13:38 - Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2005
Where we are is a series of thatched-roof bungalows close enough to the beach that our yard is an extension of sand spilling out into low tide. Colorful hammocks, firmer and rougher than their American counterparts, are strung from thick gnarly tree to thick, gnarly tree. The trees look like old men and are home to awkward blackish birds that fly with legs dangling under them and calls that sound like squalling newborns.
How we got there is considerably less idyllic. We start out the morning in Yelapa, some 100 miles south, and accessible only by water taxi (read: speedboat). We want to get to Sayulita early enough to secure a room somewhere, but when we ask the owner of the Hotel Luna Azul when the next water taxi is, she says "3:00". An old man eager to help us with our (nonexistent) horseback-riding and waterfall-viewing needs thinks for a moment, then says "3:30". We have our packs all packed and are just about ready to resign ourselves to an exhausting and trying day of lounging under thatched umbrellas until 3 (or 3:30) when I see the very friendly waiter from last night sipping on a cerveza with his feet in the sand, looking out to sea. This is the man who somehow caused me to be good at Spanish by some combination of speaking slowly, uncomprehending, amused looks, and wild hand gestures. He is reminiscent of the young guitar-playing guy in Puerto Vallarta who couldn't remember the word for 'squirrel' so had to pantomime scolding, chewing on nuts, and having large front teeth and a bushy tail - only this man is much less creepy and lacks the ulterior motive of wanting to sleep with Camille. He says, "el taxi sigiuente? está allí..." and points to a speedboat just curving and spraying into the bay. It's more of a supplies run - people usually don't leave Yelapa midmorning - but the operator is good with taking us to Boca de Tomatlán right at that very moment.
I wake up in Puerto Vallarta, at the hostel. The night before, we went on so excitedly about Yelapa that four kids who were previously undecided about where to spend the next few days are now chomping at the bit to wake up at 8:00 in the morning so that they might catch the earliest water taxi. Their alarm has woken me up, but I don't mind. They are stripping the bed in between bites of the minimalist breakfast the hostel provides: café, jugo, y pan (coffee, juice, and bread). I hear Guillermo, the hostel owner's son, laughing when he hears of their plans to spend a night or so in Yelapa. "Just so you are aware," he begins, in a conspiratorial tone, "there is nothing to do in Yelapa. There are no bars, no clubs. The most you can hope for is a margarita on the beach at night."
I wake up in Sayulita. It's a surfing town. My book is finished and there are infinitely more hammocks to lounge in and beaches to explore. We find a bookstore on the main street in town that has a couch as its centerpieces and miles of tattered used books, half in English. We spend hours in there, reading a book about another gospel (by Jesus' childhood pal, Biff) and one about a 'drunken girlhood'. It is smotheringly hot in there, the ceiling fan only serving to rustle the tarp ceiling and then escape through its holes. (I find myself daydreaming away from my book about what happens when it rains - do the books just get soaked and then have to dry?) Tiny squares of sunlight come in through the offset bricks. One of the co-owners, an American, breastfeeds her baby behind the counter. She speaks English to me. "No, don't," I ask her. "Please."
I don't like the idea of visiting another country and expecting the locals to speak to you in your language, rather than theirs. Would a Spanish couple go to a diner in Missoula, Montana, and ask questions in Spanish, order in Spanish, demand the check or changes to their food in Spanish, and get irritated when the waitress didn't understand?
I wake up in the middle of the night to the Italian woman in the next bunk stomping over and turning off the fan whirring next to my head. I have it on for a reason. The hostel is terra cotta and stone, and echoes like mad. It is the night before our flight home, and I want to not sleep through Camille's weak iPod alarm in the morning. But everyone else is awake, drinking cerveza and chainsmoking, playing drinking UNO. I can pick out four different languages without even trying. Spanish. English. Italian. And something else. Blackhawk Down is going in the TV room, gunshots and screaming and bombs, quite another language altogether, and a particularly loud conversation about society's ills. Over all that, Jamiroquai blares. It is something like midnight. Not unreasonable. With the fan next to my head and earplugs, I can sleep. But the Italian woman is staunchly anti-fan. If one is on, anywhere, she turns it off.
My reason for the fan is actually a previous older woman, from my second night at the hostel in Puerto Vallarta. She is on a long trip and extremely angy at everything. The reason for this is probably that she got most of her spending money for her trip from attending timeshare presentations. She extols the virtues of doing this, saying all you have to know how to do is say no, but she is extremely uptight and disdainful of everyone. When she wants to go to sleep is when everyone else has to go to sleep, or else. I am fine with my earplugs, sleeping relatively well through the shouting and laughing in the TV room, and the only thing that wakes me up is this woman shooting off of her top bunk and screaming: "IT'S 11:30! WHY DON'T YOU SHOW SOME RESPECT!" and "ARE YOU GUYS STUPID? ESTAN ESTÚPIDOS? OR ARE YOU JUST STUPID AND RUDE?"
They say roosters only crow at dawn. They are wrong. They crow all night. And dogs, cats, burros, mules, horses, chickens, turkeys, and frogs must also all be nocturnal. We need our earplugs worse than ever in Yelapa, which is basically a big beachbound farm. The first 'hotel room' we were shown was an empty stable.
On the airplane on the way into Mexico, we look down from the window into breathtaking rainforest, greener than anything our Chicago-born, Colorado-bred eyes have ever seen before. "I wish we were going there," Camille says.