About a year and a half ago, my friend Cheryl and I arrived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico for the first step in what would prove to be a ten week, life-changing experience of personal growth and forging strong friendships. We joined with others from all reaches of the globe that were to be part of Global Vision International’s Coral Reef Research volunteer expedition in Pez Maya.
Last week, we had the opportunity to re-visit Pez Maya and speak with the staff and some of the EM’s (expedition members) who are following the same path we took for a greater good, as well as incredible diving opportunities.
The changes in Pez Maya we noticed were small. The kitchen looks incredible and there are walls around the palm frond shower. There are now three (wow!) toilets, instead of the one we shared during most of our stay.
The drive down the dirt road from Tulum hadn’t changed much either. It was long, bumpy, dusty, and hot. A bit similar to how we felt when we first arrived. My struggles were daily at first – I couldn’t pull myself into the boat, could barely swim the requisite distance, didn’t recognize my toes from all the mosquito bites, and missed meat more than you could imagine. But as time went on, those struggles began to get easier.
What had not changed, though, was the enthusiasm of the staff. Coming in from a chilly dive on a perfect day, Laura Mears (Expedition Manager) took time from her lunch to show us around and introduce us to the new group. Seeing Lluvia Soto again as a staff member, instead of the EM we were together, was a treat. I’ve missed her smile and I’m sure the Coral Geeks will welcome her knowledge.
Saying goodbye to GiGi and Luke as they made their way to Spain was tearful, but sweet. Getting a chance to catch up with Mo and Danny in Playa made us realize how fast time marches on and how the winds of travel can take us far away very quickly.
We spoke to one of the three young men on this expedition at Pez Maya and his thrill of being there at the beach, learning to dive, and giving something back at the same time was contagious. It brought back some of what we felt when we were there learning about the importance of protecting the coral reef systems.
Watching the people around us bind into a more cohesive unit, helping each other and becoming friends was a true study in how the world can be a better place. We made friends we’ve since met up with again in London, Athens, Malaysia, and our last visit to Playa del Carmen. While at Pez Maya, Cheryl became a Dive Master and I learned that I could swim much farther than I’d thought before.
But even more than those accomplishments are those made inside. We all challenged ourselves to move far outside of our comfort zones in ways we’d never before thought possible and came through different people. Seeing the base today, we were reminded of how important that time was and especially the people we met along the way. Many, many thanks to all of you who shared this experience with us!!