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Friday, November 11, 2011

What a locura!

Locura (madness, craziness) is the only word I can use to describe my day in Mexico City. I said goodbye to my host family on Saturday and was waiting for the plane to depart when I discovered that I did not have my debit card with me. AnĂ­, the daughter, was generous enough to lend me her purse so I didn't have to lug around a giant bag while I explored the city, but I didn't empty it completely and my debit card got left behind.

I didn't have enough time to go back to my family's house and get it, and I only had 100 pesos and $28 USD on me. I had to spend 50 pesos buying a cup of coffee from Starbucks so I could use their wifi to call my mom to figure out what to do. My only option was to go to Mexico City and try to come up with a solution from there.

I arrived in Mexico City, hot and exhausted, and took the metro to my hostel, and paid $20 for the night. It was a nice hostel and taking the metro was not nearly as terrifying as the travel guides make it sound. If you've taken the subway in NYC, the metro in Paris, or even the buses in Seattle, it's not so bad. A little dirty, lots of people selling stuff in the cars, but not scary. Also, their metro system was designed with illiteracy in mind, so it is incredibly easy to navigate. All you need to know is the color of the line and the symbol of the stop where you want to get off.

The only pictures I have of Mexico City, in the morning before things got too crazy, are below.

I woke up and set out to the nearest place to buy some food, but walked in the wrong direction (far away from a Starbucks) so I ended up buying a 12 peso Nescafe latte at an Oxxo (like 7-11). If I never have to have Nescafe again, I will be a happy girl. I don't understand why a nation with their own delicious coffee as well as access to nearby countries' delicious coffee would serve Nescafe everywhere!! As my luck would have it, I turned the corner and there was a Starbucks. I decided to toss my latte and spend the extra 22 pesos to buy a cup of coffee that wasn't from powder, sit down and use the wifi on my blackberry.

After 3 hours of trying to find Western Unions and figuring out how my parents could use my own debit card number to send me money, I set out to actually find one. I picked up my luggage back at the hostel (where I found out I could have had a FREE breakfast if I had gotten up early enough) and got on the metro to go find the place. By now, I have 16 pesos and my $8 USD, it's noon, it's been 20 hours since my last meal, and I'm running on coffee and fumes.

At the first location, no one could understand that I wanted to send money to myself, so my mom found another location "nearby" (8 blocks is not nearby when you are carrying a 50 pound pack around the city in 85 degree heat) and I set out to find this one. The directions my mom was reading me from the Moneygram website directed me to a street lined with candy shops. No Moneygram or Western Union, and no one had any idea what I was talking about when I asked where it could be. I had to go get back on the metro and get to the airport or I was going to miss my flight, so I spent my last pesos on a roll of Hits cookies, and started choking them down as I huffed and puffed my way back to the metro. By now I was getting a lot of strange looks because I am 6 feet tall, white, carrying all my belongings on my back, crying a little, speaking English, cramming cookies in my mouth, and drenched in sweat. Not exactly fitting in.

After a 45 minute metro ride to the airport, I arrived on time for my flight, had a delicious meal of pasta and red wine on the plane, and when I got off the plane in Peru 5 hours later, everything turned out okay. I am a firm believer in the saying, "everything will be okay in the end, and if it's not okay, it's not the end". It was quite an experience, and I'm sure I won't forget my debit card anywhere ever again. I also have a new appreciation for my Blackberry and my helpful parents!

The following day I picked up some money from a Western Union that was two blocks from my house, organized getting my card sent to Arequipa, and started another excellent week in a new city.


  1. Aiii Julia! It seems every trip isn't complete without a money problem story. I of course had one right when I arrived too - I didnt realize that here at the ATM the card comes out before the money, and I didn't speak barely any Spanish, so when the ATM gave me my card back and showed some message on the screen, I thought the transaction had been denied and walked away. Nope, I guess a few seconds later it spit out 300€...which I never saw again, but my account showed withdrawn. Glad it all worked out for you though and now you can start off on a new foot in Peru!

  2. Oh jeez! That's a bummer! Yeah I am glad that so far this problem has only cost me $40 in transferring fees from Western Union.

  3. WHOOOPP! So stoked that you hopped on the blog train. Can't wait to hear about your travels my love.

  4. Wow, what a way to get acclimated to a new country!
    Glad you got the money problems figured out!