A taste of New Orleans in the heart of Mexico

Paula and Donna—they’ve really been lifesavers during my last week, keeping me laughing.

If you’ve been following along, it’s been a tough year. On top of that, Michael Tan at English Unlimited has refused to reimburse my work visa (a value of about $225US). I’ve stayed here a year and he owes it to me, but my placement agency, Oxford Seminars, doesn’t seem to want to back me up. With all the lies Tan has told, I honestly expected this. (If you’re an international teacher, avoid this school!). With the other thefts and short term stays, I’ve basically PAID to work in Mexico. In short, I’m sorry that I came here.

Fortunately, a couple of new friends have really saved my last few weeks here in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. They’ve organized cookouts, kept me from lying in bed all day and helped me laugh. What more can you ask for? Anyway, a special thanks to Paula and Donna, new teachers at English Unlimited (though Paula has decided not to stay since she isn’t getting enough hours to pay rent. See a theme here?). These are photos of our outing to Hank’s a New Orleans (inspired) restaurant near Tequis Park.

Hank’s is a New Orleans restaurant that Donna treated us to.
Donna is from New Orleans, but lost pretty much everything in Katrina. She’s a new a teacher in San Luis Potosi. I hope she has better luck than I did.
the bar
Jambalaya, Paula’s dinner
Trout Almondine with steamed spinach and a salad, Donna’s dinner.
Salmon salad with goat cheese and fresh mango, my dinner.
Our appetizer was listed as a muffaletta, but it’s really more a tortilla pizza with ham, cheese and olive tapinade. Really good, though.

Hank’s dining room
Found in the ladies room

It’s been a tough year

I really hope the next half of the year will be easier. First my mother was diagnosed with cancer in January, then she died much faster than expected in March. We had a difficult relationship, so it’s a lot to deal with.

Seems like that would have been enough trauma for one year. The universe had other ideas.

The last week has been so bad, that it’s colored my entire year here in Mexico. It’s made me question whether I ever want to return. I hope that with time I’ll gain some perspective and be able to see the good with the bad, but I doubt I will ever set foot in San Luis Potosi. My memories are ruined. Sadly, I’ve found my belief in people has fallen greatly since I’ve become a vagabond.

Starting in January, I’ve been living with a family as their personal English Teacher in exchange for room and board. Since the hours at school were so unreliable, this was a good situation for me, especially since I really loved this family. I did lots of things with them and felt that I was a part of them. Clearly, I was wrong.

Friday night, Meliza came to my room and told me they were missing a lot of money, 7,000 pesos (about $385US), that belonged to her mother. As they continued to check, other items turned up missing, too: an iPad, jewelry and some kitchen things. I was told that they suspected the housekeeper, which made sense to me. I checked through my things and found I had even more money missing than them! There’s at least $500US plus more than 2000 pesos, all in cash, plus a few items of jewelry. Someone would have to dig through my things to find that money, too. It wasn’t just lying around. I felt terrible about the whole situation and Meliza said that Ivan planned to confront the housekeeper Sunday morning.

I don’t know what changed, but by Sunday morning, I was a prime suspect and was fingerprinted along with the housekeeper! It was a total shock. And Ivan, Sr. was very clear that I wasn’t fingerprinted to rule me out, but because I was a suspect. I was terrified! How could they believe I would steal from them? They invited me to live with them; I didn’t ask. I couldn’t stop the nightmare I was having: A foreigner, accused of a crime, with no citizen’s rights, locked into jail with little legal recourse and poor language skills. There isn’t even an embassy nearby.

By Sunday evening, I got them to agree that I didn’t take the money. Or at least I got Meliza to agree. I wouldn’t have wanted any of the trivial things that were stolen, the money came up missing only after the new housekeeper was there and I’ve recently inherited money and don’t need to steal theirs. So at least Meliza believed I was innocent and apologized. Ivan said nothing. I don’t know what he thought/thinks, nor how he will proceed. (Also, I found it interesting that they thought the housekeeper was cleaning my room every week and doing my laundry. NOT!)

But here’s the problem: I had more money taken than they did and I didn’t suspect them for a moment, not even their two teen-aged sons. I didn’t accuse them of theft. I didn’t have them fingerprinted. I trusted them, but they didn’t trust me. It’s been my experience that once someone stops trusting you, you can’t trust them. You need to do what you can to prove your innocence and then extricate yourself as quickly as possible. Once trust is gone, the friendship is gone, too. Loosing their friendship was far worse to me than the money.

So I packed up everything and moved into a hotel for the night. Most of my cash had been stolen, but fortunately, I had a credit card as a backup. I spent three (expensive) nights there before I could arrange a room for the remaining 3 weeks of my time here in San Luis Potosi. It took all the cash I had to pay for the new accommodations, and I missed a couple meals until I got paid on the 15th.

I shed a lot of tears this week.

People are alike everywhere you go. And that’s not always good. I’ve had things stolen from me in every country I’ve lived in. I’ve been lied to in all of them. And I’ve been accused of things I didn’t do.

One of the issues with being a traveler is that you never get time to establish a track record with anyone and build up trust. Working hard, doing your best isn’t enough in the short term. Everything seems fine, until something goes wrong. Then, you are the outsider and the first person to be suspected of a crime. You are never going to be a trusted insider, one of the family. If they are forced to choose, they won’t choose you. And you don’t know who to trust, either. I’ve made a few costly mistakes with new friends (especially in Turkey).

And my week hasn’t improved. I’ve used the time to go through every item I own and reduce my stuff before the next series of flights. I tried to ship a box of items ahead to my next teaching job (Arequipa, Peru). I lugged the package to FedEx (8 blocks!), but the woman at the counter had to open it and go through everything. Then, after weighing it, she gave me a price of roughly 1000 pesos to ship it (about $50US). Fine. But the price kept going up, with no explanation. Suddenly it was almost 4,000 pesos, more than the cost of the items inside! It seems even more suspicious since she suddenly had to have cash, no credit card. The person in front of me had used a card. It’s true that I have trust issues at the moment, but I suspect the box would never have arrived. She would have stolen anything she wanted from inside, and my money, too. I called her a liar (mentiroso), grabbed the box and left. I took the package at the Centro branch (downtown) of the school and gave the items to the staff who happened to be there.

And just to add insult to injury, on the way home, I went to an OXXO (local convenience store). Two men pushed ahead of me in line. When I said something, they laughed. An employee saw the whole thing and wouldn’t intervene. She just shrugged her shoulders.

Maybe this isn’t such a good country for me.