Monday, January 18, 2010

The Road to Juquila - Part 2: Obstacles on the Journey

The Road to Juquila
was a road with many obstacles.
We almost didn’t make the pilgrimage
for one reason or another.

It had been our hopes,
once in Mexico,
to rent a bus
to take family and friends
on pilgrimage with us.
It was extremely hard
to call the various bus stations
from the U.S. to Mexico.
Often there was no answer
or the phone number was incorrect.

Once we finally were able to make contact
we experienced the clash of culture:
Sure we could rent a bus for a private trip
but they didn’t accept credit cards.
We would need to pay in cash.
We finally decided to forego this idea
and those of us who wanted to go
would each just buy their own ticket.
We were going to Mexico
to visit Juquila
and would iron out details
once we got there.

The fiasco at the airport
as we were leaving Detroit
is the worst I have EVER seen.
I did check the flight the day before
and even got our seat assignment via the internet.
All we had to do was check our bags
and go through the security check. said to be there 2 hours early.
Having done this before,
we gave ourselves much more time.
We parked at the long term parking
and took the shuttle in
and came upon what was every traveler’s nightmare,
lines that zigzagged right out of the building.

We got informed
and got in the right line for international flights.
After a while a northwest rep
moved us (and all with electronic boarding passes)
to another line
telling us we would get through faster.
Well, that was lie.
This second line hardly moved.
3 ½ hours later
it was finally our turn
and the NW lady yelled me
for putting my passport in the Kiosk,
which is what we are supposed to do.
She must have been having a bad day
and decided to take it out on me.
our bags were checked
and we were on our way to the security check.
I kept telling them that our flight was boarding at this time,
but they told us not to worry.
Once through the security check,
we heard them calling our names. . .
. . .our plane was going to leave without us. . .
. .we raced through the terminal,
but once we arrived the doors had already closed.
I was very angry
and told them that it was their counter personnel
that didn’t move us through the line,
that we had been there at the airport
almost 4 hours.
they opened the doors and they let us on the plane.

. . and let me digress here and say
that the return flight from Mexico
was a totally different experience.
We checked in and went through security
and were at the gate all within 15 minutes.
And the security check was phenomenal. .
Every bag, every zipper to every bag,
anything inside of something else. . .
Everything was checked.
We went through the metal detector
and a pat down. . . and carry-ons were checked again
just prior to boarding. .
And still, it moved very quickly. . .

. . but back to the story. . .

Once in Mexico
we needed to decide
what day we would actually take the trip.
Family members all had different schedules.
Many of our family are business owners
so it’s hard for them to get away.
Some were available on this or that day,
others on other days.
Some wanted to go,
but were actually planning to go to Juquila
within the next few months
and decided to just wait
until their schedule allowed.

It finally began to occur to me
that what was my goal
was not necessarily the goal
of the rest of the family.

But isn’t that the way it is?
When you have something in your own backyard,
it just doesn’t seem to interest you.
I love art,
but must admit that I have seen
the Diego Rivera mural in Detroit
only once.
I love history,
but it has been years
since I’ve gone to the Henry Ford Museum
or Greenfield Village.
And I have never been to the Imax.
I guess,
with my family,
the same goes here.
They can go anytime
to visit La Virgencita de Juquila,
but just don’t go.

In the end,
it was decided that four of us
would take the trek up the mountain to Juquila.
And that was just fine by me.
I was going!

But then,
the inevitable happened:
My husband and I both got sick.
At first,
I thought my throat was just dry
from the Mexico City air.
If you’ve ever been to L.A.,
Mexico City air is much worse.
I love Mexico City so much. . .
. . .the art. . . .the museums. . .
the history. . . the churches. . . .Guadalupe. . .
I love it so much
that I am rarely bothered by the thick air.
But it wasn’t the air.
I got this flu bug that just put me out of commission.
I was in bed for ½ a day
and when I finally got up
I thought it best that I not take the trip
in case I got more sick.
I got some antibiotics and cough drops
and nursed my way a little better.
But I was bummed.

The next day
I decided the heck with this sickness.
I was going!
I didn’t do all of this planning
to be sick in bed.
We would need to rearrange our schedule a bit,
but we could still make the trek up the mountain.

One of my niece’s,
who wasn’t a part of the original group of four,
decided that she would go
along with her daughter
and that she would drive.
There was only one problem.
Her wallet had been stolen
and she had not yet replaced her driver’s license.
But we figured,
what the heck!
We’ll risk it!
Let’s go!

I still wasn’t feeling better
the next day
and decided, again,
not to take the trip.
Five of us in a pick-up truck
with a two-year-old child
just didn’t seem like a smart thing to do
with of one of us (me) coughing
all they way up the mountain.
The days were quickly passing
and we would need at least two full days
to reach our destination
and accomplish our goal.

after a few days of this cold,
I felt better.
We purchased the bus tickets to Teohuacan,
the first stint of the trip,
and called our in-laws to tell them to meet us there.
The trip to Teohuacan
was a two hour bus ride.
The hotel Casa Real
is a fine place to stay while in Teohuacan.
We met up with our in-laws the next morning
and got the afternoon bus for Oaxaca.

The bus ride to Oaxaca was five hours.
And it was a pretty shabby bus.
Note to self:
When traveling longer distances in Mexico
take the ADO GL.
The GL is roomer and much more comfy.
Coffee, snacks. .
. . .dinner if the trip is during the dinner hour. . .
. . .even a headset to watch the movie. . .
Yeah, take the ADO GL for longer distances.

We spent the night in Oaxaca (the city of)
at what seems to be the only hotel
that accepted credit cards.
Yes, that’s the culture clash
one may often find:
many places just don’t take credit cards.
And less and less banks
are accepting American Express Traveler’s Checks.
Even most of the infamous Casas de Cambio
are no longer exchanging traveler’s checks.
Come with cash.
Or be prepared to get money from your plastic.
if you’re interested,
the Hotel Rivera del Angel
in Oaxaca, Oaxaca
does, in fact, take credit cards.

The bus to Juquila,
we later found out,
was not a bus at all
but a series of vans.
We were advised to be in line for tickets
at 4:00a.m.
If we planned to be on the 5:00a.m. van.
the following day,
we left the Hotel
and walked a few blocks in the dark
to be in line for our tickets.

the Road to Juquila
was not just an idea in my mind
and in my heart
but a concrete reality!

One thing I have often found
to be a little humerus about Mexico
is the people’s intolerance to cold.
Coming from Michigan
I guess we just sort of
develop this tolerance for cold.
People dress in what I would only describe
as winter coats
complete with hat, scarves, gloves.
I mean,
I know the morning is a bit chilly,
but a sweater or hoodie will do.
Not for theses folks.
They were dressed as though prepared
for the next winter blast.
“Ah, well,” I thought to myself,
“to each his own.”

Once in the van however,
I quickly began to roast.
Fifteen of us in one of those larger vans
and all the windows closed up tight.
I was getting hot.
I took off my sweater.
I asked the lady seated in front of us,
the one wearing a winter coat
and covered with a blanket,
to please just crack the window.
She refused.
Done deal.
I was in a slow cooker to Juquila.

I began to feel the droplets of sweat
pouring down my face like tears.
About two thirds of the way up
the inevitable happened.
I began to get car sick.
I had nothing for breakfast,
not even coffee that morning.
Knowing that there would probably
not be any rest areas up that mountain
I thought it best not to eat or drink anything.
Just dry heaves.
Another person in the van
wasn’t so lucky.
I wasn’t sitting next the them
or my reaction could have been much worse.

The thing is,
apart from what I thought
was an extremely hot vehicle,
the Road to Juquila
is a road up the mountain.
It twists and turns and winds.
There are no guard rails.
While I am accustomed to folks driving
on the right side of the road,
people drive in the middle of the road
up the mountain,
and veer to their appropriate side
when another vehicle approaches,
which is hard to tell
with so many twists and turns
so the veering is jolting and sudden.

I would say that
four of the five hour drive up the mountain
was this roller coaster.

But finally,
we arrived!
All obstacles had been conquered!
I stepped out of the vehicle
and into the fresh mountain air!
We were here!

Not finding a private tour bus
couldn’t stop me.
Delays at the airport
could not stop me.
Illness couldn’t stop me.
Not being able to use credit cards
couldn’t stop eme.
Car sickness couldn’t stop me.
Twelve hours total by bus,
but we were here!

Once there I asked my mother-in-law
how it is that she didn’t get car sick.
She said,
“It’s simple.
I told Our Lady that I was coming to Juquila
and asked Her to make sure I didn’t get sick
on the way up the mountain.”

Ask and you shall receive.
How come sometimes I still don’t get it???
But you know,
that simple and profound faith
that is found in the people of Mexico
is one of the things
that just keeps me coming back.

Despite all obstacles,
we were here, in Juquila.
The next step,
even before finding something to eat,
was to walk to the church. . . .

- - - - - - - - - -
About the photos:
The first photo is of roses growing high up on a hill,
a view seen just as one gets out of the van
when arrive at Juquila.
The second photo
is of one of the tickets sellers' stations
for the several vans that make the trip
to and from Juquila.


LA VIDA said...

Loving the journey...I almost started to perspire on the van (bus)!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful description of your trip! What lasting memories!
Oh, how I miss Oaxaca!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.