Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cabo Kicked Me Out

It's serious. He said
oooook- thats me.
You know they just shut down all of the schools in all of Mexico for the next two weeks don't you?
I DIDN'T know that - a now paying close attention me.
It just happened.  I will check out your daughter, but its you, you should be worried about.

Ophelia has been having cold/allergy symptoms since about a month after we arrived in Mexico. I have been trying to get to the bottom of it pretty much since that time.  We have met with several doctors all of whom are dealing with symptoms and not the root of the problem.  I have been trying to find a doctor who I can trust and who speaks good enough English to explain to me exactly what is going on and is willing to take the time to explain to me every little question I may have.  In March, I finally found Dr. Barragon.  He helped us come up with a long term plan to help manage her symptoms and get to the bottom of her phlemy cough and thick green snot and the occasional ear ache.  We decided that is was greatly due to dust.  It is not uncommon for kids living in Cabo to have the symptoms that Ophelia has been experiencing due to dust kicked up from construction, dirt roads and general desert life.  Her symptoms had pretty much cleared with some mild allergy medicine that he had given her and the the fact that she was on a break from her school that is on a very dusty road with the only barrier being a stone wall only 3 feet taller than me, keeps the people out but not the dust.  But with Semana Santa (two week Mx spring break) over and school back in session, not even a week and O's boogs were flowin' again.  I called up Dr. Barragon to see what our next step should be. 

 I had also heard from my babysitter, Alex that there was a very bad "disease" in Mexico City that was killing people.  She told me that her mom was there and all she wanted was for her mom to come home.  I thought to myself, I wonder if that's a good idea, maybe O will take little break from Alex's until I find out more info.  Betty confirmed that there was some sort of pig flu going around and that it was killing people in Mexico City.  For a few days people were talking about it so I figured while I was at the Dr.'s office I'd ask a few questions.  I wasn't really concerned, I mean at this point I am about as worried as one of us being kidnapped by drug dealers from Tijuana, that's just not happening in Cabo so what's there to worry about?  But a few questions never hurt anyone.

Well the good news is, your daughter doesn't have swine flu- says a somewhat distracted Dr.B.

I already knew that, we were here to talk about a long term plan for allergies, well that obviously wasn't going to happen as I noticed he's streaming info from the WHO (World Health Organization, as if you didn't already know that by now). Here come the questions. 

An attentive yet still not completely concerned me asks, - So how is Cabo prepared if swine flu does come here?

Answer- They are not.  There is no test to see if people have it and there is no cure.  It is all in Mexico city where they need it most.  So you must keep your hands clean, don't rub your eyes and cover your mouth when you cough, try not to leave your house and avoid public places. I don't know what you want to do about your stay...  


Ok so it's pretty clear O and I won't be going anywhere for the next couple of weeks so after we left the Dr's office I decided to go to blockbuster, O wants a hamburger someplace (oh alright we went to Burger King) and then got some allergy supplies from the drugstore, and to La Europea for wine (if I was going to be stuck at home wine was essential) I didn't have to worry about food cuz I'd already done a major Costco run and I was fully stocked.  Crickets, I tell you, the whole town is so dead you can almost hear the crickets.  There is nobody, and if there is anyone they have a blue mask on.  How did things go from completely normal to totally freaky in less than 24 hours, or maybe I'd just been at my house or the safe haven of Villa Miguel I didn't even notice. No on on Friday I'd been out with my mom and her friends for their last Cabo dinner at La Fonda (highly recommended btw) and then taking Tequila shots with a cute boy at Sangria's things were fine, fun, superfun Cabo, and now it's only Monday and where is everybody.  SHIT Ophelia stop licking the Burger King counter top.  NO! Honey we have to wash your hands before we eat.  Yes we can have ice cream.  Please don't put that movie in your mouth.  Don't lay on the floor oh God.  Suddenly I'm a germ freak.  Just get me to my house.

When I get home I call Betty, or do I call my mom?  I call one of them.  I think its Betty and ask her if Beto went to school today, which he did but then confirmed he's not going tomorrow as all the schools have been shut down.  I'm feelin' really relieved that I took O out of school for the day now anyway.  Asked Betty to keep me up on any new news, because all of the news that I was getting was in English and mostly pertained to how things were being affected states side and what directly might be happening in Mx City.  I wanted to know what was going IN Cabo which I guess I wouldn't really trust anyways it's all so dramatized.  All I know is we are talking Pandemic not even Epidemic, like "Pan"gea or "Pan" Am. "Pan" equals worldwide and  there was talk about closing the boarders.  Mommy!!!! Honestly at this moment I am in right fits.  If they close the fucking boarder I am going to be on the other side of it.  There is no way I am enduring a Pandemic ALONE.  No freaking way.  But I'm not panicking yet.  I am really not one to panic.  I mean people have been trying to tell me that they have been hearing really scary things about Cabo and to watch out for drug wars and kidnappers, don't drink the water and watch out for street food, the cops are corrupt your going to get killed in a hurricane blah blah blah, I'm not freaked out by that.  I've never really paid attention to any other pan/epidemic hit the news.  I usually just keep my eye on the tone of general society and if things look fine and normal daily life is happening so shall mine, things in Cabo were not normal.  

I start checking flights, my mom calls her Dr.  Apparently when she called his assistant told my mom that he was busy and if she could take a message, She starts, "Well I just got back from Mexico..."- and the assistant interrupts, "Hold on I'll put you through".  He says, in a nut shell, I'd tell her to come home.  Well that's two Doctors, a mom, a few things on the WHO and CDC website, and a really, really strong gut feeling. Notice this isn't the media, this is me seeing my town shut down around me.

I book a flight for the next day.  Betty informs me that I am going to have trouble getting out of the country because O's FM3 isn't done.  Oh no I'm not, if I want out they better let me out, so what if they don't ever want to let me in again...ok that's not true, I of course want to come back to Cabo, don't be rash.  Betty tells me I need to go to immigration and get a letter, Immigration closes at 7, it's 6, I haul my ass, and Ophelia's lil buns down to immigration.  NOBODY is there. There is always people in Immigration. God I just really really want to get out of here.  Like lumps in my throat, stomach churning, teeth clenched and maybe even a little too tight of a grip on my three year old's mini hand, as if, if I let go of her she will get sucked into the evil vortex of swine flu. I explain my situ in sort of crappy Spanish and he informs me that her FM3 will be done tomorrow all it needs are a couple of stamps and she should be good to go... Ok I make sure I'm hearing the right thing, confirm it and confirm it again with him and he assures me that if I get there right when it opens we should get the FM3 and make our flight no problem.  I leave and forget to take his name.

I spend the rest of my night packing into a giant bin, a ginormous suitcase and a mid size duffel bag as many belongings as I can possibly fit it.  The things we can't live with out, clothes, 3 portable files boxes, my ipod and dock and as much stuff and I can stuff in.  8 hours and 195 lbs later (I'm not kidding, 86 for the tub, 67 for the suitcase and 42 for the duffel), I have packed everything I cannot live without.  The rest can wait, I'll be back, I think, I dunno, yah I will be, I dunno. After about 5 hours of sleep, I get the rest of everything together along with Ophelia ready for the long day ahead, pack up my car of which I can barely lift the giant bin and the ginormous suitcase into my jeep (her name's '86), GODDAMMIT! Why do I have to do this alone?!!? 

We get to town a little early and I grab a coffee from the coffee shop, again dead, the only place that is noticeably busy is the Amerimed clinic all filled with people with blue masks on, Oh I'm so fucking outta here.  We get our coffee and chocolate milk served to us by a woman donning a blue mask, well at least we know everything is hyper clean.  We get to immigration and there are about five people in front of me, one of them is my friend Claudio which is kind of nice because I get to say good bye to him, and most likely no one else but Betty who is going to drive me to the Aeroporto.  I give him the birthday card to give to Rachel that I'd been holding on to but kept forgetting to give to her since Feb, with a picture of her and I on her sail boat under a gorgeous clear blue sky, and a wee note that summed up says, "your the bomb". (sob, tear). 

Time is ticking, and I finally get called right after Claudio. I explain that I am here for my daughters FM3 (in Spanish btw, I always have to say that because that is just never easy and makes everything so much more dramatic for me personally).  He comes back and says it's not done yet.  I tell him that the guy that I met with last night told me that it would be done this morning.  He says, and of course he does, "What guy? What was his name?" Arrgg I knew I should have gotten his name! Of course this is happening right now.  I explain my situ, that I must leave the country today, there has been a family emergency, ok, ok not exactly my situ but I didn't want to say I was fleeing the country as he had all the power to keep me there.  He says he will go back and check and see what is going on.  He comes back and says oh yes it is all ready except that you need a birth certificate, PARDON?, I gently say, "Con permiso, Yo voy por favor?" (meaning may I please look at the file?) WHAT???, ok I know that I had that thing, translated and apostiled there is no way I forgot to file it, HA! just as I thought, I say with the utmost respect but panic in my eyes, "Ah Senor, Esta aqui, mira".  Oh he says, "They must not have wanted to finish it last night." He speaks to me in English. Time is ticking.  OK, Senor, my friend told me that I either need Ophelia's FM3 or a letter to get out of the country, "Is there anyway you could help me with that?" (en espanol)  I think he is getting the urgency of my situation.  He tells me he can help me with the letter, but I must pay 234.00 pesos, I pull out the wallet and say, "Anything." He says no, you must go to the bank.  Of course I do. Time, ticking, I think I can hear it.  Luckily due to swine flu scares there isn't a soul at the bank on a Monday morning, I get right in pay my pesos and return recibo in hand.  About another half hour later I have the letter the glorious letter!!! Thank God we are home free!!! 

I call Betty meet her at the office where we agree I will store '68 until I return and she will drive me to the Airport.  We're just a little late, she has to drop something off in Punta Ballena, we are just a little later, and voila airport.  No lines, no problems at immigration in the airport due to the lovely letter, no stops at security, we even have time for pizza, two minutes but it makes O happy who is so thoroughly sick of running around by now that if this is all it takes to make her happy then hallelujah.  We board our flight, sit back relax, and just get our booties to the border.  Two hours and 47 minutes later we arrive in Phoenix.  Ok, I hope they let us in, I hope they don't make us take a test or something, first entry point no problem, no questions asked. Holy crap my luggage is heavy.  Second check, "Do you have any produce, Sandwiches? No. (I learned my lesson on that one two years before...THEY TAKE YOUR SANDWICH! And we are through. On to the gate, all is well, just your average day at Phoenix Sea Harbor International.  I'm starting to feel slightly stupid.  The airport tickin' right along, the buzz of perfection, workin' like clockwork, two volunteers have given Ophelia airplanes that match her out fit, pass through security, have pizza again at California Pizza (or whatever it's called the one with the Thai Pizza) no sign of panic, not a mask in site.  I am thinking what was the big deal? What was I so freaking out about?

As we board onto the next plane on of the female flight attendants with big blond hair and an, oh I dunno whaddia call it? An Arizona accent? Do they have those? Texas southern but not as strong.  She notes my connection flight from Cabo and leans over and says, "Ok I just gotta ask, is it true?  Are they really wearing face masks down there."  Yes, Everywhere, that's why I'm here.  

When we finally arrive in MPLS it is late I am tired, O is a super star as she has been dragged through immigration twice, across two countries, traversed three airports, stood in two pizza lines, required to hold my hand and not lick any counter tops or lie on the ground and somehow she still wants to jump on the baggage carrier (which of course I do not let her do).  I strategically place myself next to the carrier so as to most easily gather my 195 of luggage.  A few minutes after the buzzer goes off I see a little boy laugh and point, he actually really did, and I knew my giant army green and tan tub wrapped in airport tape must have just come down the chute.  Blocking Ophelia from the baggage carrier, she's now rolling around on the ground, who freaking cares now. I assume the "lift really heavy shit" position.  Luckily this time I have about 12 guys jump to my rescue, freakin' finally good ole Minnesota, where were you guys when I was packing my car?  I know where you were in Phoenix, you were trying to race me to the customs finish line. You won.  Happy? But now that they were relaxed and at their final destination probably using any excuse stave off entering the chill out side and they appear, men to help me with my luggage, and just in the nick of time I don't this my arms could have muscled one more thing.  

I don't think my brain could muscle one more thing either, I could finally relax, my mom, Nana was coming to pick us up.  She was going to borrow my aunt and uncle's SUV because her hot little Audi just would not fit it all in.  All we have to do is wait for her at door one. I wrap O up in a blanket she kicks it off and jumps on the stone sphere and makes a go for the cigarette butt container, but I head her off.  Finally she arrives, Nana.  It had only been three days since I'd last seen her but you'd think it had been a Milena.  She was going to take us home, her home, she had the warm cozy basement apartment where we stayed before we left all ready for us.  Nothing had changed all my stuff was there, my harlequin chairs, my mis-matched wine glasses, my Wustof bread slicer (which I was relieved to see cuz I thought I had brought it to Cabo and was irritated daily that I hadn't) my french press, my shoes, my cookbooks, Mr. Bojangles, my teal lamp, my things.  All the things I left and thought I wouldn't miss, and I didn't until I was home again and suddenly it was a comfort to know that I still had them.  I had left for Cabo partially as a practice of simplifying, a proof that things don't make you happy, on this night my things made me extremely happy.  Symbols of who I have been, maybe who I want to be, maybe not, symbols of my history and how far I have come, memories, I didn't know I would care.  I just didn't think I would care.  How I'm feeling about being home is not how I was expecting.  

Ok so now what.  That is what everyone is asking.  That is what some were asking before I even left Casa Button Bottom (which is what O named my Cabo house).  I really hadn't gotten that far.  I just needed to get as far as the hell out of there.  Now I'm here, and I already miss Cabo, but it feels really good here.  Within days I am doing what I know best.  I arrived home on a Tuesday and by Friday I was throwing myself a welcome home bbq.  Everyone that could, came. I think like 15 people showed, maybe more.  They brought wine, kids food and familiarity.  It was as if we hadn't skipped a beat.  And they all were accepting of whatever I had to say.  I may have told my story a different way every time.  In some versions I was going back to Cabo as soon as I thought I could.  In others, I was waffling, perhaps I might stay, and in others I was realizing that I really can't go back.  The version at first was not clear.  I had come so far in Cabo.  Those first months were really rough, I was nearly ready to bag it then, but then suddenly things got better, I had a social life.  It felt like the company was moving right along and it was possible that someday we might be making money, I might have my dream job.  Socially and professionally I was making connections, I thought this might just work, it's not perfect but it is really getting there.  I had given myself until June to reassess.  That was when I was planning on coming home anyway and if by that time our biz was not off the ground or at least there was something in our future and on the rise I was going to have think about my next move.  But that's not what happened I was suddenly in MN two months earlier than I had planned.  Here is what I have realized.

Mexico has been hit with what I am calling the triple threat.
1. The wretched global economy especially in the US and Canada.  Even though it took a while for Cabo to feel it and its signs may have been more subversive, Cabo was still feeling a hit, though most of us were in denial.  You just wanted to tell everyone that Cabo was still booming, the hot spot people were still coming.  And they were coming.  Spring break was off the hook.  Tons of people, but college kids can only do so much and the big ticket items had slowed.  Real Estate had stopped dead in it's tracks, a friend told us that there were at least five years worth of homes on the market.  Private Yachts Charters weren't sailing as usual. People weren't hiring their private chefs as usual (that was supposed to be my supplementary income) and Villa rentals were down, though not over just down.  And at some point there is just no denying it. We got to see the real live microcosm of a failing economy when the residence club company that my mom was leasing Villa Miguel to went under, and with it every staff member that relied on that company for their income.  One of them was Alex, Ophelia's babysitter, who's mother in laws company was the prime in home villa provider of spa services (ie, patio massage). Her husband filled in as concierge when Juaquine wasn't there as well as provided Butler, chef and service, services.  Alex and Isaac are struggling and they are not sure if they will be able to send their very bright 7 year old to private school anymore.  What you need to know is that private school is not like here.  Its about $200.00 a month, and if your child is not in a private school they risk not getting educated at all as there is a waiting list at the government schools.  Parents will sleep over night at the school to get their child's name on the list.  And here is the thing it's not like once your child is in they are in for good, each year, or maybe even semester the child has to be resigned up.  That means stand in the same long line year after year.  If you don't get them in you have to wait until the next sign up period.  If your child is lucky enough to get in they are only in school for four hours per day and if the child's teacher decides she needs to visit her aunt in La Paz that week, well then that class is just cancled for the day, no warning nada.  A mish mash of true stories that I have heard from many trying to keep or get their kids into school be it private or public.   So even though the yachts are still docked at the harbor and the beaches are still full on spring break there really was no denying that Cabo was starting to have troubles of its own.

2. The drug wars and related kidnappings.  Ok this is not happening in Cabo.  I read something somewhere that I thought was interesting.  They were talking about the drugs and kidnappings and they were said why is it when they talk about things that happen in the states they reference the city in which the events took place.  But, when Mexico is referenced it's just Mexico.  The drugs wars in Mexico.  The kidnappings in Mexico.  Yes these things are happening in Mexico, but they are not happening in the entierty of Mexico just parts and usually just along the borders though there are exceptions to that.  But its not happening in Cabo.  That is not denial talking that is just the way it is.  Its not to say that things might not start happening in Cabo as they lay the smack down in Tijuana they may scatter (they call it the cockroach affect) and head North and South, but the state is taking this matter very seriously and have set up a number of check points along BCS to ensure that any bad guys headed this way get nabbed before they get here.  As it it is Cabo is safe.  Perfectly safe like a little crystal bubble that the entire nation wants to maintain its "Star quality safety".  Its so safe because it makes the country a ton of money and to jepordize that is like shooting your cash cow in the head.  Rumor has it that its safer there than it is in Phoenix (notice specific town noted) where people are actually getting kidnapped and held for ransom.  Mind you that info has not be confirmed just hear say, but then again, I guess it all is.  And that is the problem, the reality is is that perception rules and if Cabo is percieved as "not safe" people just won't come.  

3. Swine Flu.  Nuff said.  Nobody in Cabo got it or at least if they did there wasn't a test to test it (thats according to my doctor) so who would really know.  Point is town is dead.  My friends tell me its a ghost town.  Now this is the time of year when things slow down a bit after the flurry of Spring Breakers, but from what I hear, its dead.dead as a doornail.  Which I don't know what that means but it sounds pretty bad to me.  A sleepy Cabo is a sad Cabo.  

So that assessment being made and the current state of my personal economy amongst many other reasons I have offically decided to stay in MN.  After many a tear shed and the death of my dream, I've reassed my priorities.   I am moving back into my house in June.  Another portion of my puzzle, unsolved, that was drawing me home.  My renters had bought a house, wanted to move out early, we were having trouble finding new renters to pay the required rent. My mothers friend called it "divine providience", my brother Sam said how "fortuitious", we are going to call it home.  We are settin' up camp and stickin' around for a while, like a long while.  It is time to stop moving, O needs to know where her home is.  We found a great little Spanish Immersion school so that she can continue learning Spanish.  I will find a job.  The future is looking cold but bright (I decided to cope with the six months of 40 below windchill, I will be buying a new hot winter ensamble every year, hat, boots, coat, gloves, or mittens). I still have ties in Cabo and hope to visit often.  I'm not sure where the biz is at, at this point who knows.  So there you go. That's my story as far as today goes.  Cabo may have kicked me out but I still love her.