mexico

Pre-Cuba: Packing and meeting the group in Cancun

Pre-Cuba // Packing:  December 8, 2010

Packing for a trip to Cuba is a careful endeavor. There are the gifts to take, and the necessities, and the cameras and lenses, and of course, the clothes. But there’s a weight restriction of 66 lbs total…no more than 22 lbs carry-on. I’ve spent the last couple of days piling up the things to go, weighing, reweighing and then making hard choices of what stays and what goes.

Packing the camera gear for Cuba
Packing the camera gear for Cuba

In my bag:
A bag of Snickers and a bag of M&Ms (intended as gifts, but a constant temptation…)
Box of Tylenol (gift)
2 boxes of Band-Aids (gift)
10 tealights (gift)
10 bars of little soaps (gift)
10 Hot Wheels (gift)
20 Little Pet Shop figures (gift, they are the cutest little things!)
10 peanut snack bars (para me, between meals)
1 pack of shortbread cookies (para me)
3 pills for diarrhea (just in case…)
$1,500 cash
ATM and credit card (for Mexico…U.S. issued cards won’t work in Cuba)
Nikon D700
50mm f/1.4
20mm f/2.8
105mm f 2.8
24-70mm f 2.8
Lensbaby
Holga + 7 rolls of film
Sony Cybershot for video
10 memory cards
2 extra Nikon batteries
MacBook Pro
A mile of chargers and cords
Hopefully the right adaptors
Blackberry and charger for Mexico (our cellphones won’t work in Cuba)
2 pairs of jeans
2 pairs of travel pants
1 pair of linen pants
tennis shoes
Finn comfort clogs
Teva sandals
10 tops (combination of long/short sleeve)
cardigan
hoodie
rain jacket (pockets are stuffed to reduce the carry-on bag weight)
undergarments + socks
shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrush/paste/floss, deodorant
Brush, hairties
glasses
Trip insurance paperwork
Medical insurance paperwork
Passport
Journal, pens
Moon handbook to Cuba
Spanish cards

The carry-on camera bag alone weighs 25 lbs, not the 22 requested (so I’ll be stuffing some things in my pockets :) The big bag is at 38 lbs. 66 total is the limit.

Oh…and it’s 12 degrees in Chicago.

Pre-Cuba // Meeting the group in Cancun, Mexico:  December 9, 2010

The American flight landed early yesterday…just after skimming low over the most beautiful seafoam-turquoise-ink colored waters you can imagine.

Flying into Cancun
Flying into Cancun

Immigration–baggage claim (mine was one of the first out!)–customs and out into the throngs of people touting time-shares, rides, tours…They’ll do just about anything to stop you.  “We must check your voucher here please”, “Here we are, waiting for you!”, “Ride to the hotel?”, “Welcome to Mexico.  Let me help you”,  “Do you know where you are staying?”…blah, blah, blah.

You walk–quickly, confidently, and with a smile, past the obstacles–a bit like a video game, going around them when they step directly in front of you.  Once past the hurdles, the doors automatically open–there’s a mariachi band in black playing the Frito Bandito song, a bar, and another herd of drivers holding signs with everyone’s name.  And it’s warm, humid, a smell of that air that can only be hot climates near the sea.

Reid from Santa Fe Photo Workshops was waiting by the Marriott Shuttle spot–guarding someone’s luggage and greeting us.  He dolled out my $230 pesos with instructions to take the airport shuttle from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 and get my Cuban Tourist Visa from a lady in white next to the Air Cubana counter there.  That was the “normal” terminal–not full of tourists.  Starbucks, regular lines of regular people doing regular airport things.

The lady at the counter spoke to me in Spanish–but I understood she was asking if I had pesos–I replied “Si, pesos.”  She had on wedge heels–how long would she stand there today I wondered?  She was filling out visa forms pulled from her purse–and sitting alongside her rubbermaid of peppers for lunch.  Visa done.  Easy peazy.

Turista Visa para Republica de Cuba
Turista Visa para Republica de Cuba

Met Angelina and Larry back at the shuttle area and we piled in for the short drive to the hotel.  Checked in (room 449 for me, $149/night) and met back in the lobby for quesadillas and margaritas.  Conversation about “our photography”–what do you shoot, what do you do with photography, what camera did you bring?  Lenses?  And the same concerns about weight and bag limitations.

Back to the room for a bit of a nap and some reorganizing of stuff.  Down to the lobby again around 7 to meet the folks returning from Cuba… talked to a couple of ladies and Dinah & Barry; heard about rice and beans, exchanged $40 U.S. for $40 C.U.C.   They were still in awe.  We watched their photo slideshow of their week–stunning.  The light, the faces, the eyes, the decay…  One lady described it as very European, but not–it’s decayed, dirty, neglected.  3rd world.  She said she couldn’t even describe the feeling she had on the first day–the depth of culture shock.  I can’t wait!  Shaking with anticipation.

Talked to Nancy–someone I met in 2008 at Nevada Wier’s workshop in Santa Fe.  We think we’re roommates on this journey–and made a pact to get up early, stay up late, and go to the Tropicana :)

So now, it’s 8:15a–I slept good, I’ve made my second pot of coffee in my room, had breakfast downstairs, had a shower, and have repacked yet again…moving chocolates to my carry-on for snacks and for gifts, loading up my pockets so that the raincoat weighs about 10lbs–relieving the carry-on.  Crowded House’s “Always Take the Weather” came on the iPod shuffle–good advice!  I’ve called home…and sit ready.  I can feel my heart beating in my skin.  CUBA!

We will meet downstairs at 9a for an orientation.  And head out to the airport at 10:30 to deal with check-in and the cultural visas (that came in last night).  Flight is at 2:35p.

Stepping on to my first flight to Cuba.
Stepping on to my first flight to Cuba.

POSTSCRIPT // 2017:

As I am moving old TravelPod entries over to my blog almost 7 years later, I came across this first trip to Cuba, and the entries that abruptly stop before I even get on the plane. Of course, now I know.  Now, after 7 trips to beautiful Cuba, I know how shocking those first days are. Now I know that packing is indeed a careful endeavor.  You’d better pack anything you might need, because you are not likely to find it there if you’ve forgotten it. “It’s not like I’m packing for Cuba,” has become a standard “don’t worry” statement when I pack now for all other trips.  I also know now that these flights TO Cuba are the heaviest flights ever.  Seriously, it’s a wonder that the planes can leave the ground.  Coming back, without all the gifts, the bags are less than a third full, but the memory cards are bursting.  :)

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Return to Cabo

Return to Cabo.  April 2010

We had put vacationing on hold for a while…but then decided to do a rest & relax, “fun & sun”, return to Cabo. We first visited in 2003. Only 7 years ago. But what a 7 years. Can you return?

It has been a rough year.  Changes at work.  Belle’s illnesses.  Cluttered mind.  Restless spirit.  We decided to go back to Cabo.  It was a place we’d visited in 2003…before the move to Nashville, before the heartaches of Holling and Riley passing, before the return to Chicago. We packed books, cameras, sunscreen, and swimsuits, and a whole lot of hope for a restful week.

Cabo has 356 days of sun
Cabo has 356 days of sun
Room #310 Pueblo Bonito Blanco
Room #310 Pueblo Bonito Blanco

Some highlights:

Room 310 of Pueblo Bonito Blanco:  complete with a sitting room, coffee maker, and kitchenette.
The time-share sellers still as persistent as ever.

The view from Pueblo Bonito Blanco's pool
The view from Pueblo Bonito Blanco’s pool

Sitting at the pool overlooking the beach on the first day, I counted 12 sailboats, 6 Gilligan boats, 1 cruise ship, and an assortment of jet-skis, para-sailors, helicopters and dozens of smaller, glass-bottom boats and water taxis.

Blanket vendor
Blanket vendor
Surf
Surf

The crashing of the waves!  The water out there is known to have a dangerous undertow.  By the sounds of the waves, and the sucking sound the tide makes when it moves out–I can only imagine.

The sand on this beach is like sandpaper.  Exfoliating.

Sand and Sky
Sand and Sky
Horizon
Horizon

Tiny birds wait like stray, hungry little dogs at breakfast.

Feeding our little friends
Feeding our little friends
Alone
Alone

Days spent in the sun.  Hot sun and cool breeze.  Just lovely.  Reading.  Reminiscing.   Daydreaming and staring out to sea.   What would my 46-year-old self tell my 39-year-old self?

I read the Time Traveler’s Wife.  “To happiness.  To here and now.”  “To world enough and time.”

Night ship
Night ship
Morning fishing
Morning fishing

Also plotted the years until 50…101 things to do before 50?  50 states by 50?

Grotto
Grotto
Cotton Candy
Cotton Candy
The dancers
The dancers + tequila
The dancers
The dancers

Rum drinks and Bloody Marys.  Dinners on the beach.  And making coffee in the room in the still-dark mornings.

Dinner on the Beach
Dinner on the Beach
Poolside
Poolside
Mariachis at La Golondrina Restaurant
Mariachis at La Golondrina Restaurant
Lovely tree
Lovely tree at La Golondrina
Pueblo Bonito Blanco's lovely dishes
Pueblo Bonito Blanco’s lovely dishes
Lime and cilantro
Lime and cilantro
Stretching
Stretching

Flamingos, parakeets, and turtles at the hotel.

7 sunrises in 7 days.  Keeping a weather eye on the horizon…searching for certainty, confidence, and “what’s next?”

We came home on Bryan’s 47th birthday.

Flamingo
Flamingo
Sunrise #1
Sunrise #1
Sunrise #2
Sunrise #2
Sunrise #3
Sunrise #3
Sunrise #4
Sunrise #4
Sunrise #5
Sunrise #5
Sunrise #6
Sunrise #6
Sunrise #7
Sunrise #7
Carol and Bryan in Cabo
Carol and Bryan in Cabo
Pink morning
Pink morning
Cabo map
Cabo map
Mexico Flag
Mexico Flag
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Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa, Mexico

Zihuatanejo, Mexico

It had been a long winter. A long couple of years. And we needed a break. We chose a resort in Ixtapa, near the fishing village of Zihuatanejo in Mexico…The little town mentioned in Shawshank Redemption. We’d go from Saturday, February 25 to March 3, 2006.

Our hotel in Ixtapa: Las Brisas
Our hotel in Ixtapa: Las Brisas
Chairs pulled up to the Pacific Ocean
Chairs pulled up to the Pacific Ocean

Our hardest decision every day was whether to sit at the blue tiled pool or at the private beach first. We liked to end the days on the beach–in chairs pulled up and into the ocean, watching the sun go down, admiring the busy sandpipers scurrying around the edges of the water, or simply staring into the waves with our feet in the water.

Blue tiled pool at Las Brisas
Blue tiled pool at Las Brisas
Busy sandpiper
Busy sandpiper

Beach stories: We saw a seahorse one day–six inches long and washed up between the rocks. He was alive and writhing to get back to the water. We assisted and saw him right himself and thrust into the deeper water. We hunted for shells or colorful pieces of seaglass or interesting stones. We watched the waves break and collide with each other.

Fish
Fish
Frida on a bolsa
Frida on a bolsa
La Pantera Rosa
La Pantera Rosa

In the town: It’s a fishing village at heart. I can’t tell you how many times I saw fresh fish being transported here and there–in tubs on women’s heads, in plastic bags, or held by the tail…always fins up. Ice was delivered in blocks as big as microwaves. Colorful cut banners hung over the streets. Bicycles and Volkswagons galore. A church that never shut it’s doors–exposed to the elements, candles always burning. The movie theater was showing “La Pantera Rosa” and of course, we went. Kids with bags of trinkets and gum smiled and showed off their sales skills. Blankets, pottery and bags in a chaos of color displayed for tourists. The cruise ship docked–and for about four hours, oversized ladies roamed the stalls for floppy hats and tent-like dresses in island colors. A toothless old man rolled his xylophones around and tapped out songs for a few pesos…though dollars were preferred.

The always open church
The always-open church
Bicycle at the beach
Bicycle at the beach
Flags
Flags
Tiles
Tiles

At night, lights wrapped trees sparkled, candles dripped and flickered, mariachi bands wandered the sidewalks strumming. We met a pale man in his 70s who had retired there. Bright blue eyes beneath striking white hair. He’d married a Mexican lady and bought a condo there. He shared stories of the past with us one morning over coffee. We listened and watched while the beautiful lady across the street scrubbed the sidewalk in front of her shop and hung out her wares. She looked Indian–hair braided down her back, flip-flops and a blue dress modestly covering her shoulders and falling just to her knees. We talked with the man about simplicity and hard work.

Cafes and volkswagons
Cafes and volkswagons
She was in the window
She was in the window
He was on the roof
He was on the roof

We visited the animal shelter there and made a donation. There were many strays–dogs and cats. Some hung out by the fish market waiting. Others lay in the shade on sidewalks. I thought of our own dog, staying at my parent’s house while we traveled. I wondered for about the millionth time about working with animals…can I handle the daily despair? Would my efforts ever feel like I’m doing enough?

We came home tanned, relaxed and thoughtful. Simple living on our minds. And we hugged our dog.

Sunset at Ixtapa Beach
Sunset at Ixtapa Beach
Feet in the Pacific Ocean
Feet in the Pacific Ocean
Bryan and Carol at dinner in Zihuatanejo
Bryan and Carol at dinner in Zihuatanejo
The Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean
Roof
Roof
Stones on the beach at Ixtapa
Stones on the beach at Ixtapa
Bryan in our room's hammock
Bryan in our room’s hammock
Bryan
Bryan
Sailboat
Sailboat
Mary
Mary
Peace in pink and purple - Ixtapa
Peace in pink and purple – Ixtapa
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