On vacation in a hot, foreign clime. Driving an airport rental sedan past rolling rows of slab houses, their faded and chipping pastel colors a dreamy bleached rainbow in the shimmering heat of the road. On each bare cement stoop, brown closed-lipped locals sit and stare blankly as you roll by, seemingly disinterested in seeing yet-another tourist.
Soon the tiny house start to dwindle, slowly replaced by dingy stores, then the garishly-painted commercial properties with faux fronts that denote you’re getting closer to downtown. Gradually the gulf comes into view on your left. Piers and boats grow in number, and lofty high-rise hotels loom in the distance, the road curving ahead along the peninsula. Several roads merge into one main highway as you continue down “Hotel Row” as they call it here. Traffic is getting thick now, in sharp contrast to the empty road behind you. Tour buses lurch and surge nervously close to you, filled with brightly-dressed travelers that are either looking excitedly out the windows, or sitting slumped, sagging and sweaty in their seats.
Ahead you see a sign with the logo of your all-inclusive hotel and you pull into the long, arching driveway of clean white concrete. You drive up to the front entrance, under the bright blue canopy with the hotel’s logo, and stop in the cool, dark shade. A young lad with black hair, dark skin and pearly teeth opens your car door, bowing slightly. You slip a dollar into his waiting hand and he closes your door and his smile behind you.
You step into the air-conditioned lobby, the pink marble masonry nicely appointed with gleaming brass fixtures and lush, dark carpeting. At the front desk, a pretty young woman greets you with a practiced smile and efficiently checks you in. She pulls out a hotel map, makes and “X” and draws an arrow leading to your room, which she circles twice. She then hands you a room key and turns her attention to the next person in line.
You return to your car, follow the arrow around the hotel to the rear and find a not-very-close spot to park. You grab your single suitcase, lock up the car and quickly head inside the nearest entrance to escape the blazing heat. You look at your hotel map, turning it around so it makes sense for the direction you’re facing, and continue down the hall until you find your room number. You need to jiggle the key to get it in, but once inserted the lock turns easily with an authoritative CLUNK. You push the door open, hear it sweep over the utilitarian carpeting that’s much less plush than that of the lobby. The room is a few degrees warmer than the hallway and the air is still. You put your suitcase on the bed and check out the room’s air conditioning unit by the window. After turning a few knobs and trying a few buttons, it eventually rumbles to life. You set the temperature to COOL and the fan on HIGH, but after a few minutes you decide the fan is too noisy, so you turn it down to MEDIUM. Deciding that’s livable, you take a quick shower to freshen up, dress in loose, cooler clothes, grab your wallet, hat and room key and head down the hallway to explore.
You pass a small cafeteria with vending machines, a few round tables and plastic chairs. Further down the hall you catch the smell of chlorine before passing a door marked POOL AREA. The hallway makes a right turn into another long passage, which eventually leads you out onto a long veranda. There are a few wicker lounges with flat cushions, plus a few glass-topped tables complimented by pairs of wicker chairs with the same flat cushions. There’s an overhang along the entire veranda with ineffective, slowly turning ceiling fans hanging down at regular intervals. A couple sits at the furthest table sipping colorful umbrella drinks, talking quietly. As you take one of the seats farthest from the couple, a white-coated waiter appears and you order a piña colada, hold the umbrella. You take a few sips, then prop your feet up on the empty chair across from you, stretching out into a comfortable slump, hoping to catch a quick nap before the revolution begins.