What do San Francisco, Detroit, Boston and Denver have in common?
They all have smaller populations than Merida, Mexico.
Throughout our journey we've lived in a lot places. Often we've landed in towns or small cities with ~20K-40K people. When we stayed in larger cities like San Cristobal de las Casas (population ~200K) or Oaxaca (population ~250K) we've found "luxury" items like movie theaters and shopping malls. Even there we ran into limitations and occasionally found ourselves longing for things more commonly found in the States. This changed when we called Merida home for nearly 3 weeks.
Merida is located on the northwestern tip of the Yucatan peninsula, is home to over a million people, and a lot more resources than we'd become accustomed to. For the most part, this was a welcome change.
In addition to being a big city, it is also a hot city. A very hot city! It's located about 30 minutes from the coast which means it's just far enough away to not get a coastal breeze. It's not uncommon for homes and apartments to have small swimming pools (generally called dipping pools) to temporarily provide relief from the high temperatures.
While in Merida we rented a house that did not have a pool, but the property manager did. He only lived two blocks away and we used it a few times during our stay. It was a cold pool that did not get much direct sunlight. Tag and Mick didn't like it too much.
Here are some of the ways we made the most out of being in a big city.
While there are several Costcos in Mexico we had not seen or been to one since leaving the States. Walking through Costco was the first time Mickelle had strong feelings of nostalgia for home. After all, Costco's main brand, "Kirkland" is named for our hometown and was the original headquarters of Costco. It almost felt like we were back in the Pacific Northwest again.
Dental Cleaning (and Teeth Extraction)
It had been 6 months since the "Worst Dentist Appointment Ever!" had occurred for Mick and the kids in Nicaragua. More importantly it had been 12+ months since I had had my pearly whites cleaned so we were due. How do you find a dentist in a new town? Ask someone you know of course. This meant asking our property manager (he was the only person we knew). He recommended a person that in his words was "well educated, clean and fair priced". He had had a root canal performed there. So I scheduled appointments.
The end results:
- Ken - no cavities, decent cleaning
- Mick - no cavities, decent cleaning
- Tag - no cavities, decent cleaning
- Ela - no cavities, three baby teeth pulled, several gut wrenching screams, and an abbreviated cleaning
* No cavities means they poked our teeth, but didn't do x-rays.
Going into the appointment, we knew that Ela needed at least one and, maybe, two teeth pulled. The adult teeth had already come in but the baby teeth had not come out yet. We nicknamed them "shark teeth" because they were aligned right behind one another much like sharks.
After a brief examination the dentist told me, in Spanish, that Ela needed to have three teeth pulled. Of course Ela was listening but I did not think she understood the dentist. She did, and she shot straight out of the chair. Panic quickly ensued and I had to calm her down. She was adamant that the dentist not give her any shots. The idea of a needle being pushed into her gums terrified her. Side note: This was exactly the same panic that ensued every time she received an immunization shot or needed to have blood taken.
The dentist, who seemed knowledgeable and spoke okay English was growing impatient. She attempted to bring a needle into the room and Ela freaked! Freaked! The dentist offered up her only other alternative...topical numbing cream. Yes, the stuff that tastes nasty and puts your tongue to sleep on contact.
She quickly applied several coats, let it sit a minute, and then went to work pulling Ela's teeth. One of the teeth took more work than the others and as you might imagine, caused Ela more pain. She shrieked with pain (it was really more fear than pain). At one point she was so loud the receptionist came in to see if the dentist needed help. It was 10 minutes of my life that I would have gladly traded with Mickelle. Mick was in another area of the building getting her teeth cleaned and somehow she did not hear Ela scream (but the hygienist cleaning her did).
All in all it was a success. We all left with healthy mouths and the damage to the wallet was not that bad either. $165 US. In case you're wondering, Ela hasn't had any nightmares as a result of the experience. Mick has shamed me over and over for not demanding that Ela take the shot. She's also made it clear to Ela that we won't pay for therapy, either now or later in life, that is a result of her bad decision not to take the shot. Tag, angel child that he is, has offered to take all of Ela's shots for the rest of his life. If only this were possible.
While browse through one of the shopping malls in Merida, we came across Xtreme Jumping, a trampoline park. It was their opening weekend and they were running specials. 2 hours for the price of 1. We were impressed with the place. They had even better jumping options than those we've experienced in the states. I can't help but think this is a result of less stringent liability laws.
The kids had a blast battling other kids in a joust, shooting hoops, playing dodge ball and just jumping. There was one thing however that Tag never got the hang of. A play area called Wipe Out. Watch the short video below and you'll see why.
One morning while having breakfast at a nearby restaurant we saw a sign for art classes. The sign was even written in English. Ela quickly got excited and demanded that we sign her up. She ended up going twice, and because the regular classes were full she received 1-on-1 instruction both times. She loved it, and we love the end results.
While we liked many of the familiar big city comforts, it was time to move on. It was too hot and humid for our tastes and the beach was calling.