Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Black Clouds, Rainy Days and Thunder

That's what you get when you dive the Caribbean during the rainy season.  Cozumel it seems, is not exempt.  There was a storm that lasted all of last night and well into the day today and still shows little inclination to stop now that it is 10 AM.  There was so much water that I took a seasickness tab just to retrieve our wetsuits from the balcony this morning.  My wife's sandals were actually floating.  We're not diving for the second day and have just one more day in which to dive.  I love to dive, but not so much that I'll dive in poor visibility with the chance of being struck by lightning.  No thanks.

Flooded streets and rooms.

Waiting for our ship to come in.

We dove Champion's and Tormento's Reefs yesterday.  Champion's was a perfect dive with little current and rich light.  The reef here is nearly pristine and teaming with fish, coral and sponge.  We saw three huge Tiger Grouper, a Nurse Shark that was actually moving (usually they stay on the bottom to feed and rest) a large female Southern Stingray and a Lion Fish, which sacrificed its life because it is a rapidly reproducing predator which threatens the ecology of all Caribbean reefs.  And a Rock Fish that remained as still as if it were asleep when surrounded by divers.

Friends, Kathy and Mark Cowen geared up and ready to dive.

We rode gentle currents among towering coral heads, exploring their nooks and crannies and wriggling through tiny passages into still more kingdoms.

Tormento's Reef was just that, torment.  The current was ridiculous. The dive was made worse when my mask filled with sea water through the hole in its plastic frame discovered when the dive was over.   As soon as I entered the water I wanted the dive to be over and it turned out that my wife, Carol, felt the same.  But there was a fascinating sand dune with fine white sand and pressure ridges that showed the passing of water and its slowing.

Nearly everyone in Cozumel commutes by scooter or small bore motorcycle.  Tired and ragged, some more than thirty years old, these little engines chug on and on while the paint fades, the chrome rusts and ripped and torn seats show their yellow-brown foam stuffing.  Scooters are so important to the economy that they are even sold in grocery stores.

One of many.

Another one and a few more.

Cars seem to be decades old, rusted and dented warriors of tough island life, survivors of the indifferent care of many owners, but without the character of Cuba's 1950's era cars.

The municipal police patrol with their lights flashing at all times.  I'm not sure how you know when you are being pulled over, but these guys, the police, are tough guys and I am sure can make their point in a number of ways.  You have only to see a truckload of police in battle array with training inspired hard, steely looks to understand that they tolerate very little.  Heavily armed troops in the streets is so foreign to the U.S. that they capture you gaze and hold your attention and linger in your thoughts until long after they pass by.

A new recruit class passed us yesterday afternoon, running and chanting as the military will, with young faces that will soon turn to stone.  One large busted young woman pressed her hands against her breasts as she passed, her face a mask like all the rest.

Each shop you pass has it's own pimp hawking the shop's virtues, button-holing you with absurd enticements like free tequila.  At first you are polite, "No, thank you," and after a good while you dismiss them with a wave of a hand.  There are Cuban cigars, T-Shirts with the likeness of Che,  panama hats and cheap trinkets that are the difference between walking and riding, eating and hunger.

Even the postal service building, Correos de Mexico, speaks of use and decay.  The windows have not been washed in years and are smudged with oily fingerprints, fly specks and the accumulations of neglect.  The architecture is dated by its curious flying buttress style and what paint remains has faded to unintended colors, red to rose and blue to a chalky hue.  The interior is bleak in an uncompromising utilitarian way. 

One clerk, a woman, helps a customer fill a bag with what appears to be second hand baby clothes and a second, sweet with kind dark eyes and flawless toffee skin, helps Carol select stamps for her
collection.  The young clerk rings up Carol's purchase and thanks her with a smile.

 Until the shops close and the weary walk or ride into the evening, Quitana Roo, Cozumel, is a place of smiles and laughter.

Quintana Roo

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