A day in the life of a language school student in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

As Ice Cube once said, today was a good day.  So good, in fact, that I thought I would share some of the details with you, dear readers. Partially so that you can get an idea of what it’s like to study Spanish in Playa del Carmen, and partially to make you jealous of my life here in paradise.

Truth be told, the day started terribly.  It was the kind of morning when the alarm clock (alarm cellphone, really) rips you from your sweaty sleep and sends you reeling and reaching deep into your tequila-pickled consciousness to figure out what happened the previous night. I lunged forward, hit the snooze button, and collapsed back onto the bed. My head was cloudy, my eyes dry and fiery, and I knew the feeling of an encroaching hangover all too well.

There are few things in this world that can cut through the raging ache of a hangover. My top 3 are: a greasy bacon breakfast, a strong and spicy Bloody Mary, and the warmth of a good woman. I rolled over and locked into a perfect spoon cuddle position with the lovely senorita I’d been sharing my bed with and we drifted back to sleep. The snoozed alarm rang once again and I checked the time – It was 8:45AM. I was pretty sure I had gone to bed around 5AM, stumbling home from Coco Maya, a local tourist-trap nightclub with Hollywood-priced cocktails and sweaty dance floors. That certainly wasn’t enough sleep, but I had class at 9:30, so I had to get moving.

I pulled myself together and staggered down the hall, into the front yard, around to the side of the house, and flipped the breaker switch that turned on the hot water.  This was all part of my daily morning ritual.  The hot water heater had been broken since before my time at Hostal 6-15 , and it had to be switched on and off manually. It needed 10 minutes to get warm, which was the perfect amount of time to make a cup of coffee and grab a quick breakfast.  There is a taco stand that rents a space from the hostel, so I literally have fresh tacos in my front yard as early as 8AM.  But today, Mauricio was frying up some special potato-and-chorizo concoction and he offered to share it with me.  I fried an egg and we had potato-chorizo-egg-tacos. Not a bad breakfast.

My shower was quick and glorious and did wonders to wash away the post-booze-blues. I dressed, checked the time, and checked myself in the mirror. I was tired, a bit hung over (poco crudo, in the parlance of Playa), but i was right on schedule.

After a quick, 10 minute walk through town, I stepped through the gates at International House and, as always, I’m greeted with friendly hola‘s and como estas‘s from the staff and students. My classmates and I have all become friends over the past 3 weeks of language classes.  We laugh about my hangover and lack of sleep, we grumble about the grammar, and we learn a little Spanish.

After class, I walked back home for a nap.  The hostel folks have cleaned my room and made my bed, and i crawl into the sheets to catch up on a couple hours of much-needed rest.

When I finally emerge, it’s just after 3PM and I’m starving.  I head down the street to my favorite taco stand. The owner is an amiable Mexican man who has been making tacos for 22 years, and his barbacoa is possible the best in town. 3 tacos will set you back 21 pesos – that’s less than $2 USD – not a bad deal for such a delicious lunch. And the lively conversation gives me a chance to practice my Spanish.

When I got back to the hostel, some friends had stopped in to invite me to the beach. I grabbed my guitar and my juggling balls and joined them.  The beach is just just 3 blocks down the road, so I usually don’t even bother putting shoes on, despite the dirty, uneven pavement and the dirt road crossing at Avenida 10.  We’re all a little bit hippie here.

The main beach is always full of tanned and beautiful bodies, soaking up the Mexican sun and splashing in the Caribbean waters.  We found a few other friends, burying their hangovers in sand and sun and we decided to join them.  As soon as I pulled out my juggling balls, I was accosted by 2 local children who wanted to play.  The girl was shy and afraid to catch the ball, but she giggled and tried to collect and bury all the balls in the sand. The boy was a bit more ambitions, throwing the ball high into the air and shaking with hysterical laughter as he tried to gauge it’s trajectory and catch it. My crystal Contact Juggling balls were also a big hit, and the little girl was mystified with the upside-down world reflected inside them.

La Nina looks at the beach through a Contact Juggling ball

I practiced juggling 4 balls, wowing the ninos with complicated crossover show-off moves and multiplexes. I spent about an hour juggling and playing catch with the kids, and then an hour strumming the guitar before the sun started to disappear behind the row of hotels and tiendas. The clouds were fat and dense in the humidity and tinged with gold from the sun. I gathered my things and headed homeward, grabbing two empenadas from the Argentinean vendor down the road.  I ate my delicious 30 peso dinner while studying my Spanish present perfect verb conjugations in the lounge.

I spent the next couple hours working on edits for World Travel Buzz and writing this post. Right now, some friends are outside, drinking a few beers and toasting to the camaraderie of travelers. It’s all cheek kisses, cheers’s in multiple languages, laughter and easy friendship. Every day is a party, and if you steer clear of the tourist traps and flashy discos, you can live on the cheap and enjoy the simple, sleepless chaos that the lively hostel scene provides.

On that note, amigos, it’s time for me to join the party – and do it all over again tomorrow!


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