Yesterday was a “whim day.” No plans, no agenda, I just started walking to see what I could see and, maybe, shoot a few pics along the way. One of the many perks to living on an island is that one can only go so far and never get lost. And, on a tourist island, one can also be assured of plenty of diversity to go with the day. So off I went with a bottle of water, wearing a pair of comfortable shoes, and clutching my little digital camera. I had no expectations and for that I’m glad since it made me more open to what came next – the contrasting elements of life here on Cozumel.
Now I’m not talking about the chasm between the haves and have nots, although that would make a good piece. It is not unusual to see a tin roofed shack sitting directly across the street from a mansion on just about any of the small streets, and that will make for photos on another day. No, in this case I mean the layers between the serene and the slightly frantic. As I walked south alongside the ocean I noticed that energy levels varied, greatly. Tourists vacating the floating cities that we call cruise ships mingled with locals who just wanted to sit in the shade for a while. In other words, those on a mission to see all they could in eight hours flowed in between those who have already seen it all. But, I’m waxing poetic, or digressing.
I started out photographing flowers, or, as I like to think of them, the colors of the island. They are everywhere. With deep blue skies and multicolored walls as background how can a pseudo photographer go wrong? I’m not a professional, not even close, so I can be free to allow the natural lighting to be sufficient, but I still take my time. Sometimes I might loiter outside a home long enough for the locals to notice, but they just tend to smile and shake their heads. Like I mentioned, they’ve seen it all.
Walking alongside the ocean during the late hours of the morning makes me glad I remembered the bottled water. It gets hot here folks, and it’s only March. Having lived in Mexico for a while, off and on, I also know to bring along a rag. I’m a woman who perspires and learned that I am way more comfortable when my face is dry. Also, as I learned rather humorously, paper towels aren’t always the best solution. Once, while living on Isla Mujeres, I was walking about and using a paper towel to wipe my face when necessary. I’d stop and pick through the curbside stands for fruits and veggies and, when talking to the attendees, noticed that they often gave me peculiar looks. It wasn’t until I got back home that I realized that I had bits of paper all over my face. The paper towel had disintegrated and I resembled a man who had cut himself shaving and was trying to plug up the wounds. I use rags now.
After a little while I stopped for coffee and leisurely watched folks set up the water sports for the tourists. Tanks, hoses, all sorts of things to help those who want to see life under the waters were addressed. They spent a lot of time checking equipment, gauges, and all kinds of stuff that will help it to be a safe excursion. It made for a nice break for me to sit under a palapa and sip my coffee while they worked and it reassured me to see how diligent they were about the details.
After about an hour I decided to brave the heat again. It was time to head further south towards the next cruise ship pier and see what was up. I noticed a motorcycle shop that rents out Harleys and thought about friends back home who would shudder at the thought. Harley riding is religious to a few of my old buddies and the concept of renting one would cause them pause, but I like the idea. Why not?
The pace of others started to quicken the closer I got to where the ships were docked. The occasional passerby became a small crowd of folks craning their necks to see it all, and there is a lot. Bars, restaurants, dive shops, clothing and jewelry, liquor and candy. If we don’t have it I am not sure it is necessary for a good vacation.
But, just as I got ready to start shooting pics of the many shiny baubles I noticed a truckload of young men dressed in white pass me by. Then another. The photo journalistic instincts kicked in and off I went ignoring the many items on display.
I started to walk as fast as hot and tired feet would allow. I got down to a main corner just past the cruise ship docking and saw that not only were men in white congregating, but so were men in uniform. Now, I have to admit that I get a bit nervous shooting uniformed men with guns. That doesn’t stop me from taking their pictures, but it is nice when one, or three, smile, which is exactly what happened. As I was taking their pictures a man in a corner jewelry shop, with a cigar hanging out the side of his mouth, stepped to the door of his store and informed me that President Calderon was stopping on the island and that was the reason for the troops. According to him, and please don’t quote me, there is a new marina that the president was to be visiting and it called for extra security.
Since I am from the United States I would have expected the Secret Service, men in suits and sunglasses, to be prowling the area. But I am thinking that guys in uniform, lots of guys, with powerful looking weaponry in their hands are just as effective. Along with these gentlemen were local police, the Federales, and the men dressed in white that I spoke of previously. Quite a group, and quite a contrast from the multicolored tourists wandering about with their mouths open. I suspect my mouth was open too, so I’m not worried about mentioning that particular detail. Oh, and I have to mention something else too. As intimidating as they could be there was still a sense of playfulness among them. If a bit of laughing, joking, and camaraderie works, then so be it. I am sure they were much more serious once their duties began. I continued to snap away.
After just a short while though I had just about all the photos I wanted. I was surprised at how quickly I had acclimated to the fact that there were military personnel around. So, after just a few minutes more, I headed back home. A colorful wall here, a few more flowers there and I was satisfied with my wanderings. Just another day in Cozumel? Quite possibly. Since I have only been here for a few weeks I’m not able to answer that yet. I do know that, so far, this island has been everything I’d hope for and more. Salud!