Day of Rain, part one

Trip Start Oct 26, 2009
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Trip End Nov 15, 2009


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MS STATENDAM

Flag of Mexico  , Chiapas,
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 6, November 5, 2009

Puerto Chiapas, Mexico

The sea was rough last night, rougher than I even though before. Winds were at a gale force 10, peaking briefly at 12, and the seas were high enough to wash over the Lower Promenade deck.  I had not heard (or paid attention apparently) the announcement from the bridge telling passengers to stay indoors.  I was rocked to sleep quite well though, and awoke this morning refreshed and ready for some sun and fun!

I was up early enough to get up on deck to watch us sail in and dock.  So I quickly dressed, ran a brush over my teeth and snuck out quietly as to not wake Michael.  But when I headed out across the Lido deck to get my travel mug of java, I was not greeted with sunshine of the "lets get a tan" variety, but sunshine of the “liquid” variety, as our cruise director likes to call it.  To top that off, when I went out on deck to watch us maneuver up to the dock, my immediate reaction was not to call it Puerto Chiapas, but Dreary Chiapas.  It was a severe disappointment after how charming Huatalco had been.  The docks were nice, well kept and modern, but there was nothing else there other than two large buildings that looked like Mayan pyramids from a distance, and turned out to be large pole structures covered in palm fronds up close. 

Once ashore, Michael and I discovered there was little in either of the two structures.  Some small shops with the requisite t-shirts and souvenirs, a Jade “Museum” and shop, and internet café and a tour desk.  In the middle was a performance space where, once enough people had walked off ship, they began to do some local dances.  It was interesting, but not enough to occupy 12 hours of our stay. 

After our first circuit of the shops we ran into Alan and Barbara from Toronto, and they were headed into Tapachula, the local metropolis about 30 minutes away.   Bus fare was only 10$ US each, round trip, and they were going to see what kind of “trouble” they could get into, or at least to do something other than sit on the ship in the rain all day!  We quickly assessed our options as well, and determining they were EXPTREMELY limited decided to join them.  A quick trip to back to the ship to grab an umbrella, the backpack and drop off Michael's purchases and we were on our way. 

The southern most province of Mexico is almost tropical, and as we drove through the rain towards Tapachula, I found the countryside enchanting.  The drive went quickly as the buses guide filled us in on local history and what we could expect to find in the city, which apparently was not very much.  He talked of how the Fox government had poured money into the port and its expansion and how pleased the locals were that we had come to see their land. Basically, please spend your American dollars here! 

Once in Tapacula, we were greeted with a nice central square, with a church and museum on one side, the local town hall on another, and “upscale” shops on the others, not to mention McDonalds and Scotia Bank!  We bypassed the museum, wandered around the square and discovered there was to be a “Cultural Festival de Meso America” happening this coming weekend.  It was still fairly early in the day, and there were no performances going on yet, but we could tell it was going to be something big and hoped they would begin before we had to head back to the ship!

SO we wandered, first into the town hall to view the beautiful stained glass windows, then around the square checking out the performance venue, the fountain, the amazingly sculptural trees, and the mutitude of vendors that were setting up for the festival.  Then we look at each other, and our watches (only 20 minutes had gone by) and wondered what to do next.  The museum?  No, that did not interest us.  The Church?  No go there either.  So we started making wider circles around the square, taking in the blocks around the square.  Interesting, but no more than any other city.  We saw local men standing outside a TV retailer watching the football game (soccer for you yanks!), ducked into their version of a 7-11 to see if they had any “exotic” soda for Michael, and continued on.

Then we turned a corner and “jackpot”!  A street market was awaiting our discovery, and it seemed to go on and on.  I tried to keep track of Michael, but he would disappear into shops exploring this trinket and that item.  He found a puzzle of the Mexican states, and we would have bought one for Ariana, but they only had the display and would not part with it (that was in a stationary store).  We saw raw chickens ready to be roasted, wonderful pastries filled with sweets and meat, others plain or with seed coatings.  We saw every imaginable item you could, well, imagine.  All piled high in such tiny shops that they were hard to navigate.  We walked in and out of the light drizzle, never getting cold because the tempeture was a tropical 80 degrees.  We rounded a corner to discover even more market, and its there that I discovered I was a giant!  At 5’ 7 ˝ inches, and I was TALL!  Men, women, it made no difference, I was giant compared to these Meso-Americans!

Shopping was wearing thin though, and the rain, although warm, was beginning to get to us.  We headed back to the Square to discover there would be no festival performances until that night.  With that final piece if info we decided to head back to the ship.  A brief wait, and we were ushered onto a van holding 14 people only to discover Alan and Barbara there as well.   They had run out of options to discover as well, without getting too far off the beaten track and into harms way.

The ride back was pleasant, even if we were cramped in the van, I overheard the woman next to me say she was from South Africa, and that opened up a whole conversation Michael was enthralled with.  He LOVES South Africa and was excited to discuss his visit with them, as well as his views of what he had seen! 

Back aboard ship, it was time to work out and then relax.  Michael napped and read.  He kept saying he felt bad that he was sleeping during the day, and I am like “hey, it’s okay honey, we’re here to relax and enjoy!”  it is definently not like last summers cruise on the Eurodam where we went head strong day after day seeing and exploring.  It has been one fo the nice points of this cruise, no schedule.  Michael has not signed up for classes in the gym, we’ve only booked a couple of tours and we are not hurrying to trivia or bingo. For pre-dinner drinks, we were once again joined by friends in the Ocean Bar.  Dinner was excellent as usual, and I am sure I am putting on the pounds.  I excused myself before dessert and headed back to the cabin for more comfortable clothes.  After donning my jeans, boots and t-shirt I went to see “My Life in Ruins” playing in the movie theater.  A charming film of few redeeming qualities, other than it reminded me of our trip to the Med several summers ago, is severely and predictably romantic, and thoroughly enjoyable. 

Michael was not in the cabin when I returned after the movie, which meant he was either in the casino or the Crows Nest Lounge.  And since it was “happy hour” I opted to check the Crows Nest first.  Several beers and a wonderful conversation with this woman I met from Calgary later, I finally went back to the cabin to discover Mikey fast asleep.  The ship is rocking once again, the effects of the tropical storm/hurricane just off the coast (just in relative terms, it is pretty far out to sea but is making things rocky for us) and I am tired.  Tomorrow is an early day since we have a tour to Antigua, Guatemala at 9 am! 

MICHAEL’S CORNER: The day was uneventful—except for the fact that we went into Tapachula from Puerto Chiapas.  The flea markets in Mexico are fantastic—the bustling of activity, the innumerous amount of locals, and everyone trying to sell you something for the American dollar.  On the trip back to the ship—I met a husband and wife from Johannesburg, South Africa, who because of their age lived there during Apartheid.  Although I did not mention the burgeoning system of Apartheid, nor discuss the inequities of its politics—I focused more on the geographic region, it amazing attractions and wineries, and specifically the goals of my two week stint in exploring the student affairs and student services of seven of South Africa’s unique institutions of higher learning.  I still have visions that I will make it to the World Cup in 2010.  I am still reading Like Water for Chocolate, and lately have been both restful and relaxed, although not somnambulistic. I seem to be taking siestas in the afternoon—perhaps indicative of Latino culture—perhaps it is rubbing off on me.  We go to Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala and experience the antique capitol of Antigua tomorrow.  I am very excited.  Nonetheless, nous nous amusons.  A la prochaine.
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