Rosetta Stoned

So, after three months spent living out of a backpack, last Thursday I left Mexico.

My flight itinerary was as follows:

Tuxtla-Mexico City-Los Angeles

The following is a dated account of what transpired.

3:45 pm- Arrive at the airport.

5:45 pmAirline announces flight has been delayed.

The agent tells me I will likely miss my connecting flight. He gives me two options:

1-Take my chances and hope the other flight has also been delayed.

2- Reroute my flight as follows: Tuxtla-Mexico City-Cancun-Atlanta-Buenos Aires-Bangkok-The Ganges-15th Century Europe-Wherever Dances With Wolves was filmed-Igloolik, Nunavut-Los Angeles

According to the Mayan calendar, I should be in L.A. shortly before the end of the world.


Because I’m an Eskimo racist  (no offense), I choose the first one.

11:15 pm-Arrive in Mexico City.

I ask the man at the counter where the connecting gate is. He tells me to walk six miles down, then turn right. He doesn’t tell me that the flight left an hour earlier.

11:45 pmCustomer Service Agent re-books me for next flight, leaving at 10 am.

11:55 pm- Walk by a food kiosk.

Because I want to look good for the Americans, I skip the burger and fries and opt for a salad. When I ask for a fork the cashier says “No tengo.” Instead, he hands me a spoon.

What ensues is a thirty second non-verbal exchange during which I give him a look that says “You’re kidding, right?” and he responds with a look that says “Suck it up, princess. I eat cereal with a mortar and pestle.”

I spend the next fifteen minutes huddled in the corner trying to hide the fact that I’m eating salad with my hands.


This is what happens when I don't use a fork.


12:15 am- Go to baggage claim area.

Through the window I see a man carrying my knapsack over to the conveyor belt. It’s so close I can smell the hairspray that has leaked all over my souvenirs. All they need to do is turn on the belt and it will be mine.

Out of nowhere a security guard walks up. He looks at my bag, then pulls out his radio and makes a call.

Another girl, a Mexican, is standing beside me. She says she’s been waiting for her bag for over an hour. Frustrated, she bangs on the window to get their attention.

“Cuál es el problema!?”

The guard pops his head under the flap. Because of his thick accent, I can only understand the words “Federales” drogas” and “perros”.

Mexican girl is livid. She yells something along the lines of “It was just on the other airplane! The only way there would be any drugs in my bag is if you put them there!”

Obviously this logic is too complicated for the guard to understand, as he waves his hand dismissively and goes back to doing nothing.

1:15 am- Dogs arrive.

The guard walks one of them up and down the conveyor belt. Dog sniffs. No reaction. Apparently this isn’t the answer he was hoping for, so he brings the dog around again. And again. Eleven times. Dumbfounded, I instinctively pull out my phone and start taking pictures.

Suddenly, another security guard pops his head through the flap.

“No puedes tomar photos!”

He orders me to delete them. Normally I would be scared shitless, but it’s one in the morning and I’m not thinking clearly and since Mexican girl didn’t get shot for talking back,  I stand my ground and tell him in perfectly-accented Spanish that I can’t because my family is nervous and my amiga with driving car makes sad face when plane says hello with no drug-containing friend.

“Borrarlas!” he yells, and I don’t know what that means but I assume my answer didn’t fly so I delete them but secretly keep one as a memento/proof because I’ve been told that some people think my proclivity for lying borders on pathological:


2:45 amFinally get my bag.

I spend the next six hours sitting on a bench, creating the following  list of commonly mistranslated Spanish phrases that I’ve unfortunately found out the hard way:




Scenario 1- When asked how long you plan to be in the country for:



Scenario 2- When expressing feelings of hunger:



Scenario 3- When interrupting your Spanish teacher in the middle of class to tell him what a good driver you are because this obviously relates to your ability to learn the language quickly:.



Scenario 4- When not-so-subtly-hinting to same teacher that it might be a good idea to turn on the fan:



Scenario 5- When trying to sound “hip”:



Scenario 6- When asking for extra pickles on your sub:



Scenario 7- When making small talk with the cashier while he rings through your bag of potato chips:



Scenario 8- When being introduced to a guy named “Jose”:



Scenario 9- After noticing there is a child sitting on the curb eating rocks while his oblivious mother is too busy conversing with another local to notice:



Scenario 10- When, in an effort to cover up your obvious error, you tell that same woman you really like her kid because you know parents like hearing that stuff:



Final Scenario- When, after chugging back shots at a local nightclub with a dozen local men all vying for your attention (because, well, who wouldn’t rather get with a pasty white gringa as opposed to one of those boring olive-skinned curvy types?), you fall off the bar stool, and in your obliterated state assume that by adding “ada” to the end of an English word this will automatically make it Spanish:


**FYI- I also do one-on-one tutoring.  Contact me at for rates.



  1. Did you make it back? Did they turn you away as the guards stole your documents?

    Loved the eskimo post, missed that one before. We don’t get too many in London, if we did they would have had to have taken the wrong way back from the fishing hole to the igloo (my only knowledge of eskimos is from cartoons)

  2. You really made the wrong choice. I was rerouted through 15th Century Europe during my last trip and the jousting was BITCHIN! Or… wait, sorry… that was Medieval Times in Orlando. Never mind.

    • When I first read your comment I thought you were referring to “Orlando Bloom” and assumed you must be drunk.

      But then I remembered that I was the one who was drunk and I couldn’t stop laughing!




      (Er, you probably had to be there.)

  3. Rich Crete says:

    Still laughing about “Mas pick-lays, por favor”
    And for what it’s worth, I too make sad face when plane says hello with drug containing friend.
    The guard was probably like “If I had a peso for every time I’ve heard that…”

  4. I took 4 years of Spanish in High School and had straight A’s. After graduating, I did a tour-de-Mexico as well, and it was disastrous.

    I’m glad you survived, and I’m doubly-glad they didn’t find those balloonfuls of cocaine shoved up your….

  5. I bet you forgot to take your example pickle out of your bag and that’s what caused all the ruckus.

  6. Another reason why “spending eternity in an airport waiting for a delayed flight / spending an eternity running to catch your plane that is currently leaving while yanking a giant suitcase behind you” are two hells I frequently wish on people I hate.

    • It really is up there with waterboarding and watching an entire season of “Tori and Dean: Inn Love”.

      Or so I’ve heard, anyway. (AS IF I’d ever watch that show.)

  7. I always thought it was funny that the word for pregnant in Spanish sounded so much like embarrassed. Were Spanish-speakers embarrassed to be pregnant? Or did WE steal it from THEM and we’re the ones doing it wrong? The mind boggles.

  8. So between the examples of you telling the mom you wanted to eat her kid and take her baby and you’re druken pregnancy declaration, I laughed so hard I snorted. Gotta love a good laugh/snort!

    • I only wish I would have realized my mistake that night, while I was being escorted out of the bar by the bouncer.

      Then again, considering the state I was in, it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

  9. I’d like to sign up for your one on one tutoring class please.

  10. omg, I am silently laughing over here (so my coworkers don’t hear me) but look mildly ridiculous shaking with pink cheeks.

    I am sorry to laugh at your misfortune, but this is GOLD

  11. My wife always wants to know why I want to leave early for the airport. It is because I fit the profile and tend to get cavity searched before a flight so I want to have time to dry my tears and clean myself off before getting on the plane

  12. It’s a shame that nightmarish travels are always the best stories because everyone knows that in the moment, we are doing our best not to cry/and/or get hammered.
    I hope you made it back safely. Also, I would like for you to teach me another language.

    • I really did want to cry. Especially when we had to deplane the aircraft on the last flight because, (and this was the pilot’s exact quote), “There seems to be a weird blinky thing on the dashboard.”

  13. South Dakota. Where Dances with Wolves was filmed. Just so you know. For next time. Tatonka.

    Also? No Molestar does NOT mean do not molest me. I learned that one the hard way!

    • Tatonka is my favorite word. I just like the way it rolls off my tongue.

      I forgot about that one. I find that if I bend over and start dry-heaving they leave me alone.

  14. elizabeth3hersh says:

    Bschooled, you’re safe! If I were your mother I would have been worried sick (travel advisories from the State Dept and reports of wanton rampage!). Plus you managed to come back having avoided incarceration and embarazada-cy (hehe), and apparently unencumbered with extraneous eating utensils. I’m popping a virtual Dos Equis and offering a toast in your honor! Whew!

    • Fortunately my mother doesn’t read my blog. She wanted to lock me in the basement “Boxing Helena” style back when I was 19 and told her I wanted to go to Mazatlan. Granted, that might have had more to do with the fact that I was traveling with one other girl and an entire Football team.

      Thanks for the comment, E. I’m popping a virtual Dos Equis, too! Actually, make that a Tres Equis…I’m on holiday!

  15. I just knew you would be funny in any language. You also reminded me of the time in my first Spanish class when the graying 50-something teacher asked me (20-something hippie), “Con quien vives?” (With whom do you live?) I replied with confidence, “Vivo con tu mujer!” (I live with your woman!) His mock-angry reaction – to the delight of the class – “Verdad?!” (Is this true?!) ay-yi-yi…

    • Hahahaha! You know what’s bad, I had to read your comment twice because for some reason (probably because it’s 2am and I’m not thinking clearly) I read “mujer” as “madre”.

      Your scenario was hilarious. The one I pictured would have just been, well, awkward….;)

  16. Que triste. No se’ porque lo es triste, pero lloré.

  17. NIce, where are you off to now?

  18. Next time you go travelling I wanna come too- I will take the risk that they will suspect our bags are full of drugs. On the plus side I am very good with dogs so that could come in handy. Love the photo. Did you get the doggy’s name?

    • That would be perfect! Most dogs don’t like me. No, wait…I think I’m confusing “dogs” with “kids”.

      I’m pretty sure the dogs’ name was “Borrarlas!”

  19. Do they make special pickles appropriate for carrying in handbags or wallets?

  20. I worked in Jamaica once. I was stopped and had my bags searched both times I came back to the states. One resulted in a missed connecting flight.

    What. “Field research” and “22 year old” and “backpack” automatically equals “maybe you have some fine Jamaican weed for your American friends”? Do I look like a dirty hippie?

    Regardless. I feel i can travel to Mexico now, so all your troubles have been worth it.

    • You worked in Jamaica? Even I’d be willing to endure a cavity search if it meant I got to work in Jamaica.

      Or not. I’ve never actually had a cavity search, so it’s tough to say for sure.

  21. I’m interested in the one on one tutoring but I can only pay in pesos. I would prefer to delay explaining why I can only pay in pesos until I can explain it in Spanish.

  22. Whilst living in France, I worked at a hotel. One day there was a leak and so I was instructed to call a plumber and deal with the situation. Whilst explaining to him that there was a leak in the pipe, he started to look at me in a very strange and yet bemused manner. It was only after he’d left that I realised I’d been unknowingly offering to blow him.

  23. You are now the seasoned traveler. Glad you made it through that one. Maybe the federales weren’t feeling terribly trigger happy that night. Interested to hear about your new adventures back home.

    • Thanks, Jen. so far my only adventure has been “How to get from the airport exit to the car without freezing to death.”

      I know it sounds boring, but trust me…it’s a real page turner.

  24. Oh, Bea, I needed this today. You are officially my new girl crush. It used to be Steamme, but WTF happened to her? But just so you know, I’m not gay. I wish I could have written this in Spanish, but I’m only unilingual.

    Peace out.

    • I hope you don’t think I’m possessive/socially-maladjusted, but I’m assuming this means that you and I are now officially in a serious, committed, mutually beneficial (but not in a penetration-kind of way way) relationship, forever and ever amen. I’m thinking the next logical step would be to have each others blog header tattooed on our chest.

      According to FB, Steamme is still alive. (Facebook is where I get all of my alive/dead/it’s complicated updates). I keep waiting for the day when she will explode back into the blog world, wit and photoshop skillz blazing.

  25. I think it would be cool if “sauce” were a Spanish word, because then you could say “Soy sauce.”

    Yes, you are 100 percent right to infer I minored in Spanish in college. Also, yes, I went to a state school. You’re really good at inferring.

    • The funny thing is that I say it anyway! Even though the locals have no idea what I’m talking about! It’s like an inside joke that never comes out. (“Agoraphobic humor”, if you will).

      I have no choice but to infer that you are correct about my inference skills. Only because I’m really good at most things.

  26. Man I just got tired looking at the map..deboggles the mind

  27. That’s a great story! I’ve never had my bags sniffed for drugs!
    (although I’m sure it wasn’t “a great story” in the moment.)

    • Thanks, Red. Oddly enough, the worst parts were the times before and after the drug search. The whole dog-sniffing episode was so fascinating to me that I almost didn’t want it to end.

      Until I did want it to end, that is.

  28. You need to write a book that teaches people who cause problems with Los Federales how to say things like “Officers, it was a simple misunderstanding. Do you accept American Express? Oh, I see, cash only. Can you escort me to an ATM?”

    • HA! What makes your comment even funnier is that’s exactly what I learned when I lived in Guadalajara. Provided you had a few hundred pesos on hand, you could pretty much get away with anything from drunk driving to robbery to giving a blowjob in the back seat of a parked car.

      I worked with a French girl who personally tested the last scenario. Three times.

  29. I recently returned from the Bahamas via Miami. Both Miami and Mexico City airports may have more in common than I thought so I have a question and a comment.
    Question: How do you say “Would you please play some conga line music” in Spanish?
    Comment: Never, and I mean never, get in a line where the inspector is staring at you and smiling.

    P.S. I want you to know that I have added you to my blogroll so you should see an increase in readership of, oh, one or two people.

    • Answer: I wish I knew. Unfortunately, I only ever request conga line music when I’m drunk and pregnant.

      That’s good advice. While I’ve never had an inspector smile at me (I’d always assumed that not having facial muscles was a prerequisite?), I have gotten some weird smile-ish-type-smirks from customs officers when I tell them I’ve been in Mexico/Central America/Colombia for three months and have absolutely nothing to declare.

      Thanks for the comment and add, Curmudgeon.

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