When you write every day, coming up with topics becomes the hard part of it all. So whenever I go on a trip, I try to wring a post out of it. In some cases, like the Peru trek, the thread is easy to find and get on paper, but today is my last day in Tulum, and I'm not sure what to write about exactly.
I've been here for nine days, and for the first seven days I was ambivalent about being here. That's not to say that I wasn't having an awesome time, only that I also really love just being in San Francisco and working, too. Even though everyone here sort of acts as if it isn't, Tulum is an extremely touristy place. I'm in paying in pesos, but my food costs more than it does in San Francisco. And, having traveled a fair amount, I've developed an allergy to touristy places. On top of all that, although I'm no stranger to being called a hippie, compared to the average resident here, I'm a suit. Phrases like "the Universe has brought you here", "There's no such thing as tomorrow. Only today." and "Do you want an astrology reading?" are commonplace.
All that said, I've come to agree that there's something magical about the place. I first had this thought last night. I was sitting on a loungy sort of couch with my friend Anderson, and one by one the friends I've made over the past week came to join us. At one point I look up and I realize that within my view are the smiles of a dozen or so people who I actually really like and care about on some level. It's a ragtag bunch, too-- a Bulgarian who looks like the Michaelangelo statue, maybe because he's always popping down to do a few reps on the Ab-Roller he carries around; a founding member of an infamous hacker group, who is most likely here avoiding the law (and he's not the only one); a waifish New York yoga teacher who fled a wedding and spends a lot of time on the couch wearing oversized headphones; an Australian girl who may just be the friendliest person I've ever met; and a bunch of others. In the background someone I'm told is "one of the best DJs in LA" is playing music and playing the bongos. Beyond the open living room we're all sitting in, are the sounds of crashing Caribbean waves.
We talk about nothing much. Over the past couple days we've dedicated hours to both deciding what animal everyone most resembles (koala bear seems to be the consensus for me), and to coming up with nautical police phrases ("License and crustacean, please"). The community here is mostly transient. Some, like me, stay for durations measured in days. For others it's weeks, months, or even years.
The people are what make Tulum interesting. Take them away and you have a beautiful but somewhat generic and overpriced tourist trap. Despite the various backgrounds, there are commonalities between the people here. Most of them strike me as being genuinely happy, but they're still searching for even more happiness. A bunch of them escaping something. Many left behind apartments, bank accounts, and significant others with whom they may never be reunited. Most aren't very concerned about that. Some can't go back, for a whole gamut of reasons.
Maybe the greatest commonality of all, though, is the inclusiveness. It doesn't take the sharpest powers of observation to see the different hierarchies, ranging from those who organize little day trips to the people who mean well but tend to grate on people and the awkward shy types. But everyone is always invited to everything, overtly and enthusiastically. It's second nature to, before going snorkeling or to lunch, walk around and invite everyone. And that's a nice thing, especially when you look around at the circle of people and realize that in normal life most probably wouldn't ever become friends. The New Yorker with the headphones said that in the city she walks around with big sunglasses and headphones on so that people won't approach her. I can imagine who she is in New York. But here she greets new people and tags along to snorkeling trips in the underwater caves.
Today is my last full day here. After breakfast I couldn't be bothered to go across the street and get my bathing suit, so I stripped off my clothes and jumped into the ocean. A girl let me borrow her paddleboard, which I tried semi-successfully to surf on. Just like the night before, one by one the others found their way to the beach and joined us body surfing the unusually high waves. It was the first time I felt a pang of hesitation about leaving. I don't think I'm the type who would end up in a place like this, but I evolved to become the type to appreciate it, at least.
Sorry for the bad cameraphone photo at the top-- I never took my camera out of my bag for some reason. Also sorry for posting a day late. Internet went down and I was too tired to go across the street where it worked.
Are you in San Francisco? Come have dinner on Monday night. Click here for more info.
I've got two weeks in SF, which I plan on using mostly to work on SETT nonstop, but I may also have the chance to finish a really crazy RV project.
A big shoutout to anyone I met in Tulum who reads this!
Well that was a nice little piece of impressionism. Nice, in that you said you were not sure what to write or how to do it. :)
Here's a return flow.
I am sitting here working out a new work flow on my drawing tablet. My aim is to produce fairly realistic illustrations for the book. I have managed to discover an intermediate step between layout and highly textured final renderings by building up a series of layers using flat sheets of gray tones. I am pleased. It's a fast technique.
My cat comes in through the window. I have trained her, evidently, to think she has the right to my attention whenever she wants. One time, after she walked on my keyboard for the seventieth time, I brusquely shoved her aside and said loud words. Her feelings were hurt. I had violated the deal. I resolved to not do that any more.
I pet her, and she licks my hand.
Then I see I have some new email. Ah! It's a fresh post from Tynan. I persuade Kiki to sit on a nearby stool so I can read. After observing the impressionist style, I remember some lessons from anthropological history; that is, small groups away from their usual strata of class will form inclusive units with each other for good or for ill. Sometimes, they band together racially, breaking class rules; other times they will unite linguistically.
This is not an exhaustive list.
But I saw a similar thing in Guadalajara. The uniting factor of the expatriates was that they were *not* Mexican. Plenty of Spanish speakers though, but they were from places like Cuba, Colombia, and Spain.
I liked the Spanish speakers the best. I first learned guitar playing from the Cubans. Soon, I was seeking out only the places in Mexico that had few tourists. The expatriate enclaves started to seem like traps.
Now, back to the drawing.
I think you have described pretty much any place which has a smallish community of expats. I'm living in a medium sized city in the Philippines and the expat community here is similar (though likely bigger.) The people here aren't the hippy type, but rather mostly people who have retired, are living on savings or work seasonally and live here during their off-time. There are plenty of people here who rub others the wrong way, but we are still friends and we still invite them to events. The people are also generally happy and seem to be trying to escape something. However, in this case, people are mostly just escaping the rat race and exiting to a more simple life.
I've spent most of my time in San Francisco since fleeing the oppressive summer heat of Texas. Since then, mostly thanks to awesome recommendations from other people, I've discovered some amazing places here. This is a selection of my favorites... all of which should be checked out by anyone who lives here. Know somewhere else amazing? Let me know!
Samovar Tea Lounge
If you like tea you should come to Samovar. If you love tea, you'll probably end up coming here every day like I do. Samovar does tea like tea is meant to be done: large servings of loose leaf tea, steeped for the exact right time in the exact right temperature water. The lounges are very pleasant comfortable places, and the employees are awesome people. There are three locations; I like the Page Street one the best.
Adult Night at the Exploratorium
[Sorry for the post delay and the switch to photographs for this one. I'm searchng for a better illustration method than the way I was previously drawing on my iPad, and anyway photos are more appropriate for this post anyhow.]
Both times I've been to Tonsai Beach I've gotten food poisoning.
This time I learned it has a name: Tonsai Belly. Food handling practices aren't up to Western standards, I guess. But then, neither are standards for garbage (most of it is burned in piles), water (bottled is the only fresh source), and lodging (most bathrooms are outdoors, hot water is a luxury.) The economy of Tonsai is so small that cash is a problem: the ATM dispenses thousand-baht notes, and most food and drink is tens of baht. There are maybe thirty stores total on the entire beach, so there's not much commerce.
In spite of its challenges and small overall size, Tonsai has two things in abundance: rock, and people who climb it.