Friday, February 13, 2009

Raindrops are Fallin' on my Head

Last night, I got caught in the rain. One of the few times on my entire trip.

I was headed down to the waterfront for my nightly session of sunset and sea breeze, when I noticed the sky clouding up—completely. I'd mentioned the cloudy weather to the guy at the pool (more about that later) this morning. “No,” he assured me, “it never rains at this time of the year.” OK, he lied.

As I got about three blocks from the malecon, I felt a great big drop of moisture on my head. “That must be rain,” I surmised, not being one to let anything slip by me! And then another (nope, clearly not bird poop). By the time I reached a sheltering overhang on the side of a building, it was a full downpour. The streets were running rivers. “So that what it must be like during hurricane season,” he said wisely.

Girls with sandaled feet were sloshing about, hair plastered against their heads. I felt sorry for one motorcycle courier who was (neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail) going to make a go of it. He unbuttoned his shirt and was sliding his parcel inside for protection, when—just in time—a buddy pulled up in a car and gave him a (dry) ride. I just hung out for half an hour or so along with a dozen other folks. When it finally let up, I made a zigzagged dash over to the library, about two blocks away. It was perfect weather for sitting with a couple of newspapers, and slowly paging through them.

About the pool thing: I discovered that Campeche has a municipal sports center. It's as big as an airplane hanger, and looks something like that. It's all open-air, with a huge roof covering the courts area. There, they have basketball and martial arts competitions. Around on the other side are tennis courts and a baseball field. And, on the corner overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, is an olympic-sized pool. I inquired, and between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., it's open to the public for $1.75. Other times, it's used by swim teams and school kids. I've taken advantage of it the last two days running. Cool, clean, refreshing. Today, I had one of the athletic trainers work on my shoulder and back. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

The day before yesterday, for my big outing of the day, I went over to one of the super-modern chain stores, much like a Super Target or Super Walmart (groceries + other things). I was just killing time, wandering the aisles, looking to see what was there, when I had two quite different experiences:

Experience #1: I get called “Whitey” again. This is no longer new or shocking. So, I responded to the guy, “So?” This is inside the store. He comes over—drunk or stoned—and asks if I want to buy drugs. “No.” I figured no explanations were necessary. Then he launched into a long story about getting beaten up and robbed, and would I give him $10 pesos (about a dollar). “No.” End of experience #1.

Experience #2: In the same store, about 15 minutes later, and older Mexican couple comes up to me. “Where are you from?” “The U.S.” That launched a lengthy conversation. They had had some good American friends here who recently “threw in the towel” and moved back to the states (Springfield, MO) at ages 92 and 90. They asked if I'd like to go over to the little cafe in-store and chat. So we did....for almost an hour. It ended with them asking me if I'd like to come over for coffee some day, or they would be happy to show me around town by car. Incredibly nice, and not something that would likely happen in a store back home. As a blond, pale, gringo I stand out (especially in non-touristed towns), which has its “rock-star” qualities. Some good, some annoying.

I'm falling into my own little routine here. Get up at the crack of 8 (didn't know 8 had a crack, did you?) Have a little breakfast of fresh tangerine, banana, and a croissant I've purchased the night before. And I snack at a small table in the open atrium right in front of my room. Then time for a walk around town. Then a swim. Then lunch at the same place, The Parish Restaurant, which serves a 3-course special of the day for $3.50. They have a WI-FI connection there, so I bring my laptop and do some computer work after lunch. Then it's home for nappy time (essential, after a hard day). When I get up, I walk down to see the sunset, then over to the library for a quick look at the day's papers. A light supper is next, then hanging out in the town square/park.

I'm liking retirement. A lot.