Get your own
 diary at! contact me older entries newest entry

13:38 - Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2005
i wake up in mexico
I wake up in Mexico, in Sayulita.
"Camille," I say, "I can't wait to get home and tell everybody about our trip. I think my favorite part - well, one of my favorite parts - about any trip is the part where I get to tell people about it."
"Really," she says, expressionless. Maybe disgusted.
"Yes," I defend, then stop and think about it. It is kind of sad.

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.
I am five or six days into my trip and on the last hundred pages of the last book I brought. This is terrifying to me - much more terrifying than, say, walking barefoot into a rock surf break notorious for housing sea urchins, or any kind of uncertainty over the undertow, or the fact that we don't know exactly which bus to catch to make it back to our hostel, and consequently, the airport for our flight back. Our days consist of waking up as late as we want, wearing our swimsuits underneath everything instead of underwear, going, unadventurously, to the same amazingly tasty little palapa for plates of french toast or waffles, and spending the rest of the day reading, or lounging, or strolling, or swimming.

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.
In Boca, at another palapa for lunch, our waiter erroneously takes $25 + $25 + $75 + $50 to equal $260 rather than $175. When we point this out, he first pretends not to understand our Spanish, then acts shocked and insulted that we would question his math.
In Puerto Vallarta, a man in a restaurant tells us that in order to catch the Sayulita bus we need to walk two blocks down, in front of a shoe store, and get on any bus that says "Central Camionera". No buses say that. Camille gets on the next one she sees and asks, "¿qué autobús va al central camionera?" The bus driver tells us. When we get on that bus, we say, "¿va al central camionera?" and he says, "no. El que dice 'Pitillal'." Turns out that el que dice Pitillal doesn't go there either. He tells us "Ixtapa". The Ixtapa bus actually does go there, but it is far - past the airport - and once we buy our tickets at the Central, nobody is sure which bus we want to be on. We end up almost going to Guadalajara twice and Tijuana once before we get on one that says "Tepic".
And although the bus station never told us this, their buses don't go all the way to Sayulita. They go only to an intersection of scorching bare highway about 3km outside of Sayulita, with no connecting routes. We ask at a (somewhat) nearby restaurant where we can call for a taxi. The girls sitting around the table giggle wildly, their hands covering their mouths, making suggestive eyes and uttering lightning-quick underbreath Spanish phrases at the lone boy, who takes a second to get it: he is driving us to Sayulita in his pickup truck.

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."
Yelapa, where having "something to do" seems redundant. Yelapa, where the only way to get there is by stunning, exhilarating speedboat ride past dramatic cliffs covered to the closest millimeter with thick wet rainforest and jutting pointy rocks, colorful fish, deep, clear calm waters. A rollercoaster ride with the spray of saltwater and wind so strong your hairline recedes. An amazing boat ride you hope will never end ever, an atmosphere so contented that when the tourist woman on your boat clamors for "a good seat in the middle" - as if no one else on the boat would like the same thing - and haggles a local bracelet seller down to 4 pesos, the equivalent of 40 cents, directly after leaving her expensive rental SUV in the parking lot above, and at her stop asks the boat operator about 6 hundred times - always in English - please not to leave her in Quimixto, to please come and get her at 5:20 ("5:20! Do you understand? Don't forget me! Ha-ha! 5:20! Comm prenn days?") it only makes you happier, knowing that you are not her, and never will be.
Yelapa, where a walk to the pueblo is a substantial hike, and once there a confounding maze of streets piled atop one another, built on a cliff, so directions to places end up being "go up two blocks, around the mound, circle the tienda, and then climb down a hundred meters". Where there is a seafood place that looks like just some guy's decrepit old kitchen but has the best shrimp I've ever tasted in the best spices I've ever tasted, good enough to make Camille the vegetarian share a plate with me.
They decide not to spend the night there.
People would rather have someplace to get drunk.

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?
Americans would accuse them of being un-American. 'Americans' forget that the term 'America' encompasses all of North, Central, and South America as well.
In the same vein, it is unnecessary for you, if you are from the United States or a similarly rich country, to try to haggle the local peddlers of Puerto Vallarta down past a certain amount. Now, come on. It's fifty cents. You might find fifty cents under a couch cushion and not be in the least bit excited. But this man is happy to sell you a bracelet for that amount. Don't try to make him get down to forty. It's greedy beyond belief, and selfish, terribly selfish. It made me sad every time I saw it.
I paid $20 (USD) to get my hair braided on the beach, and I was happy to do it. "¿Dónde aprendió a hacer esto?" I ask her as her fingers fly in Camille's hair, fast enough so that I can't see any individual strands or any of her individual fingers until she reaches the beaded end.
"Mi madre me enseñó," she responded. My mother taught me.

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.
When she turns her back to go change, I turn it on again. She whirls on her heel and claps her hand over mine over the 'on' switch. "No, do not do it," she commands. "I canno sleep with the fan going brrrrr brrrrr. Are you so hot that you must need it?"
"It's so loud that I need it," I tell her. "It blocks out the other noise."
"It is itself noise," she counters.
After she goes to sleep, I move it away and turn it back on. She doesn't stir, not until 7 the next morning when she expresses outrage at actually having slept through me disobeying her no-fan orders.

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?"
I don't want to be like her.

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.
It turns out we are, only it's ringed by the Pacific.
If it were home, I would stay there.


previous - next

about me - read my profile! read other Diar
yLand diaries! recommend my diary to a friend! Get
 your own fun + free diary at!