Independence Days – and a painful lesson learned

Greetings everyone and I hope you are all safe and healthy wherever you are. This post is actually about two Independence Days that I was fortunate to be able to experience this year – one with my family in the United States and one here in Mexico.

For the U.S. July 4th holiday, I visited my son in Colorado. After having a very bad experience with an online travel agency, I opted to schedule my trip with a live human being – a travel agent here in Colima. I figured that if there were any problems, there would be a person I could easily contact directly.

For those of you who are not experienced in air travel internationally, you need to go through customs and immigration at the port of entry in the country in which you land. That means if you have one or two stops (or more – YIKES!) before you are at your destination, your first stop upon entering the country is where you must collect your luggage and go through customs and immigration and then bring your luggage to be checked in again for your connecting flight.

If this is how you will be traveling, please make sure you have enough time between flights to accomplish this. I would rather have too much time instead of not enough time to catch that connecting flight. You never know if there will be delays in your initial flight or very long lines at your port of entry, etc. Because of this, I wanted a direct flight to Denver, and so chose an early morning flight from Guadalajara to Denver, which meant taking an overnight bus to the airport.

Of course, because of Covid, I had to have a negative Covid exam in order to board the plane. Because my flight was at 7:30 in the morning, I did not take the test at the airport, as I was not going to walk alone with suitcases to the top floor of the parking garage just to get tested. There are plenty of clinics in Colima for the test – with varying prices which seem to indicate a longer wait time for results for the less expensive ones. So I opted for a moderately-priced one and just hung out in the city until it was ready.

So the night before my flight, suitcases and exam results in hand, I had a one-hour car ride to the bus station, a 3 hour bus ride to the international airport, a 3-hour wait before I could check in, then check-in started 3 hours before take-off time, and finally got on my flight. As a nice surprise, I had baked chocolate cream cheese brownies and my neighbor had prepared a mole sauce to bring with me.

One thing you need to investigate regarding international flights, is what you can bring in with you besides personal items. I checked online and figured the brownies and sauce were ok. I put them in an insulated bag with a frozen thermo pack and they were still cold when I arrived in Denver more than 12 hours after I left my house. The bag and thermo pack were also great for bringing back something I can’t get in Mexico – boxes of frozen Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, my comfort food when recovering from a bad migraine headache.

Oh, I just remembered something else. Restricted items might not only apply to international flights. A few years ago, I was visiting people in Puebla, Mexico, and taking a flight back to Colima, Mexico. My friends had given me a bouquet of flowers and the agents at the airport would not allow me to take them on the plane, even though the flight was not leaving the country – it was a completely domestic flight.

Anyway, I had a great visit with my son and his future family. Enjoyed the hot and dry weather, visited Breckenridge where I got a great view of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains, where I also didn’t remember how cold it would be at that elevation and didn’t bring enough outerwear. We also drove through the Continental Divide. A continental divide separates river systems that flow to opposite sides of a continent. In North America, the line of summits of the Rocky Mountains separate streams flowing toward the Gulf of California and the Pacific from those flowing toward the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean.

The 4th of July was spent with my son and his fiancé’s extended family, just enjoying being together and watching the fireworks at night. I finally went to bed at 10:30pm, but heard that the fireworks continued until about 2:30am. Everyone in the neighborhood was out in the street, sidewalks and in front of their houses, and it was a really nice time for everyone.

Eventually, it was time to return home with my macaroni and cheese, a box of Cream of Wheat (my other comfort food, which I can’t find in Mexico) and gifts for Lourdes and her family for taking care of my house and feeding my cats while I was gone. She had asked me to bring her back some Skechers shoes and told me the U.S. size. I saw different styles and through the wonder of WhatsApp, was able to take a photo of them, send the photos to her, and she could then tell me which pair she preferred.

Independence Day for Mexico is September 16th, but the celebrations start the night of the 15th with the Grito de Dolores, the cry of freedom. Tradition states that the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called the people of the town of Dolores to begin the war of independence and rang the church bells and his call to arms is the Grito.

Normally, there are celebrations everywhere in Mexico and the plaza at the presidential palace in Mexico City are packed with people. However, since this is still the rainy season and we are still experiencing the pandemic, there were no festivities held in our village square and the speech by President Lopez Obrador was broadcast on TV and the internet, as well as fireworks with no crowds in attendance. On the 16th, there were more speeches and a parade broadcast, once again with no crowds in attendance.

Around 5pm on the 15th, Lourdes’ restaurant La Casita del Café was serving sopes and enchiladas to celebrate. So – I went down there and had enchiladas with mole sauce and my favorite drink – a cappuccino.

Little did I know what I was in for. About 90 minutes after returning home, I experienced horrible abdominal pains – extremely severe. So bad that when they finally abated, I went straight to bed, figuring I could watch the festivities on You Tube the next day.

When I spoke with Lourdes the next morning, we tried to figure out what had caused the pain. There wasn’t enough chile in the mole to cause it, and I use cumin at times in my cooking, so that wasn’t it. When I said that I had had a cappuccino to drink with it, it clicked. Several people have since told me that you cannot mix dairy with enchiladas/mole. I guess it creates a volatile chemical reaction in the stomach or intestines. Never heard of it before, but that was a painful lesson that I will never forget. I guess that just demonstrates that not everything that doesn’t agree with you is from food poisoning.

So, I hope that this post wasn’t too boring and I hope that some of my “pearls of wisdom” about travel were helpful to some of you. Go online to find out what you can and cannot bring into a foreign country. Check your travel itinerary carefully. And if you have any food sensitivities, ask before you order (though I had no idea about enchiladas and dairy products so there was nothing to ask about). I almost always ask if the food is “enchiloso” or “picante” – both words for spicy hot. If they say it’s not too spicy, the English version of my standard reply is, “When it’s not too spicy for you, it is very spicy for me.”

So, for now, stay safe and healthy and see you next time !

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