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.