Sunday February 9, 2014
The past few days I’ve been trying to find a peaceful balance of relaxing and enjoying our time here in Isla Mujeres, and also not freaking out that we are so far behind schedule. Nevermind that they’re mostly self inflicted schedules, but keep in mind that if we make the jump to the Med this summer, we’d like to position ourselves in St. Martin in early May just to be ready, and that’s a long way to go in three months. And that’s if we left tomorrow! To take my mind off these deadlines and dreaded miles, I’ve been trying to find things to occupy our time, and my mind, here in Isla. It’s occurred to me that we honestly haven’t done much of anything here, and I blame that on an equal balance of having a speedy internet connections at our fingertips on the boat, and almost making a game of keeping the monthly budget at low as possible. I’m not kidding, it gets addictive, trying to beat out the previous month by making statements like “We already have rice, so if we just buy some vegetables and Stir-fry sauce, we can turn that into three meals, and we don’t even have to spend the $2.50 on meat!”. It’s actually getting a little embarrassing.
So now, I’ve made the resolution to let us live it up a little bit. I’ve made a pact with Matt that if we’re still here one week from now, we’ll allow ourselves to rent a scooter for the day to tour the island, and I’m going to try and talk him into going to a restaurant called Mango’s to celebrate our 18 month cruising anniversary coming up on Wednesday, based on a tip from a cruising friend and about 1,000 five star reviews on Trip Advisor. Today though, I was going to force upon him some more wandering on our way to the grocery store, along with a stop for Poc Chuc to eat on the way back. That last part was actually a request of his, with a little nudging on my part to do it today instead of ‘One of these days…’.
Making the mile long walk from where we land our dinghy at Marina Paraiso down the main road mixed with vacant lots, local restaurants, and tiendas (not the whored out restaurants and tourist shops of the north side) we detoured down a side road to satisfy my wanderlust. It wasn’t going to be a huge day of exploring, mind you, just getting to know these streets we wander past every 2-3 days a little more in depth. Even just one block in, the shops reminded us a little more of Fronteras and the day to day life we were used to in Guatemala. The stores may have been just a tad more built up, but it was the same basic feel. A hardware store here, a restaurant there, a pharmacy on the corner. It looked like the Central American living we’ve come to know pretty well, and even though I wasn’t surprised or amazed by finding anything new off the main road, it was still nice to get off it for a few minutes.
This section of town didn’t look too large so after two blocks and one turn, we came to a dead end in front of the baseball field that sits across from the supermarket. And joy of joys, there was a game going on today. Rooting around in our pockets to see how many pesos we had, it was deemed that 100 should be at least enough to get us into the game and possibly even buy a beer. Walking up to the ticket taker who was actually just a woman ripping up shreds of what looked like recycled paper, I was told the entry was 20 pesos a person, which we gladly bought in to. Shuffling through the maze of patrons standing in line at the concession stands, we made our way to the concrete levels of seating and grabbed a spot on the lowest level. Realizing that we had situated ourselves on the side of the home team, the Isla Mujeres Pescadores, we decided to align ourselves in cheering for them since, hey, we were basically residents here anyway by now.
Sitting so close to the field we had, literally, a front row view of all that was happening on the sidelines. What really captured my heart was the bat boy, who was not even close to being a boy, but instead an older and slightly weathered man who would spring to life when it was his turn to round up a foul ball or present a player with his selected bat. The man had to be nearing 80, but took so much joy and pride in participating in the communities events. Good thing there was a 12 ft fence in front of me or I probably would have leaped over anything smaller, wrapping this grandfather figure in my arms and gushing, “You are just too cute!”. Matt saw my desired intentions and just rolled his eyes. I can’t help it that my cat isn’t enthusiastic about being scooped up and cuddled and I have to focus my affection elsewhere.
Finding that we should have enough pesos left to buy a couple of beers even if they were charged at ridiculous stadium prices, I was ecstatic to find out they were only half the price that we normally see at restaurants, essentially turning this into a buy one get one special for me. With a grin on my face and cold beers in my hand, I returned to Matt as we tried to beat the hot sun with our cold beers, and make room for all the locals filling in the seats around us. And this is what surprised me: I didn’t mind when there were so many Pescadores fans coming in that we were literally squeezed like sardines onto these concrete slabs. There wasn’t the traditional American personal space issue where, even if you were on a bus or a train with a somewhat spacious seat under your behind, you cross your legs away and lean the other direction as soon as a stranger takes the empty seat next to you. Here I had one arm smooshed against Matt, the other arm smooshed against a sweaty man in a tank top, barely enough room to bring my beer up to my lips, but you couldn’t wipe the silly grin off my face because I was having such a good time.
Though I should have been paying attention to the actual game, I couldn’t take my eyes off the happenings in the stadium. The sights, the sounds, the sense of community; everyone here knew each other and it was as if a big family potluck had been taken on the road with some entertainment thrown in for good measure. Some families had shown up with large coolers stocked full of cold beers and tasty treats, others were bringing back plates of nachos, or my personal favorite, ceviche, from the concession stands by the entrance gate. Although my hunger was beginning to grow, we’d left on empty stomachs so we could later fill them with Poc Chuc, I wanted to make sure we stayed through as much of the game as we could to enjoy the experience and the bit of serendipity we had wandered in to. This game really was the community coming together to unwind on a Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in awhile, I felt a sense of belonging. Matt was enjoying the afternoon just as much as I was and we made yet another pact, that we would come back to the next home game, armed with a cooler and possibly some wide brimmed hats (that sun is a killer!).
When the fifth inning had come to and end and my stomach was starting to talk louder than the Mexican women a few seats down from me, we decided to pack it in. After all, we’d probably be back in 3-4 days for their next game, so no sense in dropping flat from fatigue. Strolling back out to the main road we tucked into our favorite little pink shack for some of the best pork one could ever ask for. Having the confidence of some beer and the recent buzz of local conversation, I did not have to rely on English at any point for my stop here. While sitting at our little corner table and watching the American tourists flock in after parking their golf cards outside and working their hardest to use the little bit of Spanish they knew (Grassy-ass!!), I thought back to ourselves having now been in Isla for almost two months and smiled to myself while realizing, ‘That’s right, we finally belong here’.