The rattle of an engine woke me this morning. My auditory senses and my mind started whirring before I opened my eyes, and my first thought was: “where am I?” The engine I heard sounded like a San Diego Coast Guard helicopter, but Sonrisa was rocking bow to stern. She was rocking far too much to be in her slip in San Diego. Slowly, my mind filtered through the last month’s activities and placed me in Cabo San Lucas. I peek out the window and see the "kite on a lawnmower" flying over Sonrisa's mast.
Over the last few days, we have been chatting with locals and tourists alike. Everyone asks, “where are you from?” This question is intended to have an easy answer. It is small talk, created for friendly people forging loose connections on a bus ride to their zip line experience. Andrew and I instantly seem suspicious when in response to this question we look at each other and simultaneously respond with two different places: "San Diego," Andrew says. "Las Vegas," I say.
This question has turned out to be a bit of a riddle for us. On vacation, when people ask “where you are from” they really mean “where do you currently live?” They don't want your life story from birth to the day you became a vagabond on a sailboat. And I'm a lawyer, so I prefer the shortest true answer to any question: We live here. But, we don’t live in Cabo San Lucas. We try to keep it short, but inevitably this question turns into a conversation about working in Henderson/Las Vegas Nevada, growing up in Tooele/Midvale/Salt Lake City, Utah, sailing out of San Diego, and now living on "el velero", Sonrisa. If home is where the heart is, then I consider all of these places and the terrain between them “home.”
Between exploring Cabo San Lucas’ resorts and vacation activities, we are also exploring the neighborhoods. Much like Las Vegas, most of the people working and living in Cabo San Lucas moved here from some other part of Mexico. While their beaches are filled with an enormous tourist playground, if you get just a couple blocks away, you find normal people living out their normal lives with school, work, laundry and home. On Sunday we see people sitting in their yards, eating their “comida” (which is all food consumed between breakfast and a late 8, 9 p.m. dinner). During the week, people are dressed in all manner of work clothes, appropriate for their various positions. There is commute traffic, and public buses, just like anywhere else. While those of us from Las Vegas do not live in the Bellagio, it seems those from Cabo San Lucas do not live in a resort at the beach.
There are two swaths of beach that seem to be filled primarily with locals. This is where Andrew and I have felt most welcome. When we anchored Sonrisa, the best spot for our anchor happened to be directly in front of the Local’s Beach. Behind it, there is no hotel, but a large dirt parking lot. There are little food stands, and Sergio’s “office of tourism”. The hustlers do not hustle the locals, but they do walk through offering all manner of local beach treats: donuts, mangos, pork rinds soaked in a spicy and tangy sauce, candy sold out of a wheelbarrow, and apples candied with chili. The beach umbrellas are a mishmash of colors, set up haphazardly, rather than the neat and tidy rows of resort chairs/umbrellas.
After a few days of jostling to get the right panga ride out to Sonrisa, we hustle our own hustler, and ask Sergio if we can pull Grin up onto the beach next to his office. He happily agrees, and says, “Don’t worry about it. Even if I am not here, Axel will chase anyone away he doesn’t know.” So, for the next week, each morning, we arrive on the beach and Andrew takes the nose of grin while I lift the stern and we start walking up the beach to put her away. Every morning, a rush of Mexican men swoop to my aid. They simply cannot abide the idea of me carrying the back end of the dinghy up the beach. No matter how I try to convince them to let me proceed, they bump me out of the way and carry the boat. The whole scene plays itself out again in the evening.
In doing this, we have made more friends, like Axel. When Sergio first mentioned Axel, I thought he was the office guard dog. Then, one day, Axel was the lucky guy who helped me with the dinghy. We get Grin settled into place, and Axel chats us up for a minute. He asks where we are from, how long it took to sail here, where we are going next, etc. Soon, he ducks under the strap of his binoculars and says, “Don’t worry, I keep a eye on your boat, Sonrisa! Means smile in Spanish, you know?” He offers the binoculars to allow Andrew to take a look. Andrew accepts and peers through to Sonrisa. As soon as Andrew is otherwise engaged, Axel traverses the sand quick as a wink, places both hands on each of my arms and leans in to give me a kiss on the cheek. I laugh; Andrew just got hustled again.
What makes a place home, anyway? Friends, family, work, a place to relax, a place to eat good food. When I left Utah, I said I wanted to make a bigger piece of the world my own. I enjoyed that process in Las Vegas, and to a certain extent San Diego. We are travelers and visitors, but with Sonrisa as my base camp, I am making a bigger piece of the world my own.
P.S. Our neighbor owns a helicopter.
P.P.S. And I just can't shake the Carnival Miracle.