DAY 5 – Sunday, 2/16 (part 1)

(WARNING: The next two days of my trip are taken up, in large part, by a bizarre sequence of events that interupt the calm I'd established during my first days staying alone in Zihua. Lots of anxiety etc. Nothing vacation-shattering, but there is definitely unpleasantness. So skip this unless you want to take the bad with the good. You've been warned.)

Tonight there will be a full moon.…

Since Allen had missed his arrival flight last night, this morning I decide I'll walk into town to check e-mail to see if there's a note saying when he expects to arrive. Nada. Chad, Kim and I are in a bit of limbo, not wanting to stray too far in case he arrives fairly early, but also hating to waste Chad and Kim's first day here sitting around if he's not getting in till the evening. On the hope that he got as far as Mexico City, I ask the Manager, Carlos, to see how many AeroMexico flights there are from MC to Zihua. He comes back shortly, there are several, the first arriving around 10:30 a.m. Allen turns out to be on it and gets to our place around 11:30 with an airline "war story" for the books. He's got the right attitude though, and says simply, "You know, I slept in a hotel last night and feel as good now as I would if I'd gotten to Z last night after being up 20 hours straight."

Before we can get vacation back on track though, it's discovered that Chad has lost his ATM card. He used it on arrival at the Zihua airport to get pesos, and in that traveler's haze everyone's experienced, left it at the machine. Understandably anxious, he tries to call his bank from the phone at Ley but neither he, Carlos, nor I can figure out how to successfully dial the toll-free number. This only adds to Chad's aggravation and anxiety. (Over the course of the next few days, we'll conclude that Carlos, while sweet, is not only very young, but very new to his job. To call him "green" would be like saying the weather in Hell trends toward "warmish". ) So we all go next door to Hotel Brisas del Mar, buy a phone card from the front desk and use their public phone. Mid-conversation with his bank, the phone card runs out of time and disconnects Chad. "I feel like I'm in an American Express commercial," Kim says. Chad did find out that so far there don't seem to have been any fraudulent transactions. At least, he thinks that's what his bank was about to tell him just as he got cut off.

Chad on the phone with his bank.
It was a short call.

Since Chad and Kim have never been to Mexico before and don't know Spanish or where anything is, it's decided the three of us will go into town together with me serving as "helper/interpreter/locater of ATM's" etc. Allen will hang at the Bungalow. The plan is to hit the ATM's as hard as possible with Kim's ATM card which is linked to the same account, drain as many pesos as we can, then buy a phone card, call the US and cancel both of their ATM cards. On the way, Chad is walking at what I'd call a "competitive" pace. He's a very purposeful, get-things-done kind of guy. I respect that about him. But I've been in Mexico a few days and have more of a Zihuatanejo stride. I ask Kim if there's any way to slow him down (it's noon, it's hot!). She says, "No. He's on a mission." I begin to turn a little cranky. (It's noon, it's hot! Besides, as of 30 minutes ago, there hadn't been any fraudulent transactions…)

First stop, ATMs. I'm guessing it's best to make one withdrawal at this machine, then walk across the street to do another, rinse and repeat, etc. Not necessary. Chad pulls out thousands upon thousands of pesos with 3 transactions all at the same ATM. So much for "bank limits". Anyway, I assure him he doesn't need to worry about running out of money, that I have plenty in my account and have access etc., so lets cancel the cards and get back to vacation?

We cross the street to Farmapronto and pick up a phone card with the most minutes possible so as not to get cut off again mid-conversation. Chad wants to call from the phone outside the store, but I put my foot down here. It's a hot, loud, busy street with no shade or breeze. Knowing the phone call will last a bit, I ask, "Can't we walk a couple blocks to a phone in a cooler, quieter spot? Three minutes won't make a difference, will it?" Anyway, we do exactly that and it gets taken care of. Finally. Missed flight incident over. Lost ATM card challenge hurdled. Vacation awaits!

The four of us taxi to Playa La Ropa and set up at La Perla around 2:00. Things have finally settled down, and everyone's relaxed. Yes! La Ropa is very busy and I'm amazed that there are fairly sizable waves. Last time I was at La Ropa, it was like a lake. (I would late connect the dots—full moon, big surf.)

Chad and Allen and I walk from one end of La Ropa to the other while Kim hangs back with a book. The beach is quite crowded compared to Madera. Suddenly, we see a woman running up and down the beach, screaming and crying, in search of a lost child. I immediately get sick to my stomach at the obvious possibility: it would be easy for a small child to drown in this surf. After a few gut-wrenching minutes that felt like forever, we see the mother fall to her knees about a hundred yards down the beach. She's found her child and everything appears to be okay. Big relief. It doesn't take us long to turn judgmental though. Chad says, "That woman deserves to be kicked in the head for not being more watchful with her kid." As we get closer however, we see that the woman's daughter is around ten, and we all agree it's the girl who deserves the headkick.

After an enjoyable few hours on La Ropa, it dawns on me that today is Sunday and since this is our only Sunday here, the evening needs to be spent at the Zocalo. I'm kind of hesitant to bring it up, afraid that since this is everyone else's first moment of true relaxation, they might be reluctant to move body. But everybody understands when I explain that "Sunday night is it" in el Centro, and that there will be plenty of beach days ahead, so we pack up and return to Ley for showers before going into town.

Parasailing on La Ropa

On getting back, I notice that the A/C, which I had turned on earlier so we could arrive from the beach to a cool room, is no longer on. That's curious….I wonder to myself if it's on a timer? Knob looks like it should be on….I flick the additional switch it's connected to and the A/C starts up. (Electricity is such a topic….)

I'm in the shower and hear a funny pop sound. Finish shower. While I'm drying off, I hear a not-so-funny-this-time pop and notice something flare out of the corner of my eye (the A/C unit is located near the bathroom and closet). Still drying off, I step out of the bathroom to investigate. I smell something burning. I see smoke. Naked, I grab towel and dash to the patio asking Kim and Allen to fetch Carlos pronto! They rise slowly from hammocks, questioning why. I shout more urgently this time, electrical problem, possibly a fire, get him! Quick! As they go to get Carlos, I dart to the bathroom to throw on shorts for fear that not only Carlos but Louisa and Elizabeth, the housekeepers, will be storming the room any second. No one needs to see me naked if it can be at all helped.

I exit the bathroom with shorts on, and see flames coming out of the faceplate that houses the A/C switch. I also see Carlos and Allen, staring in wonder at the flames that are emanating from the switch, and that are within inches of some long and no doubt highly-flammable curtains. I look at Carlos for a split-second and look back at the flames. No one moves. I call out, "Inferno! Fire!" Thinking it might be a good idea to keep a very small fire from becoming a very big problem, I grab the conveniently wet, post-shower towel at my feet and put it out. It takes a couple attempts.

(In fairness, I realize that neither Carlos nor Allen had any of the background information that I had relating to why there were flames coming out of the faceplate, so their "deer in headlights" expressions were somewhat understandable and all this happened in a matter of seconds.)

There is now a lot of putrid, if not toxic, burnt plastic smoke and all our clean clothes are right here so we quickly fling them to the other side of the room and then dash out to the patio for air.

Now that the fire is out, so is the electricity. Very shortly, Chad and Kim emerge from their room complaining that the power is out. I tell them that we just had a small fire in our room so they don't get to bitch about that. Bizarrely, our unit still has some, but not all, electricity. Must be on a couple different circuits. Kim moves perishables from their out-of-commission fridge to our's that, for whatever reason, is still working. A parade of occupants from other units begins marching up the stairs to let Carlos know they don't have electricity either. It's going to be a long night. At least for Carlos. And it's Sunday….

To Be Continued…