Canada: It’s a Beauty Way to Go: Maybe (conclusion)

BC was experiencing “heat domes” where the temperatures in some parts rose up into the upper 40’s for days at a time. We were a bit more fortunate in Victoria, where temps only rose to around 39 degrees Celsius (that’s a bit above 98 Fahrenheit for my friends back in the US, and Myanmar). Air conditioning is a rare commodity in BC as, prior to the past decade, it wasn’t needed (thanks, Obama). Our rent house, which was positioned to receive full sun in the morning and then again in the evening, had no A/C. We spent the days with all windows and doors open and a variety of floor fans set to stun. In the evening, with the doors shut and temps still in the lower 30’s, we wriggled in our unfortunate versions of water beds.

I booked the flight on Aero Mexico for Wilson and I, and then got busy with all other logistics involved when leaving one country in favor of another (closing bank accounts, terminating utilities, selling the car, garage sales, etc.).

Once I got my family to the airport for their departure, I settled in for an epic bit of packing. My landlord chose this moment to announce, with an afternoon’s notice, that they were finally going to redo the drainage around the house (the crawlspace had flooded earlier in the year and turned the heater into a submarine). I was told not to worry, all the work would be outside so I wouldn’t be bothered.

The next morning, I was greeted by the arrival of heavy equipment as a crew began sawing through the concrete sidewalks and digging trenches. After a few days of this, another crew showed up and began digging around the foundation with shovels. We were still experiencing mini heat domes, so their cigarette smoke wafted in the open windows all day.

Dodging trenches and holes, I continued to pack and make plans for my departure. This was complicated by the news that the cargo ship had been delayed. The first delay was followed by another. It looked like I would be evicted before I could load our goods. There was still no available storage in the area.

Around this same time it dawned on me that I hadn’t yet made a reservation on the public ferry that, courtesy of Crusty and his car, would take Wilson and I to the airport in Vancouver (there were still no local flights that would take a dog). I tried to make a reservation and found that my luck was holding true: the date of my outbound flight was August 2nd. That date meant little to me when I made the reservation, and I had few options with the scarcity of flights, but it turned out to be BC Day. BC Day is yet another provincial holiday and, particularly because it fell on a Monday, was an excuse for every stir-crazy Canadian to go camping. The pressure on the Vancouver area was even greater in 2021 because of all the wildfires in other parts of BC.

The upshot was that the only ferry passage we could get was at 9:00 a.m. on August 2nd. My flight was scheduled to leave at 11:00 p.m. that night with the idea that Wilson and I could hopefully sleep a bit on the way to Mexico City. There were no other ferry options available, so Crusty and I tried to come up with things to do in Vancouver for twelve hours with my guitar, luggage, and Wilson.

Back on the shipping front, courtesy of the help of Charles Zeller and associates, some storage opened up. I could now load the container before I was evicted and pay storage fees at the port. Was it going to be cheap? No. It was not.

The cigarette smoke of the workers was joined by the smoky air of the wildfires burning across the water in Washington and Oregon. I began to harbor serious doubts about the choices I had made in my life, and tried to identify the person I had offended who had cast the curse hovering over me.

Despite the efforts of the forces plotting against me, I did get everything loaded into a container and settled in to spend a few days on an inflatable mattress as I cleaned up the house. I ended up moving into another friend’s basement for the last couple of nights. Sleep eluded me. I dreaded checking email and finding another problem involving the shipment, or my flight. I was happy to learn that my family made it to Costa Rica without incident, though this also potentially confirmed that the curse was confined to me.

Just prior to my departure I learned that the local First Nations bands (otherwise known as Indian tribes in the US) had decided to block the highway that leads to the ferry on BC Day as a protest against revelations involving Residential Schools — a horrific story. This meant our ride to the ferry would start even earlier as we had to get past the planned spot for the barricade before it was erected.

Monday, August 2nd, around 6:45 a.m., we loaded up Crusty’s car and drove to the ferry. Once we arrived in Vancouver we found out a few not surprising things: 1) it was hot, 2) every beach, park and parking lot was packed with people, and 3) there’s not a lot you can do when you have a hot dog and can’t leave the car for fear of losing the contents you’d carefully placed within it. After a few sweaty hours I pulled the cord, thanked Crusty and his bride, and had them drop us at the airport (which at least had air conditioning).

Several hours later, with Wilson at my feet, my phone blew up with texts from Aero Mexico. Our flight, still five hours from its scheduled departure, would be delayed. I called Aero Mexico as there was no one manning their counter and was informed that, yes, I would miss the connecting flight to Costa Rica. After an hour on hold I was told that my only option would be to spend the next day with my dog, and my luggage, in the Mexico City airport as I waited on my new connecting flight (scheduled for 9:30 p.m. on the 3rd).

Our outbound flight was indeed delayed until around 1:30 a.m. With the time change, we arrived in Mexico City around 8:30 a.m. on the 3rd. Several announcements were made throughout the flight stating that we would have to claim all checked bags and then pass through customs and immigration. Around 9:15 a.m. I heard barking from the far side of the baggage claim area. It wasn’t Wilson, but was another dog from our flight. Wilson and his giant carrier emerged shortly thereafter, and he went into hysterics until I managed to cut the zip ties closing the door and release him (not easy without a knife). Wilson, his carrier, my guitar, my oversized duffle and I returned to our designated baggage claim area and waited. And waited.

We were far from alone as several other people from our flight were doing the same thing. Finally, a security officer came over and told us we had to exit baggage claim. “What about our luggage?” we asked. “It’s probably been checked through to your final destination,” was the reply.

I had spent part of the wait getting help from Bride #1 in finding an airport hotel where I could change out of my sweated-through clothing and park our stuff while I took Wilson out to do some much needed business. She found a Courtyard by Marriott in the airport. It was at another terminal but they– theoretically — had a shuttle. I was to look for a phone in the car rental area and arrange pickup.

With Wilson on his leash in one hand, and the giant dog carrier on a cart being pushed by the other (with the guitar and duffle bag perched atop), we made it through customs and immigration and spent about twenty minutes scouring the designated area for any sign of a shuttle. My Spanish is far from great, but serviceable, and I couldn’t figure out why no one could tell me where to call for the shuttle. My phone didn’t work in Mexico, and the airport WIFI didn’t extend outside, so my only option was to stand at the area outside that claimed to be for hotel shuttles. I asked a security guard perched on the curb how often the Marriott shuttle came by. He shrugged. I pressed the point, and he said he didn’t think there was a Courtyard shuttle, but I could always continue to wait, and hope.

Twenty minutes later, I gave up and offered another shuttle van driver $10 to take me to the Courtyard. He wasn’t keen (I think he was with Hilton) but he wanted the $10. We loaded the giant carrier in the van, said goodbye to the cart, and took a ten minute drive around the airport. His only other client got out and he motioned for me to do the same.

“But where is the Marriott?”

“It’s in there. Inside. Just go in. I think it’s on the fourth floor.”

It sounded weird. It was weird, but I got everything out of the van and, now dragging the giant carrier for lack of a cart, began wandering around the new terminal asking for directions to the Marriott. I checked every floor. I asked multiple people. No one had any idea. Side note: in Costa Rica, people will give you directions even if they have no idea where your desired destination is. I’m not sure which approach is less helpful.

Now in full sweat from the effort of dragging the kennel and luggage, a very confused Wilson and I found ourselves in the parking garage of the terminal. The latest tip I’d received from an airport employee was that the hotel entrance was in the garage. After a couple of fruitless laps I finally bumped into a baggage handler (the guys with the cart that take your things to the curb) and asked him.

“Ah, yes. I can take you,” he smiled confidently, putting the carrier on his cart. Wilson and I followed him across the parking garage to an elevator, which went down a couple of floors. Emerging from the elevator, we walked into an unmarked hallway. About fifty meters later, he turned into another unmarked, rather skinny hallway which crossed the one-way road beneath us. We emerged in… the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott.

A little while later I walked Wilson down a very sketchy road on the backside of the airport. Stray dogs (perros callejeros) swarmed us. A lot of that stuff that Big Boat didn’t want on their ships covered the broken sidewalk, and I hopped amongst the cleaner spaces between the piles. Ignoring the stares from the guys in this rough barrio, I pretended like I belonged as I pulled my sheltered dog through the street dogs until he finally did his business. There was plenty of loose plastic floating around, and I used some to retrieve Wilson’s work. There was even more mumbling and stares at that point.

Later that afternoon, after a couple hours of sleep, we retraced our steps back to the terminal. Our flight was, thus far, on time so we hung out in the terminal and waited our turn to get Wilson to through the baggage process. The Aero Mexico rep at the special baggage counter decided that she didn’t like Wilson’s paperwork, which had already gone through customs in Canada and Mexico (just that morning). She rejected us, so I retreated and hid behind a column until she went on break and then had no problems with her replacement.

As we drew closer to departure I began to recognize other travelers who had been on the same flight from Vancouver. We swapped stories of our day, which had been a long one for everyone.

Tensions began to rise as there was still no designated gate for our flight. The internet indicated a gate at the other end of the airport but the staff at the airport assured all of us that the Aero Mexico website was wrong. We should stay in the terminal we were in and await the specific gate number which would be announced any minute.

Now less than an hour from our departure, the public address system announced that the gate for our flight was indeed at the other terminal. My fellow travelers and I picked up our carry-on luggage and jogged through the crowded terminal. Upon arrival at the new gate, we were advised by an Aero Mexico rep that our gate had once again changed, and that our flight was delayed. Indefinitely.

Much of the rest of that night at the airport was a blur. I know there was yet another gate change. When boarding was finally announced it involved small busses. I was crammed into one of the three busses for the better part of thirty minutes as we sat on the tarmac and awaited our release to the plane in front of us. When we landed in Costa Rica it was 2:45 a.m. By the time I made it to the hotel it was close to 4:00 a.m.

Bride #1 picked us up around 9:00 a.m. and we slogged through traffic on the four-hour ride home. I was delirious for a couple of days, but know I spent the better part of them working on roof leaks and other issues with our house that had awaited my return.

Several weeks passed before we learned that our container had been offloaded in Mexico, where it would vacation for several weeks. It then sailed past our house in transit on its way to spend some additional quality time in Panama. About nine weeks since I’d said goodbye to our container in Canada, it arrived in Costa Rica, where it was tagged by customs for a special, random investigation.

A couple of months later, our goods (presumably thoroughly inspected) were released. The driver of the delivery truck was nervous about fitting in our driveway, so the movers and I spent the better part of a couple of days with my new-to-me Kia Bongo truck, moving boxes and furniture from the delivery truck into my pick-up, which I then drove to our house.

Most of our goods made it intact, though apparently the special investigation included someone’s need to take apart Thing #2’s computer to harvest some of the components.

Now, roughly five months since our return, we’ve mostly settled in. I gave myself a polite pat on the back for giving up on buying a home in Canada when I read that Justin Trudeau had proposed a two year ban on the purchase of real estate by foreigners. This blip of happiness was offset by Costa Rica’s refusal to renew our residency, forcing us to start over.

I don’t know what the future holds. I do know one thing: I’m never moving again.

Pura Vida

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