Mexico in the 1980′s… I went on an amazing trip to Mexico with 8 friends. It was my first trip away from North America as an adult. We had a blast! Conga line on the plane on the way down, partying from dawn to dusk, dancing (on tables too), drinking, eating, sunbathing and swimming… in various orders. We didn’t have a care in the world on that trip. As I think back on it, I think… Wow, I’m surprised none of us got arrested (but I digress). The point is I was inseparable from my friends… we did EVERYTHING together… What a team!
I’m posting this because of something I did. Something spontaneous. Something that has stuck with me as the standout memory of that wonderful trip to Mexico.
On the first day in Puerto Vallarta we met a wonderful family from Calgary. They were staying in the room right next to us. Our two patios became ground zero for the drinking and kibitzing that went on daily. We became fast, fast friends (and we are friends to this day – 20 + years later).
The waiter at our favourite poolside bar was named Secondino. He was friendly and poured a generous cocktail, instantly transforming him into the most important staff member of the resort. We spent hours chatting with Secondino and also became fast friends. I chose to go no further from 150 feet from Secondino’s bar in the first 3 days of my vacation, forgoing trips to town to shop, etc. To hang out next to palm trees in the sun and partake of my buddy Secondino’s happy grog was my destiny.
Day 3 of the trip, Secondino invited us to his home. You see, he had a dream of being his own boss. As such he was building a Cantina in his little home town about a 45 minute drive from the hotel. He had it all mapped out and his dream sounded amazing. We enjoyed his stories and his enthusiasm… and his determination to make it happen. He told us he had already started construction and wondered if we would like to see.
Without hesitation I said yes. As did some of the crew from Calgary – six of us in total. I don’t remember exactly what my travel mates were doing, something cool for sure, but I HAD to check out Secondino’s dream. So we were off about a half hour later when Secondino’s shift was over. He hailed two cabs, gave instructions to our driver in Spanish as three of us hopped in the back seat. Then he jumped in the second cab with the other three and our convoy was off into the dark of night to Secondino’s home town. Fast forward about 30 minutes and here I am sitting in the back of a cab hurtling through the darkness with two mostly strangers from Calgary with a driver that didn’t speak a word of English (and we didn’t know any Spanich – except for “cervesa”). The other cab was faster and had dissappeared from our view 20 minutes earlier. We had no idea what direction we were going in, where we were headed or how long the drive would be… or if we would ever be seen again. Sobering up pretty quickly I might add. But interestingly we never really panicked, never felt in real danger. We were simply on an adventure.
We arrived soon enough to a quaint little seaside town right in the middle of a festival. Lots of people laughing and smiling, kids running around playing, music filling the air… and, thankfully, Secondino and the rest of the crew! We wandered through the midway (where I won this big bugs bunny statue) and made our way toward Secondino’s dream cantina.
Now remember this was a small town with no tourists. The locals obviously lived on the small wages paid at resort towns. This was the real Mexico. Roads were uneven dirt, the homes were unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was clean but certainly these people were living well below the means we were used to. By North American standards, this was abject poverty. Remember this was my first trip away to a poor country – I just hadn’t experienced anything like it before.
We arrived in front of a house that had big chunks of broken up concrete filling the front yard. Proudly Secondino announced we were here and that this was the beginning of his renovation project that was to be the Cantina. My dad owned a construction business and to all accounts this was a disaster scene. We talked about it and Secondino explained that this had been an uneven concrete patio. He had broken the concrete by hand (on his one day off a week) and then had to manually haul it away piece by piece. His plan was going to level the land and repour his patio to build his outdoor Cantina. And then we went inside. The floors were dirt, the bedrolls were rolled up in the one and only bedroom, the door to the bathroom was a shower curtain… yet it was immaculate!
Somehow Secondino had let his wife know that we were coming and they had arranged a party for us with his family. It has to be the single most unselfish act of kindness I think I had ever witnessed. Quite obviously they had very little, but they were determined to make this the most important night of our vacation.
We drank beer and danced and danced way into the wee hours of the morning. We opened the beer bottles with a massive sharp kitchen cleaver and listened to his teenage niece’s Madonna cassette over and over – LOL. What a SPECTACULAR time!
Here are the lessons I learned that day. “Things” don’t matter. What matters is people – meeting new people, being around people you love, being yourself and not judging the others in the room. Being in the moment and being comfortable with who you are. To give unselfishly of yourself and to enjoy the people around you. Your gut will tell you if people are good or not. Choose the people you want to be with, not by their things, but by who they are. These people had NOTHING, yet they gave EVERYTHING they had… they gave themselves. Wow, what a great time we all had. We danced and laughed and laughed and danced.
I have taken this simple event and put it in my memory bank. I have lost myself in my weight… forgotten the lessons I learned that day. I have not lived up to my end of the friendship bargain. I have sequestered myself in my weight and forgotten to just go and hang out with my friends and be myself and enjoy the very simple act of friendship. I have surrounded myself with “things” to try to make myself feel better – and yet my friends are becoming strangers to me. I have been a bad friend.
Today, at this moment, I look at the lessons I learned that day in Mexico and realize that the things I have accumulated really mean nothing. In the end, when I die, I want to know I made a difference in people’s lives. That I did something to inspire… that I have been a good friend.
I pledge from this day forward to become a more integral part of my friends’ lives, to be a person that I want to be around. Perhaps I will now remember that it is my relationships that are the measure of my wealth, not the DVD collection, the leather furniture, the big screen tv, the expensive clothes that hang in my closet, unworn. I have built a wall of fat to hide from pain – a recluse from the people that mean the most to me. Reaching out to my friends is the true answer to my health, the true measure of my wealth and the true path to happiness and well being.
My hope is that when you read this message, you too will be inspired to pick up the phone and call a friend you haven’t seen in a while. To get together and just enjoy each other’s company. Thank you Secondino for giving me this gift. I hope you are well my friend and that your Cantina stands today as a beacon for friends to meet and laugh and, of course, dance! Salud!