Sorry it’s been so long since our last post but we’ve both been busy adjusting to life in Playa del Carmen. And by “adjusting” I mean recovering from a bout of the dreaded Montezuma’s Revenge AKA “The Gringo Gallop”. Luckily for us it was a relatively minor case meaning that we didn’t need to see a doctor, we just had to wait it out – for 4 days.
During this time there was little we could do but stay close to home, drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and try to figure out what the culprit was. The normal causes of Montezuma are consumption of contaminated water, unwashed fruits or vegetables or eating mishandled foods. Hmm, which could it be? We drink only bottled water, wash our vegetables with Microbicida (a food disinfectant that kills salmonella, cholera, strep etc) and try to make smart restaurant decisions.
There is an age old cliche about Mexico – Don’t drink the water! As much as I would love to dispute that old adage, it’s absolutely true, the locals in this part of the country don’t even drink the water. If the locals don’t do it, we don’t do it. The water table in the Riviera Maya is very shallow so any runoff easily contaminates the water and can make it unsafe for consumption.
Everyone here gets their drinking water from 20L (a bit over 5 gallons) jugs of purified water called “garrafones.” We’d been lucky because in the first apartment we lived in we ordered water from the maintenance man anytime we needed it and in our current apartment we ask the landlord and it gets delivered twice a week. But when our landlords recently left the country for “many days” with not a lot of clues on when they’re coming back things got interesting. How do we get water? We know that it’s sold all over the place and I know this sounds dumb, but we had no idea how the transaction was actually carried out.
So many questions!
- Do we need to bring our empties back to purchase new ones?
- There are many brands of water and most stores only carry one, do we need to exchange our brand of empty at one of the stores that sells that brand?
- There is a guy that drives a 3 wheeled bike filled with jugs of water around our neighborhood that appears to be a delivery guy. Do we need to be on his route or can we just walk up and buy one?
- How do I transport 42.28 pounds (Yes, I Googled it) of water on my beach cruiser?
Not to worry, we did what anybody would do and sauntered boldly into the Oxxo (think Quick Trip without gasoline) and acted like we knew what was going on. I set the Cristal brand empties on the counter and said, “dos mas, por favor.” The clerk charged me $46 pesos ($3.75) and I marched out with 2 full jugs of Epura brand water. Problem solved! Like most dilemmas we’ve faced here it was easily solved by just facing the problem head on.
Okay, one problem down but there was another factor that contributes to dehydration, the heat. This is undoubtedly the most beautiful place we’ve ever lived but that comes with a price – it is very, very hot sometime. As I write this it’s about 9:30 at night in mid-April and the heat index is still nearly 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Add in the tropical sun and some days you’ve got pretty brutal situation on your hands.
While the many of the people from here and many of the expats as well have adapted to the sun and heat ,we are still getting used to it (see above image if you can stand it). As native Midwesterners we’ve experienced some pretty brutal summers but we just hunkered down and ran the central air until the snow began to fly but that’s not really an option here. For one, there is no central air and secondly, electricity is the most expensive utility here and if you’re not careful your electric bill can sometimes equal your rent! The electric bill comes every two months and we haven’t seen one yet so for the time being we’re being pretty conservative with our usage. At night we typically run the window unit in our bedroom for a few hours to cool our room down while we sleep but other than that we just hope for a breeze.
So we’ve crossed the water and vegetables from our suspect list and that only leaves us with one candidate, the food. Since between us we’ve seen thousands of hours of Law & Order reruns we were quickly able to build a timeline that led us to our suspect – Pad Thai. The hell you say! Mexican Thai food gave us stomach issues? Who could have seen that one coming right? All jokes aside, the restaurant we ate at was a very nice place and usually has quite a crowd and one of us (the one who likes Thai food) loved it. But the timeline does seem to fit and if the timeline fits, you can’t acquit.
The moral of the story is this, if you spend enough time in an environment that is foreign to your body you will get sick in some way, shape or form. There are precautions that you can take but it is really only a matter of time and severity so you must ask yourself a question. Is it worth it? For us, it is an emphatic YES! But we’re not going back for Thai food anytime soon.