When I first moved to the island of Cozumel I merely focused on making a home for myself. Furnishing my apartment, adopting some companions, and generally just getting my bearings. However, once those needs were met, I began to look around for things to do and there are a lot of choices. I played the permanent tourist for a few months and discovered the best places to snorkel, eat out, and all while I sampled the nightlife. Fun activities, I assure you, but I was still looking for something just a bit more substantial. After all, if you can forgive the analogy, one cannot live on dessert alone. So I began to dig a little deeper, and, while doing so, I discovered that the expats that live here really care about this island. They don’t just move here and sit back in their hammocks, they get busy. Many volunteer for a myriad of organizations that make our way of life even better, if you can believe that, and I was anxious to get started. It didn’t take long. Today, for example, some of these folks who call themselves “The Trashy Little Group” had a get together on the east side and I was invited to attend. Their goal? Help keep the beaches clean so all can enjoy them. Sounded like a great idea so I packed my bag and off I went.
A small group of us started out by having breakfast at Prima, a terrace restaurant on Melgar that overlooks both the ocean and the town. They have a menu for locals that was beyond affordable. I spent fifty-two pesos for a breakfast sandwich that should make McDonald’s hang their heads, and it was accompanied by potatoes with onions, and coffee. And Prima comes with a view that is nothing less than spectacular. The first two photos in this piece show just a hint of what can be seen while sharing a meal and some laughs with friends.
Then it was off to the other side of the island to meet up with everyone else at the Rasta Bar. That was where I was introduced to Kathy Watts, the founder of the group (that’s her and another trashy friend in the pic on the right). But, it only took a moment for us to realize that we’d met before while walking our dogs in the park. It is a small island after all. Then, as more arrived, everyone just spent a while saying their hellos, catching up, or meeting new folks. There was a great feeling of camaraderie. Once that wound down, Kathy began to talk to the group. She started off by letting us know where we were heading, what supplies she’d brought, and offered a few tips. I was delighted to discover that she also hides little surprise gifts on the beach for participants. Who knows, maybe I’ll find the gift box for a massage? But, as great as that would be, the nicest part was seeing how many showed up to do their part. A couple of dozen folks were willing to spend their Sunday morning picking up trash to help restore the beach to its natural beauty. How great is that?
Once Kathy was finished, we all went back to our cars and drove down to the targeted area. I put on my sunblock and my hat, grabbed some bags, and off I went with my trashy partner. We picked our way down the rocks to the beach and the work began.
I hate to say it, but there was a lot of debris that was brought in by the tides. To me, the plastic caps were an eyesore and I started to focus on those while my partner was grabbing just about everything else. We were a good match, each with her own goal. At first I was worried that she was getting more bags than me, then I relaxed and realized it wasn’t a competition, we all had the same agenda. Every once in a while I’d either stop and grab my camera to take another picture of all the folks that had come down to work, or just to admire the beauty of the ocean, and the day.
I will tell you it was warm. Now, it is January and I know that many are fighting brutally cold temperatures, so I absolutely will not complain. Still, the ocean breeze was welcomed and the sodas that were provided tasted damn good. I was grateful that I remembered both my sun block and hat though. And, just like back in my office days, after doing some work we stood around the cooler and shared a laugh, or two.
But, time flew, as it often seems to do down here, and we got ready to leave. Just before we did, however, I noticed Kathy hauling a few bags up to the road and had to grab another shot. This lady doesn’t just have ideas, she puts them into practice. Then another volunteer agreed to let me take his pic with a bag and he held it up and grinned. That was so much fun in several ways. Here was a guy who was not only happy to pose with a bag of garbage, but did so while exclaiming, “I’m going to be famous.” Now, I don’t know about that, but his joy in the simple things was contagious.
Finally, I grabbed one last shot of a family that had joined us, and brought their kids. It was great to see such a lesson being taught that I had to snap yet another picture. But, then it really was time to go. I climbed into my friend’s jeep, she turned it around, and we headed home. A bit sunburned, a little tired and yet, as has happened so many times here, it was a great way to start the day. And, I’m glad you came along. Salud!
p.s. to find out how you can help, check out their Face Book page ….”Trashy Little Group”