Kevin's card

Just 5 short years ago, my mama graduated Summa Cum Laude from university, and no daughter has ever been more proud. She did it on her own, and did it well.  Last week, she sent this note to one of my brothers. There can be no clearer evidence of just how much this disease is stealing who she is and how she functions.  This is the woman who read to me as a child, not children’s books, but Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, Herbert, and more.  Who taught me to read before I even made it to pre-school.  Who instilled in me a love of language and the natural world.  Today, she often writes, reads, and speaks like a child or someone struggling to learn English.

Its so incredibly hard to explain to others the depth of what’s going on, and in some ways even harder to wrap my own head around it.  You spend your whole life seeing your parents one way- the way you did growing up.  I don’t think you ever really expect them to stop being self-sufficient or more full of life-experience and wisdom than you are.  You always expect them to be the ones you go to when you need advice.  Watching my mom so rapidly change into someone who needs our frequent guidance, who writes, speaks, and even behaves so much more child-like, is deeply saddening.

There’s an incredible bi-polar pull on my heartstrings.  One half of me carries a fiercely protective instinct toward her, just as I would with a child.  The other half of me both resents that I need to take care of things for her and fears that she hates it, too.  I would; in her shoes I’d be so, so very angry.  And I know her- she’s always been so independent that the idea of being watched over and policed all the time should be maddening.  It doesn’t seem to be, though.  So far, she’s been… passive, distressingly so.  That loss of confident autonomy is just as sad as her loss of language.

I suppose the plus side is that, so far, she seems not unhappy.  With any grace, as this disease steals her cognition of language, it will also steal her awareness of what she is losing.  While that doesn’t make it easier for those who love her, knowing she’s not suffering the same heartbreak would be a relief.

When Self-Awareness Kicks you in the Pants

Sometimes realizations come along and simply cut you off at the knees, leaving you thinking, “Oh!  OH!  So that’s what!”

I had one of those days last week, as I was struck with this internal truth bomb: DENIAL & AVOIDANCE.

I like to pride myself in being direct and driven.  I see a problem, assess the pieces, consider options, and then act without looking back.  I am decisive and motivated once I’ve chosen a path.

Lately, though… not so much.

I’ve been avoiding talking seriously to people who matter.  I’ve been procrastinating about certain business-management tasks. I’ve ignored this blog.  I’ve immersed myself in all the “busyness” I could find. I’ve been futilely angry at the Universe.   All because it was easier and safer than accepting what is and letting it be real.

I’ve been desperately, if unconsciously, waiting to wake up and discover that the nightmare is over and life is back to normal.  But that’s not going to happen, and I finally awoke to the reality of my own denial.

I came home from Mexico to visit in July.  I stayed because my Mom is sick.

This month, the “sick” got a diagnosis and the saddening prognosis that it’s not going to get any better.  She has a degenerative brain disease that’s stealing her words, her ability to calculate and reason, and her ability to process language.  She’s losing herself, and I’m losing her.  It kills me.

That, more than anything, surprised me.  I tend not to think of myself as sentimental or dependent and I’ve learned to armor myself in practicality- or so I thought.  It’s especially surprising given my often-rocky relationship with my mother.  Part of my truth-bomb this week involved shifting my perspective on that.  My mom and I have never seen eye-to-eye.  I’m liberal, bordering on pagan, extrovertedly social, and open; she’s strictly Christian, introverted, and often closed.  We’ve butted heads and admitted to not really LIKING each other very much over the years.  In spite of that, for a very long time as I grew up, it was just me and her against the world.  We’re bonded by years of teamwork as we struggled to survive and get ahead.  Even when she hasn’t liked the person she saw me as, she has supported my decisions and loved me unconditionally.  Not a lot of people can say they know what unconditional love looks like from the inside.  I can because of my mom.  She is deeply and personally important to me, and the thought of losing her- slowly, as her personality and faculties deteriorate- both frightens and devastates me.

Not talking about it.  Not blogging to share it.  Not doing the needed tasks.  Not allowing myself to admit that I am grieving and its well-founded rather than frivolous.  It all meant I could pretend it wasn’t real, that I didn’t have any reason to be sad.  Then I could push it out of my mind. Except denial and avoidance just led to anger, anger at every little thing that didn’t go my way and even general anger at the Universe itself.

That’s not “dealing”, though.  That’s avoiding a problem, and it’s not healthy.

So… here’s to me taking one step at a time and letting life move forward, even if I’m sad and scared.  Here’s to me saying it publicly and letting it be real.  Here’s to crying at random, and not being ashamed.  Here’s to self awareness and acceptance.  Here’s to my mama, and to making the best of the time we have.    Here’s to accepting that life doesn’t go the way I plan- hardly ever- and digging to find the beauty in the manure pile.

(Disclaimer: I realize this particular entry has nothing to do with writing or wandering.  Hopefully it sheds some light on why neither has been a priority lately.  My novel has been re-read, edited, and returned.  I’ll be final-drafting as the Spring continues.)


Richard “Dick” Sauerwine.Image

He started out as just another big, strapping farm boy, but his life was anything but ordinary.

He became: a Pearl Harbor survivor; a Navy Seal before they were Seals, doing underwater demolitions to clear the way for the march across the South Pacific; a veteran of the Korean War; a long-time sheriff’s deputy; a South Florida cattle rancher with an affinity for the circus, who rented out the back-forty to Barnum & Bailey’s big animals every winter; and much more.

He was a stern father, but a loyal husband; he married the girl who grew up next door, and never loved another woman.  He quietly embodied the real-man qualities of respect for women, constancy, hard work, creativity, listening well, and thinking before you speak.  He had intuition and great instincts, and from him I learned to heed to my gut about people.  He wasn’t religious, but he lived by his own personal code of ethics.  He loved projects, but rarely finished one.  He was a reader, a road-tripper, and adored both gadgets and plants (seriously, African violets sprang up in his steps); he shared with me his love of Western movies, driving all day, puttering in the greenhouse, and cool new science.  He had a fantastic sense of humor; nothing was funnier than ImageGrandpa sticking his dentures out at me because I stuck my tongue out at him first.  He was often quiet, but his sneezes could be heard from space, and when he laughed it filled the whole house.  If you caught him in the right mood, he was a champion story-teller, and loved to tell about The War.

He was a fixture in my life for 35 years; he lived to the ripe, old age of 92, and lent some of his stoic German determination to this quick-tempered Scottish girl.  God-speed, Pops, you will be missed!


An Educational Crisis

Let me begin with the end.  Everything is fine and I’m okay.  So, there’s that.

Now:  At the end of May I started having some issues.  At first I didn’t think much of it, slightly odd girly stuff, but… eh. Within 2 weeks I ended up first at the hospital, then at an OB/GYN’s hospital office the very next day.

My Spanish is…well, let’s just say I mostly understand, and if I take my time I can get my point across, but I’m no linguist.  Thankfully, my ever-wonderful landlady was happy to go with me and try to help if I needed a translator.  Also, thankfully, I have no shame and very little modesty, or this would have been the world’s most awkward experience.

After doing some scans and muttering a lot of ominous sounding things, the doctor scheduled me for a D & C in two days and gave me stern instructions to take it easy until then.  I was scared, exhausted, and in general feeling miserable.  All I wanted to do was go HOME…which was a completely impractical idea, since healthcare in the states is stupidly expensive and the problem wouldn’t have gone away just by getting on a plane.  I stuck it out, and I learned a few things, as one always does in times of crisis.

Firstly, I learned that I maybe ought to give myself a little more credit in the language department.  Both the day of my first appointment and the day of my surgery I understood the vast majority of what the doctors and nurses said, with the exception of some big medical terms that I probably wouldn’t have understood in English either.  Pepita was with me the whole time, but as long as I was concentrating I didn’t need her to translate.  She did anyway, because I was nervous and unsure of myself, and kept asking her to clarify what I thought I had heard, but I was right every time.   It was even more obvious when I started coming out of the anesthesia in the surgical unit.   The first real thought that crossed my mind when they woke me up was, “It HURTS!”  Some man had just scraped the insides of my uterus like a Halloween pumpkin; I think I had every right to say I was in pain.  And I did.  In Spanish.  Without being clear-headed enough yet to actually think.  “Duele.”  It was my very first word, first thought, first anything.  And in short order the nurses got painkillers into my IV and I could switch from “Oww”  to “Mejor.  Gracias.”  At least until my right calf started to cramp.  But I was able to tell the doctor what was wrong, and understood completely when he told the nurse to add potassium to my drip.

Secondly, I was reminded of just how much I share my family’s disease of being incapable of resting.  I’ve tried and tried to escape it, to break the cycle of workaholism and live a more balanced existence.  And, for the most part, I’ve succeeded.  I say no.  I don’t overbook myself.  I rest and do things I love as much as I can.  I spend whole Sundays wearing nothing but yoga clothes or a bathing suit and reading.  But I’m still afflicted.  Before he let me loose from the hospital, my fatherly doctor once again, in the sternest of ways, ordered me to rest.  No going to work.  No yoga.  No swimming class.  No walking.  No being up and on my feet.  In bed, even.  “Descansas,” he commanded firmly, “por lo menos 3 dias.”  Just a few hours post-surgery, I thought, “Yeah, no problem, mister.  I can definitely sleep for three days right about now.”  That was early afternoon on Thursday.  By Saturday afternoon, I’d had conversations with a sad minimum of people, had seen even fewer faces, and was going positively crazy stuck inside my house with no one to keep me company and nothing to do.  I’d puttered in the kitchen off and on, making food or just looking for an excuse to be out of my bedroom.  I’d started working on syllabi and curriculum maps for next year’s classes.  I’d done some writing.  I’d taken a couple of short walks around the block in between rainstorms.  I’d even spent a few hours seriously wishing I could knit, just so I’d have something to do with my hands.  I was in danger of pulling my hair out until my housemate, Jennifer, suggested we take a taxi to the mall and catch a movie.  I evidently suck at resting.

Thirdly, I discovered just how much of a fishbowl I live in.  A week after my surgery I had a followup appointment to go over the results of the biopsy and make sure I was doing fine.  The doctor, who has 4 kids in our school and who I genuinely like, asked me how I was feeling, what my week had been like, how things seemed to be healing, etc.  I assured him I was feeling great.  Plenty of energy.  No more dizzy spells or weird blood pressure or fainting or anemia.  And, thankfully, a minimum of post-surgical ooze.  He then frowned and, quite literally, shook his finger at me.  “No te descansados!” he insisted.

“What?  I totally rested!  I stayed in bed for almost 3 whole days.  I slept and watched movies and barely left the house.”

Estabas en la Plaza,” he accused.

*face palm*  In a city of roughly 150,000 people, somehow, someone who knew me and knew him saw me at the mall Saturday night.  And they told him about it.  And he remembered.  And I was castigated for not resting enough.  I assume it must have been one of his kids, but who knows.  In any case, I was quick to assure him that, while I did go to the mall Saturday evening, it was only to see a movie with my housemate.  We took a taxi and we didn’t wander around the mall much while we were there.  I rested, okay!

He frowned and muttered at me, but didn’t yell any more.  He probably would have if I’d mentioned the very, very bumpy bus ride home, which left me thinking, “Ow, that kinda hurts more than it did before.”  I didn’t figure it would be worth telling him that part of the story.  Especially since I have another follow up appointment in 3-4 months to do some blood work and make sure my hormones have gone back to normal.

Finally, as irritating as the fishbowl can be, I also find myself forced to acknowledge a reality.  Back home, poor and insuranceless as I am, I would never have gotten the kind of medical care where the doctor was even able to connect my name with my face without my chart in his hand, much less the kind of care where what I do when I’m not in his office is reported, remembered, and used to remind me that I’m not invincible, where he actually thinks it matters that I take care of myself.  As much as I miss my family, my friends, and my car, there are things that are good about living here. Things that are good enough to make me want to come back next school year.

Cultural Bleed

It is fascinating how cultural ideas and cultural figures transcend languages and bleed across borders.  Especially American culture.  Granted, other than Canada, Mexico is the US’s closest neighbor, and I’d venture to say that more Americans vacation in Mexico each year than they ever will Canada, but it is still a country and culture wildly different from my own.  - Different language; different dominant religion and a different approach to it; different attitudes about family; different money; different…nearly everything.

And yet, the average American knows almost nothing about the real Mexico.  We know the border, tequilla, tacos, and beach resorts, but that’s about all.  The average Mexican, on the other hand, knows quite a lot about America.  More about our politics, our economy, and our publicized culture.  Without Googling it, could you name the current president of Mexico?  Could you say what the Peso:Dollar exchange rate is?  Could you list more than 3 quintessentially Mexican film or music stars from this century?  Yeah… I didn’t think so.  Ask my students the same questions about America, though, and the answer would be much different.

The fact is, America’s culture is infiltrating everything around it, and I am reminded of it often.

Last week, the woman whose house I live in came into the kitchen where I was cooking.

“I heard a joke, but I can only say it in Spanish,” she told me.  “Listen.”

“Okay,” I said.

“President Obama came to Mexico to meet with Peña Nieto.  In the palace, Nieto asked, ‘Would you like a cafe, negro?’  Obama replied, ‘No thanks.  Would you like a cerveza, Indio?’” she giggled and continued in English, “It’s funny.  Tell your friends.  Your president is un negro, ours is un indio.  But is not very nice.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.  The play on words and the references to cafe negro, which is how “real men” drink their coffee in Mexico, and Indio, which is iconically Mexican, was funny.  Plus, my 70 year old landlady giggling while she told the joke was too rich for words.

All this year my older group of students has been enamored with the cows in the pasture next to the school.  It is quiet enough when our class starts at 7:00AM that we can hear them mooing to be fed and milked, and some mornings, when we’re working silently, we can even hear the milk hitting the bottom of the bucket as the farmer gets his day started.  Every month or so there has been a new baby calf in the field as well, and we’re all fond of watching them play in the grass.  The girls in my class have even named them: the newest little spotty one is Bobby.  And the all brown one?  Obama.

If you ever wondered whether or not America appears in the day-to-day minds of her neighbors, look no further than that one little brown cow.

On Public Transportation

Being from Florida, a state notorious for its lack of public transportation, I’ve almost always had a car.  As a teenager, living 20 miles from school and 1.5 hours from the nearest movie theater, having a car was a necessity.  In university, I commuted or at least lived a ways off campus.  I didn’t fly for the first time until I was 27.  Until I got to Costa Rica I’d never been in a taxi, and the only buses I’d ridden were school buses and the around campus/drunk bus at FSU.

Here in Mexico, I don’t even have the leaky SUV I drove in Costa Rica.  It’s public transport, bi-pedal locomotion, or stay my butt at home.  I can get myself around pretty well, though.  I know which local buses will get me where I want to go and which will take me to some scary outlying barrio if I stay on long enough.  I have the website for the long distance buses bookmarked and I know you’ve gotta go the day before to buy tickets if you want to be sure of a seat. I’ve gone from a girl who had no idea what the inside of a taxi looked like to being able to flag one down in a heartbeat.  I know quickly flashed headlights means, “Do you want a ride?” and a hand held out the driver’s window like a dead face-hugger means “I’m occupied.”  While taxis in most of the world have a meter of some kind (in Costa Rica they call it la maria) here in Mexico I have yet to see one; I’ve learned that if you don’t already know the standard rate you ask how much they’ll charge to get you to your destination before you get in.

In Orizaba itself, the bus route is limited.  They run in and out of town or in a circle that goes up the main drag, around to the mall, and back again.  That’s pretty much it.  Getting to work means walking (which I usually do) or taking a taxi.  Getting to the more interesting places on the outskirts of town means taking a taxi.  Getting anywhere in a hurry also means taking a taxi.  In Costa Rica, taking a taxi meant calling the guy you or your friend knew who drove a taxi and having him come get you.  It was more expensive, but it was a guaranteed thing.  Here, you just flag down the first one you see.  Let me tell you, it is a mixed bag.

Most taxi drivers range somewhere in the neutral zone.  They ask where I’m going, and take me there.  Some are a bit more chatty, asking where I’m from and why I’m in Orizaba.  Some drive ridiculously fast, or retardedly slow.  Some are really great.  The one who took me from the ADO station to my hotel in Palenque was super awesome, telling me local history and pointing out the important spots in town as we traveled.

And then there are the annoying ones.   Like the one who pulled up half a block early and on the wrong side of the street, then yelled at me when I said “no, up there,” because I had said my stop was en frente de the red car instead of adelante de.  Really, dude?  In English “in front of” and “ahead of” will put you in basically the same spot.  Geeze!   Or like the really sweet, wee little driver taking me to work one rainy morning who just would. not. shut. the fuck. up.  I am not a morning person.  My brain does not talk before 9AM.  I have to be at work at 6:55.  And this little hobbit just yapped and yapped, giggling after every 6th word, only 3 of which I could understand.  It wasn’t until we were half-way to the school that I realized he wasn’t even speaking Spanish half the time; he was saying random things in Nahuatl, repeating them in Spanish, and then asking me how to say them in English.   There were also the three jerks who didn’t even speak when I got in, other than to ask “where?” and never so much as glanced at me.  All three tried to charge me more than the standard rate.  And all three got a blunt, “No.  Hago este cada dia y siempre es…” Sorry dude, I do this every day.  I know what to pay and I’m not some stupid, blonde tourist.

I think the ultimate in annoyance happened earlier this week, though.  I needed to get from work to the post office before it closed.  I hopped in the first taxi that stopped, and answered his a donde lleva? with la officina de correos, por favor.  As he pulled into traffic it occurred to me that the shortest route was to the right, but he was going straight.  I thought, oh well, his money.  He can take the long way if he wants.  And then he started talking.  Not just talking, but turning around to talk straight at my boobs while he drove.  I scooted as far away as I could and clung to the seat edge, sure we were going to die if he didn’t watch the road.  After about 3 blocks, having ascertained that I was from the U.S. but living here, he asked “Where did you want to go?”   I repeated that I was going to the post office and he laughed, “Oh, I should have turned,” and circled the next block so he could go back the right way.  And he kept talking.  To my boobs.  Without looking at the road.  It took me repeating my destination twice, refusing to give him my phone number, refusing to pull out my cell phone to record his, and assuring him that I had neither a pen to write his number with nor any local American girlfriends who would be interested, before I finally got there.  I virtually threw cash at him as I dove out of the cab and into the safe haven of the post office.  Portly taxi man sporting a 70′s porn ‘stache and giant, shiny pinkie rings, you are scary.

Sleazeballs and Cons

In case the title didn’t give it away, the end of my stay in Flores didn’t leave me with warm, fuzzy feelings.

I’ve been blessed to have met wonderful, kind, interesting, friendly people as I travel, and to have had few real mishaps.  In the 11 years I’ve been wandering on my own I’ve broken 5 cameras, had one serious car accident, one real theft, one case of food poisoning, and learned never to use a credit card in an airport because it gets hacked. Other than that, the travel gods have been kind to me.  The only times things have gone badly were when I didn’t listen to my instincts.

From the beginning I didn’t want to go to Guatemala.  I’ve been homesick, and I really just wanted to get on a plane and go home for a week.  But flights are expensive, and the only way I could have afforded it was to come back mid-week, after school had already started again.  So I let my director talk me into Guatemala- a cheaper option that would put me back in Orizaba before school recommenced.  I wasn’t happy, but I chalked that up to homesickness and made my plans.

The vast majority of the trip was good.  I loved Palenque, the travel went smoothly, and the border crossing was easy.  A few things along the way ended up being more expensive than I’d planned for, so I hung around in Flores instead of going off and doing interesting things with my new Argentinian friend, but I enjoyed it just the same.  Still, the whole time I had a nagging feeling of not-rightness.

I realized why the night before I came home.

I went to the front desk at the hostel, where I had purchased my return ticket because their travel agency and offered a slight discount.  I was feeling anxious and wanted to make sure I correctly remembered what time the collectivo arrived in the morning.

After I confirmed the time, I asked, “And all I need is my receipt showing I paid, right?” and held out the receipt I’d gotten the day I arrived.

“What is that?” the girl asked.

“It’s my receipt,” I replied, a little confused.

“That’s not our receipt,” she replied.

“Um…what do you mean?”

“It’s not our receipt, or from the tour agency,” she repeated, and held up two receipt books that did, indeed, look completely different from the one that I held in my hand.

“Well, I bought it from the ticket agent who was standing right next to this reception desk on Monday,” I told her.

She took it from me to look at it and shook her head. “That’s not our receipt, and I don’t know who this man is who put his name on it.”

At that point, I got the sinking feeling that I was screwed, and I started getting both nervous and a little upset.

“Miss,” I said as calmly and quietly as I could, “This man was in your lobby for at least 2 hours Monday, selling tour tickets.  I saw him give you money and his receipt book before he left.  You put the money in your shirt pocket like you do when you are too busy to unlock the cash box right away.”  I genuinely wasn’t trying to accuse her of misconduct, but I definitely wanted her to know that I had been paying attention.  I had heard that cons were crawling all over Flores, fleecing the tourists.  I made sure to buy a ticket directly from the hostel- or so I thought.

She immediately went on the defensive, and I knew that I’d been had.  “I said I do not know this man,” she repeated sharply, “And I don’t like you accusing me. You can ask anyone who works here.  This man is not with the hostel.  We don’t stop you from buying tickets from anyone you want, but we don’t guarantee them unless you buy from us.”

“But… He was RIGHT HERE, beside your reception desk.  How could he stand here for two hours and sell tickets if he was not part of the hostel?”

“We cannot control who you buy your tickets from,” she repeated, and shrugged.  “This is not a ticket to Palenque.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do?” I asked.  “He was right here, next to your desk.  How could I have possibly known he wasn’t with the hostel?”  I had to have sounded panicked.  I had 25 quetales left and the banks were closed- it was 7:45.  The nearest ATM that was not locked inside a bank was a 45 minute walk away in Santa Elena and I wasn’t about to do it alone at night.  Neither the hostel nor the tour agency accepted credit cards.  The only bus I knew of going to Palenque was leaving at 5am, and this woman was telling me I had no ticket and no way to buy one.  I was panicked.

“We cannot control who you buy your tickets from,” she said yet again.  “There is nothing we can do.”

“I want to talk to your manager,” I said.

She rolled her eyes and glared at me, “I am the front manager.  The owner is not here.  Go ask in the restaurant if you want, they will tell you the same thing.”

I did.  They did.  And after burying my head under the pillow on my bed and screaming in frustration, I went back to the front desk.  I needed a solution, and I didn’t have anyone else to ask.

As calmly as I could I asked her, “If this is not a ticket to Palenque, what can I do?  I have to go home.  How can I get there?”

She shrugged, “I do not know.  This is not our problem,” and turned away.

I was a foot taller than her, 80 pounds heavier, and have karate training.  For about 2 minutes, I seriously considered just breaking her in half and then going all cat-fight and tearing out her hair.  Luckily, logical Evie pointed out to pissed off and panicking Evie that landing in a Guatemalan jail would not, in fact, get me home on time.  Or at all.

So I took a deep breath, put my hands in my pockets and stepped back.  My mind was whirling and I was kicking myself in the ass mentally.  I hadn’t liked the guy when he asked if I needed help the day I’d arrived.  He had felt creepy. He had leered. I had considered coming back later, but money was thin and I wanted to guarantee I had a return ticket.  So, leering creeper or not, I went ahead and bought a ticket.  He was in the hostel.  He was wearing a polo shirt like the other staff was.  He’d been there when I arrived 2 hours earlier.  It had never once occurred to me that he might not be with the hostel.

I stood in the lobby 5 minutes, trying not to cry (which I do not do in public) and wondering what the hell I was supposed to do.  Then, a quiet voice behind me said, “Is something wrong?  Can we help?”

That’s when I met the couple who, as it happens, live 15 minutes away from me in Cordoba.  I told them what was going on, and that I didn’t know how I was going to get home if I couldn’t get on the collectivo.  They told me not to worry, that public buses left every hour or so from a stop in Santa Elena, and that I’d be able to catch one later in the morning if I needed to.  Just that one tiny bit of information let all the tension out of me.  If I couldn’t take the tour bus, at least there were other ways I could get back.  Really, at that point, that’s all that mattered.  I just needed to be able to be back in Palenque by 8pm to catch my bus for Orizaba.  If I could do that, losing a little money wouldn’t be the end of the world.

We chatted about other things for about an hour, exchanged contact info, and went our separate ways.  The bad feeling I’d had the entire trip was gone.  I was still pissed off, but at least I knew I’d be okay.  To double-check what I was fairly sure I’d figured out, I went and talked to a couple of the nearby travel agencies.  They all said the same thing, “We know who this guy is.  There are 2 or 3 like him.  They wait at the bus stops and bring people to that hostel.  The hostel staff lets them stand in the lobby and sell fake tickets, because they pay a commission.”

I try not to use foul language in this blog, so I can’t repeat some of the things I said in response.  Let’s just say I was colorful.

At 5 in the morning, with but a sliver of hope, I was outside the hostel waiting for the collectivo.  When it arrived, I showed the drivers my ‘receipt’ and their response was…colorful, in Spanish.   They knew this guy, too, and they recognized me from the trip down.

I explained what had happened, what I had learned, and that I was out of cash.  The tour agent looked at me a minute and sighed, “Give me your bag and get on the bus.  We’ll stop by an ATM on our way.”  I was going home.

At the border as we separated from the tour agent, I said to him, “If you see this guy, do me a favor.”

“What?” he asked.

“Punch him in the face, and tell him this American bruja will be sending much bad luck his way.”

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a man laugh quite that hard.  “Señorita,” he finally said to me, “I will do both of those things if I see him.  If you will let me have the receipt he wrote, I will also give it to the police and file a report.”

I expect nothing at all to come of that, but at least there’s hopefully a good face punching and bad juju threatening in store for the sleazeball.

It cost me an extra $50 bucks and a few hours of stress.  A minor thing, in the grand scheme of it all, but the idea of taking from anyone who is trying to live life generously and with kindness makes me angry.  That the hostel permits it makes me angry.  That there was, quite literally, not one single thing I could do makes me angry.

I’ve written nasty reviews of the hostel on every forum I could think of.  If you ever go to Flores, Guatemala, do NOT stay at Los Amigos Youth Hostel.  They’re scum (and there are roaches in the bathroom).

Fortunately, the rest of my trip home was uneventful, and I felt far lighter than I had on the way down.  Still, never have I been so happy to get off a bus in the freezing rain as I was 24 hours later when I landed back in Orizaba.  :D


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 223 other followers