect segue to hours on a sun bed reading, sunning, and feasting on lunches of calamari and ceviche.  Throw in two days of scuba diving and another two days of excellent snorkeling right in front of the hotel, and it made for the idyllic tropical vacation. The only negative about the hotel was that it offered “day passes” to cruise-shippers, so during some of the days, there were a few more guests at the hotel than we would have liked.  Most of the time, the clientele of the hotel was European and Middle Eastern—lots of different languages, which I love.  The mood of the hotel was very zen, with spa-like music and a really “chill” vibe.  With the exception of the day I was lounging by the pool and I experienced the American Invasion!  A family of four came to the pool loungers and upon setting up camp on the chairs, proceeded to play out the stereotypical Loud American Tourist.  “I SET YOUR TOWEL HERE!”  “DO YOU WANT SOMETHING TO EAT?” “COME GET YOUR SUNSCREEN!” and other phrases were screamed across the outdoor area.  It was awful!  Prior to their arrival, there were about 25 of us at the pool and while it was by no means silent, people were using normal speaking voices.  Please, my fellow Americans, let’s not be “that guy” when we travel! I was really impressed with the behavior with my fellow hotel-mates, so the only other issue I noticed was also by some day pass cruise-shippers.  The selfies!   Make them stop.  We were in one of the most gorgeous settings in the Caribbean and experiencing perfect weather and the group of 20-something girls visiting one day spent no less than four solid hours doing nothing but taking selfies.  If you have a “selfie-stick”, please go near the water and hit yourself in the head with it so you can join your mythological Greek twin, Narcissus! My favorite hotel-mates were the friendly male couple from Ohio that were there the first part of our stay.  I was sunbathing near them one day and of course, eavesdropping.  A tall guy came up and chatted with them about their evening plans.  “We’re going to mass tonight—it IS Palm Sunday, you know,” said one of the guys, and then his partner added, “We actually met in church!”  As a fellow Catholic this made me smile, so when I heard the tall guy start to respond, I figured he was going to address the elephant in the room.  Tall guy: “You two are going to church………three sheets to the wind?”  THAT was his question.  Chuckles from me on my beach chair.  Their response: “We’re Catholic—drinking is the 11th Commandment.”  I just love conversations like these! Other excitement during the week at the hotel was the day we got yacht-neighbors.  The Lumiere spent the day moored just off our shore.  P1050344Why didn’t I bring my binoculars?  We had a lovely day watching Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  I was able to Google the yacht and found out it can be chartered for the bargain price of about $225,000 a week.  Plus expenses.  At least this yacht had a better captain than the Fiesta, a yacht that washed up on shore right in town and spent most of the week with locals pointing at it until we finally watched it being towed away and almost swamped. IMG_0275 I think I will be content to just stay on land. But when we were at sea for our scuba one day, we had yet another of our many “It’s a small world” moments.  On a dive boat of nine people we ended up sitting across from a family from the Twin Cities who not only had heard of our small town of 2,000 people, the husband had spend a decade of summers there with his family as a child and the wife shared with me that her death wish is to have her and her husband’s ashes mixed and spread over the lake two miles from my house.  WHAT?  This is the kind of crazy stuff that always happens to us.  We can’t go anywhere without running into someone who has some connection to our small town.  I don’t know how people have affairs or think they can do anything secret, even far away on a vacation.  There is always someone you will run into! The last thing that was noteworthy about our week in Cozumel was the food.  Prior to the trip I spent many hours on Tripadvisor to see what restaurants we would visit.  The research paid off in the form of a seven pound weight gain in seven days.  Nice!  By the end of the trip I could hardly fit into my plane seat!  OK, not really but my jeans were not too pleased.  I present my best “food porn” of the week: IMG_0204 (1)A seafood skewer with lobster, shrimp, octopus and shrimp in a mango glaze from Buccano’s http://www.buccanos.com/buccanos-at-night.html that could have fed an entire family! IMG_0200The appetizer of wahoo and mahi mahi tartare with green apple and avocado with fried plantains that we started with at Buccano’s and regretted after the skewer came and we had to roll out of the place. Items off the tasting menu at Kondesa http://kondesacozumel.com/, including an appetizer and dessert sampler.IMG_0208IMG_0213 The greatest sandwich ever created—the Lobster Bacon sandwich from Le Chef.  IMG_0225 We enjoyed chowing down on them while watching people working out on spinning bikes at the gym across the street. IMG_0228 Scallops, shrimp, and octopus over black squid-ink linguine IMG_0237from Guido’s. http://www.guidoscozumel.com/ A cafeteria-style tray loaded with conch, shrimp, prawns, and grouper from El Moro in the residential area.IMG_0258 (1) Ok—time to come up for air!  It’s hard to believe we only gained a pound a day!  Although we don’t plan to return to Cozumel—too many other destinations to hit—if we do, I will be sure to plan a colonoscopy for the day after we get home because missing out on this great food will not be an option and I don’t want to spend the following month in sweatpants.

The Honeymoon’s Over: Public Buses of Mexico

(note to readers–sorry for the lack of photos on this post, but digital pics from 1997 are not happening!)

On a sweltering Saturday morning in June, my husband Russell and I made our way down the washed out road from our beachside hotel to the Estrella de Oro bus station in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.  Puerto Escondido is a beautiful Mexican village nestled against the Pacific.  We had only spent one night in that town—using it as a stopover on our long journey from Huatulco, on the southern Oaxacan coast, all the way up to Acapulco in the state of Guerrero, hundreds of miles away.

The Pacific coastline highways were mountainous, secluded, and, most of all, treacherous.  Renting a car and driving to Acapulco was out of the question; taking a first class bus was our only option.  However, as our taxi dropped us in the front of the bus station, I began to wonder what primera clase really meant.  The station was a concrete building with chipped paint and crumbling stone.  Near the doorway, an elderly man sat on a rickety chair, tracing his cane in the dirt.  We passed him and entered the station to purchase our tickets.  All eyes were upon us; not only were we the only Caucasians, but also the tallest people in the building, if not the whole town.

I made my way to the ticket counter and requested in my best Spanish, “Dos para Acapulco—primera clase por favor.”  The somber woman nodded and slipped two small scraps of paper toward me, uttering, “doscientos cuarenta”.  I handed 240 pesos ($24) to her and looked at my watch.  We were departing in 25 minutes.

We stepped out of the station and back onto the street with all of our luggage.  I wondered aloud where the bus could be and was soon answered when the smell of exhaust and the loud noise enveloped me.  The large monster of a bus came to a stop in front of the station door.  Several local people hurriedly stepped onto the bus carrying only small bags.  My husband and I looked at each other and then at our large suitcases.

Suddenly a door opened, revealing a large compartment under the bus.  My husband smiled and hurled the suitcases into the vacant crevasse.  We offered a silent prayer that we would be reunited again with our possessions at the end of the seven-hour bus ride.  We climbed the steps of the bus and wandered back to our seats.  As we sat down, I noticed beads of sweat on my husband’s forehead.

“I’ll bet you’re glad we are on a first class, air conditioned bus, aren’t you?“ I asked.  “Are you sure this is first class?” he replied.  “Of course!” I laughed.  “Otherwise we’d be riding with a bunch of chickens!”

He flashed me one of his looks and turned to stare out the window.  I scanned the rest of the bus; it was filling fast.  I guessed that we were probably not just the only English-speakers on the bus, but also the only Americans.  I took a deep breath and hoped for the best.  My poor husband!  We had just been married a week ago and were now on our two-week honeymoon travelling throughout Mexico.  On this, his first trip to Mexico—was that look in his eyes wonder or sheer terror?  We were definitely off the beaten path.  Hopefully we would survive our adventure and have a tale to tell our future grandchildren.

The bus driver entered the bus and took his seat.  I looked at the people who surrounded us.  Across from us was a Zapotec woman holding a baby.  Directly behind us was the old man with the cane that we had seen earlier.  Judging from the ten minutes we had been on the bus, I guessed that he had some respiratory ailment topped off with the mother of all colds.  His handkerchief was already saturated; I hoped that he had another.  The last thing I noticed was the empty seat behind us to our left.  I checked my watch—8:00 a.m.—time to leave.  Just then a man hopped on the bus and the driver closed the door.  He hurried back to the empty seat, carrying a large, white box in his hand.  He took his seat, and the bus pulled out, heading on its way.

Within minutes, I became fascinated with that white box.  What was in it?  Then I noticed some holes cut into the side of the cardboard.  Just as I realized there might be something alive inside, our bus hit a large bump and a clucking noise erupted from the box.  My husband’s head whipped around, and he glared at me, only one word passing his lips: “chickens”.

As our bus pressed on northward through mountains and forests and along jagged cliffs, I became very aware of the people around us.  The ancient man behind me made his presence felt about every three minutes as his sneezes moistened the back of my seat time and time again.  The woman next to us was trying to quiet down her baby.  The little one had just eaten a bit earlier and was now very unhappy, wailing away.  I looked over at my husband.  His impatience was growing as quickly as the sweaty wetness of his shirt.  You see, this primera clase, air conditioned bus had turned out to be anything but.  Several times my husband had attempted to open the window for some relief, but was reprimanded—told he needed to close the window so that the alleged air conditioning could function.  Much to his dismay, the temperature inside the bus may have exceeded the temperature outside.

As I watched my husband melting into the seat, I noticed him looking toward the woman with her baby.  I followed his glance to see the spectacle going on before us.  The woman, discovering the problem of her crying daughter, had changed her diaper and was now opening the window.  Thank God, I thought—air!  However, ventilation was not the intention.  She took the dirty diaper, tossed it out the window, and closed it back up tightly.  My husband and I shook our heads in disbelief—could this ride get any more bizarre?  Yes.

Once the commotion of the diaper incident subsided, I was able to concentrate again on the man behind me who now seemed on the verge of death.  He must have been on the verge of dehydration as well from the loss of so much fluid via his nose.  And speaking of losing fluid, I noticed that my husband had now completely saturated his shirt with perspiration and did not look good at all.

A loud cluck broke my chain of thought, and I turned around to check on the mysterious, white chicken-box.  I tried to stare into the breathing holes to see what lay inside, but it was too black to make out.  The man holding the box began to speak to the dying man behind me.  Through subtle eavesdropping, I was able to find out the life story of the box-chicken—which was not even a chicken!  Within that white box was a living, breathing, crowing ROOSTER!  This king of beasts had earned his first class bus ticket by being a prize cockfighter.  His owner was taking him to Acapulco for yet another big fight.

I debated sharing this information with Russell, who had now almost slipped into delirium, when I felt the bus slow down.  Hmm, I thought; Acapulco was still two hours away.  The bus came to a stop, and I looked out the window.  We were in the middle of nowhere—no people or buildings in sight.  Suddenly, two men armed with machine guns stepped onto the bus and eased their way to the back–toward us.

The thought of looking at my husband to see his reaction terrified me.  Ever so slowly I glanced over at him, trying not to act panicked (so as not to draw attention to myself—a six-foot tall American woman on a bus of Mexicans).  There was my husband, wet from head to toe, eyes wide with disbelief that this ride could get any worse.  I grasped his hand tightly and observed the situation in the rest of the bus.

The people on the bus seemed rather calm.  As the machine-gun-toting men came closer row by row, the bus passengers would rise and show them documents of some sort.  Quietly I asked the woman with the baby what was going on.  “Quiénes son?” I whispered, asking her who they were.  She looked back at me amusingly, “los federales”.

Federales!  Were they after us?  Panic overtook me.  She quickly calmed me and informed me that they only needed to see our passports.  Relieved, I went into my purse and produced our two American passports.  When the two Mexican federal soldiers reached us, my shaking hand passed over our documents.  They scanned them and looked us over very carefully.  Oh no, I thought, we are going to die on our honeymoon.  The first soldier muttered something to the other, and they laughed as they handed back the passports.  At that, they turned around and marched out of the bus.

Two hours later we finally pulled into the Acapulco bus station, slightly worse for the wear, but thankfully alive.  I doubted my husband would ever forgive me for that bus ride, or for the three that would follow in the next seven days.  But I did know one thing: whenever we would speak about our marriage from that day on, the expression “the honeymoon’s over” was a GOOD thing!


Nothing to Do in Zihuatanejo

Everyone needs to have a do-nothing vacation at least once.  Ours was over Christmas/New Year’s in Zihuatanejo, Mexico on the southern Pacific coast.  “Zihua” is most famous here for its shout out in the movie Shawshank Redemption and once you get there, you will thank Andy Dufresne for the tip.  Whereas most American visitors opt for the twin city of Ixtapa with its high-rise beach hotels and all-inclusives, we knew we were Zihua people.  A fishing village pumped up by tourism, most of it domestic, this place is nestled between the Sierra Madre mountains and three beaches: Municipal, Madera, and La Ropa.

We wanted two different experiences during our time there so for the first part we stayed on Madera Beach at Bungalows La Madera www.bungalowslamadera.com. From our partially open-air apartment102_2245 high on a hill we were able to overlook the sea, the mountains, and the town below.  We descended a staircase from the pool area to get down to the beach and town was an easy, safe 5-10 minute stroll away.  Staying true to our do-nothing plan, we spent days by the small infinity pool overlooking the beach alternating between reading and napping.  102_2261In the course of a week we were able to read four books and several magazines.

Breakfast was normally down the hill from our apartment at La Casa Café and lunches of guacamole, ice cold Tecates, and shellfish were eaten at the many beachfront spots beneath our pool.  At night we would stroll into town, joining the other visitors and locals at the many excellent eateries there—our favorites being La Sirena Gorda and Restaurante Any.

After three days of nothing, we decided we should maybe do an excursion so we jumped on a boat at the city pier and ten minutes later we were on Las Gatas Beach.  There we rented some beach chairs, ate, drank, read, and did………………..nothing.  102_2263But it was an excursion to do nothing, so we felt less guilt.

The following day was New Year’s Eve.  As we had done nothing for days, we figured we could have a late night out.  Turns out this nothingness is exhausting and after a huge Italian dinner at La Vita ‘e Bella, we found ourselves heading back to the apartment by 11:30.  From our terrace we were able to watch the midnight fireworks and also experience a different tradition.  Zihuatanejo residents fire guns into the air at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  That’s right—random sky bullets at 12 AM.  Throughout the town, gunfire went on for a good 20 minutes at least—rifles, pistols, even machine guns.  From our terrace high in a building, high on a hill, I became understandably nervous thinking of the aim of these “marksmen” after an evening of alcohol and we decided it was best to move within the concrete walls of our bedroom, falling asleep to a lullaby of ammunition rounds.  Feliz Año Nuevo.

The next morning we were off to our final destination, the Hotel Cinco Sentidos www.hotelcincosentidos.com, tucked into a hillside overlooking Playa La Ropa.  This intimate inn of five suites, each with a sea-view balcony with plunge pool is heaven on earth.  102_2290We spent our time here doing even less than nothing—one day not even leaving our room/balcony until evening.  With these views, we couldn’t pull ourselves away.  But the dinner that night at Kau-Kan www.casakaukan.com of sting ray in black butter sauce and potato stuffed with lobster and shrimp in a garlic cream sauce was worth coming out, especially with great views from every table. 102_2331

We were so relaxed by the end of the trip.  People tend to overschedule their lives and also their vacations.  But for a real escape from the stresses of that life, everyone needs a little nothing in Zihuatanejo.102_2348

Explosive Evening in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

  Unlike most fables, I am going to put the moral of this story first:

Don’t order chicken in a dimly-lit outdoor restaurant in Mexico.

That said, here’s what happened on a trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico with our friends, Coco and Tricia.  Coco was enjoying his chicken kabobs on the dark patio of an unnamed Calle Hidalgo restaurant. Playa 4--Coco After dinner the four of us strolled the streets of the island.  My husband Russell and I like to do “the Spain stroll”, a very slow, relaxed, after-dinner walk.  After about 20 minutes of this stroll, Coco lets us know he is not feeling well and needs a bathroom.  We are now in an area with no chance of public bathrooms so we start moving faster toward the Na Balam hotel and Zazil Ha restaurant where we were heading to set up our New Year’s Eve dinner reservation. 

As we neared the Na Balam, we came to another hotel and sent Coco into the lobby.  I quickly coached Coco on the correct pronunciation for “Baño, por favor”.  Unfortunately all of his mental effort was being used on colon control so the only thing he did to the lady at the front desk was shout at her “Bah-nose! Bah-nose!”  She didn’t know what to do and instead of pointing him in the right direction, she simply stared.  With a look of increased urgency on his face, Coco emerged from the hotel and we quickly moved down the road to the Na Balam.  But it was too late.

In a panic, Coco and Russell left the sidewalk and scanned the brushy area behind a run-down bus stop for a place Coco could go-NOW!  Tricia and I waited awkwardly for a moment on the sidewalk and decided to head to Na Balam, telling the guys to meet us there.  We didn’t really want to hear anything.

Tricia and I were in the beautiful entrance of the Zazil Ha restaurant when Russell and Coco approached, Coco’s face white as a sheet and his head sweaty.  He went on to tell us how behind that bus stop he found a scooter parked and had used the handlebars for leverage as he released his explosive diarrhea.  We were laughing as he shared this, but were also feeling really sorry for him. 

And then the poor guy tells us how he had to use his underwear for toilet paper.  Well, that’s where the pity stopped for Tricia.  “Those were brand new underwear from American Eagle!” she shrieked, busting his chops.  Here poor Coco just had explosive diarrhea. At night. In front of his friend. Behind a bus stop. Grasping a stranger’s scooter.  In Mexico.  I doubt he was concerned about the underwear!  We all got a big kick out of the whole incident and the next morning when we thought of the poor guy walking over to his scooter, we were comforted knowing at least he was left a nice pair of underwear.

They’re probably still there.isla 2 001


The Mexico City Subway Sucks

Back in 1993 I was studying abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico and living with the Jaime and Margarita Garcia family.  We would travel to Mexico City every week or two to visit their friends and relatives.  On this particular trip, it was a Sunday and Margarita, her daughters Mabel and Zaira, and I had driven to the city, parked, and were taking the subway into the city center.  Looking back at the day, knowing what I know now about traveling, blending in, and never wearing shorts outside the USA, I want to kick my 19 year old self.  There I am, walking onto the subway in Mexico City, rocking a pair of white Guess jean shorts and a red, off the shoulder body suit (ah, the 90’s!).  If you are picturing this outfit, picture it on an Amazon American girl—I had fully embraced not the Freshman Fifteen, but rather the Freshman Thirty.  Pair that with my stature of 5 foot 10, and while you are imagining this look, add some permed, big hair to my head.  Maybe I was also wearing a fanny pack.  Can’t be sure though.

Anyways, I get on the subway in this ensemble and it is crowded so there are only seats for Margarita and the girls so I stand.  As I am in the aisle holding onto the overhead handle I am pressed tightly against several other passengers.  And then I feel it.  My shoulder is getting wet.  It was July and rainy season so I dismissed it as water dripping into the subway car from a passing shower.  So initially I ignored it until I happened to turn my head and see a Mexican man who is sucking on my shoulder!  Horrified I pulled my shoulder away, out of his mouth.  Now because of the crush of humanity in the aisle I could not exactly escape.  Luckily, the subway made a stop just then and as people moved, I pushed through toward Margarita (who saw none of this scene) and took Mabel’s seat and put her on my lap.

While I sat there in shock, I could feel the “shoulder-sucker” staring at me.  I couldn’t wait for him to leave and hoped he would get off before we did as I did not want to walk past him.  No luck.  A few stops later Margarita nodded that we would be stopping here.  As we pushed through to the door I was further traumatized when I felt a pair of hands groping my beloved white Guess shorts (“guess” who?).  Finally we emerged from the car onto the platform. Margarita and the girls were behind me and I turned to speak with them just as the subway doors were closing.  There, pressed against the doors was my admirer, staring at me through the glass.  As a sign of farewell he took his tongue and traced it around the perimeter of his mouth.  Classy.

It took me over 10 years to share that story with my parents although I did tell it to my husband when we were dating and in the past 20 years he rarely passes up an opportunity when there is glass between us, whether it be a window or the freezer door in the supermarket, to mimic that subway goodbye gesture.  Thanks for your sensitivity, Russell.

“Memorable” Massage on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

My original plan with this blog was to work my way back through my most interesting trips, but now I have decided to skip around instead as I recall things so that brings me to one of the several times I’ve visited Isla Mujeres—a small, wonderful island off the coast of Cancún.  100_0054On this particular trip it was just my husband and me and I decided to set up massages for us at Na Balam www.nabalam.com , a hotel on North Beach.  I had read some online reviews about how great “Maria’s” (name changed for liability!) massages were so I booked her for my husband, Russell.  I didn’t care who did my massage as I don’t have the chronic back pain he does. 

isla7We showed up that morning at Na Balam and Maria came out—all sinewy 95 pounds of her!  She took one look at me and then Russell and bluntly stated, “He’s too big.  I’ve done too many massages this week.”  And so she took me and said to Russell over her shoulder, “You go with her,” nodding in the direction of a stocky Mayan woman.  I felt terrible after I had bragged her up so much to him, the one who really needed a good massage.

We said our goodbyes, me leaving with the tiny massage ninja and he following the Rigoberta Menchu stunt double.  Maria and I entered a small hut near the swimming pool.  After she closed the door, she laid out her protocol, starting with the declarations: “I don’t use a sheet” and “You can take off all your clothes”.  Shocked, I thought to myself, “Jodi, don’t be such a prude!  Go with it.”  But in the end, I left on my bikini bottom.  Thank God.

I lay on the massage table face down and before she began, she proceeded to tell me how man’s two basic instincts were to cry out and to suckle.  I was like—WHAT????? I also thought, “Thank God Russell is not in here with her.”  Once again I decided I might be acting uptight so I went with it.  As she started the massage at certain points she would command me to either cry out or “suckle” (I was to mimic this action in order to relax my jaw), which I did somewhere between crying, laughing, and wetting m pants, or rather my bikini bottom.

I won’t lie, as far as massages go, it was the best ever in regard to muscle stretching but some of the methods were…….different.  Like when I was lying face down, focusing on my crying out and suckling and I realized she was up on the massage table, straddling me and sliding her elbows and forearms up the sides of my spine.  Now remember back to her proclamations about her not using a sheet and me not needing clothes?  Yeah.  Nice.  Thank you, bikini bottom. 

Next I was asked to turn over, “sunny side up”, if you will.  She took my legs, one at a time and raised them past a 90 degree angle and then pushed them across the table (again thank you, bikini bottom).  Odd, yet effective positions continued, accompanied by the crying out and suckling.  When I was completely immersed into my wet-noodle-massage-aura, she put a cloth over my eyes and the smell of something sweet burning filled the hut.  The last thing I remember was her blowing this smoke in my face.

I woke up, not sure how long I was out.  I was alone in the hut, sunny side up on the table.  All I could hear was a Mayan man mowing the grass near the pool (Yikes! Could he see inside the hut during my massage?  He did look like he loved his job….).

I got off the table with a feeling of confusion (and shame?), put the money on the table, dressed and left the hut.  As I walked the path back to the reception area I saw Russell waiting and felt my face turn red as he looked at me.  I wondered how long he had been waiting.  What should I tell him?  I asked how his massage was and he replied with an unenthusiastic “good” and I responded to his same question with “different” and no more. 

100_0039For the rest of the day as we lay on the beach, I slowly revealed to him what went on in that hut—a massage confessional of sorts.  My shame lifted along with his eyebrows, but in the end we were able to laugh about it.  People ask me if I would ever go back to Maria.  You bet!  Who would miss out on a story like that!