This is Me Before I Come Undone

{August 23, 2010}   Cancun: Almost In Iowa

Well hello hello everyone… I know it’s been a while!  To be honest, I loved my last post so much that I was actually a little intimidated to try to write another just as good…ha.  At this point, however, I’m trying to get over that and move forward in *some* direction (better than not moving, right?!)

In any case, on Tuesday night, Tegan and Sara played a special two-set show in Des Moines, Iowa.  In a strange twist of fate (namely, that my family had actually moved our annual stress-inducing, hair-pulling family vacation from May to August because I was going to Australia in May, thus trapping me into the vacation in August), I was instead in Cancun, Mexico.  (Not a terrible place to be, but you haven’t met my family!)  So many people have asked whether I was going to the Iowa show that I decided I should account for my whereabouts on this day.  So instead of seeing Tegan and Sara in the Land of Corn on Tuesday, here’s where I was.  😉

My family arrived in hot, humid, hectic Cancun, Mexico (state of Quintana Roo, hahaha…) on Saturday, August 14th.  After two days of hanging around the pool at our hotel, my super hyperactive best friend from high school, Erin (yes, the one from my Portland post), who for some insane reason is still willing to weather my family for weeks at a time, bless her heart, wanted to get out of the resort and DO something.  Thus, the plan of the day was to trek to the nearby Isla Mujeres.  Unlike more intelligent Americans, I decided to study French for most of my life instead of Spanish, so I didn’t right away know that this literally means “Island of Women.”  This makes the island sound much more exotic than it actually was, but it was still very beautiful!  After a cramped ferry ride over to the island with small flickering TV screens showing frenetic Mexican versions of QVC and morning talk shows, we rented a golf cart to get around the island.

Amusingly, our golf cart was kind of gimpy, and we embarrassingly got passed by most other golf carts as we got lost searching for an inexpensive (yes, you had to pay for them) beach where we could go snorkeling and were not terribly likely to get eaten by sharks.  (Snorkeling by boat docks is apparently not preferable… it seems fishermen stop there to clean their catch of the day, leading predators to learn that this is a good place to find a meal.  Lesson of the day.)

A glimpse of our golf cart adventure here:

Finally, we found a suitable beach.

Once we set down our stuff, Erin began to drag me out for the reason we had come to the island: snorkeling.  Let me begin by saying that I am fucking terrified of snorkeling.  Erin has done multiple deep sea scuba dives with various encounters with sharks and STILL keeps diving, but I can’t put on flippers and a face mask and float on top of the water without freaking out.  I can’t really explain it.  Snorkeling is about the tamest beach activity there is apart from just sitting on it.  And it’s not that I can’t swim, I was on a swim team for 11 years.  But something about so clearly seeing all of the things around me — that, worst of all, might TOUCH me — is panic inducing.  Like seriously… I panicked snorkeling through the teeny little fake coral reef pool they had at Wet “N’ Wild in Orlando when I was younger.  Like hyperventilating, get-me-out-of-the-pool-this-instant kind of panic.  It’s pretty sad.

So it was in this pathetic state that, in trying to be a good friend to Erin, I found myself nervously tripping over my flippers into the water.  Erin swam in to guide me until the water was deep enough for me to swim, and the panic subsided a little bit.  Who knew there were so many fish in water so shallow?  You look out into the blue ocean and know that out there there are all kinds of things swimming around, but you think they are wayyyy out there, and not so close.  At least I do.  But here they were suddenly appearing right in front of my face mask, giving me the unpleasant realization that they had probably been swimming right next to my legs as I had stumbled into the water.  Ew.

I’m not afraid of fish, honestly… as I explained before, it’s just that I don’t want them – or anything else in the water – to touch me.  As I surfaced and took off my face mask to defog the lenses, however, I noticed that a small school of fish was assembling around me.  I started to back away, treading water, growing slightly more panicked as they followed me!  Erin began laughing at my mild hysteria as the fish swam back towards me every time I tried to splash them away.  “What the hell??  Why are they following me?!?”  Big bulging eyes and gaping mouths were coming at me from all directions!  I was surrounded.  “They’re probably used to people feeding them around here!” Erin laughed as she poked out her finger, trying to touch the fish closest to her.  “It’s actually really good they’re not afraid of us!” she said.  “What?  Why???” I squeaked, still backing away, splashing and frantically trying to fend off the pursuers.  “Because that means there isn’t anything as big as us around here for them to be afraid of!”  “Oh great, very comforting!” I squealed as I kicked more frantically.  “Jaim, look out!” Erin yelled.  My left hip slammed into something hard and sharp and I screamed, jumping about a mile in the opposite direction and inhaling about half the ocean.  “You ran into the coral, it’s okay!” Erin explained as she guided me away, still coughing and flailing.  “You’re gonna be fine!”

It took me a while to calm down enough to put my mask back on and snorkel after that, but I eventually did.  I followed Erin around so closely that I kept swimming into her as we looked at fish, sea grass, and broken, sunken wooden beams.  Every now and then seaweed would brush against me and I would jump and scream like a little girl again, and Erin would turn around and laugh.  I kept thinking I felt little stings on my arms and legs.  Seeing nothing, however, I convinced myself that my paranoia was getting ridiculous.  I warily kept one eye on the chunk of coral that had attacked me (the ONLY chunk of coral in the entire area we were in that was anywhere near the surface of the water, I might add).  Eventually my brother cautiously joined us as well… having suffered an asthma attack the last time he went snorkeling, he had panicked when we got to the beach when he realized he had forgotten his inhaler this time too.  (For as different as me and my brother are from each other, it’s pretty entertaining how afraid we are of a lot of the same things: ending relationships, dissecting things in biology class, snorkeling…)

The three of us swam around for a while longer, and I finally started to get used to the small fish constantly tailing me.  I followed Erin’s lead and tried to touch some of the fish around me, which quickly darted away.  (Funny how it’s a hell of a lot easier to touch them when you’re NOT trying.)  Eventually we swam towards shore and began to wade out of the water when we saw a girl standing knee-deep, feeding pellets of food to a writhing orange and silver mass swimming around her.  “Ha!  I knew it!” said Erin.  It’s bastards like that that caused this! I thought to myself, still noting the few persistent swimmers around my knees.  We watched as the girl tossed pellets a few feet away and a chunk of the mass of fish darted after them each time.  Still swimming in, my brother watched at the fish underwater as the girl playfully threw a few pellets his way.  We heard him squeal and laugh through his snorkel as the fish bumped into his face mask in their scramble to get the food pellets.  It looked so hilarious that even I tried it, startling and jumping out of the water as all the teeny mouths snapped frantically an inch from my face.  Seriously, even if they’re not going to eat me, seeing that is still a little unnerving!

Upon wading out of the water, however, I realized that my run-in with the coral had done more damage than I had thought.  A large scrape on my left hip was starting to bleed again.  “Wow, lucky there wasn’t anything bigger than us in there,” Erin said.  Great, I thought, I’d been swimming around as shark bait for forty-five minutes.  I went to find First Aid, but there didn’t seem to be any.  Finally someone working at the beach noticed me wandering around.  I gestured to my bleeding leg (not much English spoken in this area, I’d noticed), and he returned with a bottle of liquid that burned when he poured it on the scrape.  “What is that?” I asked.  “Vinegar,” he said, showing me the bottle.  I realized that he must have thought I’d been stung by a jellyfish since jellyfish stings can be helped by that, and worried about whether vinegar did anything bad to cuts and scrapes.  My mom reassured me my leg wouldn’t fall off and that we’d go to a drug store when we got back near our hotel.  “I scraped into coral once and it didn’t heal for months because the organisms in coral apparently liked living in my skin better,” said Erin helpfully.  “Oh, thanks,” I said sarcastically.  “You’re welcome!” she chirped with a smile.

After another fun-filled golf cart excursion and crowded ferry ride, we were back at the hotel.  Looking in the mirror, I realized that Erin had put sunscreen on my back while I was wearing my board shorts.  My swimsuit bottoms, it seemed, were cut a bit lower than my shorts.  As a result, I had a perfect two-inch stripe of bright pink sunburn across my lower back.  Erin had fared even worse.  I had put sunscreen on her back when it was hot and humid, and reapplied it to the small of her back when she had asked.  As a result, most of the original coat had sweated off to leave her back almost completely red, save for the triangular small of her back.  Hilarious!  Okay, so it kind of was.  And we took pictures.  Sunscreen FAIL!  (Did I mention Erin is a bridesmaid in a wedding this weekend?  Even better!)

Showing off our sunburns and my scraped up leg to my dad and sister, Erin rubbed her arm, and, examining it more closely, said, “I think I got stung by a jellyfish.”  I suddenly remembered.  All the little stings!  “I thought those were all in my head!” I said.  “Nope,” she said.  Looking where I remembered feeling stings, I saw little bumps clustered in each spot.  Brilliant!  We looked at each other.  “FAIL!”

While I did not survive the day unscathed, I believe this was a relatively successful snorkeling attempt since I didn’t get eaten by a shark and was only touched by several fish and one very violent coral.  At the very least, it convinced me that I should perhaps consider another time if I ever want to try scuba diving.  I really don’t think my nerves could handle it just now!  But it was hard to deny that our misfortunes weren’t collectively pretty entertaining.  Not sure whether they rival my worst T&S-related injuries (a black eye and several fingers numb for a month, all in one trip!) and though I’m sure Iowa is awesome, this experience instead was pretty worth it.  😉

Coral Bite:

Awesome Sunburn:

Erin’s Burn

Jellyfish Stings 😦


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