I am not a person most people would be inclined to think of as adventurous. It is far better to be tall, strong, and have an intimidating presence. None can be credited to my person; instead, I would be described as short, quiet, and far from menacing.
Being thrown out into the streets of Oaxaca with my petite grandmother gave me a second chance at really living. Fending off ravenous dogs and finally falling asleep on the city streets showed me a new and appreciative view of the comfortable life most Americans live. After a hot and grueling day of riding in a crowded, sweltering bus, my grandmother and I were dropped off in the middle of a highway in the bustling city of Oaxaca.
Scrambling between the cars racing by while juggling luggage we made it to the safety of the Bodega Aurrera, or, as we Americans more commonly refer to, Wal-Mart. Speaking in broken Spanish, we finally managed to ask a man, ‘Donde se puede encontrar la casa de Forris?’ Where can the house of Forris be found? Grinning between chapped lips, the man began to gesture and name roads we were to take to get to the house we were to stay in for the night. Thanking him repeatedly, we started out in the direction he had indicated, repeating to each other his instructions.
Already weary from jetlag on our journey to cross the border, the trek uphill exhausted our final store of energy, as the shadows of the setting sun danced and weaved before our dazzled, tired eyes. After an eternity of rounding another corner, we finally reached our destination, la casa de Forris! Plastered white with green trim and vine growing across the front, la casa de Forris was the long anticipated refuge for our somnolent souls. We trampled up to the door, expecting ready entrance as our pre-arranged plans were for the owner to leave the doors unlocked.
Denied. The brass handle shook in my hand, but the door held firm, unyielding to various attempts to thrust it open. My grandmother reassured me that the owner simply was late and so we set our luggage to a side, waiting for our negligent owner to rescue us.
The shadows deepened, and as the sun sunk farther so did our hopes of a hot dinner and warm bed that night. Fortunately I had kept a few cracker packets and some peanuts complimentary to our airline flight and we snacked on those, grimly accepting the truth that peanuts and crackers might make up the ‘hot dinner’ we had anticipated that night. We began to reminisce of funny, little stories to lighten the mood and convince ourselves that everything was ‘just fine’.
A group of men passed by: tall, burly, indistinguishable and vague, yet threatening all the same, and my grandmother and I laughed at our memories from long ago, trying to conceal our anxiety from each other. However, our next guests were far more alarming. A pack of mangy dogs came scurrying around, sniffing and snapping at our feet for the remains of our ‘hot dinner’.
Forcing a grin on my face, I picked up my grandmother’s purse, which is considerably heavy, as all grandmothers’ purses should be, and swung it in the mutts faces many times, yelling as they turned tail and fled. As I turned back to face my grandmother, my grin was no longer forced, and we laughed loud and heartily. Unable to admit defeat, my grandmother and I went around the house, trying doors and windows to see if any had been unlocked or could easily be forced open.
Alas, our house could withstand an assault from the Roman legions without so much of a crack to her smooth white walls. Too tired to care or complain, we laid our coats out on the driveway and fell asleep under starlight with the cool breeze gently caressing us to a land of dreams. Despite how our backs ached for the next several days, my grandmother and I came away from the experience inspired. Those harrowing events taught us to appreciate the little things in life we take for granted, like warm beds and a hot meal. Taking the opportunity to travel the world can change a person’s outlook of life, but a person does not need to be willing to go out of the country to change her perception, she just has to be willing to take a chance.
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