Mashed Potatoes

Mexico is a beautiful country. I don't really believe it's possible for one to make a rational argument to refute this point. There is the rugged landscape of the Baja Peninsula, the incomparable vastness of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, the Mayan Riviera of the Yucatan Peninsula with its distinct Carribean flavor, islands like Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, the majestic archeological ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itza, the Jungle, the biggest city in the world, and the mountainous regions like San Luis Potosi. By about Wednesday last week, however, I couldn't wait to get back to the states, and I don't know that I'll be heading back for an extended period any time soon.

My wife and I spent the last 7 days in Cancun and the surrounding area. We stayed at the Westin Regina Resort, a beautiful and tasteful 5-Star establishment at the very southern end of the hotel zone, away from the hustle and bustle of "the strip." Our first floor, high-ceilinged room had a perfect ocean view and a private terrace with lounge chairs just footsteps from the beach. We were very active; hiking the ruins of Tulum, taking the ferry to Isla Mujeres, snorkeling at Xel-Ha and Akumal, Horseback riding and shopping at Playa del Carmen. The water is warm, clear, and a brilliant shade of turquoise; the beaches are soft white sand. It was paradise.

But I had a few problems with my time in Cancun.

I don't like "showing my papers." I felt, at times, like I was in the Eastern Bloc. Now, I've got to say that it wasn't like there were checkpoints to go through or that I had to carry my papers in my swim trunks in case of spot checks. I also understand that I was in a different country and that I've got to declare what I bring in and out, and that the officials in said country need to have some means of identifying me should any issues arise. All that being said, however, I don't like having to produce documents when asked, just to show who I am and what I'm doing. Typical ugly American, I know.

Remember in the Godfather II when Michael and Freddo are in Cuba on New Year's Eve when the incumbent government is overthrown and the whole country goes to hell? That's how I felt
all the time in Mexico. It may just be sheer paranoia on my part, but think back to the Bush/Gore election debacle. Those kinds of elections happen frequently in Mexico, and the debate isn't typically over "hanging chads" but outright corruption. Don't argue this point with me; they are going through this exact issue in Juarez right now. This is a country whose government completely devalued the peso overnight, resulting in the loss of uncounted trillions for its people. And think back to recent years when the entire country required a fiscal bailout spearheaded by the United States. I couldn't shake the thought of a spontaneous coup, where all Americans are rounded up and shaken down, and it would take me 6 months to get out of the country.

Ever try to order a bottle or glass of Merlot in Mexico? How about a nice Pinot Noir? Cabernet Sauvignon anyone? Well, in Cancun anyway, red wine doesn't exist. I had three very nice dinners while in Cancun, mind you. I didn't try to order a bottle of Coppola Merlot at Chico's Tacos; these were places where the lobster is fresh and a table for 2 runs about $150. These aren't ramchackle joints. The Italian restaurant that we ate at was voted best overall in Cancun. Just don't ask for Merlot with your penne.

Sometimes a guy just wants a side of mashed potatoes. But you can't get mashed potatoes in Mexico. It's not even a part of their lexicon. There is no spanish word for "mashed," and potatoes certainly aren't a staple of the Mexican diet. But the problem is, after 4 or 5 days of Mexican food, a guy would just like a nice side of damn mashed potatoes damnit.

Lest you begin to feel sorry for us, don't. Overall we had a good time, saw a lot of stuff, worked a good tan, and took some great pictures. But being in another country just makes me appreciate what we have in the states. It's good to be back home.


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