Third World & Religion

We are basking in the lap of luxury in Playa del Carmen, five star hotels, all-inclusive resorts, fancy shops and more restaurants than you can imagine. But make no mistake that this is a country that must be considered third world.

Our day began with a start, as the time had changed the night previous, shooting ahead an hour. Jaime (pronounced HI me) was due to meet us outside the doors of our condo at 9 am to take us to the Sandos Resort for a tour and "sales presentation", in exchange for deeply discounted tickets to Xcaret, the incredible eco park just a few minutes up the Riviera coast. Thinking it was 8 am, we were all in a state of undress when he arrived. We quickly put our things together and piled into a taxi.

The Sandos Resort offers unparraleled security, as tourism is one of Mexico's most precious resources, the other being oil. They protect their tourists in a way that is very deliberate and highly visible, armed guards and police omnipresent, everywhere in the tourist zone.

Our hosts were Erdem and Eduardo, Erdem being the lead and Eduardo being the trainee. We had agreed to give 90 minutes of our time for the sales presentation in exhchange for a significant $200 USD savings to the park. I also saw it as an opportunity to see what an all-inclusive resort was like.

As we toured around the resort and heard the "pitch", it was my first opportunity to ask some questions. I had made a comment about how friendly the people had been to us so far, the servers, salespeople and shop keepers, and that they appeared to work so hard and so long. We found out two shocking bits of information: that the average server or hospitality worker makes between $7 - $8 USD per day, or less than $100 pesos. They also work about 16 hours a day.

"They are happy with this," beamed Erdem, a transplant from Turkey, who is living the life of his dreams with his wife and triplets right on the Sandos Resort.

"How do they make it by?" I asked. "The prices in the Walmart we went to are no different than our prices back home."

"Oh, they don't shop there," he replied. "They shop in their locals markets and often grow their own vegetables. In most cases, they also live far from the city centre, where it is far more affordable."

Their work ethic and service excellence is extraordinary, warm hearted and welcoming people. The fact that they earn less than $1 an hour was a little shocking for me. But, the truth is that this is my first visit to a place where the gap between rich and poor is so wide.

Our condo is adjacent to a Catholic church. As it is the Easter season, there have been three masses a day, one early in the morning and two in the evening. The place is overflowing with worshippers with the doors wide open, the sound and song flowin out onto the street and into our suite. Food vendors sit outside on the street, one lined up after another, waiting for the service to end. As the closing song begins, the throng slowly meanders out, long line-ups forming for post-mass treats combined with smiles and fellowship.

This is an interesting place, where two worlds collide, but in a most friendly way. Signing off for this Middle Age Blog post, the church bells are ringing as the faithful gather one more time to celebrate mass, another day in Mexico has dawned.

April 5, 2010 - weight and body fat % n/a

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