More Chasing After Illusive Papers

This week we tackled the next step of our legal residency and while it was eventually successful, it was not without the expected challenges.  As our first year of Temporary Residency comes to an end, it is time to renew our residence status for 3 more years and renew our Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for our truck.   The good news is that there is lots of information online as to how to do both of those things.  The bad news is that absolutely none of it is accurate.  Rules change here often, and online advice has not kept up.  We decided to start by heading directly to the Immigration Office to get the correct papers and procedures.  The process is pretty simple, even though it will mean 5 trips to the office in Nuevo Vallarta:  One to get the correct papers and instructions;  two to deliver the papers and photos and many copies of everything and to get the form that must go to the bank;  three to take the financial paper to the bank and return with the receipt and again many copies;  four to get our fingerprints taken when the application has been approved and; five to pick up our new Residency card.   The clerks at the Immigration Office are friendly and helpful and although it is time consuming and really poorly organized, it is not difficult and hopefully we will get an email next week saying we are approved for 3 more years and can come to give our fingerprints (which we just did a year ago and …. uhhh… they haven’t changed).

The vehicle was a little trickier.  There were so many different opinions online as to how to renew its TIP.  We asked the Immigration officer and she said we needed to go to the Customs office (Aduana) in Puerto Vallarta – across from Costco, beside the wine store.  Okay that works – I need groceries, I need wine, we can make a day of it.   When we walked into the Aduana office I stood in shock – there were DOZENS of people waiting for an appointment – maybe HUNDREDS.   It was a huge building with SO MANY PEOPLE and none of them appeared to be speaking any English.  The first woman we talked to told us we would have to take the truck back to the border.  Ah no.  Another person please.  Finally the English-speaking supervisor appeared, gave me the form we needed and told us she couldn’t help us.  We needed to go to the Aduana office at the airport.  They could help.  Sigh.  Every post I had read online said the office at the airport was absolutely NOT the place to go.  But I was more than happy to get out of that madhouse –  the airport was the next stop.

When we got to the airport, we wandered around for a while looking for the Customs office.  We found the Immigration counter – but no Aduana office.  We approached the Information Desk and a Spanish clerk directed us to the office we were looking for.  “Go outside and turn left.  Go to the end of the building, go around the corner and walk until you find the only grey door.  Knock on the door until someone comes and then tell them you want the Aduana office.”  Okay – sounds easy.  Even in Spanish, I thought I understood.

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Imagine eyes staring through that slot!

We eventually found a grey door, but there was literally nothing on it indicating it was an Aduana office.  In fact, as I stared at the door, I notice a tiny slot in the door with two brown eyes staring at me.  After jumping out of my skin, I told the eyes that I was looking for the Aduana office.  “Uno momento”.  And the slot slid shut – was I at a government office or a rent-by-the-hour motel?  After waiting for 5 or 10 minutes, a Customs officer opened the door, and we explained what we wanted.  He took our papers and began looking through them.  And I mean ALL of our papers.  Papers in our file folder that had absolutely nothing to do with this process were inspected.  “Okay, let me get someone to help you.”  Big grey door slam.   After we waited in the tiniest triangle of shade for 15 or 20 minutes, another Customs Officer came to the door and we told her our story again. She looked over our papers and told us we needed 2 copies of these papers, 3 copies of those.  Again, the copies.  “There is a copier in the middle of the airport.”  Okay we will be back with our copies.  But the desk in the center of the airport said “No Copies.  Maybe at the nearby business mall.”    Which meant leaving the airport parking lot.  We had, of course, parked in the absolute last stall of the parking lot, and when we got to our car we realized we had forgotten to pay for our parking at the machine – INSIDE THE TERMINAL, at the furthest spot from where we were now standing.  We trekked back to the Arrivals area of the airport, paid to get out and drove a mile or two to the mall where we indeed found a copy store.  After getting our copies, we headed back to the grey door.  We knocked on the door, spoke to the eyes, waited 10 or 15 more minutes in the blazing sun and eventually another Customs Officer – now our 3rd – came to the door, inspected the papers, shuffled the copies around and told us to wait a few minutes.  It was now 2:00 – we had left home at 9:00 – and we were hot, thirsty and hungry.   But in another 10 or 15 minutes the grey door pushed open and the Officer handed us our papers – with the needed stamp.   Our truck is in – again.  For 3 more years.   And I am considering taking donations, so Customs at the Airport can have a sign, maybe even a desk and a chair, to help weary travelers who don’t want to stand outside in the parking lot while papers are being shuffled.

3 times waiting – at least – and we’re all fighting for that one triangle of shade

As we have worked through all the steps to live in this country, I have been frustrated but I am also super excited.  No one would ever go through all of this craziness unless they knew they were meant to be here, unless they were already rooted in the soil and breathing the air.  We have been grumpy, we have been angry, we have laughed, we have cried – but we have never doubted.  And that makes me happy.

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How Can We Help?

The thing we have struggled with the most and continue to struggle with is how to best help the people we find in our path here.  Every day we see a need, feel some pain, touch a wound and we are not sure when we can or should help.  It is not just about money – maybe it’s least about money.

I have told you many stories about some of the families we have come to know and love.  Recently I have been sharing about the 3 girls who have stayed in our home after mom lost her house.  We are living week to week in that story and last weekend we waited at the orphanage on Friday afternoon to see if mom would come for her girls.  2 of them were in school (yay!) and the agreement was that at 4:50 she would come to pick up her youngest and then walk to the school to gather her other 2 for the weekend.  We waited and at 5:27 we decided she mustn’t be coming and we needed to go pick up the 2 at school at 5:30 and bring them home with us.  I was relieved.  We jumped in the golf cart and about 4 blocks from the orphanage we saw mom slowly walking towards the school.  So now my conscience had a battle.  Should we meet her, hand over her 5-year-old who was with us and deliver her to the school to get the others?  Or should we turn down a different street, so she didn’t see us, go get the girls and take them home.  Honestly, I didn’t want them to go home with her – but she is their mom and she appeared to be doing the right thing – although late and without her youngest.  So, we pulled up and

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Watching Mom walk away with ‘our’ girl

offered her a ride to the school.  I knew the oldest daughter would not be happy – she wanted to go home with us – so we quickly left before we were seen by the girls.  No one needed a scene outside the school.  We continued on to drop off 3 of the other Mans de Amor children in another town 20 miles away and stopped for some seafood.  We were quiet – I imagine this is how divorced parents feel when the ‘other parent’ gets their kids for the weekend.  We were worried, angry, frustrated.  But we are not their parents and it seems mom is trying.

About the time we were leaving the restaurant, I looked at my phone and saw a number of missed calls from the orphanage director.  She had the girls, mom didn’t actually want them that weekend because she had no beds in her ‘new’ home.   Relief.   They would be ours for one more weekend at least.

We headed back to Bucerias to pick them up and then we were faced with another moral dilemma.  We had an extra bed in our garage.  Our friend Diana had left it there and told us to give it to someone who needed it.  I knew the orphanage had another little bed to be given away.   We could help them set up their house so that they could again have their daughters with them.  I could make happen the exact opposite of what I wanted.   Oh, the struggle that went on inside.  No bed = the girls stay with me.  Beds = the girls go home.

I talked to Veronica that night and she said “let’s meet tomorrow morning and take them the beds.  Also, they want you to take your truck and help them get all the things that were thrown in the street when they were evicted from their last house.”   I knew – albeit grudgingly – that this was the right thing.  Let’s help them make a new home.

Saturday morning, we drove to their new house to pick everyone up.  House is a bit of an exaggeration.  There was a tiny cement room.  The yard was surrounded by a wire fence and miscellaneous filthy blankets were attached to the fence to create walls.  There was a piece of tin over it all.  That was the home – a fenced yard.  But it was theirs and it was not much different than many others in the neighborhood.

Off we went to help them find their discarded stuff.  We drove into one of the worst neighborhoods in Bucerias.  Grant and I had driven through there before in the golf cart and had said we didn’t think we better come back – a little rough.  But we helped them load and unload their few belongings and left them to set it all up.  The littlest one

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Family Saturday errands

stayed with mama and we took the 2 middle girls to the swimming pool for the afternoon.   I was very upset – I didn’t want them to go live in that little house – and when some tourists at the pool tried playing with the girls I grabbed our stuff and said “Let’s go” – no stranger is going to talk to my kids.   Except they’re not my kids and the home their mom is making for them is all she can provide.   The best way to help right now is to empower her to be the best mom she can be – offering support when she needs it.  That is what my mind tells me, my heart was struggling to agree.

That night the two youngest daughters were excited to stay with mom.  The oldest still refused and stayed with us.  We had some good talks about the importance of family and we told this angry 9-year-old we would be there if she needed us.  If you are scared, you know where we live.  She talked about her other siblings – besides the three of them there are 3 more brothers, 2 more sisters.  The sisters live with Grandma.  She doesn’t even know where the brothers live – Brian and Juan Carlos and one other. They are just teenagers living on their own.   It was a sad conversation and I feel so much pain for this child and for the mom who has lost all but 2 of her 8 children.   For now at least, the girls will continue to come to Manos de Amor during the week so mom and her boyfriend can find jobs.  Our weekend house will be open if they need us.

This family is not the only one we contemplate helping each week. There are constantly people showing up at our door selling things, needing things – maybe legitimate needs, maybe scams.   There is one young man who comes once or twice a week and rings our doorbell and asks if we have work.  We get him to sweep leaves or wash our car or other small tasks.  We give him 20 or 50 pesos, usually whatever food we have around.  Grant noticed his shoes were almost completely worn out and gave him some sandals.  Another day some pants.  A leash and some food for his scruffy little dog.  Well you’re not going to believe this.  Today he came to our door as usual and this time he said – “I am Juan Carlos.  You know my sisters.  You know my mom.”  It was one of the lost brothers!  For the past 4 or 5 months we have been feeding and clothing the brother of these three sweet little girls.  No one but God could have joined us all together.

I don’t know what our continuing role will be with this family.  The oldest daughter does not want to go home with her mom.  She does not like the mom’s boyfriend.  I don’t know that it is right for us to keep her with us.   I want to support a relationship but how can we help it become a healthy one?  How can we help reunite the brother with his siblings and his mom?

Today we stopped at the orphanage and all 3 girls surrounded us and gave us letters they had written to us.  Yesterday they had been in a fight with one of the boys in the home.  The letter said they were sorry for fighting.  (I didn’t know anything about the fight – not sure why I was getting the apology 😊) And then the last sentence of each letter – one to Grant, one to me.  I love you Grat. (They can’t say Grant).  I love you Karen.  Hugs all around.   And the story continues.

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Good News for Britani!

Good news!  I’ve been telling you the story of the 2 little girls with the missing birth certificates.  In Mexico, children need birth certificates to go to school. Unfortunately, getting one is not free, so often the poorest moms just don’t get it done.  Which means the children who need education the most, may not be able to access it.  It is frustrating and Veronica, the director at Manos de Amor has spent too many hours to count over the years chasing moms for papers.  If mom won’t cooperate, her children can’t go to school.  That has been the story for 7-year-old Britany for the past 18 months.  She has been shuffled back and forth between Mom, Grandma, and Manos de Amor and has never been able to attend a school.  She has watched her friends go to school each morning while she is left behind.   Although Manos de Amor has offered to pay for the birth certificate and do all the legwork, Mom has simply refused to cooperate, and she is the only one who can make the application with a photo and signature.

On Monday, Mom came to Manos de Amor to tell us where her new home is, and Veronica insisted she go with her to get her photo taken.  At first, she refused…. again…. but after borrowing some makeup from one of the staff members she agreed to go.  By Tuesday Veronica had the papers filled out and signed and many copies made.  It will still be a while before she gets the actual birth certificate – papers must be filed at 4 different offices around the state.  But having the papers filled out was enough for the school to agree to allow Britani to attend – under 2 conditions:

  • It is only approved for two months. If no papers are produced within 2 months, no more school for Britani.
  • She had to bring her own chair. What?  Nope, the school did not have an extra chair for Britani, she would have to bring her own.  So Veronica took a little wooden chair from the Manos de Amor dining room, outfitted it with a desktop and voila…. she had a desk.

From the dining room to a classroom

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By Wednesday, Britani was in school in her spiffy new uniform and polished black shoes, and when we picked her and her sister up in the golf cart after school she was happy beyond measure.  She is a year behind others her age, 2 months behind those in her class – but she is in school and she is excited.

More than anything, we hope that this will be a turning point for this family.  That Mom will step up and recognize how amazing her children are.   Will be there Friday afternoon to take her daughters home from school like all the other mothers who crowd around the school doors.    And if that doesn’t happen, our guest rooms are ready.  But for this week we celebrate that finally Britani is in school!

 

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A Weekend of sad FUN

Last weekend was fun, scary, hilarious, perplexing, humbling, exhausting and deeply satisfying.    Instead of doing our regular weekly vegetable shopping and house cleaning, we spent the weekend playing Monopoly, making bracelets and trying to braid the hair of the three little girls who stayed with us from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening.

We are so fortunate to spend most days working at Manos de Amor, a children’s home here in Bucerias.  Most of the children have some type of family or extended family – but every one of them has a painful story of poverty, abuse and neglect.  Even those parents who care, struggle to provide what their children need.  I have written before about the three little girls whose mom pops in and out of their lives, depending on the desperation in her own circumstances.  2 of the girls have never received birth certificates so they cannot attend school.   Usually we drive them to their grandmother’s home on Friday nights but since their mom and their grandmother recently had a falling out, that is no longer an option.  Mom has recently moved to Bucerias and we were hoping that living closer would make the situation a bit safer for these young girls.  Unfortunately, for the past 2 weeks Mom did not show up on Friday to get her children, nor did she call to explain.   The first weekend they went home with the orphanage director and then came to our house for Saturday afternoon.  On Sunday we all ran/walked/biked/skipped in a 5k together.

Our first weekend together away from the orphanage – some beach time and a 5k together

Last week they begged to spend the entire weekend with us.  No one, not even these sweet children, expected their mother to show up.  Of course, we agreed.   We knew it would be fun and maybe a bit terrifying.

On Friday after our English class we loaded them into the golf cart along with the other 3 that we drive home to a neighboring village a few miles away.  About a block from the home, we saw a couple sitting on the curb and one of the little girls quietly said to me “That’s my mama.”  We slammed on the brakes, pulled a U Turn and signaled for the woman to follow us back to the orphanage.  I could immediately tell she was in no shape to look after 3 children, and my own motherly instinct kicked in.  I was not about to part with these children who deserved to be safe this weekend.  I needn’t have worried.  Mom was coming to tell us that she did not have a home to take the girls to, she had been evicted and would like them to stay at the orphanage for the weekend.   I tried to see the positive in this – she had at least come to tell us.  Unfortunately, she did not talk to her girls, did not hug her girls, did not acknowledge them.  She walked away, and we drove down the dirt road out of town.  I turned around and watched the middle girl – the 7-year-old – put her dirty little face in her hands and start to quietly sob for the mom she still loved and wanted to be with.  The mom who hadn’t even said hello after not showing up for a number of weeks.   I saw she had a paper in her hand and when I took it I saw a heart she had drawn and the word “mama” written on it.  Even though she didn’t expect her mom to show up, she had drawn her a picture just in case.

Grant and I did all we knew to reduce some of the pain – we went into extreme grandparenting mode.  Over the next 3 days we took the girls swimming, played all kinds of games, did crafts, cooked the foods they requested, went out for pancakes, watched movies with popcorn, went to church, and even got up in the middle of the night to get rid of a bug in their room.  They chose which bedrooms they wanted, unpacked their few clothes into drawers, and claimed a stuffed animal each.   We had a blast and they behaved really well.  Each of them had a ‘moment’ but we were prepared, and they passed quickly.  It was a great weekend and I was even called ‘Mama’ once by the littlest 5-year-old.

 

At the end of the weekend the oldest 9-year-old asked for my Spanish translator and typed in ‘divertido’ – FUN –“this weekend was divertido.  Can we come again next week?”  How do you answer that when everything about her life is so uncertain and unstable?  I don’t know what next week holds for you little one.

Today during English class Mom showed up at Manos de Amor.  She has found a new home, close to the orphanage.  The director immediately took her by the arm and drove her to get a passport photo taken.  That is the first of many steps to get birth certificates for her daughters.   At first she argued because she wasn’t’ wearing makeup.  Seriously?  That’s what you’re concerned about?  Obviously, I have mixed feelings.  I am invested now.  I have wiped away tears and combed away lice and cut up pancakes.  But she is their mom and they love her and in her own brokenness, she must love them too.   But she needs help and perhaps that is the best we can do – be there when she doesn’t show up to pick up the pieces.   Suspend judgement and be a friend.  Love her daughters when she can’t.  Today I shook her hand and said, “It’s good to see you”.   And then I came home and tidied two bedrooms, put stuffed dogs in the center of beds and prepared for visitors.   Maybe these three will be back.  Maybe it will be others.   Whatever our assignment, we’re ready!

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Our First Mexican Wedding

I admit my last few posts have been a bit cranky as I have shared frustrations with getting things done here in Mexico.  Last week we had another experience getting plates for our second remolque (trailer).  There was ‘a guy’, some payments, some copying and stapling and shuffling.  Waiting.  But enough of all that.  It’s time to remind ourselves once again of all the things we love about Mexico.  There are a lot.

This week we were excited to attend our first Mexican wedding and to celebrate with our friends Carmelo and Paolo.  Carmelo is a young pastor at the church we attend in Bucerias.  He leads a mission in the tiny village of Higuera Blanca every Tuesday and Saturday.  Although it is mainly children who attend his programs he is committed to helping these children and to reaching out to their families.  He is relentless and passionate and Paolo is his faithful partner in this hard work.

19894623_1398041686957384_3432535226601340814_nCarmelo has been dating Paolo for a year or two.  When he first approached her dad to ask for his blessing to marry Paolo, Dad said “It is too soon – she is too young.  Let’s wait a bit”.  Carmelo respected this advice and waited until Dad gave him the green light.  Immediately the engagement was on and now, just 4 months later, it is the wedding day of these two amazing young people, the boda.

My dates for the wedding – no surprise, it was 2 hours late getting started so I was glad I had good company to enjoy the beautiful day in the country

I love how Mexico embraces symbolic rituals within its fiestas and celebrations.  Everything has beautiful meaning and even though this wedding looked very similar to a Canadian ceremony, there were a few things that I found very touching.  In all life stages, Mexicans choose Padrinas to stand by them – at baptisms, graduations, quinceaneras (when girls turn 15) and at weddings.  (See our post about when Grant and I were Grade 6 Padrinas).   They’re like godparents.  Carmelo and Paola had 5 different couples who performed a piece of the ceremony with them – a way of telling them “we’re with you – we’ve got your back.”

The first set of padrinas presented them with coins – symbolizing the hope that they would always be prosperous.  The second couple wrapped a beautiful white lasso around them – signifying that they were now tied together with an unbreakable bond.  The third padrinas presented them with their wedding rings – grownup ringbearers I guess.  The fourth couple presented them with a new Bible – exhorting them to follow the path of God’s words.  After Carmelo and Paola read their vows and were pronounced husband and wife, the fifth couple served them communion – Cena Santa.   It was all beautiful and I have so much hope for these 2.  I predict that they will be a life-changing team here in Mexico.

Note the lasso around Carmelo and Paolo in the bottom picture

While the newlyweds snuck off for photos, the guests dove into a candy bar with sweets and donuts and churros.  And hot sauce on all of it.  The groom’s dad, who operates a tiny restaurant in the dry river in Bucerias, had cooked up his specialty – birria and handmade tortillas.  This is a delicious beef stew like dish with lots of Mexican spices.  The only speeches were from the two fathers – giving their advice to this happy young couple.  There were lots of tears.  The throwing of the bouquet.  Carmelo threw an apron to the guys – not sure what that is about.  And then dancing.  Lots of fun dancing.  Not much different than a northern wedding except no chicken dance, no YMCA.

We snuck away around 10 or 11 and the party was going strong.  Carmelo and Paola are heading to Cancun for their honeymoon and we couldn’t be happier for them.  Every day we see so much need, so much brokenness, so much pain in this neighborhood – but today we celebrate a young couple that loves God, loves people, and really loves each other.  Felicidades Carmelo and Paolo.  We’re cheering you on as you start the journey!

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Norma and My Lost Computer

I still have no idea how I did it, but somehow, I lost my computer in the Mexico City Airport and did not notice it until I opened my briefcase in my home office in Bucerias.  Either I forgot to pick it up from the security bin (unlikely) or I forgot it in the Aeromexico lounge where we spent a few hours relaxing (quite likely).  I chalk it up to getting only 1.5 hours sleep on our overnight flight from Vancouver to Mexico City.  On top of that, after landing, we were trapped in the longest customs lineup of my life – 1 ½ hours of inching through the cattle stalls while women from Peru kept sneaking under the rails to bypass us.  I had a couple of free passes to the private lounge and I decided that since we still had 3 hours to kill, a comfy leather chair and some free snacks were definitely in order.  I remember finding us some soft chairs in a quiet corner with a plugin for my computer and then I don’t really remember if I actually plugged in the computer or not.   All I knew for sure on Monday afternoon was that I was in Bucerias and my computer was not.  PANIC!!!!!!   I had a lot of work to do after a busy week of meetings and losing my computer would be pretty much catastrophic.  The good news is that it is backed up weekly, so I would have most of my files, but I had done a lot of work over the previous few days that would be lost.

I started by googling the Lost and Found department at the Mexico City Airport, Terminal 2 and you won’t believe it.   First call…. they had my computer.  In broken Spanish I explained my problem and the woman who did not speak English understood me after asking a few questions.  Playa?  It has a playa?  YES it has a beach on the screen.   (Of course, it does, right?).  It says DIVA?  What?  DIVA?  What?  Oh yes Dive!  It says Dive Sask.  That’s the one.   In 10 minutes I had found the computer.  How hard could it be to get it home?

The woman suggested I call the next morning when the English speaker Mataya was there to help me get it home.  I was obviously pretty pleased with myself and thought I was freaking awesome for solving this problem.  I was actually pretty darn stupid to think this was going to be so easy.

The next day I called back to this office and Mataya told me to contact the Aeromexico Lost and Found department and they would be able to help me.  I would need a copy of my passport, my boarding passes and a power of attorney authorizing them to send it to the Puerto Vallarta airport.  She gave me their number.   After searching through the garbage can to find my discarded boarding passes (remember those dang boarding passes????) I called the number Mataya had given me.  Of course, that number didn’t work.  After a bit of searching online I did find another number and then my nightmare began.

Screenshot_20171019-140003Over the next 2 days I called that number 35 times.  One call lasted 1 hour, 44 minutes and 58 secs.  Another was 31 minutes and 5 seconds.   Norma would ask the same questions, give me the same instructions (you must email your boarding pass and passport and a letter) and I would give her the same answers (Norma, I emailed that to you this morning – please check your email) and then she  would say “Okay let me check” and put her phone on the desk so I could hear her talking to the guy with the lost IPhone and then 15 minutes later we would have the exact same conversation.  For 1 hour and 44 minutes and 58 seconds.  I was starting to lose it.  I could see that computer slipping away.  She kept asking me which flight I lost it on and I kept saying “Norma, it is sitting at the Terminal 2 Lost and Found – please just check your email and then go get my computer and put it on a flight.  PLEASE NORMA!!!!”  “Okay let me check.”   “Okay I found your email and boarding passes, but I need a copy of your passport.” “Norma, it’s in the same email.” “Okay let me check”.   15 minutes.  “Okay I found your passport but I need a letter asking us to send the computer.”  “NORMA IT’S ALL IN THE SAME EMAIL.  PLEASE CHECK.”  “Okay let me check”.

“Okay all these documents seem okay, let me see if I can find the computer.”  Sigh.  “I know where the computer is.  It is at Terminal 2 Lost and Found.  They have my computer.  Please just put it on a flight to Puerto Vallarta”.  Okay I will call you right back when I find it.”.  That conversation took 1 hour and 44 minutes and I was no closer to seeing my computer.  A few hours later I hadn’t heard back so I called again.  31 minutes and 5 seconds later we had agreed that my computer was a silver Dell and that it was at Terminal 2 Lost and Found.  And that Norma would email me to tell me which flight it would be on the next day.  Of course, the next day Norma did not email me.  I checked my email every 30 seconds and I called a few more times.  No one had any answers for me.  “Senora, which flight did you leave your computer on?”  Aargh…..no….. I didn’t lose it on a flight.  Is Norma there?  “No Norma is not here”.  Click.  Dial tone.

Having had enough of Norma, I decided to try the Aeromexico office in Puerto Vallarta.  Let’s work this backwards.  I called the office in PV “No one here speaks English.  Try the airport.”  Honestly, my Spanish was exhausted so I called the airport.  I started telling my story and then Victor said to me “Ah yes, Senora Swanson, I have your computer here.”  “WHAT?” It’s in PV?  NOW?”  Yes it is – I will be here until 6:00.”  Obviously, Grant and I flew out of the house and sped to the airport.  Victor met me with a sealed box and then he said, “Well I can’t really give this to you unless you give me a letter authorizing us to give it to you.”  “Victor, I sent a letter to Aeromexico in Mexico City.  Many times.  Please, I really need my computer.”  “Well Senora Swanson, Aeromexico has been very kind to you but we can’t be held responsible if your computer is damaged.  (Looking at the look on my face….) Okay I will give it to you but when you get home please email me a letter for my files.”  And then he handed me scissors and told me to open it myself.  He didn’t want to be responsible.  I was terrified.  What would be in the box?  Would it be my computer or that other dude’s IPhone?  Would it be broken?

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The first thing I saw in the box was the letter I had sent – right on top.  I handed it to Victor who was very happy.  I dug deeper and there was my precious computer.  In perfect shape.  I was very, very happy.  And Norma?   I imagine she is still on the phone listening to tired traveler’swoes and ‘checking’ on solutions.  She is probably happy.

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Mexican Bureaucracy in Canada OR Lots of Lost Things

I can’t quite belive that even in Canada, Mexican bureaucracy followed me and tortured me this week.  We had a great work/vacation/family time in Canada, but after 2 weeks we were eager to get home to our life in Mexico.  We had commented many times over the weeks how very easy things are in Canada and the US.  Stores open when the sign says they will open, things cost the same for everyone no matter what color their skin is and rules can always be found in the fine print.  But still we missed our crazy unconventional life in Bucerias and were ready to head back.)

We boarded the West Jet plane that was the beginning of our long journey from Sasktoon to Vancouver to Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta.   The flights weren’t great but using Air Miles the price was right.  We had printed all our boarding passes and the luggage tag for our one suitcase.  We were assured the bag was checked through to Mexico City where we would pick it up at Customs.   We spent the day with our daughter in Vancouver, searching for maple leaves for little Lucio who had requested them and then headed back to the airport for our overnight flight to Mexico City.  That is when I realized I had lost my boarding passes.  No big deal right?  They’ll print me more right?

First we tried the West Jet desk in the Domestic arrivals area where we had first landed.  No, since the West Jet leg is finished, you need to go to the Aeromexico desk in the International Departures area.   We headed to Aeromexico and explained our dilemna.

Yes they could print me new boarding passes – no problem.  But Senora, where is your luggage tag that is usually attached to the boarding pass?  Well yes that is lost too but I’m not worried – I’m sure the luggage won’t be lost.  But Senora, you can’t board the plane without the luggage tag – they have to look at it at the gate.  And you won’t be able to get your suitcase in Mexico City without that tag. 
Okay I have traveled a LOT and no one has ever asked to see the bag sticker – except that time in Ottawa when I lost my bag and filled out all the forms and then realized the bag was sitting right beside me all the time  – but that’s another long story.   Certainly no one has ever asked to see my sticker BEFORE letting me board the plane!  So I pushed back a bit.  That doesn’t really sound right.  My bags  were checked in Saskatoon all the way to Mexico City.  Why would the gate agent in Vancouver need to see my bag receipt before letting me board?  Senora, they need to prove it is your bag.  But it’s already been proven – in Saskatoon where it was loaded.  Well they won’t put it on this plane until we see your sticker.  So you mean all of these people in this line are going to show you their bag tag?  Yes Senora.  Can I double check this with your supervisor?  Who said this was certainly the case – no luggage tag, no boarding.

Okay well can’t you just print me another bag tag along with the boarding passes?  No Senora, only West Jet can do that.  I can see the record of your suitcase on my computer so let me write the number down on your new boarding pass and you go to the West Jet desk and tell them you need another tag with this number.  It is not far.

So off we went to find the West Jet desk  – which was definitely far.  We were in the International Terminal – West Jet is at the far end of the Domestic terminal.  Of course when we got there they said what I expected them to say.  What?  That makes no sense.  I can’t print the bag tag since the flight is in progress.  But I’ve never heard of anyone ever checking the tag at the gate.  That’s total crap (quote).  But let me get my supervisor.  Who raised his eyebrows very high and said, Well that makes no sense.  I’ve never heard of that.  Are you sure that’s what they said?  Sigh.  Just like getting our trailer license plates all over.  The kind agent tried to help.  Okay well here is my computer screen which shows your luggage number – why don’t you take a picture on your phone of my computer and show it to them.   Which I did.  But the thing is, it was the same computer screen the Aeromexico lady had already shown me when she was writing down the number to show West Jet.    

We headed back to the Aeromexico line, found the supervisor and showed her the photo on my photo – WHICH WAS ALSO ON HER COMPUTER – and she said that was fine, just show it to the agent at the gate.  We wandered around a bit – decided that it was not worth $34.95 to bring a tiny box of maple chocolates home to the children at the orphanage – and then headed to our gate.  Where the exact same lady we had been arguing with in the ticketing line was now the gate agent.  I walked up to the gate and handed her my boarding pass.  Oh yes Senora Swanson, we were just paging you.  We need to verify your bag tag.  I rolled my eyes and pointed to the spot where she had written our bag tag number.  She punched away on her computer.  Oh yes, I can verify this is the correct number of your bag tag.  WELL NO KIDDING – YOU JUST WROTE IT THERE after looking it up 30 minutes ago.  I never did show anyone the picture on the phone.  And as expected, no one in Mexico City asked to see my bag tag.  They didn’t even ask the standard questions like did I have alcohol or cigarettes or $10,000 or maple leaves from Stanley Park which I may or may not have had.


So I can say that the story of the lost boarding passes and lost luggage tag worked out just fine.  Unfortunately, when I opened my briefcase this afternoon, I realized that we have now moved on to the story of the lost computer in the Mexico City airport.   Stay tuned…

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