23 hours to Oaxaca


Due to a gross miscalculation, we over drafted our checking account one week before a three-month trip to Mexico. We quickly regrouped and took stock of our assets. We had a $25 BP gas card, a prepaid Visa gift card with $11.60 left on it, $12.60 in bottle deposits and about 300 pesos that Rad still had in his wallet from last year. After some real brainstorming, we rustled up enough cash to buy a loaf of bread, sliced ham and enough gas to drive to Fayetteville, TN to see Rad’s family before flying out of Nashville. Early Tuesday morning we headed for the airport with some additional funds courtesy of Rad’s family. We decided that it was not wise to keep all the money we had in the world in one location. As soon as we arrived at the airport and cleared security, I headed for the restroom to stuff a portion of our cash into my bra.

“Will you know if it starts to slip out of there?” Rad asked.

“Sure,” I said.  “I’ve got a $20 bill stabbing the side of my boob right now.”

Still, I checked the wad of cash through my shirt about every 90 seconds. This was a solid plan. We ate Popeye’s fried chicken and waited to board the plane.

I don’t know why I continue to fly Delta Airlines. I don’t get any points or miles. I seldom get a thank you or a smile. On any plane or bus that we ride, Rad always battles me for the window seat, and I always let him have it. My heart went out to him when we discovered that there was no window on our aisle. We had been downgraded to the two back seats next to the restrooms. From this day forward, I will always remember that 36A and 36B are the worst seats on an MD90. During the entire flight, I felt like we were riding in the trunk of a car.

Since virtually all flights on Delta route passengers through Atlanta, we had to take a plane from Nashville to Atlanta before boarding a larger plane to Mexico City. Before takeoff, the pilot announced that we would be sitting on the tarmac for about 45 minutes due to a traffic control issue. People who had connecting flights began asking the flight attendants about what will happen if they miss their plane.

“It’s not our fault,” I heard a flight attendant say. “It’s air traffic control.”

I surmised that since it wasn’t the airline’s fault, its employees weren’t obligated to find solutions for customers.

“Uh, we’re going to try to and bug them,” the pilot announced. “But we will probably still have to wait a while.”

Pestering air traffic control did not get us off the ground any faster, but I could feel the plane lift off the runway as we took flight. We tried to peek through the window of the row in front of us, but the passenger who was sitting there left it closed the entire time except for a few brief peeks. Every time he cracked the shade, four people tried to catch a glimpse of the outside world. He responded with a scowl and slammed the shade closed. We were left to wonder what was going on out there. The roar of the engines was so extreme, that the flight attendants who were seated by us in the rear of the plane plugged their ears the entire flight. We entertained ourselves by writing crass and clever things on the vomit bags and replacing them in the seat pockets for the next passengers to enjoy.

“We have reached our cruising altitude of 29,000 feet for about 30 seconds,” the pilot said. “We will be in Atlanta soon.”

Suddenly, it felt as if the jet was falling out of the sky. Everyone gasped and clung to the seats. This happened a few more times without any explanation from the folks in charge. I fully expected the pilot’s next announcement to include something about this being his first day on the job, but the plane soon hobbled its way into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. All the passengers collectively stood up and began shoving their way to the front of the plane in a hopeless effort to catch connecting flights.

It was about this time that I noticed a three-inch hole in the seam of the pants I was wearing. I wondered what color underwear I had put on that morning and hoped it wasn’t the bright pink pair. Because we had a substantial layover, we leisurely made our way to concourse E while I strategically held a carryon in front of my private zone. When we reached our gate,
I sprinted to the restroom with some sewing supplies my mother-in-law gave me and mended the crotch of my pants.

For entertainment, we watched the lackadaisical ground crew drive banged-up Delta vehicles around the area outside the window. A box truck blew a tire in the distance and Delta people moseyed over to investigate. One employee lazily dragged a wheel chock by a rope across the pavement, probably counting the days until retirement. He joined a few other employees who fraternized while waiting for the Department of Homeland Security to tear into packages and harass passengers who just flew in from Colombia. A Delta gate agent gave us the blow by blow of what was happening on the ground as we looked out the wall of windows.

It was our turn to get corralled onto the plane in preparation for takeoff. The flight was pretty uneventful save for a screaming and thrashing toddler in the next row. We ate terrible, tiny turkey sandwiches and drank complimentary ginger ale as we challenged each other to games of trivia on the seatback entertainment devices.

After landing in Mexico City, we breezed through customs, collected our luggage that had been damaged free of charge and headed for the currency exchange after I fished the stash of money from my bra. Rad exchanged a few Andy Jacksons for 500 peso notes with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo printed on them, and I nervously walked to the restroom while attempting to look normal so I could conceal pesos in my bra. Somehow, I thought Rivera and Kahlo would not have minded too much, while Jackson would have probably been offended. It seems to me that he must have been an uptight guy.

When leaving the airport in Mexico City, don’t mess around. Get a taxi autorizado. It costs a little more, but I prefer to be whisked off to my destination securely. Since we were light on funds, we decided to take an overnight bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca and sleep on the bus instead of blowing money on a hotel. We hung around the bus station for a few hours, drank Cokes and snacked on knockoff Oreo cookies called Lors with a caveman on the package. As the ADO took off from the TAPO bus station, we plugged our complimentary headsets into the radio and flipped through the stations. We both listened to the soothing sounds of the ocean combined with soft music and reclined our seats.

I woke up a few times not knowing where we were and peered out the window at the dark Mexican countryside. Our journey was almost complete. Rad woke me up as the bus pulled into Oaxaca City so I could see the colossal statue of Benito Juárez in the middle of the divided highway. After 23 hours of travelling, we made it. We sat in the bus station and stared at the restaurant across the road waiting for someone to roll up the steel doors and start cooking eggs. Around 7 a.m. we rushed into the restaurant and scarfed down a fantastic breakfast for a reasonable price. A taxi shuttled us to our hotel and the man at the desk graciously allowed us to check in seven hours early. We have been asleep at the Hotel Aitana ever since except emerging to eat pozole and tlayudas. It’s good to be back in Oaxaca.

Since I haven’t had the opportunity to take any photos other than one at the airport, I posted some photos from past trips. But never fear, I will have plenty to post in the coming months.


















M A and Alebrije 110











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