Christmas Paradise ?

I can’t decide if I am rusty a writing from taking a small hiatus or if I am having trouble warming up to my subject matter with the risk of sounding ungrateful or ….? (the suitable word has escaped me but if you read the post and know it please let me know). Perhaps the word is ambiguous?

We were recently at our neice’s wedding in Mexico which was a great family gathering. It was fabulous to spend time with 3 generations but I would have been just as happy to have done that in Canada. I know that seems like a weird thing to say when I am “lucky” or “blessed” or “rich” enough to be able to do such a trip during the winter but as you will see I do have my reasons. Now don’t get me wrong as I am not humbugging the whole affair and aside from the wonderful family time I did enjoy the sunshine, morning swims, beach time and the tours we took.

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There are two levels to my “discontent” actually. One is the very traditional aspect that anyone who has spent Christmas away from their home space will recognize. If you grew up in a warm environment then a Canadian winter would seem like a foreign spot for Christmas but if you grew up sledding, skating, making ice cream and giving cold kisses then you know what I mean. We had our traditional meal before we left and actually did stockings down there to help preserve some normalcy but still it felt odd.
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I love the sun and so that part was totally incredible although every afternoon the sun disappeared behind the clouds so we never really saw a sunset. It was so fabulous to swim every morning in a full size lane pool and have it mostly to myself. I shared it with the lifeguards who did morning training swims. Late morning and early afternoon were pool and beach time so there was a lot of sunscreen applied and much time under the trees for some as the sun there is quite intense.IMG_0661
We did go off resort twice; once for a few hours to Playa del Carmen and then a full day trip to the jungle with a cenote and Tulum heritage site.

Playa del Carmen was a town of 20,000 about 15 years ago and now boasts 150,000 residents with 100,000 visitors during the peak tourist season. The trip in and out of the city make it evident that not everyone is benefiting from the economic “windfall” of that income as some houses remain without power and garbage disposal being the two easily seen items. Other luxury condos feature air conditioning in every unit and security gates. On the main tourist street the vendors fight for your attention and the wares are made in China.  There are beautiful buildings and stores alongside unfinished or partially demolished buildings.  There was cervas and fish tacos at a beach restaurant but it left us with a sense that we still hadn’t seen the real Playa del Carmen. Perhaps we feel this way because we are used to riding or walking around cities and really exploring beyond just the tourist streets.

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Our full day trip included some jungle adventure time that the younger generation were really keen on. We did rappelling, 5 zip lines and a snorkel in a cenote full of interesting cave formations but also bats. We had our best meal of the trip deep in the forest; cooked over an open fire and full of the flavour we thought for Mexcian food. It was all a bit costly but our guide was really informative which was nice and spoke good English so we could ask loads of questions about a number of different subjects. Although we do have the photos from the day I’m not going to post them here as I am having technical issues to begin with.

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Our afternoon poking around the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum was quite enjoyable despite the intense crowds and the significant heat. We quickly lost the rest of our crowd as we explored at leisure this very unique site. We were unable to go down to the beach or climb on any ruins (you can still do this at some of the sites) but it still was interesting looking at the rock work, techniques and lay out of the entire area. A chat with the guide informed me that they didn’t have cemeteries but rather the dead were buried in each house in a basement crypt (for lack of a better word) curled up in the fetal position. It was fascinating to learn about the Mayans, Aztecs and the Spanish. I came away wanting to do some research into the past history of those civilizations.

Which brings me to the crux of the post and the trip. The whole all inclusive concept/reality and what that means to both the consumer (tourist), the local (worker) and owner (non local rich conglomerate) and how it feels, to both Ron and I, that it is an unsustainable environment. There is the obvious waste of an incredible amount of food and the crazy amount of alcohol that is poured for starters. Now of course you can practise restraint and not partake of the too muchness but chances are you will come home a couple pounds heavier even with all the walking.

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There is no doubt, as our guide told us, that these resort jobs are coveted by local workers although the hours are long and the pay little. There is a competitiveness inherent in working there because there is always some one waiting for your job so good service is a prerequisite to keeping your job and getting the tips. But who tips the gardeners and the beach sweepers? There is always an hola when you meet them but perhaps, and this is just my conjection, there must be a bit of resent that their beaches are now our beaches and that they work 6 days a week so we can lay around and be tanned, full and tipsy. The real winner in all of this are the resort owners who are apparently mostly Spanish with a few American companies. It’s hard to find a lot of details on the internet regarding the history of the resorts but the land, originally, would have been undersold. Granted there is a big investment in infrastructure for the resorts but it is apparent that the infrastructure in that part of Mexico isn’t keeping the same pace. Within the resort there are always options for spending more money as not everything is inclusive.

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Our all inclusive didn’t include internet access which we all found very weird. It wasn’t that we wanted to be totally connected and not enjoying our time away where we were but to be totally disconnected from family and friends at Christmas was strange. You could pay for it or you could have two free hours at a very specific time and place which happened to be right beside the pay water park which is probably what prompted the younger crowd to go surfing. The wind was so intense for most of our trip that the red flag was up and most people stayed away from the ocean as the waves were so big. We did go in and play a few times but the beach was so rocky that feet were always in danger of getting cut open which did happen. We weren’t able to take out any of the free water activity equipment so the surf park was a fun break from the pool. As you can see from the picture the two “T’s seem to have sorted out how to ride a steady wave. The lone girl also did very well.

And hanging out with family was the best part of the trip along with the wedding. The bride was gorgeous and the smile never left the groom’s face all day. It’s not my story to tell but it was very nice to see their blended family and the link that now exists.

Perhaps we both shouldn’t have peered below the surface but just accepted what we saw. If we had then this blog post would have been easier to write and more timely.

Adios and Feliz Navidad

Bernie

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