06 January 2009

Get off that plane, baby.

My arrival to Mexico City was full of emotion. It is a new notion to plan something for so long, and then finally get there. Luckily my two planes were on time, and the skies were clear. The flight from Chicago to Mexico City was particularly beautiful. The green mountains, though turbulence-causing, were lovely to peer at through the window. Getting off of the plane and walking through the airport to immigration was completely surreal. The hazy light shafts coming through the windows only added to this. If arriving in the country with an FM3 (see previous entry for more info) then you will need to fill out a small slip, which someone at the immigration desk cangive you. They do not need the forms that the flight attendants give out-those are for residents, tourists, and business passengers. Because you have The Visa then you can bypass these papers. But, if you are bored on the plane it doesn’t hurt to fill them out. Forms are a bit fun that way.

From here, I went to the baggage carousel. After waiting around 30 minutes, my bag came down the line. Luckily it was in one piece. Most luggage seemed to be ok, although there was one bag on the carousel that had split open. A woman next to me got her suitcase and found there was a hole in it which apparently had not been there before, whether from wear and tear or something else. I have heard a story of a girl who got electronics stolen out of her checked luggage. However, this could just as easily happen in Los Angeles or Boston-so just use your noggin! Carry anything you really care about. Besides, if you are traveling the best advice is to leave things that you simply cannot bear to lose at home. It is for this reason you will never see me in Mexico photos wearing my Radiohead teeshirt. Lamentable, but the adult thing to do.

When you get off the plane, make sure to keep your ticket stub with you. You will need it after you claim your baggage. If you have ever been to a CostCo or BJ’s, then you will have already been well-trained. As I tried to walk away with my suitcase (maleta) a man in a bright yellow jacket asked for my ticket stub. I looked at him blankly, not knowing whether he worked for the airport or just liked neon. He looked at airline tag on my bag and checked it against my stub. They may also want to check your name on your passport, so be ready for this. This did not happen to me, but it did occur with someone else that was getting checked. After this, it is required to put your luggage through an X-ray scan. Before you can do this, someone else will ask to see your ticket stub once again-keep it out.

I arrived during the afternoon, which was absolutely one of the best decisions that has been made so far. I was not worried about taking a long time because there were hours left before night fell. If time of arrival will be a factor for you as well I cannot stress enough what a well-planned arrival time can do for relieving stress about the uncontrollable (customs, baggage, general post-plane malaise). If you are overwhelmed because of the polluted air, new place, or sheer excitement, take a breather. Go outside and stand in the open, sit with your back against a wall, or just walk about the airport. Although this may seem like the opposite of what you should do, there is no use trying to deny emotions that are strong. It has been said in certain guidebooks that it is best to not draw attention to yourself by walking without purpose. However, there are many times in my own hometown or even bigger cities like Boston and London that I have wandered aimlessly and stopped on the street paralyzed by thought. It has not failed me yet. Why try and stop something that will flood over you inevitably? As Alain de Botton has said in his remarkable book The Art of Travel, when you travel you always bring yourself. So do yourself good! For more tips on how to be self-aware and wonderful, may I suggest Succulent Wild Woman by SARK? (Men: this is for you too, but you must be comfortable with your fabulous female side to fully appreciate this work of art. If any repression goes on, the magic is totally lost.)

All of these notes about whelmed-ness are warranted simply because this city is very alive. With this comes a level of comfort between Mexicans that for people from ‘colder’ countries might find uncomfortable. This includes being called at or whistled to for attention. And this begins to happen as soon as you step out of the last customs bag X-ray. The taxi drivers will look at you and wave you over, asking if you need a cab. Men selling perfume will call you "Senorita". For someone on the brink of an overload this kind of beyond-cultural-norms behavior could really do some psychic damage later on. So remember to treat yourself well, always. If something doesn’t feel right to you think critically about why it does not. If you are in a situation to express this, I encourage you to do so. If not then, please bring a journal. Even jotting a few notes can take the pressure off. Because even though you are in a different country you are also a citizen of the world. It may be helpful to look at the stages of culture shock as well. However, like talking about poison ivy this could make you itch. These stages can be really helpful, but they are simply meant to be a guide as opposed to a rulebook. Your experience will be individual and your own! Everyone is different.

And when you manage to get out of the 'port, whether by radio taxi, kind Mexican friend, or some other way don’t forget to congratulate yourself. The waiting is over! It is my fourth day, and I am still buzzing with excitement. Tomorrow is my appointment to choose classes, and then I will spend the day running errands and hopefully exploring the district of Tlalpan further.


  1. Congratulations on your successful translocation! Keep up the blogflow goin!

  2. while it's sad that you will not be sporting the radiohead tee, i'm sure the mexicans will love you regardless. pictures soon, please!!!