Cancun; Hello’s, Goodbye’s and Everything In Between

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I returned from a week long trip from the wonderful city of Cancun late last night. I usually like to wait a few days for the vacation buzz to subside before I write, but I’m feeling quite content today, and figured I’d try a new perspective of writing when the feelings were fresh and raw.

This was my first for a few things; traveling internationally alone, meeting up with friends I didn’t know really well, having a huge hotel room to myself, just to name a few. Traveling alone was pretty easy, minus the conversation waiting in lines and such. Mexican Customs makes me nervous, especially Cancun. You’re greeted in a cattle call of people waiting in line to get your passport and paperwork checked in a room that has minimal at best of air conditioning. That was fine. I put on my headphones and silently bopped to my own music, never really paying attention to the slowness of the moving lines. After that it got a bit more confusing, but eventually thru following others and finding a few officials who spoke enough English to figure out I had to pick up my checked in luggage to go thru another check point. This is where things get weird.

As honest as I am, when I’m in a store and being watched by store personnel, I always worry about them thinking I’m stealing something when all I’m doing is browsing. I think I was born with the guilt of a thief and liar. Maybe in another life I was a really bad thief, I don’t know. I get to the luggage line and am told I made an error on how much money I was bringing in the country. (You only declare if you’re bringing in more than 10k USD — in my defense the forms were in Spanish and I haven’t had to read the language beyond a menu here and there since high school freshman year). I’m hot, I’m sweaty, it took a few minutes to clarify what he wanted me to do, but I get it done and head back. All is well, and then you meet with the man with the button.

Cancun Customs operates their random searches with a large red button that only you, the traveler, are permitted to touch. He asks the same questions; any booze, cigars, cigarettes. I reply yes to cigarettes and he asks me how many. I hesitate, because I didn’t know how many packs.  “Six I say”, wondering if maybe I brought seven. He said as long as it was less than two cartons, I’m okay. But the way he asks, was a bit intimidating. He hesitates, looks me over and then says “Señora, I need you to push this red button.” He takes a step to the side, and motions for me to press. I press, and a red light goes off. He narrows his eyes and tells me “Señora, this button detects some insincerity in your answer, and I need you to step over here” of course my first thought was maybe I did bring more than six packs,but how is a button to know this? They x-ray my luggage, and then say we still need to search it. All I can think, is who the hell smuggles INTO Mexico? By now, the heat, and the previously mentioned guilt has me sweating like I had 16 kilos of hash packed away. I’m trying to get the lock off my bag, and having a woman search my panties and zillion bathing suits, before I’m given the all clear sign. By now I see the button randomly just picks people, and I just happened to be one of the ones chosen. Great way to run a system. By now, who cares — I’m officially on vacation.

A friend graciously agreed to pick me up in a rental he had procured earlier, so I am easily able to duck and weave thru the timeshare reps who are looking for those lost looking first timers in Cancun. After a couple of texts, we are able to locate one another and soon I’m in an oh-so-appreciated air conditioned mini van, soaking in the cold blasting air. We arrive at the hotel in about ten minutes.

The staff that met us — well me, because he had already checked in, were charming and wonderful. They take me to VIP area where after about 45 minutes I am able to confirm that the ocean front room with a deck and plunge pool have been procured. By sheer luck, because it’s apparent about 50% of the people who have booked the same were being given the run around and placed in lesser quality rooms. In fact, there is a good chance that I had been given my friends room, as he initially ended up with a no patio, ocean facing room instead. Did I feel bad? Yeah, but kinda no. I REALLY wanted this room.

The room was spectacular. Huge, honestly too large for my needs. King size canopied bed, sitting area,fully stocked fridge, and of course the said plunge pool on a deck on the beach. Yeah the deck was old, and bowed in a few areas, and pool had seen better days. The fence separating me and the 20 foot drop to the sands below had seen better days, but I was on a corner with no neighbor to my left, the sounds of crashing waves, and the view of beautiful turquoise Caribbean waters. Life was good.

By now my luggage arrived by the nicest bellboy (man) who toured me around my room, explained where everything in the hotel could be found and I finally settled in. Cold cerveza, feet up on a lounge and the aforementioned view. My friend arrived soon after and he explained his debacle with not getting his room. We waited for our third friend to call and let us know her arrival, but later found her phone plan was not working in Mexico. She finally reached us when she got checked in as well. (Side note: she too didn’t get the room she ordered either, but both eventually were upgraded within days).

Now most of the people we knew on this trip had booked with a travel agency we all use on a regular basis. There were only a minute number of us who didn’t, yours truly being one of them. I procured a better rate, including airfare for a longer period of time so I went with that. This meant that evening cocktail parties, and group dinners were off limits to us. I was okay with that, because it was already all inclusive and I didn’t see the benefit of spending that extra money for those few amenities.

We cleaned up, and headed to the main bar in the lobby, where we saw this group. I knew a small handful of them from previous vacations and they were all friendly and happy to see us. Until I was introduced to a woman who seemed very angry that I chose not to book with them.

Now generally speaking I do everything possible to avoid drama and conflict. I keep my business private unless I know you quite well. I don’t cause waves. I’m friendly. But something about me from time to time sets other women on edge. I apparently in booking my trip in the manner I did, seemed to set this woman off. I politely tried to explain why, but she sort of seemed not to care why, just that I had. So I politely walked away and joined the few people I already knew. I thought it was a done deal, until later I heard atypical gossip that I had “pulled dirty looks, and blah blah blah blah” — Whatever. Except that now, the one gal who hates it, had been dragged into the circle of drama that I do everything to avoid. In her defense she did come up to me the next day to make amends, and I made it clear it was all good, but for the remainder of the trip, I did not get the warm and fuzzies about or from her. It didn’t ruin anything, but it did make me feel like that perpetual 7-year old girl on the playground who got picked on for reasons she didn’t understand. It’s my need to please all, I guess.

The resort as I mentioned was an all inclusive, which means all the booze you want, albeit lower end for the most part. This is like placing a fat kid in a bakery and telling the, while they can have all the cake they want, they should probably only have a few cupcakes. Yeah, wouldn’t work with the fat kid, and definitely didn’t work with me. I found that Vodka in Spanish means “Something clear that is a hybrid of tequila and dishwater” even if you pay for Grey Goose. Some had it smart and went into town and picked up the booze they wanted. I just learned to readjust what I wanted. Beer works. Tequila works. And slushy sweet drinks with names like Rum Runner, and Bahama Mama works. What works and probably shouldn’t is handing your bartender for the day a twenty and telling him to keep them coming.

We did exactly that the first day at the swim up bar, and proceeded to get smashed. Expected. Sunburned with 30 block. Expected when you never leave the waters edge. The morning of Day Two had my limbs barely working until a finally got more rum into my bloodstream. Which I think was more of an alcohol stream, with some blood running thru it than anything. I think that was the first night I called it a day with room service and in bed by 7PM.

The people you meet on these trips for me personally, almost seem to be the package under the pretty paper. The resort was the pretty paper, the people were the prize. Some are leaving a day after you meet so there is only a happy drunken momentary connection. Like the cop from Brooklyn who was such a knockout in her white one piece that you’d almost want to commit a crime, just for the sheer purpose of having her arrest you– ok so my bondage fantasies came out with that one. *wink*. Then there were others that were going to be there a bit longer, like the couple from–North Carolina? South Carolina? Not 100% certain! but suffice to say after a day of drinking her hubby has a booby pic of us with his wife. There goes my political career.

Which reminds me, this was an adults only resort, and topless was an option I’ll touch back on later.

Sometimes some of the friendships take a bit more to get off the ground. It’s very easy to get small talk going, because it’s always, where you all from, what do you do do in your normal life, plus booze makes most happy, and chatty. When there wasn’t a friend nearby, you made new ones. We ended making great friends with a couple of women from Texas, and before the end of the trip, really felt connected with them enough to hopefully make other vacation plans with. Things remained pretty good for the next few days. We did find that someone in the travel group we (the me we did not pay to be with) made it very clear that under no circumstances were we to be allowed to crash their cocktail parties. I felt worse for the host who had to sheepishly and embarrassingly had to tell us the last night he was there, when we joked about crashing their cocktail party. We thought he was joking at first, and made him repeat it because it seemed so ridiculous, but again– not one to cause waves, we had at one point just wanted to continue the party with the friends who were part of things. Fair enough.

About three days before we left we met three adorable women from Georgia. The first we had seen topless the entire week. These women were — well words sort of escape me at the moment — confident, heroic, beautiful, outrageous, funny — doesn’t really seem to convey the point I’d like to make, but it will have to suffice. Two were breast cancer survivors and they were put there with their scars, and their reconstruction, and beautiful bodies, just baring it all. The had more confidence than 40 of the most gorgeous 20 year olds pulled together. Their confidence was just really the beginning, because their personalities just mirrored the people they were. One had recently lost her husband and they were there to scatter his ashes on the beach. About half way thru the day of the afternoon we were really getting to know them I had a chance to have a semi-private conversation with her. I was in awe over the way she carried herself despite these circumstances life had been dealing her. I asked her about her husband, and as she explained to me how me she loved him, I found myself tearing up. I thought it was the sadness, maybe the empathy of her situation, and I briefly explained losing Kurt. And then it happened. I lost it.

The tears were pouring faster than I could casually catch them under my sunglasses. I felt foolish, and like I had jumped on her train of mourning. The worst things I wanted to do was elicit sympathy when someone else was going thru something so traumatic. But I couldn’t stop. I excused myself from the group, and tried to gain composure, but no sooner would I come back and there they would be. The water works. Now I know two huge factors contributing to this were alcohol and someone else’s loss. But I also knew these were also bottled up emotions that I firmly (or not so firmly) capped weeks after Kurt’s death.

I also knew the entire trip, something was off about me. I was me, but I wasn’t. I was much more subdued. The flirt in me was shelved, and solitude I was feeling, both self-imposed and otherwise felt right and yet wrong. Quite often I would find myself just wanting to be alone. I do need my downtime, but this was just — different. The parties we WERE allowed to attend with the group — I didn’t really want to be there. The friend I travelled to meet? I found myself getting rude with her at times because of the constant chatter. Often I just wandered to a section of the pool to soak in the atmosphere and beauty, but I wanted to do it alone. My senses, the emotional ones were heightened.

Finally the last day we were there we attended a full blown foam pool party at the VIP pool area. I had really looked forward to this, but as soon as it really got going, I felt claustrophobic and almost disoriented. THAT wasn’t the booze. I ran into friends from the group who were on the sidelines and tried to sit with them. One, a closer friend than the rest made a joking comment about how no, I couldn’t sit with them and that was it. The 7-year old in me that I mentioned above? I lost it. I told her I didn’t know why so many of these women had to be so fucking mean, and burst into tears. Was I really upset about that? No. Again, those emotions were at the surface, raw and ready for someone to set them afire. She immediately was there for me, and said said she understood what was really going on. I apologized (again) for crying, and blamed it on the tequila (again) and she told me no. No need to apologize, no it wasn’t the booze, no it wasn’t the few women who weren’t overly friendly it was a death, that might take me years to get over. That it was okay to cry (which I continued apologizing for, fearing bringing people down). She invited me to dinner with them (I think I needed that change of pace) and for reasons I’m not sure of, the rest of the night felt — calmer. I think I finally embraced that I didn’t have to be that Gina. The flirty fun one. That overly chatty one. The life of the party one. After dinner I headed back to my room soon after. I texted my daughter and told her I was homesick, which for as much fun as I had been having, I really was.

Then I went back to my room, upgraded both legs of my flight to first class and enjoyed the almost full moon alone on that not-so-perfect deck, alone.

Did I enjoy and learn anything on the vacation? Absolutely. I made friends with a woman in the group who I had from afar found intimidating (she was an absolute sweetheart). I made friends with women; Texas and Georgia that I sincerely hope to vacation with again. I learned I need to pack sunscreen for my lips and remove about four outfits from the luggage because I probably won’t wear them. I took my first baby steps in traveling alone (which is honestly on my bucket list one day). I realized I want to go there with my Besties, even my girls if time permits.

But the biggest lesson? Grief doesn’t end just because you go back to real life of work, and socializing. It sometimes peeks its head out, ugly or otherwise when you are sharing empathy, or soaking in beauty. Or maybe even drinking mass quantities of funny sounding rum.

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