#4 – BURNING RING OF FIRE
The adventure: MEXICO…
Some like it hot. But others – they like it smokin’ hot.
You can typically find these people located in the ‘Ring of Fire’, the earth’s most violent earthquake and volcano zone. And with over 20 million visitors each year, for the first time in my life, I finally became one of them as my plane touched down in Mexico.
For years and years I heard whispers of debauchery and decadence. Sizzling, spicy stories filled with fevered festivities. But my perspective changed the minute I became friends with Pablo, the kindly tour director at my hotel.
Through him, I learned about the community, the people, and more importantly, where the locals hang out. Like a cultural anthropologist, I wanted to immerse myself within the richness of the country. And I found myself yearning to be more than an observer – separate from everything and everyone – I wanted to be a participant.
Drawn to the more unusual areas where few tourists even think to go when overwhelmed by the decadence of tourist traps, I wandered through back alleys and residential areas. By doing so, I was greeted by smiling faces and warm welcomes whenever I passed by a local.
I began to realize something during my meanderings. To not learn about the country I was visiting, any country I suspect, would be to deny myself the rich opportunity to discover new and different ways of living, of meeting wonderful new friends.
But it also gave me pause to reflect on a few other things.
There is a vulnerability and hyper-awareness one develops when leaving the house – particularly when being so far away from my bed, my fur-children, my things – all that is familiar and safe to me. It reminds me of the book “Travels,” written by Michael Crichton. In it, he states:
“Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am. There is no mystery about why this should be so. Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of your food, your closet full of your clothes–with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That’s not always comfortable, but it always invigorates.”
It’s as Crichton indicates, it’s always the direct experience which puts me into a multitude of situations that are not always comfortable, effectively thrusting me out of my own personal ‘comfort zone.’
You know this zone.
It’s the place where most of us do the same things, day in and day out.
If anything, I suspect the comfort zone should probably be called ‘The Stagnant Zone’ – the place where life can easily slip by, disappearing without notice. And it doesn’t really matter where we are in our lives, if we do the same stuff over and over and over again, how can we possibly grow?
But the question to ask, I suppose, is this: Are we so comfortable wearing that security blanket that it becomes literally impossible to make any changes in our lives?
And if change is so difficult, why not just take baby steps? Do something different the next time you leave the house…like meandering about aimlessly or taking an unfamiliar route. It’s small, but it’s a start.
Or go for the gusto and immerse yourself into an entirely different world -a new world – and give yourself a new reality, a new perspective on life.
Lets stop stagnating and get uncomfortable.
Interesting Factoids about Mexico:
- Mexico introduced chocolate, corn, and chilies to the world.
- Mexico is located in the “Ring of Fire,” one of the earth’s most violent earthquake and volcano zones.
- The Aztecs played ritual ball game known as tlachtli in which the losers were often sacrificed to the gods.
- Mexico has the world’s smallest volcano. The Cuexcomate, in the city of Puebla, is only… 43 feet tall.
- The first known convention of Astronomers was held in the Mayan city of Copán, in the year 700 A.D.
- Almost 90% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholics.
- There is no worm at the bottom of a tequila bottle (that’s mescal), and it’s not a worm it’s a grub indigenous to the region that is sometimes fried and served as a delicacy.
Why leave home?
- Experience different cultures where everything and everyone seems alien to you.
- What you see and experience will alter your perspective on your life and how you live it.
- You’ll learn better social skills through the constant interaction with other people.
- You get to experience different foods, different currencies, different climates…different everything!
- Imagine immersing yourself in a place where the language is not your own – and discovering other forms of communication can become more important than you thought.
- Experience the sense of freedom, of doing whatever you want, getting away from your troubles, and doing things in your own time, your way. Who wouldn’t love it?
Email excerpt to my friends and family while in Mexico:
I am in Playa Del Carmen as I write these words, sipping on a cool one, sitting down for a brief moment in time before heading back out into the hot sun and frivolities. I am enjoying myself immensely…loving the life here.
The wedding yesterday was nice…short and sweet. I don’t think it even lasted 5 minutes. Do you take him? Si. Do you take her? Si. All right then…you are married. It was better than that 3 hour Catholic wedding I was subjected to when I went to Quebec on a French exchange trip at age 15. Boredom set in in the first couple of minutes, particularly when not knowing much of the language.
Earlier on today, I swam with the barracudas along one of the world’s largest reefs. There were other colourful fishies present, but watching the barracudas was of GREAT interest to me. They are quite aggressive. This was adequately demonstrated when I watched them brutally attack a snorkel tossed in their general direction. It made me a little leery, to say the least, particularly when seconds later, I swam by them wearing the identical snorkel on my face.
Tomorrow I visit Coba and am going to climb to the top of an immensely tall ruin, a.k.a. pyramid. Ought to be interesting in this heat – but then I will be swimming in cenotes and visiting obscure remote villages laced throughout the countryside. Works for me.
Now, I must admit, I haven’t been partaking in the pleasures of the resort. They offer an all-you-can-eat and drink option – along with beautiful pools and a sandy beach. The only time I seem to be down at the beach, however, is at night. There is a full moon out there and I love full moons…said the night-owl. Last night, while waiting for the moon to come out, three of us were perched up on top of a huge sandbag the size of a whale. Apparently, its purpose was to protect the beach from hurricanes and erosion. It was a glorious evening when, all of a sudden, a huge wave came up and soaked us from the waist down. Yes, it was one of my more graceful moments as I almost fell over backwards, ass over tea-kettle.
People here do seem to be rather tanned. There have been a few comments on my moon-tan. Hello SPF-60. It sort of stands out a bit with the dark hair. I suspect people think I’m a ghost at first glance.
So far, my favourite day was spent walking off the beaten track throughout the town. I spent all day walking, meeting some of the locals, going in to some regular stores, eating the ‘real’ food. And no, I didn’t get sick once. Although, the doctor at the walk-in clinic in my neighbourhood did see fit to prescribe me with enough medicine to counteract any tropical illnesses for a year. Apparently, he was visiting Mexico the year before and got sick on day one, spending the entirety of his two-week vacation, in bed, or on the toilet.
Speaking of toilets, when I got back to the hotel, I became one. A toilet, that is. I got ‘shit-sprayed’ by a black howler monkey. Maybe it was urine. Not entirely sure what the weird liquidy goo was. Maybe it was some sort of a ‘sign’. After all, from what I can deduce, it’s good luck to be shat on in Italy. If I’m really lucky, maybe it’s the same in Mexico.
Speaking of my good fortune…I am so totally lucky to be spending time here in Mexico with such an amazing group of people. The Ridsdales are, without a doubt, some of the FUNNEST (is that a word?) people to be around…I look forward to future travels with the family again sometime. 🙂
Motor-scooting about the town is a blast. The traffic isn’t at all intimidating. There seems to be some sort of rhyme or reason to the movement…sort of like a dance. I suspect it’s time to get my motor-scooter insured, methinks. I love the freedom and the feel of the wind on my face. I need to get a motorcycle one day and pretend I’m Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman as they travel the Long Way Round, touring the world on bikes. BMWs, if I recall correctly.
Tonight I took Pablo’s advice and went for dinner at a traditional Mayan restaurant called Yaxche Mayan Cuisine Restaurant. It was somewhat different from the regular mexican foods – from what I can tell. When I looked at the menu, I had no idea what to order, so I asked the waiter surprise me. I was more than a little pleasantly surprised – I had one of the best meals of my life! I suspect the waiter REALLY enjoyed watching me enjoy the food. He even went as far as to give me the recipe for Euxiquia Soup!! Serious yum.
Well amigos and amigas, it’s time to flee. See you back in Canada.
Hasta la vista, baby.
© Monthly Adventure, Patricia Taylor, April 2008
Book credits: Michael Crichton, Travels. 1988.