awkward turtle / expat / travel

Day 3/28: Travel Mishaps & Misadventures

Welcome to Day #3 of my One Blog Post Daily Project! This month, I’m posting about my adventures in Latin America and my recent return back to Texas. For this post I wanted to share a couple of bizarre and nutty experiences I’ve encountered while in transit. Happy reading!


Getting Lost in Translation with Cab Drivers
Besides having conversations with my Spanish teachers, I got a lot of awkward Spanish conversations under my belt by talking to by cab drivers. I don’t know much Spanish. The driver doesn’t know much English. It’s a perfect storm.

The drives between Antigua and Guatemala City were long (45 minutes without traffic and sometimes up to two hours during a really bad rainstorm). I figured I may as well get a ride AND a free Spanish lesson out of this. The unfortunate thing was I was often misunderstood. When I didn’t know ANY Spanish at all, I used to say “Si” to everything. Just to be in agreement or just to be a positive and polite person. This is not a good way of communicating.

Cab Driver:  Quieres escuchar música? (Do you like music?)
Me: Si. (Yes)
Cab Driver: “Salsa or Reggaton?”
Me: Si. Salsa. (Yes. Salsa.)
Cab Driver throws in a salsa CD. He kind of starts nodding his head along with the music. And, I kind of nod back.
Cab Driver: Quieres cerveza? (Do you like beer?)
Me: Si. (Yes)
Cab Driver suddenly pulls over at a gas station and offers to buy me a 6 pack for our long drive. 

He thought I was ready to party with him, and I was just trying to be polite.

The range and variety of cab drivers has been fascinating. I’ve had cab drivers ask me why my eyes were slanted. I’ve had cab drivers ask me out on dates. I even had a cab driver give me the customary cheek kiss and a hug when he dropped me off at the airport and follow up with a Facebook friend request. On the other end of the spectrum and probably because I had a better understanding of the language, I’ve had great cab drivers. Some drivers were happy to correct my grammar and give me recommendations on restaurants and things to do.


Getting Hussled, Witnessing a Fight, and Customs Lines
During one of my first flights through Mexico City, I had to wait 2.5 hours for the customs line to make a connecting flight. There were two lines: one for Mexican citizens and another one for non-citizens. I was really anxious about making my flight because I don’t think I knew enough Spanish to figure out how to get a hotel room if I was stuck in Mexico. Right when I get to the front of the line, a Mexican woman expresses her frustration asking why the non-citizen line had more customs agents than the Mexican citizen line. She got so mad and started arguing with one of the security guards. The security guard really didn’t do much, and it made the Mexican citizens more angry. Eventually, the Mexicans pushed down the stanchions and started cutting into the non-citizen line. I’ve never seen an angry mob at an airport before. It was incredible.

On another trip through Mexico City, I must have had that bewildered look because an airline employee with a badge offered to show me where to find my airline. It was a little strange though because he basically took me up an escalator and could not find my gate. Though he felt like it warranted enough help and insisted that I give him money. It was midnight and my next flight to NYC wasn’t gonna leave until 4am. I was exhausted. And, I reluctantly threw him a couple of bucks so he would just leave me alone.

If those two experiences were not enough, I had one more misadventure. While I was standing in line at customs, I noticed I left my Manuka mat on the plane. My airline agent asked for my exit form and I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere. Fueled with a pang of panic, I luckily found it stuffed in the bottom of my backpack only because I thought the red and green foil on the paper looked pretty. And to ensure enough fear that I wouldn’t be able to return home, the airline agent’s ticket printer broke down. So, I boarded the plane with a handwritten plane ticket. LOLOL

I used to think I had nerves of steel. I spent a good number of years traveling and planning parties for a career. Anything and everything could possibly happen in those situations, but I do feel like traveling in foreign lands up levels those challenges and puts you in more vulnerable situations. Instead of worrying about ever scenario, I feel like I had to just face the stresses as they come and face these stresses with a lot more levity.

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