~Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Ugly American, Part II

The next morning, Katie actually woke up before me. The boat shuddered loudly as its engines shut down and pulled into port in Cozumel, Mexico. I knew we were scheduled to get there at 7 a.m.; I noted the time and rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour.

I quite liked sleeping on the boat when I actually shut my eyes for the few hours I did every night. The boat rocked ever so slightly and I could feel it occasionally as I laid down. It felt like being cradled. It was comforting.

At 8 a.m. I rolled over. Katie was laying in her bed with her reading light on. She'd read and snooze, then read and snooze.

I adjusted the pillow under my head. "I have a story to tell you," I said.

"Oh yeah?" She marked her place in her Kindle and set it down.

I told her the entire story about the Boston Brother's wife the previous night. The paging the entire boat looking for us. The thong. The crazy eyes.

She paused and looked at me. "You know, if I had to bet on who that would have happened to, I would have bet on you or me," she said in all seriousness.

"What, drunk and crying on a boat?"

"Yeah," she sighed.

I thought about what Katie said.

"Yeah," I sighed.


The group stayed together in Cozumel. (The Boston Brother tagged along; his wife stayed on the boat.) Our plan was to disembark and find a taxi and tell him to take us to the beach. We weren't ones for guided tours or planned excursions.

Cozumel's entire economy is catering to tourists. Trinkets and souvenirs were decorated with college logos from the Southeastern U.S. where students could travel there cheaply. I was surprised by the number of items in a foreign country that had my alma mater stamped on it. I bought a bracelet for gameday for $3.

So they had our numbers as we looked for a taxi. A man corralled the 7 of us and asked where we wanted to go.

"To the beach!" said Harvey's Husband.

The taxi driver went to his stand and pulled out a laminated map of different places. He pointed to one place in the corner.

"This beach is on the end of the island. It's at an exclusive resort that includes beach chairs, umbrellas, a beach bar, changing rooms and snorkeling. I will take you there and wait until you're ready to leave. Then I will drop the girls off for shopping and I will take the boys to a free tequila tasting. And when you're done, I'll take you back to port."

"How much?" asked Harvey's Husband.

"$25 a person, for everything."

This seemed high to me, comparing the prices to Progresso and Merida.

"How much are the cerveza at that beach bar?" I asked, knowing my priorities.

"Six cerveza for $17, senora," he responded.

I scrunched my nose. That was $10 more than my lone trip in the previous city. But everyone else nodded and thought the price was reasonable and forked over the cash. I did as well.

He delivered us to the upscale resort as promised. We couldn't have asked for anything nicer and we were completely catered to during our stay. The beaches were white. The snorkeling was free. We sat under giant grass umbrellas that were shaped like palm trees. Waiters would come out to the beach and bring us our buckets of beer.

It was all so very nice. It was all so very... American. I wanted more local color. I wanted to be exploring a dark bar in an alley. I wanted the adventure. The story.

When everyone else went to the tequila tasting, I waved goodbye and said I'd be around the corner and that I would try to stay close. Besides, I can't really drink tequila either since an incident in college involving quarter tequila night, a $5 bill and the only time I've ever hitchhiked.

The first thing I did was leave the main road and walk down a side street. There were peddlers with carts and smaller stores with true Mexican wares as opposed to university t-shirts.

A young boy ran up to me. "You want to hold a Mexican chicken?" he asked.

I looked behind him. Sitting on a perch on his cart was a giant parrot. Why yes, I do want to hold a Mexican chicken! I've never held a giant parrot.

He gestured to me to hold my hands flat. I did. Then he laid the parrot on its back in my hands. The parrot didn't move, obviously used to the routine.

I smiled. "Like a baby," I said.

The boy snatched up the parrot and gestured for me to extend my index finger. I did and he hung the parrot from my finger. The parrot gently gripped my finger with its beak and hung.

"You want a picture?" the boy asked.

Now he was going to ask for money. "No thanks," I said. "I have beach hair." I fished out a dollar and handed it to him and went on my way.

The further away I got from the main road, the less the people spoke English. It was difficult for me because I now knew exactly two phrases in Spanish: "That's what she said," and "Your foot is dead." Every time I tried to speak it, Italian would come fumbling out. Someone bumped into me when I wasn't looking.

"Scusi! Mi dispiace," I replied automatically. Then a look of disgust would cross my face as I realized what I was doing.

I found a side shop and entered. I looked at the shop keeper. I had practiced the word.

"Luchadore?" I said as I waved my hand in circles in front of my face. I told a friend I would find him a Mexican wrestling mask and I was on a mission.

She looked at me puzzled. Then her face lit up. "Ah! Nacho Libre!" she said proudly in her thick accent.

I had never seen the movie and it took me a minute to place her reference. "Si! Nacho Libre!" I laughed. It was the most charming moment I spent in Mexico. Me trying to speak Spanish and her trying to speak in English, neither one of us quite understanding the other.

She led me to a corner of the store that had them hanging on a chain. I found what I wanted and then bartered a good price.

"Gracias!" she called after me.

"Grazie!" I called back. I shook my head in shame.

As I exited the store, I heard my friends calling down the street after me. I quickly returned to them. They got to tell me about the coffee-flavored tequila they just had.

"It was good, but it was in the back of this silver store and I had the feeling they lured us in there with free tequila in order to get us to buy jewelry," said Swayze.

"I got to hold a Mexican chicken like a baby," I said.

"Man, I want to hold a Mexican chicken," sighed Swayze.

But we didn't have time to return to the boy's cart. It was time to get back on the boat. And I wanted to see how Tallahassee spent his day.


j said...

Ok, now you have to tell the tequila and hitchhiking story!

Je m'appelle Danielle said...

WHAT! I demand that you go get a burrito and watch Nacho Libre immediately! I love that movie!

Lpeg said...

Agreed with J!! Did you know that most of those jewelry stores are owned by the same company as the cruise ship? That's why they offer you 'great discounts' on certain jewelry shops on the islands!

I liked Cozumel. I think that was the place where we went on a jeep tour, our guide was showing off, forgot to put it in park, and it rolled down the hill and over a HUGE rock. They had to get five guys to lift the jeep back onto the road!

Je m'appelle Danielle said...

Where the hell did my comment go?

Okay you must go get a burrito and watch Nacho Libre. I love that movie and if we all end up on some blogger cruise in Mehico next year, you better watch it before we go because I will be making references to corn on a stick, stretchy pants, toast, and floozy's galore.

Asian Private Girl said...

Hahaha! I love the story. Really hilarious. :)


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