Return to Mérida

It was September of 2016 and I was returning to Mérida, but it would only be for a couple of days and I would be alone on this journey. I had never been so far away from home on my own before, so I was certainly nervous.

Angie drove me to the airport on a foggy morning and I waited at the departure gate. My itinerary would take me to Denver, then Houston and then into Mérida later that evening.

It turned out it wasn't just a foggy morning for me. It was even more foggy in Denver, which grounded planes there and kept planes bound for Denver grounded. Including mine.

Time ticked away, hours ticked by and by the time we boarded I was fairly certain I wasn't going to catch my flight to Houston. And, missing that flight, I probably wouldn't make it to Mérida today. Added in that I only had two full days in Mérida, and only one to search for houses, it seemed like my whole trip was going to be wasted.

Before boarding I debated whether I should just call Angie to come and pick me up and cancel the whole thing. I was already having anxiety about going alone. But I decided to try. Maybe I'd get a free night in Denver before being turned around and coming home in the morning. That might be a nice enough escape, I thought.

I arrived in Denver 15 minutes before my flight to Houston was scheduled to depart. Since they generally close the doors 15 minutes prior to a plane's departure, unless there was a delay on that flight, I had essentially missed my flight before I even unbuckled my seat-belt.

I ran anyways. Hoping maybe I'd catch a bit of luck and just squeeze in under the wire. No such luck. The doors were closed.

I waited quietly in line behind a man in a suit who was belligerently confronting the person working the desk.

"Just open the doors and let me on!" he yelled. She explained that wasn't possible. If you're not at your gate within 15 minutes of boarding (is that the right time?) they give your seats away to standby passengers. Even if she opened the doors, his seat was gone and so was mine. He would have to catch the next flight to Houston later that evening. He was less than pleased and huffed away, muttering obscenities under his breath.

I moved up to see what my options were. The flight she just put the guy in the suit on wasn't leaving until well after the plane from Houston to Mérida left. And with only one plane a day from Houston to Mérida, that leaves me with only one day in Mérida. And the one day I had arranged with Isaac would be completely gone. No reason to bother going to Houston even, really.

I was very pleasant. I felt a bad for her, getting yelled at by the previous guy and, honestly, I was maybe even a little relieved. I was nervous going to Mérida all by myself. Now I could just go home and it wouldn't be my fault for chickening out. My anxiety could breathe easy for another day. Plus, what is yelling at this woman going to do? I'd just have to find a plane home that day or maybe tomorrow.

But I guess what they say about you catch more flies with honey is true. I don't know if it's because I was just extra nice to her, but she said "you know what? Let me make a call."

She called another gate attendant for a plane heading to Houston that was just in the process of boarding. She called in "a favor" to get me bumped into a seat on that plane so I wouldn't miss my Mérida connection.

I thanked her and then ran down a few gates to board my new plane. Enjoy the Denver airport for the next five hours, suit-guy, I'm heading to Houston!

It was a strange wave of emotions. On the one hand, I was back to anxiety over going alone, but I was still genuinely excited to be going back to Mérida and seeing some houses. This flight would arrive about 45 minutes later than my previous flight, but I had enough cushion in my layover in Houston, so it wasn't going to be a big deal.

I got to Houston, grabbed some snacks which I stuffed into my bag for when I got to Mérida (I knew it would be late when I got there and I wouldn't have time to find food) and headed to my gate. On the plane I sat in the middle seat. To my left was a man from the U.S. who was going to Mérida with his family and some friends. He said his family regularly goes to Mérida and they had convinced their friends to come this time and see what they've been missing. To my right sat a small woman who spoke very little English, but she proved very helpful later in the flight when they handed out the customs forms. They only had Spanish forms available on the flight.

Thankfully, my Spanish had improved some in two years. I'd been slowly learning, very slowly. Some of the questions on the form I could make out, others I was able to ask the man next to me, since his Spanish was a little better than mine. For the questions neither of us could quite be sure of we turned to the woman next to me and our broken Spanish along with her broken English paired up nicely.

On a side note, I did see that man and his family and friends in Mérida one day, as he led them on a tour along Calle 59. I did not say hello, assuming he wouldn't recognize me and not sure of the level of creepiness elicited by a "Hey! Remember me? ... From the plane!"

Arriving in Mérida in the evening, I briskly made my way through immigration and customs. Out the front entrance and it was a mad rush from two competing taxi services for my business. I just picked the first one to shout at me, because I guess that's a way to decide. They took me to the taxi booth where I showed them the address to Casa Koala and the lady "negotiated" a price with me. I put negotiated in quotes because I think from her tone she expected a negotiation, but it was cheap enough that I didn't bother. I think it was around $3 U.S. Dollars, if I did my math right. Am I supposed to talk her down so I can save $1? Maybe someday when I'm living in Merida and scraping money together in my early retirement I'll be more willing to negotiate. But not that night.

The ride was fairly quick from the airport. It had rained recently and the wet roads were gleaming in the streetlights. We passed Sam's Club and the zoo and soon we were driving slowly down the street looking for Casa Koala. Not all homes have house numbers prominently displayed so it can be a bit of a hunt, but the owners had given me a good description of the outside of the house and when I spotted it I pointed it out to the driver.

Merida has a Sam's Club.
I tipped the driver and waited outside in the dark. It was quiet except for the occasional sound of a car splashing by. The house looked dark, but I rang the doorbell anyways, just in case. No response. I hoped I hadn't been forgotten about. Across the street was the house I had come down in hopes of purchasing which was now sold, Casa Limonera. It was sad to see it right there in front of me, but I knew I'd find the right house for us eventually. This one just wasn't meant to be.

A few minutes later and a cheerful Beto drove up and greeted me. He let me in and showed me around a bit. We did some paperwork and he was off again.

I FaceTime-d with Angie and gave her a tour of the casa. And by then it was getting late. Isaac would be here in the morning and I'd be house hunting in Mérida again. Time for some sleep.


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