It’s summer here on the island of Cozumel and that means that this expat chooses her activities more carefully. Frankly, the heat can be brutal and, to my mind, not much seems worth the effort unless it involves full submersion in the ocean. But, in spite of my inertia, that hasn’t stopped me from getting into some humorous situations due to my Murphy’s Law kind of life, or my complete lack of street smarts, I’m never quite sure which to blame. Still, I thought I’d take a moment and share a few with you. Will I look foolish? Probably. But these little tales also show a wonderful side of the locals who’ve been both witnesses and rescuers during my special moments and that makes the telling worth the risk. I think I’ll merely share three events here, I mean, how silly do I want to look in a single day? But, hang in there, we’ve got some great folks here on the island that make it all worthwhile. Oh, and I’ve included a couple of completely unrelated pics just as a reminder of why it’s all worthwhile. Hope you enjoy!
It was a Saturday in July and I woke up with a taste for some fresh fruit to go with my coffee. I looked in the blue bowl I keep on top of my frig, but there was just one banana left and it hadn’t made it through the night’s heat. In fact, the blackened skin split and a little fruit squished out when I, ever so gently, merely attempted to just pick it up. But, that’s okay, here on Cozumel we have a market that has all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and hammocks, and hula hoops. Pretty much anything one could want for a simple life can be found in El Mercado so I got ready to do some shopping.
The first thing I needed to do was dress for the weather. Please keep in mind it was not just July, it was July on a tropical island in Mexico. This was the fact that caused me to search my closet for the right combination of material (not too heavy, can breathe, and won’t make me look like a wet t-shirt contestant once I started to sweat) and pattern (dark solids aren’t a good idea in this heat, but, then neither are certain designs unless you are a fan of surrealism, sweat does interesting things). A pastel sundress with a skirt that I know will wrap around my legs while I’m on my bike wins, as it usually does. I got dressed, put down some water for my dogs, grabbed some paper towels for the expected sweat, and applied layers of chapstick. All set, I put everything in the basket mounted to the front of my bike and headed north on 25.
It was so very hot outside, but I sipped some bottled water and dabbed at the many drops that started to accumulate. Fortunately, traffic was light and I was at the market in less than ten minutes; one of the great things about living on this island, nothing is too far away. I parked and locked my bike, grabbed my purse and headed inside.
Within moments I was at my favorite stand that’s just outside the main section. I grabbed a kiwi, a couple of bananas, and an orange. The guy who waited on me was quite nice, but he seemed to be looking at me rather intently. I chalked it up to the time of day, said my thanks and moved on. The next place I stopped was at one of the butcher counters to get some scraps for my dogs. Again the guy who was waiting on me was nice, but, again, he also seemed to be looking at me quite closely. I chalked that up to my own lack of enough coffee. I grabbed the plastic bag filled with beef bits, thanked him, and kept going.
I must have wandered through El Mercado for about an hour, or so. It was getting very busy, and warmer, by the second. It’s an open air market and, although they have fans set up just about everywhere one looks, the more people that get there, the hotter it is. I kept sipping my water, dabbing my face, and nibbling on the orange that wasn’t going to make it home. People were now everywhere, many that looked at me with such big smiles that I just had to smile back, it was contagious. But, soon it was time to head home.
I packed my stuff back up and started south, again on 25. I unlocked the gate and pulled my bike inside. There I saw my landlord’s granddaughter who’s all of five and, suddenly, quite the giggler. I don’t know enough Spanish, yet, to ask her why, but by then, I must admit, I was just plain curious and not just a little paranoid. So I headed upstairs, patted my pooches on the head and went straight into the bathroom to take a peek in the mirror. And there it was, the face that had caused all the looks, the smiles, and the giggles. There had to be at least a dozen little bits of white paper stuck everywhere. I looked like my Dad from back in the day when he’d cut himself shaving. And the fact that my face is dark tan, but the paper was bright white didn’t help. With language that would have made a sailor blush, I washed my face and vowed to never use paper again.
Rodeo in the Rain
A couple of weeks ago I was house sitting for friends who’d needed to go back to the states for a visit. It was an easy gig. I knew them well and had been to their house on many occasions. So it was merely a need to be responsible, make sure folks saw someone around the property, turn lights on, turn lights off, air out the house, and water the plants. Simple.
But, the very day they left it began to rain. Now, this is the end of the rainy season so a little rain is not noteworthy. Especially the gentle shower that started it all. Since I knew they had a few windows open I was aware that I would need to trek over if it got any worse, but it passed within minutes and the sun came back out. I went back to what I was doing.
That lasted about five minutes and then the rain started again. But, this time there was nothing gentle about it. Within seconds, or so it seemed, it was no longer vertical, it was coming down sideways. That was when I knew I had to go over and shut their windows, or stuff would get destroyed. So, out came the bike and off I went with my head down and peddling fast. Thankfully, they only live a couple of blocks from me, and, due to the intensity, there was no traffic to speak of since folks here know what they are doing, with the possible exception of me, that is.
Having passed the church on 20, I was just taking starting to take a left onto calle 17 in the so-called Corpus Christi neighborhood when I heard it. Someone let out a cowboy “yeehaw” from somewhere behind me. I didn’t even have the time to give much thought to just how unusual that particular outburst was when a guy on a moped pulled up right alongside me. He was about 25 and wearing nothing more than a pair of shorts and a smile, but he didn’t stop there. He held his hand up with the palm facing me and I just had to do as he asked. There I was, in the absolute pouring rain, giving a stranger on a moped a “high five.” Once that task was completed he sped off. I just grinned and kept pedaling.
Well, today is Tuesday and that means that I do a bit of cleaning at a place over on the corner of 5 and 10. It’s where we have our A.A. meetings in English and it was my turn to help keep the room clean. It’s the least I can do for a program that has saved my life. But, I digress. There I was finishing up with the room and I stepped out onto the tiny back balcony with the mop and a couple of rags. I had a cup of coffee with me and had every intention of just sipping it while waiting for the floor inside to dry. Putting the mug down I leaned over the sink with the mop to rinse it out, but then the handle smacked into something behind me. It was the door. The door that was now closed and locked. The door that doesn’t have a handle on the outside. My keys were, of course, on the inside, and so was my phone.
I sat down with the coffee and thought about it for a minute. There would be a meeting at 6:00 so it wasn’t as if I was stuck there forever. Then I looked at my watch, it was 10:45. Nope, I was not about to be zen about the possibility of being on a balcony in the sun, without food, or a bathroom for over six hours. I started to look at my options.
This might be the time to mention that I’m now aware that I will not be pursuing a life of crime. I could not break back into the room no matter how much I jiggled, wiggled, or kicked that damn door. I found old shelfing nails under the sink, but they weren’t long enough to do whatever it was that I thought shelfing nails could do. The windows were of the slatted variety, so that wasn’t an option either. I then began to watch the neighbor’s yard for activity.
About a half an hour later a woman came outside with clothes over her arm. I began to yell “hello,” well, “hola,” and she turned and looked up at me. In my best Spanglish I explained my situation. That I was cleaning the room, had locked myself out onto the balcony, and my keys and phone were inside. She smiled, turned, and calmly walked away.
About ten minutes later, however, she came back and she had friends. Now I’m explaining, in my best Spanglish, the whole situation all over again to two women and three men who all patiently craned their necks to look straight up at me. A conversation ensued and then, after much laughter (and some furtive glances headed in my direction), one of them walked around the back of the house while the rest just smiled up at me. He came back around with a ladder that had definitely seen better days, and those were probably in the sixties.
He leaned it against the wall and, of course, it didn’t quite reach. Then he, and everyone else, began to talk at once and gesture rather emphatically towards the ladder. Apparently I was being asked to climb over the wrought iron fence on the side of the balcony, which seemed impossible due to the length of my legs, and then hang on the fence while I leaned forward and lowered a leg down the wall until it came to the top of the ladder. Let’s just say, I hesitated.
But, about a minute later, I realized that there just didn’t seem to be any other ideas other than to wait it out for the day. And, since the coffee I’d sipped, and the coffee I’d had earlier, were starting to make themselves known I realized I didn’t have that long; waiting 5 1/2 more hours was no longer an option. So, I pulled the plastic chair we keep out on that balcony alongside the railing. I stood on the chair, lowered my right leg over and became glad for my years of yoga exercises. The kind folks below were now giving me some great vocal support and huge smiles of encouragement. I was just happy I’d worn shorts. I got my toe on the tiny bit of space that was on the other side of the railing and then pulled my other leg over. And, there I stood, 20 plus feet in the air, standing on about two inches of cement, holding onto a railing that I could only hope was firmly attached to the walls. My saviors were all still smiling, murmuring, and nodding so I carefully tip toed the few more inches I needed to align myself directly above the ladder. I lowered my hands on the railing rungs, started to reach one leg down and then I just happened to notice, out of the corner of my eye, something amazing. Almost as one they each made the sign of the cross complete with the symbolic kiss on the thumb. Then, when the first woman looked back up, our eyes met and she gave me a wink. Down the ladder I went.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my special moments from the last few weeks. I’ll be heading over to a great little B&B tomorrow for some pics and info to include in my series “Gettin’ Cozy in Cozumel.” In the meanwhile, here’s to all the folks who make our life on the island something to write about…………….Salud!