First published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
From San Evaristo, a very small fishing village with a population of sixty-one, Jason and I sailed further north into the Sea of Cortez towards a slightly larger fishing village called Agua Verde.
This part of the Baja Peninsula felt otherworldly as if we were traveling along the walls of the Grand Canyon.
The Sierra de la Giganta mountain range exposed a colorful landscape of deep red, orange, and yellow striped rocks showing its age.
About eight hours later, we anchored in a protected bay near Agua Verde.
We dinghy’d to shore in our rowboat and wandered through the dusty town. I snapped pictures of a little orange church, baby goats climbing on trees, and roosters and turkeys roaming the streets.
After accidentally entering someone’s house thinking it was a small store, a local pointed to a restaurant on the beach.
A small hut made of particle board with a palm-leafed roof stood on the shore.
A big rectangle hole was cut from one of the walls for a walk-up window and a few Mexican women stood inside with smiling faces, welcoming us in.
They gave Jason and I handwritten paper menus and gestured for us to take a seat at one of the many plastic chairs surrounding two white tables out front.
With sand under our feet, we took in the scene.
The salty air mixed with the smell of fried bread made our stomachs rumble.
A few minutes later, a fisherman walked to the counter delivering a still-wriggling fish in hand for the women to cook. We looked at each other and smiled, knowing what our order would be.
Bowls of diced tomatoes, avocado sauce, and chopped cabbage were sent over and soon after were plates of fresh, lightly battered fish on handmade flour tortillas.
My stomach full and happy, I wiped my mouth with a napkin and began to rustle up the courage to ask the women a question.
Learning to make handmade tortillas has been my dream since we entered Mexico and I figured this was my chance to make it happen.
I quickly looked up a few words on my Spanish App (no WiFi required) and tried to forget that my heart was beating out of my chest.
Usually, when I speak Spanish to locals, I open my mouth in excitement then silently stare because my brain shuts down.
After a few awkward seconds, I’ll throw out random words and the listener’s once smiling face will contort into confusion; their will eyes narrow and their mouth curls downward like something foul just entered their nostrils.
But I keep talking, adding hand gestures to flesh out my story.
Nine times out of ten their face unravels and they’ll nod excitedly, informing me to stop butchering their language. A connection has been made.
So, with a you-got-this nod from Jason, I stood up from my chair and walked over to the counter.
It’s Show Time
Poor grammar and all, this is how the conversation went:
Me: I speak one little Spanish but I have one question.
They smile and nod. A local teenage boy rushes over to the counter and leans in as if to say, I gotta hear this sh*t.
Me: I want to learn to make tortillas of the hands.
The women continue to smile encouragingly.
Me: Do you to know how to cook tortillas of the hands?
Them: Yes, yes, yes
Me: Teach me, can you? Many, please?
Them: Yes, of course! Tomorrow?
Me: Yes, tomorrow! It felt like glitter exploded inside of me, I’m so relieved to have made sense.
Them: What time do you like?
Me: I like time… it is two o’clock?
Them: Yes, two in the afternoon is good.
Hands over my heart and eyes dramatically stretched to the sky, as if they just saved my cat from a burning building.
Me: Many many thanks! Until tomorrow! It is two o’clock in the afternoon!
Feeling accomplished, I bounced back to the table with a huge smile plastered on my face.
Jason and I gathered our belongings, waved to the ladies, then made our way back to the dinghy.
As we waited for a pause in the shore-breaking waves to launch our boat I thought, Tomorrow is the day I will learn to make tortillas!
What I didn’t know at the time was that experience would transform my perspective of life in Mexico forever.
Want to see how it ends? Flip to Part Two, here!