…or at least that’s how it seemed to me.
My time with Tucan is now over and I am a free agent! Actually, I am currently an extremely unproductive member of society – but really it’s all a matter of perspective 😉
Where to start? Well, after Cuba I flew into Mexico City where I was to run 3 weeks of a 7-week-long trip (the normal circuit) and had barely a few hours to get everything sorted, copied and organized before my pre-departure meeting. Eager faces awaited and we had a quick briefing before heading to a local taco place – yumm! The tour continued as usual, each day something new, as I tried to catch up on sleep and paperwork that I had neglected while enjoying my time on the island paradise that is Cuba.
Once we got to San Cristobal, my time got more difficult as I knew that this is where my goodbyes would begin. I spent some quality time with Alessandro, my favorite Italian, and meandered through the markets enjoying the 2 peso tacos and cheap horchata. I also decided this was the moment I’d been waiting for: tattoo time! After spending a lot of time with Maza, my tattoo artist, he came up with a brilliant design based on a painted pot from the late-Classic period of the Mayan moon goddess, Ix-Chel. Wow! My second day in town I spent 3 hours in the chair getting a bigger-than-I-originally-anticipated tattoo of Ix-Chel holding a rabbit while sitting on the moon, with 2 symbols on the side representing my birthday/month in the Mayan long count calendar.
Just over three hours (including our lunch break) and the tat was done and I am SO in love with it! It turned out brilliantly!
So much so that Ghazal, one of the girls in my group, decided to get one by Maza the next day! From here we continued on to my last visit of Palenque and a day drinking beer and eating freshly bbq’d steak by the river and on to Merida, where I had the most difficult time saying goodbye to Nestor. Nestor was my first friend in Merida, with whom I spent a great deal of time dancing, drinking coffee and hanging out. He threw me a surprise birthday party last year (I think he was still feeling guilty after burning my leg with the muffler of his motorcycle!) and, with time, became one of my very best friends I could ask for. I hate adioses.
Through Chichen Itza (I never have to go back!) and to Cancun, where the fun story really starts!
The day of the meeting in Cancun (the 28th of April) I was hanging out in my room being lazy when there was a knock on the door. I threw clothes on, opened the door, and lo-and-behold… Matt, Australian, 35 was standing there looking cool with his sunglasses on. He had a few tour questions so we spent a few minutes chatting and I helped him with what he needed to know. The connection was instantaneous and, to keep talking with him longer, I invited him to breakfast. We had a good time getting to know each other, and he spent the day with me while I got my work done, making it much more pleasant and enjoyable (and made me move a lot faster so I could get some actual hanging out time in!) and we had a few beers before the meeting and dinner.
At dinner we were clearly flirty with each other and once everyone else left, he kissed me. We have been pretty inseparable since then! He spent a week with me in Portland and met my dad and my friends, and we had a great time together exploring the city! At the end of August I am flying to Brisbane to visit for two months, which I am super excited about!!
However, we thought our romance was to be cut short by my leaving the tour, but Tucan apparently had other plans up their sleeve. Just a day before I was to celebrate my final dinner, I received an email asking me to stay on as an observer for the new TL that had been trained; they wanted her to feel comfortable leading a group of 17 pax. I said no at first, as Matt and I had planned a romantic visit together on Roatan without the hassle of me having to work. But Tucan was desperate and, after a few negotiations, I agreed to stay on. This was to be temporary – just two more weeks – and I was going to take off after our visit to Ometepe so I could get the hike in order in Guatemala. Not so, my friends, not so… After the “observation” period, the office decided that the new TL wasn’t exactly what they needed and they let her go. Since there were no other TLs available to take over the tour, I grudgingly agreed to stay on one extra extra week, making my last day move from May 7th to May 22nd to finally May 29th. Though they almost pleaded with me to finish the tour in Panama, I couldn’t do it (I had plans inGuatemala!), they found someone else to take over for the last week while I did my thing.
Matt and I did amazingly cool things during the tour together, including going 1,000ft deep in a submarine, snorkeling, visiting the ATM caves, clambering over ruins, kayaking and – well, we were going to go rafting and rappelling, but I was too hungover – a Christian metal concert, and just enjoying each others’ company while learning more and more about what makes us tick! When the tour (FINALLY) ended in San Jose, Costa Rica, Matt flew to LA for a few days and I was supposed to fly to Guatemala to meet up with Jen for a 5-day hike to the ruins of El Mirador. Two days before my flight, however, Pacaya Volcano (which people from my group had just climbed three weeks prior) erupted, covering the city with ash, killing a few people with falling debris, and effectively closing down the airport for a few days. So I changed my flight to go a few days later. Then there was Tropical Storm Agnes, killing 189 people throughout Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and throwing Guatemala into a “state of calamity”. The airport was closed longer and I had to skip the hike, meeting Matt in Portland a few days earlier than expected.
I’ve been back in the states for about a month now and am pretty well adjusted to things here, though I miss Central America more than I thought I would. I’m working a few random shifts at Gladstone Coffee making their pizza dough, but other than that I’m trying to decompress and get stuff in order for my imminent departure (again). Heading to California/Arizona at the end of July, the east coast in August and then off to Australia! Where does the time go?? I’m living in the house with my aunt and dad, and it’s good getting the chance to spend some quality time with him.
More to come about how it feels to be back and comments on my 10-year high school reunion – egad! But wanted to let people know where I am and what I’m doing and that, at the moment, I don’t have any more plans to head to Central or South America. The next continent to visit? AFRICA, May 2011, with my FTP Matty!!
Much love and many hugs,