Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A look back.....and forward (without the use of a mirror, thank goodness!):

Today is Feb. 10. That makes it a full month that I've been on the road again.
In that time, I've seen Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Merida, and now Campeche.
This make 22 towns I've seen since I started on this journey, trek, walkabout, perambulation (whatever you want to call it) last November. Now that I've counted up the number, it is really a bit overwhelming. By way of analogy, it's as though you'd traveled to most of the major towns in the U.S.....and not just in one region, but Midwest, South, Northeast, West Coast...the whole country. That's a lot of traveling.

I've realized that I like to travel.
Which shouldn't be surprising to anyone. I got the “bug” immediately after graduating from college back in 19 (uh, hum...) whatever. I gave myself a European tour for a graduation present. And I had a ball. And then—some of you remember—I worked 6 years for that international travel company (Thomas Cook Travel). During that time, I went all over the world: Russia, China, Europe, South America, Africa, Fiji, New Zealand....you name it, I went there. And, being a travel agent, mostly for free (or for very little). Not bragging, just grateful to have had the chance. So now that I'm having my second childhood (did the first one ever end?) it shouldn't surprise anyone that I simply said---as the name of the blog clearly denotes—“to hell with it, I'm out of here.”

Why Mexico? Well, it's closer than Chile or Argentina, for one. And cheaper. I can be back “home” in the States (wherever that is....not sure any more) in a half-day's flying time. Mexico is a Spanish-speaking country, and I want to improve my Spanish. I find the people, by and large, sweet and friendly. I'm getting accustomed to the pace of life. It's slower. I want to start a radical movement : “DEATH to Multi-Tasking!!!” God didn't make us to do six things all at once. Now I don't have to.

On this trip I've been to coastal places, to mountainous places, to hot places, and cold places, to urban places, and hick town places. Why so many? Partly because I'm having fun doing it. And partly because I didn't start out with a clear idea in my own mind of what I was looking for. That's clearer now: I don't want to be in a big city. I've done the Chicago and Phoenix thing; now it's time for something slower. I don't want to be cold; after nine years in Phoenix, hot is better. And being close to water is awfully nice. In Chicago, most of the year you could find me at the lakefront.....running, biking, walking, sunbathing. I find water soothing. So, anyway, I'm getting closer. It won't be Utopia, but it will be my own little slice of heaven.

Snapshots of Campeche
Sunday night, and on most weekends, they close off the streets surrounding the main town square/park. This last Sunday, they had the Campeche Symphony playing open-air, under the stars, free....right in front of the town's decorative bandstand. Several of the restaurants ringing the square take advantage of the festivities and move tables out into the street for diners. I took advantage of the dining alfresco service at Hotel Campeche. I sat having a nice spaghetti dinner, watching the orchestra, with a gorgeous big full moon in the sky right behind the illuminated main cathedral. Wow! It was a stunner of an evening. After the orchestral “set,” another group came on stage, this time an Andean music group from Chile. Since I spent several months living in Chile about 17 years ago, this was a pleasant trip down memory lane. They even started off with a bit about the crimes of the Pinochet regime. All very familiar, since I was down in Chile in the year or so immediately following that period.

I go to the public library on the main square each day to read the local newspaper. It's a handsomely renovated colonial structure, with completely modern facilities inside. I like to sit at the long tables in the reading room, each table lit with a long built-in florescent overhead. The librarian asked me to please NOT reshelve books after I'd thumbed through them and came me a little slip of paper, a call slip, to fill out in order to request a book. In her free time, she crawls up a set of moveable stairs and dust the bookshelves. It's so “Marian the Librarian.”

Each evening around sunset, I like to go down to the Malecon (seaside walkway) to sit and watch the sea, and folks out for evening strolls. It's kind of a small town, enjoyable pastime.

Yesterday, I took the city's official tourist trolley (sponsored by the office of tourism) on a 45-minute ride around town. There were only eight of us, so we got a personalized version. Folks from the U.S. (me), Holland, Germany, and Mexico. One of the stops was at the church which marks the site of the very first mass said by Cortez and his crew when they first arrived in Mexico. In another neighborhood, San Román, we stopped to see the Black Christ.

It was a long, but fascinating, legend. It goes like this (from www.campeche.ca):

The legend goes that a beautiful crucifix hand crafted in Civita Vecchia, Italy was sent to the church via the port of Veracruz. A man by the name Juan Cano was to take it from Veracruz to Campeche City. Looking for someone to take him and the crucifix by sea he came upon a protestant Englishman who refused to take him on his ship. Another man, a Spanish merchant, agreed to take Cano to Campeche and in fact removed some merchandise from the ship to make space for the Black Christ. During the journey up the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, there was a terrible storm. However, the ship made it to Campeche on September 14, 1565. The Englishman's boat dissappeared during the storm and no one ever saw him again. And that was the first miracle attributed to the Black Christ.

My miracle was, the day after viewing him, I found out the State of Illinois had sent me a letter saying they are holding unclaimed property (money) in my name. I have no idea from where or how much. But every little bit of sunshine is welcome. One more happy tourist. One more miracle.