Practically Mexico – Cozumel, Mexico
|How can I leave?|
Despite my nearly legendary work ethic, it didn’t take any extraordinary feat of salesmanship to convince me to give up programming for a week and spend some time scuba diving in a tropical paradise. So on Monday morning, I swapped out my laptop and cables for a pair of flip-flops and a change of underwear, switched my work IM client to a “Be right back” message and drove down to the Austin airport. A few hours later, my plane was landing at the only runway at Cozumel International – a one-room terminal that doubled as a military training camp. I met up with my cousin, who my family had ditched there several hours before, and together we crammed into the back of a pickup with twenty other bewildered tourists. As we drove through town, it became apparent that the one city on the island was a little more than a seedy American tourist trap – all the ads were in English and the prices were in dollars. There was no sign of legitimate Mexican culture anywhere. There were, however, little reassurances that we were in fact in the third world: the streets had that familiar scent of raw sewage, mopeds frequently served as family vehicles – carrying up to five people, and the police/militants in the truck bed in front of us all carried rather large automatic weapons.
|Check me out!|
We were staying at an all-inclusive resort that offered all the food, drink, and entertainment you could ever want without the troublesome obligation to travel more than a hundred feet from your room. The rooms themselves were a strange dichotomy of luxury and cot-cutting – the towels were wrapped into elaborate swan shapes and the toilet paper was folded into floral origami, but the beds were hard as rocks, and in a particularly brilliant money-saving measure, the shampoo in the complimentary bottles had been replaced with water. The TV had far more American channels than Mexican ones – with two versions of HBO and Cinemax, there was really no reason to ever venture outside. There was a convoluted network of snack bars and restaurants that served unlimited, free food at all hours of the day and night. They had hamburgers, pizza, french fries. I actually didn’t encounter a single taco the whole time I was there. This hotel made its best effort to shield you from the disturbing reality that you were actually staying in a foreign country. Nature, however, had one undeniable triumph over the facade – it seems the island has a bit of a bug problem; upon my first step out of my American jet, I was bitten about six times. Mosquitoes covered the ceilings of our rooms, brought about a speedy desertion of the beaches at dusk, and immediately coated any limb that a snorkeler was foolish enough to suspend above the water. In the dining hall, flies reigned supreme – nearly every item in the buffet and anything brought back to the tables was immediately swarmed – though the clouds that hovered above the fruits and meats were not nearly as disturbing as the salad dressings which were routinely speckled with dead flies. I stayed away from these. By the end of the trip, the bugs didn’t bother me anymore; I think this was because of the healthy dose of RAID that I ingested from the protective coating that would be applied to the buffet before every meal.