The twelfth floor is the perfect height in which to live in a beachfront condo in Mexico. The condo I have rented in Mazatlan’s Golden Zone for this year wraps around the corner, offering spectacular views of the ocean and the coast from the wall to wall windows.
You feel like you are watching an “air-ium” as pelicans, paragliders and willets fly at eye level, as does an occasional helicopter. The dark blue of the ocean reaches midway up the window.
The 12th floor is high enough to see far out into the ocean, and yachts, jet skis and small fishing boats dot the water. You are still low enough to still see kids building sand castles or couples kissing. You can spy on the pool area of the resort next door and see all the hotel operations.
Once the ocean grows dark, you can turn from that blackness toward the direction of the city lights and make out traffic patterns and the flashing red lights of police cars. As I’ve always done, I will sleep crosswise on the bed to watch the frequent tropical thunderstorms and rising moons.
My friend Guadalupe dropped by to see the view and brought me two ripe mangos as a housewarming gift.
I told myself again to get out and finally sample of all the different kinds of tropical fruit you can get here. A quick query revealed there are 93 types. Twenty are common to Mexico.
Earlier, we went for swim and saw something remarkable. Not even a hundred feet into the surf, I watched a tall blond surfer throw himself sideways into the funnel of a approaching tube of water. The force of the wave then carried him somersaulting backward to the beach. He’d leap up, and then go running toward the waves again.
He was a beautiful golden color, wearing board shorts and had the classic surfer build, broad in the shoulders and very narrow of hip, his trucks barely hanging on. He was lean and smooth-skinned and ignored everything but the oncoming wave, motioning it with his hands as if saying “come on!” He never once looked around him or toward the shore.
Curious, I took my boogie board and swam out maybe 50 feet from him to get a look at his face. What I saw astounded me. The face was rather skull-like and bony. The short blond hair straw-like. His body appeared smooth, at least from that distance. He was at least in his 60’s, probably 70 years old.
It was if the head of a 73 year old man had been put on a 28 year old body. He dove side-ways into the approaching wave, then tumbled backwards, back somersaulting toward the beach over and over, something I haven’t been about to do since I was fifteen.
Guadalupe had been watching him from shore too. From her angle, she’d only seen a young surfer doing a pretty amazing gymnastic routine. I told her the rest. Who is that guy, we asked ourselves out loud. She thought it might have been a famous surfer. I thought he may have been the devil.
When we returned to the condo, we sat in the window ledge that runs the length of the room and watched the sun set, then the lights of the city come up.
Another interesting feature of the place is that the large windows have no screens, which has a way of exciting the imagination. I wonder which will be the first of my electronics to go sailing out that window.
Then I heard it. Click, click, click, like a soft knocking. Que es? What is that? I asked her. The clicking sounded like it was by the stove, then behind a wall on the other side of the room. “Lizardos,” she grinned. Geckos. Lizards make noise? Apparently so, either to say “go away” to males, or “come here” to females.
Even on the 12th floor, nature makes it’s way in.
As I gave her the tour, I pointed out another unusual feature; no oven. It took me two days to notice. Toaster ovens and microwaves, but no oven.
People don’t like to heat up an oven much in the summer, so I could understand it, but I like my sweets and almost all of them have to be baked. To the rescue, Guadalupe promised she’d come show me how to make cookies from a stove top grill.
The next evening, my friend Cayo dropped by to check out the place out too, another green bean shaped surfer in board shorts and flip flops. Uncharacteristically tall for a Mexican, Cayo speaks English with the Midwestern twang he picked up in a boarding school in Kansas, which always make me think of my birthplace in Oklahoma.
I told him he looked thinner than last time I saw him. How much do you weigh now? I asked. He looked at me quizzically and said he didn’t think Mexicans weighed themselves. We switched back and forth between English and Spanish because he knows how guilty I feel if I speak English too long when I could be practicing Spanish.
About the same time, a banda music band fired up down below on the beach. I winced. Banda music is that oomp-pa-pa polka-based music so popular in Mexico which sounds to me like people throwing musical instruments on the ground in anger, especially cymbals. He assured me that the music would disappear as soon as Mexican tourist season ended with the start of school in a few weeks.
Thinking I might like banda better if I understood why Mexicans like it so much, I asked him about it. He explained banda music was party music, not meant to be danced to, and that it was the lyrics, either very funny or very sad that made it popular. It’s not really music that even Mexicans are likely to turn on the radio.
Banda music was introduced to Mexico right here in Sinaloa by Polish immigrants (and I will never forgive them). Does anyone actually like the tuba?
Willets, banda, geckos, mangoes, Guadalupe, Cayo...so much Mexico and I haven’t even left the Golden Zone yet.
A little video of one of the funkier condo complexes - Ventanas Mexico
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Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico and author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online,' the best sources of all the best learning tools on the web, arranged in lesson plans.
Thinking about retiring to a Spanish-speaking country? Get the most out of the experience and start learning Spanish today from the comfort of your laptop or tablet.
If Only I Had a Place, her second book is a guide for the aspiring expat seeking to rent in Mexico luxuriously, for less.