Rats’ Nests

Saturday, June 18th

Yesterday we returned to a snorkeling outfit we visited last week. It was one of two that got back with us in a timely manner for reservation. Apparently that was kind of a big deal. The manager wanted our picture for the website and gave us free face masks with their logo on them. We still had to pay the $50 dock fee. 

There were many more people this go-around. We saw many interesting critters, but my mind was distracted when a lump of seaweed was tangled into my bun. I let my hair down to pull it out. Unknowingly, I had created the LARGEST rats’ nest in the history of mankind. It was horrendous. My hair piled into a group of 4 intricately woven knots. There was no getting this out. After about 20 minutes, I managed to pull it up and twist it to secure the mess. 

  Ventura park was next our on docket. The operation consists of a water park, zipline courses, an amusement park, and an indoor virtual reality center. Only the water park and ziplines were open. The family enjoyed the wave pool and slides. The food was decent and included in the entrance. We exit with ice cream and pick up trinkets from the gift shop.

Today was much the same. We went to a new snorkeling company that took us into clear deep locations. We saw the underwater museum again today. Next to the hand statues was a massive stingray, not quite as large as a manta, but still pretty cool. From there we went to look for turtles. We found two. 

The water is full of tiny jellyfish, sack-looking, floating critters that shoot various colors of bioluminescence through their bodies in differing patterns. Pink striations, rainbow flickers of light, white bursts of energy in spotted moving patterns, like little Las Vegas billboards, but more delicately magnificent. Google informed me that they are called ctenophores, or comb jellies. Worry struck me the first time I saw them, but they didn’t seem to sting. Nick informed me that they do not have stinging cells, called nematocysts. I saw fish tearing one apart by a ship that had sunken in 1988. I felt bad for it. The ship had become a haven for many types of schooling fish, lobsters, and coral. 

Returning to the hotel, we took an alternative route through central Cancun. There are areas of great poverty that are not seen in the Zona Hotelera. Cancun has beautiful street art on the sides of many buildings. An apartment complex was coated with about nine huge, beautiful, unique scenes. I recorded a video of them along the way. 

We watch Mysterious Island on Fox Classics. It is a good one. My hair brushed out much more easily today. I braided it tightly and pushed away all encroaching seaweed.

Man, I Love Fishin’

Thursday, June 16th

Fishing day! We wake up at 5:45AM. How awful is that?! We don’t know if the buses run that early. One website said they run 24/7, another said from 9-9. A bus pulls over for us as soon as he sees us walking down our motor court in the hotel. An entire city bus just waiting for us. Crazy right? Only three more people get on as we travel the 16 km to the marina. A man is looking for us at the bus stop when we exit. No one tries to sell us anything. 

We use the facilities before we board. It will be a five hour trip. William is our captain and Ramon is our crew. They ask whether we want choppy, but Dorado, or calm and barracuda. We go for the choppy, and choppy it is. I bought Dramamine before leaving Texas but have accidentally left it at the hotel both times it could have been useful. I have personally never been seasick, but Nick has. This time it is Evee. We tell her it is no big deal and that it happens to a lot of people. The fishermen see it often and it will attract fish. She feels better once her stomach is empty. 

I love the sway of the sea. Up and down, side to side… The spray in my face and an awesome breeze. It is cloudy today, so the sun is not intense. It is quite lovely and I enjoy myself immensely. 

I didn’t realize that on a chartered trip, the crew does everything for you but reel it in. I will be taking advantage of this in the future without children, and plan to drink heavily. Nick warned Evee about a rusty screw holding a lower storage bin closed. A wave hits the boat, I trip and take off a chunk of skin out of my ring toe on it. I try really hard not to get pissed or worry about tetanus. The injury is wrapped up and it is my turn to reel in a large Mahi Mahi (Dorado). It is tough, but fun. My mind goes away from my toe and the anger subsides. I thank the fish for its life and we put it into the cooler.

There are eight Mahi Mahi and five Bonita. The captain gives us six large filets to take to a local bar where they prepare the fish four ways. Pan fried, blackened, battered and fried, and ceviche is served for dinner. It was fantastic.


Wednesday, June 15th

We did nothing today. It was fantastic. We watched a movie about a lawyer who represents an Army veteran who killed a man for raping his wife. It was probably 60 years old. We have been watching a lot of vintage films that we would normally never watch at home. Moonstruck with Cher and Nicholas Cage was funny. The Bravados was a good flick as well. I forgot what it is like to watch something that is determined by a network, not on demand. It makes me feel like reading a novel in a book club that I would never crack open otherwise.

Our water stopped working at about 7PM last night. I contacted the owner twice with no reply. It was back on about 15 hours later. We didn’t have hot water for another 3 hours. We survived. Nick got water from the pool to flush the toilet. Hooray.

We ate all of the sandwiches today, again. We will have to wake up very early for tomorrow’s excursion: fishing charter. It will be great, especially if I can bring home ceviche and fish fillets for tacos. Fingers are crossed. I also am starting to get a little homesick. The last adventure was confirmed today, and we only have six days left. I can handle anything as long as I don’t have my feeling of impending doom occur again. We will have two more snorkeling outings, a theme park, and a trip to the ruins. I am looking forward to all of those things but tiring of taking the stairs over and over and over and over again.

You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

Tuesday, June 14th

Parque Maya will happen today, for sure. Well, if we leave on time. Arrival is supposed to be by 9:30AM. We make it by 9:57AM. There is no one there but us and the employees. They let us go on the tour.

We use the facilities and store our backpack. It is a nice place. They show us a short video on the Mayan Culture, sort of. There are shots of Coba, Chichen Itza, and Tulum along with jaguar, crocodiles, and an owl. We are hoping to make a tour to Coba, but most of the ruins are closed. Just seeing one would satisfy our curiosity.  Our tour will be on the 19th if they allow it. I hope they do.

Next we go onto the ropes courses and ziplines. I haven’t been able to zip line because I am normally right at the weight limit. They don’t even question me and fit me into a harness. We climb the stairs and get to the top tower for the first descent. Our guide lived in Lancaster for a little while. “Are you sure it will hold me?! Are you sure?” “Of course”, says the man as he pushes me off the ledge. It does, but I still white-knuckle it the way down. It’s fun.

I made the unfortunate choice of wearing chanclas to a ropes course. The six bridges are difficult to cross and physically demanding, made even more so by my shoes. The sun is beating down on us. Making it through is a great accomplishment for my overweight frame. I have been pushing myself physically the entire time here, and for the first time in a long time, I want to lose my extra 80 pounds. If I keep going at this rate, I will.

As we wrap up our last zip line, we grab life vests and board a boat to explore the lagoon. We see crocodiles and puffer fish. Our guide explains to us how the cenotes were formed by meteorites and how the water runs through the limestone below, coming up from wells into the water. We talk about the tannins released from the mangroves that cause the water to be red. Evee sits at the front of the boat on the way back, taking in the sun and wind.

Two men dressed in Mayan ritual costumes greet us after our ride. They speak in their ancient language and thank the sun and rain gods for cocoa, beans, and corn. We dance and run with them to a room full of computers, one displaying our family’s adventure documented by a Nikon with a fantastic lens. They were $89 bucks for 103 pictures. We tell our guide that we’ve already dished out a small fortune on dolphin pics and that we would rather give the money to them. Later he offers $54. We decline and tip all of these people who depend upon tourists and are dedicated to making our experiences memorable very well.

There is a 7-11 on the way to the bus stop. Boy do I ever want cigarettes. They don’t carry Newports, and the Slurpee machine is down. I can’t tell if this bust is a good or bad thing. We meet a family from DC with 3 very young children. They tell us that everything there is closed and this is the 27th country they have visited. I’m impressed.

Back at the hotel the cleaning people show up so we exit and go to parasail. In my mind, the parasail is attached to a steel cord that can hold thousands of pounds. This parasail is attached to a rope… A rope. My husband, I and my daughter go first. It is actually kind of nice until we get very high. If we flip upside down, fall out, and break our necks at this height, I think we could still survive. I am pulled out of my worst-case-scenario by a cluster of sea turtles swimming below. They are awesome. The boys go next. They like it too and want to go again. I don’t think that will happen on this trip.

We stop at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on the way back. We are forced to answer a COVID questionnaire before entering. I tell the hostess that I have been sweating profusely, which is a symptom to be reported, and she laughs it off saying they everyone sweats profusely, it’s Cancun in the middle of July.

The movie starts over as we sit down. Our food is actually really good. Even my daughter likes her pizza and eats almost everything placed in front of her. “Life is like a box of chocolates”, says our waiter… “You never know what you’re going to get, especially in 2020.” I know that’s right.

Kick the Habit

Monday, June 13th

Today we were supposed to go to Parque Maya. I got up and made breakfast sandwiches. We have been eating sandwiches for the past 8 days and we are still going strong. Croissants, grilled cheeses, p,b & js, bacon, egg and tomato… so many sandwiches. 

Anyway, I started reading the news this morning, and it was COVID this and COVID that. I also decided to stop smoking. It has been about 20 hours. Well, after I made breakfast and did the dishes, I was discussing with my husband and children what we should do this upcoming school year, either going back to school or doing school online. We are leaning toward online school. Then I started coughing, and my chest was tight. My mind went to the worst scenario, I end up intubated in Mexico, which could be a possibility. I was filled with a sense of dread and literally had a little mental break. It was awful. 

I sat in the shower and looked up what happens once you stop smoking on my phone. It could increase coughing and wheezing due to the cilia reactivating and cleaning the lungs. Then I look at COVID onset symptoms. There is frequently a fever. I don’t have one. My husband tells me I will be fine. I am genuinely terrified. 

I have not dealt with a mental break since my mother died. I don’t know why I am having one now. I hear that people are using anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications at the highest rates ever. I get out of the shower and I am breathing easier. My husband strokes my hair and I fall asleep while talking with the Lord. We will have to go to Parque Maya tomorrow. 

When I wake up three hours later I feel 90% better. I can breathe and I am no longer afraid. My husband picks our laundry up. It was $30. He wants to go to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, an hilariously touristy restaurant based off of the greatest movie of all time, Forrest Gump, but I tell him we still need groceries, and that will not fit into our budget today. Instead, the kids can get boogie boards.

On the walk to the bus I am dizzy. I start to sweat but I’m not hot, but clammy. We have on masks and we sanitize. We find a cheap taco joint and my husband makes the mistake of ordering fajita pizza. It tastes like the stuff you find in the freezer section. The boys’ enchiladas and quesadillas are much better.

Somehow, we are buying more food each time we go to the supermarket, but the costs are decreasing. I think we may just be figuring out what to buy and what is the most cost effective. We walk away with a smattering of Mexican chips, candy, 18 liters of water, 12 Modelo Especials, limes, cereal, milk, juice, meat, cheese, some fantastic pastries, cookies, mango, melon, bananas, 18 eggs, jello, butter, cucumbers, and more, along with three boogie boards for around $65 USD. Not too shabby.

I continue to sweat profusely. They took our temperatures upon entering the store and I am normal. As I exit the bus to walk to our hotel, I have left sweat puddles on the bus seat where my legs were. I feel sorry for the next person to occupy that space and I’ve decided that I am not reading or watching the news anymore. I don’t think I can handle the fear and negativity. I normally feel an obligation to share in and acknowledge the tragedy of others, but not today and not for a long time.

Cajita Feliz

Saturday, June 11th

Our shuttle arrived at 8 AM to take us to Puerto Morelos snorkeling along the second largest barrier reef in the world. The diver spoke to us in Spanish during the entire 30 minute ride. Her Spanish was slow and clearly enunciated. Nick and I understood about 70% of her story. She left school in 4th grade and enjoys her work, but wishes she could have learned more, English included. Her daughter had contracted COVID two months ago and was very sick but is feeling much better now. She cleans her shuttle twice a day and has received a “green” rating for essential workers and has been able to continue her work. Because she speaks English concerning shuttling and hotel terminology, people assume she is fluent. She isn’t. It is especially difficult for her when tourists don’t speak English and only Russian or Japanese. 

Alltournative has a great facility. Our guides take us onto the boat with a fellow tourist named Aziz who has escaped four months’ confinement in New York City to work remotely from Playa del Carmen. He loves the sun and beaches. This is his first time snorkeling. He floats on the life save with our daughter being pulled along by a crew member. He will either go to Los Cabos or Croatia once his month-long stay has concluded. We encourage Croatia. 

Our first stop is very nice, but the second stop is fantastic. We see urchins, anemones, angelfish, stingrays, barracudas, grouper, and more electrically-colored fish than we can identify. We will more than likely return for another go around.

Back at the hotel we decide to head into the outdoor malls to visit the aquarium, wax museum, and Ferris wheel. We find a McDonald’s. It is disappointingly similar to those in Texas. I order in Spanish and understand the majority of the verbal exchange. It was only $15 to feed all five of us, Mcflurries for the children included.

A man tries to sell us on a discounted fishing charter. $240 for 6 hours. We would only have to sit through a 90-minute presentation at a yacht club and go for a ride. I am down. Nick on the other hand, is not. The man tells us that we both would benefit; him from the commission gained by us attending the sales pitch, and us from the money saved on fishing costs. Work has been very slow for him and he needs the money. He would want a generous tip. He gives us his phone number. We book a different boat online later that night.

We go to the supermarket for supplies after our outings and a quick trip to the Lego store. We purchase more groceries than the time before, but the cost is less. The cashier shorts us $40 pesos. I don’t know if it is intentional or not, but it won’t happen again. I was banking on that change for our bus fare.

Do you Dancer?

Thursday, June 9th

Today is our second adventure; the Dancer Cruise. The boat is large and has four levels. There are probably 60 other people on board and the crew. Mostly families with children but there are two ladies looking to party. The crew is there to ensure we have all we need and a great time to boot. 

Our All-Inclusive passes do not include the all-inclusive golf cart ride once we arrive to Isla Mujeres. We decided not to pay an additional $50 because we already had to pay a dock fee of $60, $15 per person USD. About two hours later the man sells us on $25 for an hour-long guided tour of the island with our own golf-cart. We take that deal.

We start with a breakfast of pan dulces, fruit and juices. I found out that Tang passes as OJ, so I selected pineapple juice instead. We have been drinking so much water. It all comes from bottles because the water from the sink is non potable. 

They offer unlimited liquor and we decline every time. My husband takes a few beers, but no tequila para mi. I only drink maybe four times a year, and when I do, I do. That is about all my body can handle. If I drink anything but silver Patron with lime and salt, I become violently ill, and not just for an insignificant period of time. I will wretch for hours, in fifteen to thirty minute intervals. I have developed an alcohol intolerance. It is God’s way of helping me control myself. 

We drop anchor to snorkel. Nick saw a sea turtle swimming ahead of the boat, so I am crossing my fingers. I love snorkeling. It is my favorite sport to participate in. Floating along with the waves and listening to my breathing while searching for hidden treasures… It is the best. I wanted to share my passion with the kids. Angus hated it. Being in a group of 50 snorkelers, and hundreds more with other groups, is not quite the same as being able to freely explore. Everyone is required to wear life vests, and I understand why, but it does hinder the ability to dive.

The water is a bit murky, but there are many amazing fish. We float and paddle along until we reach two installments of the underwater museum! I really wanted to see some of the sunken statues, and didn’t realize we would on this outing. There were about seven hands in a circle, and impressions of bodies within rectangular concrete moldings. Pretty cool.

We are the last back on the boat and then we pull away to a deeper and clearer spot to fly down a two-story slide and jump off a diving board into the ocean. There is a diving contest and the winner receives a free bottle of booze. While I participate, I am not included in the game. Not that I want the bottle, but I am slightly saddened that I do not meet unspoken requirements the other participants do. A lady I met encourages me to speak up, but I graciously decline. 

All three kiddos use the slide and diving board until they are ready for us to have lunch. Ceviche, fajitas, quesadillas, arroz, salsa, tostadas y ensalada. The kiddos clean their plates. They had worked up an appetite.

We disembark at Isla Mujeres and go to our golf carts. A local offers us $10 an hour, but we stick with our guy from the boat. We are the last cart in a line of about eight, following the leader in a train of tourists. The island is covered in makeshift dwellings and people looking for a way to make a living in the time of travel restrictions and fear. Our guide tells us we don’t need to wear our masks on the golf carts.

About 5 minutes in, black jeep pulls up next to us in a roundabout and is saying something to our boys in the back. We smile and wave. Then we realize he is accosting us for being “Stupid, @$%&! American tourists” and not having our masks on. He calls my sons “dumb Americans”. He has Florida license plates. 

I tell him “OK” but he pulls in front of us and slams on his brakes, separating us from the group. I take this very personally. I start yelling back at him and asking him to move and he refuses. We put our masks on and I wonder why he doesn’t verbally assault the Hispanic family in front of us, none with masks on. Rarely, we experience racial discrimination as well. I yell at him about being a hypocrite and point out every person we pass with no facial covering. My son comments, “Mom, I only know two bad words in Spanish, and you said them both.” A shining role model for the children, as always. About eight minutes later, we pull up to a police checkpoint and the man drives away. I hope I haven’t cussed out a narco. Nick says his tires were bald, so I probably don’t have anything to worry about. The irate man is right, we should have our masks on, even though we are driving and social distancing in a private, but open, vehicle. Both he and I went about it the wrong way.

We go to the southern point of the island and take pictures with statues. We make our way back to the golf cart rental location and go into a few shops. Angus haggles the price of a thin silver chain and small cross down to something he can afford. Nick and I think it is a perfect souvenir.

The boat is ready to board and we make our way back to Cancun. The ride takes about an hour and a half and the whole way there you can drink as much as you want and they put on a dance party, hence Dancer Cruise. My family stays up on the upper deck and drinks water and soda. We venture down stairs when a song makes us want to dance.

After we exit the boat and add to the tip box, we walk about a mile to the closest bus stop. It is hot and we sweat profusely, but are well hydrated as we make it back to the hotel.

All the Federales Say…

Wednesday, June 8th

Today was much more relaxed. We slept in. One great thing about this trip is that we are going to sleep at a decent hour due to exhaustion, and waking up at a normal time. COVID has warped my concept of space and time. I go to sleep around 2 or 3 A.M. and wake up around 11. Sometimes I don’t sleep at all. This trip is helping me get back into the pattern that I will need for work. 

We drop our dirty clothes off at the laundromat here at the hotel before grocery shopping. Instead of WalMart, TripAdvisor has suggested Súper Chedraui Selecto! It is beautiful. We like to ride the buses here. The five of us can ride one-way for 60 pesos. While the buses can be crowded and don’t have A.C., they are quiet and relaxing and do have a breeze. You have to be careful to hold on when they take off though.

It took us about 15 minutes to arrive at the store. Wonder of all wonders, they let our entire family in! They take our temperature and make sure we sanitize. The store might be the nicest grocery store I have ever been in. The escalator ramp has special groves that carts’ wheels fit into to go up and down the three levels within the store. They have a walk-in cigar humidor, and a wine dispenser, a sushi bar and a ceviche bar. The huge bakery is filled with pan dulce. A baker helps me figure out how to get our pastries priced. The eggs are not refrigerated. That blows my mind. The prices are comparable to Walmart and the experience was much more enjoyable. 

The Hotel Zone in Cancun is situated along 14 mile of beach and we are located toward the beginning on the southern side, near the airport. Due to the fact that there are no stores or restaurants near our hotel, the main road has a speed limit of 60 mpk. It makes walking down the sidewalks with my children daunting. The bus runs about every five minutes, but there is nothing but a 3-inch-curb separating us from sudden death, or at least a devastatingly painful injury. Federales ride by periodically in the beds of pickup trucks with railings manning M-16s and grenade launchers. They always wave back to Angus.

We went to the beach and built a sandcastle. My daughter makes friends with everyone no matter their age or what language they speak. Today it is with a 2-year-old little girl who speaks Spanish. They are bffs right away. My sons swim with Nick and attempt to build a sand structure that won’t be destroyed by the tide. Bueno suerte con eso!

Xel-Ha and Swimming with the Fishes

Tuesday, June 7th

We made it. The flight was fine. There were only about 80 passengers and everyone was wearing masks. The man at the counter had been kind to me when TSA let my family through without boarding passes. He printed them for us. I haven’t flown in four years, and this would be the first flight my youngest son and daughter have ever been on.

We made the horrific mistake of taking the bus to Wal-Mart. They only let me in and made my family wait outside in the heat. COVID requirements. People were mostly annoyed with me and my lack of proficient Spanish, except the lady at the deli and people trying to sell us stuff. We hadn’t eaten in twelve hours and we were hot. Despite many of their frustrations with an American tourist like myself, Stone Temple Pilots were playing throughout the store. On the way back from the store I saw a billboard that said, “HRoof Club- #Not for everyone”.

Once we procured food and drink, things were looking up. Our VRBO has a beautiful view of the ocean. It needs a few repairs and the elevator doesn’t work. We are on the fourth floor. Mexico’s beaches are only open to tourists. The locals cannot come unless they are staying at a resort. Ours is called Solymar and I take comfort in the fact that we are a great minority at this hotel. The Mexican people can use their tax-funded, public beaches when staying here.

The costs we saved on not reserving an all inclusive hotel allowed us to purchase Go City Passes for outings. Our first outing this morning involves swimming with the dolphins at an eco-park called Xel-Ha, which is run by a massive corporation called Xcaret Group which employs thousands of locals in the seven parks under their operations. Their billboards and advertisements speckle the roads and buildings of Cancun more than any other product being pushed. 

My socio-economic privilege sticks out like a sore thumb. I have never been to a place that was so built upon tourism, including Las Vegas. Everyone wants to give me something for my money. I’m like a walking wallet. For our two hour drive out to Xel-Ha, we witnessed resort after resort. In between the towering marble, impeccably designed, security-guarded entrances into the gated communities were cinder block dwellings draped in plastic tarps and duct tape. People lived there. We drove by an exit to a club called, “Privilege Beach”. Despite all of the eco-friendly tourist destinations, the highways were littered with trash. Piles of refuse drifting in every area except those reserved for wealthy travelers staying in the stone facade laden resorts. There were also amazing murals along the overpasses created by local artists telling stories and sending messages long after the paint had dried.

We swam with the dolphins. A worker told me how happy he was to have people back in the park after months of governmental restrictions forbid him from earning wages for his family. Another worker was annoyed with my lack of Spanish, though I think I speak fairly well, especially concerning food. My middle son was afraid of the dolphins. They were big and had sharp teeth. After encouraging him and standing with him, he pet them, let one “kiss” his cheek and relaxed. He said they were soft and their skin was so smooth. 

They wanted $480 dollars for the photo package. I graciously declined the saleswoman down to $100 dollars for 63 pictures delivered electronically and three printed and framed. That was still $20 over my daily allowance. I’ve divided our entire peso stash into 15 plastic baggies, each containing 1800 pesos, one for each day. There are three additional baggies with each of the children’s spending money and another in American for a fishing charter. If we don’t use all from one day, it goes into the next day’s baggie. Our tax return was generous, as was our stimulus check. The safe in our roof is not functioning. Carrying that much on you everyday is a bit daunting. After each day of spending, a little weight is lifted off my shoulders and from my purse.

From the dolphin encounter, we ate breakfast and went for a bike ride up to the mouth of the river so we could float in its cool, mangrove canopied waters. In an attempt to avoid flattening an iguana, my daughter crashed off the path into a pile of roots skinning her knees while the lizard looked on with smug pleasure. She says next time she will run that sucker over. 

The jungle was full of Mexican Raccoons, or Coti, scavenging for food along the floor. They would move in a herd running to a fro like a tan and orange striped flock of seagulls.  They were super cute, especially the babies. I wonder if they can catch COVID like house pets? I hope not. 

All of the workers told us to choose either the inflatables for floating OR the snorkel equipment, as we would be charged for losing the fins or masks. The snorkels are ours as a souvenir. We didn’t listen. We floated on the tubes slowly through the mangroves. Very slowly. I attached the fins and masks to my life jacket. Once we emerged in the main river, there was a cliff you could dive off of. We attempted to float over to the dock to exit but it was full of people doing the same thing and the stairs were full. 

My daughter had predetermined to do all of the things her brothers were afraid of doing before we even got on the plane. As she disembarked and ran up to the cliff face, I was still in the water. The man in front of her walked to the edge and hesitated before deciding to walk back down instead of jumping as his family yelled, “Pollo!” at him from the bank. Then Evee was there. Her little seven-year-old frame standing on a 15-foot edge, me stuck in the water. Then she jumped. Everyone applauded and commented on her bravery. I’m sure the man who had left before her was feeling great about the situation. She made it down safely, but not before I imagined her slipping and hitting her head, knocking her unconscious into the river below. That is always where my mind goes. 

I had to jump after that. I couldn’t let her do it without her momma encouraging her by following in her footsteps. It was high. I leapt before allowing my mind to contemplate what was happening. Even with my life vest on my feet touched the sand ten feet below the water. “Was it scary Mommy? Or fun?” “A little of both”, I replied. She agreed. 

We finally met up with my boys a few docks down. My husband had lost his phone in the river. I was determined to find it. I love snorkeling. I asked God for guidance and set my mind to it. After 30 minutes, my husband had swallowed a good deal of brackish water. His bigote prevents snorkel masks from creating a water-proof seal. I swam up the river and asked a lifeguard if a phone had been turned in. It hadn’t. I swam back to the other dock and asked my husband where he lost it, the line he had taken. He told me to give up, but I was determined, and guess what? I found it. It was a miracle, and it still worked. We won’t be losing a phone again on this trip.

By the time we reached the inlet, we were gassed and the brackish water had made my husband sick. We went to turn in our equipment, and had only lost one mask. I told the woman at the counter I didn’t know where it was and she didn’t charge me the 400 pesos. That was awesome. 

We decided to shower and go to the water slide. It was huge. We climbed 7 flights of stairs to reach the top of the slides. The view was fantastic and beautiful, but the tower swayed in the wind causing my palms to sweat. My children stood near the railing. I have not been OK with heights and my children since I chased my daughter along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I couldn’t catch her. I almost vomited. 

The slide was the longest I had ever been on and would have been much more fun if I didn’t worry about flying off of the side the whole way down. We made it down safely. Of course, my daughter wanted to go on it again. Why can’t everything be enclosed? The stairs, the slide? Why do I immediately go into fight or flight as soon as I sense a hint of danger with my children in tow? I don’t like it.

We finished the day with really decent ceviche and fresh fruit. It was lovely. Then we got into our shuttle bus to ride back to the hotel. Once again we passed resort after resort, barrio after barrio. I made sure to tip our driver well.

The Summer of 2020 Action Plan

Change my action plan… That is what I have been doing since Saturday, March 14th. I’ve been planning a trip to Canada for the past two years. That is how long it has been since my last family vacation. We would drive up the Eastern Seaboard and back, starting in the foothills of the Smokies. Speaking of Smokies, I have been smoking again since March. It has become my COVID coping mechanism. A horrible example for my children. I’ve heard smokers were less likely to get COVID, which I used to internally justify my choice, and then I heard smoking is a contributing factor for contracting COVID. I’ve heard all of the contrasting “facts”. Wearing a mask doesn’t help. You must wear a mask. Go outside to deal with stress. Stay in your home unless it is an emergency. COVID cannot be transmitted through food. Carefully disinfect your groceries once you arrive at home… 

Anyway, the trip was to last seven weeks. We would first go to visit my husband’s family in Louisiana, along with the place Bonnie and Clyde had been shot. Then we would go to the Duck Dynasty filming location and on to the University of Alabama. We would visit the Barber Motor Sports Museum and, more importantly, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where bombings took the lives of four young black girls in 1963, ages 11 and 14 (the same as my sons), to show my children the horrific injustices inflicted upon by minorities during the civil rights movement. We would meet up with my husband’s aunt who is the Chief of Police in Davidson, North Carolina. Maybe we would go tubing through the mountains. From there we would see the Greensboro counter and the Civil Rights Museum, Roanoke Colony, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Outer Banks where the Kitty Hawk first took flight. Then on to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, Shenandoah National Park, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Madison’s Montpelier on the way to DC. From there, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia.

What I was most looking forward to was our week in New York. As a teenager, I would have dreams about New York City. I wanted to be there so badly. I wanted to move there after college. Then 9/11 happened and I stopped having the dreams and stopped wanting to go. Once we planned this trip, the urge came back, and I was more excited than I had been to go anywhere in a long time. My wanderlust returned. I had that week jammed packed with ALL. OF. THE. THINGS. A tour of the Statue of Liberty’s crown, the 9/11 Memorial, Macy’s, 30 Rock, FAO Schwarz, the Central Park Zoo, a play on Broadway, a Yankee’s game, the Empire State Building, the One World Tower, Wall Street, The High Line, the Mets, MOMA, the Vessel, Grand Central, Harlem… All of the things. 

From New York we would go to Boston and hit up five of the Ivy Leagues to show my children what is possible for them. We would visit Salem and then Mystic, Connecticut. Then we would go to Boothbay Harbor, Maine to look in on my husband’s great-grandparents’ farm, where a distant cousin still lives. On to Acadia National Park. I woke up at 6 A.M. each time a national park would open for their reservations, which became available six months in advance, just to nab the choicest of camping sites. If we were lucky, we would get a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, even though it was summer time. We would go on to Nova Scotia and ride the Fundy Bore Tides. For the Fourth of July we would come back to the US and stay above an ice cream parlor in Bangor, Maine, and we would visit the home of Stephen King. Then there would be Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. We would explore Montreal and Toronto on our way to Niagara Falls. Then on to the Flight 93 Memorial and Falling Water. 

On the leg home we would visit my friend in Ohio and visit Jack Hanna at the Columbus Zoo and Cuyahoga National Park. To finish, we would go to Mammoth National Park, and Diamond Crater in Arkansas. There would be a smattering of beautiful state parks and camping experiences all along, until I received my first AirB&B host cancellation. I guess I stopped dreaming about New York again after this disaster. We still haven’t gotten our money back for that Yankees Game. They were supposed to be playing the Orioles.

So, I changed my action plan. We were now going to go to eleven national parks in the midwest where COVID was not spreading like wildfire, and to do so, we would procure an RV. A travel trailer. We need one for our Disney trip next year. We have been planning Disney since our children were in utero. We will see what happens. 

This is not a buyer’s market for RVs. RVs have not been in production since March and everyone is having the same shared dream of diving in isolation, but still being able to vacation safely. At least I only spent a month planning that trip. After visiting seven dealerships, we decided to go another route. We know what trailer we want now at least.

So, I changed my action plan. Mexico wants tourists, and flights are cheap. There are not many party-goers in Cancun because the bars and nightclubs are closed. As I lay in bed trying to sleep even though I need to be up in three hours to leave at 4:30 A.M. for our 7 o’clock flight, I question what I am doing. Am I threatening the safety of my children to experience a trip abroad only due to my own egotistical propensities? Has COVID and motherhood stripped me of my sense of adventure? Have I made the right choice spending $7,000 dollars on a 16-day vacation? I don’t know. What I do know is that I have created this in my mind and it has come to fruition, everyone is on board, and we are going. Our passports that we were going to use for Canada will now be used for Mexico. I’ve been obsessing over this for three weeks.