I'll admit, I have fallen behind in my journaling. The primary reason for this is simple:
Before we left Seattle, we stopped by my parent's place. My youngest sister, Heather, was suffering through a cold. Of course, I was told this after I gave her a giant bear hug.
I'm going to recount what I can remember of the last couple days...
We woke up in our hotel room. My sleep had sucked, but Sam said he had gotten great rest. After a few minutes of preparation, we made our way to the front desk where the attendent was (this time) curious about our arrangements. We told her the story, dropped off the bill and a thank you note. littleblueduck, I have their address back in Gig Harbour, so help me out in sending off a thank you card then.
We grabbed a shuttle and returned to SFO. Their moving walkways were pretty cool. Their TSA was way cooler. Unlike Seattle (TSA in block letters on their back, grumpy attitudes on their front) the members of TSA in SFO were good natured and efficient. I can only assume the "Team SFO" written on the back of their uniforms made all the difference.
We found our place and waiting for our standby tickets to turn into actual confirmations. This was different than Seattle, where they were confirmations immediately. The crowd was also a different calibre. I counted four kinds of travelers:
- Affluent late 30 to 40-somethings, and their trophy spouse.
- More harried looking families.
- Spring breakers.
Those were ordered in magnitude. I saw maybe three natives. Meanwhile, the loud #1s were all palling together in "you look so good, where did you get it done" fests. No joke.
We boarded and I was out cold before we flew past San Jose.
I woke up to the airplane shaking. We were at 30 thousand feet and experiencing turbulence. The pilot said he would lower us to 25 thousand and see how it went. I checked my watch and we had at least another hour and a half before arriving in Puerto Vallarta. samfu had gotten the window seat, and the guy to the right of me put off a grumpy non-communicative vibe. No random conversation opportunity there.
It was here that I began panicing. I took more than the required bevy of Spanish in community college starting back in 1999. Before that, I had grown up with bits of it being hammered into my brain. However, it's 2006 now and I hadn't used my education at all in the intervening time. Finally, the only Spanish samfu knows is "dos carne asada burrito por favor." The difference between depending on myself and having someone else depend on me is dramatic. I was really going to test myself.
Quite a final.
We passed Mazatlan. We approached the Bay of Banderas. We began our descent. The outskirts of Puerto Vallarta were similar to all the infrastructure I had seen from the air thus far. Dirt roads, Mexican style homes, even a few clay adobe/pueblo looking developments. As we got closer and closer to the coast, though, the buildings got weirder and weirder.
It must not ever rain here. That is the only conclusion I can come to when I consider the architectural styles. When you're generally freed from the elemental constrictions, aspects to a building that might have seemed required: a roof, four walls, foundations. These all become optional. Our pictures are the only thing that will do our sights descriptive justice.
We landed, filed off the plane into a bus, rode the bus to the terminal and began the Mexican customs. samfu and I had two different experiences in the first stage (documentation check) of customs.
You need three things on this first part. Proof of citizenship, proof of identity, and a completed tourist permit. A passport, which neither samfu or I have, satisfies the first two requirements. Instead, we're using thrown together equivalents. Strictly speaking, mine are legally valid. His is far more questionable. In Seattle, the airline (Alaska) required we pickup an affidavit of citizenship for him as his photocopied birth certificate and social security card don't cut it.
The tourist permit paperwork was given to us on the plane. Fill in the blanks, and the bottom half is given to you as alien documentation. Don't lose it, or you will be charged $40 USD on your return flight.
I went first and walked up to a disinterested looking official. In my hands were my state ID, official birth certificate, and tourist permit. Without looking at me, he took the permit, stamped it twice, handed me back the card and waved me through. My documentation hadn't left my hands.
samfu stepped up to another official. He didn't get through so easily. The affidavit we got in Seattle was no good. Neither were his photocopies. The only piece of legitimate documentation he had was his driver's license. Then the customs official's computer crashed.
I'd like to write here how samfu fixed Puerto Vallarta's customs software infrastructure, was loved all around, and all was happy. I can't.
The official cursed, said to samfu, "bring a passport next time" and waved him through. Stage one complete. Now to find our bags.
Oh, that was easy. Oversize carry-ons get a separate area and our bags were the only ones there.
Stage two of customs was like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The random search part. There are two aisles with a stoplight kind of thing or each. You press a button and either a green light turns on and you can continue, or a red light turns on and you are fully searched. Truly random, truly fair. I liked it!
samfu and I got in line. The guy in front of us got a red light. I thought, "Dope! A random search! The first I'll ever see." The customs official looked left, then right, finally turned and said to the man, "you can go through."
Hurray for profiling.
samfu and I got greens and passed through into Mexico.