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The Mazatlan Memoirs I

March 2, 2009

by Jen Bakken

My dad’s cancer diagnoses has been difficult to handle. With this in mind, my parents decided to plan a family vacation.

This gave us all something to look forward to and, at times, took our minds off things. My dad enjoyed planning the trip and it helped him to focus on something other his doctor appointments, treatments, and even the pain he’s been in.

Finally the day arrived and off to the airport we went – all 15 of us. Eight adults (legally my oldest is an adult, although sometimes he doesn’t act it), along with seven children ages 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, and two 11-year-olds.

How long does it take to check in a large group at the airport? Well, when they only can help six people at a time, it takes a while.

Proof that no one in our family is a world traveler came when we realized we hadn’t signed any of our passports. Of course this had to be done before checking in, thus delaying the process a bit.

Amazingly we only had four bags to check, the rest were all carry on. After my children and I passed through security, we realized Brynna didn’t have her small suitcase.

I ran back downstairs, couldn’t find it there, then went back through security only to find out my brother-in-law had her suitcase all along.

We didn’t have time to go anywhere and eat after the lengthy check in process, so we visited a small airport store. Sandwiches, chips, and pop were some of the few choices we had and more than $160 later we sat, eating waiting for our flight.

This was our first experience with the difficulty in keeping track of and caring for a large amount of children and belongings – and we hadn’t even left Minnesota yet!

There was confusion as to where we were sitting on the flight, and who each child would be near, because the travel agent neglected to book us a group.

As we boarded the plane, my daughter became scared. Since she had never flown before, she was frozen with fear.

“I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go!” she cried. “Get me off this plane!” Once we were in the air, she was giggling.

The nearly four-hour trip was long but fortunately ended just as all of the kids were getting antsy.

We found the experience at the airport in Mexico quite strange. The place, full of bright pink walls, looked nearly abandoned except for randomly- placed security guards.

This is also where we first encountered having to tip someone in order to use a restroom. In Mexico, make sure you have some pesos if you need a bathroom break!

Two Mercedez vans awaited us outside, and we rode for what seemed like forever. The scenery we witnessed was disturbing and sad if not scarey. With dilapidated homes, vacant buildings, and graffiti everywhere, it made us nervous about where we were going to be staying.

The roads were crowded and, drivers knew one speed only – FAST! The streets were so narrow, I was thankful we wouldn’t have to drive on them.

Window washers walked right up to cars on the street, and those who didn’t want their windows washed put on their wipers in a hurry.

Finally we arrived at the home we were going to live in for the next seven days.

As we were getting our bags, I noticed a little boy of about five years old standing by our door. He just stood there watching us and didn’t leave until the door was closed but never said anything.

Our historic villa near Plaza Machado was beautiful. The main house had a kitchen, dining room, living room, three huge bedrooms, and three baths.

One had a bathtub large enough to almost swim in and, since I love baths, and it was torture to have it but not be able to use it. The water wasn’t something I wanted to spend any length of time in.

Attached to the house was a gorgeous private courtyard. Off one side was a two-level apartment and on the other was an upstairs apartment with a large patio.

The courtyard was like having a huge living room without a roof. The tall walls made us feel as though we were in our own little world. One wall was lined with broken glass to try and keep the pigeons off.

Oh those pigeons, they were everywhere and annoyingly noisy! Once while eating at a restaurant outside, my daughter couldn’t get used to the idea of birds being near us.

They were under the table, under our chairs, and everywhere. Ear-piercing squeals escaped her and she nearly fell backwards off her chair trying to stay away from the beaked menaces. (I’m guessing we will never have a pet bird.)

As an avid Diet Coke drinker, I found it humorous that in Mexico it is called Coca Cola Light and even tastes different.

Converting dollars into pesos was no easy task, and eventually we just used pesos to avoid converting all together.

We had to be quite a sight to the locals and even fellow travelers. A group of 15 is difficult to miss. Secretly, I was hoping our vacation wouldn’t go comically awry in true Griswold (National Lampoon’s Vacation) fashion.

To be continued . . .