On our friends’ Sabina and Phillip’s last night in Playa, I wanted to cook a nice farewell dinner for them. We had previously shared communal meals in the small courtyard in front of our apartment, but a final dinner called for a special location. I procured the keys to the rooftop terrace of our apartment block from the land-lord, (which was usually locked in the evening), and prepared to dazzle my guests of honour with my creative event planning.
Me, Tyrhone and Phillip chillin’ in the rooftop paddle pool after a hard day on the beach (photo by Sabina)
With limited resources, I had to get creative, so thinking ahead, I saved some small jars and bottles to make candle holders. I just needed the candles, which of course I left to the last-minute, and found myself running around the supermarket that morning doing wacky sign language with the staff because I forgot to look up the Spanish word for candle (there’s four, by the way; buiya, candela, cera, and cirio, so I would have been totally screwed anyway)…
Thanks to a very friendly store-assistant, I found the candles, and was excited to return home and Martha Stewart the shit out of some plastic bottles and jars.
Tyrhone had been making fun of me during the week in the lead up to the ‘last supper’. Whenever he asked me why our meagre kitchen was overrun with empty jars and plastic bottles, I’d tell him I was “making something” and he’d laugh at me, in a ‘what silly scheme are you cooking up now, woman?’ kind of way.
He used to tease me the same way at home about hoarding used jars. I’d watch shows about people making funky table settings using mismatched jars and bottles; a single flower sitting elegantly in each, and seriously believe I was going to do that one day.
On the rare occasion I did attempt a similar arrangement, my old jars and bottles, looked like, well, old jars and bottles.
But still, I squirreled them away for other future projects, like making home-made jams and pickles with fabric lid-covers, only, I never got around to doing that one. Great Christmas idea though.
Perhaps my lofty ideals of being a creative domestic goddess were slightly far-flung, or just flat-out delusional considering I had to cheat during art class at school (tip: get some very artistic friends), but I wasn’t ready to give up on myself. Perhaps all the travel and the writing and the ‘finding myself’ had transformed my creative aura.
Maybe I could make pretty things out of used ugly things after all.
Oh, I did also intend on making something to eat for dinner, but this was a mere afterthought compared to the decorations. For some reason, my tacos, using sauce straight from the bottle, had become a bit of a hit. And though I wouldn’t dare let them touch a Mexican person’s lips, I figured I was pretty safe amoung my Swiss friends. I mean, it’s not like I was attempting fondue for goodness’ sake.
As dusk settled, the chicken simmered on the stove and Tyrhone began butchering the avocados for the salad. I took this as my cue, and set off down to the beach for my final artsy ingredient: sand.
“Are you seriously going to steal sand from the beach?” Tyrhone asked incredulously, laughing at me yet again.
“Yes, just a little,” I replied confidently. My beach-chic candle holders made from empty taco-sauce jars required sand, and there was only one place to find it.
I grabbed a few plastic shopping bags, and strode towards la playa.
The bars of calle 28 were hotting up as I strode purposefully past them towards the shore. Most beach-goers were walking towards me, away from the beach, bearing the usual paraphernalia; towels, umbrellas and third-degree sunburn.
As I reached the sand I flicked off my flip-flops and searched for a patch that was cigarette-butt and bottle-top free. I wanted clean sand, but wasn’t prepared to go too far to get it. Perhaps that was my problem when it came to craft, I was always cutting corners (that’s some craft humour right there).
I found a ‘suitable’ patch and crouched down, using the plastic bag as a glove to grab the sand without getting it in my fingernails. A little boy jumped in front of me and asked me something excitedly, though I only caught the word for bag: ‘bolsa’. I already had some of those, so I nodded and smiled and said, “Si, bolsa!” and all of a sudden he started madly digging in the sand, helping me.
It was so sweet.
But then his Mother appeared out of nowhere with a huge garden shovel and started shoveling the whole beach into my bags! She seemed to know the deal, as though stealing sand from the beach was the most normal thing in the world to do. I don’t know if the locals have their backyards filled with the stuff, but she certainly wanted me to have as much as possible.
And despite the fact that I tried to say “just a little bit,” and “that’s all, thank you,” I left the beach, the little boy and his good Samaritan Mother smiling and nodding with my arms about to fall off under the strain of the desert-worthy amount of sand in my bags.
Tyrhone took pity on me when I came in, panting. He looked at me like you look at a kid who makes a crappy picture out of spray-painted macaroni, like ‘Aw, isn’t that sweet?’
He started being really helpful then, and stopped making fun of my craft-mission. He must have seen the sand and thought, “Woah, she is really serious about this,” and whilst I like to think he felt bad about teasing me, maybe he just knew there wasn’t going to be anything to eat for anyone until I made my table decorations.
So I cut the bottoms off the plastic coke-zero bottles I’d hoarded, filled some jars with sand, and proceeded secretly to the roof, to ‘prepare the space’ with my new creations.
I had envisioned floating some of the little plastic candle holders in the paddle pool, and covering the surface with some flowers I’d collected on my walk. In my mind it looked magnificent, but in reality I risked popping the air-filled pool with the naked flames of the candles, so I placed them in a large pot around a palm tree, and just threw the petals in the pool.
I started running seriously short on time. I had kept our friends in the dark about the whole thing, except for the fact that I would serve them dinner on the roof. But I hadn’t let them go up there yet, so they were probably a little confused.
Tyrhone helped me pack everything else in a large grocery box and hauled it up to the fourth-floor roof terrace. We set the table with corn chips, salsa and chicharrones (fried, crispy pork fat, a delicacy in these parts), as well as all the ingredients for taco assembly: tortillas, chicken and an onion and avocado salad. We lit the candles, then proceeded downstairs to welcome our guests.
A few of the candles blew out, and the yellow flowers gathered in one spot near the rim of the pool. My decorations looked nothing like I had imagined them, but still added a nice touch.
My petal and floating candle-filled pool didn’t quite go to plan… Oh well!
Sabina and Phillip did appreciate my efforts, and it was a beautiful night eating under the stars as the sound of waves crashing on the shore mingled with the tunes from Tyrhone’s phone and mini-speaker.
Our landlord, Offner joined us for a drink and a few chicharrones (so it was lucky I didn’t destroy the pool), and we spent the night eating, drinking, chatting and passing around Tyrhone’s Cuban cigar. We finished with chocolate cake and vanilla ice-cream, which can never be anything but a success.
Phillip, Offner (our landlord), Tyrhone and the lovely Sabina…
And with that, we farewelled our ‘Playa’ friends, Sabina and Phillip, who began as class-mates, became our neighbours, and finished as friends.
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