¡Bienvenidos a Mexico!
"Robert Sessions, please report to Gate G18". GULP. There's something about flying that always brings out my anxiety, that there's some minute detail I've neglected that is going to torpedo the trip. "You're flying one way to Mexico. Do you have an onward flight out of the country?" "Why yes, of course I do," I reply with a coy smile. I show the clerk the flight that I booked hours earlier from Mexico City back to the US, the flight which I would cancel just a couple hours later for a full refund, leaving my return date flexible. A few keystrokes later the clerk confirmed the flight and gave me the go-ahead. All right, looks like we're going to Mexico.
Getting through Mexican immigration was a surprising breeze, I was through in ten minutes. Customs turned out to be even easier. I was waved on to a corridor that led to a pair of automatic doors and a disinterested airport employee staring at his phone. I walked through and the door shut behind me. I stopped, puzzled, looking out at what was clearly the arrivals area. A moment later, another young American guy came through the doors and, with an equally puzzled look, asked me "uhh...shouldn't we have gone through customs?" I shrugged my shoulders. "I guess not?" After a pause, it seemed apparent that no armed guards were running in our direction to correct what I assume to be a mistake. "Vamos?" "Vamos." Three hours later I caught my connecting flight to Queretaro, where I'd be spending the first five days of the trip.
My Airbnb host and his girlfriend picked me up from the Queretaro airport and brought me into the city proper...but not before making a crucial late-night pit stop at a roadside taco stand. My host insisted that the "Gusano" (worm) stand has the best tacos in the city, though he admitted that he's usually had a few Modelo's before stopping by. We enjoyed several varieties, my favorite being the tacos al pastor: vertically stacked, spit-grilled pork marinated in chilies, spices, and pineapple. That night, I learned that Mexican food is rarely served spicy; instead, you pick from several salsas on the side to spice it to your liking. I also learned that when a Mexican tells you "this one's not spicy" that they are absolutely NOT to be trusted. Thankfully, my addiction to Thai food prepared me well for their shenanigans. I pay $1.50 for two tacos and a "gringa".
We then make the short drive into the city center, making our way down the length of the "Arcos" (Arches), the miles-long aqueduct built three centuries ago to bring clean water to the city. Here's a much nicer photo than the one I took.
We get home around midnight to a slightly messy, slightly smelly, slightly noisy but ultimately adequate apartment near the city center. Having been awake for about 21 hours at this point, I hit the bed right away, unpacking can wait. As I lay down, I feel a mild but sharp pain in my stomach. I pop a pepto-bismol tablet and went right to sleep. In the morning, I wake up well-rested and pain-free, feeling apprehensive but ready to tackle a new trip.