My grandmother came from a half Mexican background, which became very apparent as the family members filed in to her funeral. My short, tan, black haired relatives had piled in their cars and carpooled from Southern California to Las Vegas to honor their loved one, originally named Claire Alcantara.
I marveled at my diverse family as they spoke quickly in Spanish and made my 5'2 (5'5 with my heels on) frame seem simply gigantic. I felt silly not knowing the language that bonded my family members and made me feel like the outsider white girl.
My grandmother, and the only grandparent I had left, had just passed away from ovarian cancer and our close relationship made her passing very hard on me. To make matters worse, my mother's sister had recently been diagnosed with a rare cancer of the stomach. Suffice it to say, emotions were running wild.
When my aunt mentioned that she was traveling to Tulum, Mexico in a few weeks time for a bikini bootcamp, I daydreamed of the experience she would have. Not long after, my mother called to say she was joining my aunt on the trip to Mexico and asked if I wanted to join. Words could not express my excitement and it seemed very fitting that the three of us would travel to Mexico, "the homeland" as we began to refer to it jokingly, where would could properly honor my grandmother.
Despite joking about Mexico being the homeland, touching down in the airplane oddly felt like returning somewhere. Although I have been to Mexico before, this was my first time as an adult. I was coming with a different mindset and a different outlook on life and death. Walking out of customs, I looked around at the Mexican people that resembled my family members. I have traveled all over the world and it is not often that I get out of customs and feel like I belong, rather than my usual- stick out like a sore thumb -feeling.
I looked for the sign saying "Amansala" and was escorted to a nice van that would take me and another hotel guest the two hours to our bikini boot camp in Tulum, Mexico.
We passed miles and miles of trees and went through the towns of Playa Del Carmen and Akumal, before entering the town of Tulum. The road continued to get smaller until the white sandy beach appeared on our left. Wood and palm frond bungalows began to pop up all around us as we drove further down the road. We passed markets and signs for coconuts, pescado, and ceviche. Finally we turned left into the driveway of our new home.