Puerto Escondido

Edwin agreed to come along with us from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido.  I was looking to split the cost of gas and tolls; I’d budgeted for the gas (twice as expensive as the U.S., but the tolls were quite a bit more than I’d expected).  I don’t think that Jeff and I were even heading to Puerto Escondido but it was on the way to Guatemala and it was by the beach.  We had heard that the beaches there were quite beautiful; what other reason would you need?  We drove due south from Oaxaca about 90 miles (about 140km) crossing over the mountains that separate the southern Mexican coast from the interior high plain.  As we crossed the summit and looked towards the south we could see thick and lush jungle (above).

When we arrived, we checked out two or three of the local hostels and found one to our liking and then headed straight for the beach.  It was a crowded post-Christmas beach week and we enjoyed the ocean, the sun, the view and the company of some of the local people.

I listened and was awed by the fluency of Edwin’s Spanish.  It seemed as though he had been speaking it for years.  Again and again the locals asked how long he had been speaking Spanish and stared in disbelief when he said only 6 weeks.  And then, just like in Oaxaca, the conversation turned to football and his native Holland and he was an instant celebrity.

“Damn,” Jeff said again, “Really, we need to dump this guy or we’ll never meet any chicks.”  We laughed again.  Edwin was staying in Puerto Escondido after we left, but the inside joke was fun to laugh at.

We lingered as long as we could watching the sun set and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of the beach.  Eventually we broke free and walked the block or two back to our hostel and showered to head out for a taste of the local nightlife.  We stopped at a liquor store to buy some drinks and found the clerk asleep at the cash register.  I thought I’d try out a new Spanish word that I had learned and said, “Casado?”  But, I had mixed up the words, casado is ‘married,’ I had meant to say cansado for ‘tired.’

The clerk replied, “No casado, cansado,” to which Edwin quickly replied, “Casado, sansado, es mismo,” meaning, “Married, tired, it’s all the same.”  Edwin, the clerk and I all broke into spontaneous laughter.  It was the first Spanish joke that I ever “got.”

We ended up at a night club with a thatched balcony that overlooked the ocean.  The warm breeze blew right through and with the loud club music it really felt like a tropical getaway.  I met a pair of young women from Mexico City; Marisella and Maria.  They were both recent graduates from college and had taken their first “real” jobs in the city.  They were visiting the beach with family and had taken the night away to enjoy some music and dancing.

The  two were quite interested to know about the United States and we were interested to know their “take” on, well, pretty much everything.  They both seemed quite concerned that America had a “low” opinion of Mexico because of what they saw as an inaccurate portrayal of Mexico in the American media and in Hollywood.  They went into great detail to explain to us how cultured Mexico was, how many of its people go to college, and how cosmopolitan the larger cities were.  If I had to judge Mexico based on these two lovely ladies, I would have to say that I would agree with them.

The next day we made our farewells with Edwin; it was a shame to leave such a “laid back” beach community like this.  I could certainly have stayed for another week and relaxed and enjoyed the ocean.  But, we had a schedule and a few more countries to see.


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Christmas and Salsa!

What does one do for Christmas when away from home?  You make a party!  And that’s exactly what we did.  The German girls at the hostel decided to cook Christmas dinner and invited us to join the party.  We contributed to the grocery budget and went and did some shopping for groceries, gifts, party favors and some wine and rum.

In true fashion, the girls pulled out all the stops and cooked a marvelous dinner.  Now, we didn’t have a turkey or a ham, but this is a holiday in Mexico, who needs all that?  The girls made some amazing pasta & garlic bread, we had glasses of red wine and an eclectic mix of people from Europe and North, Central and South America.

In no time at all we were eating and drinking and chatting of home and travels; each of us was learning something new about other people from the world.  Our hosts did not speak much English which turned out to be beneficial as it forced us to practice (and learn) our Spanish.

As always, Edwin, our friend from Holland, was the center of attention.  He is bright, funny and charismatic and the girls just cling to him like plastic shrink-wrap.  Whenever we met locals they would always ask him (in Spanish), how long he had been speaking the native tounge as he had mastered it so well.  When he replied, “six weeks,” no one believed him.  But that was all it took.  The question was always then, “Que pais?”  (What country), and when he replied Holland, they quickly (and excitedly) asked if he was a football fan.  Of course he was.  And Jeff and I would stand there as our charming European friend would talk and talk (all in Spanish mind you) about this football match and that.

Fluent (already) in English, French, Dutch and German, picking up Spanish in a 6 week immersion course at the start of his trip was no effort.  And, as we travelled further and further south into Mexico, he got better and better leaving Jeff and I scratching our heads in wonderment, a bit peeved at the American school system.

Shortly after I took this photo, Jeff leaned over and said, “We’ve got to get rid of this guy or else we’ll never meet any girls.”  We both had a good chuckle.  But sure enough, Edwin was a charmer and quite a personality to travel with.

As the food quickly disappeared, the rum replaced the wine and soon the blender was in full swing.  Christiane began mixing daqueris and margaritas and even made some pina coladas which she served in coconut half shells.  The young men from Equador told us of their travels around the western hemisphere following in the footsteps of Che Guevara.  They were all so good looking and their Spanish sounded so smooth, it was no wonder they were having such a good time.  Aside from Edwin, they were also getting a lot of attention from the ladies and I wondered about so many Americans who never leave their home town.  What fun it is to travel and to meet people from around the world!

As a “thank you” to the ladies for cooking such a wonderful Christmas meal, we picked up some presents and even found time to wrap them.  Elephante was all the rage and we were able to find enough copies of the CD so that we could give each of the girls their own copy.  In no time one of the CDs was in the player and some dancing began.  It was my first Christmas in Mexico but it was really a lot of fun; we were having the time of our lives.

Robi pulled out another surprise; he dug some fireworks out of his bag that he had purchased during our “scavenger hunt” shopping earlier in the day.  Everyone”oohed” and “aahed,” as he lit some sparklers and sparkler cones.  On a tight budget and in a foreign country, everyone came together to make it a really special Christmas day.

All of the girls were keen to learn how to Salsa dance and convinced David (our host) to give some lessons.  Out came the Elephante disk and in went some of David’s salsa tunes.  He and one of his friend showed the basic steps and in no time the whole party was salsa dancing.  I can’t remember smiling and laughing as much as on that night.  Everyone was happy and festive and we really had a wonderful time.

As the pina coladas and margaritas continued to flow the dancing migrated to the top of the table and we laughed and laughed and danced and danced and I remember thinking that this is why I like to travel…


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