Saturday, January 19, 2008

Strangers Among Us? Not With Amy. (Part I)

I've been remiss in posting here for reasons too numerous to mention, but my latest excuse is that the "Caribbean flu" Amy came home with, finally caught up to me and I've been flat on my back for several days - with the exception of a few "emergency mobilizations" the details of which I'll spare you.

Anyway, our first venture into the world of cruise ships was quite enjoyable, not only because we were able to be surrounded by family, but also because we were able to visit places we've never been before. Amy was sick for a portion of the cruise, which left me venturing out solo on one of our "port calls" - at Grand Cayman. That's a story for another time.

Traveling with Amy overseas is the same as going with Amy to Wal-Mart...she has never met a stranger. I'm an introvert by nature...perfectly at ease alone at home or in another nation. On the other hand, Amy can hardly travel two yards anywhere without stopping to talk to someone and learning their entire life history.

There are no strangers among us...when we are traveling as "us."

First stop: Cozumel.

We had made it about 50 yards on shore amid a rainbow of colors and sea of people all scurrying with their own agendas, tourist maps, or excursion plans, when Amy befriended a young woman who braided/beaded hair. Our goal was to get out of Cozumel, which is a pretty rowdy place saturated with aggressive "time share" barkers, and snag a ferry to Playa del Carmen which we figured would not be quite as "touristy." However, within minutes I was sitting in a hair salon/bar/flea market as Amy was "bonding" with a hair-stylist, sharing our story and learning hers. I ended up sitting with several guys sharing a beer and although we didn't speak the same language we simply had to point to our wives and nod occasionally. Amy swore it would only "take 20 minutes" hour or so later we left, still with the goal of reaching the ferry 100 yards away.

After convincing Amy that I would rather be given a blindfold and shot than endure the increasing tempting "time share" tours - before we boarded the ferry for Playa del Carmen the time share hawkers were offering us cash, a day at the beach with chairs, umbrellas, food, and anything else you could imagine if only we didn't leave Cozumel.

It wasn't easy to get Amy to stop talking to each of these "salesman" and more of a chore as their offers became unbelievably tempting...luckily we resisted the urge, ignored the last minute gibberish of how "You know those ferries are not'll take you all day to get to Playa..." and I managed to get Amy on board, and 30 minutes or less later we were in Playa Del Carmen.

We arrived to find ourselves lost - not unusual since I have no sense of direction and Amy having only visited this charming spot nearly a decade ago on a corporate retreat - so we wanderered around aimlessly for a while.

But soon Amy was making friends...

Amy makes friends with the people a lot of people avert their eyes from as they pass by...and I'll confess when I first saw this woman I thought she was sitting there alone. As Amy talked...and talked...I realized I missed much, not the least of which that she wasn't sitting there alone.

Amy knows enough Spanish to hold a conversation for apparently several hours, but in reality, it doesn't matter the language - she can communicate with almost anyone.

So we wandered around Playa del Carmen, I think looking for a beach, but really wandering into book stores, and shops, and churches.

Finally, the pragmatist in me took over and I said we had to head back toward the ferry (along the way we met a couple from Wisconsin - who apparently were taking full advantage of a week away from their small children) and I managed to take a somewhat embarrassing photo (which I've doctored a bit) of a the husband whose friends described him as "normally very reserved."

Apparently a few 3 foot tall margarita's changed that...he explained those aren't panties on his head but rather an "eye patch" because "he was a pirate."

Of course, Amy got the wife's email address, so I'm assuming she'll be able to go to Playa Del Carmen whenever she wishes from this point forward, since I happened to send her the same image in email...although she could hardly lay claim to sobriety either.

We finally managed to make it back to the ferry boat landing only to discover the elusive beach we had been seeking was actually right next to where we disembarked. Had we turned right instead of left we might never have left.

We had plenty of time, so Amy headed for the beach for a few minutes, while I sat in a shady beach bar.

Then a strolling minstrel came along and Amy was back...

Soon she was not only conversing with this guy, but they were teaching each other songs...

This is only part one of the story... I hear the NyQuil calling.

However anytime you feel like you're a stranger in a strange land...keep in mind something I have learned, and re-learned over the years: There are no strangers, only our self-imposed barriers. Strive to open your heart to God, but remember we are all God's children...keep your heart open to everyone, and you'll find God in the most unexpected places.

Never fear where rainbows might lead you...