If you're new here, or a little lost, you can find more of my Mexico adventures here and here.
Sunday morning I woke up bright and early. Because of both daylight savings and the new time zone, I was awake well before the sun. The sky was just starting to lighten as I headed out to the hot tub. One of the leaders had told about watching the sun come up from the hot tub his previous visit here. Unfortunately for me, the hot tub had been turned off so it was lukewarm. I was both disappointed and a little worried that the exposure to cold would cause a relapse. Soon I started coughing again, although I tried to hide it. Being ill was not in my plans for this week!
Daybreak at Estero Beach, photo by Graeme Smith
The view was spectacular! The resort was designed around the ocean view, with all the rooms, patios, pool areas and walkways allowing for wonderful views. As our group met before breakfast, we were able to watch seals playing and waves breaking against the breakwater. Later we took some quiet time which many of us spent gazing at the water. One girl found a cozy spot among the rocks. Nestled in the corner, focussed on the waves, she didn't hear the call for breakfast. After the first inspection turned up empty, Toe and I went looking for her. We were both a little concerned that we'd already lost one barely 24 hours in. Thankfully I "just happened" to stop at the corner and find her in a spot Toe had already passed by. We took deep breaths of gratitude and, gathering up our lost girl, went to enjoy a Mexican breakfast.
Oceanview at Estero Breach, photo by Graeme Smith
Breakfast was superb. It was also interesting and different and perhaps a wee bit intimidating. Having a less than pleasant experience with the soup the night before, I was careful about what I ate. However I am a relatively adventurous eater. My somewhat proven technique when presented with strange foods that have no English description is to smell them. This technique landed me in very good places that morning. And my habit for managing my blood sugar levels with dairy landed me in a very happy place indeed! Having observed the large spread of carbs, I added some cottage cheese to my plate. Now I'm not a hater nor an aficionado of cottage cheese, merely a practical eater. Oh my word! It was heavenly! Mexican dairy is amazing! I savoured every mouthful and went back for seconds of that creamy deliciousness. One of the hardest adjustments to being back in Canada is the lack of amazing dairy products. *gazes off into space*
So..where was I? *wipes drool off chin* Oh, right! The breakfast buffet...So I went around smelling all the dishes that I couldn't identify. Since I hadn't figured out that Mexican eggs seem to be mostly free-range and thus a bastion of awesomeness, I avoided all the egg dishes. However, I tried a warm cinnamon beverage, fried bananas with what looked like devon cream, sweet potatoes in syrup, fried tortillas coated in cinnamon sugar, and chilaquiles. There were several soups, but I wasn't so sure about eating soup for breakfast. That's a little out of my comfort zone. Maybe next time. I think I was one of the most adventurous eaters there, and I pointed others to the delicious little tidbits I found. Definitely different from a Canadian breakfast but oh so good! I've never had real Mexican food but I'm now a fan!
After breakfast, we spent more time on the beach before heading out. First we dropped our bags off at the camp, and then headed to La Bufadora, about a 45 minute drive away. We weren't quite as tired as the night before, but the energy level in the van was still quieter than it would be at the end of the week. Sitting all close together tends to break down barriers, but we still didn't know each other that well. We mostly took in the very diverse scenery and some rather interesting sights. We passed stands selling jars of green olives, a horse painted like a zebra and took in many beautiful views of ocean and mountain. Soon our van followed the twisty road down the mountainside into a very small town. At first, I couldn't believe that we had arrived. But as men started competing for our parking business, I realized that this was indeed the big tourist attraction. Parking at the edge of the market district, our plan was to walk past all the shops to the Blowhole itself, eat lunch at a restaurant close by and then so our shopping on the way back.
It was an experience! Not only were the shops tightly packed with all sorts of eye-catching goodies, the vendors stood outside, yelling to attract business. As we were wearing our team shirts, the call soon became "Yellow people! Yellow people, over here!" It was hard to just keep walking. I wanted to let them know we weren't ignoring them, but part of me didn't want to make eye contact later. Sometimes we said that we would be back later, but this phrase caught up with us on our way back. I was one of the last people coming up, and some vendors started yelling at us quite angrily, saying that we had broken our promise. None of the team was in sight, so my young friend and I just put our heads down and kept walking. It took only a few minutes to catch up with some other members, but those minutes were scary.
La Bufadora was an amazing place. We just happened to arrive at high tide, so the geyser was spraying spectacularly. I had trouble getting a good view, but I did see some very high blasts of water. While we were there, Toe and I had a great conversation with a family from Alberta. They were in Mexico for a year, helping at a school. It was great to hear their story as well as to connect with fellow Canadians. While we were talking, our group finished up picture taking and began to wind back towards the restaurant. There were so many sights to see! A group of musicians, a woman painting plates with her fingers, a baby tiger being fed from a bottle and kept in a crib. There were drinks in coconuts, fried donuts, spears of mango, seafood and lots of samples.
After a lunch at an interesting local restaurant, we began our shopping. My eyes had been caught by some pewter and turquoise jewelry in a style I had been wanting for years. The pieces I liked were at a vendor who was not only very friendly and respectful(some vendors were too aggressive), but was also connected to EOC. While Toe engaged him in conversation, I picked over the pieces, finding two that I really liked. It took some time to get his attention(which was unusual), and then I began the process of haggling the price down. This custom was not something I have any experience or comfort with. However, I felt happy with both my purchases and the price. Those with experience advised us to pick a price in our head that we were comfortable paying, rather than worrying about being cheated. Some of the teens did a great job haggling. One girl calmly mentioned that she had been quoted a price significantly cheaper than what the vendor had offered. Although he protested that his was much better quality, the price was quickly dropped. I was very proud of my friend!
Far too soon we had to make our way back to camp. We were expected back to meet the family that we were building for. After a brief introduction, we would share a meal together. It was a special, but awkward moment. We had known their names for over a month, had watched the video they had put together and been purchasing presents for the daughter. Yet we were still strangers, separated by a language barrier. At the first meeting, we also met Lucy who would be our translator for the week. But when we got in the dinner line-up, Lucy disappeared. It was up to us to find a way to communicate. The daughter, Stephie(not her real name) was very shy. I knew that she was about my daughter's age. Using my very rusty Spanish, I asked how old she was. Then I told her that my daughter was close to her age. She stopped hiding and her mom began to talk to me. As we ate, we slowly and carefully communicated. I laughed inwardly as Lira spoke rapidly to me in Spanish. I could have probably understood much more if she had spoken slower, but I couldn't remember how to say "slow down!" My amusement came from remembering that many of my friends who are new to the English language accuse me of speaking too quickly. I got a taste of my own medicine that evening!
After dinner, our family left while we finished unpacking and settled in. I was pulled into two different leaders' meeting, one all about the details of the build while the other focussed on who EOC is and what their ministry plan and philosophy is. Having come with some questions, this session reassured me. It was also great to get a sense for who the other teams were.(All four groups were from the United Church, which is both cool and unusual) After the meetings, it was time for chapel. Again there was a quick introduction of the groups, followed by a time of worship and a brief message as well as an explanation of the camp rules and policies, including curfew. Rhonda spoke about the other baggage we may have brought, things such as fear that might be holding us back. She encouraged us to let it go, to embrace this new adventure. After chapel, we met in our focus groups and discussed both our impressions of the first day and any rocks that might be holding us back this week. I barely remember what we talked about, I was so tired.
Quiet time came quickly, but we were so jet-lagged it was a relief. Our group settled in quickly. One of the girls led first a reading from the trip devotional sent by our church and then led us in group prayer. I turned the lights out and silence quickly fell. This would not be the norm as the week progressed! So ended the first full day in Mexico. The next day would bring our first day on the build and our first time on KP. Stay tuned....