Thursday, October 13, 2011

"It's not my country, I am a guest!"

The first winter we arrived on Isla Mujeres, we met Harriet and she regaled us with funny stories of learning the intricacies of a new culture.  Harriet's mantra, when sometimes the cultural differences make her head ache, is "it's not my country, I am a guest."  We liked it!  And promptly stole the quote for our own use. It has become one of our favourite sayings - especially when something wacky happens that makes you shake your head in wonder, muttering "Why don't they ....?  (fill in the blank)  And then you remember: "It's not my country.  I am a guest" - and laugh. 

On Sunday this past weekend Lawrie and I had taken our car into Cancun for our monthly grocery shop, doing the Costco, Mega Commercial, Home Depot circuit to buy things that are not readily available on the island.  We were headed back to the car ferry depot at Punta Sam, when we spotted a barricade, constructed out of a thin piece of rope, two tires, and four traffic cones.  It stretched across the main road between Cancun and Punta Sam - directing traffic onto the new double-lane section of highway that appeared, finally, to be completed.  No signs, no warning lights - just a piece of rope and four orange cones.  Interesting.  Oh well, the new pavement was great. 

Rope and traffic cones - this road closed, use new one.
Ah ha! But there's a twist. 

Normally when cars disembark from the ferry the road into Cancun is four lanes wide, two headed into Cancun, and two headed out of Cancun for about a mile, then it switches rather abruptly into just two lanes, of opposing traffic.  The drivers have to be on their toes.  The only indication of a change in the traffic pattern is a row of round bumps, sometimes painted reflective yellow, across the left-hand lane to indicate you should move over to the right-hand lane - NOW.  Okay, we have all become accustomed to this manoeuvre during the past year or two. No big deal.

Then on Wednesday while we were headed back into Cancun to buy a new dishwasher we thought the traffic headed out to Punta Sam was quite light, not many cars on the road.  We finally realized what was happening.  Some of the traffic was on the new section, while some of the vehicles were using the old road.  So, now we had one lane headed into Cancun, and two, or three, lanes (take your pick where you want to drive) headed to Punta Sam.  

The new road.  On the left behind trees the original road.

"You would think that some signage might be called for at this point wouldn't you?  .... oh hell, it's not my country.  I am a guest."   

When we lived in Canada sometimes our various foreign friends would mutter and shake their head over Canadian idiosyncrasies. 

That's when we could have quoted Harriet's favourite saying.

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