Donna and I made the trip to take advantage of the lower cost of healthcare in Mexico (I won't get into that here, but we were seeking a medical procedure managed by doctors rather than insurance companies). Attending to that need was our primary concern (it's OK, we're both fine) followed by a little rest in a tropical, seaside environ.
First, the airline travel was the usual hustling between gates to make flights, with a four hour layover in Houston on the way down that was only mildly annoying. There's a part of me that loves flying, or at least the idea of flying, and a part that fears it. The fearful part tends to disappear once I'm in the air, and it feels like bus travel (though not as comfortable). I get my news through the alternative press, so I don't fear hijackers and terrorists. I'm more nervous about the TSA.
Gatekeepers (like the TSA) seem to dwell in a world of their own, however. Like Mexican Customs. Getting through Customs generally wasn't bad other than having to fill out a form printed in Spanish (they were out of the English versions). We managed to get it filled out, but when we reached a Mexican Customs agent, he seemed really perturbed that our passports were in leather cases. It took me a minute to figure out his insistence that we present "ONLY" our passports. When I did, I tore them from their cases and handed them to him, and he calmed down.
Otherwise, I liked the Mexican people. They were generally friendly and those that knew more than a smattering of English were willing to help this gringo make a order at McDonalds or exchange dollars for pesos. But the language barrier was a real problem for me. Donna speaks Spanish and got by quite well, acting as my interpreter. There were moments, though, when I was by myself and had to face a clerk's greeting that left me dumb, or trying to reply with a Spanish vocabulary of about eight words.
I also came to realize that, among the Mexicans, "speaking" English does not guarantee "hearing" English. Several times, I was pleased to deal with locals who spoke English very well, only to have them go mute and turn to Donna when I spoke more than two sentences in reply. Being in a place where you don't speak the language is isolating, and it showed me the benefit of learning at least the rudiments before you go.
Mostly, however, Donna facilitated our communication without problem and I found a people who were genuinely friendly and without pretensions. They were certainly hard-workers, providing fast and accommodating service in restaurants, excellent healthcare in the hospital we visited, and maintaining a meticulous cleanliness in our hotel.
Case in point: the hotel's restaurant was on the beach and completely open to the elements. There were no walls, just a massive thatched roof. It made for pleasant breakfasts from an excellent buffet amid the Pacific breeze, the briny ambiance, classical music--and birds. Birds filled the place, going after scraps and competing with the customers for the buffet. But I never saw the first dropping. The place was almost constantly being mopped and droppings didn't remain for long.
Because of the medical nature of our visit, we weren't able to do any of the big activities available to visitors. These include mountain hikes, zip-lining, para-sailing, horseback riding, snorkeling, and more. Maybe on the next trip. This time, we settled for walks along the beach and through town, and fighting off time-share salesmen.
I anticipated some hours of long plane flights and waiting on this trip, so I made sure I had some reading material, specifically, the "novel" Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I was greatly moved by it. In fact, now that I'm back home, I'm rereading it. I'll do a review of it elsewhere, for now I'll just say it's about why modern human society is the way it is. I found the book's theme to be an apt amplification of my contemplations of this trip.
You see, this trip was a major point of passage for Donna and me--new beginnings and some notable firsts. For a couple of weeks life was interesting, even when it was trying, and pleasant for long stretches. We discovered the stark contrast of the vacation's reality to that of the rat-race. But the vacation is no less real. Why does there have to be a difference? Why one life interesting and pleasant, and the other, not?
Many people in my neck of the woods will respond with puritanical, religious zeal that the difference is ordained and that the servant's sacrificial toil is our duty.
But I'm no Puritan. I'll struggle for change, inspired by this brief moment when I was somewhere else.