Monday

a photo of the reef at a depth of about 35-40 feet The Breakfast Pitch
As we were waiting for a cab to take us to Sol Caribe, we bemoaned our poor judgment to the concierge. A gentleman from RCI (the company through which our timeshare reservation was made) named Carlos overheard our story and assured us he could make things right. No, we didn't have to go all the way to Sol Caribe (on the other side of San Miguel). Yes, he could get our money back for breakfast and yes, we could get our money back from the bus ride. OR we could get a one-day free rental of a VW bug. Well, we couldn't believe our luck. We happily followed Carlos to the RCI table to await our tour.

To assure ourselves that we wouldn't get roped in for the whole morning, we made sure to tell the RCI rep. that we had a SCUBA lesson at 10:00. We got a brief tour of the facilities and saw one of the king suites. It was all very nice but we were starving by this time and asked if we might now have breakfast.

In the restaurant, we got still more information about the various options available. Then the presentation was handed over to a gringo for closing. We were actually completely sold on the idea, but had no way of making the down payment. We don't think Mike believed us because he kept trying to cut us a deal. Christi was nearly in tears because she felt terrible that they couldn't afford such a great opportunity. We begged Mike to let us get back to him the next day. We needed to think about and try to figure out how we could make it work.

a grouper approached us like a large, friendly dog We realized on Tuesday after we had spent the day touring the island that we had completely forgotten our 9:00am appointment with Mike. Oops. Later we agreed that forgetting about it was the right thing. Christi was actually rather annoyed that the assumption was: if we could afford to come to Cozumel, we could afford to drop $1800 on a down payment for a timeshare. Our vacation was completely financed by Christi's father and the gifts of money we received at our wedding. We had no other money.

A revelation: The stereotype of the rich American tourist is just as inaccurate as the stereotype of the poverty-stricken Mexican.

Resort Course
We were a little late getting to Deep Blue, but it was not a problem (we had warned them that we might be late because of the breakfast). After filling out a few forms, we were taken to the beach and given a surf-side introduction to scuba by Luis Quintana. Luis was friendly, talkative, and very good at teaching. After learning about the basic mechanics, we put our gear on and waded out into the water. Dave had a few panic attacks at first - partly because he had nearly drowned as a child, and partly because he got a few mouthfuls of salt water - but eventually we went down about 30 feet, and it was marvelous!

Hola, gringo. Feed me. Scuba diving is not for everyone, but we instantly fell in love with it! Luis showed us the reef and pointed out a few things, including a spotted moray eel, and a lobster hiding in the coral. One of our first encounters with the local "wildlife" was the biggest hermit crab we'd ever seen. This guy was the size of a lobster. A BIG lobster. He was living in an abandoned conch shell. Luis picked him up for us to see. He wasn't too intimidated by us, but we don't think he liked being hassled.From that point on we were hooked, and it changed our plans for the week. We decided that we wanted to dive as much as possible while we were in Cozumel. Debbie had told earlier us that we could go out on a two-tank dive if Luis was there, and as long as we were up to it (something that would have become immediately apparent during the Resort Course had we not been).

Note: Salt water is a funny thing. After a couple of mouthfuls, it makes me burp and fart - and there is nothing more weird than belching through a regulator! I think the main problem that I had was that I didn't have my mask tight enough. If you are not used to breathing only through your mouth, you with probably get water through your nose. My best advice is to take it slowly and maybe try snorkeling before you dive so you can get used to only breathing through your mouth. In any case, once I had a little experience at it, the panic went away completely and never bothered me again.

Finally, I realize now that there had been quite a bit of subconscious trepidation, and if it hadn't been for Luis I may not have finished the initial dive. After coming back to the surface for the second or third time, I told him that I thought the real problem was in my head. He gave me a lot of encouragement, and his patience and reassurance was what did the trick. Thank you, Luis. You helped me conquer a fear I didn't even know I had! -Dave

There were so many beautiful fish down there. La Choza
After our dive, we went to a little restaurant across from Deep Blue called La Choza for some lunch. The food was great and the prices were good. A pair of mariachis serenaded us while we ate, and then we decided to go get some water and a few groceries. Deborah had recommended a store down the street called Maxi, and we decided to stop by a little shave ice cart we had seen the night before.

Power Outage: No Shave Ice
As we headed north along Avenida 10, we noticed everyone gawking at something. As we drew nearer, we heard a buzzing sound, followed by a loud 'pop' overhead. A transformer had blown and all of a sudden there was no power for a couple of blocks. Unfortunately, it took out the power to the shave ice cart as well.

Maxi
Maxi is a small grocery store behind the plaza on Avenida 10 near Calle 4 Norte. They still had some power to their coolers and registers, but we noticed that some of the store lights were out. In the heat of the day, the cool, shady interior was a welcome relief. Luckily, groceries and their selections are pretty much the same in Mexico, and we didn't need much - but we wandered the aisles anyway. Because we didn't have a vehicle and the taxis were several blocks away, we only picked up a few things: water, fruit, granola and cookies. Then we made our way back to Rafael Melgar and caught a cab back to the Paradisus.

The Joy of Siesta: Or the Art of Power Napping
We want to move to Mexico if for no other reason than siesta. As far as we're concerned, it just makes sense to sleep through the hottest part of the day. Even in places like New Jersey (one of the many places Christi has lived), the afternoon highs in the summer can reach near 100o° F; Besides, scientific studies have shown that humans have a natural metabolic slump in the mid-afternoon and are more alert and productive if they take a nap at this time. We have Corporate America to thank for our constant state of sleep deprivation.

Shopping and Dinner
Later that evening we went back into San Miguel for some shopping. Wandering around the town on foot is great because it gives you a chance to see all of the shops at your own pace. The only down side is that you are the target of every timeshare hawk and shopkeeper with a deal (which would include all of them, apparently...). If you are in a good mood, it's easy to smile and say 'No, gracias,' as you walk by. But try strolling down the street when you are tired and sunburned and see how hard it is to avoid telling the timeshare people to just fuck off. We developed a pretty good system over the week: Dave would ignore them, staring intently at something down the street/across the street/overhead while Christi would answer 'no' when they asked if she spoke Spanish. When they asked if she spoke English, she would repeat, 'no'. While they were trying to figure out what language she did speak, we used the advantage to continue past them to safety.

Dinner was in town at this lovely little sidewalk cafe on the south side of the Plaza del Sol called Plaza Leza. The tacos de bisteak were great, and the Kahlua covered chocolate ice cream was delicious (we wound up stopping there several times during the week). The service was very good, and the maitre d' was quite friendly. We highly recommend this place.

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