Sunday, January 7, 2018

Made In Mexico

Apparently my friend’s fiancé thinks I’m a ho.

I once found a really great flight deal to Rio de Janeiro and asked a friend if she wanted to join me. She took a few days to respond and then told me she couldn’t make it. A few months later she confessed that her fiancé didn’t want her to go. He was worried that if we traveled together, I would convince her to sleep with random men.

Now there’s no denying that Rio is full of good-looking guys with cute accents and tight soccer bodies. And yes, some of them are just waiting to catch you when you trip on your beach sarong and impregnate you on the sands of Copacabana as a live samba band plays in the background. But this is why stereotypes can be dangerous: Plenty of them don’t even play soccer.

Honestly, I was truly shocked that her fiancé would think I’d get her into trouble and racked my brain to figure out why. I urge my friends to take solo trips and at the very least to eat their steaks medium, but I have never encouraged them to cheat. If I could get people to have affairs, that weren't already planning on doing so, I'd have a lot more money in the bank than I currently do. Coercing someone into having an affair against their will has got to be a marketable service to opponents of people running for public office or those who have signed air tight prenupts.

The most deviant thing I’ve done lately is eat in bed, and it wasn’t even off of someone’s naked body

I’ve been on vacations, I’ve been on work-cations, but I have never gone on a trip with the sole purpose of hocationing. Of course between you and I, I would definitely do some deviant things to Jason Momoa if he politely requested me to. If he dressed as Khal Drogo in a loin cloth, with body paint smeared across his chest, he wouldn’t even have to ask. However, to the dismay of dudes who occasionally slide into my Instagram DMs, I am in fact, not a ho. Or at least not as much of a ho as they’d like me to be, since being a ho is subjective. As Kendrick Lamar so eloquently stated, “There’s levels to this”. 

How Kahl Drogo convinces me to do just about anything 
Looking back, I do remember telling my engaged friends about one crazy drunk night I had after the Chicago Auto Show. I suppose after telling that story, I became somewhat of a travel liability. But wild boozy nights are not really my thing. Besides, after JC stopped talking to me, I told myself I wouldn’t date anyone for a while. Mexico City had other plans for me though.

When I arrived at the airport, I was so excited to be in Mexico that I almost didn’t feel tired after traveling for 12 hours. I was still floating on a cloud from my sweet goodbye with Hot Passenger and slightly buzzed from our shots of tequila. When I got into my Uber and headed towards the hostel, I gulped in my surroundings like a large glass of water. From a stoplight I watched an older man closing down his elote cart for the evening and I started to anticipate all the amazing food I was going to try over the next 4 days.

We drove past Zocalo Square and it was nearly dead except for dozens of candlelit trajineras and a few party goers on their way home from clubs. Windows of weathered stone buildings were darkened, the cobble stone streets were littered with confetti and papel picado zigzagged from light post to light post.

It was the first night of Dia de los Muertos. 

Papel Picado, paper banners hanging
from building to building

Trajineras are like party/eating boats that hold a lot of people.
Most of the restaurants in the Zocalo district were closed for the night but there was a pizza place near the hostel with a convenient store attached. In my rusty Spanish, I ordered a cheese pizza and then walked around the convenience store while I waited for it to be ready. In the snack aisle next to the Takis and pulparindo, I met some guys with their faces painted like sugar skulls.

Wow your makeup is so amazing. Where did you get it done?

The guy with red and white paint around his eyes told me, “You can get your face painted almost everywhere since it’s the start of the holiday.” He sounded like he was from France.

”, his tall friend added, “A woman in the hostel lobby was charging only 200 pesos. I think that’s about 10 American dollars. You’re American right? You sound American.”

Whenever I travel to a new country, most people don’t guess that I’m from the US right away. Many assume that I’m a dark skinned Afro-Latina from anywhere in between Panama and Brazil. Once, some nuns in Rome even asked me if I was from Sri Lanka. To their defense, I had a fresh Dominican blow out that made my silky hair blow in the wind like Beyonce with a fan pointed in her direction. When people from other countries think of (North) Americans, they think of white people. They don’t think of Black women with natural hair and American accents. They don’t think of me.

I am from the United States,” I smiled. “Is it okay if I take your photo?”

As long as you take one with us!”

The nice gentleman I met at the c-store that night 
You are staying at our hostel, no? We saw your afro in the lobby when you came in.” He patted the air around his hair with his hands.

Black people subconsciously do this thing where we count the number of other black people we see when we’re out in public. We’re even more likely to do this if we’re in a foreign place, or a place where we’re sure there aren’t going to be a lot of us to begin with. I hadn’t seen any other black people that night and I guess they hadn’t either.

We took our food back to the hostel and the face painted gentlemen shared their Tecate with me. They introduced me to some beautiful French women who were language teachers, a fashionable Japanese girl named Sariko and a quiet Vietnamese American guy named Huey. After the Tecate had run through me, I went to the bathroom and when I came back, there was a Black guy sitting on the couch next to Sariko.

So there are two of us in this town now I thought to myself.

He looked stressed out.

Are you ok? Do you want a slice of pizza?

When did I turn into my mother?

He closed his eyes and let out a long sigh.

Thanks but I can’t think about food right now. I have $20 on me, my debit card doesn’t work here and I lost my credit card.” He put his cell phone on the coffee table separating us. “I’m James.”

I felt James’ pain. I have lost debit cards in approximately 65% of the countries I’ve visited. A slightly higher percentage of my shoes have been lost in foreign countries as well.

Dang that sucks. The same thing happened to me when I went to Brazil last year. If you have Venmo or Paypal, you can just wire me cash and I’ll take it out of the ATM for you.”

"Seriously? It wouldn't be a hassle?"

"Not at all. I don’t have foreign ATM fees. I'd be happy to do it."

"Thank you."

James looked so relieved that it made my heart melt a little. 

I have to admit, it felt really good to help out a fellow traveler. I have lost my debit card in Budapest, misplaced my shoes at a temple in Bangkok and had my journal stolen in Singapore. I know what it's like to be across the world and lose something valuable. But thanks to some kind people, I also know what its like to have perfect strangers help me out of a sticky situation. 

James and I traded phone numbers and made plans to go to the ATM first thing in the morning. Our little group of world travelers spent the rest of the night, lounging on comfy suede couches, looking at each other's passport stamps, and sharing things we wanted to see in the city.

Mexican Beer, Snacks & Passport Stamps

"Do you speak Spanish?" I asked James

"Yea, even though my parents are Mexican, I taught myself Spanish by moving to Chilé for a while."

"Oh, I thought you were Black."

And then there was one

"I get that alot."

The common area of the hostel
One by one people said their buenas noches and started to go to bed. It was nearly 2 in the morning when just James, Huey and I were left sitting in the common room.

I’m exhausted from traveling guys. I’m going to bed.”

You sure you don’t want to go get a drink?” James suggested. “Now that I’ve got my money situation figured out I could definitely eat too.”

Huey put his hand on his stomach. “I’m always down to eat.”

I’m still full from pizza, but you guys go on with out me. I’ll see you in the morning.”

For the next 4 days we were nearly inseparable