Monday, March 28, 2022

My Girl Scout Troop Went on a Caribbean Cruise... and on Day #4, We Went to Progreso (and Someone Got Food Poisoning)!

Get ready, because I took a ton of really terrible cell phone photos, and I'm going to show you ALL of them!

 We woke up bright and early and in Mexico this morning! Our first port day was Progreso, which I had been revved up about beyond belief. As I explained to my Girl Scout troop at least four hundred times, you know what Progreso is RIGHT NEXT TO?


And you know why Chicxulub is so special?

Because right off the coast of Chicxulub is where the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs hit! RIGHT THERE!!! WE'RE PRACTICALLY STANDING RIGHT ON TOP OF IT!!!

Even though the Girl Scouts had divided themselves into three separate excursion groups, each chaperoned by two adults, we'd all be spending our port day inside, or at the rim of, the ancient Chicxulub crater. Matt, Syd, and some others were visiting a beach club, and driving to it would take them directly through Chicxulub--squee!!! Will and some others were visiting Chichen Itza and a nearby cenote, and I and some others were going to be biking between, and snorkeling in, several cenotes.

The cool thing about cenotes, and the reason they're unique in the world, is that they were formed from that asteroid crater. The impact blasted and changed the qualities of the rock, and so it was the limestone around the rim of the crater that was especially vulnerable to water seeping in through faults and forming these deep, straight caves. When sea levels receded, these caves were the only natural water sources in the Yucatan Peninsula, which is very flat and has no rivers. So people chose to live near cenotes, and many ancient Maya sites are located there. 

So, Progreso! We were all getting off the ship, we were all going to be in different groups, we all needed to have our passports and Sail and Sign cards and sunscreen and beach towels and what-have-you with us, and we all needed to be up and at 'em early in the morning. The chaperones and kids in each group each figured out among themselves when to get up and where to meet, etc.

Except that the night before, the captain had made an announcement to the ship that we'd be arriving late into Progreso, so everyone's debarkation time was pushed back by over an hour. The same for excursion meet-up times. So we all changed our plans to a slightly more leisurely breakfast and meet-up time. 

Except that THEN, during that slightly more leisurely breakfast (BlueIguana breakfast burrito, I MISS you!!!), the captain made ANOTHER announcement that surprise! We got in earlier than expected! In fact, we can disembark NOW!!! And if your original excursion was scheduled to meet NOW, it's once again meeting NOW!!! 

Imagine that scene from the first Harry Potter movie, when Professor Quirrell announced to a Great Hall full of children that there was a troll in the dungeon, and chaos ensues. 

Now imagine it with Girl Scouts.

Some Girl Scouts were still in bed. Some Girl Scouts had their mouths full of food. Heck, *I* had my mouth full of food! I was also watching, horrified, as Will sat across from me and messily ate a, to my eyes, very undercooked salmon eggs benedict. Some people had their stuff with them, and some had their stuff back in their room, and nobody could communicate with each other because the Carnival app's chat function that we'd each paid five whole bucks for wasn't working, or rather, was only working sometimes so you never knew if it was working or not. It was a very unwelcome reminder of the exact same scenario Carnival had caused at embarkation, and I was NOT happy.

So, my mouth full of delicious breakfast burrito, I ran across the ship and down five flights of stairs to my cabin for my day bag and passport and back up five flights of stairs and across the ship, then, with my co-chaperone and the Girl Scouts on our biking and snorkeling excursion (my Girl Scout count was 2!), back across the ship and down six flights of stairs to disembark in real, live Mexico!!!

Just as we came abreast of the fruit-sniffing dog, my co-chaperone remembered she had half a breakfast burrito in her bag. I pulled the children slightly towards me and away from her, but the dog fortunately had no interest in Mexican-style scrambled eggs and Monterey Jack cheese.

Back on the ship later that day, I would be PISSED at Matt that on his own excursion, which included one of his own children, he'd managed to take exactly three photos, whereas I took literally 150 photos of children not my own on my own excursion with them. However, to be fair, all my photos were taken with a cell phone inside a waterproof case, and they're all SUPER crappy. But I made a lot of magical memories, anyway!

It turns out that I can get kids not my own to indulge my Magic School Bus bit ("Seatbelts, everyone!" "PLEASE let this be a normal field trip!" "With the Frizz, no way!" And then you sing the theme song) exactly twice, even though I tried it every single time we got into a van and put our seatbelts on. Better than my own kids, at least, who would have indulged me exactly once.

It's also just as magical to watch kids not my own seeing a new country for the very first time, exclaiming over all the novelties and differences between there and here. And I spend just as much time talking kids not my own out of buying contraband material, debating if a cocoa bean really counts as a fruit or vegetable and what are the chances one could sneak a street dog past Carnival security and onto the ship?

We did not try to sneak this good boy past security, but we wanted to!

This good boy lives at Cenotes Santa Barbara, a site with three cenotes open for exploration (and a bunch more that aren't yet), all connected by a bicycle trail. 

Fun fact: I am apparently easily distracted, and this is not great while bicycling. I have SO. MANY. BRUISES!

Our good boy accompanied us to the first cenote:

The bicycles were pretty old, but more-or-less functional, although the kids, in particular, seemed quite stymied by their lack of hand brakes. I scoffed a bit internally at their dismay, because come on, I rode a bike without hand brakes for my entire childhood! You just pedal backwards to stop, Kids, it's not rocket surgery!

You know what, though? I did not come to a successful, event-free stop a single time during this entire trip. Once, I ran into a tree. Once, I got so distracted by a giant iguana sitting on a rock that I, too, steered directly into a rock. And then I steered into a different rock.

Here's our first cenote!

Entering into Cenote Cascabel was one of the most magical experiences of my life. Maya mythology has a version of the World Tree, whose branches reach the Upper World, whose trunk lives in the Middle World of humans, and whose roots touch Xibalba, the Underworld. It was fitting, then, that we entered this cenote, another way to access Xibalba, through a cave situated in the roots of a giant tree. We walked down several flights of steps, fastened on our life jackets and snorkeling gear, and just like that, we were all swimming in a real, live cenote for the first time in our lives.

So here's something that you should know about me and snorkeling: I don't. I've technically gone snorkeling several times, because you apparently can't go to Hawaii without managing the social expectation that you get in open water above your head and put a bunch of crap on your face and spend a lot of time trying not to actively drown, but in every single instance I weasel my way out of actually getting in open water above my head, putting a bunch of crap on my face, and trying not to actively drown. Being so near-sighted is a help, because usually I can just say that, oh, darn, I can't see through these goggles, perhaps I'll just lay on this nice boogie board with a porthole instead. Another option is just sort of... not snorkeling, like, "Oh, this boat tour includes snorkeling? How fun! Yep, you go ahead, I'll be over here looking at this fish I can certainly see from the boat, yeah, maybe I'll join you in a bit," and then later being all, "Yeah, that was super great! So many fish!" without actually specifying that I had not, in fact, actually jumped in the water without a life jacket and with a bunch of crap on my face because I DO NOT WANT TO DIE. 

Since life jackets were mandatory on this excursion, though, and I didn't have to worry about actively drowning, I could use the easiest option, which was to simply accept the snorkeling gear and then leave it with my bicycle. That way, I could enjoy the cenote, not drown, and not have to put my face in the water!

And that's how I happily bobbed like a slug atop the water of every cenote, taking 1,000 terrible photos of the Girl Scouts in my care and the cenote features and having an absolutely marvelous time:

I even took a selfie, that's what a happy cenote slug I was!

I really wanted to use my waterproof pouch to take underwater photos and videos, but my cell phone was not happy with the temperature change, and didn't really cooperate. You can make out, though, the smooth bottom of the cenote, with some rocks fallen from the ceiling, a few dead vines, and a fish! Fish kept touching me, and I did not like it. 

My Girl Scouts are much braver than I!

We had plenty of time to explore the cenote, and then it was back up the stairs, back on the bikes, and over to Cenote Chaksikin:

I loved the stalactites in this cenote, so here's a bunch of terrible photos of them!

I think it was around this point that one of my Girl Scouts said, "Ms. Julie! The water's not salty!", and I was all, "OMG DO NOT GET CENOTE WATER IN YOUR MOUTH!"

Please note: she was NOT the kid who got food poisoning!

Again, we had loads of time to enjoy this cenote, and then it was back on the bikes to the last one!

Cenote Xooch was my favorite. I mean, look at it!

To get to this one, we walked down a long flight of stone steps, and when we arrived at the edge of the water, literal birds were flying around and chirping and looking like something out of a fantasy novel.

They also were apparently pooping liberally into the water, but whatever. God hates a coward:

On the way back up the steps, I was trying to pose my Girl Scouts in front of the cenote entrance so I could take adorable photos of them, but the sun was so bright that I couldn't actually see my screen. I'd snapped probably a dozen pictures before I realized that my camera was actually on selfie mode, and all my photos looked like this:

Behind me is our tour guide, Fabiola, who was wonderful and who I'm pretty sure knew the whole time that my camera was in selfie mode.

Our excursion included lunch in the on-site restaurant, and it was delicious!

Fabiola had told us that, if we had time after lunch, we should walk around back and visit the ladies who made our tortillas in an outdoor hut behind the restaurant. Obviously, that was a must-do, so after we'd eaten, the kids and I headed back there to explore.

The real treasure, though, was the friendships we made along the way:

And we found our good boy again!

Indeed, back behind the restaurant there WAS a hut, and in the hut there WERE two ladies making tortillas by hand! They pressed and shaped the balls into tortillas, then cooked them on a giant metal dish set atop an open fire. We greeted each other, I trotted out my extremely awful Spanish 101 taken 25 years ago--"Me gusta la comida!"--and we got so thoroughly distracted that Fabiola had to yell at us from across the property to inform us very politely that every other person was already on the tour van waiting for us, oops.

One of our troop's trip preparations was a lesson on tipping, including making all the kids practice my specialty, the handshake tip. So in the van on the way back to the port, I passed out some of our troop's petty cash to the kids, and told them who should be tipped when we got out, and about how much they should each be given. One kid was all, "We don't have to do that handshake tip thing, do we?!?" I told them no, but on the next day's excursion, I told them yes, mwa-ha-ha!

The only bad part of the entire trip is that our excursion took so long that we barely had any time back at the port before our ship's all-aboard time, and the kids were SO excited about shopping that I hated how rushed we were. Also, one kid really had to use the bathroom, so we spent a lot of that precious port time rushing through the shopping area, desperately trotting out more of my bad Spanish to every shopkeeper--"Donde esta el baño?!? Gracias!!!"

Another of our troop's trip preparations was currency exchange, so that each kid could have her own small supply of pesos, and one of the trip requirements was that each kid had to spend her own pesos, interacting with shopkeepers, attempting to communicate, etc. Some kids had to be chivvied into this activity that was way out of their comfort zone, but the kids I was chaperoning were stoked to try it, and we had just enough time for each of them to find something they wanted to buy and to make the purchase, although we did not, alas, have time to sit down for virgin frozen cocktails like they also wanted before we had to get in line to get back on the ship:

The kids had an interesting instructional scenario to entertain them in line, as at the hospitality station next to us were a couple of women, one of whom was passed out drunk in a wheelchair. Matt's group beat us, though, because they saw two guys, both passed out drunk in wheelchairs, one with some bloody injuries on his knees and head that were probably pass-out drunk related. 

Oh, and here is one of the THREE photos Matt chose to take during his excursion:

He apparently REALLY liked his tour guide!

Matt and I arrived back in our cabin from our various excursions at about the same time, although there was no sign of Will's group yet. Here's our towel elephant:

I figured no Girl Scouts would need me at least until dinner, so Matt and I walked around the ship for a bit--

--then had just settled ourselves in a couple of chaise longues by the pool, virgin pina coladas in hand, when one of the chaperones from Will's excursion found us. Poor Will had started feeling puny shortly into their Chichen Itza and cenote swimming excursion, and even though one of the chaperones gave her first Dramamine and then a prescription-level anti-emetic, she'd vomited the entire long ride home. 

Matt and I went down and got her out of the stateroom she was sharing with two friends and put her to bed in ours, and gave her another prescription-level anti-emetic. I was a little surprised that the first one hadn't stopped the vomiting, but I figured that the heat and the motion sickness of being on a tour bus and the anxiety of being out and about must have exacerbated things. Will was feeling pretty sleepy, so we left her alone to rest while we went to dinner with the rest of the troop.

Here are my fried cheese sticks:

And my two desserts! Our waiter served them on one plate to make me seem less like a glutton:

Then, the sunset outside, on the way to check back in on Will:

Unfortunately, Will was not feeling at all better, nor had she stopped vomiting. Matt called down to the med center, and they told me to bring her straight down. Field trip to the crew area!

The first thing the med center told me was that they don't take health insurance. I seriously had to say to myself, "Okay, she's VERY sick. This is what money is for" silently inside my head before I could say, "No problem" out loud. Also, the med center was completely full, they said, and we did, indeed, pass rooms that were chock-full of people on our way to what I think was used, in less fraught times, as a supply closet. But it had a bed for Will to lie on, and a private bathroom for her to be sick in, so it worked for us.

Here's some of the three-page itemized list of medical care that poor Will received:

She was super patient and calm, did her best to comply with the doctor's requests and answer all their questions, while being just absolutely, terribly, miserably ill. I feel like they were checking her, in part, for the biggest potential issues like E. coli, appendicitis, and an ectopic pregnancy first, but they finally gave her a shot of something that they said would stop her vomiting, although they warned it might take up to an hour to kick in. Which it did just that, poor kid.

They also gave her a Covid test (negative!), and told her that she had to quarantine in her stateroom for both 24 hours after her last symptoms and until she had a second negative Covid test 24 hours after the first one. The doctor had a hard time understanding my request that she be allowed to quarantine in my stateroom rather than the one she was sharing with her friends, but eventually agreed, although then I had to go over the whole request and explanation with the nurse practitioner who came in just after and get permission all over again, and then the next day Matt had to go over it all AGAIN with the med center because room service had apparently been calling the wrong room repeatedly to see if Will wanted anything delivered and when they never got an answer they alerted the med center that Will was either dead or violating quarantine.

I also didn't love that they literally put us back into a tiny stateroom with someone who could have had food poisoning or norovirus and didn't provide us with any disinfectant. It felt very unhygienic, and I'm basing my theory that Will had food poisoning rather than norovirus solely on the fact that neither Matt nor I became ill. I wish we'd at least had a balcony to get some fresh air into the room!

Fortunately, though, Will fell asleep almost immediately after returning to our stateroom. She slept probably twelve hours straight, and felt MUCH better the next day. I sent Syd into Will's room to pack her things and bring them to us, and Matt went down to Guest Services to cancel Will's Cozumel excursion and get a refund. 

I kind of wonder if Will was SO sick partly because I don't remember her being sick at all since before the pandemic. I think this is maybe the second sickest I've ever seen her, below only that time that I thought she had meningitis but it was actually an infected lymph node. Probably good for her immune system, overall, although I hate that she was so miserable and would miss so much fun. 

And we are NEVER going near salmon eggs benedict again!

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