July 23, 2016
I only got about three hours of sleep last night (really technically it was this morning). And I have only been getting about three hours of sleep each night all week. But it is great. It is perfect. I would not have it any other way. My last week in Mexico was amazing, as every week in Mexico has been. I did not have time to blog about it so over the next few days I will be back tracking and writing about my final days abroad. However, for now I will just continue with my last morning in Mexico and traveling home.
I packed my bags early this morning, before sleeping a bit. When I got up at six, I finished packing the last minute things and laid on my bed staring at the ceiling. Instead of seeing blank white, it was as if the ceiling was a movie screen playing back to me all of my Mexico memories. All of them played back as if I were watching them from the outside looking in. From meeting my host family to the first day, to meeting my best friend and all of the adventures he led me on, to eating sesos (brains) and chapulines (crickets), to climbing mountains and Aztec ruins, to learning how to speak more Spanish and eventually catching myself thinking absent mindedly in Spanish, to writing post cards and buying gifts to bring home to my favorites, to so, so much more.
When my host mom knocked on the trim of my dorm at about 7am, I went and sat in the kitchen with her as she made me scrambled eggs for breakfast. We chatted about how fast the time had gone by and I thanked her for everything. She said “De nada,” and informed me that tomorrow she was expecting another student already for the second half of the summer. At 8 o’clock she called me a cab to have arrive at 8:15. My bags were packed and I looked ready on the outside, but on the inside I couldn’t have been less ready. The last few days I had constantly felt on the verge of tears, or was actually in tears from time to time.
At 8:15, the taxi had not arrived and at 8:20 my mom called the company back. They told her the taxi was close. I took a photo with my youngest host cousin and then had her take one of her grandmother and me. My 85 year old host mother ended up struggling with this a lot more than my five year old host cousin did.
At 8:30, she called again and only received an answer after saying “¿Bueno?” at least ten times. Again, the taxi was “close”. I was starting to get just a bit worried, because I needed to be at the bus station a bit before 9am, when my bus was scheduled to leave, and these buses due actually keep to a schedule and leave on time. But then again, I wondered perhaps if my taxi was late and I missed my bus, it was a sign I was not supposed to leave Mexico yet? As I was thinking of the pros and con of this possibility, the taxi arrived and I loaded up quickly. I gave the dogs one last pet as I said “Adiós” and gave my host mom a kiss on the cheek. Before I knew it, I was riding down my street headed to the bus station.
I paid the driver 70 pesos and pulled my luggage that felt very much over airline weight limits behind me as I entered the bus station. Thankfully, the classmate who I was traveling home with was already there and showed me where to check my bag. Our attitudes could not have been more opposite. She had been dying to get home since the day after we arrived in Mexico and I had been dreading leaving Mexico since the day we arrived.
We found our seats on the bus and settled in for the three hour ride to Mexico City. I was thankful to be seated and have the opportunity to doze and get some probably only minimally restful sleep. But Addi was chatty and I didn’t end up dozing off until about half way through the trip.
When we arrived at the airport, the bus first stopped at Terminal 1. We knew we were supposed to get off at Terminal 2, but when almost everyone else but three others got off at Terminal 1, we went and asked another passenger to be sure we were understanding everything correctly. I ended up not understanding everything correctly at first as the passenger we asked had a beautiful, heavy Spanish accent trading the double L “yuhh” Mexican pronunciation for the Spanish “juhh” thus turning “yuhhvar” into “juhhvar.” But, we got it all figured out superfast and it was neat to hear another accent.
Once we got off the bus, we checked in, got our tickets, and checked our bags, both underweight, thankfully! Mine was close due to all the heavy souvenirs I was bringing home. Then we made it through security which was super easy and less stressful or intimidating as airport security in the USA. Next we had a two hour wait in the airport before even finding out what gate or plane would arrive at. Once again, all I wanted to do was get in my assigned seat and doze off.
We got a snack at Starbucks, a rarity for me. As I was sitting at a table, with half a slice of bagel still in my hand, a lady came by who was cleaning up. She started grabbing for the paper bag I was using for a plate and the napkins, plastic knife, and straw wrapper sitting in front of me. My first thought was shock and my American sized space bubble (larger than Mexican space bubbles) immediately came into play. I was shocked, but also laughed at how quickly she was scurrying around bussing my table right beneath my hands, whether I was ready or not.
Eventually we made it to our gate and found out that our flight was delayed about half an hour. Addi and I were a bit worried to hear this. When we originally purchased our returning plane tickets, we selected flights with a three hour layover in between to allow plenty of time for slight delays such as this and getting through customs. But, last week we found out our layover had been cut from three hours to one hour. But, there was nothing we could do about it so we waited to board the plane and prayed that we would have enough time to make our connecting flight.
As we boarded our plane, a Mexican man said “Excuse me,” politely in English. I immediately replied “Por supuesto” in Spanish without hesitation. Hearing my Spanish reply, he said “Perdón,” with surprise that I replied with Spanish. I was determined to keep speaking Spanish as long as I could.
As I settled into my window seat on the plane, it really began to hit that I was leaving Mexico. When our plane started down the run way and began to lift off, I could not help the tears welling in my eyes and it took everything I had to not full on ugly-cry. but I know that this is not “Adiós” to Mexico. It is only “Hasta pronto.”
The flight passed as most flights do. I dozed some and watched memories flick across the inside of my eye lids. I read some and wrote some, and asked for sprite and cookies in Spanish when the bilingual flight attendant asked me if I would like anything in English.
When we landed, Addi and I were off for the races! We grabbed our luggage, checked our passports, Answered no: we had not been to a farm recently, we did not have over $10,000 in our possession, and we did not have any fresh meats of produce. After smiling and trying to look like my passport photo, I cut the small talk with the airport security guard a bit short as I replied that the origin of my last name is Italian and met Addi on the other side of Customs. We rechecked our bags and looked up our gate number. A fast speed walk through the air port had us arriving at our gate 20 minutes before boarding time was to start. We had made it! No flight missed and we had time to get food. It was 6pm Salt Lake City, Utah time which was 7pm in the time zone we were accustom to. With food in hand, we were soon boarding our second plane.
This ride was pretty much up and down in less than an hour. Coming into Portland, I was welcomed home by the beauty of the Pacific North West with this view of Mount Hood at sunset.
When we finally got off the plane, Addi and I headed to baggage claim. When I saw my parents and sister standing on the other side of the security gate, I couldn’t help the tears again as I gave both of my parents a hug and was welcomed home. Sarah rolled her eyes at me and gave me half a hug.
Addi and I grabbed our bags, snapped one last photo, and said bye. She seemed happier laughing with her dad in these moments then I had seen her in the last five weeks. I was glad she had finally make it home. I wasn’t quite sure what to feel yet, but I knew I was thankful to have such a wonderful family to come home to.
Instead of driving the 2 ½ hours home to Astoria from the Portland airport, we spent the night at Willow Creek Railroad, which is yet another one of the places I call home. I was very glad to see a few more favorite people and share a bit about my Mexico experience. Most of them knew the big events from reading blog posts, but of course there are zillions of other little stories to tell that don’t make it in the posts.
So far, the weirdest thing about being home is being able to flush toilet paper. I thought twice about it the first time I used the bathroom at Willow Creek. Was the world really going to keep revolving around the sun if I flushed the toilet paper? (Soon to come: Don’t Forget Your Toilet Paper: Cultural Differences Between Mexico and the USA). In addition to this, I have this weird feeling as if time did not pass here at home while I was abroad. It more feels as though I was just gone for a day. If I did not have tanner skin and a stamp in my passport, I would be wondering in the whole last five weeks were just a dream.
I am so thankful to have experienced life in Mexico and I know that I will return someday for another extended period of time. Thank you all for following my journey and stay tuned for more! I have many more stories to write from my last week abroad and I intend to keep using this blog for future travel adventures. Thank you for all of our feedback, thoughts, and prayers.