Souvenir City – Costa Maya, Mexico

I got my self together into a sunhat and dress with my bikini underneath, just in case. I walked down the gangway and meandered down the long cement dock towards the shops. The same type of set up as Belize, there was an assortment of shops, restaurants, bars, and artists making up this village exclusively for cruise passengers.

I browsed the millions of trinkets and wares admiring the detailed handiwork. From chessboards to masks to jewelry to sarongs in every shade of tropical, there was no shortage of selection. However, something inside me told me that the goods I wanted for those back home, were not here. After about 15 minutes, I decided that I would take the trek out of “touristville” into the moderately less touristy town near the beach. I knew that the prices would be better and there was a chance to find something a little more authentic.

Not expecting to get off the ship today, I hadn`t done any research at all so was quite clueless of what was where. I stood in a long queue that was boarding some kind of zebraprinted shuttlebus into town. I assumed it was into town as that was the only real place for people to be taken to. Just as I neared the bus entrance, I realized that I couldn`t pay them the three dollar fee in cash. In fact, I needed a ticket that was to be purchased about 20 meters away. I looked behind me at the 70 or so waiting tourists and sighed in defeat.

Rather than wasting another 15 minutes waiting in line again, I considered my options. The cabs were only allowed to drop off passengers and not accept new ones inside the heavily regulated tourist town. It couldn`t be all that far and I am fully able needing a bit of exercise anyway so I began to walk. After about 10 minutes, I arrived to a taxi pickup “station” where I hopped into one of the many waiting cars. The fare was only 2 dollars and I had the whole thing to myself. I tried to practice my Espanol with my hefty unshaven driver. We got through the basics then I just sat quietly taking in the sights.

Very much what I have experienced in other Mexican locales, there was poorly constructed wooden shacks and signs written in Spanglish scrawl. The hot humid air really hit me as soon as I started walking down the sandy walkways towards the shops and stands. I did a quick sweep getting an idea of what goods were for sale before getting more serious with the shop owners.

As I perused, a young lady approached me offering me a massage on the beach. My eyes followed her outstretched arm which was pointing towards about ten professional massage tables under an open walled tent on the beach. What could be better? I asked myself becoming painfully aware of the monster knots that have been brewing in my upper back for the past two weeks.

I chuckled amused at how my relationship with my body has changed over the past few years. There was a time when I would not have afforded myself the luxury of such “frivolous” self care. Being to tough and stubborn to justify “wasting” money and time on healing my hurts. Now I find a more gentle, patient and kind Carmella heeding the message that my sore back was pleading.

I assured the young massage student that I would in fact be back later to take her up on her offer. She cocked her head to the side and asked with her thick accent but more so her dark chocolate brown eyes, “Promise?” Ofcourse, I smiled warmly then continued on to complete my souvenir mission. I knew I had limited time as I had wasted half the day on the ship so I would have to power shop if I wanted to keep my word.

I spotted one particular piece of fishbone carving that I saw was quite common among most of the shops then put my efficiency technique into play. I would wander (with a sense of detached purpose) in and out of the line of stores and tables inquiring how much the said piece was worth. Predictably the price would vary quite considerably and I would continue the hunt returning to the shop giving the best price. This is where I would buy all my wares, my bargaining power enhanced by the sheer number of items I was purchasing.

Sure there are other ways to get the best deal but with a limited time and not being particularly fond of shopping in the first place, this system works well. Off the main strip in a little sidestreet out of the way tented set up, I found my winner. I proceeded to pluck carving after carving off the shelves and place it on the table. Sweating from the intense heat, I asked for some water which the buxom Mexican lady quickly complied. We settled on a fair price and she wrapped up in newspaper what would soon be adorning my loved ones shelves.

Grateful for bargaining skills.

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