I arrive at night after a long bus ride south from Puerto Vallarta. It’s dark, with glaring lights around the dingy bus station in the center of town. I take a taxi to the hotel, hoping that there really will be a room. Although I’d made reservations over the phone, it had been a casual transaction. “No money needed in advance.”
But I’m in luck. Although the place is jammed with Mexican families for the New Year weekend, I get an upstairs room close to the beach, where I can hear the waves breaking. It’s a stark room, to my taste, with grey tile floors, a bed, a few shelves, and a wooden bar for hanging clothes. A tiny bathroom. The windows have no glass, only screens, and consist of concrete latticework through which fresh air flows.
In the morning I eat breakfast at Ayala’s, about a fifteen minute walk from the hotel along rough cobblestone streets. It’s open to the street, as most stores and restaurants are here. The waiter says he remembers me, although I was last here three years ago! A wonderful breakfast of huevos rancheros, tortillas, frijoles, salsa, and café con canella. Then I buy a few staples: granola, yoghurt, a papaya, and a beautiful glazed earthenware plate and bowl. In my luggage I’d packed an electric coil for heating water.
When I return, the hotel is awake. I recognize two or three people from my previous visit. Although I hadn’t stayed here long, I felt at home with them. After the busloads of Mexicans leave, this group of aging hippies—now securely middle-class—from British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon take over for the winter. It’s cheap by the month, and they leave their belongings—refrigerators, kitchenware, even tv sets—in a big storage room.
The physical structure of the hotel helps create community. It consists of two stories around a courtyard filled with plants. There are about thirty rooms, all facing the courtyard. Wooden tables and chairs are outside each door, so it is easy to strike up a conversation with other guests, to read, eat in the open air. At the same time, it’s possible to be private.
Days slide into each other. Time slows down, as there are few things to do.
With the slowing of time comes clarity.
It’s somewhat like being on a meditation retreat. In the spaciousness of this time, thoughts and perceptions arise. I write in a notebook outside at my table, in restaurants, everywhere. And I reread Dostoiesvky for the first time in years. The words are pungent, purifying. The weaknesses and sufferings of his characters give validation of what it is to be human.
The air is soft—unlike the harsh air of Northern California. In this soft warmth, I relax. I observe people more closely, my senses no longer overwhelmed.
I walk along the beach or into town for simple errands, swim, eat at open air restaurants, and talk with Mexicans, Americans, Canadians. The sound of waves breaking on the beach is a constant, lulling sound. At night the stars shine, as well lights from a nearby town. And there is the sound of music—romantic Mexican melodies as well as rock music.
Small incidents loom large, as they do during meditation retreats. They’re individual pebbles that I now have the leisure to examine In “real” life, these pebbles are too often trampled underfoot in the rush of things.
Causes Maria Espinosa Supports
Amnesty International, KPFA, anything to ameliorate homelessness and to make shelters more livable