My Trip to Zihua - Day 5 - part 2 (long, as in you know...)

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Posted by Travis in Seattle from ( on domingo, marzo 09, 2003 at 21:14:25 :

DAY 5 – Sunday, 2/16 (part 2)

With or without electricity, we’re off to the Zocalo for Sunday night festivities. It’s fun and quite a scene but I know I am enjoying it more than the others. I’d prefer to stay here longer, walk around and people watch etc., but I can tell Kim and especially Chad are itching to leave. In an effort to keep everyone happy, we go to dinner.

(Coming fast on the heels of the missed flight and the atm card debacle, it seems to me the electricity outage is causing far more concern among our companions than it deserves. I bite my tongue through the occasional references. I’m getting frustrated but try not to let it show. This rarely works for me.)

We set out for Tamales Any, but it’s closed so we pop down the street to Los Braceros. Dinner is very enjoyable and everybody’s starting to relax again. I sigh in relief. We head back to the Zocalo to see if anything interesting is “on stage” but it’s degenerated into individual dancers performing to music nobody’s much in the mood for. While I would have been happy hanging out here, I know that’s not what everybody else wants, so we slip over to the first restaurant with tables in the sand (Daniel’s) and order drinks and desert.

It’s a full moon, the sky is entirely clear, and this doesn’t exactly suck, so I can do without the Zocalo. Who cares if things have been going a bit haywire, I tell myself, we’re relaxing again and everyone will find their rythm. Ahhhh….peace.

Then it’s shattered.

A rather pointed and poorly phrased question—which to my ear sounds like a whine-- is directed toward me at exactly this most wrong moment. I’m the one who made all the arrangements and the only one who speaks much Spanish so I’m pretty much the “point man” for any and all issues. I’m asked, “Are they working on the electricity? Will they get it back on tonight?”

I crack.

Through clenched teeth, I respond:

1. How should I know?
2. It’s Sunday night and we’re in Mexico. The likelihood of raising someone with electrical skills on a Sunday night in the US is pretty small, so I don’t imagine it’s any easier here.
3. That said, the woman who owns our place has a good reputation for doing everything she can to make her guests comfortable and several of the units have lost power so I’m sure she’s moving heaven and earth to get the power back on tonight. She also owns other property, is obviously a woman of means so if anyone can get it done, it’s her. And finally,
4. What the hell does it matter? We’re in Mexico. There’s a full moon and we’re on a beautiful beach and we’re going to be going to bed in a bit anyway.


In truth, I don’t know how much of this I actually verbalized at the time—hopefully not much—but all that and a whole lot more raced through my head. Out of fairness to everyone else though—I keep using that phrase, don’t I?-- I had already had a few days under my belt to find that Mexico “chill”, and nobody else, given the “events”, has been able to thoroughly relax. Still, I confess, at that particular moment, I was beyond annoyed. (My inner-crybaby must have been ranting: “This is my vacation! It’s about me! ME! ME! ME!” I can be as big a prima donna as the next jerk…)

We start walking back along the beachside pathway and I wonder if the steam coming from my ears is visible. It’s at this point I begin to consider possible subtitles for my trip report. Three come to mind quickly:

“Can you travel to Heaven and end up in Hell?”
“What went right and what went south, south of the border.”

But I think my favorite is:

“The Good, the Bad and the ….oh….that’s me in the mirror.”

The pathway along the beach from el Centro to Madera is only lit about three quarters of the way, the rest hasn’t been finished yet in that way that’s “So Mexico”. Chad, who I mentioned is a “get-things-done” kind of guy, asks me “Why can’t they finish this?” I blurt out something that’s barely civil, borderline caustic and highly defensive. At this point I realize I’ve become an absolute bile-spewing pig so I pull up with Allen while Chad and Kim continue on to the bungalow. (The thought of arriving back together and finding the electricity still out is more than I can bare.) Forcing Allen to wait with me, I launch into a grotesque but highly theraputic tirade. Poor Allen. After blowing off steam and then admiring the moon and bay for a bit, I’m feeling less volatile so we return to Ley. The electricity is back on! I thank my own personal God, then go out, alone, for a midnight swim under the full moon. The waves are pretty big, the water is just what I need, it’s terrific. By the time I come back, everyone’s gone to bed. That’s fine. Probably best. For everybody.

After a quick shower, I decide to spend some time on the patio because the night and moon are so brilliant. I try repeatedly and unsuccessfully to capture the full moon’s magnificence with my new camera. I then notice the night watchman has walked onto our patio (it’s enormous, doesn’t know I see him) and has positioned himself at the far corner. He appears to be admiring the sky and bay. It really is a spectacular night. Then it occurs to me that his normal “night station” is probably hot with dead air. Figuring everyone on our level has gone to bed, he’s decided to find a better spot. Who can blame him? I approach and ask, “Por las Brisas?” He answers, “Si.” I pull up two chairs and offer him a seat and “un cigarillo Americano”. He accepts both. His name is Juan and he’s maybe 50. Juan looks very much his part, and we could not be from more different universes. Though he speaks absolutely no English and my Spanish blows, we get along just fine. More than fine, in fact.

Before long, I offer him another cigarette and a beer to go with the one I had just grabbed for myself. I learn that he not only does this job at night, but, during the day he makes palapas out of palm fronds. I ask when he sleeps, he says he doesn’t. I then casually pretend to flick my cigarette onto the very dry/flammable fronds shading the patio below us, he gasps, but then realizes I was just kidding and starts laughing. By now our chairs are reclined and our feet are up on the balcony ledge.

We discuss how beautiful Zihua is in general, and particularly so this night. I crudely describe it as “luna gigante”. He agrees. And then teaches me that yes, that’s a correct, objective way to describe it. Perfectly appropriate. But that someone with, perhaps, more soul might describe the evening in a more interpretive, romantic way. “¡Que Maravilla!” (How Marvelous!) The whole exchange takes me some time to understand his point, but I finally do. I practice my pronunciation of the term, “¡Que Maravilla!” Senor Juan is never quite satisfied with my pronunciation, though he admits many times I’m close. (I think he’s just lobbying for more time, beer and cigarettes at this point….but what the hell.) I explain to him that the damn word involves what sounds in my language like a “b” a “d” and a “v” in very close proximity to one another. I kid him and suggest the fact that he has a missing tooth makes it much easier for him to pronounce. Amid much laughter, he demands that I keep trying. I repeatedly do, of course, but never (quite) to his satisfaction.

That night we talk till about 5 a.m., tracking the moon left to right all the way across the bay. He matches me beer for beer and cigarette for cigarette. We discuss everything from the beauty of the bay to working conditions in Ixtapa versus Zihua to American policy in Iraq (!). I nickname Juan “Senor Ojos de la Noche” (eyes of the night) and address him this way for the rest of our stay. In the end, I feel like I’ve made a friend. And he tells me, with more conviction in his voice than I’ve ever heard before from someone I’ve met in a foreign country that he feels the same way.

Ahhhhhh. Mexico. I’m back.

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