Sunday, November 29, 2015

Musings on Sayulita, Mexico

Last week, I spent my Thanksgiving vacation in Mexico.  I met my friend Amy in Puerto Vallarta, and from there we took a bus to the small coastal town of Sayulita, where we stayed for our first three nights.  Our first night in Sayulita, Amy and I were in a restaurant where live music played and the dance floor was filled with locals and tourists whirling about in an impressive salsa dancing display.  We sat back and watched the dancers, and as we did, a woman came up to Amy and asked if she had a pen that she could borrow, “maybe forever.”  She explained that she was a travel journalist, and her own pen had broken (she held up an ink-stained palm) and told Amy she needed the pen to be able to do her job.  

Amy gave the girl her pen, and we watched her move across the room, post up along the opposite wall, and begin to take notes on what she saw there.  

Amy and I began chatting about what an amazing job travel journalism must be.
And that chance meeting inspired me to write this, a few days later:

Sayulita is at once familiar and unlike any place I have been before.   Multiple times, I have begun the sentence, “this town reminds me of…” and then been unable to finish it.  Sayulita is a combination of all my experiences.  It is Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Guatemala all rolled into one little beach town.   

The guide books all seem to say that Sayulita does a perfect job of mixing local culture and tourism, but to me, the place still feels overrun with tourists.  Not that that's a bad thing.  But when every waiter in every cafĂ© sees me and speaks to me in US-accented English, I don't feel I'm really picking up any local culture.  I do, however, enjoy the emphasis and effort at hospitality which is evident at every establishment.   

The cobble-stoned streets of this town are lined with restaurants,  boutique shops,  and convenience stores.   Half of the streets end in the sand of the beach,  and the eateries in that locale inevitably set out beach chairs,  rent surfboards,  offer fruity drinks to the tourists here to escape their chilly late-autumn realities.

The number of families here has surprised me, for some reason.   Amy and I find ourselves cooing over dads holding naked babies in the waves,  parents teaching their kids to boogie board,  fathers running down the beach with a kid and a dog on each side.   I find myself hoping that one day,  I'll have a family who vacations in a beach town like this, that my own kids will drive a rented golf cart and practice their Spanish and build sand castles and think those things are the most amazing part of their year.

The beautiful thing about this area is that there are so many things to do.   A family vacation would make perfect sense.  There's the beach,  of course.   But there are also beach sports,  hiking,  biking,  small nearby towns to visit,  and the tourist mecca of Puerto Vallarta is only a short drive away.  It’s a place of adventure, but not too much.  Just the right amount for a family vacation.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Racing on Pacaya

Last Sunday morning, I woke up to the sound of soft rain on the roof.  A never-ending drizzle had started the afternoon before and never really stopped in Guatemala City.  My thoughts toward the rain were not pleasant.

It was the morning of the Pacaya 10km race, which is one of my favorites each year.  The trail is difficult, but not impossible, and the views the entire race are breathtaking.  I had run it the past two years, with a slightly better time my second year than my first.  Though I hadn’t explicitly trained for this year’s 10K, I knew I was in pretty good shape and thought I had a chance at finishing well.  

But… rain.  

There was already a facebook message thread between some of the people going with me to the race.  Two had decided not to chance the rain and mud, and a few of the others were waffling.  Resolutely, I added that unless I heard the race was cancelled or postponed, I planned to drive there and make a game-time decision about whether it was worth running or not.  

Thankfully, as we maneuvered the dirt road leading to the starting line, the rain held off, and the road didn’t appear too terribly muddy.  The eight of us who’d made the trek unanimously decided the run would be worth it.  

The 8 ladies who ran the race!  (post-run)
We were blessed as we ran; no rain, and the skies cleared enough to allow the usual sweeping views across the hills and lakes.  Parts of the trail were muddy, yes, and I felt like I walked more this year than I did last year for that reason.  

It also seemed like there were less people running the 10K this year than in years previous.  The group of us at the starting line seemed discouragingly small, and along the route, except in the first kilometer, I rarely saw anyone ahead of me or behind me.  Thankfully, workers had been well placed at each turn to make sure runners stayed on the correct route, and I didn’t get lost.

When I crossed the finish line, the woman who handed me my finisher’s medal told me the award ceremony would be in a few minutes and asked me to stay for it.  She also informed me I was the first woman to cross the finish line.  

Chatting to the first place overall finisher, a man from El Salvador who had finished thirteen minutes before me, I discovered that I was in third place overall.

Without a doubt, this is the best I’ve ever finished in a race.  

A woman came sprinting across the finish line a few minutes behind me, and shortly behind her came three of my friends, right in a row.  

Two hours later, the podium was cleared and they were calling our names.  I took my spot in first, and then there was a moment of confusion as they called Lindsey and Janae in second and third place, not woman who’d come in right behind me and Holly.  Glancing at their list, I realized that the two of them were placed in the “Masters” age category.  This was comical, because Holly had taken the number of a friend whose knees hadn’t allowed her to compete, and definitely does not fall into the older age bracket.  We congratulated her after she took her place on the podium, telling her how young she looked.  

It was a day of celebration for us at Volcan de Pacaya.  I’m so glad we braved the weather and ran the race!  Standing with my friends on that podium is a feeling I won’t soon forget.