A Honeymoon with a Mental Health Diagnosis

We arrived on Saturday to Playas Las Tortugas. Tom moved right into his comfort zone. I didn’t. While he read and wrote, I sat and stared. I couldn’t settle within myself. I didn’t recognize myself or much else in this unfamiliar place. I knew we were clearly not in Kansas anymore.


On Monday Tom read to me, from the AAA Mexico tour book, a description of what can happen to travelers visiting new cultures. It is called Cultural Immersion and Displacement. This was a new construct for me. As he read I realized I was experiencing both.


Tom and I are 2 of 5 guests on the property. The other 3 are women from Seattle, English speaking, but not so friendly. Paquel and Gabriel manage the grounds, they speak English well enough to be understood. Other than that…nada. No English. Not the army of Mexican men tending the lush grounds. Not Aurora, Isabel and Chilia who cook and clean for us.


I find cultural immersion is exciting in it’s newness. I am using my high school Spanish as best I can, Aurora said I speak Spanish well. (At least I think that is what she said.) I am also reclaiming my youthful talent of pantomime quite effectively. I am eating foods I don’t know the names of, their origin nor do I recognize the flavor. I did recognize the raw shrimp tostada at lunch yesterday in Plantanitos, a little fishing village we swam to on the other side of the estuary. (The only time I have swum for a meal is to a swim up pool bar for a Pina Colada.) I said a prayer and ate it. It was okay. Raw shrimp doesn’t have much taste and the texture is disconcerting. I won’t order it again.



I am also experiencing cultural immersion to be a challenge. At times I feel disoriented, uneasy, unsure, displaced. I have fallen in love with this place, been frightened by it, felt ambivalent, and often grateful.


At night it is very dark. VERY DARK. I am used to dark nights, I lived in a rural setting for 26 years. I love the darkness. This is not that kind of darkness. This is double dog dare scare you DARK. I am unnerved by it. Add to this the violent thunder storms that roll in off the mountains each night, that last for hours and hours turning the power on and off, and I am just plain scared. The CD player, that won’t open to put in CD’s, opens and closes each time the lights flicker. It is possessed. I begin to worry myself with “what ifs…”

Tom on the patio at night


Tom has taken on the traditional male role of keeping his woman safe. Perhaps it is machismo. He checks out strange noises that wake me, closes window when the rain starts, turns fans on and off and makes sure doors are locked. Pasquel suggested we lock our front door. He explained if the raccoons smell good food (I guess they are don’t like bad food) one raccoon will climb on his buddies back and open the door. Then the armadillo will follow. I am not really worried about the raccoons or the armadillo. I am concerned that a night watchmen, who I am sure does not speak English-but certainly would understand HELP yelled very loudly by an American woman, walks the grounds every half hour using his far reaching flashlight to secure the property. I don’t think he is looking for nocturnal animals that work in tandem for Aurora’s flan. In the middle of the dark, dark night, with the “sky falling” above us, the electricity blinking, I replay the well meaning, but now unhelpful, warnings of the dangers in Mexico.  I envision the drug cartel is on property and no heavy duty flash light is going to scare them away. They are after our Tylenol.


Tom suggests we use our ear plugs. I always travel with ear plugs. Finally we sleep.


In the morning we wake once again to paradise. Beautiful, meticulously manicured gardens with every color of flower. Palm trees gently swaying in the ocean breeze. The deep blue waves crashing, bright white in the sun. Breakfast being cooked in the kitchen by wonderful women. And all we have to do today is eat, go to the beach, read, write, take a siesta, wake up to have a homemade margarita or two, eat again and take an evening stroll on the beach.


One word of caution though. According to Paquel, on our way to the beach, we are to be careful of falling coconuts. He says you can’t hear them fall until they hit you on the head. I walk looking up.


He also assures us that there is scorpion sting medicine in the frig at the office.


I feel much better?

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