One evening on Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the sunset was particularly beautiful. We walked out onto the beach, closer to the water, to take a few colourful sunset photos. A Mexican man and his four children were laughing and playing beside a table and chairs. I asked if I might sit on one of the chairs to take some photos, and they said, yes, of course.
As I was taking sunset photos, I couldn’t help but take a few photos of this family having so much fun. They were digging a deep hole in the sand, then the youngest boy would slide in up to his waist. They would push in the sand around him, and then in a few minutes, pull him up out of the hole, laughing.
The father spoke good English and we chatted for a while. He worked at the airport, he and his wife were separated (but might get back together), and he just brought the kids out for the day and evening.
A little later he asked if I would engage his older son, who had dropped out of high school, in English conversation so he could learn to speak better English. Of course we did that. I also tried to encourage him to get more education, but we soon realized that this was not a Mexican cultural value of high priority when I was told that his Mother told him that he did not have to go to school and that she would look after him. Hmmm. Note to self not to assume cultural norms of other countries are the same as ours in Canada.
They continued burying the little boy in the sand, and pulling him out, all giggling and obviously enjoying themselves.
We became more and more alarmed the last time they did this because they dug the hole much deeper, and this time the little boy went down into the hole up to his armpits! They pushed the sand around him, and we wondered how on earth they would be able to pull him out when he was buried almost up to his chin. It was all we could do not to say something, but still they were laughing and joking and having good fun.
As the sun was going down, it was almost time to leave.
Then came the moment of truth. The boy was still buried deeply in the sand. They pulled on his arms, but he did not move. They pulled harder on his little arms, but he still did not budge.
They laughed nervously. We gulped.
The little boy wiggled and squirmed, but he was not moving. Finally, they began to dig some of the sand away around his upper body.
They tried again, pulling and pulling on his arms. His little arms must have been getting sore and he was starting to look scared.
As the sun set, we pictured him stuck in the sand until after dark, and calling in Emergency Services, – if there was such a thing on this tiny island.
Digging away the sand some more, they pulled and pulled on the little boy’s arms. He must have been about four years old. For the most part, I think he trusted his Dad to get him out. Dad was now down on his knees digging sand furiously. How would he explain this to his ex-wife?
To our surprise, the boy started to come up a little out of the sand. They pulled on his arms and chest, but he was still stuck.
They started digging around him again.
This time he started to move a little more, then more, then the sand starting falling away, and up he came, into his Dad’s arms.
We all cheered. Everybody laughed, relieved.
Several hours later, we had already had dinner, and were sitting in the Italian Coffee Shop having fresh-brewed coffee and one of their scrumptious desserts when we heard many shouts!
The father and four children came bouncing in all excited and laughing, happy to see us again! What warmth and friendliness! We all hugged and laughed and the kids posed for pictures.