Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sketching and Splashing in Tulum, Mexico

Last weeks of March my daughter Isabelle and I made our annual spring pilgrimage to Tulum, Mexico in search of some vitamin D, swimming, and sketching opportunities. Cancun airport greeted us by a long shapeless line to pass passport control that started basically at the airplane's door and consisted of exhausted by long flights crying children and their parents eager to enjoy a cold Margarita by the pool side of their resort. Nobody was amused by standing for hours in a poorly ventilated space with no bathrooms or visible line definitions.

Having survived the multiple lines and even a longer drive to the little Tulum cabañas where we were staying we were relieved to find the soothing sounds of the ocean, cooling breeze, and the cozy attic tree house we would be occupying for the next several days.

Next day we would meet the occupants of the neighboring cabañas–the delightful gay couple from London, the three American friends from Wisconsin, and a sweet generous couple from Stuttgart–Aldo and Pati. Aldo is a Mexican physicist who now lives in Germany with his Polish wife Pati, a master origami frog maker.

Every evening right at sunset we would all gather in the outdoor kitchen of Larisa's and Carlos' house for some refreshments. Everyone would contribute something delicious or interesting to share.

Here is a snapshot of one conversation about Skittle parties in Michigan shared by a couple who happened to drop by that evening. For those curious, skittle parties involve teenagers stealing medicine from their parents and grandparents medicine cabinets, throwing them in a large bowl and then consuming those indiscriminately together. Don't look up the Urban Dictionary definition of a "skittle party."

Urban dictionary–chipping away at the definition of human dignity one entry at a time.


Conversation about skittle parties in Michigan


Next evening we were visited to Alberto, a native Mayan man who works as tour guide in the Sian Ka'an biosphere. Among many things he said that night was his explanation for why the Caribbean sea is so polluted by invasive seaweed this year. He said: "People no longer make any offerings to nature and only take and take without giving anything back."

My father is a shaman


Aldo grilled some corn on the cob. Others contributed what they could, and we had a delicious vegetarian meal scented by the smoldering copal or "pom" in Mayan, which according to the Maya purifies the air and summons good spirits.

Vegetarian BBQ with Mayan flavor


Here one of the Wisconsin traveling girl-friends is sharing her observations about traveling in Cuba, eating sugar, and values of friendships and active life styles. We miss you, Francine.


Francine and her experience in Cuba

Unfortunately, Wisconsin ladies and the British couple had to leave and the next few evenings we had a pretty quiet time that we delightfully shared with Larisa, the owner of the place. Larisa is the only vegetarian Mexican I have ever met and the sweetest hostess one would ever want. Here she is sharing the story of her life and observations about the current situation in Tulum, and in Mexico overall.

Sweet Mexican Larisa


Our final evening with Aldo and Pati made a delicious snack of fried plantains and guacamole and shared with Isabelle how to make frogs and boxes out of paper (origami style).


Origami lessons with Aldo and Pati

Meanwhile, the visitors who came to replace our old friends were a lot younger and noticeably less social. Here is John from Minnesota watching kite boarders and drinking Modelo on the beach.

John from Minnesota

One day we were able to peel ourselves away from the seaweed ridden beach and spend some time in the town of Tulum, visit the ruins of Muyil, and float down one of the turquoise channels of the biosphere that are reportedly home to populations of crocodiles and manatees. None were spotted by us.

Here is how the Southern end of the town of Tulum looks like from the side of the main highway (Carretera Federal) that goes through town and continues South to Chetumal.

Southern end of town, next to Carretera Federal
While exploring a remote beach one day Isabelle and I ran across this character playing her drum and chanting naked on the beach. True free spirit!

Free spirit

While waiting for our order of tacos at La Eufemia I sketched these vendors of Mayan candy taking a respite from the sun in the shade.

Mayan candy vendors



Here is the La Eufemia Taco Shack on the beach with their tag line: "Eat a fucking taco!"

La Eufemia tacos shack

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