Some thoughts from my Mexico adventure last week:
It’s strange to return to a place year after year and find that not much has changed. The Donut Man is sitting on the same corner at the same booth, selling pastries. The same waiters are working at the same restaurants. We quickly fall into the same patterns we followed last year, with nary a hiccup. A store might be a little larger, a restaurant moved to a new location, a new coat of paint on the house, another street paved. It’s almost surreal, as though time stands still here. Although the days seem to speed by, in spite of the slow pace we follow. Before we know it, our time here is over, and we wonder how days spent doing nothing could pass so quickly.
I wonder what it feels like to have this small town be your entire world? To not be encumbered with Walmart and McDonald’s and all of the distractions we have back home. Where your evening entertainment is a circle of plastic chairs set up in the street outside a store, where friends and neighbors gather to chat. I wonder how many of these folks never make the trip to the Big City (a five-hour bus ride). What must it be like to be content in the routines of this small town – or maybe not content, but not knowing anything else? My world is so big; I wonder what it’d be like to have a world so small.
There was a hurricane here in October, Jova. We’ve seen damage in the surrounding towns – washed-out roads, collapsed walls, ruined roofs. In one town, half of a restaurant is tilting into the ocean. The tables and thatched umbrellas are still on the rooftop bar…it’s just at a 45 degree angle. We didn’t have much of a hurricane season in Florida this year, so it’s weird to think that there WAS a hurricane somewhere and that it did this kind of damage. Considering the construction here is a wee bit different than back home, I guess it’s not surprising. But it’s still eerie.
Funny how fast we fall back into familiar routines. This is my fourth visit to Melaque, and each year we pick up where we left off the year before, without a hiccup. We stay in the same house, I sleep in the same room, we have our favorite things that we do. We spend the mornings sunbathing and reading, afternoons in the shade, then catch sunset either on our beach or at a waterfront bar (complete with white plastic tables and chairs shoved into the sand at the water’s edge) before wandering into town for dinner. A quick stop at the churro stand, or Donut Man, or ice cream store for dessert, then it’s a slow meander around the town square before heading home to bed. Wednesday is market day, where we wander among rows of tables nestled under tarps stretched across the street for blocks and blocks. The vendors sell everything from shoes to kitchen utensils to food to pottery to jewelry to toys to…well, if you need it, it’s probably there. Thursday we walk down the beach to the next town because Thursday is their market day, and it’s a bigger town with more souvenir-kind of shops. There’s water volleyball and cribbage next door with the gringo neighbors, who have become friends over the years. But above all, we relax and enjoy each other’s company, and the comfort of being back in Melaque.
I’ve noticed more foreigners here this year, for some reason. I missed last year, so perhaps the change is gradual. But it’s weird seeing so many gringos sitting in the town square and walking the streets. It feels like our secret hiding place from the world has been found.
There were two festivals this week, both with parades. The Fiesta de Guadelupe parade consisted of pickup trucks with youngsters dressed as the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and other religious figures perched in the beds, portraying famous scenes from Mary’s life. The Fiesta del Mar parade had homemade floats, marching bands, folks in costumes – and soldiers and sailors with guns. Kind of strange, watching them march solemnly past, following the students from the local beauty school who were dressed in wild colors with sparkles dotting their faces. Gotta love small-town parades.
Even being here just a week, I’ve met people. We find ourselves running into new friends every night. They pull up white plastic chairs and join us for dinner or drinks. I’ve seen more people I know here than I do at home – then again, we don’t walk around a central square back home, like we do here.
The week has passed quickly in some ways. It seems like we just got here, and I’m already leaving. I’ll miss the lazy days, the new friends, the casual pace we set. But even though it’s been a fun week, I’m ready to be home. I will gratefully sink into my own bed when this trip is over, toss my traveling shoes in the closet, and settle into a routine of work, and play, and pursuing my passions. And not go anywhere for a very long while.