Thoughts on a Mexican Vacation

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Cancun Airport can best be described as a place of organized chaos. Tired passengers queue in long lines the ultimate goal of which is to pass through the security checkpoints and on to the various transportation methods that would take them to resorts, time shares, or hotels.

I overhear a fellow objecting to the “no cell phone” signs. He is stunned when I tell him that like the Minneapolis airport, Security would confiscate his phone if he uses it before he clears the area.

Once past Mexican Customs, one runs a gauntlet of time share sales people, but either the Mexican government or its airport commission must have reined them in. In previous years it was perilous to make eye contact with these persuasive, insistent men.

At last we found what we were looking for–the driver that Dive Aventuras had arranged to take us to the Omni Hotel, an hour’s ride from the airport.

And once more as I find my paranoid self checking yet again for my passport and my entry papers while people around me speak “muy rapido” in a foreign language, I think of my grandparents.

My maternal grandmother emigrated from Poland in 1913. She left a small farming village near Krakow by horse-drawn cart to the port in Germany by train and then via a Hapaq-Lloyd steamship on which she traveled in overly crowded steerage to Ellis Island. From there she boarded a train to Chicago where she worked for a year as a dishwasher and a sous chef before she traveled to Minneapolis.

Rosalia was 19 when she traveled alone from Poland to the United States. I wasn’t much younger than than  when my mother–Rosalia’s daughter–finally allowed to take a bus from our house to downtown Minneapolis with a girlfriend, and I knew the language, the customs, and the bus driver.

I read news report today of immigrants from war torn countries and I can’t imagine how hard it is for those people. Children whose vacant eyes how the horror of what they’ve seen, adults whose families were torn apart, attempts by organizations like Doctors Without Borders to mend what they can…how can this continue?!?

And then, as I sit in the shade near the pool of our hotel mesmerized by foaming waves rolling in, I hear this on the news: a Sikh–a naturalized citizen–was shot in the arm while he was in his driveway by an attacker who screamed, “Go back where you belong!”

And I wonder where I would be today–indeed, if I would even exist–if someone had sent my grandmother back to where she’d been born.


We’re on Day 2 of our week in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, and what I’m discovering is how content I am to do nothing.

We’ve been fortunate to be able to travel a lot in the past 20 years–to Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe, the UK, and a few other places. This is our sixth time to Puerto and our seventh to Mexico. I’m surprised at how my 71 year old self has changed.

I no longer feel an unquenchable desire to go here, see that, experience that other thing. No, this time I merely want to sit in the sun (OK…make that the shade), watch people, and read.17202996_10209730621795541_1438503532923122470_n

My travel life has slowed down exponentially and while I could attribute that to stability issues, it isn’t only a fear of falling on Puerto’s shell- and coral-embedded concrete pathways. Rater I think it’s because I’m losing people I’ve cared about: high school classmates, friends, relatives. If there has been anything to gain from those gut-seizing losses, it’s that those deaths have given me a surprising gift–an ability to slow down the pace of my “must accomplish something” days and replace that compulsion with a sense of appreciation for what I have now.

And what I have is a remarkable life, and that is more than enough.


I can’t stop thinking of the woman we met at the gelato shop yeIMG_0830sterday. After the usual greetings the subject turned to country of origin and then to President Trump. “I’ve not listened to any news or read any newspapers for three weeks,” she told us, which we took to mean that she was wondering what was happening.

My husband and I filled her in on the highlights, trying hard to stay neutral.

“Well,” she said, “he’s my president. I support him in everything he decides to do.”

After a few seconds of stunned silence, our gelato arrived and we could safely change the subject. But an analogy comes to mind: If Mr. Trump issued an order that approved of a 100 MPH minimum speed on our nation’s roads, would our gelato shop companion continue to support him even though people were dying  in multiple car crashes? Sadly, I got the feeling that she would. After all, her final comment was, “My president, right or wrong.”




Author: Judy Westergard

Retired English teacher, self-taught painter, inveterate reader and still lovin' my Kindle!

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