I’m writing from a hotel room in Ixtapa, Mexico, where I’ve been hanging out for almost a week. We flew down last Saturday, and fly back on Sunday. This has been our first real vacation since our honeymoon in the Bahamas in 2007, except for long weekends, trips back to the Midwest for holidays, and the week I took off to move into our new place, and it’s been long overdue.
Mexico’s a strange place. First, it’s strange that my didn’t-pay-attention-twenty-years-ago Spanish is somewhat functional here, and fragments of it have been coming back to me as we stumble through menus and tours. Yes, most of the people here, especially those in the tourism-related industries (which is pretty much all of Ixtapa and Zihuantanejo) speak English. But they also like it when you try to use Spanish, and they all seem to love trying to teach you a few words here and there en Espanol.
We’re in one of the poorest states in the country, and once you leave our hotel, you can see it. Ixtapa’s not much more than a marina, a row of resorts, and a couple of golf courses, but Zihua is a pretty beat city. Walking the rows of open markets and ramshackle properties, pretty much the only high tech things you will see are Coke or Corona signs. Any feeling you may have about being the Ugly American here is quickly dissipated by the thought that at least the pesos you’re throwing out there are going to someone who needs them.
A dollar is worth 12 or almost 13 pesos. Prices in pesos still use the dollar sign though, which first freaked me out when I picked up a room service menu and saw a can of Coke for $35. I can’t really tell how much we’re spending or how good or bad of a deal it is, because we’re charging a lot of stuff back to the room, and there’s the whole ‘monopoly money’ factor. Anything less than 20 pesos you get back in change will be in coins, and the paper money is very colorful with pictures of Indians and pyramids. Also, the Banco De Mexico on the 100 peso bill is in a font that looks like the Iron Maiden logo, which is very metal.
Most days, we have been doing nothing but sitting on the beach, reading or writing. I have crossed the 50,000 mark on this book, which means it is officially done as far as NaNoWriMo is concerned, but it’s really like 30% done, and that’s just a first draft, so don’t look for a pre-order any time soon. We also took a long tour where we got to see a tilemaking operation in the countryside and wander through a town that had a big open market. It was all centered around this one Catholic church that had a Jesus that looked tragic in a Faces of Death sort of way, bewildered and on his knees dragging a cross, bloodied and beaten. Not exactly the airbrushed and toned Jesus I was used to seeing as a kid in Indiana.
We also went on a long tour yesterday on ATVs, which was a lot of fun. It was mostly through woods and farmland, and most of the farms here grow coconuts, or raise cattle. We also got to cruise at top speed across a wavy oceanfront. ATVs are fun as hell, and it makes me want to buy a couple and tear up my land in Colorado to put in some kind of dirt obstacle course.
And the bad news. First, there was an earthquake here last Sunday. There were actually three, a 3.7, a 4.6, and a 4.2; I think we only felt the middle one. It wasn’t much, a very quick shake that we thought was just someone next door or maybe below us, and we didn’t hear confirmation of it until the next day.
Second, we got sick. We were both careful about what we ate and drank, and they purify everything here at the hotel, but something got us. It was a horrible, flu-like thing where I was feverish and totally weak for about 24 hours, and then it went away. So, Montezuma had his revenge, but a day later, I was for the most part better.
And also, on last Sunday, I was eating a piece of cake, and one of my crowns fell out. It was my lower rear one, and it and the tooth appeared to have no damage, but there was some sensitivity, and immediately went ballistic. “Mexican” and “Dentist” go together like “Turkish” and “Prison”. I got an appointment the next morning with a dentist in Zihua who had an office about as clean and friendly as my last dentist in Astoria (which isn’t saying much, but it wasn’t like the dental scene in that Tom Hanks castaway movie.) He shot me up with novacaine, cleaned everything, glued the crown back on, told me in broken English that I needed to get it redone as soon as possible (going back next week, in the US…) and then charged me roughly $40. No paperwork, no insurance hassles, no waivers to sign, nothing. It was truly a “you are not in the US anymore” moment.
So here I am, the temperature double what it is back home, no rain or gloom. No turkey yesterday, and the only football on the tube was the no-hands variety with the round ball. Lots of pictures to upload when I get back on a real internet connection, so stay tuned.