When I was younger I had an adventurous spirit. I loved traveling, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures. I would work every day, even weekends, to save every penny possible. When I was 20, I had America on my mind and I was determined to go. So, I did what I always did - I worked and saved up until finally the time came and I was on my way! It was my first time going to North America, so saying I was excited would be an understatement.
All I brought with me was some cash, a small waterproof bag, my old backpack, and a very well stocked first aid kit! I traveled light because the plan was clearly to backpack.
My trip began with a great welcome in LA because a friend of a friend had a mansion in Hollywood, and lucky for me, I was able to be a guest in the pool house, the cutest and most comfortable place I’ve stayed. Sadly, the fairytale was over, and I had to leave LA to continue my trip to La Baja. Little did I know what adventures and lessons were in store for me!
Tijuana was my first stop on the way. I spent some time with the locals and their children. Those kids were all so playful and kind, so I played a few games with them and went on my merry way! When I got to Santa Rosalia, I was shocked about my accommodations, which were in a very small house painted in a striking yellow and filled with photographs taped onto the walls. My hosts were a large Mexican family including a mom, dad, grandma, a few aunts, and a 7-year old girl who all lived there and welcomed me with open arms. They were the warmest and cutest family ever.
Two days later, after an incredible experience, it was time for me to move on to my next location. I packed my bags, had a wonderful breakfast with the family, and we all hugged and kissed, as they offered me their blessings, turning the farewell into something really official.
I handed them their payment for my stay, and finally headed out! As I was walking down the driveway, I heard the grandmother screaming. She was running after me, shouting in Mexican slang something that I couldn’t understand. Something changed - and while I was smiling away from the house I realized what she was saying - It wasn’t good…
Soon the whole family was outside, screaming and shouting at me! And, of course, the neighbors came over to snoop, swarming us like bees to honey! I was terrified but mostly very confused.
I couldn’t understand what was going on - I had made my bed, put my dishes away, said goodbye to everyone more than once, and paid! What more did they expect from me?
They continued screaming and shouting, and I still didn’t understand why. Suddenly, the 7-year-old girl started kicking me in my shins, hard! I begged her to stop, but she would not relent... so, I brought out my intimidating side and reminded her that I could kick too! That did the trick! The shin shots ceased immediately, but the shouting persisted.
At this point everyone had calmed down and I was able to piece together what they were saying. OMG! - They insisted that the money I had given them was counterfeit! I was so confused, it was impossible! I had gotten that money from a bank and had it with me the whole time I was traveling. There is no way it could be fake!
Like a mantra, they constantly repeated that I had to go to the bank immediately and get them their payment. Unfortunately for all of us, it was Sunday and the banks were closed - I was at their mercy. At this moment, I remembered what my grandma always told me. “You are smart Marcelle - Think fast”, so I convinced the family to allow me to stay one more night and wait for the banks to open the next day. They asked for my passport and surprisingly my watch too, I guess to ensure that I didn’t try to run away, so we agreed! I was certain it was going to be a horrible night, but I couldn’t have guessed the way it would eventually turn out!
I could tell that they still didn’t trust me. “How come?”, I thought. It made me feel sick. Magically, they allowed me to explain my side of the story, and all of them were very attentive to my experience at the border of Tijuana. That’s when, suddenly, it became clear to them. Bingo! Apparently, those cute kids I played with in Tijuana had conned me! We were playing a game with money and they switched my bills for fake ones! The family informed me that it’s something that happened often. They softened a bit but remained skeptical…
That night, I went back to my small room as soon as the sun had set in an effort to forget the day. Confused, I woke up in the middle of the night to the family all surrounding my bed. They were all extremely apologetic. Luck smiled at me once more, turning my absentmindedness into a blessing in disguise. I had left my journal somewhere and they found it and read it (I’m sure in an effort to figure out if I was telling the truth). In it, I detailed how much fun I was having with them and how wonderful they were as hosts. Quickly the situation turned from contentious to friendly. They offered me a drink and we spent the rest of the night talking! Tequila, beer, and spicy homemade Mexican candy became our cure-all!
The next morning, of course the first thing I did was go straight to the bank, got them their money, and continued on my trip as fast as they allowed me to… A bit hungover, and a lot wiser!
On that trip I learned that humans are fickle beings, but we all have one thing in common- we hate being taken advantage of. One minute people can be kicking you in the shins because they feel slighted, and the next all is forgiven and you are taking shots of tequila like old pals!