How To Hang With a Sea Turtle

11 of February

First some housekeeping! I need to apologize for some brash recent posts that were extremely out of character. When I write, I prefer to keep things raw and minutely edited in order to really convey the heat of a moment and true emotions, but lately I’ve a little off track, even in my emotions; after all, my mantra is travel, art, family, food. (Although sometimes I feel I need to add music to that header as well!) So, tapping back into the spirit of this blog, I bring you, from now on and forevermore, everything you’ve ever wanted to know about life as an expat and the incredible places and things my family is doing and will do, channeled straight to your electronic device.

Homeschooling has been slightly compromised for another week, this time our good friends from California are visiting with their daughter who is just a year younger than the twins, my siblings who will be turning six on Leap Year- or rather, lack of Leap Year. So far, we have ventured to Akumal with our guests, which is a particular stretch of beach off the caratera from Playa, but not quite in Tulum. The typical, picturesque Mexican Yucatan scenery isn’t anything outlandishly different than the beach a block from my house, except that it’s a popular diving and snorkeling destination for tourists and residents interested in sea turtles. The great, prehistoric patrons of the clandestine moon and the rising and falling tides drift in infamously large numbers along that coastline and aren’t something to pass by. The reef is receding, can after can, potato chip after potato chip, so that aspect of the once extravagant, careless waters doesn’t quite compare to its former glory, but it is still a noteworthy, beautiful place to check out. The ancient turtles roam the shallow sea floor, snapping and pecking at abundant grasses while slender fish find refuge and safety as they ride the regal coat tails of its shell.

We enjoyed the luster of free-range Akumal without spending a penny: reading, tanning, playing paddle ball, snorkeling and touching sea turtles, chatting, and having a relaxing, therapeutic day in general. I thoroughly appreciated the company of our worldly friends, they way they spoke in Spanish to the best of their ability (which was finely tuned from their time in Spain) and they knew the basic, “resident” manners that my family took for granted as something you just do until my grandmother visited and was lured by every tourist trap under the sun. Instead, we cruised through the day with our friends who knew the drill, in every literal sense of the phrase. That night we ate at the pub, ten feet from the familiar comfort of the lagoon full of dolphins in Puerto Aventuras, our second home and stomping ground. Faithful and devout vegans, we suckled on limonadas (lemonade) and sizzling vegetable fajitas. My siblings and I have tried every rendition of a limonada south of Cancun, within the border of Mexico, and the pub ranks within the top five Best Limonadas around, which contributed to our content demeanors. After eating, all the kids raced around the town square of Puerto under the black bowl of the Mexican night sky, our bellies full with renewed energy.

Back at the pub, Mum and the adults drank and exchanged stories animatedly in the usual way, recounting jumbled, vibrant stories like bolts of cloth before they were excitedly forgotten with the arrival of a funnier story, of brighter colors. My childhood spontaneity recently restored to me (on account of two boys in Belize; see Aventuras En Belice) I tromped around with the kids and danced hip-waggling, foot shuffling wild style with a little girl on my hipbone to the fleeting hum of Spanish trumpets, for once not engaging with my elders for most of the evening. Meanwhile, Christy, our very good friend who lives in Puerto, joined us at the pub with her son Clayton, barefoot and beautifully disheveled. I imagine the conversation at the dinner table was in part Christy and Mum, advising our guests on the best places to visit while in the Yucatan without the expensive, overrated tourist attractions, which usually aren’t even half as astounding as the hookups we residents have. At one point in the evening, Mum probably mentioned impending trips out of the city for Holy Week, which is a riot in Playa Del Carmen. Papa may have explained to our guests why the police always have their blinding flashers on as if they were incessantly on calls, which always worries out-of-towners.

And I know for certain, like how I know to keep the geckos in my closet to eat the lion ants, that the weather was discussed. It has been one of the wettest years the Yucatan has seen in half a century, so healthy skies are always sought after and coveted. “Well, if the weather is okay…” and, “if the skies clear up…” are always afterthoughts to suggested plans nowadays. Frequently, the horizon is tinged murky yellow and the clouds are bruised purple on soggy days, and the days that aren’t plagued by tropical rainstorms envelope the mixing pot of Playa and it’s cobblestone and dirt roads in a limp, damp, low-skies lid of haze. It brings un-vegan visions of charred, overcooked meat to mind and gummy cabbage, boiled too long and left to lethargically float in lukewarm water. I pray for a clear atmosphere when I can remember to. Lucky for us, as the claws of “winter” begin to recede, and the rains, which I still secretly love, have began to drift back to wherever they came from. Maybe rain is a snowbird like the Canadians, who stay in Playa for the winter months and then go home. I just know that everyone down in the tip of Mexico is waiting to kick out that snowbird called rain, all the way back up to Canada andstaythere!

That night, our families cheek-kissed and bid each other goodnight, driving off into the streetlight-less places we came from. Back at the house, I could hear faint whispers of the ghosts who are constructing the small, concrete condo in the jungle across the street, living in their labor by night. They are nomads, penniless, and I am entranced with their way of life. My blessings, my family’s flat on Calle 44, my material possessions, are all so much to have and hold, when the men living like poverty-stricken fraternity brothers, probably making minimum wage (fifty pesos a day or roughly four dollars) can live a life of hard work and little reward, of happiness and good nature. I turned and went inside my home, the day of sun-n-alcohol, breaking dawn runs on the deserted beach, and the joys of company putting my usual insomniac habits out like a doused candle.

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