I had a really busy week. It had a lot to do with my conversation partner Vera, who is so eager to take me around Merida and show me everything. We went to a grocery store to learn names of all kinds of Mexican fruits and vegetables on Monday (I tried something called “tuna,” which is a cactus fruit); on Tuesday it wash “Casa de Las Artesanias”, an a shop that specializes in Mexican and Yucatecan handicrafts; Wednesday I met her at 8AM downtown to visit a traditional Mexican market “Mercado Lucas de Galvez” as well as the main post office (I had my first “zapote,” another interesting fruit); we toured “Casa Montejo” in the zocalo and looked at the murals at “Palacio de Gobierno” on Thursday, and finally on Friday we went to “Parque de Las Americas” to check out the visiting vendors from Oaxaca. To top it all off, Friday night I went to Linda’s to celebrate her birthday with mojitos.
After a long week and a fun night with great company, I arrived home from Linda’s just in time to hear and watch a trio of Trova singers down the street who came to serenade someone. My host family and my teachers at school told me about these Trova singers being hired to sing for girlfriends and wives for special occasions, but they also told me that it’s not so common anymore. When I first heard them singing I thought a neighbor was having a party and had the music turned up high; a bit strange, I thought, since it was well past midnight. But then I saw the three guys with their guitars in the street singing outside a house and it dawned on me that I was witnessing a serenata in progress. I was really happy to have seen and heard them- they were very good! I almost ran over to ask for a photo but I stopped myself from being a total tourist/embarrassment, and ducked inside my house. My happiness continued when I got home and found a note taped to my door. It was from Doña Gloria, saying there was going to be huevos motuleños tomorrow morning. Yipee! I was tired but I was definitely going to get up early for a chance to go to Motul.
I didn’t sleep very well- all the sugar and rum from the mojitos, plus the tapas and birthday cake at Linda’s didn’t help- but I was ready to go. Joined by Doña Gloria’s sister from Cancun and Don Jose Luis, by 8:30AM our happy party of four was on the road out of Merida to Motul, a small town east of the city. Doña Gloria and her sister hadn’t been to Motul in years but Don Jose Luis had a place in mind to take us to have breakfast. It came recommended, he said, and he’d gone there with his brother not long ago and liked their eggs. There wasn’t much traffic on the highway and about 20 minutes later, we were in Motul. There wasn’t a single street light in Motul, let alone a stop sign and instead of buses or taxis, the preferred mode of paid transportation was “triciclos,” a little pedi-cab/tuktuk. It was a small town, but on this Saturday morning it seemed like everyone was outside going about their business and the streets were buzzing with lots of energy.
We walked into the main (the only?) market in Motul and walked upstairs to a little but very clean stall. Just like the taco place I went to last weekend, they had a few red Coca-Cola tables and matching plastic chairs for customers. I could see families with children huddled around, all having eggs and horchatas. Internally, I let out another “yipeeee” but outwardly I tried downplay my excitement. Our waitress came over to tell us that you can get two or three eggs for your huevos motuleños- if there was anything else on the menu, I either didn’t hear it or I chose not to hear it. We all decided on two eggs. How would we like our eggs done? I LOVED that you could get your eggs cooked to order. We all said medium so to have the yoke a bit runny. What would we like to drink? Horchata, of course. Four identical orders were placed and just about four minutes later, this is what appeared.
Crispy tortilla topped with two sunny side eggs, another crispy tortilla that has black beans spread on the underside to face the eggs, all generously smothered in tomato based salsa with tons of onions, ham, and green peas, and a habanero pepper (!), surrounded by fried plantains. Should I say one more time? Yipeee! My love affair with all things eggs and Mexican and spicy continues… To mop up the extra salsa, we were given a basket of hot baguettes. I put it to good use and drank up my tall glass of horchata whenever my mouth was burning too much from the spicy habanero pepper. It was all good. Very, very good. But Don Jose Luis and Doña Gloria refused to let me pay the bill, saying that they invited me to join them. Even our waitress refused to take my money, agreeing with Doña Gloria. Argh! There better be a “next time.”
Since I had no schedule to keep today (I canceled my plans to go up to Progresso to just hangout in town this weekend), Don Jose Luis suggested that we take a walk around Motul. First, Doña Gloria did a bit of produce shopping downstairs at the market. She said everything was about 50% cheaper in Motul than in Merida, as in, for a stack of banana leaves she can expect to pay 20-25 pesos (~$2.00) in Merida but she got them for 10 pesos (~$0.80) in Motul.
We headed outside to the main plaza and toured the convent. For a small town, both the government building and the church were quite large and imposing. It seems like every town in the Yucatan has a sinkhole or two nearby and this little pueblo came complete with its own cenote as well. Doña Gloria and Don Jose Luis had been to this one in the past, so while Don Jose Luis drove over, Doña Gloria kindly offered to walk with me (she knows how much I enjoy walking). This cenote was managed by the township of Motul and along with the cave-like cenote, they had two pools and a large hall covered by a giant palapa. The cenote was closed and off limits for the day, but Don Jose Luis spotted someone weaving a hammock in the hall and asked if I’d like to take a closer look. Would I!
By the front entrance of the cenote there was a large sign about opportunities to learn to make various handicrafts and the guy weaving a hammock was actually an apprentice practicing. He didn’t mind my taking photos so I snapped away while he worked. His teacher was a younger woman who told us it takes about 2 weeks to hand-weave a hammock. When asked about the different materials used, the trainee said that cotton is easier and better to work with than nylon; Dona Gloria chimed in to say that the cotton ones are nicer to sleep in as well. To weave it, the hammock was held up on either end by wooden poles with the guy standing in front and moving along as he worked the colored threads. Don Jose Luis said that depending on the size of the hammock, the distance between the wooden poles would get widened. This hammock was infinitely more delicate and tightly woven than the ones I’ve seen in the past on patios and beaches. The guy told us that it’s not very difficult to do but it does take a lot of patience. I walked away with a whole new appreciation for these hand crafted nets. My bed here doesn’t have the most comfortable mattress in the world and often I wake up in the morning with sore joints. I wondered if I slept in a hammock like so many of the Yucatecans do, I would sleep easier and better… I briefly wished for my own hammock but just as quickly recalled that I don’t have a home anymore. heh.
On the way back, we stopped by Don Jose Luis’ brother’s house for a quick maintenance check. One of Don Jose Luis’s older brothers is a confirmed bachelor who often takes off traveling around the world. He and Don Jose Luis just went to Mexico City together a few weeks back and now he’s gone to Peru. When he’s out of town, a cleaning lady comes twice a week but Don Jose Luis goes to his house to take care of the pool and checks in on things.
I was surprised to see such a modern, minimalistic home; it was hard to tell from the outside but the house had a very Asian/zen feel. It was a deceptively large house, with all of the standalone living quarters/modules surrounding a huge inner courtyard. He even had a separate casita/module for his home gym, with an attached bathroom and a walk-in sauna lined with cedar and limestone walls. As she gave me a tour of the house, Doña Gloria laughed and said the sauna has only been used twice since he’s rarely here, and same was true for the beautiful kitchen as he doesn’t cook. I had a quick flash of a great party I could have at this house… all the inner walls were floor to ceiling sliding doors and they all opened onto the courtyard with the swimming pool in the middle. Then I shook the image out of my head, knowing I don’t need a house.
I did absolutely nothing for the rest of the day, except to nap and have a long and peaceful practice in the evening. At the end of my fifth week here in Merida, I’m feeling comfortable and at home, happy and grateful, and aware of how fortunate I am to live the life I want. And best of all, how lucky am I to have this awesome Mexican family!