No, we are not the wild life. In fact, we’re pretty dull on the wildness scale. But we don’t care; we enjoy every minute.
Most of the day, we spend watching Mexican television: the ocean and the wild life, that is. We sit under the umbrella at the seashore admiring the birds, fish and crabs who sail into our sphere. The pelicans, lumbering pouchy creatures on land, are magnificent in the air, swooping over the waves, diving from great heights to splashily swallow up their prey. Now and then we glimpse schools of fish – both by the clouds of birds overhead and by the tiny silver pinpoints as they surface to eat the sea insects. The smaller cormorant variety, the pecker heads, as Vince calls them, carefully wait until a tidbit drops from the sky. No doubt from a bird in the air above bragging about what he’d caught.
The frigates are sometimes streaked with white, their bodies glinting in the sun. Maire points out that they never dive into the water, but instead skim the surface, obviously gazing with sharp eyes. Suddenly a beak dips and there’s a fish; a shake of the head and it’s gone. Sleek black grackles sing to us every morning and, sometimes, all day, from the various palms, especially the one outside our window. They have a lovely variety of sounds, demanding or charming, shrill or lilting. Always there is the gentle coo of pigeons; I love them here. There’s one around the pool that looks like it’s been crossed with a rooster: s/he is russet colored and fluffy. Blacks, whites, greens, and all shades in between, they come to the pool for a drink every day, lining up on the bridge or perched on the cement posts (which we call the swim-up bar). Probably not good for them, we think, though the chlorine cocktail hasn’t yet appeared to cull their population.
I love their gentle sound in the background: it’s very like the purring of our cats.
Today Vince chops up the pineapple and we all savour its incredible sweetness. Our new iPod (we’re so cool) provides the music we love, though it’s simply backdrop to the soughing waves. There’s always a breeze through our apartment from both balconies. We keep our doors wide open all the time…sounds like a Johnny Cash song…but the cross breeze is not to be missed.
In the later afternoon, Vince and I are upstairs doing some little chores, when we hear John shout from the beach. That can only mean one thing! We race to the balcony, Vince with camera in hand, and there they are: whales. A mother and child, cavorting in the surf so close that we don’t need binoculars or even glasses. The mother must be teaching the baby to breach: at one point, she lifts her enormous sleekness fully out of the water, straight up, thundering back down onto the surface, creating an echo all across the baby, huge waves to crash against the shore. Baby follows her: leaping up and up, higher each time. We imagine he is having fun, for he keeps bursting from the surface, dipping back down, then lifting again, flicking his tail. He is so much smaller than his mother that we think of him (besides christening him a male) as little, but he’s really not. They are likely humpbacks, but they appear to be sleek, not barnacled and bumpy like most. Perhaps females and babies are less “ornate”? The two of them put on an unparalleled show: we are awed and grateful by the time they skip off toward the horizon.
We talk about how addictive this whale watching is: we all agree that we could, if we allowed ourselves and had the money, follow the whales everywhere. There is something very special about their size, their performances, the bond between mother and baby. Having them cavort right in front of us feels like a gift of trust and connection.
There are so many little things that happen during the day which evoke laughter and pleasure. Scott shows me the “backing up song” on YouTube and we roar. I keep chortling every time I think about it. At dinner in Maire and John’s suite, we all talk about our previous lives as educators: teachers and administrators. In this little circle, we can say what we want, discuss links that we didn’t know we had, and generally comment with great intelligence on the state of affairs past, present and future. Enough wine, beer and brandy convince us of our prescience and genius.
A couple of memories occur to me as I write this, which I forgot to record. Dr. Jasper, the radiation oncologist, and his nurse, Kim, exam me one more time two weeks after the treatments have ended. They are happy with my progress and tell me to go on my vacation! For some reason, I feel even better than I did when he gave us permission the first time. I tell them both that I never want to see them again. I’m sure they’ve never heard that one before. Kim smiles, gives me a hug, and says, “I’m sure you won’t.” Then she winks, “But maybe at the mall would be okay” and I agree.
The other is this: my husband sheds tears when he arrives here in the suite with Maire and John. It’s relief and delight: relief because this means the cancer ordeal is truly over; delight that we have arrived in his beloved Mexico.
Early in the morning, “Let’s Get Rich” comes on the iPod and I dance and sing, facing the ocean, thinking of the fun we had with Chris, Dave, Barb and Doug last year, when we would push back the table and chairs, form a circle, and dance, belt out and perform this song. Some time later, my sister Chris answers me on Facebook: just as she was reading my post, “Let’s Get Rich” came on the radio. How amazing is that?
At eleven, Maire (who suffers often from motion sickness from the jolting of the bus) and I hop in a cab to Santiago, heading for the market. The boys take the bus. We reach Juanito’s, where Maire and John have arranged to meet some friends. Scott, Vince and I go down the street for breakfast because there are no tables (of course, five minutes later, there are lots). Afterward we all split up to go shopping. Vince and I buy fresh almonds and some kitchen utensils we need. A young boy scoops a huge bag of blackberries for us: one dollar. Then bananas, cucumbers, zucchini and oranges for $1.50. We try not to overbuy, because everything is so fresh that it contains no preservatives.
When we return, I decide to stay in the unit for the hottest part of the day and go to the beach around four. I actually stay upstairs and cook and write. The cook part is odd for me. I am using radiation brain as an excuse, figure I can milk that for a few more months maybe. I carefully wash and chop broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, onions, add veggie cubes, lentils, spices, and voila! Cancer-fighting, diet soup made by little old me. I invite Scott, Maire and John to have supper with us when I join them at the beach.
In the meantime, Vince is valiantly fighting the other wildlife. Teeny tiny ants have invaded: they are so small in fact that you very suddenly notice the wall or the tablecloth moving. Yesterday I stunk up the bathroom spraying them with Raid (not a wise thing to do when you are present). Today, I find Vince spraying the kitchen (nowhere near the soup, thank goodness). A great big cockroach has taken up residence under the cupboards. Ew. I know, in that part of my brain that stores factual information, that cockroaches are here – I mean, last year I had to fight one with a plastic chair while online with a CWC Directors meeting – but I dislike the way they scurry out from the darkness. I find two more small ones before we go to bed and decide I’ll spray the shit out of everything tomorrow. This time I’ll vacate the premises first.
After dinner we have a rousing game of dice and plan the next day. The boys are going to Bricio’s for breakfast, then they’re off to watch a local baseball game. Maire and I plan…nothing. Well, OK, perhaps a little raid.