We had previously arranged that when we hit Merida, B and I would split off and head for downtown while the family continued on their way to the possible host family homes. We had no desire to sit around and listen to this and, besides, it was none of our business. B and I were going to meet them later at a prearranged destination downtown. We arrived on the outskirts of Merida and found the sign to “el centro” and Juan put on his blinker to indicate we should turn there. I already knew this but was glad to see that he was paying attention. We made the turn only to discover a block later that the road was closed for repairs and no indication of a detour route to the center of town! Typical. Visions of being lost with Jaimie danced in my head, only this time I knew that being lost would be a worse situation. Neither B nor I speak good enough Spanish to save ourselves if we were to get hopelessly lost. I was also remembering trying to find my hotel in Matamoras just a few short months previously. Thankfully, I made a series of well calculated turns and ended right back on the street leading into downtown.
We had no map of the city and, even though I had never driven there before, I was not too concerned about finding my way around. Merida is very well thought out with the street plans. All the streets are numbered consecutively, with Calle 62 being the center of downtown. Thus, when we passed Calle 30, I knew we had a long way to go! We continued on our way and finally turned onto Calle 62, passing by the park where we were to meet the family later. Another turn past the other side of the park and we found a guarded, off street parking lot and pulled in. And the rate was only 150 pesos for the whole day! That’s about $14. Life in the big city. We parked the Jeep and walked the block back towards the park and stopped at one of our favorite restaurants for breakfast. This is a chain found throughout Mexico, Biscuits.
With breakfast over, and a little over two hours remaining before we were to meet the family, we decided to go shopping. We both wanted to visit the downtown market again. This is a huge pavilion taking up about 4-6 blocks. It is possible to find everything here. The packed and narrow aisles are lined with various goods and each has its’ own section. There are sections with nothing but shoes, nothing but spices, nothing but birds, puppies and kittens. Sections with hardware, areas with tourist souvenirs and fruits and vegetables are stacked high on tables. The one area I wanted to avoid was the fish and meat department. This area contains freshly slaughtered pieces of animals hanging from hooks and displayed on tables. It is a dirty, smelly section which I find totally disgusting. I did not need to see rows and rows of pig heads, crusted with dried blood. Or tables lined with cow tails. Unfortunately, we did make a wrong turn and ended up in this section. We passed through it as quickly as possible, which was not quickly enough for my taste. We had to dodge around all the people haggling over the price of chicken feet or some other delicacy that remains a mystery to me. I kept my head down as much as possible and tried to hold my breath and only take little bitty gulps of air. I understand the need for such a department, but I would never purchase a piece of meat there. I would be afraid that I would never be able to wash it well enough to get the tons of fly poop off.
We passed through various other sections with no incident and ended up where B wanted to go. The section with birds. He thinks he wants to put a cage of canaries or something in the back terrace area. I hate birds and they hate me. I don’t enjoy the sounds they make and do not find it restful. They are just living chimes if you ask me. Impossible to control the noise. But B likes them and, contrary to what B will tell you, it is NOT all about me! He did find some lovely birds and interesting cages but for some reason decided that now was not a good time to purchase them. I think it was because he knew we had all the construction to live through and that the birds would probably not survive all the cement dust. Whatever the reason, I was glad to leave them there! So we next headed to my favorite area....shoes!
After passing what seemed thousands of pairs of women’s shoes, we did find a few stalls selling men’s shoes. All I wanted was a pair of good thongs. My favorite pair that I brought down here with me had finally bitten the dust and I needed to replace them. It was not an easy task but I eventually found a pair that suited my needs and happily purchased them. My island wardrobe was once again complete!
We left the market behind and browsed a few department stores and shops. B bought some plastic 15" long pencils that flop all around and are impossible to write with. Sometimes I don’t know what goes through his head. He thought they were just hilarious and wanted to give them away as gifts. Especially to our architect who is always digging in her purse for a pencil. We each bought a bottle of water since it was now blazing hot and headed back to the cooling shade of the park, where we were to meet the family in half an hour. We were scheduled to hook up at 1:30 pm, American time!
We tried three different locations in the park before we found an area that had enough shade and breeze to suit our needs. Also an area that we could survey all areas of the park, watching for the family to return. This park takes up a whole city block and is the center of town. Traffic constantly moves around it. Including horse-drawn carriages full of tourists and double-decker sight seeing busses.
The appointed time came and went. The next hour came and went. Then the next. Still no family. We had passed the point of being annoyed and were getting worried. Had something happened to them? An accident? Had there been a misunderstanding of our meeting place? All kinds of scenarios were discussed but finally we saw them entering the park from the other side, strolling along, taking in all the sights. We frantically waved to them and they sauntered over to where we were. We asked if they were ok and they seemed surprised by the question. Why wouldn’t they be? After all, they were only two hours late, no reason to be concerned at all. What they said next I found incredibly rude, thoughtless and selfish. They had quickly closed the deal with a host family and decided to go to the zoo! They knew we would be in the park and that we would wait for them and not go anywhere! Yes, Juan and family, that was very true. And we had a lovely time sitting on those wrought iron benches, getting hotter by the minute and worrying about where you were. Never mind. We were all together now. We had planned to meet up because we were going to go to a special restaurant that Juan knew. It was a place where you only paid for your beer and the food was free. We had to see this!
Since it was now 3:30 pm and we had not eaten since early morning, we thought we would be heading right out. Wrong again. Maria and the kids wanted to do some shopping first. (Maybe it would have been more appropriate to come downtown after the meeting and shop, rather than go to the zoo? Call me stupid I guess) Juan said he could give us directions to the restaurant and we could go ahead and they would meet us there. We were not going to fall for that trick again! We decided to tag along on the shopping spree. Maria and the kids quickly disappeared into the crowds, leaving Juan, B, me and Uncle Roberto to try to find them. We never did. After three stores that Juan thought they might be in, we had had enough. We said we would meet them back in the park. Take your time. We have all day.