It's Christmas Day. Christmas morning, that is - 7:00am. Josh and I have been up since 4:00, all packed up, passports in hand, having ridden a shuttle bus two hours to the airport. We're at the Aeromexico check-in counter...
and we're alone. There's no line, no one milling about, no employees behind the counters. Just Josh and me and signs with the Aeromexico reservation hotline. Which I call, asking when we can expect to check in for our 9:00 flight.
"Um, we don't have any departures leaving Seattle today."
"Well, I'm holding a flight confirmation that says we're going on vacation to Mexico City. Confirmed November 18th for departure today, Christmas, at 9:00."
"Oh, that flight was changed. You're leaving tomorrow."
I mean, seriously. SERIOUSLY! It is the two-thousandsies, and the airline had my credit card number, email, cell phone, and (presumably) access to Google and Skype. But they just cancel a flight and don't let us know. Luckily, our friends at Mexican Home Cooking are incredibly flexible, and the airline was at least willing to make our return flight one day later as well. We'd get our whole vacation. But the bus home cost more than a hotel room at the airport, so we checked in for the night and set about trying to enjoy Christmas Day in Seattle.
First up was to hop on the city's newest attraction, light rail from the airport to downtown.We had the (new, clean) car to ourselves, and $2.50 and 30 minutes later we were in Chinatown. The lines for dim sum were outrageous, and we waited 45 minutes, standing smashed against hungry Chinese-American, Jewish, and all-around heathen masses, before we sat down to some good old fashioned fa-ra-ra-ra-ra.
He's, um, smiling at me!
The rest of the day was pretty boring, as we waited out our sentence. The next morning started early again and we were glad to see staff at Aeromexico. We checked in and passed through security, no problem, and got right on the plane, on the tarmac.
And stayed there. First, there was an indicator light on that wouldn't go off. Out to the runway, back to the gate a couple times. They fixed that, or so they said, and then had another little problem - some little insignificant part wouldn't work. It was called, um, the STARTER.Okay. End of rant. We got off the plane and finally took off six hours past schedule, flew five hours with no food and one drink service, and landed in Mexico City long after the last bus to Tlaxcala had departed. We called Jon (our home cooking host) with a calling card and he directed us to an authorized taxi to Tapo bus station. An unofficial taxi driver tried to scam a fare out of us, but Josh stayed strong and we found the ticket counter. We didn't find any food though, as the bus was leaving five minutes later and we couldn't miss it. On the bus we got to see Enemy of the State in Spanish, but we didn't get to see any toilet paper. What's up, Subway napkins?!
The bus got us to Tlaxcala station, where we called Jon again and he told us his taxi driver would meet us inside in 15 minutes. We were so hungry though, too hungry to take photos in the shut-down bus station - not a bad way to start a culinary vacation, but still - hungry enough to poke our heads outside the door and see a hot dog stand. I knew enough Spanish to say "Uno con todos, por favor," and Josh and I tucked into the best hot dog of our lives. It had tomatoes, and onions, and mustard and mayo and, best of all, bright green pickled jalepeños right on top. We just died and went to heaven.
Soon we saw a short man holding a sign for Mexican Home Cooking. We were reasonably certain he wasn't after our kidneys, but that certainty faded when we turned onto the second of three dirt, um, roads? Pothole collectives would be more accurate. Turns out the driver was our buddy Yair, who took us all over creation that week, but at the time he was a wee bit scary!
You've already seen some of what we arrived to. Jon welcomed us with a fire in the fireplace of our room, and when he heard we hadn't eaten he produced bowls of creamy oyster soup, then spicy beef stew with the bones still flavoring the broth. And immediately, we were transformed. Those spoonfuls of homemade dinner melted the terrible travel right off our skins, and brought us back to Earth.
And that's why we chose this kind of vacation in the first place, because cooking and eating is so fundamental to the kind of joy we want to bring into our lives. A cup of the right soup, or hot chocolate, or a bite of Mom's macaroni and cheese* can make a bad day beautiful, and our trip was gorgeous from there on out.
*with collard greens! HOLLA!