They Call Me “Alaska”

There is an immense and brief moment on any plane that I suspect most overlook: the brief silence before impact. It’s as if the plane decides that for a fleeting second it will hover, with time an space unaware of its deeds, in absolute, utterall timelessness and placelessness. One can feel the plane in its existential crisis – or, at least I can – as it makes its physics-defying descent. Man was never meant to fly, but here we are, and here we go. One moment, the groans of angry winds hiss over the wings, and suddenly it switches to the howl of rubber on asphault and an angry shaking rattles bones. But in between those two… there is a special silence. I see it as the silence of unknown adventure, and there are few things more nervewracking than listening to your giant metal bird, desperately clutching your inconsequential life in its belly, pause to condisder the possibilties of that adventure. That is the flashing moment before the engines stop and you step off the plane. It’s the promise of adventure.

A gust of hot air burst into the plane, yet the only thing in my vision was the jungle. Hot, humid, lush, full of cloaked eyes and overtangled with vines and leaves as screaming birds and furry creatures dart like roaches in a dump… a real jungle! It took proper restraint and the memory that I was a civilized (debatable) woman and not an animal; I could not bolt into the jungle like some rampid beast, lusting to hunt and prowl. What an absolute pity.

But here I was, safe in Cozumel, Land of the Swallows (rather, Land of Limitless Wallets and Arrogant Tourists). It was almost comical to offend the egos of the rich with my nature, and I realized how quickly I hated those who value material over purpose, those who know not the effort it takes to earn or those who have forgotten. I was out of place. But I didn’t really care, I was in Mexico, and I could smell alluring adventures on the horizon wafting on coastal currents directly into my nose. The people I had initially chosen to travel with weren’t the kind I wanted to travel with, I had learned. They were prone to enjoy the Land of Limitless Wallets, while I was still trying to find the swallows that earned the island its true name. Perhaps the swallows migrated away from the egos… swallows are humble birds with a love of romantic aerial dancing, they have no time for arrogance as they swoon across open skies in deep river canyons. It was worth the laugh and margaritas though, that is, the tourist trap I had found.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Cozumel’s sunsets a 7. On a scale of 1 to Alaska, I rate Mexico’s mosquitoes (I would later learn that it had far worse insects in the river town of Jalco) as “dear Jesus, I’ll take the Alaskan blood hummingbirds over this any day.” But I won’t give it any reward for adventure, aside from the pissed off jungle possom-cat-thing (Coati. The word I’m looking for is coati.) that attacked a scooter going 40 mph. That was cool. There were Mayan ruins, home to the goddess of fertility whose name escapes me and so full of mosquitoes that I ran just to escape them (Alaska trained me well), that were quite beautiful. And birds! So many birds! But that was it. A brief visit to the truer side of Playa del Carmen and the earliest ticket to Mazatlán ended my stay.

I must add, though, that there were warm hearts in Playa. About one third spoke broken English, another spoke it well, and the rest knew none. The most fun I had was struggling to communicate with those that knew little. They called me “Alaska” and “Ranger.” Some assumed I lived in an igloo, and they always said, “Alaska? Es muy frio, no?”

“Yes, it’s bloody cold in Alaska, that’s why I’m here.”


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