Artists and Environmentalists
After returning from Tulum, I give up on showering and drag myself and my moist (a terrible word) bathing suit over to the Akumal Library, as the kids there seem to have become my addiction. I arrive and immediately look for my love, Stephanie, who is nowhere in sight. She lives with her mother and grandmother who sell the snacks (dried mango, fresh watermelon, etc.) out front, and they apparently didn’t bring her today. While I was looking forward to seeing her, there are about forty other kids here, all of whom are eager to learn English, teach me some Spanish, or simply play with me. When I arrive, Anne and her assistants have gathered the children in the courtyard and are reviewing some of the rules. While this is happening, I meet Anna, a scientist from Portugal who has been in Akumal for a few months getting a change of scenery and figuring out what to do next with her life. She’d like to write a book and has asked for my advice about blogging (like I know anything).
After the rules review has ended, some of the kids head out into the open area for a game of football (soccer to us Americans) while others scatter in various directions to draw, read, or play on the playground. I’ve brought my travel speaker inside for my iPod (which has also been doubling as my jerry-rigged car stereo) and the kids find it fascinating (it is pretty cool as it lights up and changes to various colors). Four of them have a great time going through songs I’ve downloaded when one kid finds a One Direction Song (it’s the Story of My Life; ssshhh, don’t tell anybody. It’s one of those guilty pleasures). Suddenly there’s a squeal which is almost as loud as the rental car I refused.
“One Direction!” I hear screamed.
Unfortunately, the new Apple IOS8, which I downloaded before I left, seems to be requesting that I download this song again and, as I have no Wi-Fi, it’s impossible.
She looks disappointed and then asks excitedly, “Do you have Big Time Rush? Big Time Rush! Big Time Rush!”
“Um no, I’ve heard of them but I don’t have them.” I feel terrible.
“Mañana, Mañana!” I offer guiltily.
We dance to what I have for few minutes before it’s time for the children to head home. I offer to drive Anna to the condo she’s renting as it’s two buildings from my hotel. We park the car and head over to La Buena Vida Restaurant where we’re meeting Anne and some other people for happy hour drinks and dinner. We make a quick stop on the top deck of La Buena Vida in order to admire the beautiful sunset over the jungle and see the grass that covers the deck (between the sand on the bottom floor and the grass on the top, they sure have figured out how to save on floor coverings. And it’s environmentally friendly too!). When we come back down, Anne is there and a few others quickly join us. The group is a great mix of creative people; there’s myself; Anne, who runs the library; Anna, the scientist from Portugal; Karen, a writer from New York; Kim, a visiting writer who also runs the Akumal International Artist Residency program; Maria and Magda, who are from Poland (can’t really remember their reasons for being here as there may or may not have been a few margaritas consumed, but they are most likely artists of some kind).
During our meal, Anne mentions Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA) which works to help the sea turtles in laying and hatching their eggs. I mention that I did a nighttime walk with a similar organization in St. Kitts and would love to do something here. Anne picks up her magic phone and, lo-and-behold, I’m instructed to meet Guillermo at 9:30am on the beach behind my hotel.
We spend a few hours entertaining each other with stories of how we all met, what we’re working on right now, and local gossip. After a fun evening with a group of creative and inspiring women, I, for the second night in a row, stumble back to my hotel.
I wake up in the morning, put my hair in a ponytail and throw on a bathing suit. I’m dressed (must be casual Friday)! I make a run to Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery down the road as I’ve been told they’re very good and, what’s more, they not only have a coffee maker, but they actually have coffee. I grab a coffee and cinnamon roll to go and head back to the hotel to eat my breakfast before stepping out onto the beach to meet Guillermo.
Guillermo is waiting for me right on time and excited to tell me about CEA as well as his other project EZ Snorkel (both of which will be profiled along with The Akumal Library, otherwise known as, Hekab Be Biblioteca, on www.Rebel-With-A-Cause.org in a week or two. If you subscribe there, you’ll be notified by E-mail when those are posted). CEA exists in order to make up for man’s effect on the earth which has also had an effect on the sea turtle population. They work to sort of “make-it-right” in order to cancel out the effects of human building, occupying beaches and littering in the ocean. This year, the sea turtles in Akumal will lay about 170 nests which will incubate 18-20-thousand eggs. One in one-thousand sea turtles will reach maturity.
We walk and talk, all the time passing marked locations where CEA knows the sea turtles have laid eggs. The mothers finished nesting about a week ago so now all that’s left is for the eggs to hatch and the little ones to make their way out to sea (this trip’s volunteer projects seem to involve children of all kinds). After a while, we come across a nest that has three holes in it. Guillermo kneels over it like he’s Indiana Jones and has just found an ancient burial site (I’m waiting for him to say, “Throw me the whip!”). He begins digging with his hands while saying one word, “Crabs!” The holes sometimes mean a crab has dug down to the eggs to get into the shell. Sure enough, before long a crab high-tails it out of there. Guillermo looks down a bit further and we see the egg intact. Woo-hoo, we’ve saved a life! A little girl and her dad come over to find out what’s going on. I tell her what just happened and what I’ve learned from Guillermo. It’s a teaching moment.
After walking the beach for an hour Guillermo and I bid our farewells and I grab my computer, towel and a beer at the tiny general store connected to my hotel (how convenient), and head over to a beach chair to do some serious laying around (kids, don’t try this at home, I’m a professional). I’m alone and the sounds are beautiful; waves crashing, a few birds chirping and jackhammers. What? Oh yes, the hotel is remodeling some of the rooms (the noise begins at 8:00am which I take as my cue each morning to get my butt out of bed). I move a bit further down the beach nearer to the next building and, wouldn’t you know it, construction there too. I’ve got a beach to myself, sitting by the ocean working, and beer – I have little to complain about.
After an hour-or-two of lying under a beach umbrella with the occasional dip in the ocean, I decide to head back over to Turtle Bay for my first healthy meal in a few days (it can be challenging to find healthy food here). While eating my Healthy Salad (yup, that’s the name of it), I download a bunch of Big Time Rush and One Direction songs to bring with me to play for the little girl at the library. When I come by later on, she’s not there. So now with my iPod filled with “One D” and “BTR” songs (that’s what the cool kids call them), I’m officially a twelve-year-old girl.
Tomorrow – an emotional visit to the library, a violin concert, more ruins and a cenote.