On Arriving in Puerto Vallarta


Will Smith’s Family, Feeling Queasy and Cursing in Spanish

A few days ago we traveled by bus from San Blas to Puerto Vallarta, which is about a three hour drive south through the mountains that line the Pacific coast of Mexico. For anyone with any penchant for motion sickness at all, it isn’t a pretty journey. Buses here are air conditioned, but they appear to have no shocks and the roads are bumpy and windey. Not fifteen minutes in and we both felt queasy.

The only thing that makes me feel better when I’m nauseas is sleep. The bus was cool, the bus was quiet and at the exact instant that I began to drift away some little kid put on a ripped copy of the new Karate Kid film starring Will Smith’s rug rat on full volume. The sound system on buses in Mexico isn’t good. There’s a lot of static and the bits you can make out sound like they are being shouted through a long, echoing tin can. And of course it was dubbed, quite poorly, into Spanish.

I will forever associate that cocky little Smith progeny with nausea and a wall of fuzzy noise.

I felt sick enough that, with my head leaning on the curtain on the bus window next to my seat, I started to drift off anyway. I could hear the tinny Spanish dub of the Karate Kid but it became part of my dream – my squeamish stomach so far away that I couldn’t really feel it anymore. I felt the bus stop and heard some people get on and sit behind me, toward the back of the bus.

In these circumstances, my instinct is to dread the arrival of children but if I’m honest, it’s never usually the kids who cause a ruckus, but their parents.

“Little Roberto – do you want some chicken?!” the lady yelled in Spanish as though little Roberto was either deaf or on a bus in the town over. The word for chicken in Spanish is ‘pollo’, pronounced “po-yo”.
Little Roberto: Huh? (Maybe he was deaf)

Lady: Pollo! Pollo!

LR: Pollo?

Lady: Pollo!
This went on for awhile until it was eventually determined that indeed LR wanted some chicken. My eyes were closed the entire time, so I am assuming they thought I was sleeping and just didn’t care. Then, about ten minutes later and I really was starting to fall asleep again when suddenly the curtain I was resting my head on, covering the window next to my seat, was wrench out from under my cheek, causing it to slap against the bare, warm window.

I opened my eyes to see a thirty something man – another of the little Roberto clan – standing over my seat trying to rearrange my curtain by roughly pulling it back and forth. I should note that he had his own window and curtain, which he could have arranged without touching mine.

You know when you feel so angry that for a moment you can imagine yourself reaching out and doing bodily harm to another human being? That’s how I felt.

One of the challenges of being in a country where you aren’t fluid in the language is that you need to look things up before saying them. As Roberto senior was messing with my curtain, I’m fumbling in my Mexican Spanish book trying to work out what I want to say to him. Whoever makes these language books should include a section called “Insults to Hurl At Locals Who Are Pissing You Off.”

I gave up with the book and settled for a “Hey!”, a nasty look and then I roughly readjusted my curtain to where I wanted it, where it was before. Roberto senior looked at me like I was crazy, as though on buses in Mexico you should expect the person sitting behind you to yank your curtain out from under your sleeping head if he feels like it.

Incidentally, the word for rude here is ‘grosero’.

Mr. Bean Makes an Appearance

Upon the conclusion of the Karate Kid, it looked like a DVD featuring Mexican wrestling was going to be put on but following the opening credits, it was abruptly removed and replaced with a Mr. Bean DVD. I’ve never been a big Mr. Bean fan and generally think the character is a dick, which might explain why the guy behind me chuckled at his antics right until he got off the bus just outside of Puerto Vallarta with little Roberto and the loud lady.

Taxi Drivers and “Geese Hotels” in Mexico

We pulled into the central bus station in Puerto Vallarta and headed directly to the taxi stand. We had no idea where we were going and with our huge backpacks, weren’t willing to spend hours trying to navigate the confusing public transportation system here.

At the taxi stand we walked up to the first car in the queue, which was driven by an old man who didn’t speak English. Before we got into the car, a younger guy who seemed to be in charge of the taxi stand, walked up and asked where we were going. I’d written down the name and address of our hotel and showed it to him.
“Zat de ‘otel of de geese.”

“Huh?”

“De geese! De geese!”

“It’s the hotel of the geese? I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

“De gay-eese.”
Then it occurred to me that this funny, cross-eyed man was trying to tell me that my hotel was “the hotel of the gays”, in other words a gay hotel. This made me quite angry. First of all, I was pretty certain that even if our hotel was ‘gay friendly’ it didn’t ban straight couples; also I’d booked through Expedia and although it was explicit that no one under 18 was permitted to check in (a bonus for us) there’d been no warning about being straight. I was also pretty certain that the taxi driver probably had some deal going with some other hotel in town and received a commission by funnelling tourists to them.

“Well, we’re staying at this hotel and we’re not gay.”

"Done say I dee not warn you," and he gave us a 'you crazy gingos' shrug and walked away but not before explaining to our taxi driver how idiotic he thought we were being and having a chuckle. I had momentary visions of kicking him in the shins. 

Mexico is a fairly Catholic country and perhaps the threat of homosexuality is interpreted to mean “they will ass rape you when you check in.” (Which didn't happen, by the way). After five weeks in San Blas, all I wanted to know was: are there dog size spiders and do the toilet flush.

For the record, our hotel is a little bit ‘gay’. There are mostly gay men staying here and working the front desk; and the neighbourhood is also filled with rainbow flags and well-dressed men having fancy meals with one another on verandas.

Give me a hotel of the “geese” any time over one that is intolerant. As long as it doesn’t have spiders.

Image Credit: Picture by me - this isn't the hotel of the geese (thank goodness!)

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