It occurred to me last week, when we were on the way home from Mexico, that there are really only a few human experiences that really concentrate your thinking tightly on the things that matter. Just about all of these "experiences" are horrible, terrible, tragic or at best, unpleasant. They include the usual: death, terminal or life altering severe illness, chronic pain, natural disasters, accidents or a flu that keeps you in bed for a few days. Have I missed any? All of the foregoing certainly do remind the survivors and death dodgers just how lucky they are and reinforces the necessity for blessing counting on an everyday or twice a day basis. I am a firmly committed counter - at least once a day. Traveling, however, can be one of those singular, potentially pleasurable experiences, that allows you to refract your own life and belief system against the one that may generally characterize the place that you're visiting and provide ample space for reflection on the positives and negatives. In other words, getting away sure can stimulate you in unpredictable ways. This trip to Mexico, for example. My husband and I had vowed on our last trip there over 25 years ago that we would never voluntarily return. We had spent three vacations there of about 3 weeks each, in different parts of the country, when we were first together. Each time, we had enjoyed many aspects of the trip, and had been scrupulous in watching the food and water. Each time we were paid back with a virulent tourista that on the third trip, caused us to leave 5 days early. After that, we decided that parting company was the best thing. We didn't look back. That is, of course until this past month, when against our better judgment, and after a multitude of friends' recommendations, we booked a trip to Cabo San Lucas. Nothing bad happened. Surprise! So we had time on our hands to look around, talk to the locals (I speak fluently) and generally hang out. Since there was not much to see and do, and we did those things early on, we walked around the two Cape towns, which were quite different and visited the very highest end resorts for dinner. The Cabo area is currently experiencing a major real estate boom. (Maybe you received an invitation in the mail to visit their numerous time shares). Everywhere you looked, there was construction, real estate magazines (free), marble and stone cutters, kitchen stores, etc. We stopped at the Costco to see if there was something we were missing. Down the street, a Walmart and Sam's Club were being built, not far from the Home Depot and Office Depot. A little like Orange County 25 years ago. But not quite. You're probably wondering where I'm going with this. So here it is. We drove around a lot - all over, in neighborhoods far away from the tourists and cheap tee shirt stores. We got lost there and wound up in the prototypical dirt roads and lean-to's of cardboard and found objects from the garbage dump. And, as you may guess, there were plenty of places that wouldn't look good on a postcard home. We were told that over 200 people per day moved to Cabo to work. We were also told that there was essentially full employment there and it sure looked like it to us. Boat loads of hotels built and being built, condos, apartments, strip shopping. We also learned that there for most of the local people, there were still no basic services available such as medical care, child care, decent schools and transportation. The higher end hotels had their own buses to pick up and deliver their workers. The weather was hot, over 90 degrees and yet, at least half of the stores did not even have a simple fan. When we headed to San Jose del Cabo to reconnoiter, on what seemed like the hottest day of my life - it was a Sunday, the church was crowded and many stores were closed. It was a short trip around the town square, which was completely torn up, with no way of crossing the square except at both ends. Very inconvenient. We found it difficult to be outside in the open air of an oven for more than 5 minutes at a time. We needed to stop for air and water wherever we found a place that had both. Back at our hotel, I mentioned to our concierge that many stores had been closed, which I attributed to it being a Sunday. The concierge laughed out loud and told me that Sunday had nothing to do with it. It was too damn hot and the store owners wouldn't or couldn't work in that heat. One way of looking at this surprising (to me) response, is, great, they're the boss, they can do what they like. Another might be, can't they afford a fan? Maybe, maybe not. Whichever way you slice it, being in a third world country has many aspects that are seductive - the unspoiled beaches, the beautiful unobstructed sunsets, life in the easygoing, margarita-saturated slow lane. Just don't get sick, get into an accident, be there during an earthquake or hurricane.......................in short, appreciate what we take for granted here at home, whatever it is. It ain't perfect, for sure - but it's darn better than just wishing for it.