My husband and I have been married for 5 years but never went on a honeymoon. At the time of our wedding, we had neither money nor time to plan a trip. After years of discussing options, we booked a room at the Valentin Imperial Maya in Playa del Carmen around our anniversary this spring. We left our house at 3:30am June 26, not knowing how long the new x-ray scanner at the airport would delay us. It turns out security wasn’t any busier than “normal” that Tuesday so we sat in the airport for a couple of hours until our flight left. We were tired and anxious for the many unknowns we were about to experience in our first international trip.
On the ride to the resort, flash flooding a couple days earlier necessitated a detour. We saw parts of Playa del Carmen that we wouldn’t usually have been shown. Just a few short blocks from the lap of luxury is absolute poverty.
The resort was breathtakingly beautiful! Without our cell phones, computers, kid or pets, we had a lot of time just the two of us without other distractions. No building was over two stories high and the beach was in view almost everywhere we went. Iguanas were as plentiful as squirrels in the Midwest. I was fascinated by them! Most restaurants were open seating. The food was fresh and delicious!
I spent a few hours one afternoon sitting on the beach at the edge of where the waves landed and returned to sea. Life is a lot like the ocean…always moving, always coming and going. When the white froth was at eye level in the distance, it felt a little scary but once it got closer, it was more manageable. A few times the water came forcefully enough my body swayed with the movement but I didn’t get swept away. Instead, I became more firmly planted in my spot. The wave came, the wave crashed, and it was gone. Sometimes it’s time to move away from harm but sometimes, if you just stay where you are at, problems with dissolve around you, just like that wave did around me.
As we ventured into surrounding towns on our way to and from guided tours, I saw a completely different way of being. Bars covered all the windows where people lived. Merchants in the tourist trap hot spots were aggressive and crowding. Many bathrooms had no light fixtures inside. Instead, they had openings to the outside, providing natural light and saving energy. They asked you to put your toilet tissue in the waste basket instead of flushing it. Many rode bikes or walked, stop signs were viewed as a suggestion to slow. A few times, trucks full of men in black bullet proof vests and large guns drove by. I was told they were the police and locals hoped the upcoming election would change things.
We learned that minimum wage is a mere 5 US dollars a DAY! Not an hour, a day! A gallon of gas costs almost as much as a day’s worth of work at minimum wage because they have no refinery. They have petroleum but no way to turn it into fuel so the raw material is exported and then imported back into the country once refined. The candidate our tour guide hoped would win the presidency planned to put in a refinery to change all that (we later learned that candidate didn’t win). Subway, McDonald’s and Starbucks also cost the same as in America (yes, those chains are present and prominent).
We met some incredible people. Locals and world travelers alike. Learned names, shared stories and exchanged email addresses. One particularly special couple even invited my husband and I to visit them in their home on the East Coast! (more on them later)
While away, I often thought of Pete’s speech in “Muppets Take Manhattan” saying “people is peoples…dancing, music, potatoes…”. He’s right.
From my heart to yours,
Thanks for reading