our travel company gave me the option to get up early & have a layover to arrive at cabo around five pm... or get up at my normal time & take a nonstop flight to arrive around five pm. yeah. so i woke up at seven & travis drove us to the light rail downtown. we made it to the airport & through security & into mexico without a hassle, mostly unmolested by timeshare hawkers.
we received purple wristbands at check-in, denoting our all-inclusive status. i was also given a company-branded beach bag with sunblock, chips & salsa, a company-embroidered windbreaker for each of us, & a couple of double shooters glasses. (yay, more branded barware for the straight-edger!) we were driven in a golf cart the long way around to our room, at first concerned that we were half a mile from everyone else, before figuring out that our driver is an idiot. :) the hotel room was beautiful & open, with a balcony facing the ocean. we loitered on it a minute, then headed down to the opening night cocktail hour & dinner.
we'd been advised to don "fiesta attire" for this event, but having no idea what the fuck THAT'S supposed to be, i opted for my only little black dress. i successfully schmoozed with several of the senior leadership team (SLT) - read: the old white dudes in charge of my company who inexplicably love me. (i think they like that i give them shit - a tiny little punker girl who has no fear of them is kind of an anomaly in their world.) our president spotted me immediately & greeted me cheerfully, smiling & mildly trashed.
the first night banquet was a decent buffet directly on the beach. the guacamole was pretty good, i finally got to try some grilled nopales (cactus leaves, very tasty), & my virgin piña colada was delicious, but everything else was basically standard fare. our COO sat with me, & we swapped east-coast stories while travis drank too much red wine & tequila. (fortunately, travis only becomes extra loquacious when sloshy, & did have the wherewithal to decline another refill at the very first slurred syllable.) folks were headed to cabo wabo after dinner (the stupidest name for a bar ever), & we were going to join, but the wifi & jacuzzi tub in our room called to me... & apparently travis's pillow called to his face, 'cause his tipsy ass fell immediately asleep.
it's funny, people always think of mexico as "OMG DON'T DRINK THE WATER", but the tap water wasn't potable in china or ireland or the philippines either... or pretty much anywhere else. so it was no problem to adjust back to brushing my teeth & rinsing my toothbrush & contact case in the bottled water provided by the hotel. *shrug*
(i didn't have my camera with me much, so many of the photos in this post are from travis.)
friday 28: company-sponsored Fun in cabo
there was an 8am mandatory breakfast meeting scheduled solely to make the trip a work expense; the SLT repeatedly half-joked that we'd each be charged hundreds in taxes if they didn't hold this meeting. the suggested "sports casual" attire confused the hell out of travis, who apparently filed it with business casual... but since we were leaving for our complimentary events directly afterward, i said fuck it & dressed for the day.
breakfast was fine; the scrambled eggs with peppers were particularly good, & there were some nice little pastries that had nothing to do with mexico, but again the food was pretty traditional for the american palate. boo. i purposely sat with our CEO & bonded with him over his supposed inability to get eggs more well-done than what was on offer - when the staff brought him what he'd asked for after all, i claimed credit & he laughed.
the work portion of breakfast was short, & gave me some ideas for my team. at 8:45, we trooped down to the shuttles to our destinations. the choices for company-sponsored Fun were whale watching, spa massages, golf with the CEO, ATV riding on the beach, or ziplining. i had enjoyed ziplining twice in hawaii, so i considered the ATVs first, but the fine print had said they didn't go over 20mph. fuck that, let's zipline in mexico!
at this point i should note that travis has a serious fear of both flying & heights (having lived through a fairly major plane crash), & has gone to great lengths to avoid both. when he traveled europe a few years ago, he went by boat that took two weeks to arrive, simply to avoid flying. he'd agreed to fly with me pretty much solely because of our friendship (& with the help of a few xanax) - & clearly the best way to thank him was to throw him off a bunch of cliffs with only a bouncy metal rope & a couple of carabiners marking the difference between Alive Travis and Very Splattered on the Canyon Floor Travis.
the COO insisted on photographing us in front of the hotel (be sure to giggle at travis's totally inappropriate ziplining wardrobe), & we were off. ziplining at wild canyon was pretty great, & travis did end up enjoying it (as i knew he would, since this was a similar discomfort point to the time i got him on the Aftershock). there was far more hiking involved between zips than i would've liked, but it was beautiful, i was covered in SPF 6000, & travis carried my pulley, so i was okay. a bunch of the ziplines were tandem - travis in front, me behind, with the toes of my docs tucked into his armpits - & one zip was even done as a foursome with our cool CMO (or whatever, i forget his title) & his wife. the last of the lines was nearly a half mile & got us up to about 48mph!
the only real downside was they didn't allow us to bring our cameras, & i wasn't interested in paying $40USD for a cd of shots taken of our group. oh, & i was injured on one of the tandem lines - a staff member put on the breaks too quickly & caused me to rebound with speed off travis, & in my fear of having to hand-over-hand it a hundred yards, i forgot to put my gloved hand behind the pulley to stop my descent back to mid-line. so my pinky ended up a little chewed, but i barely lost a drop of blood & it didn't slow me down. i declined a band-aid.
back at the resort, starving after all the hiking, travis & i had lunch at "tomatoes" restaurant: a very tasty ceviche with fire roasted corn chips to start, &, as there were no traditional mexican dishes on offer, i had a shockingly juicy chicken breast stuffed with squash blossoms & terrific garlic mashed potatoes. (& by "had" i mean "ate a small portion of", as the ceviche was about twice the amount of fish as expected.)
after lunch, i lay next to the saltwater pool (the beach chairs were taken) & read my book in the shade with a virgin strawberry daiquiri in hand while travis swam in his derpy pony trunks. before returning to the room, i walked down to the beach with him to put my feet in the gulf of california - me carrying my netbook & travis his tablet. yes, we realized this was a bad idea as it was ongoing, but all the electronics survived their visit to the foreshore.
we cleaned up, internetted a bit, & headed down for the awards banquet - the part on the schedule that most made me go o_O. it was okay - the hors d'oeuvre were delicious, dinner was tasty, & the individual recognition of each of the ~30 awardees didn't actually take forever. we all received carved lucite... things... (obelisks? ziggurats? what do you call a pointy polygon trophy?); i'd had my employee of the month & president's club certificates framed really obnoxiously & ornately & hung at my desk, so it was suggested i buy a giant roman plinth to display the award. I'M IN.
for those interested, here's what our COO said about me at the dinner (mildly edited for privacy):
It is my honor in hosting Lish as the "At-Large Selectee". Since there is only one of these in the entire company, it should be considered a great recognition of the work she is doing.
Although I don't get up to Seattle as much as I used to, the past two times I did make it up, she was out but I saw the difference she was making without her even being there. [one of those times, i was on a work trip to the philippines; the other was my birthday & i don't work on my birthday. -lish]
Lish has created a positive work environment that has nurtured and supported our agents and leadership. She created incentive programs that encourage our agents in friendly competition and decreased attendance instances on the team. Overall team morale is higher than it has been in years. She's a significant contributor to why we have had major front and back office improvements over the last year. Some examples include:
- Employee of the Month - July 2013
- Highest issue resolution ratio of all [company] teams
- Maintained target [metrics] of over [high number] (while increasing [other metric] by only [low number])
- Maintained [other good metric]
- Decreased attendance instances by 22% from 2012
yeah. so. that happened. ^_^
when the awards were over & the drinking started, travis walked me back to the hotel room & then went off to imbibe fancy mexican tequila that can't be purchased in the states. of this, he noted: "unlike most alcoholic beverages, tequila has the unique distinction of actually getting more awful as it gets more expensive." gee, i really missed out!@
saturday 29: free day of freedom
we stopped by the breakfast buffet - more good scrambled eggs, but nothing else noteworthy aside from green apple yoplait. (foreign yoplait flavors are neat - you may recall i had hazelnut in ireland.) food, okay.
from the states, i'd found that camel tours are a thing in mexico, & we ended up back at wild canyon. it was great! for about a hundred bucks, we got to meet & feed & pet & ride & be smooched by camels. the ride part was interesting: they're much rougher than riding a horse because they walk laterally - moving both right legs together, then both lefts - so it was wobbly & oceanic. we were also taught a pretty good deal about camels, including that they don't spit (that's llamas). all of the animals are treated very well out there - trained by positive reinforcement, allowed to behave as they would naturally (walking in a line, for example, even if there aren't enough riders for each), kept comfortable, & not forced to stand or sit or do tricks if they don't want to. it was great to see, & made us feel very good about supporting their operation. the best (& oddest) part was that the two female camels really liked travis. i mean, really liked travis. a camel named gaga went out of her way to stretch her nose to him for pats, & then actually did a little dance over it. had i not witnessed it myself, i'd've totally called bullshit. (the photo of travis kissing a camel shows a CARROT, not his tongue; though, he did report getting quite a bit of camel slobber on his face. soooo, yeah.)
our camel quest tickets also included a guided run through the kingdom, full of rescue iguanas, large birds, prairie dogs, so forth. we fed tiny birds from our palms, posed with giant macaws, & i'm pretty sure the entire group agreed our guide was hot as fuck. so that helped. X)
with time left over before my tattoo appointment, i was able to do something i'd wanted to do since i first learned it existed a few years ago - ride a canyon swing. my spine's all fucked up, so i figure i should never go bungee jumping, but a canyon swing looks like all the excitement but in a gentler method. i was towed out via gondola to a platform in the sky, & harnessed into a giant set of ropes. there was a short, awesome freefall, & a looooong swing across to the other side, & back & forth a few times. though it would've been more energetic with added weight, travis was puking blood just watching me, so i figured the plane rides & ziplining were probably enough to force him through. after the swing stopped swinging, i leaned back in a reverse swan dive, watched falcons wheeling on canyon thermals overhead, & waited to be towed back to the platform. it was pretty sweet, all told. i left my name tag stuck in the platform housing, officially marking it my territory. (the staff encouraged you to stick your name tag on the last fixture of each event; my sticker from ziplining was left on the far corner of the last bench.)
the wild canyon tickets included transportation to & from the resort, but i got them to drive us to the tattoo studio instead, saving us twenty bucks in cab fare... but not before letting the cool staff have a photo. when i said i'd be turned around for it, they suggested we ALL turn around. how's THAT for customer service? :)
so the driver dropped us in downtown cabo, right next to the tattoo studio i'd chosen, cabo tattoo. the owner, hector, was super cool & responsive in setting up an appointment over the net, & he was just as sweet & attentive in person. the process was pretty much the usual, & he specifically showed me the autoclaved tube & needles with their safety dates. the tattoo itself took about twice as long as others so far, & i realized it's because hector's setup is a single needle, not a grouping, so he was going over the piece incredibly carefully multiple times to thicken each line exactly the way he wanted it. this was easily possible with his quiet rotary machine; he even asked if i wanted the lines thinner & thicker as it was written, or evened out - wow. it came out awesome & i was very pleased.
since we were in downtown cabo, we decided to wander a bit before heading back to the hotel. locals everywhere tried to get us to come in & buy silver jewelry from them. one particularly savvy local said he has bracelets... then looked at me & added, "AND NOSE RINGS! COME IN!" lulz. travis found a couple of bracelets he wanted to buy his women back home, & we set out trying to find a fruit stand.
i'd done some research beforehand, though it was tough to tell what, if anything, was in season. the general list of things i wanted to eat was mamey, prickly pear, star apple (caimito/cainito), sapodilla (chicozapote), black sapote (zapote negro), nanche; & a bunch of things i'd tried in the philippines & wanted again: soursop (guanabana), cherimoya (annona cherimola), & sugar apple (saramuyo). the jewelry guy gave us a suggestion on where there might be a stand, but we couldn't find it. what we found instead was marco.
marco is a mexican dude from colorado who sounds like a frat boy. marco steps in front of us on the street & asks what we we're looking for. we say fruit market, & marco says he'll take us there if we'll buy him a beer for one dollar. sensing adventure, we go. marco knows EVERYONE on the street. marco high-fives then fistbumps EVERYONE he sees. every time he passes a female, he tells her loudly that she's pretty. he tells a woman stocking shoes in a front window that she is "the prettiest shoe in the display". marco is full of charisma, tequila, bullshit, thinly veiled misogyny, & need. marco puts a sombrero on each of our heads & tells us stories about the policía. he takes his shirt off & tells us how he always gets naked. marco keeps kissing me on the cheeks & trying to dance with me & gets travis to buy him a $6 double shot - worth it for the experience of hanging out with marco. he continues his whirlwind tour around the cabo shopping district, stopping nowhere. at a grocery, marco buys travis a beer, buys me a lemon ice pop, & nearly fistfights some dude he said called the cops on him last week. marco catches us a taxi back to the hotel, rides with us, & tells me repeatedly that he loves me. he says he likes how dainty i am but with a huge chest. marco gestures at his groin & asks if i want to see his "plátano". he says his penis is a horse. i ask if it's a pony. fortunately, he grins each time i disparage him & drinks more beer while maintaining direct eye contact. at the hotel, marco asks for my number & says he wants to go out dancing & then to my room tonight. i take his cell number, give him the wrong room number, & promise to try to call if we can come into town tomorrow morning before the flight, which we've no intention of doing. ah, marco - you were a delightful, mildly frightening, charismatic as fuck two hours of my life. the best marco quotes follow:
right. so we got back in time for dinner; we'd tried to make a reservation at de cortez "fine dining", but a wedding was booked & they had no availability. so we hit the sports bar & had some decent sushi. the highlight was some kind of shrimp roll wrapped in plantain - that was really good. gleefully abusing our "all inclusive" status, we went to a different restaurant for their dessert buffet, with coconut bars, dulce de leche tarts, caramel flan, chocolate lava cake, & a very nice rice pudding covered in cinnamon. travis wandered off to stroll around while i went back to the hotel to read & relax. the aforementioned wedding was loud on the beach until ten pm, at which point i got to watch fireworks from the balcony. a good day.
sunday 30: cabo to seattle
travis started the day with a real orange fanta from the minibar. he was right - it's tangy & weird, not at all like the orange soda fanta in the states. i'd tried yesterday to set up an early AM submarine trip or glass-bottom boat tour (not marco's imaginary vessel), but the former was fully booked & the latter got us back to the hotel too late for our shuttle to the airport. oh well.
so we tooled on to breakfast, with a yoplait con duraznos (peaches). i then enjoyed the beach for a couple hours (under a huge umbrella, of course), soaking up the warmth, reading, & consuming a mango smoothie while small black iguanas scampered around & under my chair. those lizards were a delight - wild pets were my favorite part from when i lived in florida. travis bought some kind of expensive mexican cigar & politely smoked it away from me.
i stole all the tiny toiletries for my employees, as i always do, & took the hotel coffee for joe. the ironman competition was going on, so we left early for the airport, but the thirty minute ride still took over an hour & a half. there was no drama... except that travis left his coat & phone in the shuttle. derp. (hilariously, this happened shortly after we got back. so, the phone didn't make it back, but his gorgeous wool coat WAS recovered. HEY TRAVIS, SURPRISE! ^_^ ) an easy time through customs & a ride home from travis's girlfriend finished the trip.
so that was fun! hopefully now i can get these two songs out of my head.