Waves rhythmically caressed the shore as the sand massaged our feet. The sun painted a life-sized kaleidoscope in the sky while making its lazy departure. As several tanned locals packed up their beach businesses for the day, they shook their heads and laughed at the five pasty tourists frolicking in the shallow surf.
The Walsh family had arrived. Ixtapa and Zihuatenajo are cities that hug each other on the coast of southern Mexico. Most Californians aren’t even aware that this slice of paradise exists, but our cousins in Mexico City let us in on the well-kept secret.
Unlike Cancun or Cabo San Lucas, the cab drivers and hotel staff don’t all speak English. The restaurants serve authentic Mexican food. And above all, they don’t believe in rushing anything.
It’s not uncommon to wait two hours for a parasail ride after being promised 10 minutes. Servers in restaurants may not come to take your order until your stomach has eaten itself several times over. A 20-minute siesta could last all afternoon.
The point is, it doesn’t matter. What’s your hurry? Vacation is about relaxing and recharging. Learning to build patience is tough for most Americans, who are used to fast food, fast cars, and a constant barrage of stimuli.
We believe in efficiency, productivity and results. Time spent waiting is time wasted. Mexicans, on the other hand, value quality of life over quantity of to-do list tasks accomplished.
At first it takes a while to get used to Mexican moments. We had to practice being patient. But once we got used to it, we realized that the time spent waiting was some of the most memorable.
My mom and I had a heart to heart as we waited for the banana boat ride. We really watched my dad surf as we waited for our margaritas on the beach. We discussed world issues, such as hunger, while waiting for our food. I don’t remember what I ate that night, but I remember the conversation and the company.
Our trip to Ixtapa was the best vacation of my life. When people ask what I did, it doesn’t seem all that exciting; we mostly hung out at the beach. But it wasn’t what we did that made the trip special; it was the people and the atmosphere.
On our last night in town we discovered a little restaurant called Il Mare on a cliff overlooking the harbor. It looked shabby from the outside, but when we walked down the stairs it was like Dorothy entering a world of color in The Wizard of Oz. The hostess sat us at an elegant table perched above the water and the city beyond. During the many Mexican moments we spent there, the sky morphed into an inky violet and the lights of the city winked in our direction. ‘What a Wonderful World,’ the song by Louie Armstrong, filled the restaurant as if we had willed it through our thoughts. By the end of the song my whole family was in tears because he echoed our sentiments exactly. If our food had arrived promptly, we would have missed the magic of the evening. I’m sure glad we had to wait.
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