This was part of our lunch yesterday which we ate at Chen Rio, a beach on the other side of the island. There is no electricity or running water over there (I'm sure I've already pointed this out) and yet somehow they manage to have the most amazing food and cold beer and ice for drinks and although I am certain that there is absolutely only hard work and no magic involved in these things, I still somehow feel as if it is all a Mayan miracle, a result of some ancient knowledge involving fire and wind and sea.
Here's the secret to the freshness of the seafood.
The fishermen appear from the ocean and unload their panga boats and pull them up on the beach until time to go out again. These people seem to be as comfortable on the water as on the land and there is never a time of day that boats are not passing the hotel. Fishing boats, dive boats, sporty boats, yachts, sailboats, ferry boats for both people and for cars and cargo.
Before cruise ships began docking in Cozumel, it was mostly known for its amazing reefs and divers came here from all over the world to sink into the deep waters and take in what lay below. It was Jacque Cousteau himself who made these reefs famous and until then, it was just a sleepy little island where families lived and raised their families and had the paradise to themselves.
Still, many, many of the tourists who come here are divers. The ones who come to stay for a few days or weeks. And over and over and over again I hear stories of people who come to dive many times a year and then, not unsurprisingly, end up moving here when they can, having fallen in love first with the reefs and then with the island, it's people, the lifestyle.
The dive masters are the rock stars here and have been since we've been visiting.
The cruise ships have changed things dramatically and not for the better although, I probably should not say that. It is impossible not to see that there is far more prosperity now than there used to be, even back in the neighborhoods where the residents live and shop and own businesses. Since we were here last a huge new supermarket has opened up several miles back from the ocean where tourists rarely shop and that says a lot to me. There is still mind-boggling poverty but it seems that people are having fewer children. One or two or three, despite the ubiquitous Catholic church. It is such a family and child oriented society and I get the feeling that parents work as hard as they can to provide the things their children need and they are so very proud to tell you of the education they are getting.
In the park in front of the government buildings, they have set up a huge fair-like thing for the children and every night there are rides and there is entertainment on a big stage and families gather and the children ride the rides and little cars and I think it's all free and it goes on way into the night. The first night we were here, we watched a father put his little girl in a Flintstone ride, a sort of baby roller coaster, and he and the operator had to give it a push to get it started and when it was going around, up and down, the father went back to his wife and put his arm around her and they watched their baby girl who was delighted and thrilled and I could feel the love and pride they felt from where I was watching them.
And this is how it is.
Christmas is huge here but I don't feel the anxiety and stress that I feel at home about it. Families shop and buy the special foods they eat at Christmas and the gifts but it seems far more normal and less commercial. This too may change. But for now, it seems more joyful than stressful.
I think that tonight is the most special night here for families. Nochebuena and families come together for food and for drinks and for fun. A lot of businesses will be closed but plenty will be open for us to find our supper, I am sure.
So yesterday we got on our Hardly, not Harley, as we are calling the scooter, and drove the eleven miles across the island on the one road that transverses it.
This is the road that travels through the jungle and parts of it are so dense it would take ten men with machetes to chop a path through wide enough to walk. You do pass ranches and farms, tiny huts and a tequila tour place. The ruins which have been uncovered are also positioned off this road which you can see on the map above. When you get to the water on the wild side, the road to the north is almost impassible. We have tried before, but have never made it more than a few hundred yards, probably. The road to the south is good though, and that is where you find the beach clubs and bars. The water is beautiful but can be treacherous with riptides and strong currents. There are more protected places where people stop and swim. Families, especially on Sundays, make their way to the beaches with food and drinks and spend the day. At the south end of the island, Punta Sur, there is a lighthouse and a few ruins and beautiful beaches. When we first started coming here, there was no entry fee and the lighthouse keeper's wife would fry fish on certain days and it was a popular place for local people to gather. Now it is a state park but I believe free for residents. As it should be.
I have a story about us being over there one night, a long, long time ago and I think I have told the story before and may well tell it again sometime.
It was one of the most other-worldly experiences I've ever had and I will never forget it.
Anyway, after we had our lunch at Chen Rio of that shrimp ceviche and the most delicious fried red snapper I've ever eaten in my whole entire life (I would pay good money to be allowed to go into the kitchen there to watch how they make it),
we pulled ourselves up and and out of our chairs on the sand under the palm trees.
We got back on the bike and made that long finish of the circuit back to town and our little home here where we napped and got up to play a hand of cards and watch the sunset.
Some people travel to have new experiences and see new things every day and that is probably the best reason to travel but for me with my stupid anxiety, this is exactly the way I love it. I DO see new things here every day but there is also immense comfort and pleasure for me in seeing the same people year after year, the same streets and shops, in smelling the same smells, in feeling the same soft air, in tasting the same fresh, simple, amazing food, hearing the clang of the dive tanks, the whistle of the blackbirds, the swish of the palm trees, the continual chatter and crash of waves, the whine of scooters, in being able to fall back into the memories of all of the sweet experiences we've had here.
Well, for those of you who have made it this far through this long and probably not-very-interesting post, I thank you for coming along.
I just asked Mr. Moon if he has planned out our day yet. He is reading a book and it is almost noon.
"I'm working on it," he said and went back to his book.
P.S. Although I feel extremely guilty, I am not taking the time to comment on blogs, mostly. I am reading them but I know that for my heart and my soul it is best for me to disengage from any world but this as much as possible and I would be a fool not to do so.
So. I love you.
If the phone doesn't ring then you know that it's me.