Happy New Year from Mexico City

…continued from Lucha Libre in Arena Mexico

“Here, drink this!” he said, handing me a shot of straight tequila. I drank it thinking “I’m going to regret this.” It was a couple of hours into the New Year and I thought I was sobering up. Apparently the hostel guys felt differently. This holiday trip to Mexico was almost over and I felt pretty good, but that shot marked the beginning of when everything started going south.

I awoke the next day with a seriously mad stomach flu, thanks to something I ate in the previous days. For the next week, I was a walking shitcannon. The food down there can do that to you, though I’m still blaming it on the tequila. Still, compared to what happened next, that was nothing. No sooner did I leave the O’Hare customs at the end of my trip, that I lost my own fucking passport in a Terminal 5 bathroom. More on that later.

But I knew I would love Mexico. It would be worth the trouble, as bad as it may be. One night to #partyhard in Mexico City into the New Year. It sounded pretty badass. I flew in a few days shy of the New Year and spent the first full day walking around the parks near my hostel, just to take in the size and scale of the architecture. Clearly no half measures here.

I was curious about Teotihuacan, a huge ancient city of pyramids that resides an hour northeast of Mexico City. I probably could have navigated a bus system to get there, but luckily, the hostel had already worked out a charter system with a local tour guide. Early the next day, our tour guide Carlos picked up me and two other guys from the hostel, and then several other people from other hotels.

On our way out of the city, we stopped at Tlatelolco, an Aztec ruin site two miles north. When the Spaniards overtook the Aztec people, they laid waste to their pagan temples and used the stones to build La Iglesia de Santiago Tlatelolco, which stands to this day.

We drove out of the city and reached Teotihuacan an hour later. We parked at a metal shop just outside of the ruins, where local people made handmade jewelry out of silver and carved elaborate designs out of obsidian glass. An older lady gave us a tour of the shop. She also showed us a maguey plant nearby, one of many that is used to distill Mezcal. She explained how Mezcal had been distilled and passed down for generations, long before the Spanish conquest and after. I gladly had a shot.

When I went into the shop to look around, I heard a senora’s voice behind me. “You went to Lucha!” I turned around. It was the women who I sat next to at the Lucha fight the other night. The same two couples who tried to get me to drink cerveza with them. I said hi again, and we made whatever small talk we could manage. I didn’t know how to ask them in Spanish if I was being followed.

Carlos took us to the ruins and gave us about an hour to walk around. Comprised of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, the Avenue of the Dead going between, and numerous smaller pyramids along the passage, Teotihuacan is a magnificent old city, named by the Aztecs as the “birthplace of the gods”. Now, tourists flock to this site to walk the avenue and climb the pyramids. Local vendors can be found selling replicas of flutes used by the ancient people. And there were these whistles that sounded like buzzards crowing.

I first climbed the Pyramid of the Moon, the smaller of the two. It was nearly 50 meters high, but was roped off about halfway up. Nonetheless, the climb was a still a hassle, with each step a foot and a half high. The view across the city from the second platform was well worth it.

I scrambled back down and walked along the avenue and smaller ruins towards the Pyramid of the Sun. Here, visitors climbed a huge staircase of 64 meters to its summit. From where I stood, they looked like ants on the top of a huge anthill. As I climbed the steep sections of stairway going up, I was already out of breath. I finally reached the apex and looked out at the buildings below, surrounded by the town and mountains. Cawing and whistling of flutes echoed across the old city.

Finally, we came back into Mexico City and stopped to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a famous Roman Catholic shrine north of downtown. Again, no half measures in these fine old Mexican buildings.

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And then I partied with some of the hostel people that evening. It was New Year’s Eve after all.

I drank at the bars until about 2am. When I came back to the hostel, a group of 12 people were sitting in the main room drinking. One of the employees handed me a shot of Jose Cuervo, which, like a bad omen, marked the beginning of the end.

Early the next morning, my own stomach woke ME up. It was a clusterfuck of hangover and stomach illness – what any of my backpacking friends in Latin America would tell you is par for the course. Whatever it was (I’m still blaming that damn tequila), my body tried its absolute hardest to expel it. It took me a whole day just to keep down solid food, and I fought continuously to stay hydrated. Behold, the infamous shitcannon of Mexico. On a good note, I was in a private room in the hostel, so at least I didn’t have to share the bathroom.

I flew back to Chicago the next morning, well enough to eat but pretty wrecked otherwise. When I walked out of the terminal, I realized that my passport was missing. Shit! I left it in the bathroom! Right after 1 of 20 dumps I took that day.

I ran back and looked in the stall for it. No luck. I asked the Information and Homeland desks if they had it. They didn’t. This was bad. Immediately, I went outside and reported it as lost on the Homeland website, the first smart thing I did that day. It was effectively deactivated for good. So even though a thief would still have my information, at least they couldn’t use it to fly.

Defeated, I took the train back to my apartment and pointlessly looked through my baggage again. I spent a couple hours browsing in circles on Google for answers. Finally, I tried to call the Homeland desk again for followup, but couldn’t get through.

Okay. It’s possible that somebody turned it in after I left. I do need to rule that out. I’ll go back and ask them again. If they still don’t have it, I’ll find a cop and file a police report. I got my head straight, cleaned up, and got back on the train for O’Hare.

I entered the terminal and went straight to the Homeland desk to ask the agent. “Hey, I think somebody might have stolen my passport earlier when I left it in the bathroom. Did anybody turn one in here?”

He gave me a funny look. “Yeah, we do have one, actually. What’s your name?”

“Daniel.”

“You from Virginia?” YES!!!!! I’M FROM VIRGINIA!!!!! Holy shit, I am from Virginia! I’ve never been this proud of my home state in my life! “Hold on a second” he said, and left to get it. Thanks to a good Samaritan, the newly cancelled passport that ruined the last four hours of my life was safely back in my hands. I still have to reapply again for a new one, but whatever. Happy Fucking New Year.

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As for the ongoing shitcannon, that went on for three more days. I finally went to my doctor, who thought it was Salmonella or some variant of it. He set me up with a bottle of Cipro, which cleared it up that evening.

You might ask, “Would you do all of this again, Dan Hagen?” I love the food, people, and culture of Mexico too much not to. Hell yeah, Mexico, I will see you again. Y por favor no mas tequila!

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