life as i know it

"...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -Sylvia Plath

Friday, July 07, 2006

a beautiful hotel, Montezuma's Revenge, and "rata grande"

Stepping off the tiny plane onto the tarmac, I entered a world previously unbeknownst to me. A world of foreign language, foreign land, foreign people. A world in which I could no longer communicate in words, and so in silence I opened my eyes to a landscape of unfamiliarity. Weathered buildings painted in hues of bright blue and orange and yellow lined the narrow streets. Palm trees rose up to towering heights as the highway turned into cobblestone roads, curving through the remnants of ancient jungle, climbing to our destination. At last, there it was…a muted rust-colored structure, an arched entrance through open air, steps and steps and steps leading to a room that looked out upon the Mexican Riviera. The bed was lined in fresh white linens, the couch cushioned in orange and yellow. The Mexican tiles underfoot were delicately embellished in native designs. After two long flights, our bags were set aside and we stepped onto the terrace rising above the shoreline of this small fishing village.

Though we had planned the vacation as a relaxing, romantic getaway, Mexico offered us a different view of foreign travel. We had purposely avoided going to the more well-known tourist locations, instead seeking the lush jungle landscape of this fishing village as our destination. Wanting to immerse ourselves in a different culture, exploring the shores and markets and “reality” of life in another place, we had chosen this place with careful consideration. Despite our considerations, we were not prepared for the adventures we encountered.

Being the hypochondriac that I am, I had read every known piece of information regarding the dangers of drinking the water in a foreign country. I knew to use only bottled water, no ice, for drinking and even brushing my teeth. What I didn’t know was that there were a million other things that could cause “tourista” or Montezuma’s Revenge. After a lovely meal of fresh salsa and shrimp tacos on our second afternoon, the war of sickness infested my body, refusing to leave until many days after we had returned to the U.S. By the third day, M had come down with the “Revenge” as well, and so most of our days were spent battling over whose turn it was for the toilet. And the bathroom escapades did not end with our upset intestines.

Late one night, with a storm raging outside the room, and me planted on my usual seat (the potty), I happened to glance up from my Sudoku puzzle to find myself staring into the beady eyes of a very large rat. For a few seconds, we both sat motionless, staring each other down. When my brain kicked back into gear, I was off the pot in a flash and standing on top of it instead, screaming for M to come get the rat. Now, I know that men are supposed to be manly and take care of these types of things. But in the U.S., such manly duties typically consist of killing a roach bug or spider…I’m quite sure my “manly” boyfriend had never been asked to chase away a rat the size of a small dog. So there I was, standing on top of the toilet screaming, he was then standing on the bed screaming back, and the rat was standing between us with no intentions of moving. When at last the rat did decide to move, he ran behind the refrigerator where he could not be seen by either M or myself. It was at this point that M tells me to make a run for it. With thoughts of being eaten by a giant rat, I whisked my scared ass across those beautiful Mexican tiles and leapt onto the bed next to him. Now we had solved one problem…I’m out of the bathroom, I’m with M, I am no longer alone having a staring contest with a foreign rodent. However, the battle has not been won. The rat was still in hiding and there was no way either of us could sleep until the rat had left the premises. So proceeded our attempts to chase the rat away by throwing every movable object in the direction of the refrigerator. After what felt like an eternity, the rat ran out from hiding and escaped into the corridor. Of course the door frame was much larger than the actual door and so there was a nice open space below the door through which the rat could easily return. Thus we set about blocking the opening with towels and other objects, hoping that should our Mexican guest return, we would awaken upon the noise of his entrance. And so I’m sure you think the story ends here…oh no, it does not, I can assure you.

We did experience three more days of rat-free environment, even managing to bask in the scorching sun poolside between our bouts of bathroom time. But the show was not over; our foreign adventures knew no end.

Since our stomachs appeared unwilling to accept any “normal” food, our diet consisted of bland crackers and cookies purchased at a small market shop across the street from our hotel. On our next to last night of vacation, we had finally managed to fall asleep when M awoke me with the dreaded words “He’s back.” Not only had our rodent friend returned, but he was one damn determined sucker. Though I’ve never seen a rat climb, this one had somehow managed the feat and was sitting on the eating table nibbling away at a cookie when we turned the lights on. Of course, the light scared Mr. Mexican Rodent, causing him to literally leap from the table and run behind a corner cupboard. Now, I assure you that M and I were all about experiencing life in a foreign place, complete with foreign animals. But by this point, we were exhausted, dehydrated, and ready to rid ourselves of both the rat and Mexico itself. After fruitless attempts to chase the rat away again, we finally called the front desk. Of course the night staff spoke no English and we spoke no Spanish. Thank God for the translation dictionary I had borrowed from my sister. Though I couldn’t form a correct sentence if my life had depended upon it, I did manage to get my point across. “Rata grande”…the one phrase I learned in Mexico. Within minutes, a small Mexican man with a large wooden stick was running about our room, hitting the walls. All the while, M and I are still standing on the bed, wondering how our “romantic” vacation had become a nightmare of toilet sharing and oversized rodents. When the Mexican man and the rat at last departed our room at 5 a.m., we could hold it in no longer. What other choice did we have? Doubled over in laughter, we held each other until sleep arrived.

Though it was certainly not the vacation of our dreams, it was definitely an unforgettable trip. I would have liked to have ventured beyond the toilet. I would have liked to have never had a staring contest with a gigantic Mexican rodent. But I can’t complain about it all. After all, the hotel had beautiful open air arched doorways and embellished Mexican tiles. Our room had a terrace overlooking the Mexican Riviera and helpful little men with big sticks to chase away rodents at 5 a.m. Maybe it wasn’t the best week of my life, but the stories are certainly memorable.

19 Comments:

At 11:31 PM, Blogger Alexandra G said...

Ironically enough, this weekend's Sunday Scribblings theme is "hotels" so you must post this to it!
OH MY GOD....thats all I can think to say. I cannot imagine seeing such a huge rodent and I had a little ache inside as I read how sick you were, wanting you to be having a simply amazing time as I read but having to see how really tough it truly must have been being so sick too and all. I marvel though at you and your boyfriend's ability to find your sense of humor in it all and not let it ruin everything altogether. I hope you are feeling completely better now Tara and that it is totally out of your system. I hope you two can have another getaway before too long, maybe something closer to home this time where you can trust the H2O!

 
At 5:32 AM, Blogger Jessie said...

Oh man Tara!!! It's early in the morning and you had me laughing so hard! I'm still laughing as I type. When I read the title I thought for sure it would be a story about a fancy motel on the ocean or a beautiful river (shows how much Spanish I know!) ha! I read with great delight over your hilarious (although unfortunate) miseries.

I love it when you let loose with descriptions of places you've been--you're such an excellent story teller!
:)

 
At 8:22 AM, Blogger Laini said...

Arg! That's too bad! Your description of the room is lovely. Maybe the rat was a mascot, to keep you company? My sister stayed in a place in Baja with iguanas on the walls. I'd take that, I guess, over rats. But the sickness, that's the worst! I've never gotten really ill on a vacation, but once when I was traveling in Vietnam I met a woman whose husband was sick in the hotel with amoebic dysentery, really serious stuff. Their tour group had moved on without them and the doctors in this small Vietnamese town weren't so great; she was really afraid. I've always hoped things turned out okay for them.

 
At 8:53 AM, Blogger tara dawn said...

Just a sidenote to all...this post was written for this week's Sunday Scribblings! Thankfully, this was not a recent vacation so I am able to laugh even harder about it all now:)

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Tammy said...

LMAO Tara that was priceless! I'm doing a similar one in Cabo for Sunday, but it could never top this :)

Love you funny girl!

 
At 3:50 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

This is hilarious! I picture the rat as being anthropomorphic, perhaps wearing a little woven vest. Great job of making him so real!

 
At 6:51 PM, Anonymous alyndabear said...

Tara, this post was fabulous - your poor vacation! Starting with such eager hopes... and getting sick, the traveller's worst nightmare.

I feel bad for giggling over your rat story, but I just couldn't help it - what an experience, indeed!

-Aly

 
At 10:04 PM, Blogger ruby said...

this post made me laugh at loud! of course, i felt bad that your vacation ended up being so stressful, but the idea of you & that rat staring each other down made me giggle!

 
At 2:59 AM, Blogger GoGo said...

I so wanted to cover my eyes while reading this, that is how invested I was in your words.

What a trip!

 
At 4:45 AM, Blogger V said...

Yikes!
V

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger megg said...

what a crazy week! Sometimes the stories are even better than the vacation! Even your descriptions of the craziness were beautiful!! I missed you!!

 
At 7:30 PM, Blogger NuttersNotes said...

I hadn't thought about big rats since my childhood....they used to live in our basement. Thanks for THAT trip down memory lane.

I was entertained. Don't apply as an ambassador for the Mexican Tourist agency anytime soon!!! You have inspired me to go on vacation though.....Mexico is easy to get to from California...so is Hawaii. Your story settled any debate I was having.

Thanks for sharing such a funny story.

 
At 3:42 AM, Blogger Going For Greatness said...

What a great writing style you have! I could visualize each and every step of the way! Being on the Mexican Riviera I'm sure your "Rata Grande" wasn't exactly what you had in mind!
~ Gabi

 
At 5:09 AM, Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Giggle giggle giggle......

This was horrifying yet very comical....

what torture-being that sick and stuck with a mexican rodent.....

Glad it left you with good bonding memories though:)

 
At 5:57 AM, Blogger baylor said...

Diarrhea, rats and all...you are still so adorable!

xoxo

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger Susannah said...

oh sweetheart - i'm still giggling at the thought of you, the loo, the sudoku and the rat :-)))
x

 
At 2:52 PM, Blogger la vie en rose said...

yikes! and i thought my recent trip to colorado turned out bad...

you told this story beautifully. if i ever have the privledge of going to the mexican rivera i'll remember not to eat the fresh salsa or the shrimp tacos and to pack a big stick.

 
At 7:11 PM, Blogger Kim G. said...

Oh - I'm so very sorry that you were stuck in your room for so long - even worse that you had "company". I'm so afraid of those little buggers - I would have had to be medicated for sure if one stared me down in my room. I'm amazed that you can find a bit of the silver lining here and not chalk the trip up to a total disaster!

 
At 9:14 PM, Blogger liz elayne said...

oh my goodness. i laughed out loud at one point because this is exactly how my husband and i would have been.
wow.
i am glad that you are able to laugh about it now too. distance is a good thing.

thanks for sharing this story - it brought a smile to my face (and a bit of a shiver as well, i don't want any rats to join me on my next vacation!)

 

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