Daily Adventures… On Mexico Time

My students and I generally watch this movie every year called Pulling Strings. It’s about an American woman working at an embassy in Mexico City. It is basically a rom-com, but I like it because the movie is equally in English and Spanish (It’s on Netflix). In one scene, the woman is asking a Mariachi singer why people in Mexico are notoriously late. He said that Mexicans are optimists. When they tell you what time they will arrive, it is more of a wish. They hope to be there at that time, but more than likely, they will not.

I was reminded of this today as I sat outside of a locksmith shop on a random street corner here in Oaxaca. Allow me to digress…

It all started Wednesday when I took Max to the airport. As our taxi drove in, we were a bit taken aback at the multitude of Federales standing in full-armed regalia at the entrance. Machine guns, rifles, clubs, shields, you name it, they had it. There were a good 200 of them then, and I hear there are roughly 5,000 of them now. The ten-year anniversary of the 2006 teacher strikes has added fire to the protestors cause, and apart from shutting down most of the major highways in the state of Oaxaca, there are rumors that they might march to the airport to try to shut it down. Great timing for flying out, no? Hopefully all of this will be resolved before we try to fly out in two weeks.

Needless to say, Max and I waited for 2 hours before finding out that his flight was delayed. About ten minutes before the flight was to take off, his own personal attendant escorted him through customs. I was told to stay at the airport until the flight actually left the landing strip, you know, just in case. Therefore, I proceeded to wait another 2 hours playing solitaire on the floor, as all 15 of the seats in the entire airport were occupied. When the departure screen finally said he was in flight, the collectivo bus/taxi line snaked out the door and rather than wait any longer I went outside to catch a good ol’ yellow taxi. Unbeknownst to me, taxis were no longer allowed past the airport gates and I had to hoof it a good mile to the highway outside of the gates. Apparently, yellow taxis were not allowed to pick up passengers near the airport either and there I was standing on the street corner with groups of people waiting for who knows what. After about 20 minutes in the baking sun, a shoddy maroon and white taxi (the ones tourists are told to avoid) pulled up and two indigenous looking ladies climbed in. Desperate, I asked if I could share the taxi with them. I had no idea where they were headed, but at this point I had ceased to care. During our trip around the city trying to find routes that were not blockaded by the protesters, I kept having flashbacks of my youth, traveling alone wondering if I would make it to my next meal.

About 45 minutes later, they were dropped off on some random street that looked vaguely familiar. I could see the domes of churches in the near distance and figured I was in the general vicinity of where I wanted to go. I told the taxi driver the name of a street near our house and he was happy enough to take me the extra blocks to my colonia. Little did I know that sharing a cab did not mean that I got it any cheaper. He gouged me for full price, and I grudgingly paid because I so desperately wanted the ordeal to be over.

When I finally walked in the door to our house, Marty was on the phone to the states trying to get a friend to hack into my computer to track me down, and the girls were upstairs planning what to do with the rest of their lives if I never returned. Yes, it was that dramatic. We have no cell phones here and apparently my telepathic messages never reached them.

My next little adventure occurred on Thursday while the girls were at school. Marty and I decided to walk to a different side of town and find the Starbucks. It’s not that we crave the overpriced coffee, it’s just that it is one of a handful of places here that I knew must have air-con and we were hot and sick of killing mosquitoes. Saying that we stumbled into the wealthy side of town would be an understatement. We’re talking fancy outdoor malls, Irish brewpubs, Nike stores, and froyo (frozen yogurt stores). ALL of the places had air-con here! It was super odd and other than the Churro Frappuccino (yes, a churro Frappuccino!) the Starbucks was just like all other Starbucks on the planet. I drank my chai and we got out of there as fast as we could.


As we walked back to pick up the girls, I was sort of hoping that my ordeals with taxis and long waits were over, but alas, any time you choose to leave the house, you should be prepared for anything…

If you know my husband well, you will know that he trusts everyone and feels little need to lock doors, widows, etc… Our house here seems to be in a safe enough neighborhood, but we not only have a door with multiple locks, but also a wrought iron gate in front of the door fashioned with a rather large u-lock. When we got here, we were told to make sure we locked both, even if we were home, but Marty, being Marty, found that excessive. Yesterday, he went out for a run and when he returned he forced the family to join in his workout. Afterwards, I opened the door to make sure the gate was locked, and found that the U-lock was gone. Apparently, he neglected to close it and it was stolen. Why anyone would want an industrial strength U-lock without the keys is beyond me, but for someone I suppose it held some value. I emailed our house manager and was told to purchase another lock and make 7 copies of the keys.

The next morning, I was about to head out in search of a locksmith, when the maid showed up for the week. I explained the situation to her and she sort of freaked out. Apparently, a lock had been broken off of the gate two guests ago and she was afraid to be there alone. That reassured me, of course. Now I had a new reason to hurry the hell up and find another lock. I had seen a shop earlier in the week, but at 9:30 a.m., it was still closed. Next door was a small stationary store and the man working there suggested I get the phone number off of the front wall and call the owner. I went back, jotted the number down on my hand, and returned to the school supply place to see if the shop owner would let me use his phone. I got through and was told he would be there in 15 minutes. Fifty-five minutes later, I was still standing on the corner waiting. I decided to give up and return to the stationary store to ask the man if he knew of anywhere else I could buy a U-lock. He was kind enough to write down the name and address of a store about 7 miles away. I left with the intention of taking a taxi, but when I walked out… low and behold the lock shop was now open. Feeling optimistic, I headed over and was dismayed to find out that they didn’t sell locks.

Next, I walked to the language school to tell Marty I was still alive, lest we have another incident like the day before. Of course, I found him in the courtyard making yard art with flowers, leaves, and sticks.  He was in competition with the man trying to clean up the gardens, and he had to finish his masterpiece before it was swept away.

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Before hailing a taxi to the other side of town, I decided to ask the people at the school if they knew where I could buy a lock. Luckily, there was a store a few blocks away, and this time I made Marty join me so that he could share in the suffering. We bought the lock, but unfortunately they did not make keys. By this point I was exhausted and I gladly let Marty go it alone on the key search. It seems that he headed back to the same place I went just an hour before, but it was closed again. How’s that for regular business hours? Knowing that he was to meet us in an hour, he hoofed it to the non-tourist side of town. Apparently, he found a guy making keys in a little street stall, but he also stumbled upon the red-light district and had a slight run-in with ladies of the evening working in the early afternoon.


Needless to say, by the time we finally met up at 12:30, we were both ready to call it a day. This, of course, gave us a solid excuse to spend the next few hours in cafés recuperating with amazing food and frappes. The girls successfully finished their first week of classes, and next week as they work through week 2, their father and I will be taking art classes at a little local studio. I sort of hate taking art classes with Marty, I mean, please. However, I will suck it up and go with the saying, “The couple that makes art together, stays together.”… or, they want to kill each other.

Vamos a ver.


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