Tuesday, April 28, 2009

$68.97

7 unread emails.

19 winks.

$68.97

Infinite disappointment.

I paid for a Match.com subscription tonight.  My profile went live when I got back from Mexico.  I had worked on it prior to that a little bit.  The old profile was from my younger, more optimistic days.  The text was upbeat and perky.  I don't really feel upbeat and perky anymore, so I changed it.  Its still positive, just more grown up than "I love my job, I love my kayak and I love beer!"

Seriously.  That was my opening line when I first got into match, five or six years ago.  A lot of boys really responded to that.  One with a marriage proposal in his first email (he was handsomely rewarded by sloppy drunk sex on the first date).  Sad how times change.  My job is dragging me down (and and impending pay cut!), my kayak is out to permanently disfigure me, and beer gives me headaches.  Whoo-hoo!!  Come on boys!  You know you want to date me!

I must admit, I was slightly excited when I paid for my membership so that I could finally see who had emailed me.  Maybe there would be a good one.  Or even two good ones!  A cute, active boy who lives close by, who can make me like boys again...  

Yeah.  That didn't happen.  At all.

Of the seven emails I received, one was from a guy I had emailed with way back in the day and it faded.  He's a professor at the university, and while pudgy and balding, has good taste in music.  Because he is convenient, I may give him a chance.  The others?  Uh-uh.  No way.

Here is complete text from an email from Tim, who was posing in front of a restored circa 1970's Chevy truck:  "Hello girl my name is Tim and I like your profile and would love to learn more about you so is there a time I could IM you on match to chat.Talk to you soon"

Then, there was this one: "new to this sort of thing u look beautiful."  Wow.  Thanks.  I'm flattered.

Then there was the guy who looked like Jack Black's evil twin, whose email included the numbers 666.  

Let's discuss how I could have better spent $68.97... 

1.  A kick-ass wedding shower gift for Elena
2. A new door frame (mine broke today, leaving my screen door hanging off the hinge) 
3. A new life vest
4. New cute sandals for summer
5. 8 bottles of wine from Costco
6. A new wheel cover for the beetle (lost another one!  again!)
7. 4 cases of Yeungling
You get the point.  

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chemistry; not so much

I am a sucker for a boy sporting a head lamp.  Which is how I found myself on a date last night.

Yes, that's right.  A date.  Me, and a boy that was not BB.  Remember?  That's what this blog was supposed to be about?  Dating.  Different people.  People that aren't jerks.

So, don' t get too excited for me.  It kinda sucked.

Match.com has a spin-off website, Chemistry.com (the Cosby Show's Its a Different World, as it were). As all of you know who have delved into the creepy world of internet dating, the sites charge you a gazillion dollars to be able to actually talk to people.  But for some reason, I was able to communicate through Chemistry without paying anything.  I don't know why - am I grandfathered in?  I joined up when they first started the site when I was a paying Match.com member.  Is it free for everybody?  Even if it is, it might not be worth it.

Chemistry is Match's attempt at being eHarmony.  But, it falls short of even the mess that is eHarmony.  Its cumbersome, and weird.  And, you see the same faces that are on Match, but in a different way.  It categories your personality (I think I am a "director/explorer"), but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the personalities it matches you up with.  And, as always, the boys it suggests for me are all really far away.  And too old.  Or too young.  Or too fat.  Or too stupid.  But mostly, just too far away.

So, about a month ago, I was bored and playing with it.  And I see a balding boy, with a nice smile and decent eyes.  So I click.  

Yes, that's what its come to.  If I don't like the picture, its over.  Yes, its shallow.  Its horrible.  Its reality.  

There a couple bad pictures, but then one of him grilling on a tiny tabletop grill.  Wearing a headlamp.  I loved it.  So  I "opened communication" with him.  Anyone who wears a headlamp to grill has to be my kind of person.  Right?

We went through a series of true false, matching and short answer questions.  Then emailed.  He seemed alright.  I googled him and found his website.  He's in school for his Master's part time.  He does computer/graphic design stuff.  He has a kayak.  Yadda yadda.  We are both busy, so it takes several weeks for the first big date to happen.  Plus, he lives at least 90 minutes from me, so just meeting for coffee was totally out of the question.

In an unusual move for me, I didn't do a big long phone conversation with him prior to meeting.  Usually, I want to make sure that someone can keep up conversation on the phone before I agree to drive at least 30 minutes to meet them.  Time is money baby; and if you are boring, I don't want to waste the time.  

God, I am a bitch sometimes.

I wanted to try it a different way this time.  Just meet and figure it out.  Plus, I really felt like I needed to start dating again and go through the whole awkward phase.  Its been a long time since a boy other than BB has bought me dinner.  Its been a long time since I've had to make conversation with someone who didn't know me at all.  Its been a long time since I've had to rein Susan back a bit to avoid being scary.

I'm a bit too much for some people.  I know you have a hard time believing that.

We met at a waterfront restaurant that was about an hour drive for both of us.  In yet another unusual move, I was early.  Really early.  And guess what?  He was late.  At 7:05 he called to tell me he was stuck in traffic.  He arrived around 7:20.  Twenty minutes late.  I was 20 minutes early, so I was sitting around for 40 minutes waiting for his ass to get there.  I was not real happy, but I wasn't real upset about it.  I picked the town and the restaurant - I had been there before and he hadn't.  Google maps doesn't always do a great job of getting you there on time.  So, I cut him some slack. 

The hostess though?  Oh my god.  She tore him up!  In what might have been the funniest/most awkward first meeting, the hostess asked if we were finally ready to be seated.  I said, "yup.  He finally decided to show up" in a friendly teasing way.  Hostess said to him "If you are going to be late, you should at least show up in an ironed shirt.  I mean, put some effort into it."

I wanted to fall down on the floor and roll around laughing, but I didn't.  Because of how casual and un-awkward I am in first date situations, I'm sure she had no idea that it was a blind date, first meeting kind of thing.  And his shirt was wrinkled.  And you know, good for hostess to tell him how it is. Show up on time dude.  And if you can't, show up looking good.  I joined in the fun for a couple minutes, but he was obviously unaccustomed to being verbally berated by wait staff and blind dates.  

We had a table on the water and the temperature had finally cooled off enough that sweat wasn't rolling down my back.  Note to self: when its 95 degrees, perhaps waterfront, outdoor dining isn't such a good option for first impressions.  We made half-hearted small talk while glancing over the beer list.  I got a Stella; he got a Dogfish Head.  At least the guy has good taste in beer.

I felt much better about the situation when the beer finally came.  We chatted about some stuff, but it definitely wasn't flowing.  I did most of the talking.  And it was small talk, chit-chat. Which I guess is normal, but its been so long since I've done the small talk, chit-chat date.  And we had no phone call history to rely on.  I really didn't know jack about this guy, and it made it much more difficult to steer conversation to things he could easily talk about.

We ate some food.  I had salad.  He had seafood.  I busted out a coupon I had printed out on the web and encouraged him to order something fancy.  Don't tell me its bad form to use a coupon on a date.  It was ten dollars off!!  That's a lot in this economy! 

He paid.  Although, I did contribute the coupon.  When we finally got out of there, he wanted to know if I wanted to do it again.  Of course, I lied and said, "yeah.  That would be fun."  Why do I do that?!  No, it probably wouldn't be fun, but I said it anyway.  He seemed so earnest.  And I mean, if I was really looking for something to do, or needed a pal in the Big City, I could call him up and we could do something.  I am a jerk.

On my drive home, I determined that the was what my boss refers to as "milk-toast."  Nice enough, but definitely bland.  I drove the conversation all night.  When I stopped coming up with new topics to discuss, he was silent.  Ugh.  I tried a couple games.  "Let's come up with the perfect dipping sauce for onion rings."  I suggested something with ginger.  He went with marinara.  Marinara?  You might as well douse it with ketchup.  I related my scuba diving, near drowning story and my kayaking near drowning story, then asked him for his most scary moment.  He said he would have to get back to me on it.  Then finally related a story about whitewater canoeing.  

When he was 13.  With his parents.

Mmm... Milky-toasty.

All in all, not a total disaster.  But I think I would have preferred to stay home and drink a beer on the back porch with people I actually like talking to.




Monday, April 20, 2009

Nature beats Nurture

In June, 1980, my Kindergarten teacher had the following observations about me, among others:

"Clean Up:  Needs to be reminded to finish

Verbalizes:  Usually lets the children know exactly how she feels."

I laughed so hard I cried.  I'm exactly the same as I was when I was 5 years old: sloppy, loud and opinionated.


95th Percentile, Duh!

Once upon a time, before I turned 30, Kiwi took an informal survey and posed this question to me:

"What percentage of people are you smarter than?  75%? 80%? 90%?"

I answered without hesitation:

"95%!  That's easy!"

She then told me that the average answer amongst her very smart friends and family was something in the 80% range.  Apparently, you have to be both smart and egotistical to place yourself in the 90's when you are old enough to know better.  I'm no rocket scientist (I do have rocket scientist friends, does that count?) though I do have pretty good logical thinking skills.  But, I'm never going to cure cancer, or stop the glaciers from melting or even come up with a better formula for Pepsi - so clearly, I'm really not smarter than 95% of the population.  

90% maybe....

But in 7th grade, boy, I lead the pack!!  

Its raining and absolutely disgusting outside today, so I thought I would do some filing in the office and get things a bit picked up.  I've had a bag of random stuff in here since Christmas that I needed to go through.

Christmas 2007.

(Have I mentioned that its been a long time since I've done any filing in the office?!)

So, the bag had some random crap in it from middle school because dad was cleaning out the filing cabinet in his house.  And lo and behold - I found my standardized test scores from 1988. I was one smart 7th grader.  And this is where I got that 95% bullshit.  In 7th grade, I was well above average in everything, although a little note at the bottom said I may need some review of solving problems involving integers.  Uh-huh... And remind me what that is exactly?

I was above the 95 percentile for everything except math computation, where I was in the 90th percentile.  Guess long division and I really didn't get along.  But I kicked ass in reading (7th grade was when I read the unabridged version of War and Peace; a delightful 1300 page number.  Apparently, I actually wanted to get my ass kicked).  

So, I opened another file and it had the stuff from elementary school!  Man.  I was little nerd. Apparently, we took those tests every year: and every year, I kicked at least 95% of the asses nationwide.  But I was particularly excellent at language and reading.  This may be why I have chosen to blog in my spare time, rather than prove geometry equations.

I'm torn between throwing it away, and letting it take up valuable space in my office.  I think I'm going to let it take up some valuable space for now.  Not necessarily because of the test scores, which are interesting, but because of the remarks written by my teachers about young Susan, like this one:

"Susan has matured nicely socially..."  - Ms. Williams, February 1983.

Ha! Ha!  If only she could see me now; she'd be so disappointed.

So, what percentage of the population are you smarter than?


Friday, April 17, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

This was my horoscope today:

"You are improving.  You're moving into a different level of vitality and will attract new interest in yourself and your work because of this."

I don't put any stock into astrology, but this particular horoscope was a nice reaffirmation of the way I've been feeling since coming back from vacation.  Plus, looking up my horoscope in the paper was a nice way to kill three minutes as I waited for our new printer to slowly digest the document I had sent it.

I am finally starting to feel like myself again - the person that I was before this blog started.  Its been a long time since I've felt like myself; or at least the version of myself I had created in my head.  That version of myself is positive, even when the chips are down.  She is enthusiastic about doing stuff, even stuff that's kinda silly or stupid. She enjoys her life.  She takes advantage of opportunities.  I had lost that girl for a long time, but I think she is coming back.

A combination of lots of exercise, longer days, sunshine and the vacation are certainly helping me find Susan again.  And while I still miss BB, I have not (not once) given in to the temptation to call or email him.  I know that cutting him off completely was the right thing to do.  Its allowing Old Susan to come back.

Old Susan was there today at lunch when I decided to take advantage of the 70 degree, cloudless day and go "running."  I don't run really.  Its like a slow jog, interspersed with cursing, wheezing and walking.  I strapped on my baby ipod that had been loaded up with my favorite chill music (for Mexico) and started running.  With an audible groan, no less.  I expected to go for a song, maybe two, before walking.  But, nope!  It actually felt good to run.  I wasn't out of breath.  

I was enjoying myself.

I ran about 2 miles without stopping; I can't tell you the last time I did that.  I walked for about five minutes to catch my breath and bring my heart rate back down to under 180, and ran for almost another mile.  It felt so good to stretch out my body.  To listen to good music.  To see the trees and tulips blooming.  To see other people out enjoying the beautiful weather.  To not be in the office...  It still feels good, although walking up and down the steps is getting progressively more difficult as the night wears on...  

Let's hope I can keep this up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Frumpy and Lumpy explore Merida

Four hours on the bus went by way faster than I thought it would.  It helped that throughout the entire trip, when the engines started up, I conked out.  Seriously.  The cool bus, the seat that actually reclined, the footrest, the motor noise...  I had a really really hard time staying awake to watch all those great movies dubbed in Spanish we kept being treated to; in this case, Christmas with the Kranks and A King's Ransom.  What? You've never heard of "A King's Ransom"?  Yeah, well, there's a reason for that.  

The movies though, really helped illustrate the drastic differences between life in the States, and life in Mexico.  The Christmas movie featured a neighborhood with matching 4-bedroom, brick colonial homes, neatly landscaped, with a nice car in each driveway.  The gluttony and material wealth of Americans was in such contrast to life in the the small towns we were driving by where all the homes were tiny, concrete block structures.  Not a two car garage or Starbucks in sight.

We landed in Merida around dinner time and took a taxi (40 pesos) to the hotel we had lined up (350 pesos).  Cash only, we were told!  Moon told us that the owner was an "absolute delight!"  She didn't speak much English and she pretty much avoided us, but I'm sure she was delightful when the travel guide people were sniffing around.  

My heart sank for a second when we pulled up to the hotel.  It was really cute from the outside, but surrounded with what appeared to be vacant buildings or businesses or something, so the street was dark and definitely not alive and thriving.  During our stay there, I got more comfortable on the street at night, but was still always extra alert just because it was a bit sketchy.  The hotel was really cute from the inside too - landscaped courtyard, rocking chairs, little pool...  The room, eh, it was ok.  The twin beds in the room felt like they were made out of plywood with a thin layer of worn out padding on top.  We had air-conditioning though.  A pool, a.c., a bed that wasn't a bunk and my own shower for about $25 bucks a night (12.50 actually when you split it)?  Not too freaking bad. 

hotel mucuy

It took me a little while to get used to the street architecture in Mexico - lots of beautiful places, hidden behind an ugly, flat concrete wall with no windows.  I'm sure there is some reason that buildings were designed that way and someday, maybe I'll remember that I'm curious about it and look it up.  But until then, I'll just say that it was kinda weird.  But so interesting to walk through a boring concrete wall into open, landscaped courtyard. The first night, we just kinda walked around the neighborhood and found food and drink.  Food not so good; drink not so great either.  But, we did get to sit on a little balcony and just people watch.  Its so nice to just be able to sit and watch.  I never can sit still that long here without feeling guilty about it.

We were close to the central plaza in Merida: Independence Plaza.  We took a free tour of the square on our first morning.  I'm really not usually the person who wants to get up early and learn about history, but it was free, and how else was I supposed to expose myself to new cultures?  Read a history book?  Ha!  Like that's going to happen...

The plaza was built by the Spaniards, when they came in and conquered the natives.  What I thought was the most tragic (resourceful?) was that all the gorgeous Spanish colonial buildings around the plaza were actually constructed from stones taken from the Mayan temples that were previously there.  At least, that's what the tour guide said anyway.  In one of the better examples of the brutality of men, the entrance of the palace that housed the main family that came in and killed all the natives is adorned with statues of the Spanish conquerors.  So, you ask?  The Spanish statues were each standing on a beheaded head of a native.

Gross.  What is it with ancient cultures and beheadings? 

After our romp around historic downtown Merida, we set off to find the post office and the market.  It was brutally hot.  Did I mention it was in the low 100's when we were down there? And the market was a zillion miles away.  Yes.  A zillion.  And that's why it was so very annoying when the Moon Guide struck again!  The very pretty building that used to house the post office, and that was shown on the Moon map, had been sold off to the cable company.  Or maybe the bank.  I forget - their logos were kinda similar.  The new post office, we were told, was pretty far away.  Needless to say, we didn't make it there.  

Moon did correctly point us to the market though.  What a place.  I can't even really describe it, except that I felt like a PBS camera should be following me and that I should occasionally pick up something inedible and try it.  Although we were still in a major city, we were well out of the cultural and tourism center and into real life Merida.  We were the only gringos anywhere.  There were lots of beggars.  And not your ordinary run of the mill kind; people with serious, nightmare inducing handicaps and mental disabilities.  Say what you will about the American health care system: we do a pretty good job of keeping the truly disabled off the street and cared for.  We wandered around for quite a while and bought some fruit that we had never had before, and even though you aren't supposed to buy pre-peeled fruit, we bought a big bag of mango.  Yum.  Yum.  Yummy!  

Walking around Merida was kinda tricky.  It was loud.  Loud.  Loud.  Loud.  I'm still puzzled as to why so many pharmacies needed to have large speakers pointed towards the street, pulsating obnoxiously.  Cars beeped; diesel engines roared.  Music blared.  All.  The.  Time.  The sidewalks were also ridiculously skinny.  Room enough for one person to walk comfortably; room enough for a person to pass another person without too much stress, but not wide enough to accommodate late-afternoon shopping and people leaving work.  We mostly had to walk in the street, putting us closer to the diesel fumes.  Ugh.

We had two more things we wanted to accomplish that first day: the art museum and the anthropology museum.  By the time we had pushed our way through the crowded sidewalks and washed the mango off our sticky fingers, the art museum was closed.  But we still had time to get to the anthropology museum, according to Moon.

Wrong again Moon!!  Moon told us that the anthropology museum was open until 8pm.  Where the hell did they get that idea?!  I think we got there around 6; and we wandered around and around and around looking for the building.  We were in an area with a wide boulevard and many large old colonial estates (more American style excess).  Back and forth we went; looking for the big sign that said Museum.  Silly us.  We had passed it and ignored it because it was closed.  We were looking for the open museum!!  Well, for the record Moon, the museum really closes at 5pm.  Oh, Moon also told us about all the free cultural activities that happen in Merida each night - free music here, folk dancing here....  Well, we tried to find these things too, but to no avail.

So we were thwarted several on the first day.  We recovered, but it sure would have been nice if everything had fallen into place a bit better.  We must have walked at least 5 miles that day, maybe more, in 100 degree heat.  And I don't really remember eating anything of consequence. 

Its so funny though - how much stuff I think is necessary to cram into one day of vacation.  If you suggested to me that I get up early to do a walking history tour, walk to a farmers market, go to TWO museums, then watch folk dancing my answer would involve asking you if you were on drugs, a snort, an F-word and a resounding no.  But on vacation, sure!!  It sounds perfectly reasonable!!  Required, even.

Up next: we wake up at 5:30 am to take the 6:30 bus to Chitzen-Itza.  

Who planned this vacation!?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Frumpy and Lumpy explore Isla Mujeres

I don't own a watch, and my cell phone wasn't readily accessible, so I had absolutely no clue what time it was when I woke up in my hostel hole.  Plus, there weren't any real windows in the room, but it looked like daylight outside.  Nobody else in the room was awake yet, but I wasn't really surprised by that.  I tried to silently climb out of bed, which was definitely a trick - tiny little holes had been built into the wall for a ladder, but I think you needed specialized climbing equipment to be able to actually use them.

There was absolutely nobody about the hostel.  I made a beeline to the computer room, but it was locked and the sign said it opened at 8 am.  Ok, so its not quite 8 am.  There was a little security guard hanging about - I asked him what time it was.  He replied in spanish and it didn't make sense, but it was early and my spanish counting skills still aren't great.  So, he showed me his watch.

It was 5:30 am.

I haven't voluntarily gotten out of bed at 5:30 since, well, ever!  Jeezus.  Three hours until the computer room opened up!  Hours and hours and hours until my roommates woke up.  Holy hell.  And I was absolutely, 100% awake.  There was no going back to bed.  Why can't that happen here at home?!

So, I grabbed my camera from the room (quietly, I hoped) and took off for a morning stroll. The town made so much more sense in the daylight!  The hostel is actually located right on a beach - not the best beach in town, but a beach nonetheless.  I walked along their ocean walkway, sat for a little while, explored the rocks looking for critters, took some pictures...  It was still really early when a man, likely in his mid-twenties or so, approached.  He was wearing a backpacking backpack and looked a bit rough - like maybe he had spent the night sleeping on the beach.  He tried to make conversation with me, which was a disaster.  I got my spanish phrasebook out, but that didn't really help.  I struggled for a little bit, he laughed at me.  Eventually, he asked me, and I swear to god I am not making this up "You want romance?"

Its 6:30 in the morning.  How do I respond to that?!  Now I felt just a little unsafe.  There really weren't many people around, I didn't have a phone, KF was still asleep...  I laughed and told him no.  I think he asked why.  I know I told him that "boys are stupid."  I think he agreed.  But he wouldn't go away.  He definitely overstayed his welcome.  Eventually, he said, in English "you want to be alone?"  And I said "Si!  Gracias!"  And he left.

In retrospect, he was kinda cute.  And foreign.  He might have been Italian.  He didn't smell bad.  Perhaps I should have taken him right then and there, on the rocky beach.

Isla Mujeres sunrise

He left, and I decided it would be safest if I would head back to the hostel and chill until everyone else was up.  I sat in a hammock for a little while and read.  It was nice, but I was ready to DO something!!  At 8, "continental breakfast" was served.  Not bad, right?  $8.50/night for a bed AND breakfast?  Yeah, well, free breakfast consisted of instant coffee or tea and two (two only!) pieces of white bread.  Oh yes, you could put jelly on it for extra nutrition.

Seriously, it was like county jail!  People standing in line to receive their ration of white bread and water.  I ate it though, because I was starving, but the thing is, it just left me hungrier.  I prayed that the coffee was made with filtered water, but didn't ask.  I really didn't care.  I needed coffee.  I had already been awake for three hours!!

Eventually, we set off for the beach.  It was a lovely day, and Moon told us that the best beach in town was just 3 blocks from the hostel.  I got some bottled water, slathered up with lotion and we just sat, basking in the warm, warm sun for several hours.  But by noon, it was HOT.  And we were HUNGRY.  And the fun of the beach had about worn off, so we went in search of food and found a great little loncheria.  

Just like every other outdoor restaurant we came upon in Mexico, the tables and chairs were Coca-Cola issued red plastic patio furniture.  I didn't think anything of it at the time, but as the trip progressed, not once did I see white patio furniture.  All red.  All Coca-cola.  

I bucked the system and ordered a beer.  AH!  Beer with lunch!  Yay vacation.  Ate tostadas, but had to pick the lettuce off because we had been warned that eating lettuce was as bad for gringos as drinking the water.  I was so sad - my little intestines wanted the roughage.  But the food was WAY better than the food we had had the night before on gringo boulevard and still was some of the best food we had on the entire trip.

Unfortunately, after two beers, I had to pee.  Using one of the three spanish phrases I know, I asked where the bathrooms were and was directed to the market next store.  I wandered around, saw guys making tortillas on a machine, lots and lots of lovely mangoes and bananas, and the locked bathroom that said 5 pesos.

Seriously?  A pay to pee bathroom?  I hadn't expected that and I had no money on me, so I had to walk back to the table, get pesos and come back.  I was issued some toilet paper from a guy who I wouldn't have chosen to handle my toilet paper right before I used it, and went into a grubby little room.  Once again, there was no toilet seat.  There was no toilet seat at the ferry terminal, or the bus terminal.  And I think I only encountered public toilet seats once or twice over the next 10 days.  Why no toilet seats?  Can anyone tell me?  I felt kinda ripped off - I mean, 5 pesos should have covered the cost of a toilet seat and some hand soap.

After that, we just wandered around for a while.  I needed to find sunscreen (damn you, TSA!), KF needed a phone card.  Isla Mujeres is a really cute place and I really felt comfortable there.  Yes, there was touristy crap, but there was still real life going on.  Fisherman bringing in and selling their catches, kids going to school, entire families scooting around on single moped...  

Isla Mujeres street

The island is about 5 miles long, and skinny.  Moon told us that the best way to see it was to rent bikes, or a golf cart.  It was waaaay too hot to rent bikes, so we rented a golf cart for two hours and buzzed around the island.  We went to the sea turtle sanctuary, and through a couple other little towns.  Yeah, it was more expensive than maybe it should have been, but we paid cash, so it was in the budget.

We had to move rooms when we got back to the hostel.  Don't ask me why, and the fairly unhelpful person behind the desk couldn't really tell us, so goodbye hole in the wall, hello bunk bed in the room next to the ping pong table.  I did not like our new room at all.  It was really hot, there was a skinny dark bald guy asleep in  one of the beds (he looked menacing, even asleep), and the only bunks available were to top ones.  And the bunk beds looked really, really rickety.  Sinking feeling again, but what are you going to do?  

Suck it up and move on.

We decided to go on a eco-tour the next day - snorkeling and then hiking at Isla Contoy, a tiny protected island park 13 miles or so from Isla Mujeres. Breakfast and lunch provided; we would be taken care of all day, shown the sights.  We were really quite happy about that.  

So, even though the room was loud and hot, we managed to get a good night's sleep and get up ready to go the next morning.  Too bad for us that there was a small craft advisory and Captain Tony cancelled our trip.  

We were really sad.  I really wanted to go see the Mexican birdlife.  And sealife.  And be taken care of.  We weren't really quite sure what to do with ourselves all day.  We had seen just about everything on the island worth seeing and it was SO windy that even laying on the beach for another day wasn't really the most appealing thought.  So, we sat on the beach for a little while and decided to get ourselves off the island and to our next destination.  We packed up, said goodbye to our roommates (the dark scary guy was actually very nice once he woke up), had another lovely lunch at the loncheria (I ate the lettuce that time.  Screw it).  We caught the 1:00 ferry back to Cancun, easily negotiated public transit back to the bus station and bought our tickets to Merida.

Beach at Isla Mujeres

I think Isla Mujeres was my favorite part of the trip.  If we had unlimited time, I would have liked to stay another couple days and see Isla Contoy and bike to the ruins at the very southern end, but we had so many places on the list to get to in such a short period of time that sticking around and wasting time hoping for the weather to clear seemed silly.  And after my initial reaction to Poc-Na, I was almost sad to leave it.  The people were so friendly, and had been to so many interesting places.  And, believe it or not, I was not the oldest person there, by far!  There were several people in my age range hanging around, and several retirees.  Retirees!!  I hope that when I retire, I'm still cool enough to chill at a beach front hostel.

Next up; what we did in Merida, where it was SO BLOODY HOT I could hardly stand it....


Friday, April 10, 2009

Frumpy and Lumpy go to Mexico

Because I didn't take a journal on this trip, because I really want to remember this trip, and because I'm sure you are dying to know every detail, here it is....

I was late getting to my mom's house the morning I left for the big Mexico adventure, as I always am when being on time is important. I drove to mom's house, picked her up, then drove the rest of the way to the airport. She, as she always does, takes care of the car while I'm away and picks me up when I come back in town.  Every time we do this, it reminds me that I'm 33 and my mom is still my most reliable ride to the airport.  And my emergency contact.  And the person most worried that I would be kidnapped (clearly, no reason to worry about that one).

KF and I were dressed in sensible shoes and traveling clothes that made us among the less attractive females in our age category hanging around the airport.  I mean, it was spring break time for a lot of people and the number of early twenty-something Paris Hilton wannabes in the airport made me want to hurl, but it definitely reminded me that I'm no Paris Hilton.  We didn't fake and bake before the trip, we weren't wearing short shorts or cute shoes.  Or makeup...  KF started saying that she felt frumpy.  I joined in, and dubbed myself lumpy.  It made us giggle.  The adventures of Frumpy and Lumpy.  I think we could make a new Disney Channel show...

Other than my large bottle of sunscreen being confiscated from my carry-on (d'oh!), the flight down was mostly uneventful.  Some minor turbulence.  No one else in the row, so KF and I got to sprawl out (delightful).  We had to circle Miami for an hour or so because of rain.  I'm hoping that when the pilot said "rain" he meant "crazy wicked thunderstorms" because if we were delayed an hour for a sprinkle, I'm going to have second thoughts about riding American Airlines again.

We actually arrived in Cancun 5 minutes before we left Miami.  Let's do the time warp again!  Something about daylight savings time.  Mexico didn't play with the U.S. when we decided to buck the system and celebrate daylight savings a month earlier than the rest of the world.  It was a good thing too, because it took forever to reach our final destination that day, Isla Mujeres, and we needed the extra hour.

I picked Isla Mujeres (Island of the Women) as a start point for several reasons:  the guides seemed to agree that it was tourist friendly, but not overly touristy; it was small enough to explore completely without being distracted by other stuff; and I figured that our chances of being smuggled off the island by ransom seeking drug lords was pretty small.  But my god, it was a pain in the ass to get to.

We were both terribly confused at the airport.  There seemed to be buses going everywhere, but we couldn't find a bus that went to the Cancun bus station downtown.  Shouldn't that be the easiest bust to find?  We went back and forth from the terminal to the buses, to the terminal, to the buses talking to this person, not quite understanding, talking to another person, definitely not understanding until we finally figured out that we needed to be at Terminal 2.  Uh, yeah.  And we would get there how, exactly?

Ah, weird little van shuttle bus driven by a Mexican with a death wish.  For me.

At Terminal Dos, we were able to purchase tickets to get to the downtown Cancun bus station.  I was pretty proud of us.  In Mexico for a couple hours and we had already mastered public transit.  So we thought.  

My Moon guidebook told us to catch the R-1 bus from the Cancun bus terminal to the Port; but it referred to the Port by the wrong name.  No one we asked had any idea what we were talking about when we asked about the Port we thought we needed to go to.  We would say the name (I forget what it was) and then they would say "Port Juarez".  And we would say, "No, Port whatchamacallit".  And they would shrug their shoulders and move on.  By this time it was getting dark and I was getting a little panicky.  I'm in the middle of downtown Cancun with everything I've brought with me on my back, I have no idea how to get to our destination, I'm hungry and thirsty, and neither of us could make a decision about what to do.  

Finally, we decided that Port Juarez must be where we needed to be and someone directed us down the block and across the street to catch the R-1 or R-13.   There were a zillion buses and combis, stopping, slowing down, staring at us, moving on...  I felt fairly exposed and definitely foreign, but felt just a tiny bit safer than I would have normally though - we were standing in front of one of the biggest McDonald's I have ever seen.  I felt like I could hide there if I really needed to.  Or at least drown my sorrows and fears in a McFlurry.

After probably a half hour or so of standing on the street, our bus finally came.  It got us to the Port with no incident (we did really need to be at Port Juarez.  Moon led us astray, and not for the last time).  You'll be happy to know that there was another McDonald's at the ferry port, but I resisted the McFlurry urge.  There was also a bathroom (thank god).  We got on the ferry to Isla Mujeres as dark settled in and sat on top letting the wind blow our hair ratty.  I was exhausted, but we still had to figure out where the hostel was.

And that took forever.  

It was dark.  The streets weren't terribly well marked, and the hostel was actually down a dead-end/beach access.  We were right next to it several times, but it didn't look like anything - just a wall.  I don't know what I was looking for exactly, but this wasn't it.  It probably took us about 45 minutes of walking around to figure it out.  

pocna

You know that sinking feeling you get when you realize that you might have signed yourself up for something you convinced yourself you could handle, but really can't?  An actual pit in your stomach, with a bit of nausea?   I had it.  The sinking feeling, just like the sinking feeling I got my first year at band camp, or at grad school when I was told I'd be teaching the first semester (they lied!).  

We checked in at the front window and were given keys, and bedding.  Two white sheets and a pillowcase; for which we had to pay a fairly substantial deposit.  If they had taken my wallet and belt away it would have felt just like being at the county jail.  We were able to pay our $8.50 a night plus bedding deposit on VISA; despite many attempts for the rest of the trip, I was only able to use plastic two other times: for one dinner and the rental car.

To get to the room, we had to navigate through the common area/bar where the young hippie types were playing cards and drinking cheap beer, then through another hang-out area, then to a small corridor.  We opened the door to our room and my stomach sank even further.  The room was a small walkway, with beds built into the stucco walls, kinda like a sleeping car on the train.  It was an 8-person room.  No one was in there when we walked in, but there were 4 or 5 backpacks lying about, and stuff on the other beds.  The room had two tiny little sinks, and a tiny shower as well.

I couldn't believe that this was how I was going to start my vacation.  Sleeping in a stucco hole, with no air circulation.  

I checked the mattress and ceiling for bed bugs.  A blog post somewhere had warned of bed bugs at Poc-Na, but there was no evidence of anything suspect.  I "made" the bed to the best of my ability, as did KF, and then we got the hell out of there to look for food.  I thought it would be bearable if I had a couple beers in me.

Isla Mujeres has a touristy section and one street that is pedestrian only, where the gringos go. We went there because we had no idea where else to go but we discovered other, better places later.  The touristy street was mostly restaurants, with several gift and convenience store type places sprinkled in.  It was our first experience in Mexico solicitation; something we would become very good at fending off through the trip, but we didn't know what to make of it at the time.  "Chicas, you want good food?  Come!"  "Pizza, senoritas?"  "Margarita, senoritas?"  It just didn't stop as we walked down the street.  It was really unnerving.  Also a bit unnerving were the number of pizza and Italian joints.  Hello?  If I wanted Italian food, I would have gone to Italy, thank you very much!  But, I didn't know how to say that in Spanish, so I settled for "no, gracias."

We eventually found a place; I had some veggie fajitas, KF had something that had meat in it. We drank several beers, of the Leon persuasion.  Leon beer?  Whatever, it was fine.  It was cold.  It had alcohol in it.  Good enough for me.

We headed back to the hostel and slunk into the room.  We were still the only people around the room, but things had heated up quite nicely in the bar/common area.  Some sort of band was playing.  LOUD.  Until really late (like 1, 2 am?)  But, sleeping with a fat guy with sleep apnea for almost a year taught me at least one thing: always bring earplugs.  Which I did.  Some for me; some for KF.  And so, with the earplugs and the beer, I fell asleep on my really uncomfortable, thin mattress in my little second story hole.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Moon over Texarkana

Its hard to believe that yesterday, I woke up in Mexico and ate breakfast and drank coffee by the pool, admiring the architecture and colors of our hotel in Playa del Carmen; Casa De Las Flores.  

las flores pool
A grueling 18 hours later, I was home.  In my cold house that smelled faintly of cat poo (thanks Arlo).

The flight was terrible.  I flew from Cancun to Dallas, which, as I discovered too late, is actually the wrong direction.  I flew west to go east.  Brilliant.  The plane was delayed, putting me in a total panic, since we had to go through customs in Dallas before catching the connection.  I made it, but I almost knocked down several elderly couples on the gangway in order to make it happen.

I had a window seat, wedged in next to two rather space consuming businessmen (well, one businessman, one businessboy).  But the seat was over the wing, so it was tough to see much without craning my neck backward.  What was easy to see though, was the moon-rise, somewhere over Arkansas.  I'd watched the moon wax from crescent to almost full over the length of my trip and it seemed right somehow, that I was coming home when the moon was full.  Perhaps I picked up a bit too much ancient Mayan astrology while in Mexico.

The full moon was beautiful from where I was sitting, 36,000 feet above everybody else.  And so was the ground below.  As we flew over small towns, large towns, farms and rivers, the moonlight would shimmer off anything remotely shiny for a second or two, like a beam from a searchlight.  I watched the moon reflect and shimmer for way longer than I would have thought possible without mind altering drugs and wondered why I had never noticed it before.  Maybe I hadn't been in a plane on a full moon night.  Maybe I never bothered to look.  Or maybe I didn't care to be bothered to look.  But after 10 days of vacationing from my life, I was relaxed and happy enough to truly appreciate the beauty in that simple thing.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Vacation Downslide

My tropical vacation is starting to wear on me.

I know. I can hear you groaning from here. "That girl whines about everything, and this proves it!"

Things started falling apart a little bit once we reached Tulum. My Moon Guidebook has proven to be lacking important info, inaccurate and plain damn wrong a bunch of times. We arrived here Friday night and it took us two days to find the beach. The town is actually 2 miles from the coastline and public access is poor. But, we weren´t here for the beach. We were here for all the other great things you could do around here. Unfortunately, all of them were out of our budget. A day eco-tour at the local Reserve was 100 dollars (US) per person. To go on some silly boat ride with old people. No thanks. Can´t rent a kayak anywhere to save my life. Its been really windy and the water is really rough which means that snorkeling has been out of the question.

The hotel we wound up in, oh god. Its awful. The family lives there and congregates in the little common area right outside my door. They are there banging and sliding things before dawn and well into the evening. They are renovating a room right now - I had to slide past an air conditioner laying around in 14 parts to get in the room today. Its not relaxing, and its a bit intimidating when we´ve had to walk past 5 or 6 guys drinking beer at 11 pm. You could feel them staring at us. We used a special extra security door jamb that night just in case...

Things turned around a little bit when I said "Fuck this. We need to rent a car." Despite my better judgement and after a conversation with the renter guy who didn´t speak english, I allowed a 7000 peso security deposit on my credit card (about $500 US) and drove away in our little car.

The car has a personality disorder. On the front, its a Hyundai. On the back bumper, its a Chevy and a Hyundai. Poor little thing. Its got Air Conditioning (big plus) but no radio. Who makes a car without a radio? Anyway, with the car we were able to get to the beach, ruins, cenotes and protected snorkeling places. But I´m really tired of this crappy little town and the crappy motel we are in and can´t wait to get to our next destination.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Hell from Mexico"

"Hell from Mexico" was the greeting on the front of a postcard that I picked up yesterday. I decided not to buy it. But it was pretty funny. Also pretty funny, the bad movies (and I mean Carrot Top Movie bad) we have been treated to on our various bus trips. All dubbed in Spanish, of course, making it all the more enjoyable. John Travolta as a woman in the recent re-make of Hairspray, dubbed in Spanish? Oh yeah.

Its hard to believe that I only left 5 days ago. It seems like forever. We are so far away from normal life. So cut off from everything that is happening back home (I'm not about to waste my cyber cafe time on catching up on local events. Or work.) I am completely out of my element, but handling it fine. Katie, my travel companion, speaks Spanish fairly well and is getting us around. Without her, I'd be relegated to sign language and my phrase book. And feeling stupid. A lot.

We have been in Mexico for 5 nights, have been on the Caribbean coast and the Gulf of Mexico coast. Traveled by bus. Ate lots of good food. Saw ruins. Learned Mexican and Mayan history. Bought a couple trinkets. Guess how much money I have spent?

Three hundred US dollars. 300. Tres Cein. We are living on the cheap. Hostels and really cheap (but clean) hotels. Next we are headed to Tulum, where things will likely start to get a bit more expensive. We might slum it at a hostel for a night or two, then find somewhere nice to stay for the rest of the time. Four uninterrupted days of exploring and sunning myself.

I needed this. A lot. Wish me luck for our journeys for the next few days. I'll have lots of stories to tell when I get back and can type on a non-spanish keyboard.