I’ve been terrified of mold ever since I took a 2-week trip to Belize a few years ago. It rained for days, and everything I had was on the edge by the time I went home—damp, slightly sweet smelling, sporey. I got the sense of what it would mean to stay in a tropical climate when there’s nowhere to go to dry out.
Yesterday I opened my closet and saw that the jeans in the back had sprouted a fist-sized patch of greenish fur. My heart sank. Finding mold is like finding a lesser version of lice or bed bugs; you feel skeeved out, violated, and then irritated because finding evidence that it’s there generally means there’s more beyond what you’ve discovered. Whatever else you’d planned on doing, you’ll be dealing with this shit instead.
Except for the pajamas I’m wearing now and what I’ll wear to work, all my clothes are in bags, brushed free of visible mold, ready to go to the Sak Nok, the laundromat up the street whose name means “white clothes” in Maya. I’m hoping their hot water and tumble dryers will kill what I can’t. I have wiped my closet shelves with white vinegar, left the doors open to let things air out and turned on my AC though the weather’s cool, a wasteful fabric-drying luxury I’m grateful for.
Beyond that, there’s little more I can do but breathe and remind myself it could be worse. It’s just stuff. I’m not molding. So rather than wallow, I’ve decided I’ll make a list of what I’m grateful for, a little late for Thanksgiving but since Mexico doesn’t do Thanksgiving, who cares.
1) My first two visitors from home, my dear friends Alice and Chad. They brought Thanksgiving in the form of a turkey garland, and we spent three days on the beach making up ridiculous songs about things we saw in our travels, including two dogs humping on the side of the road.
2) The world’s best care package. This came courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law, muled by Alice and Chad.
3) On the day of Thanksgiving, a terrific meal with the amazing people who are both my coworkers and family here. 15 people, two turkeys, a dance party, too much wine and tequila, and a sore nose from where a friend twirling a child on the dance floor clocked me with said child’s foot.
4) Moving on from Thanksgiving, my growing courage, which allows me to really enjoy my time in this quirky place, to trek over mud-pitted roads into bat caves, Tarzan-swing into cenotes with broken ladders, escape chasing stray dogs while riding my bike, and climb the pyramid at Cobá despite the stretcher parked at the bottom and the screaming man who’d presumably slipped.
5) My nearly two-year old niece who feeds me crackers through our FaceTime calls and shouts my name repeatedly, something she couldn’t even say when I left.
6) The adult members of my family, who I love to the ends of the earth, who said they would miss me and feared for my safety, but gave me their blessing to have this crazy year (without it I wouldn’t have come). Also, my wonderful friends in New York and elsewhere for their continued moral support from many miles away, especially Joanna who has taken in my crazy cats (I’m sorry for Alistair’s ankle nips). I don’t have all of the important people in one picture but you know who you are.
7) The chance to learn Spanish. I’ve always wanted to. It’s been on my goal list for at least five years. And now I speak it crappily. I’m pretty pleased with this.
8) Starlight mints. When I go on road trips sucking them prevents me from getting motion sick. I have no idea why. But without them my adventures on speeding busses and vans here would be far less pleasant.
9) Meditation. Dear sister, I lied, the pillow you spotted on the floor during our FaceTime call is in fact a meditation pillow. I’m a hippy dippy meditator. And it’s awesome. This morning during my meditation session a roach crawled by and I jumped up, trapped it in a box, threw it outside and went back to meditating. I felt like Mr. Miyagi.
10) Quik-dry underpants. Prior to coming to Mexico, I did what I could to mitigate the potential problems of living in a damp tropical climate. I invested in a number of quik-dry, anti-mold and waterproof garments. I don’t wear them together as an outfit because this makes me look like an Italian hiker. But I’ve really gotten my money’s worth out of both my raincoat and my quik-dry underwear—right now they’re the only clothing items I have that didn’t absorb the damp in my closet. So Quik-dry Molly wins this one!
Today I go to the Sak Nok. Then I’ll work, eat a delicious lunch prepared by a wonderful Maya lady, work some more, bike home, make dinner in my jungle kitchen and read a book. Tomorrow I’ll pick up my clothes and put them back in the closet.