Busting our Budget in Puerto Escondido

Las ropas means "the clothes" and I haven't been changing mine that frequently. When R and I traveled to India years ago we read that in the underwear department, all we needed were three pair - one to wear, one to wash, and one to make our mothers happy. Before this trip, R bought me two pairs of Ex Officio brand underwear (my Mom passed away a few years ago so I didn't need a third pair to make her happy) which are treated with anti-microbial stuff to make them smell less, plus are made of a quick drying material so they can be hand washed at night and be dry enough to slip into in the morning. So, just so you don't think I'm a total dirtbag, you should know I have been washing my underwear each night. It's pointless to change my other clothes, however, because they get soaked through with sweat moments after I put them on. I could go through my entire wardrobe in a day. Everyone who's ever said that they wanted to throw it all in and go live on a beach in Mexico probably hasn't considered how fucking hot it is down here in the summer.

Anyway, I was thinking about ropas this afternoon as I was walking back to our hotel with our 5.5 kilos (1 kilo equals about 2 pounds) of laundry for which I paid only 14 pesos per kilo to drop off at the lavanderia earlier in the day and have someone wash, dry, and fold. I was pretty happy about how cheap it was because I'd also been thinking earlier in the day that we are pretty much busting our budget this week by staying in a really nice, but really expensive hotel in the Punta Zicatela area, in the city of Puerto Escondido, in Oaxaca state.

The pool area at the Casamar Suites in Punta Zicatela, in the south end of Puerto Escondido.

Our budget for the trip is $100 a day for room, food, and everything else and we had been right on target to close September around the $3,000 mark, but then we found this place - Casamar Suites - and I misunderstood the owner of the hotel to be offering us the two bedroom apartment where we are staying for $100 for the week, not per night as it turned out. Coconut made an algebraic equation using our monthly budget, and what we had spent so far this month plus the cost of the apartment and we learned that we could only spend an additional $40 a day for the rest of the month for food and everything else, which is very doable - especially so considering that we have a full kitchen for R to cook our meals - but there's a lot to do in Puerto Escondido and R does not want to cook our meals and on top of eating out a lot, we've been busy every day with activities.

Coconut enjoying some tortilla soup at a roadside stand on the way to Puerto Escondido. We've found the roadside food stands to be cheap, and delicious.

Puerto, as it's called, is a big surfing spot - boasting the Mexican Pipeline - and even though none of us surf, we all want to learn. R had a lesson the other day and the instructor rated her a 9.9 out of ten - I'm pretty sure he was rating her surfing skills and not how she looks in her yellow swim trunks because that's a straight up ten - but, unfortunately, for unfathomable reasons, the kids and I failed to witness her epicness and thus, there are no pictures of her standing on the board three times. Learning to surf is R's physical skill she wants to learn this year, so probably we will have plenty more opportunities to witness her greatness and we'll be able to post some pictures in the future so you can see it too.

We didn't get any shots of R surfing, but here she is surf fishing on the beach near Punta Zicatela.

Yesterday afternoon we went spearfishing - yes, we gave our ten year old son a harpoon gun and showed him how to pull the trigger, which may have been the highlight of his life since he actually posed for pictures and he doesn't usually do that - and it was probably the safest that fish have ever been from being caught, but we had a heck of a lot of fun shooting the harpoon into the underwater rocks (after it missed the fish) and we did see a stingray, which Mexicans call manta rays, but we didn't get to kill it either.

J loved spearfishing along Manzanillo Beach in hurricane like conditions - a hurricane warning had been issued for further up the coast and the swells at this Puerto beach were larger than usual.

This morning we arose at 6 a.m. to take a boat ride through a nearby lagoon which is a protected area and home, we are told, to 250 crocodiles. Nobody fell in, which is a good thing, but probably would have been really, really exciting, but we did see two crocodiles attack each other with jaws snapping which was a highlight because it wasn't staged for the camera - their anger was real. Anyone reading this in the D.C. area should go check out the alligator feedings at the National Zoo - it's less threatening, but also pretty cool.

Coconut and J have their eyes peeled for crocodiles at the protected area in Santa Maria Colotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

Coconut, J, and I have also been taking Spanish language lessons. I've realized that there's so much to learn from people if I could only communicate with them better - this is probably also true at home in the U.S. - that I will really feel that I let myself down if I don't come out of this year more knowledgeable in Spanish. People just seem much more open and friendly here as well, so much so that no subject seems off limits to ask about. For example, the other day, which was very hot, R and I were walking somewhere and a guy was pushing a cart along the road selling shaved ice for 10 pesos a bag - and he's got a bunch of flavors of sweetener he'll pour on it many of which we have no idea about so it's always a grand adventure to find out if you like something. While he was making R's strawberry ice and my lemon ice and we were all sitting there in the sun sweating our huevos off, R asked him how much he makes in a day. Can you imagine asking the woman at Starbucks how much she makes a day? This guy, on a good day - when he sells his entire cooler of ice - makes 500 pesos, which is about 30 bucks. It was about three p.m. when we met him and he had half his cooler of ice left and he was in a pretty random part of town to be selling shaved ice so he may have just been calling it a day and settling for 250 pesos.

J and I have been taking Spanish lessons each afternoon next to the pool of our hotel. Each one and one-half hour lesson costs about $10.

We read an article that Mexico recently passed a new law setting a minimum wage at 70 pesos a day. We've been keeping track and recently the dollar was doing pretty good against the peso to the tune of 1 buck to 17 pesos, so, if you do the math, 70 pesos isn't too many dollars, but it does seem to be enough to live on, at least in a modest lifestyle. So when you compare $4 a day in earnings against our $100 a day budget, which we more than occasionally exceed, you can see we lead a pretty extravagant lifestyle and are already thinking about retiring here because you get a lot more bang for your buck. For example, tonight, the kids had two slices of pizza and an enormous Nutella crepe each, and R and I had four tacos and four spring roll things between us and a margarita and a beer, all for only $18. Then we came back to our $100 a night apartment and turned on the air conditioning, which the owner comped us because there is no one else here and he doesn't want us to leave.

J playing in the sand at Punta Zicatela. The surf is too rough for swimming, knocking us over consistently as we've tried.

Puerto, and La Punta in particular, seem ripe with opportunities. Because I'm not feeling that great about paying $100 a night for a room, we looked at some other places. We found a 4 story place on AirBnB that was absolutely beautiful with a super hero view of the beach from the rooftop palapa and less per day than what we are paying for our two bedroom apartment with kitchen here at Casamar. The owner of the AirBnB place lives in China and only comes to Puerto in December. The drawback of the place was that it was about five blocks from the beach, imagine that, and really, not near anything except chickens, dogs, and empty lots. Casamar, on the other hand, is right on the main Punta block, which is one block off the beach, with lots of restaurants, hotels, and young gringo surfers and their girls around, but also lots of empty lots that are for sale and just waiting to be turned into a gold mine. It's also a couple blocks from a great fruteria that has the sweetest pineapples and also sells green beans, which this family loves and which are hard to find here, and offers free yoga classes and ping pong. I'm sure that J would also want me to mention now that he beat me at ping pong, legit, for the first time today, ever, but I will say that I had drunk 1.2 liters of beer before we played, not an excuse, and that I followed up the 21-19 loss by trouncing him 21-7 in consecutive games to take the series. But boy, was he happy that he won a game - he said, "I see a pattern - every 20,000 games we play, I win one" - which I think is a bit of an exaggeration because we haven't played that many times yet, but not too far off the mark.

R and I saw this place for sale. It's a block from the beach and would be a nice retirement place for someone.

Well, anyway, I may have lost the point, but just to wrap things up, we are in Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast, and love it, but have to leave this weekend so we can get to Mazunte, just an hour or so further south along the coast, to meet R's parents on October 6. Originally, we planned to meet them in Belize on October 2, but that was going to be too much driving, and as we wound our way up and down the Sierra Madre mountains, documented in an earlier post, R and I discussed asking them to change their route, eat the fees, and meet us on the coast, which they didn't even blink about.  Thank you to them: Opa (German for grandpa) and PoPo (Chinese for grandma). So, we are going to spend some time with them on the beach in Mazunte, then drive back up into the mountains to Oaxaca City, another supposedly beautiful colonial city, and a lot cooler temperature-wise than the coast, and stay there maybe for as long as a month because it's supposed to be the place to be on Day of the Dead - November 1. So, as much as we are running slightly over our financial budget, we are way exceeding our time budget. We planned to be in Mexico only a month, but here we are considering staying more than two months - it's an incredible place that we, Americans, should not be afraid to visit. It's beautiful, and great value. And the beer is cold, at least for a few minutes.