The stifling summer film of sweat is oily as it attempts to cool my five siblings and I, leaving behind a sticky residue. We know that here though, strolling down Quinta, two blocks from our home, sweat’s endeavors are in vain. This humid jungle is harsh in its own way; temperate, stubborn.
I’m Maia Koryn Jackson, and I’m an artist most of the time. But when I’m not being an artist, I like to do almost anything else in the arts, in sports, and in adventure. Two days ago I woke up in a barren, wood paneled closet-like space at 7:00 am, the time when dazed slants of the morning sunlight trickle through dusky curtains and the world is mostly still. But this unusual, southern California morning isn’t tranquil at our house- it never really is anyway. Today though, is special, because twenty-six bags of “Our Life” and a couple of months of planning had lead up to this moment- we were moving to Playa Del Carmen on the Yucatan Penninsula in Mexico for eleven months, as if being a family of eight, and all organic, plant based vegans, future homeschoolers, and anti-electronics wasn’t enough for us. So we waved sayonara to California, packed our bags, and caught the most convenient flight to Playa. I left behind the art school of my dreams and together we all left the comfort and familiarity of our home that chokes creativity, diversity, and fun. I have no regrets concerning our move.
Three things we learned very quickly upon our arrival at our new home (emphasis on QUICKLY):
-Never leave America without a healthy supply of pesos
-There are tons of bugs in the Mexican Caribbean
-As long as you have a nice house, nothing can go that wrong… I mean, really?
I confess, maybe I’m the only one with a smile still on my face is because I’m looking forward to when I fully utilize the location of my house. Let me explain: Wednesday, our first full day in Playa, was probably the worst full day ever for expats-like-us. What began with such promise, the cocaine-like sand, and salty, baby tears of the sea a mere two blocks from our house and the ten-yard walk to Quinta, faded into disaster. (Quinta, also known as Fifth Street, is fifty blocks of restaurants, mom and pop shops, tourist traps, clubs, and just about everything in between.) After our leisurely, curious stroll about our surroundings, we attempted to go shopping for food. Besides the one-hundred and thirty-seven dollar burritos Mum purchased at the airport, we hadn’t eaten in twenty-four hours. Upon a unanimous agreement, the eight of us hustled to Quinta for breakfast. Lightly elegant, modernly quaint, we sat in the soupy Caribbean air at the chosen restaurant for about five minutes before we realized they couldn’t cater to our vegan diet. (The menu was chock full of eggs, eggs, eggs.) So my siblings: Kira, a dark-skinned red head, second oldest after me; Aidan, respectful and kind with an athletic finesse like no other; Kalin, infamously known as Mr. Loudy, but in truth, a seriously brilliant nine year old; and lastly, the strong-willed twins, Kanon and Delilah; plus myself and my wonderful parents all piled into our not-so-new gold minivan to pilvage some groceries. Bubba the mechanic and expat-like-us had delivered the car to us the day we arrived, and now, our first time driving it, the air conditioner didn’t work. August is the hottest month in Playa, but it’s not the heat that kills you- it’s the humidity. So without AC, the beater minivan was basically an oven under the sun. We drove to Sam’s Club, and by the time we got there, the engine was smoking and leaking an orange fluid. Our crew then spent a good forty-five minutes shopping only to find out that our debit cards weren’t functioning, so we left our food to stand in the heat of the midday and try to figure out what’s wrong with the car. Make that 36 hours since we’ve had a proper meal.
That afternoon, we took a walk down Quinta once more in search of a place to finally get some grub. Since it’s four o’clock and we’re grabbing dinner, I call our first meal in Playa “linner”. My family settles down in the steamy jungle at an italian place, Piola. The outcome was finally just-the-way-it’s-supposed-to-be; “linner” was actually slightly serene and we took home a good selection of leftovers. Our refrigerator, at last, got a little meat in its girth. Each extravaganza that day was interrupted by periodic, gleeful dips into the kidney shaped, bathtub sized pool, and ended with such a dip as well, after the kids and Mum checked out the beach.
If you walk two blocks straight aways to where the street splits, a clear view from home, you will arrive at the dilapidated green plastic fence with chicken wire framing its edges. That fence is the entrance to Heaven. I believe that if there’s a beach in Heaven, this must be it. About thirty locals, dark, short Mayans, rested in and around the silky seawater. Sand so finite and white that I could only describe it as cocaine stretched for miles, and not too far into the distance I could see the crowded, jostle for a position Mamitas section of the beach where the club is. A dozen palapas clawed away at the aquamarine sky, flanked by plushy towels in radiant colors like bursting berry, pink lemonade, and tropical orange. Rich, towering hotels with names like Hilton and Marriott gleamed whitewhitewhite with fresh paint that sparkled under the sun. Club beats faintly played, almost totally out of earshot. Here we were, under the same sun as my life back in America was, but in a different world, splashing miles into the tropical paradise with recently off work and still fully clothed Mayans who jabber in Spanish and float on the tide. This is their home. Now it’s mine too.