As we landed in Puerto Vallarta, I looked out the window and saw the swaying palm trees. My heart soared! Swaying palm trees equals hot, sultry weather, right? Not always, as it turned out.
There were seven of us traveling together on the Virgin America flight. I wore my dorky zip-off-pant-legs pants that scream “I am a tourist!” I bought them in 2007 and had never worn them before due to the dorkiness factor. I smiled when I saw our leader, Reverend Deborah L. Johnson, wearing the same pants – which proves that even our heroes are human. I had never actually seen Rev Deb up close and personal. To me she was the brilliant orator who spoke from the pulpit at Inner Light, my favorite church, not just a regular person who eats, drinks, and sleeps just like the rest of us.
As we left the terminal in Puerto Vallarta, I noticed she had unzipped the legs which magically turns the pants into shorts. I followed the leader and awkwardly shed my pant-legs. The hard part is trying to get the bottom pieces over your shoes without taking them off while rolling your suitcase and keeping up with the group. Once we got to the passenger pick-up curb, I nonchalantly stuffed the pieces into my backpack all the while trying to blend in with my traveling companions who all seemed to know one another. I didn’t know anybody in the group when I signed up for the retreat. I had taken advantage of the double occupancy rate and wondered who I would be rooming with.
As we stood in the lobby of the Hotel Eloise, our organizer, Lea, turned to me and said, “You and I will be sharing tonight.”
“Oh, great.” I was taken back to the old days when I flew for Trans International Airlines We shared rooms, often with people we had never before met. I didn’t know if I would get a “slam-clicker” or a party animal. A slam-clicker gets the room key in the lobby, enters the room, slams the door, turns the dead-bolt and does not emerge until showtime for the next flight.
As Lea and I entered our room a blast of cold slapped me in the face. I was about to remark on this when Lea exclaimed, “Thank God for air-conditioning!”
Oh boy. I hate air-conditioning. It makes me sneeze. Plus, I get cold. After living in the tropics for several years, I was craving that steamy warmth – when sleeping with just a sheet feels heavenly. I brought a thin little nighty with spaghetti straps knowing I was in a double occupancy situation. Never did it occur to me that I would be huddled up under blankets snuggling in my parka that I wore to the airport in San Francisco.
Determined to be a good roomie, I clamped my lips shut and thought I could make it through the night by keeping the covers up above my nose and breathing into the sheets.
.I was surprised to hear Lea say “It’s freezing in here! How do you turn that thing down?”
“I think we need a remote control and I don’t see it anywhere in the room.”
We both got quiet, turned the lights out and pretended to sleep.
Suddenly, Lea threw back her covers.”That’s it!”she said as she donned her jacket over her pajamas and stalked off to the lobby. When she opened the door a blast of warm air rushed into the room. We just left it open at that point, privacy deemed unimportant in light of the circumstances. Lea returned with a nice young man, brandishing a remote control. Problem solved.
Moments later, in the dark, quiet, getting-warmer room, we got into a girlie giggle-that could give two third-graders, huddled in a tent on a camping trip, a run for their money.
Lea is a take-charge kind of woman. I’m sticking with her!
The next day we gathered for the boat ride to Yelapa – Fun in the Sun, here we come! I stuffed my parka into the bottom of my suitcase thinking I wouldn’t need it until the trip home. Who knew an unexpected storm was brewing and bringing not only rain, but cold, cold, cold temperatures!?
On day three of our retreat, we looked like a tribe of Nomads trudging through the Arctic Tundra all huddled in parkas topped with colorful serapes we borrowed from the Sky Temple, the yoga and meditation gathering spot on the hill. Nobody expected that! The locals were abuzz with stories. This had not happened in forty years. Boats broke from moorings, wooden shutters slammed repeatedly into sides of bungalows, and debris flew everywhere.What next? Locusts?
The following day we were scheduled to hike to a waterfall. The storm passed, the sun emerged, birdies sang, and our fabulous chef, Pegge, packed lunches for the all-day outing. Finally – a warm peaceful, sunny day was in store for us. What could possibly go wrong?
We had knowledgeable guides at the front and back of our troop of twelve. We were prepared for a magical experience basking on boulders by the side of the river enjoying the powerful falls which were touted to be especially strong due to the recent rainfall.
We traipsed through the village, the cobblestone path morphed into dirt, the foliage got thicker, the path narrower, the birds louder, and the quiet quieter. The space between conversation groups grew and I found myself hiking with Lea and Cheryl, two leaders of the Inner Light community. I knew I was in good hands. You may recall that sense of direction is not my strong suit. Yeah, like someone once said, “That Carole Jean – she could get lost in a tunnel.”
So, we happily trudged along the dirt path which was muddy and getting muddier and narrower by the minute. It wasn’t until Lea slipped on a particularly slick section that we stopped to rinse the mud off her arms – yeah she hit the muck, but gracefully caught herself on her forearms. No big damage was done. But wait, where is everybody?
To be continued…