After what felt like a lifetime of flying (but was like 35 hours) I arrived in Mexico.
In a thunderstorm.
Cancun was humid and close even at 10.30 at night.
I was picked up at the airport, and then it was a short drive to the bus station before I was left on my own.
I approached the ticket counter and waited my turn. Waiting your turn seemed to be maybe optional, but I was not about to upset any locals by pushing in.
Yo tiene un boleto I told the lady behind the counter. She didn’t understand. I hadn’t been prepared for this. I thought I would speak perfect Spanish, they’d understand my flawless pronunciation, I’d be given my ticket and it would all go smoothly.
Ummm…un boleto? I tried again, probably now stammering nervously than with confident command of the language. Donde? The woman asked. I understood she was asking where (thanks, Duolingo lesson 1) but not the wider context. Where was my ticket? How do you say, in your system? In cyberspace? In my phone in the form of a confirmation number?
I kept showing her my phone, in particular the important part of the details where it said confirmation number, right underneath where I was going. Some understanding passed between us, and the woman started entering details into the computer. One passenger, leaving at midnight, going to Mérida. I even entered my name for her. Then she showed me the price.
I had already started to suspect maybe she wasn’t looking up my booking, and was instead starting a new one, but I didn’t know the Spanish for I am very sorry, I think there has been a comical misunderstanding here. Given the choice between just buying a new ticket or facing the embarrassment of starting this whole business again, I decided I would persevere.
This time I think I was clearer with what I wanted, was referred to another assistant who did understand what I wanted, and got my ticket without having to buy one from scratch.
The bus station was much like you’d expect. It’s a far cry from Perths underground bus port, but probably almost indistinguishable from bus stations in a variety of the dozen cities I’ve lived in or had the misfortune to catch public transport in.
There was no aircon, but there were a couple of pedestal fans at one end that seemed to be more for the benefit of the staff than anyone else.
I feel very conspicuously foreign, but my masterful command of the Spanish language — while failing to immediately retrieve a booked ticket — did help me to buy a donut and a bottle of water.
Then it was just a mere four hour bus ride from Cancún to Mérida.