Let me tell you a tale of woe.
Sometimes life throws you unexpected curveballs and the second week of our month-long stay in Mexico was a total disaster. I hope that by sharing our week from hell with you, that you’ll be able to find some humor amidst the annoyances and frustrations. If we had chosen to dwell on the negative, the week would have been even worse. But we chose to focus on gratitude for the things that went well, and had many opportunities to practice patience and fortitude.
Our Mexican comedy of errors
The power of power
Monday evening, just after we’re done with work, the power goes out.
We’re used to not infrequent outages in Nashville, but when it was still off at bedtime, we began to worry. Then we realized that when the power’s out, so is the water. We’re on the third floor of an old apartment building. You need electricity to pump water up three floors. So no way to flush the toilets. 😳
That night, we don’t sleep well. We’re hot. Even though we’ve mostly acclimated to the heat, we always sleep with the AC blasting in our bedroom at night. I usually sleep with a little fan to circulate the air. Bought that thing on our first day in town and have zero regrets. Skyler’s room got decent circulation from two windows, so his room felt fairly cool with the night breeze, but our room got no windflow despite having a sliding door out onto the balcony. I sweat through the sheets that night.
Tuesday morning we wake up sweaty and tired.
Still no electricity. And it’s a weekday.
We still have to get Skyler ready for school. We still have to pack his lunch. And we still have to go to work.
Proactively, I had scouted local coworking spots when I was planning the trip. There was one across the street for $10/day! (If you find yourself in Playa del Carmen and need a coworking spot, WorkIt is a great option!) Free coffee, stable wifi, private meeting spaces, and most importantly air conditioning. It was heaven in a parking garage.
By the time we get back from dropping the kid off, I’m feeling rushed to get my ass over to the coworking spot so I can prep for my day of meetings. So I pack up, grab a snack, rush out the door, across the street, get lost trying to find the door which is more speakeasy than commercial establishment, get inside the cowork spot, pay the daily fee, start to set up all of my stuff… and realize I forgot to pack my laptop.
So I text the husband, pack up, tell the lady I’ll be right back, rush back across the street, rush past my neighbor who asks why I’m in such a rush, I explain my idiocy, he laughs, comments that he hasn’t heard any movement on the electricity being restore, makes a joke about life in Mexico, Justin meets me in the foyer of the building, I race back across the street laptop now in hand, knock again on the speakeasy coworking joint, reset up my work station, and finally logon to work.
The power is finally restored just as we have to go pick up Skyler. By the time we return, so sweaty, the apartment feels cool and we can all take a breather. An hour later, the water was freely flowing again. Life is back to normal.
Wednesday, I pick up lunch from a local healthy food spot. A smoothie and a kale chicken caesar salad. Mmmm. Delish.
However, late Wednesday night – or rather very early Thursday morning – I am awakened by my stomach. Uh oh.
I probably should not have consumed leafy greens in Mexico. I’ve read far too many blogs warning visitors to avoid eating produce that doesn’t have removable skins (e.g. bananas, pineapples). Many people report getting food poisoning due to unfamiliar bacteria or the produce being washed with non potable water. I know many of these claims are exaggerated, but for what it’s worth, I did end up with food poisoning after eating a salad.
I spend most of Thursday trying to work while also rushing to the bathroom a thousand times. I finally start to feel normal around dinner time. Ug. What a day.
That night, we try to bathe our son. The apartment we’ve rented does not have a bath, only a shower. And our son refuses to take showers yet, terrified of getting water in his eyes. Back at home, he fusses but usually lets us wash his hair. Yes, there’s yelling, but not this much screaming.
During the first week in Mexico, we tried one very horrible family shower where my husband and I both went temporarily deaf from the death screams, and had tried several other methods of getting this kid’s head wet (unsuccessfully).
So that Thursday night, we tried a few different methods, all resulting in tears and screaming. I’m sure the neighbors thought we were murdering people upstairs. It was traumatizing for everyone.
When we finally finish, it’s only 730, and Skyler opts to go immediately to bed, still wet, just absolutely done with the day. We are not far behind him.
When life gives you lemons, you make limonada, right?
It’s finally Friday! The end of the week! Huzzah! We’ve made it!
We had grand plans to go to the Xcaret park the next day and we’re all excited. A great reward for a crazy week.
But while we’re walking around trying to decide where to eat dinner, the foot strap on the stroller breaks. There’s no way for Skyler to keep his feet off the ground without physically holding his legs up, and there’s no way that this will suffice for our trip to Xcaret, let alone the rest of our stay in Mexico. I don’t want to buy another stroller after having to buy one on our first day since we forgot ours at home.
So we go on a two-hour detour before dinner to find a DIY way to fix it. We’re brainstorming all the ways we could fix it: buy a bag at a tourist shop and use the shoulder strap; buy some duct tape and fashion a strap; bungee cords; a belt….
After checking dozens of shops, we finally make our way to Walmart, acquire a children’s belt for $99pesos and voila! Solution! (Yes, this lasted the rest of our trip!)
We finally make it to dinner! And then the restaurant takes nearly 2 hours to bring us our food. The kitchen was incredibly backed up, and service was slow, and everyone was getting antsy, and our child morphed into Mr Crabby. He refused to eat anything.
We finally make it home by 9 pm, where Skyler passes out immediately. Well, at least he’ll be rested for our big excursion on Saturday!
The Return of Montezuma
At some point in the wee hours of the night, Montezuma wakes my husband up with what appears to be his own bout of food poisoning. Maybe those shrimp from dinner were not the freshest? He’s puking his brains out all night.
Around 6 am, when he’s rushing to the bathroom, slips and falls, smashing his head on the toilet. Poor fella looks like he’s been in a fight. Clearly, we are not going to Xcaret on Saturday.
Putting patience and fortitude into practice.
We can’t go forth with our original plans. But I am not one to waste a beautiful Saturday. I look at my lion tattoos to summon all of my inner patience and fortitude. Then I help Skyler get dressed and pack a bag. We needed to give Dada some peace and quiet to recoup, so Skyler and I went on our own little adventure!
Step One: Getting to Parque la Ceiba
We brave driving to the park instead of walking in the heat because I want to preserve my kid’s energy to actually enjoy Parque la Ceiba. Of course, I miss a turn, extending a 6 minute drive to a 20 minute drive. Major facepalm.
But have no fear! I finally make it to the parking lot of the Super Chedraui on the southwest side of town. I had planned to park there since I didn’t want to search for street parking. I am not good at parallel parking. Know thyself.
Step two: Having fun
It’s a three block walk to the Parque la Ceiba, and we have a lovely time. Definitely a highlight of our trip. If you have visit Playa del Carmen with kids, put this place on your list! It provides a shaded respite from the heat. It has a great playground. We saw an iguana! They have a Saturday morning market, and yoga classes, and aerial classes, and a bee hive! It’s a lovely place and one of the many free things to do in Playa del Carmen.
Step three: Get trapped in a drive-thru
On our way back, Skyler sees the McDonald’s in the parking lot of the Super Chedraui and says he wants a happy meal. He’s been such a trooper through everything, I say sure. Plus, at this point in the week I really want some greasy carbs. Give me some fries!
So I embarrass myself trying to order in Spanish, and we get up to the second window where they ask me to pull forward… behind another car that has already pulled forward…
Keep in mind, the drive through is an enclosed tunnel. There’s not enough space next to the car in front of me to squeeze out, if necessary. And I have extreme anxiety around being trapped in small places without an escape route.
Step four: Avoid a panic attack
After five minutes of waiting, I turn off the car. I’m trying to control my breathing. I do not care for this!
Another car is asked to pull up behind me, and another rounds the corner behind them. What is going on? We are going to be trapped!
Ten minutes in and I’m trying not to panic. Being trapped like this usually triggers my anxiety but I’m working hard to control it. Talking to Skyler, practicing some EFT tapping, breathing slowly and deeply.
It’s been fifteen minutes now. I’m sweating so I turn the car back on. Skyler is slowly falling asleep in the backseat.
Finally, twenty minutes later, they finally bring out all the food for the waiting cars and we are free to leave. THANK GOD WE GET TO LEAVE THE TUNNEL OF DESPAIR.
I turn to hand Skyler his fries and he informs me that he doesn’t want any. 😑😑😑
The pièce de resistance
I spent part of the afternoon down by the pool reading an amazing book (shoutout to Lauren Thoman!) and Skyler and I enjoyed a long afternoon walk. Justin was starting to feel normal again by the evening and we thought the week was done dealing its blows.
The punchline to all of this is that by Saturday evening, Skyler had a fever and sounded like he had the croup.
One day we’ll laugh about it.
As I type all of this out, I’m laughing. What else can I do at this point? I know that in the future, we’ll look back on this week from hell and laugh. So why not start laughing now?
In the end, I’m grateful for this week. I was proud of our DIY stroller solution. Skyler and I ended up having some really great times together exploring Parque la Ceiba and walking north along Avenida Quinta. We hung out at a Playa Encanto for a while and I got in a lot of steps. It ended up being a good day.
At some level it feels like the universe has been testing me, giving me lots of scenarios that seriously test my anxiety. There are plenty of opportunities to practice everything I’ve ever learned from self-help books and therapy sessions. This week forced me to go with the flow and pivot my expectations when plans changed at the last minute, and really practice my grandmother’s motto of patience and fortitude.
Have you had a week from hell while traveling? Tell me all about it! How do you keep it from ruining your trip? How do you summon your own patience and fortitude? I want to hear from you!