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Editor's Travel Report: Jews Without Shoes in the Mayan Riviera

by Rhonda Spivak, February 17, 2015



I was looking back at my photos from our family trip to the Mayan Riviera, Mexico, where we stayed several years ago at an all-inclusive Iberostar property and went off the property as a family only once. That was at my insistence since I wanted to see the impressive ruins of Tulum, a walled city on the edge of a cliff above the deep turquoise colour of the Caribbean Sea.


Tulum, one of the last cities inhabited and built by the Mayas was a close trip from our hotel, and was one of the best-preserved Maya sites. A guided visit of the site took about 45 minutes, and I thought we'd be up for it. But I was very, very wrong.


When we got there it became clear that  my children  had no interest whatsoever  in learning about the rich historical past of  this Mayan city which served as a major port and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. They had no interest whatsoever in learning about how  nobles, high priests and esteemed citizens such as astronomers lived within the walls of the city, as opposed to the lower classes who lived in simple wood and thatched huts beyond its walls. Instead, my children complained that this majestic city was boring and wanted to go back to the resort. Rather than be able to hear what the guide was saying about ancient Mayan culture, all I could hear was my children complaining, and whining. I recall trying to coax them into having a look at the abandoned city towers, to no avail. 


After a few minutes into the tour, I began to realize that the kids would not bear any more meandering about this great archeological site. Alas, after taking into account their "crankiness factor", my husband and I decided to ditch the tour and take the kids to the nearby steep stairway down to the Tulum beach with its pristine white sand and very picturesque cliffs.  I remember being rather awed by the abundant rugged beauty of this beach and began snapping photos.



On the beach the kids busied themselves with making sand castles, but it was very hot, and the kids wanted to go in the water, excited by the crashing sound of the waves arriving on shore. I waded into the water with them so I could watch over them and also take photos of the two in the water.  This meant that my husband stayed on the shore looking after our belongings. He did so diligently holding a plastic bag under his arm with some of their clothing including my daughter's running shoes which she had removed to go in the water. (For the life of me I don't remember where my son's shoes were. Maybe they were in a different bag.) In any event, the important part of this story is that we had only brought one pair of shoes for my daughter for the week long trip.


The kids had a great time frolicking on the beach and I considered myself successful in taking a couple good photos of them.  In the few minutes that we were in the water, the strip of beach we were on became quite crowded. (Busloads of tour groups arrive all the time). Suddenly, my husband felt someone tugging at the bag with our belongings while he was holding it under his arm.  In this split second he tried to get a more firm grip on the bag, but it was too late-the bag was gone. My husband turned around instantaneously, but couldn't manage to spot the thief, who had managed to escape in the thick of the crowd.      


When the kids and I got out of the water, my husband was swearing under his breath.  We were now four Jews with only three pairs of shoes.  (I could already hear my mother's voice in my mind's eye scolding me that I ought to have packed my daughter an extra pair of shoes, or sandals or flip flops-some kind of back-up footwear! I could already see myself having to confess this sin of being a negligent parent.) And of course, from my husband's perspective all of this was my fault. It was I who had wanted to venture off the cloistered protection of our all-inclusive resort to see the fantastic ruins of Tulum. My husband would take pains to remind me that this excursion had not been his idea.


Instead of being able to relax on a cot and read a book on our resort's beach, my husband, who luckily had managed to hold onto his wallet, now had to go schlepping around with my daughter to find her a pair of shoes. (As an aside, the kids were also getting hungry and wanted to get back to the resort for lunch. There is nowhere on the site itself to buy snacks or bottled water.)


We correctly assessed that we wouldn't easily be able to buy my daughter another pair of running shoes anywhere nearby, including back at our resort. (I realized that there was no point trying to convince my children that the ancient Mayan's probably managed to get around the area barefoot).


We now had to walk back a fairly long way to exit the ruins, and my daughter found it was too difficult to walk given there were hot pebbles and stones on the pathway back (This is no doubt why it was recommended to wear sensible and comfortable shoes for walking around the ruins of Tulum.) My husband ended up having to carry my daughter much of the way. He said that if I had any plans of trying to convince him to go off the resort again, I ought to abandon this preposterous notion. "You can go on your own!"   


 Suffice it to say I never did get to see the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. (Note: In 2007, Chichen Itza's El Castillo was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World ). Instead, we named my daughter's new flip flops as an alternative new wonder in our little world. Afterall, we did have a great vacation and years later I enjoy looking back at the photos. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.