Out of the World

Yesterday, our last full day in Mexico, I slept til eight, and it felt like luxury after a week of being up at five. Breakfast was leisurely: yogurt, a bagel, a banana, chai, cranberry juice. I sat in the warm sun and let the waves carry me into sleep for another couple of hours.

In the afternoon, my stepfather took us on a tour of the place where he works, CIBNOR, the Center for Biological Investigation in Northwest (Southern) California. We forget sometimes that Baja is still California, it’s just not part of the USA.

We spent the late afternoon shopping in downtown La Paz, popping into Dorian’s, and old-style free-standing department store, where my mother bought $1200 (MXP) of on-sale Christmas ornaments for $340. In American money, that’s about $120 (USD) of stuff for about $30, but the conversion isn’t exact. Street vendors offer a 10 pesos to the dollar exchange, while the actual rate has been closer to eleven while we’ve been here. Easier to just think in pesos and not convert.

I stopped in the Artisania to get a gift for a friend who lives near Toronto, a gift from the sea and sand, and the heart as well, and also picked up some hand painted postcards.

In a t-shirt shop, La Luna de la Paz, I found gifts for my nephews and nieces in the midwest, and for our dog-sitter, who has been hand-feeding Zorro all week: 5 really pretty, really good quality t’s for $420 MXP.

We went around the corner to my parents’ favorite espresso shop, Caffe Gourmet (which is pronounced with a hard ‘t’ at the end, here), and had mochas and pastries around three. They do beautiful nochebuenos (poinsettias) in the foam, but only for special clients. Everywhere we went people my mother knew from her real estate work, or writing for the Gringo Gazette, or that Ira knew from CIB, stopped us and wished us Buena Fiesta (happy holidays) or “Feliz Nuevo Ano” (I can’t do a tilde – sorry), and were sad to hear we were leaving La Paz so soon. My mother’s neighbor came over and said, “We love your mother, ” and her friend Maria took me aside and whispered, “Your mother misses you. You must visit more.”

After coffee, we walked through an alley to the Malecon – an esplanade, of sorts, along the water front. The beach side is lined with wrought iron benches, and sculptures that represent the city: a mermaid swimming behind a dolphin, a breaching humpback whale, an old man in his newspaper boat, a conch shell, all in weathered bronze, but looking beautiful. The shore side is rows of shops and hotels. We ducked into one small shop that looks like nothing but more t-shirts from outside, but inside is a treasure trove of reasonably priced, good quality Dia de los Muertos stuff. In there, the fussy owner sold me the gifts I bought for Rana and Jeremy, and a box for me, didn’t like the total price when he rang it up, discounted ten or twenty pesos, and gave Fuzzy a free map, from the window, when they were out of maps for sale.

We stopped at Hotel Los Arcos to use the bathroom, as the one in the car park was so bad even my mother wouldn’t use it (though the toothless guy at the booth did offer a roll of toilet paper), and the one in Dorian’s had no paper left AND a long line. The hotel bathroom is always clean and well stocked.

They took us to the Mall, and we sat in the food court, and watched people, including this little girl zooming around on her sneaker-skates, executing gorgeous spins and spirals, with her proud papa watching. We had fun interpreting the Mexican names of popular movies.

Then we went back to town for dinner with Helen and Robert at the closest thing La Paz has to a five-star restaurant. It’s called Tres Virgines, and the food was exquisite. I had roasted poblano creme soup, and followed that with the best sea bass I’ve ever had served over mashed potatoes flavored with mint and garlic. Delicious.

A young woman named Myrna plays the guitar and sings, and we asked for her – she strolls from restaurant to restaurant, and my parents are fond of her music. She’s so warm and engaging, a natural singer, and very good, and she played and sang “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas,” “Sentimental Reasons,” a traditional Mexican folksong I don’t remember the name of, and also “La Paloma” which is beautiful, but actually Cuban. She said we were all beautiful people, and said it was so good to see happy people surrounded by family. “Family,” she said in rapid Spanish, “is the most important because it keeps you alive in your heart.” She came back a few minutes later, and asked if we’d liked to buy her CD. My parents already had it, but gifted us with a copy, and then Helen and Robert bought one as well. I can’t wait to play it.

Midway through dinner, our timeless vacation from media and television, and general noise came to an abrupt halt when Helen mentioned that Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated, which caused my parents, Fuzzy and me to emit a collective gasp of shock and sorrow. Living here, following rhythms of moon and tide, sun and wind, you feel so safe and isolated that you forget all the horrible things happening in the rest of the world, and to be confronted with reality in such a fashion was jarring.

Fuzzy and I came home to bed – we leave today and needed to sleep so we could get up and pack – but my parents rushed to watch CNN.

We clicked the light off at 10:30, and I fell into sleep almost instantly. This morning, waves and wind roused me around four but I lingered in bed for another half an hour. Now, I am ready to face the day. It’s 5:35 AM local time. At this time tomorrow I’ll be in my own home, in my own bed. But for now, for a few hours longer, I am out of the world.

And it is good.