Game of Phones
As I begin writing this post, we are on about hour 18 of what was supposed to be a 16 hour bus trip from Palenque to Oaxaca. It feels like we’re getting closer to the end, but Oaxaca isn’t even at the top of the road signs yet, so we’ve still got a ways to go. It strikes me that in Latin America, and possibly in Mexico even more so, things just happen at their own pace. There’s no rushing, no amount of stern sighs is going to make any difference. I could imagine that I’m learning more patience, but I think it’s likelier that I’m just learning that my irritation has so little affect on anything, I might as well just relax.
This bus ride has been even more long and boring than previous ones, because I lost my mobile phone. On the 11 hour (which was actually about 14 hours) bus trip from Tulum to Palenque, my mobile started out in my pocket, and by the morning when I started looking for it, was no where. I had switched it off to conserve battery, which means I couldn’t find it using any of the apps or tricks installed by the manufacturer, and in the 2 days since this has happened, it hasn’t been switched on. That could mean that it is just lodged in an air-conditioning vent of a bus somewhere, or whoever took it is now lumped with a dead battery lump of metal and plastic.
When I first realised it was gone, I unpacked everything in my back pack, and then clambered about on the floor in the rows in front of and behind our seats. When I didn’t find anything, Neil repeated my actions, because against stereotype, he is a much better look-er for things than me. When he came up dry, I knew things weren’t looking good. I have suspicions that someone took it from me, but people were on and off the bus all through the night, so I have no way of knowing if it was someone, or who it could have been. After arriving in Tulum, we searched the whole bus again when the other passengers got off. It was time to start some kind of lost phone action.
I tried to report the lost phone to the bus company, who handed me a complaint form and told me to put it in their suggestions box. They wouldn’t do anything more to help me, even though I told them for my insurance I just needed a form saying I had reported it lost. They weren’t having a bar of it, and repeatedly told me they weren’t responsible. I wasn’t saying they were responsible, I wasn’t asking for anything more than a letter head saying I’d reported it. A nice Guatemalan man told me, through the help of the Google translate app, that these people weren’t interested in doing any more paperwork, and he suggested we head to the police.
Commence our first (and hopefully last) experience with the Mexican police. Not to say that we had a bad experience, they were actually incredibly nice, but this was an experience that took the entire day. We started at what turned out to be the federal police station, which had a distinctly Mexican ‘True Detective’ vibe to it. Lots of guys in business shirts, shabby offices, and of course, no body paying much attention to anything other than the World Cup game playing on the TV. I was lead through to an office of detectives who each shook my hand, and when I explained my issue, that I just needed to make a report for my insurance company. They gravely shook their heads and explained it was unlikely that I would see my phone again. Then after much conferring with each other they decided that there was nothing they could do for me, but that we should go to the city police. Makes sense, probably didn’t need the feds on the case of my missing mobile. So we schlepped again in the 35 degree heat with our giant back packs, to the city police station. There we had even less luck getting the relevant people’s attention over the football match. Then one Kindly cop was trying to help us with his limited English but got called away to do some actual policing. We were then told, by someone who exuded authority, to wait. For what, for how long we weren’t sure. But eventually 2 other officers came and told us that what we actually needed was the immigration police (Pardon?) and their office wasn’t open now, at 3pm, but would be open at 6pm. (Excuse me?)
These police officers offered us a lift back to our hostel, so we got in their truck, putting our back packs on top of their riot gear, and when they tried to head to our hostel, the road was blocked. There was a big protest happening in the lead up to the election, and the officer said it was unlikely that we’d be able to get past for the next few days. Ah. But no matter! He knew a solution! They took us to a four star hotel, apparently owned by the same company, and got us a room for the same price as our hostel, a fraction of what the hotel usually charged. He then said he’d be back at 6pm, to take us to the immigration police station.
I had no faith what so ever that this was going to work out, I had no way of contacting these officers, and just assumed they wouldn’t show up. But, lo and behold, we went out the front of the hotel at ten to six, and there they were! But when we rolled up to the immigration police station, there was no one in sight. Clearly closed, and it’s 6pm, no immigration police station is going to open at 6pm, I thought. Then, at about ten past six, a car full of people roll up, and open the office! We walk in, I shake hands with the entire office again, and finally, on our third police station, well after what I would consider business hours, I start to see a report of my lost phone being compiled. There were a full FIVE officers working on the report at one stage. But I’m not complaining. I ended up with a very official document, which I am really hoping satisfies my insurance company.
This whole day was conducted almost entirely in Spanish. There was only one officer who spoke a little English, and while I didn’t understand every single thing that was said or asked of me, I was feeling pretty chuffed that I could navigate this situation in a foreign language without losing my head. Also, shout out once again to Neil, who did some top notch boyfriending, yet again. Unshakeable patience, just willing to chill with me, haul his pack around the city, give up plans for the day to go and see ruins, and just generally be a positive influence.
I’m really bummed about losing my phone. I know it’s materialistic of me, but it was a really, really good phone. A Google Pixel 2XL. You can’t get them in Mexico, I doubt you’d even be able to get the charging cable very easily, so it feels like a waste that who ever ends up with it probably won’t even enjoy it. And I know I’m probably too reliant on my phone, but not having my tools for navigating, telling the time, converting prices, doing bits of translating (and that’s just when I’m not connected to the internet!) I feel more lost than I’m happy admitting to.
Other than losing my phone, Mexico so far is wonderful. The food is incredible, although I have confirmed that I far prefer wheat tortillas to corn. Also, guacamole is no joke here. I feel like the movies give this impression that it’s the wild wild west in Mexico, but it doesn’t feel like that at all now we’re here. We’ve gone from the island paradise of Holbox, to the beach city of Tulum, to the palatial Mayan ruins of Palenque, and now we’re finally rolling into the outer suburbs of the mountain city of Oaxaca. I can’t believe our time in Latin America is drawing to a close - only about 10 days left! But still so much to look forward to on this adventure.