I rarely bring Burning Man into my henna blog posts, but being in Mexico for the last week has made me think about one of the ten principles of Burning Man: immediacy. The idea is that you do something when it needs doing, but it also extends into spontaneity, inventiveness, and being in the moment, all with no excuses.
While the beach and jungle of Tulum seem like a veritable paradise, there is a certain amount of illusion. Supposedly, at the time that the Mayan site Chichen Itza was built (one of the famous pyramids in the region) the average lifespan was a mere 27 years. Meaning, I would already be long dead. Coincidentally, the word Maya means "illusion" in Sanskrit. Most people died from injuries from neighboring tribal warfare, infections and tropical diseases, as well as venomous or predatory animals. One can get pretty complacent, sitting on the beach with a Margarita in hand, but the truth is, the dangers are still there.
After a Temescal (a Mexican sweat lodge ceremony) a group of us went to cool off and cleanse ourselves in the ocean under a cloudy night sky. It was quite dark and lightning flashed in the distance. As we exited the ocean, we did a quick head count and realized we were missing our lovely Luna. Her dress was on a lounge chair, and someone checked for her in the ladies' room, to no avail. A couple of us got back in the ocean to look for her. Perhaps she had fainted from the heat of the Temescal, or been caught off guard by a rogue wave, or something more sinister? After searching for 15 minutes, she was eventually found - in the men's bathroom!! It was a relief and we all laughed it off, but the clear and present danger of nature's power reminded me that our time on this earth may end at any moment.
Several days later, by complete coincidence, pobrecita Luna was stung by a stingray just as she stepped out of the ocean. Her scream caught the attention of people on the beach, and within moments about 8 people were assisting her and assessing the situation; lifting her from the water, cleaning the puncture, holding her hand as she shook from shock and venom coursing through her veins, wrapping her in towels and blankets, and heating up hot water to soak her leg. It was amazing to see people come together so quickly and care for her. In typical Mexican style, in addition to the hot water remedy (as there is no antidote or antivenin for stingray venom) shots of tequila were administered, with a beer chaser. Within 20 minutes her boyfriend had arrived, and while she was still in severe pain, we knew that she was not in any immediate danger. But it was yet another warning of our impending mortality, and a beautiful example of human cooperation and immediacy.
After a couple more days in this treacherous paradise, it came time for me to head to Cancun, and for my friends to head to the airport. We decided to share a taxi and we got a great price from a jolly Mayan guy with silver rimmed teeth. A few miles into our trip, he stopped for petrol and when he went to start the car again, the ignition didn't turn over. He flashed his silvery smile and giggled, seemingly unfazed by the fact that the car wouldn't start. Opening the hood revealed that the battery was shot. My friends were already running a bit late because of a longer-than-expected stop to pick up a bottle of home-made salsa, so they began to get concerned about missing their flight. I said, let's give it five minutes and if it doesn't start, we'll abandon ship and find a new cab. About 2 minutes later, our driver, ever optimistic, mimed for us to push the car. So a couple of gas station attendants, and we three pretty girls pushed the car and as he popped the clutch, the car sputtered to life. We all climbed in and were on our merry way to the airport. I started to realize, this concept of immediacy is nothing new, and certainly not unique to Burning Man culture. It is definitely alive and well here deep in the Yucatan peninsula, as survival is harder, and you have to make do with what you've got. Sometimes all you have is a rusty bucket of hot water and a shot of tequila, but you combine the efforts of a few people and you can work miracles.
I did make it to Cancun, all paved and polished and air-conditioned, but it is all just perched on a narrow swath of sand, which could be erased by a major hurricane. Perhaps in 1000 years, archaeologists will find the ruins of these massive hotel structures and speculate about this mystical civilization, and the fact that our lifespans were only 80 years. I am now going to make a graceless segue into the reason I am here, which of course is to do henna for a wedding. So, without further ado, please enjoy the photos of the artwork, with the beautiful, but potentially lethal, Caribbean in the background.