Even though the market tour and cooking class we recently had in Yucatan were disappointing, that day still did significantly expand my experiences. I have learned that on a trip, interchanges with fellow travelers can expand my horizons. It is natural, at least for me, to have at least a few minutes’ conversation with the Australians, Canadians, Americans, Dutch, French, and Bulgarians I meet at historic sites or restaurants. And when traveling in a group, there are many and longer interchanges with fellow travelers in the breakfast rooms or on a bus or van. While traveling I have met an Italian professor specializing in Italian-American literature who introduced me to a novelist I later read; a heart transplant surgeon whose sense of humor coincided with mine; a retired fire captain who had a repertoire of Moth-quality stories; his friend who gushed as he showed me the pictures of the classic fire engines he had restored; a woman whose son was a number-crunching baseball analyst; a small town newspaperman with interesting insights on America; and many more.
Something similar happened on this trip, not because we were traveling in a group, but because of our accommodations. We stayed in a small condo complex that had apartments and freestanding villas. We walked through an unlocked metal gate to a courtyard with a swimming pool. Villas were on the sides and apartments facing the Caribbean at the far end. We were in a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor with a view of the water from a sunken living room and an adjacent deck. The view was beautiful, although the removal of one palm tree in front of the deck would have made the view even better. The place had comfortable beds, chairs, and sofas. The kitchen was well equipped but had inadequate lighting. The showers, however, emitted a puny stream. Water pressure, we learned, was a problem in all of Yucatan, but ours was especially bad. The water comes from aquifers laden with showerhead-clogging limestone. After a few days of dancing under the drops from the showers in an almost futile attempt to rinse off soap, the spouse got the showerheads replaced. The shower was not what I would call luxurious, but it was better than before. The split AC system was efficient although we seldom ran it except in the bedroom at night. All in all, the place had the feel of Old Florida, which I found attractive.
The complex had a social center, the pool, where conversations were struck up in and out of the water. The spouse had found the place on an English-language website. Not surprisingly, it was a North American enclave. The owners and renters at the condo complex we met were from the United States or Canada. The most interesting person was a surgeon from Milwaukee. He was originally from Indiana but he spent many boyhood summers in Wisconsin, and we swapped stories about old and new Wisconsin. And later, he helped convince me that I needed to go to an emergency room, a visit that may have saved my life. (But that is another story.)
Alma’s cooking class was also a place for a social interchange. The other family we shopped, cooked, and ate with were from Topeka, Kansas. I asked why the two girls were not in school. I was told that they were. Danica and Delaney were home schooled, and the mother said that the trip was part of their education. The girls had completed reading projects on Yucatan and the Mayans before coming to the peninsula, and the trip was another step in their schooling.
The family took many trips. All were preceded by assigned readings. The family had a goal of visiting all fifty states before the girls completed their home schooling.
The mother volunteered that her daughters had been attending a “Christian school,” which had gone into remote learning at the beginning of the pandemic. That had not worked well for the girls. They quickly completed their assignments and got bored. The parents wanted the girls to be challenged more and decided that they could do that through home schooling. The parents were members of a home schooling association, and both of them were involved in the educational instruction.
The father, a financial planner, was the bread winner. His wife proudly told us that he managed a $50 million portfolio. Many of his clients were widows who had not taken part in their family finances. Desmond said that few had even bought a car and were relieved that he would participate in such a transaction. He said his clients always seemed to want to buy a Honda, and he had helped purchase more CR-Vs than he could remember. This pleased the NBP who loves Hondas.
Although the car purchases may have been in Topeka, he said that he could work from almost anywhere with an internet connection. Thus, the family could travel extensively.
I went to the cooking class to learn about food, but instead what I really learned, yet again, was to check my prejudices. I had not given it much thought, but I am sure that I had assumed that there was something off about home schoolers. I probably thought I would meet with evangelism at least for home schooling; diatribes about the loss of “values” in the schools; coerced into praying before a meal; and ill-informed political and health comments. There was none of that. Yes, the family and its members were a bit precious and self-involved. (They asked almost nothing about the three of us, even though each of us in our own way, I assure you, is fascinating. But this did not separate them out from many, many other American families.) Mostly, the four of them just seemed nice and loving.
Perhaps that is why I did not tell them what I had once heard. At one of the times when there was a scandal because a teacher was having an affair with her high school student, a man said that he thought this was not a big deal because such sex had not been harmful to him when he was a boy. He paused, looked reflective, and continued, “But, then again, I was home schooled.”
And I forgot to ask them what food they would get when they got back home to Topeka. I wonder if any would have responded, “Bierocks.”