This morning we set out from Cancun to Progreso, Yucatan. Our first and primary goal when we arrived was to find a rental property in Progreso for our five weeks here. The first vacation rental that we ever rented was in Progreso, Yucatan in 2011. It was called the “Casa Sol Mar” and it was owned by a family, half of which resided in Canada, the other in the UK. We learned from the time spent living in that rental last year that a one-bedroom is not an option for our family of three because Lydian is twelve now. She needs her own personal and private headquarters from which she can govern her own world (and sometimes ours).
There were two vacation rentals that we had lined up to look at when we arrived in Progreso. We started our trip relatively early from the Marriott in Cancun and arrived in Progreso in the late afternoon around 3:30 PM. It seemed really late in the day to us. After all, at home, the sun would be touching the western horizon at this time of year (winter). In Progreso, though, it was still warm and sunny. The afternoon felt like afternoon and not like the edge of twilight. We went to meet “Leticia” first.
When we arrived at the first property, the “Bahia House”, we found a crew of people working frantically on moving the owner’s personal items out of the house. This wasn’t a big deal, per se, but it felt odd. There were toys and personal items scattered here and there, which was thought provoking. It made me wonder what happened. Why were these people moving out in such a hurry? The dots just didn’t connect. Some crucial piece of information was missing. A crew of people worked on packing the items into an SUV parked outside and Leticia seemed nervous and impatient. We decided to go look at the second property while the movers packed up the remaining items.
The second property was locked. No one was around to let us in and the property owner failed to arrange for someone to be able to show it to us. An elderly Yucatecan fellow named Carlos came up to our car as we sat in the lot outside the property discussing the situation and told us that he had a key. What a miracle! Really? The property manager, “Dennis” had told us via text that he was at the Cancun airport picking up his family and that he had the only key in existence. But we went ahead and followed Carlos anyways through the maze of palm trees, wooden pathways, and sand to an old expatriate couple sitting on their porch drinking beer.
“Is Dennis home?” Carlos asked them.
We had just gotten off the phone with Dennis who told us he was in Cancun picking up his family from the airport. Dennis had left the key to the condo inside his apartment. No one else had a set. We already knew this. I thought I had already told this to Carlos, but obviously, there’d been a miscommunication.
“No, no, Dennis is in Cancun.” We said. By this time, John had gotten ahold of Dennis on the phone again.
The English-speaking expatriate man asked to speak to Dennis. Dennis told him (as he had told us) that he was in Cancun picking up his family. Dennis told the expatriate everything we already knew and had already told Carlos.
“Oh…yeah. Yeah…Okay….Sure. Thanks. Bye.” The man said and then, as though offering us a revelation of new information, “Yeah, Dennis is in Cancun picking up his family from the airport.”
I was irritated but I tried to act thankful for the “clarifying” data from the beer-bellied expat. Carlos seemed to not care that he had misunderstood. Or perhaps he didn’t understand that he had misunderstood. I wasn’t sure whether it was the fact that he spoke only Spanish or that he was quite probably senile.
Then, Carlos offered to take up upstairs to see HIS apartment, which was available for only one night. We could stay there until the next day when Dennis showed up…for $300 USD.
We thanked him graciously, got his phone number (so as not to hurt his feelings), and left. We decided to go back to the first vacation rental and sign a contract with Leticia. We arrived around sunset and stood in the entry for a few moments while Leticia came from next door. She had a decidedly stand-offish manner about her. We all sat down around the kitchen table and I tried to imagine us living there for a month. It was a long way from the center of town. Too far to walk.
“I need the entire payment in cash right now.” Leticia told us as she slid the contract across the table. John told me what to say and then I translated his words to Leticia that there was a limit on our bank account that made it impossible for us to get the entire sum, in cash, all in one night. This was a lie, but something about the transaction didn’t feel right. Leticia insisted.
“Can we use PayPal?” John suggested. Leticia dug in her heals. And John and I both felt “funny” about it, but as we got up from the table we told Leticia that we’d go and try to squeeze some money out of an ATM to cover the fees for the whole month.
“I think she’s skimming the top.” John said when we got in the car. I hadn’t thought of that, but once he said it made sense. Something about the deal was clearly not “right”.
Meanwhile, Lydian was ready to explode. She really likes to plant herself mentally in a home-base when we travel. Not knowing where we would lay our heads for the next 30+ days (or even that night) was unnerving to her. John and I agreed that something seemed awry with the whole deal.
“Let’s go see Iracema.” I said. Up to this point, I’d resisted calling on the help of Marta and Iracema at the Centro de Idiomas language school in Progreso just because I didn’t want to put them out on our behalf. But it seemed as though this was the most prudent thing to do. We really didn’t want to live out in the boondocks outside of town. It felt safer to live within the actual community. And we wanted to be able to walk to the Centro de Idiomas school, the Café La Habana and the food stalls and grocery stores.
I didn’t expect for Marta and Iracema to recognize Lydian and me (John stayed in the car to make a phone call), but they did right away. And I was glad we decided to approach them for help. Marta had a property that she was trying to sell. She’d get it fixed up and rent it to us for the month. It was only a few blocks away from the school and downtown.
Needless to say, today didn’t go quite as planned. We’re at the Hotel Baroni Suites tonight, for example, rather than settling into a vacation rental. We ate “Free-doh Surprise” tonight (John’s invention), a cold casserole of refried beans, salsa, and Fritos, which was surprisingly tasty after a day of eating nothing but Lay’s potato chips and Power Bars.
At least it’s warm here, and there are green things like trees and grass. I think that if I had to endure this kind of uncertainty at home in Nebraska this time of the year, I would probably have slit my wrists. I can deal with discomforts when I have some plenty of sunshine and warmth and a few shiny happy people around.