This is Mexico.
The van door slides open, and all 12 of us are told to get out and form a queue. The Mexican border official asks for my passport and $25 USD or $306 pesos to leave Mexico.
I have $18 USD and $20 pesos in cash. Martin has none. We are short $32 USD for both of us.
We had read online about Mexican border officials asking for a fee to leave the country, but we also read that it was an illegal fee.
Everyone else in our van appears prepared to pay this fee, so we step out of line and examine our options. We are one hour from the nearest ATM with no taxis in sight. Will we need to hitchhike back to Chetumal? Would we need to buy another bus ticket to Belize City? It was too early in the morning for these kinds of questions.
“We can lend you the money,” said Brian and Lana, our new friends from Minnesota.
And just like that we left Mexico.Lesson learned: always have plenty of cash when crossing a border.
Things in Mexico that take some getting used to:
- Throwing toilet paper in the trash instead of the toilet.
- Taking cold showers.
- Using sinks located outdoors.
- Fanatically turning off lights and fans whenever not in a room.
- Sterilizing drinking water. The Steripen has worked wonderfully!
- Having an abundance of sugar in all beverages.
- Needing to actively seek out fresh vegetables, especially greens. Fruit is plentiful, but green leafy vegetables are almost nonexistent.
- Seeing stray dogs roaming everywhere.
Things that I love about Mexico:
- The cup of sliced limes that comes with every meal.
- The cheap plastic chairs that clue me into the best restaurants. The locals eat at these restaurants; the tourists eat at restaurants with wooden chairs. Yes, a generalization, but so far has been true.
- The little bowls of sauce that accompany every meal. Usually one is a mild tomato salsa and the other is a hotter green salsa.
- The public transportation that takes you anywhere for cheap.
- The roadside food stands that sell 3 pineapples for 50 pesos.
- The tortillaria that lets you taste a freshly made corn tortilla. Fresh corn tortillas have the same texture as flour tortillas. When fresh, they are nothing like the corn tortillas at Walmart or Whole Foods.
- The humble feeling that comes from me attempting to communicate in Spanish. (Ok, I admit, this is also super frustrating.)
Farewell Mexico. I hope we meet again.