Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday's Notes

If England is a nation of shopkeepers, Mexico is a nation of beggars. I say that matter-of-factly, not with any denigration. And yes, I have some anecdotal evidence to back that statement up.

Today, after the jungle tour (which I'll describe below), the tourguide made sure to mention that we could tip if we like. We have a "buffet" breakfast each morning, and there's a bowl out with a note soliciting tips. I've spent the last two evenings buying gifts for friends and family; at the cashiers, where people ring up my purchases, there are bowls asking for tips--for putting my souvenirs in a bag? I treated myself to a fine "last night here" dinner this evening, and in big letters across the $30 USD bill was stamped TIPS NOT INCLUDED. On the bus ride back from Chichen Itza, the bus "waiter" spent the last 20 minutes talking about tips; I kid you not, he went on for 20 full minutes. One of the English guys next to me tuned him out for awhile and then asked me, "Is he still talking about a tip?" When I answered in the affirmative he replied, "They did a good job. Don't you think at some point they'd let the service speak for itself?" The guys working the ferry boat to and from Isla Mujeres passed around a hat. Everywhere you turn, someone is asking for a tip. I'm not against tipping a food server or even a hotel maid (for whom the hotel has conveniently left me an envelope), but everyone and his brother here wants a handout. And that's a lot of amigos.

But now let's talk about the jungle tour.

Like everything else around here, it started late. However, zephyring across the Laguna Nichupte was muy bien. When the bowspray started hitting me, I decided that was the time to put the video camera away. Aside: maybe I'll post a little video when I get home and process it. We had so slow down as we hit the mangroves at the south side of Cancun Island, at the entrance to the sea. I was in the boat with one of the tourguides and he pointed out a falcon or hawk in a tree; I got it on tape. There were beautiful birds in those trees.

And then the waters got calm, and we were in the Caribbean. When we finally stopped we weren't more than 100m off shore, but the reef was nice. Drab colors, not like what I saw off Grand Cayman 19 years ago, but still nice. I saw three types of fish: the first was about a foot long, very vertically oriented and skinny, and dull gray; the second was everywhere, and they were maybe 6" long, vertically oriented, had white bottom-halves and yellow top-halves and had black stripes; and the third I saw only one of, and it was cylindrically-oriented and was colored in "desert camouflage".

I don't like oceans. I don't like fish. I don't trust many animals, and those I do trust are mammals. As in Grand Cayman, the water was comfortable and as soon as I got into it I felt like I was hyperventilating. I don't think I was the only one, though, because when I was still above water I could hear people making strange vocal sounds and yelps through their snorkels. It didn't take long to calm down, though, and enjoy the underwater view.

It's a strange world under water. The three dimensionality there is richer than what we experience. I can throw a ball through the air but it only travels in that third dimension; it will come down to the ground. Under water, everything moves in three dimensions. I was engrossed watching small sticks suspended in space there, not going up or down. After I calmed down I slowly reached out and tried to touch the yellow, white, and black fish, but they casually moved away as my hand approached. I started out panicky, became calm, and finished enthralled. I'm glad I did it.

I never did find time to go parasailing. I regret that, but perhaps I'll come back here again some time. Parasailing will be first on my list then.

But tonight I have to pack--and hope my suitcase doesn't go over the weight limit for the aircraft.


Eric W. said...

I didn't notice the tipping so much when I went to the Yucatan, but that might be because we tried to avoid the touristy places when possible. Also, I wasn't the one handling the money.

On a side note, do you need a TA 4th period? there was a problem with my schedule and I might need to fill it with that.

Darren said...

All year, or would this be some temporary thing where you use me to plug some hole in your schedule, and then toss me aside like so much trash when something better comes along?

If it's all year, sign up. Show your counselor this comment as evidence!

Eric W. said...

I think it would probably just be 1st semester. Am I not good enough for you?

Darren said...

So you'll just toss me aside in January.

It's ok. I'm used to being used =)

Eric W. said...

I'll have an open 6th. I'll still come and visit.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Isn't it interesting that we become a hot commodity when it comes to filling the schedule? TA indeed.

David said...

Somebody who flew his own plane to Mexico said that after he landed at one airport, they lowered a bucket on a rope from the control tower to get their tip.

Darren said...

Apocryphal, or true?