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Welcome to Oaxaca

After the rainy landing at the airport, I stand in line with every one else to turn in my papers and have my passport stamped, which doesn’t really take vary long.

I collect my luggage and manage to move it to the conveyor belt, where they scan it. I pull it all back off the conveyor belt (yes, all hundred and fifty pounds) and an official comes over and helps me with the last one. Then ~ I have to push a button.

If it’s green, I’ll get to go on right away.

If it’s red, they’ll have to go through my luggage.

Drum roll ~~~~  what will it be, what will it be?

It’s GREEN! Yay!

In the meantime ~~ when I made the reservations for my hotel, I also made arrangements for a shuttle to the hotel. We didn’t know what the plan to get me to Juquila would be exactly. We knew that Conan and his friend Luis would pick me up, but it was all kind of vague in terms of timing. So I reserved the shuttle.

The day before my flight, Julia let me know that Conan and Luis would meet me at the airport. But it was too late to get my money back for the shuttle, so I didn’t cancel it. I figured that way, if something happened and Conan and Luis couldn’t make it, the shuttle would be my back up plan.

So when I get off the plane, and make my way through customs, Conan and Luis are waiting for me ~ and I’m glad to see them.

The man from the shuttle is waiting too. He’s not so happy. I’m his only reservation tonight, and Conan has already told him that I’m going with them. I’m not sure why he cares, since I’ve already paid, but I figure maybe HE only gets paid if he delivers.

Conan suggests that we send the luggage with the shuttle.  I’m fine with that, the driver seems ok with it, and it saves us from having to load the bags. So we set off, me in Luis’ SUV, my luggage in the van with the not-so-happy driver.

It’s not real far to the hotel, maybe 15 or 20 minutes, and the driver arrives just about the same time. He unloads the luggage. As he’s doing it, I have a quick consult with Conan about tipping.

Fifty pesos is the smallest bill I have, so even though we agree that might be excessive, I give it to him.

He takes it, looks at it, and his whole face lights up. With great warmth and enthusiasm, he says, “Welcome to Oaxaca!!”

Luis is {perhaps inordinately} amused by this. Later that evening, as we’re having a little bite to eat at the restaurant next door, he repeats the story with delight, acting out the shift from glum-faced driver to happy-happy greeter. I have to laugh too, although I don’t regret the five dollars.

Quick ups and downs of the evening ~ on the upside ~ the hotel was simple outside, beautiful inside, as you can see.

The room was large, clean and the bed comfortable enough.

Downside ~ when Conan and Luis start to go up with me, the desk clerk says, “No. They cannot go up.”

I’m taken aback, not sure what to think. My only thought~ don’t laugh ~ was that he thought I’d picked them up, or they’d picked me up, for some immoral activiity, and he wasn’t having any wild cougar stuff going on in his hotel. Really, that’s what I thought, and I was a bit offended, and maybe embarrassed, but too tired to do anything about it.

Their staff person manages to get all my luggage up to the room, (and wouldn’t take a tip) and I didn’t think too much about it. But Conan and Luis advise me later that it was because they weren’t tourists. I’m still a little confused about it all ~ there were other Mexican people staying there ~ but apparently they think it was a class thing, I’ll take their word for it.

If I’d known that at the time, maybe I’d have reacted differently, but they didn’t tell me that til much later.

In any case, we eat, I fall into bed and sleep like a log.

Next morning, I get up craving coffee, of course. But it’s too early, the restaurant next door doesn’t open til 7. So I take a shower.

A cold shower.

I can’t believe it’s cold.  I’m sure the water just needs to warm up a minute. Or I’m turning the wrong knob.

But no.

There’s no hot water.

By the time I realize, really, there is not going to be any, I am already soaped up, and it’s a little late to go complain. Brrrrrr. NOT my favorite way to start the day.

When I tell them later, they are appropriately appalled and go immediately to fix it. Yeah, whatever. I figure that’s what they do with all the one-nighters. Saves on hot water.

When I tell Conan and Luis about it, Luis just grins. “Welcome to Oaxaca,” he says.

Day 1 – Louisville to Oaxaca

The adventure begins.

5:00 a.m at the United Airline Gate.  I don’t know where the confirmation number is, I don’t know why my ticket reservation isn’t showing up.   The kind woman trying to check me in assures me we’ll figure it out.

Two bags to check, crammed with stuff Lucia and Julia and Conan couldn’t fit in their 5 bags.  Carefully weighed at home a half dozen times, one is under 50 pounds by a few ounces. The other is three pounds over.

I move the Dominos set to my carry on.  Two pounds down.  I debate ~ do all their socks weight a pound or ~~ ok, sadly, I hand Dee my shampoo and conditioner.  That does it.  But ~

“Oh!  Your flight originates at American Airlines, not here,” says the smiling attendant.  “No wonder I couldn’t find it in our system!”

Dee and I schlep the 100 pounds of luggage to-be-checked, plus the carry-on and backpack with all my stuff, to the American counter.  And whoosh, bags checked, boarding passes in hand and I’m off.

Assuming the position to be x-ray strip-search viewed through security is a little icky,  but they let me through {always a relief} and i reward myself with Starbucks, only because there is no Highlands Coffee or Heine Brothers in the airport.

On the plane at last, I lift my carry-on bag up into the storage area ~ where it doesn’t fit. Bulging with shoes in the front pocket, it’s just too fat to slide under the bar.

No problem, quickly, I whip the shoes out of the bag, stow the bag, and cram the shoes into my backpack. There. Of course the back pack won’t zip now, but I stuff it under the seat.  Hopefully, in case of a wreck, my tennis shoes won’t actually be the debris flying around.

The plane makes some funny noises at take off, but we make into the air and back down safely.  Dallas!

The flight attendant reads off gates for some upcoming flights. Houston – B-10. I say it to myself about 30 times.

Off the plane, I rearrange my luggage and start walking. Understand, I have the carry-on. the  backpack, both about to burst at the seams, a hoodie over my arm, and a thick guidebook to Mexico in my hand, which I had to take out of the backpack to make room for the shoes. I look like I should be pushing a shopping cart.

Just as I’m wondering how far it is to Gate B10, I realize the sign is actually directing me to the Skylink.  I laugh at myself ~ almost out loud.  This is not Standiford Field, this is a massive complex.  And the Skylink is pure Jetsons.

They run every two minutes.  Up in the air, with automated doors and an almost friendly automated voice that warns us, “Hold on, the train is about to start,” and it does, with a jerk and a whoosh.  It almost does wheelies around the corners, zips up and down hills, and then floats to a stop with the reminder to “hold on, the train is stopping,”

I’m delighted.

Until I discover that I’m at the wrong terminal.  Lousville girl here, never thought there might be more than one flight to Houston leaving Dallas.

No problem.  Plenty of time ~ back to the Skylink, which still makes me smile ~ and on the right terminal.  And more Starbucks.

Another pleasant flight, my luggage fits the space exactly, my seat-mate and her young son are pleasant, and I enjoy the lift-off.

Houston is even bigger.  I start this blog post in Houston, thinking “I’m going to be here for a long time.  I’ve been here days already – ok, 5 hours, and three more to go”.

I get some money changed, wander around a bit.  Can’t find my flight on the displays for a long time, but it finally shows up, and I get to take their version of Skylink.

Check the duty free corner – not much to get excited about.  If i still smoked, i could get Marlboro’s for $35 a carton – this is a deal?  Sheesh.

Eat a Bluebell ice cream.  Wander. Work on blog post.

Realize I don’t have my cell phone.

OMG!  Instant panic.  I’ve been carrying it attached to my waist, in the little nerdy carrying holster.  It’s gone.

Not in my hoodie pocket – one empty, one has water bottle.

Ok, trying not to panic.  The dark-haired woman working the duty free kiosk shows me where to call lost and found.  While I’m waiting for them to answer, I say to her,  “But I really need someone to call my phone, maybe someone has found it and I can meet them and go get it.”

Nodding understanding, she whips out her own phone and calls the number I give her – in the meantime lost and found answers and I start to explain what happened when ~~

I hear it.  I hear my phone ringing.  Music to my ears.

I look around ~~ where? ~~ how??? OH!

In my pocket.

My hoodie pocket.  With the water bottle.

I apologize to the Lost and Found woman, and laugh with the nice woman  who’d called me, my laughter is joyful relief and a touch of  feeling foolish.

She smiles, and says with a nod at my phone, “Remember that number, the number I called you from, I’m going to call you from time to time and just check on you, see if you have your phone.  We all need someone to check on us sometimes.”

With those wise words to take with me, i wait some more, and check email, and wait and read and wait and eat dinner and wait and then they say the flight is delayed half an hour for weather, and the gate changes, and i wait and at last ~

We board the tiny plane for Oaxaca.  YAY!!

The longest flight of the trip, 2 hours and 12 minutes.  I have coffee and skip the $8 snack.  i’m so excited, and nervous and glad to almost be there!

It’s dark and pouring down rain when we land, but I don’t care.  I pull out the hat that Dee has lent me for the trip and pop it on my head.  At least my hair will be dry.

I’m in Oaxaca.

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