I apologize in advance for the group e-mail, but it really is the best way for me to keep you all updated on my adventures. I will answer any e-mails personally, should you wish to reply. I do appreciate the mail down here.....
I arrived in Campeche last Friday night. My journey was complete with a number of difficulties, but I
am using my own image of the sandpiper flying engaged, but detatched over the waves of chaos. Once here, life is interesting with few challenges. Friday night, I met up with my friend Paco who gave me a brief tour of the city, at least in that neighborhood. The hotel I chose from the Lonely Planet guide turned out to be less of a good deal. The hotel is in an old colonial mansion, fitted out with small cell-like rooms. The "bathroom" was a partitioned off corner with a toilet (no seat), shower head and sink in the space of about 4 square feet. The plumbing is all external and quite Rube Goldberg-like. For example, the toilet flushing mechanism was a big wheel valve that you open to let in water, then shut it when it is flushed sufficiently. The "cell" had room for a single bed and a dresser or two and a ceiling fan. It was clean, but..... It seemed like either a prison or nunnery. Paco saw it and said I could do better. I did not bother to unpack.
Saturday, I met up with Paco and his lady-friend Nora for breakfast and then we went to look at an apartment 2 doors down from Paco. It was a bit more than I wanted to spend, and we looked at another posada nearby that had rooms and apartments. They were more expensive and less inviting than the first
apartment. I took the apartment. It is sort of like a dorm apartment with two bedrooms (the other room is available for a roommate, which I would not mind), 1 & 1/2 bathrooms, a kitchen and a terrace where the "washing machine" is - a sink and clothesline. The bedrooms have air-conditioning, the main room has just a fan. Did I mention that is cools down to the mid 80's here at night? During the heat of the day it is in the mid-upper 90's with about 80% humidity. Yes, it is sticky.
Sunday, Paco & I went shopping. He took me to the mercado where I bought fruits and took in the local sights. I love international markets. Here, the local specialty is dog shark. They are all over the market. I have not eaten it yet, but plan to shortly. Paco has a "familia" here - a local family that has sort of adopted him. I got invited with him to join in a festiva for one of the "children" turned 21. It was also for the Day of
the Child, which was yesterday. It was a wonderful time. Even though I cannot speak much Spanish, they were very accepting and patient with me. The dinner featured an incredible posole - a sort of stew of 3 meats, hominy and vegetables in a savory broth. Plenty of beer and then dancing. The family is extended - the grandparents live there along with 2 sibling families and their children. It is a sort of compound that has been there for 75 years. Luis very proudly showed the place off to me and told me it's history. I can understand more than I can speak, fortunately, but even that is totally inadequate for any kind of conversation. But, all were very patient with me.
Monday, the Day of the Child - a holiday. Paco took me to the university to get a schedule going for my lessons. Then Luis picked us up and gave us a tour of the city. Campeche is an ancient city that has never
been much of a tourist stop. It was a port in the 1600's and a significant city by 1741 when pirates invaded frequently. Consequently, it was a walled city with forts at either end of it. The city has taken great
pains to clean up the center of the city and it is very charming. My apartment is just outside of the walls. The city has a population of just under 200,000, and feels like a small town. It is very walkable and Paco
has introduced me to the bus system. The university is a 30-40 minute walk away, with an easy bus ride back.
Tuesday - today is Labor Day. It started with a parade. Paco thought it would be no more than an hour long, but it turned out to be 3 hours long with what seemed to be the entire population of the state of Campeche walking in it. The governor and mayor were there, and many protest signs indicated the dissatisfaction with the corruption that is rampant all over Mexico.
I am getting into the rhythm of life here. It is slow and in keeping with the weather. The Gulf is right here and the malacon or sea wall road is a wonderful place to walk. Great breezes and sunsets. My days are starting to get regulated to going out in the morning, having "dinner" about 1:30pm, a siesta, then study, an afternoon outing, study and internet, and another outing. Not to mention at least 2 showers a day! Today I
went to a city museum inside one of the many fort ruins (not very ruined at all). It is small but interesting with great views of the city and sea from the roof.
That is all for now. I am certainly getting attention here. Paco said there are about 4 Americans here including me. I do look different from the locals! One of the family said he wanted to trade my eyes! Blue
eyes, fair skin and white hair are CERTAINLY different! I get many turned heads. I just smile and say Buenos Dias.....
Life is a fun adventure!