We did a house swap in Cozumel over Easter with someone I found on house swapping website. It was our first, and a learning experience. My sole purpose in going to Cozumel was to find a purple Volkswagen Beetle and photograph it. I completed my mission. (no... this is not a photo of where we stayed) I have from time to time been trying to get a swap for at least a year now, off and on, checking in checking back, sending inquiries.
First lesson: never assume anything. The place was in general, clean enough and almost O.K. after Bigness fixed the toilet, which is good in itself, because for at least 1/2 hour he wasn't bored. The place was a bit rusty and dusty. I can say for certain, that they got the better of the deal, but who's complaining, it was free accommodations in place that is usually expensive. The best feature was being 1-1/2 blocks from a giant Chedraui, the Mexican version of Walmart.
Second lesson: If I expect our house to be clean when we arrive back, I need to state that in a note to the swapper, what exactly it is that I expect them to do regarding cleaning up after themselves. Change the bed sheets, take your shoes off before entering the house, sweep and mop, clean the bathroom and kitchen, trash taken to the barrell and not left on the verandah, no taking livingroom or bedroom furniture out onto the verandah, no, no, no. Don't assume that they will leave your house in the same clean state that you have left theirs.
Would I do this again with her? Probably yes. I would be more specific in what I expected though. Life, its a learning experience.
A few days before the vacation, I had stepped wrong while carrying trays of brownies down the beach stairs and to the cafe. Don't worry, I saved the brownies. Its not quite clear yet still what the damage is, initially the right knee was swollen up like a watermelon, and I couldn't put any pressure on it at all. The doctor had to come and attend to me at home. We have a public clinic here on Caye Caulker, staffed by a Cuban doctor, who lives at the clinic. The Cuban Health system is superior to anything I've ever experienced. This doctor is trained from early in his career that he is RESPONSIBLE for the health of his community. HE IS RESPONSIBLE... to take care of us. It is ingrained. Its not about making money because they don't have money there, not like we have here. In Cuba they ahve 1 doctor for every 100 people. He thought it was probably tendons, and probably it is, although its making that weird crackling sound when I move it. If I was in aMerica, it would have been a costly trip to the emergency room for sure. Here, if its after dark, its not an emergency unless you've been shot, stabbed or broken your back. If you break your leg after dark, they put you on a boat (and you pay for it) and off to Belize City you go. If you break your back, they will call in the British Military rescue helicopter. They have to allow 4 hours for the chopper. And for any of you that don't know it already, O.J. from Oceanside Bar is our emergency person for Caye Caulker. Nurse Donna from the clinic is 2nd in charge for calling in the rescue chopper. So, next time you're here, be nice to O.J., because he just might be the man to save your life. So, 3 days bedrest was prescribed and some really nice injections. Its just not possible for me to be layed up in bed for so long unless I'm nauseated and can't sit up. While he was making his house call he took Bigness's blood pressure and reminded him about the low cholesteral diet he was supposed to be on. Bigness said "Uh, huh," and then put down his fried pork chop.
So we started the trip out with a little handicap (me) and knee wrapped. I had to hold onto Bigness as I wobbled and hopped on one leg through Mexican immigration. When checking out of Belize they didn't even make me get out of the car. Fortunately for me, there's a lot to hold onto with Bigness, and his grab handles are well placed. The trip to Cozumel was uneventful, we make the trip to Playa Del Carmen, several times a year. It starts with a car ride to Chetumal, Mexico, leaving the car in the mall parking lot under a light, then a taxi to the bus station, then a 4-1/2 hour bus ride to Playa Del Carmen and then a 45 minute water taxi ride to Cozumel. We arrived late in the evening and gave the address to the cab driver because we didn't reallly know where we were going. 10 minutes later we pulled up, and the key was hidden right where she said it would be, and we let ourselves in. It was midnight.
The next day I was curious about the lady. I didn't poke and pry and sniff around, I just looked at the pictures on the wall, the color choices, the decorating and the photos. This is not CSI Miami. I did not have the magnifying glass and tweezers out.
I made some assumptions:
-She was small and short, the doorways were short, the livingroom furniture was small, and Bigness had to duck through to move from room to room. The doorways are always small in Mexico, Bigness informed me, its dem small people. The lower items were dust free, the higher items were dusty (wrong - she was as tall as me)
-She liked TV, for there was a TV in each bedroom and the livingroom (probably right)
-She was in her early 50s and a widow, lots of dusty silk flower arrangements and kitschy fish knick knacks. (wrong - much younger, and not sure of the marital status)
-She has short hair. I have long hair and shed like bigfoot. Hair in my drain, hair on the brush, hair hair hair everywhere, its a problem. I found no hair anywhere. (wrong - she has long hair)
-She likes wine because I saw 4 wine cork screws in the silverware drawer, and she had an empty wine rack in a cupboard (probably correct)
-She liked men (probably right, because she brought a boyfriend to Belize)
-Her favorite color combination is orange and turquoise (probably right as those were the predominant colors)
-She loves tropical fish, there was an encyclopedia of tropical fish on the stand under the TV, hand-painted fish plates on the table, starfish candles, a framed Matisse print on the wall of a glass bowl on a table with fish. The guest towels in the bathroom were decorated with fish. She had ceramic fish hanging on the walls.
She had a few complaints about us, the sink drain in the kitchen ran slow, which is true, for the past 2 weeks. (its fixed now) The water pressure up and down. True again, that's life living on an island with no municipal water supply, we rely on wells and cisterns. We have a 100 gallon gravity feed reservior on the roof and if the demand is high, the water comes slow. Hey, we're lucky we even HAVE water, its the dry season. Its like everything here in Belize, don't get too upset about it, because if you do, its just going to take longer. Everything is a little bit broken, just like the government.