So today is my last day as an untethered young buck. Tomorrow I start my job as Junior Program Officer, affiliated with the Joint/Union Management Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion in the Public Service, in the Treasury Board Secretariat of the Canadian Federal Government! Now how prestigious (and intimidating) does that sound? I’m so excited about it! And a bit nervous! And not really sure what to expect! But definitely ready to begin! Wouhou!
How am I spending my last taste of freedom? I woke up early, as I’m trying to reset / regularize my sleep schedule, and sipped iced coffee while reading about The Challenge (the finale of its spinoff Champs vs Pros aired on Tuesday night, and the new season premieres in less than a month). Then went for a short bike ride, got the newspaper, and ate a late breakfast out on the balcony while completing the crossword and reading some articles. Now I’m working on this blog post, going to yoga at 5, and I have my weekly Pandemic Legacy game later tonight. Then likely an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 (just witnessed the iconique Laganja breakdown, and okurrrr mawma, it was everything, just too f***ing much, SUCH a disaster) and an early bedtime – because tomorrow, I’m at the office at 9am! Whuuttt! Insanity.
And considering how I’ll be out of town all day Saturday & Sunday – I’m helping Tsarina Tsybina move to Toronto by renting a car, picking up ridesharers, driving to Montreal, loading the minivan, heading to T-Dot, listening to the S-Town podcast, sleeping overnight, attending the Pride Parade, then driving back to Ottawa Sunday evening – I need to finish up blogging ‘bout Mexico. I know I sound like a broken record by now, so I’m just gonna get it out of the way, so we can move onto other topics. Plus, after tomorrow, I feel I’ll have much more to discuss – and also much less energy to do so. I know starting working again is going to be exhausting and have a sharp learning curve. I’m prepared for it, but I’m not necessarily looking forward to the adjustment period. Plus I want to continue hitting the gym, so hopefully I’ll have the wherewithal to do that. But it’s that famous paradox, isn’t it? Working out actually gives you more energy, despite everything you expend in the process. I suppose it’s about putting your stamina to the test, depleting it, so you have more in general. I’m not totally sure. But I hope that the past six weeks have conditioned me to be able to last longer and be more energetic.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
Day 11: Merida & Cancun
Woke up early, enjoyed the quality hostel breakfast, packed my stuff up, and put it “closed with a key” (cerrado con llave) in the locker. Then hurried down to the main plaza, where there was a free walking tour, which are a great way to explore a city. You can wander around yourself, certainly – and that is what I predominately do – but then there’s so much nuance and history and interesting factoids that you miss when you don’t have somebody there to explain / introduce it to you. I was meeting Fritzi there, and we even waited up for her, but she never showed. That’s one frustration of traveling abroad. You get so accustomed to being able to communicate with others at a moment’s notice when you’re back home – due to WiFi or data on your mobile – so when you’re without that, it goes back to the old-fashioned ways of doing things, pre-cell phones. I kinda like it, though. It’s a return to simpler times. If they show up, great – and if not, well, you can’t get upset about it. These things happen. And it turns out that there were actually two walking tours departing at the same time nearby each other – so she went to the other one, where she was also wondering where I was. Shame, since I wanted to hang out with her again, but what can ya do?
The walking tour was very informative. We learned about the big Cathedral, toured the church, wandered through a free museum in a government building, and checked out the brilliant architecture of other edifices in the city. Lots of wealth families lived in Merida once upon a time, due to the production of sisal, a plant fibre that is woven into rope. The industry boomed and richesse came with it – along with opulent homes and colonial architectural details and luxe living spaces. As well as enormous haciendas outside the city, that I unfortunately missed out on (you can’t do it all). Nowadays, many of these have been converted into upper-crust hotels and palatial estates for the bougie travelers to enjoy. Me, I prefer that hostel and couchsurfing life. All the better to meet people and truly experience an area!
We also walked down this road in which all the shops had these fish tanks / terraria with these cockroach-looking bugs in them for sale. The kicker is that they were all bejeweled, with gold chains and sparkly gems and the like. They’re called makech, and the apparently immobilize themselves when they’re touched. So the idea is, you hang them on y our top like a brooch, and it just dangles there without crawling anywhere. And when you put them back in their cage, they resume movement. It’s living art, a bit macabre, interesting, eye-catching. Like the blinged-out roaches on America’s Next Top Model. I wouldn’t personally do it, but I do think it’s cool.
And the legend behind it is that there was this affluent father (maybe a king?) with a daughter (possibly a princess) that he gave anything she ever desired. After his conquests, he would always bring back a gift for his darling daughter. Except one time, she wanted one of the slaves (or maybe a prisoner) that her father won due to his victory – but he wasn’t having any of it. She disobeyed him, went behind his back, and had a torrid love affair with this slave – only to be caught by the king. To punish her, he turned her lover into a beetle, and the markech adornments were born! Quite the unique souvenir, they would be. But unfortunately, the shopkeepers even charged for you to take a picture of them, so I have none. Google-image search that ish if you’re so inclined.
Our lovely tour guide also told us the history of those white twin-chairs you see everywhere. Similar to the previous old-fashioned story, a father created these chairs so that his daughter could sit and talk with her lover, but they had a barrier between them so it wouldn’t go too far. And of course, the father could sit and watch them converse. How creepy and overbearing is that? #SmashthePatriarchy! Nonetheless, the seats are pretty cool and unique. Another standout image from Merida.
We ended the expedition at this great museum / artists’ residence in a converted old abode. Merida is a very popular city these days with young adults. It seems a bit hipster to me, actually. Very artsy and new-fashioned and up-and-coming. Like Bed Stuy. With artisanal ice cream shops owned by Polish immigrants to trendy art galleries to expensive espresso to La Negrita Cantina. It’s good stuff. Keidan really recommends it. Me, I didn’t love it, but I’m still glad I visited.
After that, I tipped the guide (since it’s not actually free, and she deserved it anyhow) then had to dash. I had bought my bus ticket the day prior for 1pm, and so happy I did, because every seat was taken, and all of the other passengers had kids and snacks and blankets with them. They’re resident pros, on the long bus ride from Merida to Cancun. Like 4-5 hours. Thank Dios there was air-conditioning.
Oooohh! Two funny stories. I bought the ticket from a travel agent off the main square, but due to my annoying frugality instincts, I missed out on a much cheaper one early in the morning, because I didn’t trust her word and walked to the bus station to check it out myself. And by the time I got back, there were no vacancies left. Of course. Don’t get me wrong, I like how I’m money-savvy and don’t go throwing it away – because then I can afford things I really care about (like travel) and not just be profligate with impulsive purchases or eating out – but it does annoy me sometimes. Just another characteristic of mine I’m working on.
Anyway, the funny story is that after I made the transaction, this woman asked me about my nail polish (which was orangey-red at the time). She spoke no English, so what was already a dicey conversation became more difficult. I told her I like the colour, and me gusta romper las expectaciones del género (I like to break gender expectations), and why not? She probably asked if I’m gay too, so I told her, “Soy bi,” pronounced like “bee.” Maybe I said “Estoy bi” ? I don’t exactly remember. Hispanoblantes – help me out here. Do you use ser or estar when discussing sexual orientation? Because sexuality is fluid sometimes, but for most people most times, it is a staid and consistent identity. So which is preferred?
Regardless. That’s me. Being a tiny bit gender non-conforming & educating about queer issues wherever I am! Can’t stop / won’t stop.
The other amusing anecdote is more cringey than funny. After the walking tour, I’m on the hunt for a cold coffee, so I can actually accomplish stuff on the long bus ride. Plus, it helps with the heat, and you know how I love my iced americanos. So I pass this place which has a sign promoting their special – a croissant and a coffee for, I dunno, 40 pesos? A good price – comparable to the other places, but with a lil pastry thrown in. I needed a snack too, so it was perfect. I go in, and inquire if I can get it to go, and order an iced espresso with un poquitito de leche and a croissant to this woman. And then this man comes over, and he asks for my order too, so I repeat it. He describes the croissants with more detail, so I order one with cheese and pesto. Uhmm, yes please!
It takes much longer than expected, and I’m fretting because I don’t want to miss my bus, and then he comes out with this big box – the croissant sandwich and fries and the coffee to go. And a bill, for much more than the sign said. And that’s where the chagrin/humour comes in. Apparently he told me the special was just a regular croissant (which is what I wanted, cool) but offered the other, fancier, pricier sandwiches, and since my Spanish is imperfecto, I didn’t follow that it wasn’t included in the deal. Even the coffee was more expensive! Because apparently he gave me a double, when I didn’t ask for it. Ugh. Like the guy who tried to rip me off / overcharge me for the cold brew in Tulum when all I wanted was espresso over ice.
So this guy doesn’t speak English and won’t back down. I tell him to get his manager – who also is only monolingual – and for the entire ordeal, I’m really stressing out about all the time it’s taking. I even considered just leaving everything there, giving a couple coins for the little bit of coffee I drank, and peacing the F out, because my departure was looming and I still had to collect my stuff from the hostel and then hustle to the bus station. I wasn’t trying to get chased by the policia, though, so I opted not to sip & dash. The manager sided with me and just charged me for the coffee (which was still more than their sign said, but whatever, I’m not going to squabble about a buck or two), so I paid up, kinda enjoyed how she let me do that when the other employee was so upset (why so pressed, bro?), and get the heck outta dodge.
Actually ran into the two older Canadian guys at the bus station, too, serendipitously – Robin and his travel companion – then got a lil snack of empanadas from an adorable old lady on the side of the road, and another coffee, then boarded that bus. Watched Scream Queens and listened to a podcast and eventually got back to where I started: Cancun.
Checked into the same hostel, was happy to see my amigos who work there again (Daniel, Martin, that Canuck guy with the tattoos and his wife), dropped my bag off, and found dinner. Went to La Res Sabrosa, by recommendation of Daniel (and corroborated by TripAdvisor), and enjoyed a phenomenal alambre – which, as Wiki says, is “grilled beef topped with chopped bacon, bell peppers, onions, cheese, salsa and avocado.” Kinda like the orden I got on my first day in Mexico – a make-your-own taco platter. Delicious.
Then I picked up some canned cocktails from the 7/11 across Avenida Tulum, hopped on the R2, and went to the Zona Hotelera. I first went to Playa Tortugas, where the bungee jumping place is, and managed to get there in time to actually see somebody jump and inquire about the process, rates, experience, etc. They told me I could do it right then, but after the dinner I just had, I didn’t think it was the best idea. Plus, I wanted to do it during the daytime, so I could enjoy the panoramic view from atop the tower. And to be honest, I was cowed. So I reserved my spot for the following day. Oh, and they even offered me a discount before I opened my mouth to ask about it. Immediately knocked ten off the price, for only $50 US. Now that’s a deal!
For the rest of the night, I wandered around the Zona, sat on the beach, sipped my drinks, read my book, watched some of the debauchery at the biggest clubs there (Coco Bongo, La Vaqueria, Mandala), and eventually meandered back to the hostel, where I chatted with the other guests and sat on the outdoor patio and ate everything up. What a life.
Day 12: Cancun & Bungee Jumping & Isla Mujeres
I woke up especially excited for the day. I enjoyed the breakfast, sun-screened, psyched myself up, grabbed an iced coffee, caught the shuttle, and headed straight for Playa Tortugas again – before I lost my nerve. Marched right to the Adventure Bay kiosk, signed the waiver, paid the fee, and took a couple minutes to gather my thoughts. But after I came all this way and announced it on Facebook and Snapchat and made my mind up, there’s no way I was backing down.
So I climb up the steep wooden stairs, get 80 feet above the water, and really enjoy the view. It’s gorgeous. White sand beaches, turquoise waters, the sun is shining, I have spectators watching from the beach below. I convince the instructor the take some pictures of me with my own phone – probably against the rules, but whatever – then get the photographer to carry it down safely for me. Get strapped into the ankle harness, and it’s surprisingly weighty – but that’s reassuring. You’re not dealing with peanuts safety features, here. And believe you me, I did my research into the company before signing up. I’m not a total idiot.
Then I pose for more pictures with the official photographer, squinting in the sun, and then walk the plank. The instructor is there the whole time, so I’m not completely scared out of my wits. He already told me all about how the process would go, what I had to do, the proper poses, etc. So I was prepared, and not scared. My heart might have been beating pretty fast, but I felt remarkably cool-headed. I get to the precipice of the wooden platform, toes gripping the very edge, and gaze out upon everything. It was such a remarkable sight, absolutely gorgeous. Paradise, heaven on earth, everything.
I wave at the people watching 80 feet below, spread my arms as I’m supposed to, and that’s when my heart jumps to my throat. I get an immediate surge of total terror, my instincts telling me that this is super stupid – but I’m positive it’s safe, and I watched other people do it, and I know that if I overthink it, I’ll get in my head and be too pusillanimous to do it. So I push the fear out of my mind and fall forward with zero hesitation. Legitimately – I wasted no time. And was impressed with myself for doing that, when I’ve suffered acrophobia for most of my life.
And, literally in the blink of an eye, the initial fall is over. I remember at the last second to go into the dive position, I splash down in the Caribbean Sea, then rebound back up, bungeed afloat, and bounce around a couple times. It’s hard to gauge where in space I am, since all the brilliant colours are blurring together, there’s salt water in my eyes, and I’m moving fast. I catch glimpses of the boats in the marina, the wooden tower, the beach, the sky and horizon and ocean, and before you know it – I’m reaching out to grab the ring they held out, catch it, and am slowly towed back to terra firma.
When I’m on my back on the pier, I immediately use the bottom of my “Living Young, Wild, and Free” frat tank top (SUCH a bro) to wipe my eyes of the seawater that got in them – and apparently everybody thought I was crying and taking care of my tears. Nope, that is not what happened. I loved every second of the bungee jump, and was disappointed that it was over and done with so soon! I definitely want to experience it again, but next time from higher up. This one was only 70-80’ of a plummet, which seems like suicide when you’re standing on the brink – but it all passes by in such a hurry. So I can’t wait to do it again.
I was the first daredevil of the day, too – so that was quite the way to shake up my morning!
And then, after riding the afterglow for a while, marveling that I had the courage to do that – when I was all alone and had nobody there to cheer or encourage me – I bought my ticket to Isla Mujeres, boarded the ferry, and sailed the ocean blue. They even had live music on the boat, which was pretty cool – this guy playing the guitar and singing covers in Spanish. Neato mosquito.
For those of y’all who don’t know, Isla Mujeres is a very popular tourist destination in Mexico. Common for those that get to the country via cruise ship. It’s famous for its snorkeling and scuba diving around a coral reef of it. But it also features this underwater museum called Musa – in which sculptures were created and then sunken to the ocean floor, for people to see through goggles and with air tanks. Awesome stuff, especially with how the various flora + fauna cover these statues and kind of “reclaim” them. It was established in order to compete with the reef, since all the tourism it receives takes a toll on the health of the coral and plants. Such a shame for that to happen, so I love this initiative they thought of. Where else can you go see art underwater? Probably somewhere, I’m sure, but it’s not too common.
However, I didn’t do any of this. It was my last day in Mexico, so I didn’t want to take out tonnes of pesos to afford all these expeditions and risk having leftover currency. My big #yolo expense was the bungee jumping, something I’ve been wanting to try for years, and the tattoo, which I’ll discuss later. So instead, I wandered around the town section of Isla Mujeres, which reminded me of Hilo, Hawaii. A nice beach town, baked by the sun, with lots of kitschy shops and restaurants with outdoor patios and people lazily walking around.
I hit up Playa Norte, which was highly recommended by the travel sites, and plunkered myself down in the shade of a palm. Read my book, enjoyed the sights, breathed in the fresh air and luxuriated in the sea breeze. Eventually I stashed my stuff in a bush and went in search of this mini-reef I overheard some Americans discussing on the ferry over. Splashed along in the water with my goggles and Speedo, swam underneath this bridge that connected the glitzy hotel Mia Reef to the rest of the island, and found an aquamarine wonderland. There were rocks out where the waves reach the lagoon, kinda like a natural breakwater, and all around them were all these adorable fish. I floated near them, loved their flashy colours, and even spotted some turtles, swordfish, and a flippin’ barracuda! Fortunately I escaped with all my limbs and bodily integrity.
Then returned to my stuff, which luckily was all still there (in addition to my fingers and toes), laid down on the beach to dry off, then went in search of food. Stopped in a store to ask a local for recommendations, but they place he advised was nowhere to be found. So I strolled down the pedestrian roads, checking out all the menus, and wow, was everything overpriced. Which goes hand-in-hand with how touristy the area is. To be expected. I ended up at the place that looked the most authentic. It was small, literally ran out of the kitchen of somebody’s residence, the menu was nothing fancy, and there were (what appeared to be actual) Mexicans eating there too. Always a good sign when the locals patronize the same restaurant!
I had guacamole and a quesadilla, and it was all delicious. They had a serve-yourself salsa and salad bar, as well, so I capitalized upon that too. I wish I knew the name of the establishment, to recommend to you all, but I can’t even find it on Google Street View. Ah well.
Then back to the ferry station, but I apparently misread my ticket and had to kill another 45 minutes. No problem, though! More exploring, got an iced espresso, and sat watching the boats go in and out of the marina / reading “Truly Madly Guilty.”
Then boarded the board, was treated to more live music on the ~sunset cruise~ back to the mainland, and I even managed to get back when Adventure Bay / the bungee jumping place was still open! So I went straight for the photographer’s stand and tried my best to haggle them down. The prices they charge for their photos is nigh criminal. $35 for like 30 photos? Yeah, it’s gonna be a no from me, dawg.
The lowest he would go was $25 for the photos and the video for it, when I only wanted to give a twenty. So I played hardball, and was just like, “Well, fine, no deal. It’s either you take this $20 and give it to me, or I walk away, you delete the photos and make no money. They’re worth nothing to you. Might as well make some more cash before you close for the night.” And no, that was not all in Spanish, because I don’t think I’m that skilled at my second language (just yet). But it worked! And now I’m the proud owner of some hi-res pictures AND the video of me defying death! Yay!
Satisfied, I returned to the hostel, showered off, researched tattoo parlours, then struck out on the hunt. The place that was best reviewed was unfortunately closed when I finally managed to find it – after serendipitously running into my Canadian pal Robin (from Merida) AND wandering through a city fair / block party – so I stopped in this trendy-looking menswear store that sold expensive Speedos, asking for another recommendation. It happened to be just around the corner, so I headed straight to Placer y Dolor (Pleasure and Pain). Met with the artist and tried my best to explain the idea in Spanish, which was not as easy as it sounds, despite how simple the design was going to be. He quotes me a price, but again, I’m playing aloof – and it works out again! He immediately drops it down to about $40 US, if I do it tonight.
So I tell him, great, I need to take some cash out though. And I wanted to walk around and mull it over for a bit, before submitting to being poked with a needle many times over in an LDC with somebody who I couldn’t communicate with that well. But, you know what, I read the reviews, it had numerous positive testimonies, and whatever, no biggie. So I did it! And I have no regrets! It was quick, cheap, not excruciating, and still looks good! Yay!
I got the outlines of two equilateral triangles pointing to each other on the outside of my left wrist, where my watch goes (and can cover it if I need to). So it resembles a basic, geometric hourglass – but the upside-down triangle stands for queer pride as well, and the right-side up one represents delta, for change. And incidentally, the two of them together also mean fire and water, or balance / duality / etc – but that was just an extra +1, not the reason I went for that design. And now it’s tattoo #7! To tie up with my body piercings! (3 in each ear and 1 nipple)
Finally, with my ultimate night in Meh-hee-ko, I got some more cheap-ass tacos al pastor along Avenida Tulum, at the place the Kiwi Couple recommended way back when, then sat on the patio with the hostel workers / guests, and soaked in the lovely balmy night air one more time.
Day 13 & 14 & 15: Cancun + Montreal + Ottawa
Wake up, last hostel breakfast, grabbed my stuff, got a final iced americano, schlepped to the ADO station, got to hang out in the air-conditioned premium lounge reading about Drag Race, listen to the Brain Candy Podcast en route the airport, then only have about a half hour to wait at the gate (since it took me an unexpected while to check in at the counters, Dios knows why, I had only a carry-on). Have my layover in Philly, take my time walking through all the terminals looking for lunch, finally settle on an iced coffee and bagel from Au Bon Pain, the cashier says she thinks my conch piercing is cute and I’m adorable, aw thanks girl, then jetset to Montreal.
It takes forever going through customs, but eventually I make it through, hop on the shuttle to downtown, meet beautiful KyKy at Ganadara, grab the key, and finally relax when I get to his place. He surprises me a half hour later, as I’m sitting in just my underwear on the couch, resting before I got the energy up to shower – but he brought food from the restaurant! Awwww what a darling! ❤
Crash soon after, despite my intentions to go for a walk and experiencing the city that still feels like the most like home to me. Sleep like a log, wander round the city, indulge in another decadent but delicious poutine from Dirty Dogs, do some sightseeing, meet up with Ky & Mike MF Chan at Brutopia for a 5a7, love the raspberry beer, bus to the Mile End and hang out with Bren “G-Frog” Prouse for a lil while, play some Sm4sh, then metro to Atwater Forum to meet Ouliana to finally see Get Out (since Ottawa is severely lacking cinemas in its central core). We stroll back along Ste-Catherine afterward, get a quick bite from Burger King (I clearly was #cleaneating during these couple days), and plan how we’ll move her to Toronto during June. Well, guess what, that’s happening tomorrow! Believe it, squirrelfriend!
With my last day, more aimless walking around, get a banh mi with Melody (who out of nowhere gives me free nail polish – WOW thanks so much, the white paint is exactly what I wanted!) at the perennial Vua, grab coffee with Torchic, then get my rideshare back to lovely ol’ Ottawa. And the rest is history: the post-travel blues and unemployed doldrums and not loving my life situation, especially after how spectacular Mexico was.
And that’s that! The remainder of my travel blogging about Mexico. Who knows when the next exotic trip abroad will be? Not until November at the earliest, since that is when my casual contract with the Treasury Board ends.
Bi the gay, I had my first day on the job today – which I’ll discuss in more detail later – but a quick summary:
Everyone was very friendly, all the documents I was given to read (a huge amount) interest me, I have a nice private office/cubicle, it’s not hellishly open-concept, I met my colleagues and my boss’s boss, received uplifting and flattering advice from my supervisor, got the security badge to enter the buildings and my own laptop and email and login info etc and feel so legit about the whole thing. And ironically, the dream I had right before waking up at 7:30 this morning included my previous boss assaulting me and me feeling powerless to change it, but still giving an impassioned and affecting speech about it to the crowd gathered there. Hm, how telling is that, huh?
I now work Monday-Friday from 8:30-4:30, and it’s not micro-managey, and I don’t feel defeated or even that daunted by anything. I’m absurdly excited about it. Can’t wait to truly sink my teeth into this Diversity & Inclusion Task Force work! Yay!
Ciao for now. I’m off to gym, shower, and then head to Ernie’s for the RPDR Season 9 Finale with frands! Sickening!