Living on the island of Cozumel has many advantages, even for those of us on a budget. It’s a lovely island with much to do, but, since I need to live on a teacher’s pension, my primary focus was finding an affordable apartment before the exploring could begin. The hunt was on and it turned out to be an experience that was a combination of both good timing and a belief in my creative abilities. The good timing was due to my landlord’s unfortunate experience with the tenant just prior to me. Apparently, he’d rented to just one woman, but he ended up with seven people who, as it turned out, liked to party. When I came along, a single, older woman who didn’t yet know two people, much less seven, it was a match made in heaven for both of us. The rent was negotiated, and he also, quite bravely, agreed to let me add a few of my own personal touches if I promised to not go too crazy. Sounded reasonable to me and the making of a home commenced.
The apartment is located in the so-called Corpus Christi neighborhood of San Miguel and is on the second floor, which, along with my two dogs, helps me to feel safe. It consists of a living room/dining room combination with a small, galley kitchen, a bath, and one good-sized bedroom. Since I was starting from scratch (I’d arrived with two carry on bags) I started to get the basics one needs to live. Working with limited funds can be both frustrating and challenging. But, I’m not complaining, it’s been fun. I do want to mention, however, that it’s purely functional, nothing fancy, and the decorating style is what I like to call “hippie chic.” But, as functional as the inside may be, what caused me to be so enthusiastic is the fact that my apartment has two decks. A strictly utilitarian one out the back door for activities such as washing clothes and another, glorious, ‘L’ shaped deck out front with an arched overhang and a view of a lovely church and a park. My imagination took over and, once I’d finished furnishing the inside, I knew it was time to get busy with the outside.
The decorating began with greenery. Back in the states I’d spent my winters teaching and my summers working for a landscaper (a roofer too, but that’s for another time). I’d enjoyed the balance of academia and manual labor, but it also created such a love of foliage that my ex-husband used to call me Georgie (think George of the Jungle). Now, I may not like him much anymore, but I still enjoy my plants and, since the deck provides lots of sun and shade, I began to fill the corners. Not only did I get to discover what’s available for tropical weather, but had a lot of fun exploring all the outdoor plant shops, many of which are simply in the yards of people’s homes. I got to meet some great folks and practice my Spanglish too.
Now, my landlord provided me with a second-hand couch and coffee table for under the overhang, but I needed more; it’s a big deck. A table here, a lounge chair over there, a few hanging cloths for shade, and it was starting to come together. But, still something was missing. Then, after walking in el centro, and spending a day at Buccanos, I realized what that something was, a mural. My view, when sitting on my couch, is of the long portion of the deck with walls that desperately needed painting and a center wall that just begged for some artwork. So, I put out a request on a local forum, “Cozumel My Cozumel,” and asked if anyone could recommend a good mural artist. Lots of folks responded with lots of great ideas and my newest search began. I made some calls and, after meeting with a few, and discussing prices, I decided to work with Mariano Petit de Murat. I liked his work, his English is flawless, and the price was right. Now all we had to do was select an image.
Since my surroundings are a bit busy, and I wanted something tranquil, we agreed on a photo I’d taken of a sunset ( the pic at the top of this piece is the one used for inspiration). A day was set and, I’m happy to say, Mariano was right on time. We spent a bit more time discussing the details and he got started preparing the wall. The next day was when the painting began and it didn’t take long for me to know that this had been a good decision. Not only was he doing a great job, but he was fun to talk with, so it was not unusual for me to stand outside with a cup of coffee and chat with him while he worked. Like someone else had mentioned, I felt like I was not just getting some great art, I was making a friend.
Within a couple of days the mural was beginning to take shape. I really liked what he was doing and, after he’d leave, I’d just sit on my couch, look at the work, and pat myself on the back. Then, the next day, the process would continue. After another day, we agreed that the other walls would need to be painted a complimentary color and off we went to Comex. Then, once the mural was finished, we both painted the other two walls a buttery yellow, which really helped it all come together. On the last day, after Mariano put on a few more finishing touches to help seal the work, we just sat and talked. It was a great experience.
Naturally, I had to get a few more plants, a couple of decorative plates, and a few pieces of garden statuary. Then I called Mariano and asked if he could stop by for me to take a final shot of him with his work. He happily agreed and the shot on your left is the pic I took today. And, although I hadn’t seen him in a while, we were still able to sit and chat as if we were old friends. I can’t say enough about how good this experience has been. But, before I end this little tale, I want to include a pic taken from my bedroom window. This is the view I now have the first thing in the morning and it’s all due to some great recommendations, and a very talented artist. Life on a budget can be good after all, yes? Salud! p.s. I never intend to endorse any business, or individual, and I’m never compensated, but I do like to share good experiences.
And, for those new to the island, both tourists and expats alike, if you have any questions let me recommend two informational sites. “Cozumel My Cozumel” can be found online and is a forum populated by many folks “in the know” who are quite happy to answer questions. And, “Cozumel 4 You” has both a Face Book page and an internet newsletter where current, and upcoming, events are covered. Folks on their FB page are also happy to answer any questions you might have by those with experienced “inside” information. Happy hunting!