The elevator doors opened to the white lobby of the hotel and there, sitting on one of the couches was Victor. I recognized him from his photo I received on WhatsApp.
Victor is Diana's husband and they are the owners of the house I have rented in the trendy neighbourhood of Santa Barbara in the north west corner of Colima. I'm thrilled he made it and happy to get going, excited to travel the two and a half hours to my new home.
Magically he managed to wrangle all of my suitcases into the trunk and backseat of the car and then we were off, heading south to get out of the city. Like all big cities, there was a lot of traffic and I kept quiet to provide the space to navigate this uninterrupted.
Soon we were driving along the smooth blacktop of the toll road 54D. There was 200km between us and our destination. During the drive we passed through a series of toll booths. Victor had prepared with a small stack of 100 peso bills handing one (or two) to each attendant and always receiving change back.
Resorting to memory, I believe somewhere between $500-800 pesos was passed out the window during the southbound trip. The payment for the ride included this which totaled $2500 pesos - the same price Uber would have charged.
The drive was smooth and the land flat, though in the distance flanking us were comforting soft edges of the mountains with long folds carved through them by time and water. I find limits and boundaries soothing unlike the wide expansive planes.
With limited language between us, the conversation was sparse which gave time to soak in the views and the warmth. It was hard to believe that I was really there, that I had left behind the snow and would get to skip winter. Oh my goodness, I moved to Mexico!
The hours slipped by as the car passed through tolls and between agave fields. Soon I was seeing street lights, buildings, a Home Depot and shopping mall.
Stopped at red light, a performer entertained his captive audience riveted behind their windshields. Back where I come from the only people hanging around the intersections are squeegee kids or people really hard on their luck. Here they are performance artists.
He gave us a fire show in the early afternoon. The caregiver in me, while impressed, was worried he would get thrush in his throat from the flammable fluid used to billow great plums like dragons breath.
I've since seen jugglers and cultural dancers, these men dressed in traditional costumes.
Victor drove me through and around the neighborhood in a few passes to show me the pharmacies (plentiful), grocery stores (Walmart, Sam's Club), neighborhood mini-supers and restaurants. Something I still find fascinating is the number of sushi joints. I think they may rival the taco and traditional restaurants by volume.
We arrived at the house almost exactly two and a half hours after pulling out of the hotel parking lot. The electric garage gate opened smoothly onto a tiled drive, revealing two chairs on the rise that welcomed me in.
The house is cute and unassuming. Single level, nestled in between poured cement walls shared with the neighbors. The entry door, a dark multi-paneled glass door in the French style opened onto a quaint open concept layout of living and dining room together with the kitchen tucked in at the front of the house. Beyond the kitchen and behind a door is the service room with built in shelves, wardrobe, an ironing station and washing machine.
The dryer no where to be seen. In lieu, four wires are strung between walls overtop of the washer and I later discover a clothes line in the back yard. Also in this room is the garbage bin, two mops, two brooms (indoor/outdoor), cleaning supplies, and dust pan.
This little house has two bedrooms.
The first has a single bed, two side tables, chest of drawers and closet racking system. The second has an incredibly comfortable king size bed, side table and built-in drawers, closet and overhead cupboards. Both have ceiling fans and air conditioners. There are also two large ceiling fans in the living room, dining room area. The bathroom is lovely. Nicely tiled walk-in shower, with an overhead rainfall head and a window looking out to the back yard. From what I've been told, bathroom fans are not generally found.
Through the back door we stepped into the yard where a blue picnic table already had me thinking of morning coffees and the green grass begged for my toes to come out and play. Birds sang and the sun shone while the breeze danced through the leaves.
Eventually I was left on my own to unpack. I'd organized the journey so I would have the weekend to get my bearings before diving back into remote work Monday morning.
With the contents of my life, all my worldly belongings contained in five suitcases, the unpacking was fast. Clothes into the closet and drawers, shoes just outside the front door. The linens stayed packed because I had rented a furnished house with sheets and towels. My kitchen basics and espresso beans met the kitchen drawers and cupboards.
After the hair appliances and bathroom products were put away, I set up my office area on the dining table. It took me the weekend before I was able to get the Sonos speaker sorted out after more than a pinch of frustration.
Having travelled internationally, I wanted to limit any need to go out and for that reason had asked my new landlady to have a few days of food in the fridge for me. By Sunday, I ventured out fully masked to get some supplies from Walmart.
That's where I started my shopping but since then, graduated to the local mini-supers since Walmart is the "expensive" store. And it's Walmart, which isn't really a place I want to spend much of my time. That said, it's familiar which made the transition comfortable living in a brand new place.
There are three Walmart Super Centers throughout Colima and Villa de Álverez. You're never far and I still walk to the one close to me for the few bits that I haven't found elsewhere, like portobello and oyster mushrooms and brown rice.
The four main roads that surround Colinas de Santa Barbara and Esmerelda to its north have everything one needs including a spectacular selection of restaurants more dental offices than I can fathom any viable reason for and specialty shops. Here there is no need to drive to a super center when the salons, barbers, hardware stores, furniture shops and cafés are all around the corner.
There is no reason I can see for owning a car here as someone who works remotely from home. Everything I need or want is within a kilometer and usually just a few blocks. As someone who loves to walk, my feet take me all the way to el Centro (30 minutes), the parks (everywhere) and even over to Álverez, the twin city next door, which is about a 40 minute walk.
I have since walked to shopping malls, Home Depot, hunted down chocolatiers, doctors offices, an optometrist (alas I have reached the age of bifocals) and cultural landmarks.
Colima is a place that was easy to gain my bearings in. It is laid out on a grid and if ever turned around, I look for the volcanos. They will reliable point me north while taking my breath away and simultaneously reminding that I have arrived somewhere beautiful, magical and without doubt, inspiring.
One last thing I needed was a local phone number. Originally I believed I'd have to walk a few kilometers to a TelCel store but this wasn't the case. Oxxo, similar to 7-11 or Mac's, sells SIM cards. I paid with Visa and was all set as soon as I popped it into my phone.
Within a couple of days and with the help of the driving tour, Google Maps and the ever present volcanos to the north, I was quickly able to get comfortable and find access to everything I needed to start my new life in Colima.
With gratitude to Christian Villicaña for his contribution of drone photography. The header image of this post is of the downtown landmarks Catedral Basílica Menor and Jardín Libertad. To follow Christian on Instagram: cvillic or Facebook:www.facebook.com/cvillic