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Tales from the endless buffet


By the time you read this we’ll be in the land of the endless buffet, also called The Reef, an all-inclusive resort in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. We’ve been to our southern neighbor, one of the few places in the world where the citizens don’t hate Americans, many times and have had many adventures, including:
In Cuernavaca while attending a Spanish language school, Sabra and I took a long walk around the city. In the late afternoon, we opted to stop at a restaurant with a patio overlooking a park. Sabra ordered a beer, but I, using my newly acquired but limited Spanish, said I was hungry and asked for the menu. From the menu, I ordered a bowl of soup, which I thought was made with rice and beans.
Ten minutes later, our waiter brought out a bowl containing a red liquid. I tasted it and was surprised to find it was cold. But then there’s a soup call gazpacho, which is served cold, so I tasted again and found it spicy. But I like spicy, so I ladled it into my mouth in short order. Just as I was scraping the last spoonful out of the bottom of the bowl, the waiter returned with a tray loaded with a plate of bean and rice and another bowl this one with hot soup. It didn’t take a crime scene investigator to figure out what happened: I ate the salsa like it was the soup. The waiter looked startled, but kept his composure. As soon as the door to the kitchen closed behind him, however, I heard the crash of a tray to the floor and him blurt something out in rapid Spanish. I didn’t catch what he said but I’m sure it was something like, “The crazy American just ate a bowl of salsa like it was soup.” Or maybe he just told a funny joke. Either way the kitchen staff laughed loud and long.
While attending the university, I signed up for a study trip to Xicotopec, a small town a two-hour drive away from Mexico City. Besides me, a 55-year-old non-traditional student, there were another dozen traditional students, all in their early 20s. We received numerous lectures about not eating from the small food stands set up on just about every street corner.
The younger students followed the directive, but there was no way I wasn’t going to have street food. So when our group director wasn’t looking, I savored all sorts of victuals, some mysterious, but mostly tacos. Long story short, every youngster on the trip got sick for at least a couple of days. Two had to go to the doctor and one even went home.
Not me, not so much as a burp or a fart.
On another trip, again to a resort in Playa Del Carmen, I played my profiling game. It works like this: I spy someone who is interesting looking and then make up a backstory of who they are. I might say to Sabra, “See that guy over there with the red hat, I’ll bet he’s a recently divorced accountant from Indiana that’s here working through his sorrows.” Then if I can, I’ll try to get near the person of interest, start a conversation and determine if I was correct.
I’m pretty good at, if I don’t say so myself.
On this particular trip, there was a lovely young woman in her mid-20s who came down to the beach every day with an older man. He dressed in fine linen, sporting a dapper white hat and carrying several pounds of elegance about him. The woman– did I mention she was very attractive– wore only the bottom of her tiny white bikini. Both had beautiful dark hair, brown eyes and a skin color somewhere between coffee and chocolate.
I decided they had to be from Morocco. He was old money, probably a land baron, maybe even royalty. She was a model and his mistress, I told Sabra matter-of-factly, “That’s a thing in Morocco.”
After about a week of this, the woman came to the beach without her gentleman friend and took up a lounge chair next to me. Trying to keep my eyes focused above her shoulders, I asked, “So, where are you from?”
“Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” she replied. “And you?”
My arm was sore the rest of the week from where Sabra punched me.