Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Do please give, even in very small amounts, to help with relief efforts in Haiti. My link at the sidebar (or here) will direct you to an organizational effort to provide health services for the people of this Caribbean nation. Now, more than ever, Partners in Health is in need of our dollars.

(If you’re not familiar with PIH, note this article by Tracy Kidder in today’s NYT.)

Cozumel notes

The last day in Mexico. It’s unusual in any number of ways. I notice myself, for example, increasingly thinking about work. It's clear that I’m transitioning into that northern continental mindset where you cannot easily shake off pressure.

But there are other twists to this day as well. The weather still gives us blustery winds and various levels of cloudiness. The kind where you first over-dress then under-dress, never getting it quite right. Of course, it is positively tropical compared to what awaits back home.

Our lunch cook tells us – I would die if I had to live where you live.


We’re eating a late midday meal at a house a block up from our hotel. (Our hotel proprietor is a regular here.) It’s a small place – literally someone’s front room and back yard. A standard dish will be maybe $4.


We make good chicken mole, the lady of the house tells us.


It is indeed quite excellent. And the flan is in the best ever range.


Food in Mexico has been a delight for us. We’ve not had trouble finding small, fresh and honest places. Most of our dinners have been in neighborhoods where we were living. Very local.

Okay. The food is good on this day as well. How else might I describe our brief fling with Cozumel? Well, varied.

We want to explore the island, but it’s a large island (maybe 50 kilometers by 15) and it has no public transportation. Your option is to walk along the roads, take taxis, or hire something that moves. We rent a motorbike. We’ve listened to scare stories about how many people die here on the roads in biking accidents, but I'm okay with this mode of transport – Ed is a genius on a motorbike.

(Except when he misses a red light and gets pulled over by the police. I want to pipe up from the back seat that maybe clearing the tree branches around the light would help future motorists notice that there is a light, but I stay silent and after some hesitation, we’re waved on.)

We cross the island to the Caribbean east shore, where the waves are pretty and the coast stretches in either direction with strips of fine white sand.


The sea and landscape are a study in blues and greens.


We walk along a path that more or less hugs the shore and it is so empty that Ed can dunk in for a swim and not be noticed.

The path is fragrant from the essence of a plant that flowers and attracts bees and the sun comes out occasionally to mark this day as only cool at the edges.


Later, as we motor to the southern tip, I note how pretty and serene this part of the island is. You could learn to love Cozumel if you only make your way here and keep away from the ferry landing.


The only noise comes from the waves. And the hiss of the spray from the blowholes in the rocks jutting out over the water.


But returning up the western shore, the perception changes. The coast here is cut off in most places by hotels that stake out turf and turn away visitors with gates worthy of palatial grounds. The traffic is heavier and we soon understand why. As we drive closer to Cozumel (the town), we see the cruise ships. Three in one port, two in another. I'm smiling, but it's a forced smile.


Monster boats. And if Playa del Carmen was a zoo, the place where the people disembark at Cozumel is a riot of pop music, margarita bars and souvenir stores. With Starbucks, for the truly addicted. [I am not a Starbucks dretractor and I like margaritas, but not like this – not with whistles and bells and circus noises.] Truly, this side of the island has nothing in common with the other.

I do have to admit though that I also have a higher tolerance for shopping than Ed does. So it does not surprise him nor me that I find myself later in the day admiring yet again the embroidered garments that are so ubiquitous in this country. The ones that catch my eye now are from Oaxaca. The woman who sells them tells me that’s a hefty 24 hour drive by truck from here.

Outside the store, her little girl is playing with the daughter of the neighboring shopkeeper. I buy one small flowered shirt thinking all the time how there isn’t a place on earth where combining work with childcare doesn’t present a challenge.


Okay. Predictable. I love children, I love the colors of women’s dresses and shirts.

Less predictable is our last Mexican vacation moment. The WiFi at the hotel can be spotty in the afternoons. I decide to stroll over to the Internet shop a few blocks down. But on the way there, I take note of the restaurant/café just at the corner. With working WiFi. And one of the best coffees that I have had this past week. And breezes moving from one door to the next. It feels not unlike the café on the Isla Mujeres. How symmetrical is that! Our first stop of this trip and our last are at island café-restaurants with open spaces, good coffee, promoting a sense of well being that comes when you are not in a hurry, when you're not forced to think ahead to the next minute or even the next hour.


Sipping a coffee, then, later, a margarita, I suspend myself in the airy calm. I catch up on email, check headlines and, taking my cues from the cat, sit back and engage in the serious business of looking out at the world.