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I'm going to Mexico on Friday for a wedding.  My friends wanted to get married on a beach, and they found a cute All Inclusive on Isla Mujeres. There will be 45 of us there, and I'm sharing a room with two of my friends and another girl I haven't met yet. Graham isn't coming because he has schoolwork, and the end of the semester looms. I also have schoolwork, but the class I'm missing is due to work, not this mini-vacation.  I get home on Monday.

I haven't been to Mexico in probably 20 years, and I'm actually getting pretty excited about the prospect. I've never been to Isla Mujeres, but I spent tons and tons of time in the Yucutan when I was a kid.  Aeromexico used to have a deal where kids flew free with an adult, and for my parents, Mexico was the easiest vacation to take.  You could leave the house and be on the beach about four hours later.

We went to a place called Akumal most of the time, which I wrote about 9 years ago.  It's about 75 miles south of Cancun, and it was a coconut plantation before they started turning it into a resort about 40 years ago.  It's not a resort in the sense that it's at all organized.  There are a bunch of condominiums and small hotels and casitas arranged along the coastline, with a few restaurants, a small grocery store, a dive shop, and an amazing bar on the beach. We'd usually stay in one of the condos, since I think they were less concerned with the number of people than just renting out the unit.  That they had kitchens was a selling point too, because we'd cook in for breakfast and some dinners.  We'd take cassettes with us, and there are some songs of the soundtrack of my youth that are associated with Akumal.  At night, we'd play with the hermit crabs we'd find on the beach and bring "home" or we'd play gin rummy or otherwise entertain ourselves.  It was too far away from any towns for television signals, and I don't think there were phones in the condos.  We were cut off entirely, but we didn't mind in the slightest.

The beach is sugar white, and there are tons of coconut trees.  (There was a blight in the 90s that killed most of the trees, but I believe that they've recovered quite a bit since then.) About 200 yards off the beach, there is a coral reef. Which means that the water is amazingly calm, and mothers of kids under the age of ten don't worry too much about their kids playing in the ocean.  My dad always said that the water was so clear that you could not only see your toes when you were standing in it, but you could see the dirt in your toenails. And of course, the reef was gorgeous, with lots of pretty, colorful fish and lovely corals.  I believe it was a national park.   My parents would hang out at the bar and talk to the others there. My dad once spent an afternoon just chatting with Ridley Scott (having no idea who he was) about whether or not the Hunt For Red October would make for a good film. ,The kids would play on the beach or in the water.  It was an amazing way to spend time.  I really loved it quite a bit.

Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Coba were all archaeological sites that we went to as well.  I desperately wanted to be Indiana Jones, and in those days, we could climb over any structure that was standing.  We'd scramble on the pyramids and temples and dare each other to get close to the cenotes.  I actually went into college thinking of becoming an anthropology major because of those trips (and to the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City).  It was with great pride (and some fear) that I climbed el Castillo at Chichen Itza when I was ten years old.  Tulum was closest to Akumal, so we went there the most.  There was a little tourist market there, and we'd look at all the souvenirs, conning my parents into letting us bring something home with us.

There were also a few lagoons, where underwater rivers in the Yucutan would meet up with the ocean. One was right in the Akumal complex, called Yal-Kul.  We'd go there to snorkel at least once or twice a trip.  It was deeper than the reefs by the beach, and there were some amazing fish there. I once spent 15 minutes following what I thought was a dolphin, until it turned and I realized it was a 4 foot shark.  I've never swum so fast in my life after making that discovery.  I don't think I was in any danger.

I went to Mexico City and Acapulco and to some of the border towns in the Valley also when I was a kid, including my grandfather's funeral. I loved those trips as well, but I didn't know them as well as I knew Akumal in the Yucutan.  Mexico City was for years my favorite city in the world.

The last time I went to Mexico that I can think of was in 1992, when I was 18.  I was in college, and I went with some friends for Spring Break to Mazatlan. It wasn't anything like the Mexico I knew.  Everyone spoke English, the hotels were like fortresses, and everyone was American. I had fun, I suppose.  I partied at Senor Frogs.  My first one-night-stand happened on that trip, with one of the nicest guys to introduce a girl to such things. I learned a lot about myself. But it could have been anywhere, not necessarily in Mexico.  I went to Tiajuana also when I was in college, but again, it wasn't the Mexico I grew up going to.

Afterwards, Mexico sort of fell off of my radar. There were a few times that I thought about going, but I never wanted to do something like that trip to Mazatlan again.  There've been a few family trips down to the Valley in the last 20 years, but it's gotten so dangerous on the border towns that even locals don't cross much anymore.   In 2006, my dad and sisters went to Mexico City for a quick weekend trip, but I was dealing with a broken heart and didn't want to go anywhere then.   My mother-in-law was living in Guanajuato when Graham and I first started dating, but she moved back to the US a year later, after her husband passed away.   I keep thinking about going on a trip to either Copper Canyon or Michoacan for the butterfly migration with my mom, but those are hard trips to organize.  I think my sister Olivia would probably like those trips as well, but I don't know.

This trip is purely for fun, not culture or experience.  I suspect that I won't have to speak much Spanish, though I am looking forward to it if I do.  I don't think we'll be leaving the resort much, since everything is included in the fare.  My purpose in being there is to celebrate my friends', and we'll have a good time.

But I'm getting excited about going back to Mexico after all these years.   I suspect that the ocean and the beach will be familiar, and tons of memories will come flooding back as soon as I take a look at the water.