We love it here in Playa del Carmen. We really, really do. We also miss a lot of things like family and friends and the traditions that we didn’t even realize we had back home in Kansas City.

Jason’s birthday was yesterday. We’re not huge birthday people, but past years typically involved happy hour with friends, dinner with family and watching some March Madness. Being the new kids on the block in Playa, our social circle isn’t exactly broad, our families didn’t move down here with us, and as for March Madness, well for KU fans that topic is best left alone. So yesterday was my first attempt at trying to create the first of many new traditions in our new home.

We did sell or donate almost every single thing we own before heading down here, not particularly interested in doing that again, so I had to get creative with gift ideas. Versus getting something tangible, I thought back to what our purpose is for being here and together we decided together to spend money that, in the past, would have gone towards a present on an experience. So we’re headed to Cozumel tomorrow for a couple days of scuba diving, exploring and some fun. Cozumel is a special place for us, we got married there and haven’t been back since, so it will be interesting to see if anything has changed besides us.

That being said, I couldn’t resist planning a little something the actual day of. We rode our bikes to town and ate brunch at Fonda Regina.

Eggs, plantains, avocado and tortillas, just an average breakfast here.
Eggs, plantains, avocado, frijoles and tortillas, just an average breakfast.

Afterwards we headed down to the beach for some people watching. Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a major holiday here in Mexico, as well as other Latin American countries. This year it started March 24 and will continue on until next weekend. The schools are closed for two weeks and many of the government offices shut down for a few days which means vacation time. Mexicans from the interior of the country flock to the beach towns, including Playa, for their version of spring break. Which means crowded streets, stores, restaurants and beaches. We set up on the beach for awhile and watched large families with tents that seemed to include the entire contents of their house, multiple beach vendors selling food that we haven’t been brave enough yet to try and tons of kids playing futbol on the beach practicing to become the next Messi or Pele.

Having wanted to try something different for dinner, we headed to Alux Restaurant. It’s a unique restaurant located inside of a cave surrounding a cenote. A memorable experience to be sure, but not all for the right reasons. It was a trip to descend down into the cave to then be seated with stalactites (stalagmites?) hanging over head but the food ranged from great to just okay and our service was abysmal. For anyone considering going, I’d recommend  a drink at the bar, a look around and then heading somewhere else for dinner.

Our walk home brought us through the apex of Semana Santa festivities on 5th Avenue. We passed massive amounts of people out celebrating. And in something I’d like to take credit for, but can’t, every other bar we passed had a live band playing covers of  “The Doors,” one of Jason’s favorite bands. Some of the bands were a bit more…successful…than others.

If this had been Jason's 21st birthday we'd have fit right in.
If this had been Jason’s 21st birthday we’d have fit right in.

Then this happened. My former marketing partners take heed of this guerilla marketing tactic. And then I beg of you, please don’t repeat.

Jason might have a different view of how his first birthday as a stranger in a strange land went. I think there were highs and lows to the day, there might have been a little homesickness as we remembered how we were celebrating a year ago but also a comfort in the technologies like Facebook, email, phones and video chat that helped keep the birthday messages coming and continue to keep us connected. There will be tweaks and adjustments to our new ‘traditions’ and celebrations together as we move forward, but I think I didn’t do too bad our first time out. What do you think? If you were away from everyone and everything you’ve know, how would you celebrate your birthday?