Monday, December 24, 2012

Cuarto Se Renta : Room For Rent

It's not hard to find a room to rent in Tulum.  You do, however, require some necessary tools for the search.  A bike for riding, eyeballs for seeing, perhaps a pen and paper for writing down phone numbers, and a friend who is waaaay more fluent than you are in Spanish to make the phone calls for you.  I borrowed a bike for the day and set upon pedaling around town looking for signs that say "Cuarto Se Renta" which means "Room for Rent."

The high season for tourists begins now in December and lasts through the winter.  When I say "high" I mean peak season, not as in tourists come to Tulum during the winter to get high.  Although, there is quite the population of bedraggled, dreadlocked, barefooted, rat-tailed (when the hell did that come back into fashion?), spacey looking backpackers that, the maternal instinct in me thinks, need to put some shoes on and perhaps entertain the thought of showering.  I wouldn't put it past some of those folks that come to Tulum to get high.  But to each his own, right?

Anyhow, back to finding a room to rent.  Several locals that I met made it sound as though it was urgent that I find a room to rent immediately because after mid-December, EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE fills up and I will be stuck without a hearth and home in Tulum.  It made me think of the urgency I feel when I am in NYC using the subway.  If I can hear the train coming and haven't gone through the turnstile yet, I feel this urgent need to quickly go through and walk the 8 feet to the platform.  As if the train stops, opens its doors quickly and closes them immediately.  There's not enough time for anyone to alight or embark.  Thus was the way people made me feel if I didn't find a room to rent ASAP.  Better get through that turnstile baby, the train's-a-leavin'!  So, I hopped on a bike and cycled around town.  The bike I borrowed was made for a tall man with long arms, not a short girl.  I had to stand on tip toes to even mount the beast and then my arms stretched out to grasp the handle bars likening me to that doll from the early nineties, "Stretch Armstrong."  The brakes kind of worked and I trepidly crossed speed bumps, which are everywhere in Tulum because there are no speed limits.  I am under the impression that most people drive as fast as they can to the speed bump, cross it slowly and resume high speed again.  Stop signs, also, are a mere suggestion here as well as lanes.  Because cars don't stop for you and because the brakes didn't really work on the bike, I went slowly, afraid if in haste I'd somehow bounce forward off my seat onto the bike frame and ruin any chances of ever having a child.  The seat's padding was a joke and every bump in the road made me feel like a fist was constantly pummeling me in the butt cheeks.  

The day I chose to search for a room was the hottest day ever in the entire world, which happens often here.  Sweat poured into my eyes, down my back, my shirt was soaked and my hair was matted in disarray on my scalp.  The air was a humid, heavy cloak settling around me and the breeze created from biking was not much help in that kind of heat.  I was biking through thick air.  I imagine this is what it would be like if you felt so inclined to bike in a swimming pool.  Why you would feel inclined to do so is a mystery, perhaps you came to Tulum to get high, grow a dreadlocked rat tail, walk around barefoot, get in touch with the cosmos and stumbled upon a swimming pool and a bike and the rest was written in the stars.

Every street I wheeled down, there were Se Renta signs.  I wrote down at least 20 numbers, starring the ones that looked especially nice from the outside.  The paper I was writing on was even damp from sitting in my gross, sweat-laden pocket.  My top choice was one with a big, dark wooden gate.  Probably ten feet tall.  I could see beyond and above the gate a small, bright yellow building with two floors.  To the right, there was another building of which I could see a thatched roof.  There were lots of beckoning trees beyond the gate.  It looked charming and homey.  Two things I'm a little obsessed with when searching for a place to rest my head and my sore butt from an unforgiving bike seat.  A fluent Spanish speaking friend called the number for me later that afternoon.  We walked over to check out the room and in a matter of five minutes I had a new home.  No lease, no security deposit, just a verbal agreement.  Pretty lax, nothing like in the my experiences renting apartments in the United States.  I moved in the following day.  The easiest move I've ever made as all I did was sling my big hiking pack onto my back and walk the ten minute walk from the hostel to my new digs, sweating profusely, obviously as it was again, the hottest day in the world.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Aprendiendo Espanol

The title of this post means "Learning Spanish."  This is one of my main objectives while I'm here.  The other two objectives are to write a lot (hence, this blog) and to help out my dear friend, Ashley, who is about to have a baby here.  Any day now, any hour now for that matter.  You'll hear allllll about that when the time has come.

For many years now I've yearned to be fluent in Spanish.  Being here, I finally feel incredibly driven to learn.  I can't remember the last time I was so excited about learning something.  It's a wonderful feeling!  I find that most people here are more than willing to help you learn too.  I'm constantly asking native speakers, "How do you say this?  How do you say that," and then diligently writing everything down in my journal because otherwise I'll forget in five minutes.  I love that already, I can understand snippets here and there in conversations that I listen to.  I can't grasp entire conversations yet, but in due time.  I try to memorize a few new words and verbs everyday.  It does take getting used to- speaking a different language.  You really need to rearrange the way your brain works to adjust to it.  You have to pay more attention and you have to be willing to sound like a complete idiot.  Someone asked me the other day, "When did you arrive?"  I replied, "United States."  Another person asked me recently, "Where are you going?"  I said, "No, Gracias."  I realized my mistakes later when pondering the befuddled looks on both of their faces.  It's a learning process, right?  I feel as though if one isn't learning something new in life, one becomes stagnant and bored.  It's ok to feel foolish while learning something new, it's humbling.  It gives you the motivation to get better at the task at hand.

Side note: even better was when I was in Italy many years ago and I was trying to say, "Can you help me?  I'm lost" but instead I later found out I was saying, "Can you help me?  I am a person?"  Also, when an Italian girl asked me if I was enjoying my vacation and I said, "Tomorrow."  Also, when someone asked me, "Positano?"  Which basically translates to, "Is that Positano (he was pointing to a path that lead to the town called Positano).  And I said to him, "I am, I am."  End side note.

Ashley makes fun of me for the way I act when I am asking someone for help.  She says I get very serious, I get my game face on.  I go from smiling and laughing to a very straight face with slightly furred brows.  I imagine those old fashioned photos of people from the early 20th century, the ones were no one is smiling and everyone looks stern.  That's what I look like, minus the sepia tone and the neck to ankle dresses complete with broach and gloves.  Well, ok, I do wear the broach and gloves, they go great with my swimsuit.  I nod a lot, even if I haven't a clue what the person I'm talking to says to me.  And I write.  Everything.  Down.  Otherwise, my attention span is that of someone watching TV, I can hear you but nothing is registering.

I will often start a conversation in Spanish with the phrases I have learned thus far but then the recipient fires off some long sentence which leaves me stunned.  It sounds as though they are all speaking tongue twisters with a fast forward button.  I have a tendency to cock my head slightly to the right and my face goes blank.  No frown, no smile, no questioning look, it's simply a blank stare.  One you give when you're on an airplane and you are pretending to listen to the flight attendant give their shpeal about flight safety and yadda, yadda, yadda.   Ashley makes the exact same face when she can't follow a conversation either.  It must be an American thing....

My new landlord, Enrique, speaks Spanish, English, Italian and Portuguese.  He's happy to jabber on in Spanish to me and I understand about five percent of what he is saying.  I asked him to only speak in Spanish to me and he obliges until he realizes he's told me an entire story and I've understood words like, "the family, mother, then, grandmother, 5 months, 16 years old, the, and, but, because."  Yeeeeaaahhhh, "mas despacio, por favor?" Please, can you speak slowly?  I did, however, find out that he was an exchange student when he was 16 in Rochester, Michigan and that he went to school with Madonna.   No joke!  The only reason why I can convey that information with full and complete confidence?  He told me in English.


More sunset!

Painting up the stairway at the hostel I stayed at when I first arrived

Friday, December 7, 2012

Floating in the Aqua Green

Hola and welcome to my new blog!  This is my opportunity to start writing on a regular basis and your opportunity to read everything I have to say about living in Tulum, Mexico.  I just moved here two days ago and will stay through the "winter."  Winter is in quotes because I grew up in upstate western New York and spent ten years in Vermont.  It's permanent summer here, sunny and 80 degrees todos los dias.  Winter doesn't exist really.  I'm used to snow tires, icy breath, shoveling snow, long johns and wool socks.  Christmas goes hand in hand with snow, or at least wishing for snow seeing as how the current state of global warming is extending it's hand over the northeast.  Christmas decorations on palm trees seems like a farce.  It reminds me of people who throw those Christmas in July parties which never once made any sense to me simply because it's hot out and most Northeast Americans I know equate Christmas with cold and snow.  What's the point in celebrating it in July?   Anyhow, I digress. One day I was wearing a winter coat and the next I was wearing flip flops and lubing up with sunscreen.  I have always wanted to live in a tropical climate.  Mostly because you can be outside all the time.  And your home can be built around the outdoors.

The hostel that I will be calling home for a little while is all open.  There is no front door, it's a gate.  There is a ceiling above the tiny kitchen, the reception desk and eating area but other than that it's open to the sky.  There is a huge palm tree stretching fronds up to the second floor/rooftop.  The downstairs corridor is really not a corridor at all.  There is a ceiling with Day of the Dead decal on the crossbeams, there are dorm rooms on the left side and open space with a small pool on the right side.  Everything to the right is just under the sky, no ceiling. The stairs you climb to get to the rooftoop terrace and the second floor dorm room has no covering, it's just open, you are outside.  I love it.  You can't really build like this in the northeast, it's not practical.  When I walk out of my dorm room at night, I can see the stars.  I can live with that.

The colors here are incredibly vibrant.  Not just in the hostel but everywhere.  Colorful hammocks adorn the reception area as well as two small red couches.  When you sit in the hammock and look towards the pool, rays of sunshine fall through the giant palm fronds and make stripes out of the pool ledges and the ground.  You're inside, but you're outside too.  In my moments of raw homesickness, I look at those rays and remember the slate grey days in Rochester that would happen so many in a row you lost count.  The sunshine alone makes it worth it.

I grew up going to the ocean in Maine and Massachusetts.  Gorgeous in it's own way.  The ocean here is what you see in travel brochures.  White sand that doesn't burn your feet.  You don't look like a fool clomping through the sand in sandals lest you remove them and the bottoms of your feet burn.  None of that silliness here.  The sand is as fine as flour.  Palm trees lean over and give you shade should you need it.  The ocean is a polychromatic body of ultimate goodness.  The first bit would be clear but the sand that is kicked up with every wave makes its tan like a pair of khakis.  Then the next bit is aqua green.  Bright aqua green, almost florescent.  It's a color that beckons you to come forth.  When you first step in, it's only slightly chilly, but then you simply want to get to the aqua green part.  Then you swim over some waves and it's bright turquoise.  Similar to the pendants and rings I wear.  The water isn't clear here, but there is no seaweed, almost no debris whatsoever.  Today a sunfish kept swimming in between my legs.  I could see it when it was close to the surface.  As small as it was, I eventually got too freaked out by it as I am by all sea life.  It's completely improbable that the sunfish could ever turn into Jaws but that's usually where my imagination leads to so I had to get out and regroup.  The last bit, the long bit that reaches to the horizon is cobalt blue.   I haven't swum out that far yet, it would take you a good long while to get there, best to take a boat.  You can see huge waves way out in the cobalt which I am pretty sure is where the reef is but I could be wrong.  I am eager to see the ocean as many days as I can while I'm here.  I'm eager to swim in it as many days as I can.  I want to learn this ocean and it's moods.  It's amazing how healing salt and sand can be, anywhere in the world.

Thank you for being part of this little blog I am creating.  I hope you enjoy my posts and I hope they get better and better as I reconstitute that creative part of my brain that hasn't done much writing in mucho anos.  Adios!!