Monday, August 31, 2009

Around Town

Here are a few pictures I took the other day just walking around Tulum pueblo. The fruit stand is where I get all my produce and it always smells like decaying fruit. Sort of a sweet, intense smell. There are birds in cages that hang above the produce and a little family of small, fluffy white dogs that wander about underfoot. I think it's great.

This Morning

I finally pulled my tired rear out of bed this morning at 6:30am. I've been saying for weeks that we should ride our bikes down to the beach in the morning before it gets hot and full of people. With all the corn tortillas, guac and chips, sugary drinks, etc I'm getting a bit soft around the edges. In a land where I wear my bathing suit more than underwear, that's a problem.
So I actually got up, grabbed some water and a snack and rode the 3+km to the beach. I went for a run along the water. It was just me and the silvery blue water and the gigantic clouds. I could see it was raining in the distance. The air was cool and fresh so early in the morning. Little white and black birds were picking through seaweed looking for breakfast. Matthew McConaughey flashed through my mind for a moment. You always see pictures of him working out on the beach in Maui. Going for his morning run, wearing that ridiculous headband.... Now, I don't care much for McConaughey, but I did take pleasure in thinking that even he probably didn't have quite the pristine and perfect beach work out that I experienced this morning. I'm referring to the setting more so than my physical capabilities.
I ran, did some crunches, some push ups, ran some more, then went for a swim. Just to make this as over the top as possible, as I was floating in the water gazing at the sky, I saw a rainbow. I spent a long time this morning thinking about how good God is, how majestic and spectacular is His creation, and wondering if Paradise looked something like this. I just felt so deeply grateful and wholly undeserving. I still can't believe I'm here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


To be a real man in the jungle you must own a machete. I know this both from watching "Romance in the Stone" and seeing the men here use machetes for everything from clearing land, building fences and screen doors, to opening difficult fruit. It's a manly Protector/Provider must have. Therefore, we bought a machete for Caleb.
His first conquest was of a very difficult coconut. I have to say there is something visually very appealing too - of your man, shirtless with a dangerous looking knife, hacking away at the hull of a coconut until he can rip the husk away and reveal that sweet tasty white flesh and nectar...which he proudly presents to you (with a straw!).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Tulum Ruins

The morning that Michaela and I set out to view the Tulum ruins was stormy and grey. Rain fell in dramatic bursts, drenching everything it touched. The wind whipped the palm trees around, their green leaves dancing in the air, bending and waving like so many sharp fingers. We pressed on up the dirt road leading to the site where the ancient walled city stood. Tulum played an important role in the Mayan's extensive trade network. Dating back to 564 A.D., this city overlooking the Caribbean, was where the land routes and sea trade routes converged. It is unique in that it is one of the few walled cities the Mayas built. It's primary structure, "Castillo" is stunningly situated on the tip of the bluffs overlooking the sea.
As we wandered the ruins in the rain, Michaela and I marveled at the tiny doorways, lovely meandering paths and dramatic vistas of the ruins against the dark sky. It's hard to imagine the grand city it must have been, bustling with small, fiercely proud people doing trade with the rest of Mexico and Central America. It was such a complex culture and they observed so much about the world around them. They are known as the only civilization on the pre-Colombian Americas to have a fully developed written language. They are known for their sophistication in art, mathematics, architecture and astronomy. The more I read about them the more fascinated I become. They also did human sacrifice....but that's not one of their more admirable accomplishments!
At the bottom of the bluff that the Castillo is perched on is a little beach. The sun was just beginning to pierce though the clouds as we headed down for a dip in the water. The sea was an irresistible shade of jade. It is so different seeing pictures of this color than being surrounded by it. Swimming in a gem, seeing it sparkle and change color ever so subtly - being saturated in it and seeing the deep, dark, sky above is unbelievable. It satisfies a visual hunger.

El Mariachi Restaurant

This is the first restaurant that Caleb and I ate at in Tulum and still remains one of our favorite. Like most restaurants here, it is entirely outdoors, including the kitchen and serves a very good Alambre. This dish is a wonderful combination of beef, onions, cactus, and bacon, all grilled with a hot layer of cheese on top. It is served with a side of corn tortillas (of course), limes, and salsa picante. It is delicious!
We took Caleb's sister Michaela here one night and had a very relaxed dinner.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

I have a lot to catch you up on. The Tulum ruins, Coba, our attempt to go out to a DJ "Wrestle", very bad Flamenco dancing, and then tomorrow the Sian Kaan biosphere reserves. Caleb's sister has been visiting and now we are cleaning the apartment getting ready for his folks. It's going to be very tight here for a bit. My guts are tied up in a bit of a knot - I think it's just all this heavy food we've been eating. Don't get me wrong, the food is great, but just a different diet then I'm used to.

Also a few days ago, I nearly killed my laptop. That would possibly have been the end of this blog - at least for a while. I spilled a bottle of water onto the keyboard. If anyone out there is drinking a beverage while they are reading this, please take a moment and move it far, far away. The screen went blank and I didn't have a computer for a long, tearful while. The hairdryer set on cool dried things out a bit. Honestly I know it was a miracle that this thing works again. I am a fool, but God is merciful. This is a lesson I learn over and over again.

So, when things settle down a bit and we're not trying to pack it all in, I'll post pictures and a detailed account of all our adventures. I promise.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Reef, Turtles, and Salsa Dancing

Yesterday was like no other. Caleb's sister, Michaela is visiting us and we had waited until she arrived before going out snorkeling on the the Great Mayan Reef which is the second biggest coral reef in the world.

We we're in a small group of six as we headed out bouncing across the water in our little motor boat. The faster we went the more excited I got and loved every minute of salty wind and ocean spray. When we stopped the boat out on the reef and got ourselves ready to snorkel, my heart was racing... I'd never been out on open water like this before. I didn't know what creatures lived in the waters around me and everything just seemed so deep and mysterious. As soon as my mask was on and I'd gotten a bit used to the flippers, I looked below me into the coral. And that's all it took, that first look, and now I'm hooked.

We spent an hour and a half swimming and looking on our own. I swam into purple and soft green and brown gardens of seaweed and coral and lovely little fish. Yellow, red, blue, purple, orange... so many fishes so many colors. Some were bigger and some so small I didn't realize they were fish until I stared at the same spot for minutes. They dove in and out of the coral which looked like beautiful lace billowing in the current. I saw very sharp looking black sea urchins and florescent little spotted fish trying to hide. Michaela saw a sea turtle and Caleb saw a fairly large barracuda. Some of the other passengers saw calamari and a spotted stingray. It was a pretty amazing place. You may be imagining tranquil waters and floating gently around looking a sea life, however, the current was strong and waves were crashing above us. There were times where you really had to struggle not to get tossed about and knocked into the reef. I found it enthralling and quite the rush.

On our way back to shore we befriended a guy named Miguel who works for the marine reserve at Sian Kaan National Park. He had snorkeled for free since he had been a reef guide and knew all the guys. Miguel was full of useful information on local attractions. Since there is so much to see and do here, it is helpful to have someone guide you. He suggested we go see the turtles in Akumal, just a short drive north of Tulum. There are hawksbill, green, and loggerhead turtles in the area.

We had rented a car for a few days and wanted to make the most of it. On our way back toward town we saw Miguel hitchhiking and offered to give him a lift. He was and is such a nice guy that we invited him along on our sea turtle adventure. He blew off his plans to go rock climbing for the day and became our private tour guide. We stopped at a lovely little restaurant right on the beach in Akumal and had lunch. The food was great and the view spectacular. It's a good feeling to eat a tasty meal with your feet happily in the sand.

After lunch we meandered over to the public beach. It being Sunday, the beach was packed. Sunday is family day here (as it should be!) and the best place to be was the playa. We were a bit dubious as to the existence of sea turtles with so many people about, but having trust in Miguel's promise that we would indeed, see a turtle, we swam out to the seaweed beds, faces in the water searching for that big shadow or a slight movement.

Miguel was the first to spot her. She was huge and graceful and oh, so lovely! Munching on seaweed below us she seemed so serene and only mildly curious of our company. Then she swam up for air and we could see how wonderfully this creature moves through water. Her head was at the surface for just an instant, just long enough to gasp for air and then down again to feed. At one point she swam very near Miguel, staring at him, as he remained motionless waiting to see what she would do. She merely circled him and gave him a long look, then settled back into the sea grass. It's a surreal experience being that close to a prehistoric looking creature much older than yourself and on their turf.

We spent a long time searching for turtles and watching them feed. I believe we counted six. On the way back to shore I swam through a school of fish and nearly turned back to follow them. The beaches here all have sectioned off bits where the turtles have laid their eggs. It's nesting season until September. Each night, the turtles come ashore and lay their eggs. I heard that only about one in every thousand baby turtles makes it to adulthood. There are many natural predators, they've often been hunted for food, and their habitat is constantly being encroached upon. There are some strong efforts here to protect these animals.

On our drive back to Tulum we continued visiting with Miguel and found out he's a Christian. We were thrilled. He had been so generous in sharing his whole day with us and had such a kind and gentle spirit. In retrospect, it all made sense. Caleb and I plan on attending church with him one of these days.

Our day wasn't over yet, and we had promised Michaela salsa dancing on the beach. So, we rushed home, got cleaned up and drove over to La Zebra. On first glance the salsa class (prelude to the evening dancing) looked like the making of a bad aerobics instruction video shot on the beach. A small, odd mix of people were shuffling around on a little wooden platform to the instructor's enthusiastic directions which he yelled into his headset. Half English, half Spanish. The instructor (who, we were told had won many competitions) was twisting and turning and prancing around while the rest of us felt like a bunch of lost goslings. Micheala did the best of all of us - she can just dance. I fumbled around and when I got too confused just threw in a few extra twirls and foot taps. Caleb, oh, sweet, tall, lanky, awkward husband of mine! He was so funny, flapping around, very confused and head and shoulders above everyone else. That he was out there at all learning to dance with us was a testimony to his love.

La Zebra was recommended to me by my new friend, Faby. Faby is teaching me Spanish and I'm helping her with her English. It's not only a good trade, but I think we are becoming close friends as well. She is a great dancer. After the somewhat painful dance lessons, a good sized salsa band set up and we grabbed some very tasty Mojitos. It was the first time I had been on the beach at night and the stars were spectacular. It was like staring into the Milky Way.

As the night wore on more and more people showed up and the dancing began. There were many awkward dancers like us, but several outstanding dancers as well. Michaela was so pleased to dance with the best man out there. She looked like a pro following his strong lead and loving every minute of it. We dance the Salsa and the Merengue with the cool sea breeze swishing our skirts and giving us tousled, wild hair. The band was fantastic and we hated to leave. Next Sunday night we will be back at La Zebra for more lessons and fun.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Friend the Iguana

The iguanas, lizards, and ghekos here are so fascinating. This big guy is about the length of my forearm. They are everywhere. Today I met an iguana named Charlie that almost let me catch him. When I went out this afternoon there was a bright green lizard perched on my bike seat. Just looking at me. Checking things out. I want them to be my friends.

Coco Baby

I just found out the other day that my brother is having a girl! Yaaaay. She's due in December. This is me pretending to have a coconut baby.

Lookin' Real Good


Aqua Azul

Snorkeling With My Alien Face

CM and I are trying to snorkel. I'm not very good yet. My mask keeps fogging up and if I smile then water leaks in. However, the other day we were playing around and saw some very big conch shells about 9 feet deep. I wanted one so much! Caleb dove, dove agian, got weirded out by a possible movement of something alive, dove again, dropped it, and then finally one last time he appeared out of the water with the biggest, heaviest conch shell ever. I'm just thrilled. I feel like he dove for treasure for me. The shell is lovely and pink on the inside and covered in fuzzy seaweed and sea stuff on the outside. I'm grateful that nothing was living in it.

Sweet Things and a Drippy Fridge

I just got done eating way too many fruit popsicles over the sink. Juice dripping from my chin, head starting to ache from brain freeze....sugar ants around my sink going hog wild. Mango, Coconut, Mystery Pop - I think one of my popsicles had a grain in it. Maybe barley. It fell in big globs off the stick and into the sink.
I had to defrost the freezer because it got all crazy and decided to make snowdrifts. I may have too much in the fridge (according to Caleb), however, it doesn't seem unreasonable to store a few meals worth of food in there. We even keep our dry goods in there, just to avoid the interest of critters. Also, fridges are just not as cold here. Even at the highest temp. setting everything is just cool, not cold.
So, I dumped a pile of water on my feet and all over the food in the fridge before successfully dumping the drain tray in the sink. For some reason, I felt responsible to eat all the popsicles since they were melting, knowing that the frozen vegetables would be fine, as would the tiny bottle of vodka, and the ice cubes were not a great loss.
I had purchased these delightful ice treats two days before from the popsicle man going down our street. One thing that is amazing here is that you truly never have to leave your house - everything is brought to you. Ice cream, popsicles, watermelons, tortillas, tamales, water, bread, furniture, mattresses, knife sharpening, and a shoe cobbler. All wandering, pedaling, or driving down our street at various times of day and night, yelling or honking, or singing, or blowing a whistle, or ringing a chime. They all have their own sounds and Caleb and I have enjoyed playing the guessing game and then running to the window to check who's right. I have to say the strangest thing is probably the furniture/mattress truck. Who spontaneously buys a twin bed and a dresser?
Anyway, because I had bought these popsicles from a hard working street vendor pushing his little cart in the hot sun one afternoon, I felt guilty throwing them out. He works hard to bring me sweet delicious things. Plus I paid for them. So now, after sugar shock and a bit of a headache, I guess I can say, I've done my duty.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I found out what that funny fruit is. I asked a local today who spoke a splash of English and made him write it down for me. It has many names...depending on where you come from. Here's the wiki entry.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What is This Fruit?

I bought this yesterday from a couple of hombres selling fruit on the street. I'm sure he told me what it was in Spanish, but I can not for the life of me find out what it is! I've googled every possible term to no avail. It is small and green, with a large pit on the inside. There is very little fruit on it and what fruit there is is soft, light pink and sweet/sour. If any one has any idea, I would appreciate it! Oh, and the fruit man gave me a bag of chile spiced salt to eat it with.

A Very Full Day

Yesterday was my first day on my own. Caleb's back at work, so now it's up to me to fill my days. This may end up being more daunting than it sounds, especially since I don't speak Spanish or know anyone yet. Still, if yesterday was any indication, I think I'm going to be just fine.

I made a list of things to find and accomplish first thing in the morning, so I had a plan for the day. First on that list was to find the nearest laundry mat. I went to the corner store and with a dictionary and some pretty silly pantomime and a map, I managed to find out that the nearest laundry is not very close. That's what I feared. Loading up my bike with my dirty sheets and towels and biking to town in 95 degree weather is doable but not ideal. While I was "talking" to the cashier, a young woman came in and spoke a bit of English, so she started translating for me. And here's the amazing thing. Through her I found a woman two blocks from my house who has a washing machine and will do our laundry for 10 pesos a kilo. That's about $0.77 for 2.2lbs. And I don't think I'm ripping her off either. For what I've seen that's pretty much the going rate here. I'm still going to do some our clothes in the sink, but this is great for our bulkier items. Also, she has a one day turnaround. I'm so grateful.
The woman that I met in the store and who was so helpful is Faby, and she and I are going to get together regularly and swap English/Spanish lessons. So this was not a bad start to my day! I had only been out and about for 20 minutes.

Back on my bike again and peddling to town, I found a great little shop that sells fanciful stuffed animals, hand-sewn, colorful, and with a delightful sense of humor. I learned later that these toys are all over town. I wish I could make something this cute. Really. And it got me thinking. Stores in the U.S. would love these Mayan made children's stuffed animals. Maybe I could start selling them. Let me know what you think. I'll post a few pictures and maybe create a temporary web page for them. So now my creative juices are flowing and I'm feeling more excited about being here.

While in town (pueblo) I successfully figured out our Mexican cell phone chip problems, had my first aqua fresca (like lemonade) , faxed our sublease agreement (after stopping at 3 different places), found a great fruit and vegetable stand, and got homemade tortillas that were still warm from the tortilla factory. All in all pretty good.

I saved the fish and cheese shop for another day, since I have plenty of time to get to know this place.

One thing that I should mention. Caleb and I have never been to a place where we've been so conscientious of the fact that we are privileged and wealthy by comparison. Here, many people have very, very little. We've walked the outskirts of town and most people live very humbly. I have seen mothers standing in the doorways of crumbled down buildings, hovels really, their children playing soccer in the street. People live in shacks. I don't know what the sanitation conditions are like. Walking by all I've seen inside are plastic chairs, buckets and hammocks. Still, people smile at you and say, "hola" if you smile at them and initiate. I'm trying to be sensitive to this culture since I am the outsider. I have yet to meet an unkind person here. I'm sure they exist, but coming from Rhode Island that's saying a lot. R.I. is not known for it's politeness. Ha. Caleb commented on the fact that even though there is so much poverty here you don't see anyone begging. Everyone is trying to provide a service and they all work extremely hard.

When I got home from the pueblo I did my Rosetta Stone Spanish lesson. It seems like a great program so far. I think Caleb has a better memory and I have better pronunciation. Together we may actually be able to communicate.

We had dinner at "Charlie's". It reminds me of a Cuban club in movies from the 1940's. There were round colorful tiled tables outside in this lovely little courtyard, with palm trees and flowers and very polite waiters. The food was delicious. "Charlie's" has a stage and a little band was playing salsa and flamenco music. The harpist and bongo player were amazing. A young, cute American couple were on their honeymoon and trying to dance. It was so sweet and silly I had tears rolling down my cheeks. They danced the night away, rather tipsy, trying to learn how to salsa, and totally in love...that young, new, sweet love with lots of spontaneous kisses and laughter. It was a good reminder for Caleb and I to enjoy being young and in love and maybe act a little less responsibly (that was Caleb's hint to me anyway!). We've determined I either act like I'm an old lady or like I'm somewhere between 4 and 8yrs old.

Well I'm off to pick up my laundry and learn some Spanish. Caleb and I are going to the beach after he gets off of work. There's been lots of thunder lately and it sounds like God's moving furniture in heaven. I think it's going to rain today.

Our Place

I've come to realize that some of you think we actually live on the beach. Whereas that would be amazing, we actually live in a neighborhood east of town called Villas Tulum. It is a newly developing area and not super full yet. However there is a nice mix of locals and expats. We have two taquerias within a three minute walk and several small convenience stores. The neighborhood is up and coming and I think will get pretty full over the next couple of years as more foreigners buy summer homes here. Thank God, that is not the primary vibe now and it is still very much Mexico.

So here's our street and our little villa. We think it's great.

Pictures of Paradise

Monday, August 3, 2009


If it is at all possible, we managed to find an even more beautiful beach today. Breath taking really. We took a taxi this time and just said "playa" which is beach and he took us somewhere amazing. It was a beach club called Paradiso - Paradise. The little walk up the dune to the palm tree covered beach and aqua water was jaw dropping. Caleb and I just kept grinning at each other. We spent the whole afternoon there and CM got a sunburn though he was wearing sunblock the whole time. I should mention that this beach is soft and sandy, not seaweedy. I didn't need to worry about getting tangled in any sea life while swimming. The water is so warm, almost too warm if that's possible. My lips still taste salty, hours later, after a shower, I feel I can still taste the sea.

Pictures coming soon!

Off We Go To Mexico...

Many of you thought we were moving to NYC around this time. And we were. However, after realizing we could really go anywhere since Caleb works online and I am jobless as of the end of July we decided, pretty much on a whim to move to Tulum, Mexico. NYC will still be there, and we are foot loose and fancy free at the moment.

So here we are. After a grueling move and a heartbreaking good-bye to my kids ( aka the kid's I nannied for and love, love, love) we are in Mexico. Tugboat got stopped at customs for not having the right rabies shot and we had to wait for about three hours for the customs agent to find a vet available on Saturday to drive to the airport and vaccinate her (again). Thank God, the customs guy was so patient and nice. Tugboat had to pee so bad, poor dog, since she'd been in her carrier for close to 10 hours! She's a trooper though and we had no accidents. I partly owe that to the sedative she was on too.
We then had to hire a pricey car and made it to Tulum by about 7:30pm. A trip we expected to take 6 hours or so, ended up being about 16, what with a delayed flight and a rabies threat dog. It's amazing the things one is capable of on two hours of sleep while pms-ing.

We made it to the beach yesterday. We have bikes and are both relearning how to ride them. We are about 3km to the beach along a straight and dusty road bordered on both sides by jungle. It really is jungle, not woods. Vines, and palm trees, and leafy vegetation that just entwines into each other. Pretty neat and a bit intimidating. Like if my ball rolled into the underbrush, I'm not sure I would want to go scampering after it. I also saw a really big lizard. We were soaked in sweat and dust by the time we first laid eyes on the turquoise waters. By then we felt like we'd earned it. Words are not enough to express how intensely beautiful the beach is. The soft white sand and palm trees, and blue, blue water and big white fluffy clouds with a gentle, salty breeze....heaven. Especially with a cold beer and a fun bed lounge thing on the beach. The water was warm. So warm that there was not a moment of adjustment really. We jumped waves, and laughed and were weirded out by the strange leafy seaweed we kept stepping into. I kept hoping I wouldn't run into any stingrays. I've done too much reading....

We rode back home and rescued our baking dog from our apartment. Which by the way, the place we are renting is great. Very charming, brightly colored and in a real neighborhood. We have airconditioning, but are trying to use it sparingly as the cost of electric here is outrageous. No scary critters yet in the house, for which I am so greatfull! We have an arsenal of bug killing devices, so hopefully we will remain critter free.

Some small adjustments: You can't drink the water, or flush toilet paper, and wearing clothes at all feels like punishment. The upside: We can get shrimp, ........oh, my gosh! There's a lizard in the house! Wow... it's small and very fast... hold on, I'm going to try and let him outside.

Ok, I'm back. Lizards are very fast. I have no idea how he got in, and Caleb was wondering if we should treat them as pets or like rodents, but anyway, he's back outside now.

As I was saying, the upside is that we can get a large plate of shrimp, octopus, and conch ceviche for $7, drink mojitos on the beach, and read all day long. Sounds fun, huh? It is, but it is also a bit of a treck to town and the beach and we are tired and adjusting. However, overall we are loving it. This place is pretty amazing. Really, God is amazing for making this all happen for us and for creating such a beautiful place. I'm so thankful!

I will continue to post regularly and update you on our adventures.