Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Part II

Previously on Part I of “My Once Upon a Time in Mexico”

Well, God, I thought you led me here...I promise I’ll never forget to pack someones phone number again…especially in a foreign land where I don’t speak the language...

My Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Part II

Speaking of phone numbers…I suddenly remembered something!  This could be my salvation.

Maybe it was the iron bars of the jail cell and the thought of being stuck on the wrong side of them forever that kicked my creative-problem-solving skills into high gear.  My mind then stumbled upon another memory from high school (unfortunately, not from my Spanish class, which, any knowledge I acquired there other than “pinata fiesta” seems to have been eternally erased from my brain).  I remembered a conversation I had with one of my friends, Dan, just a few days before I boarded my plane to Mexico.  When I had mentioned to him that my destination was just about an hour from the city of Monterrey, his face had lit up in surprise.

“Really!?  My older brother just got married to the daughter of a Mayor in Monterrey.  I’m sure you won’t ever need it, but I’ll give you the Mayor’s contact information in case you ever get in a bind and need help.  He’s family now!”

Before, I had thought to myself, “Trust me buddy, I’ll never get in a bind requiring help from a mayor”, but now I was thinking that eating my own words never tasted so good!

I didn’t waste another minute and dumped my entire purse out on the floor, rifling through the contents until I found the slip of paper with the Mayor’s phone number on it.  Salvation is here!

Of course, another embarrassing game of charades was required to communicate my idea to the Police Chief, but four hours later (7 a.m.), an officer came and shook me awake (my suitcase made for an interesting pillow) jabbering excitedly in Spanish.  I rubbed my sleepy eyes and followed him to the front desk where an older Hispanic couple was waiting.  The man was dressed in a three piece suit and his wife was decked out to the nines, they seemed out of place in the humble settings of my new home.  The man in the suit grinned from ear to ear as he held up a newspaper for my appraisal.  It was the front page of the social section where a stunning black and white photo of Dan’s brother and a lovely Mexican bride were walking down an aisle.  I excitedly nodded yes and smiled in relief, in spite of the language barrier, the connection had been made!

That morning, my knight in shining armor was the Mayor of Monterrey(and his wife) and they quickly assured me that any “amiga” of their new son-in-law was an “amigo por SIEMPRE!”  Translation: friend for LIFE!

Their well-dressed chauffeur loaded my baggage and I settled into the backseat next to the lovely mayor’s wife.  It only took me a few minutes to realize that, once again, “Houston: we have a PROBLEMO!”  As she fluffed her dyed-blonde hair (unless Hispanics can be natural blondes?), she chatted non-stop.  Amidst a torrent of words I couldn’t understand, she reached over, grabbed my hand and said in broken English, “You okay now.  You stay with us one year, that is no problem.”

The problem was I had someplace I was actually supposed to be.  In fact, at that moment (which was then 8:00 am), my first day of classes were starting up at the school in El Carmen.  This wasn’t going to impress the principle: the new teacher being late for the first day of school!  Of course, I was hoping my excuse was a little bit better than, “My dog ate my homework.”

Over the course of the next few hours (and amidst a day of shopping, sight-seeing and eating at a five star hotel), I made numerous attempts to explain to the Mrs. Mayor my predicament.  Each attempt ended with the same result: interested and concerned eyes watching, an understanding nod and a little pat on the hand as she would say, “Yes, understand.  You stay with me.”

Meanwhile, across the mountainous city and down a dirt road in the village of El Carmen, a little miracle was taking place.  

A Hispanic lady named Mrs. Beto flipped on her radio in her kitchen as she readied her daughters and herself for the first day of school.  She cleaned and cooked at the small school and was mentally running through what she needed for the day when an A.P.B. (All Points Bulletin) caught her attention.  It was a description of a girl that had not been picked up at the Monterrey airport (white, 5’ 2”, red hair…which I didn’t have red hair so not sure what that was about!), and that any persons with any information should call the police station.  Mrs. Beto had a sudden and strange thought, “I wonder if that is the girl that is supposed to teach at our school?”  On a whim, she jotted down the number and put it in her pocket in case she would need it later.

Mrs. Beto (who has never owned a car) walked to the school of El Carmen and heard the news: the new teacher never showed up.  Fiddling with the phone number on the piece of paper in her pocket, she debated, God is this you speaking?  

Back in Monterrey, the smells of the street vendors cooking authentic Mexican foods and home-made tortillas were tantalizing.  While riding in the back seat, the honking of taxi-cabs, people shouting in crowded open-air markets and stray dog barking was all an amazing and overwhelming sensation as we sped through downtown.  I glanced at my watch; it read 3:14 p.m., then glanced over at my new (apparently life-long!) friend, Mrs. Mayor.  It seemed a new plan was in order…but what?

We pulled up in front of the Mayor’s offices and waited while he checked on something.  When he came back out, he had a funny look on his face.  He looked at me, patted his wife’s hand, said something in Spanish and then directed his driver to do something with numerous gestures and animated instructions.

I watched as the skyscrapers gave way to dilapidated housing units packed together like stacks of dirty dishes and then fade into nothing but a long stretch of highway exiting the city.  Well, this means one of two things, I thought to myself as I leaned my head against the seat (going on two hours of sleep in two days will catch up to you eventually!), I hope they somehow figured out where I’m supposed to be...

To be continued on Monday...

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