Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Random Mexico things :)

So our March Break escape lead us to the Riviera Maya and except for one day, we didn't leave the resort we had booked.  So I can't by any stretch say we experienced the "real" Mexico, but we did experience a lovely dream.  But some random things I learned:

- "Retorno"s are terrifying part of highway life 😂 and I would have a very hard time driving without dying in Mexico.   So this situation occurs because their divided highway has no overpasses, so if you need to reach something on the other side, you drive past it, and essentially pull a u-turn at a designated space so that then you are pointing the right direction to reach your destination.  Except this means you're turning from fast lane to fast lane, and - to add to the drama - cars will do this two deep.  Now - technically the speed limit in the fast lane drops to 60 right before each retorno, however - when speedlimits were clearly just suggestions at best and is 80 or 100 before, definitely nobody was slowing down simply cause other people were trying to merge from a halt. And of course, all the resorts are on the same side, so either going out from the airport (our situation) or coming back (if you were the other direction), this has to be done at every resort you go to, and then again to get back out.   Speedbumps are also an extreme sport in Mexico (at least this region of it) but, fortunately, only a couple of them on the highway at police checkpoints.  On the side roads though they were significant.

- People also cross the highway on foot, on bicycle, carrying an infant...   It is beyond terrifying.   Our taxi driver sadly acknowledged "there are lots of accidents" - uh, you think?!?!  

- Heavily armed police everywhere and nobody seems to think anything of it.  I found it a jarring reminder that we clearly were not experiencing the reality, but rather a carefully structured tourist experience.  And honestly, I was grateful for it - although some day I would very much love to see Mexico City.  Not this trip though.   

- Safety is an interesting contrast:  lots of people riding seatbelt-less in the back of a pickup truck on the highway (incl armed police with sirens blaring), people crossing said highway on foot, construction zones that would make and health & safety inspector cry (hard hats are definitely not a thing), and yet...  my can of coke had health warnings on it (too much sugar and caffeine apparently - shocker!). 

Somehow this just encouraged me to drink more ;)

- Likewise, security at the resort was more than we've seen at other places.  No difference at all once we were in, but every time we crossed the gate the driver's name was written down and they needed our names (and room number after we were checked in).   Even when we left the resort-proper to go for a brief walk to a convenience store (still in the broader gated community which included a lot of condos) we had to show our armbands to go back on the resort property; we were on foot, past the first check point, wearing nothing but beach wear and coverups, but still proof required.  That being said, we had zero security issues.  Even in the airport, there were constant messages, in English, of how and where to book a "safe" taxi and not to get in a car that wasn't explicitly airport-approved.  We had our ride pre-booked so less of a concern there but I was aware of it.

- I'm not bad at math for figuring out Canadian currency in USD, GBP, and even usually the Euro (advantage to having to manage multi-country budgets for work).   I failed horribly at trying to calculate Peso exchange rate; thankfully Chris took on that responsibility for us ;)    In Tourist Mexico, USD is accepted everywhere, but peso rate is sometimes cheaper.  Also, if you pay cash with USD, odds are you'll get pesos in return (this was actually helpful as I failed to acquire pesos before we left due to timing and living far away from anywhere likely to keep them on hand).

- People - across the board - were incredibly friendly, positive, and - importantly to me - patient with my efforts at Spanish, even when they were fluent in English.   Picture trying to speak intermediate French in Paris and what a horrible experience that is (if you have't had the pleasure, trust me on that one) -- this was the extreme opposite.   Again, this could be Tourist-Mexico rather than real life, but I have met enough other people from there to suspect it might be fairly wide-spread.

- the pace of things is slower, but not slow.   I didn't ever feel like we were on "island time" or "tico time" (the Costa Rica variant).  Again though, IDK if that's Mexico or Tourist-Mexico.  That being said, organisation was a bit of a flexible thing.  I would not want to have to deal with anything government-based (passports / visas / etc).   

- tacos come with pineapple!!!   I wondered if this was just for tourists 😂 or to cause a war like pineapples on pizza, but a Mexican friend confirms it's legit.   And while I was a little unsure of the concept of it (fruit and meat aren't usually two things I combine), I actually loved it.   Also, if you haven't had real Mexican tacos before, what you're thinking of is not the same.  I hated tacos all my life till I had *actual* tacos and they are now a favourite food.  Yup, that's right, I'm a taco snob.  lol. But only because North American tacos generally make me physically ill.   Although I admit I really do like cheese and sour cream on my tacos which is definitely not the Mexican take on them ;).  There's a taco truck near our house that makes amazing tacos and the ones we had in Miami last year were, not surprisingly, fabulous.  So they can be found, but you've got to be committed to the search *g*

    Mmmm tacos...
- that being said, I found all food had less flavour than I'm used to, and I never quite figured out the difference.  Sweets obviously have to do with the amount and type of sugar, but other things?  I'm really not sure.  Was still good, and arguably healthier since I wasn't inclined to keep eating just for taste, but curious.  I know with a lot of things the locals season with super hot/spiciness which I'm sure is awesome if you can eat it without dying lol, but just the scent of most of that does me in.  So plausible, at least with the meats, is the issue is I need an in-between level of food that doesn't exist (I tried the tiniest drop of 'hot' on a nacho before starting in on the above tacos - wow.  I swear my eyes start to water at just the thought of it now).  But not sure about things like eggs, cheese, grapes (?!?! - the grapes were huge, but again, less flavour).   Or maybe it's all just me.  Fully plausible.

- I googled whether or not Mexico was considered a developed country and found a really interesting read that for the life of me I can't find the link to right this second.  The 2-second summary is they're considered a Newly Industrialised Country (NIC) which means they're growing fast financially; however, there are still some pretty significant human rights components that have a ways to go.

- overall, I had a great time; I really loved getting to speak Spanish; I would 100% go back to both the country and / or the same resort; and I feel like there's a whole lot we didn't experience that was probably very different, but I don't actually have any thing to base that on.  I think I'd go back here again before returning to Ocho Rios in Jamaica -- and I truly didn't expect that going in.  The people made all the difference.  


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