Buenas noches, queridos! I am writing from the heart of San Cristobal in Chiapas. It took us a little longer to get here than we expected, but we arrived safely with baggage and all. :) We met at the airport (MSP) early on Monday morning. I was the first to arrive at 4:15 a.m. — those of you who know me know that is an astounding feat for me. Because I was taking a taxi, I was concerned I would be late. As it turned out, I was the early bird (an unusual occurrence for me — I felt so proud, albeit tired). Everyone gathered and got to the plane (departing at 7-ish) with time to spare. A good start! Some people were pretty riled up (in a good way), and others were pretty much walking in their sleep (including me). I am told that there is a lovely “sleeping” photo of me on the plane that provided the group with much pleasure.
The first leg of our journey was fairly uneventful. We flew from MSP to Phoenix and had a plane transfer there. The timing was perfect. Had we been delayed at all, it might have been dicey as we had little time to spare between flights, but all went like clockwork. Our flight from Phoenix to Mexico City also went well. We arrived to warmer weather, more humidty and a LONG line to get through customs. After passing through customs, each person presses a button. When I did so, a green signal indicated I could pass through and I was directed through the exit. At first I wasn’t sure if that moment was when you found out if you “passed” inspection or perhaps how they counted the number of people who entered the country (umm … duh!). I was informed by group-mates that it is a random selection tool used to identify people for further search/examination. Needless to say, I felt a little silly. Live and learn, right?
Oddly enough, there were few people behind us — the timing was just not in our favor this time. This is where our well-oiled machinery had to take a detour. In theory, we were to fly out of Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez at 4:35 p.m. We all made it through our “longer-than-usual” customs process, on to the “Air Train,” and to the proper terminal by about 4:20 p.m. Hmmm … is anyone sensing a potential problem here? Well, because my ticket had been booked separately (I was a last-minute addition to the crew), I was able to print out my boarding pass at home (no one else had a boarding pass yet). My plan was to race through security by myself and plead with the gate agent to hold the plane for our group. However, I had forgotten that one of my bags (which I had checked through Mexico City) had a couple bottles of hair products in it, so at 4:30 p.m. I was sent back out to either dispose of my hair products or check my bag. Needless to say, my plan was futile — especially considering that boarding passes for the rest of the group had to be printed at least 30 minutes prior to the flight (which I did not know at the time). And wouldn’t you know, that flight was the last flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez for the day.
Plan B was set in motion. With dedicated passion and grace, Chris began talking with a representative of the airline to determine what our best next option was. Chelsea jumped into action as our Spanish translator to facilitate the process. The group camped out in a couple of spots, took walks, grabbed food, etc. as time went on and people started to get a bit restless. Spirits remained remarkably positive, a spontaneous card game began, wonderful conversations took place, and we made the best of a time-consuming process. With significant helpings of patience and perseverence, Chris navigated a flight change for all of us to fly out the following morning at 6:30 a.m. Chelsea and Tim got a message to Teresa (who was awaiting our arrival in Tuxtla Gutierrez) through Aeromexico, informing her of the change in plans. Chris then arranged for us to get hotel accommodations in Mexico City for the night. Laura and Chelsea went on a mission to purchase a “pay-as-you-go” phone that we could use here in Mexico that also had the capability to call the United States as needed. I was a message courier between groups, and 4 hours later, we were in 2 vans packed to the gills en route to Grand Prix. Are you tired yet? We sure were!
Most of the group gathered for dinner, some of us (including me!) were bushed, so we called it a night. By this time it was about 9:30 p.m. and it felt good to be settled for the night, even though were were in a different place than we thought we would be. Throughout all of the chaos, I was impressed by the patience, generosity of spirit, sharing, and flexibility of the group. To be sure, we were all processing the experience differently, yet already, I felt like the group was truly a group — furthermore, a supportive community for one another.
My awareness of our “privelege” in the world is magnified here. Our having the means to come here in the first place is a luxury many people could never consider. Our having the means to accommodate the cost of flight changes and accommodations to boot! I also observed that the United State’s tendency to “multi-task” as much as possible is not embraced here. Changes were made one at a time, in the proper order, and they took as long as they took. No matter how much any one of us may have wanted to “rush things along,” that just was not going to happen. So many people helped us along the way — people who were strangers to us, but as helpful as if we were old friends. Our group was treated graciously and with generous assisstance every step of the way. I was humbled by my inability to do much of anything to make a difference when our plans were up in the air, yet to be a part of a community where I feel that each of us is fully supported as we are. What a gift!
And then there was Tuesday … (but I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow — my pillow is calling)
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