Yellow Dog Fly Fishing client, Clint Pike, sent us this blog after visiting Punta Allen, Mexico and learning about YDCCF's efforts to support the local primary school. In addition to supporting the construction of new bathrooms, YDCCF awarded an additional grant earlier this month. Please visit our grantees page for details.
Knowing When to Go
It was approaching mid-afternoon when our guides, Alex and Carlos told me to reel up the line, we were heading to another spot. I glanced over at my girlfriend, Lena, who was smiling under the sun. The salt water gently lapped at the side of our boat as Alex turned over the motor. I shot Lena a smirk and turned my hat backward just before losing it as the boat shot out across the open water.
We had arrived in Mexico the previous morning. We were obviously fresh tourists; toting luggage, fishing gear, and glowing with enthusiasm. A month ago, our trip to Mexico seemed so far away. The temperatures in Bozeman Montana were dangerously cold and snowfall had permanently blanketed our city. In my classroom, the students were either out with the flu or suffering in their seats, trying their best to respectfully hide their apathy. When March hit, it was obvious, everyone needed a break.
Having been a teacher in Montana for seven years, I have become aware of two important things. During the summer, you stay and over spring break, you go. I am certain that every region of the country has their spring break destination. In Montana, the long cold, and dark winters drive every adventurous spirit south. Some drive the ten hours to Moab, while others migrate to Southern California, Belize, or Mexico.
This was my first time visiting Mexico and for the next few days, we would be visiting an area that received little traffic, other than locals and avid fly fisherman. We were excited to be staying at the Grand Slam Lodge and visiting Punta Allen, a village of around 200 people just south of the lodge. Both sit on a narrow piece of land separating the open ocean from Ascension Bay, a fly fishing mecca providing direct access to the brilliant blue waters surrounding the Yucatan Peninsula.
The boat danced across the water as Alex transported us to a new location. We spent the remainder of the day chasing bonefish, snook, and an occasional dodgy permit. Soon, it was time to pull in our lines and head to the lodge.
When we arrived at the lodge, we were greeted with warm smiles, helping hands, and cold margaritas. We hustled to our room, quickly dropping our belongings and heading out to the beach to enjoy the remaining few hours of daylight. Following the shoreline south, we quickly reached the village of Punta Allen. It was evening, quiet and exactly what we were looking for. As we walked the unpaved roads, the sounds and scents of families preparing for dinner drifted out into the streets. Sometimes when you are on vacation, you forget that others around you aren't. This evening, we had the privilege of being alone and unobtrusive, which often tends to lend itself to introspection.
We soon found our way to the school, a brightly colored set of buildings in the center of town. From the outside, the school seemed similar to what I was used to back home. The walls were colorfully painted by the artwork of children. There was a basketball court, playground equipment, outside covered areas, and outside bathrooms. Since the gate to the school was locked we could go no further and decided to wander our way back to the lodge.
After a full day of fishing and a wonderfully relaxing evening we arranged to visit the schools with Mike from Grand Slam Lodge before our departure. I was curious to get a closer look. We were greeted at the gate by one of the teachers, she smiled as she welcomed us. Peering in through the windows, I caught a few curious glances from students. I smiled back, reminded of my classroom waiting for me back in Montana.
As our tour continued, I was informed that the bathrooms were a new addition and prior to their installation there was one bathroom to service all 53 students in the school. I was shocked. How could one of the most basic human needs not be being met at a school? As an experienced educator, I understand the challenges in providing for my students a proper education day-to-day, much less trying to teach hungry, tired, and deprived children. Furthermore, it was great to hear that the new bathroom additions were the results of charitable donations from the Yellow Dog Community & Conservation Foundation. It was encouraging to hear that Yellow Dog is giving back to the community. I look forward to hearing about future community projects.
We loaded up into the truck and headed back to gather our belongings. Mike had arranged boat transportation back to the small dock in Tulum where our trip began. We climbed into our boat, La Tarantulita, and our driver smiled and asked if we were OK taking our time getting back. Lena answered for the both of us, “We are in no hurry to leave.”