This is not the first time I've been stranded in a hotel room, unable to go more than a block or two from the hotel. The first time it happened was in Nouackchott, Mauritania, when the government was suddenly overthrown. I had just gotten back from a three week trip to the US, and had gotten to the capital city the night before. I woke up that morning to go to the bank, and on my way out the door I received a panicked call from my father asking me if I was ok. My father, in the United States, had known about the coup before I did. Shortly thereafter I received a call from the Peace Corps, telling us that we could not leave the hotel, that there had been a coup d'etat.
I turned on the tv, and saw tanks driving down the street in front of the bank I had almost gone to.
The coup was peaceful, and we were all pretty thrilled to be "sheltering in place" in an air conditioned hotel in the capital. I had no money money for a few days, and lived off the teryaki beef jerky and haribo gummi bears that I had brought back from the US. I remember praying that we might get evacuated from the country, and that my two year stint in Mauritania would come to an early close. However, after three or four days, we were all sent back to our sites.
That was the beginning of the end of my time in Mauritania. I got back to my site, to find that my host sister had been badly burned by oil from the cooking stove. She was in constant pain, and my host parents medicated her burns by rubbing them with charcoal from the fire. I could not convince them otherwise, and could not bear to see her in such pain. Ramadan started a few weeks after that, and my misery increased. I holed up in the the regional capital for much of Ramadan, playing endless games of scrabble. Each and every time I went out to my village, I could only last a couple days, then I'd come running back to the regional capital for a week.
At the end of November, I made the sudden decision to quit. I knew and still know that I made the right decision, but I still have dreams that I decide to go back to Mauritania, to finish my service.
However, that is impossible, as the Peace Corp in Mauritania did end up evacuating all the volunteers about six months after I left, and has not opened since. Peace Corps discovered that there had been some activity by Al-Queda in Mauritania, and that volunteers were being "suspiciously" spied on in certain cities.
But enough about Mauritania. Here, in my hotel room in Mexico, I have no gummi bears or beef jerky. I think this is the one time, I've felt lonely this whole trip, and doubtful of my ability to do this. I wish the same friends I had "sheltered in place" in Nouakchott, were here in Mexico with me now....
I've spent the day checking my twitter feed- the only thing I follow is the autopistas chiapas, which is giving updates on the road closures. I've also made a bit of progress on my Spanish. I've been making flashcards with phrases relevant to road closures, and strikes, and every hour or so, I go practice what I've learned on the hotel staff. The concierge thinks that the closures will last for three or four days, but I think her guess is as good as mine.
I called the embassy this morning, who said it was fine to stay here and wait, and that they also were not sure how long the roads would be closed for. Thankfully, the lady who is hosting me in San Cristobal has been super gracious, and extended her house to me "whenever I can actually make it" there.
There is a long, long line of people waiting for gas across the street at least 4-5 blocks, along with a line of people extending down the street. I've never been so happy to have a full tank, parked in a guarded garage below the hotel. I think I'm going to go withdraw some money and buy a lot of water. I'm not anticipating that either of these things are actually necessary, but I think that's what you do when you see a long line of people wanting gas.
And yes, I am still smoking.
Day Two: Tuxtla
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