Our first Christmas in Mexico is now past. I’ll admit that being from Chicago, celebrating this holiday without the bitter cold and snow is rather strange and different – and our family found it a little hard to get into the holiday spirit not so much because of the weather, but being so far away from family and friends during this time of year – where being with people we care about is typically one of the ways we celebrate. It also didn’t help that we realized just how badly we had packed away all of our Christmas decorations for our move. So with the normal untangling of strings of lights which then wouldn’t work, we had a hard time locating some of these seasonal items and boxes, and then after finding them (in an outdoor storage area), not only did we bring those items into the house but we brought some extra critters that had decided to take up residence in our moving boxes. I dare any of you to be in the holiday spirit after unraveling damaged lights, sorting through broken tree accessories, kids complaining that their hand-made ornaments from pre-school didn’t make the move all while simultaneously fighting off crazed-cats and creepy crawlers.
To help us get into the holiday spirit our family flew into Orlando, Florida for a few days to see my parents and to visit Epcot Center and Legoland. First and foremost it was great to see and spend time with my parents. But I won’t go into any more mushy details than that because my mom reads all my blogs and I don’t want to make her cry – but even without all the exciting magic kingdom events – it was great to see them. I highly recommend Epcot, although the “rides” weren’t exciting enough for our 10 year old. I also recommend Florida’s Legoland (which is about 10 times bigger than the Legoland in Schaumburg, Illinois), especially for younger kids (it was perfect for our girls, the youngest of which is 7).
To get to Orlando we first had to fly to Houston, Texas for a layover, and then hopped onto another plane from Houston to Orlando. Flying anywhere, in my opinion, is stressful and a lot of work. Flying internationally compounds all that work and stress.
I will say that I really didn’t realize how stressful it is being in a surrounding where it’s a struggle to communicate. It has become a way of life for us in Mexico – we are making the best of it and learning Spanish as quickly as we can. Arriving in Houston I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. I could understand the people around me – if I had a question, it was easy to speak and ask and understand the answer in reply. Likewise, while driving around in Orlando – I was amazed at how relaxing it was to move from one place to another in a vehicle. Most of the time I felt like we were driving on clouds – it was so smooth compared to what we drive on in our local area in Mexico. And it goes without saying how relaxing it was to be among other courteous drivers who were obeying the traffic laws. Compared to driving in our local area, driving around in Orlando I felt like one of those fussy babies who will only fall asleep in a moving car (especially as while driving around in Mexico I’m usually crying and yelling) but back in the U.S. I was so relaxed and soothed I could have closed my eyes and taken a peaceful power nap.
Back to international flying – most likely depending on your destination, you will have to change flights multiple times – and it seemed to me all the gates for international flights were on the complete opposite side of the airport from our next domestic departure. I’m not opposed to walking, and people-watching at airports is fun (quick tip: if you see someone walking through an airport with sunglasses on they might be a celebrity… you should run ahead of them while getting your cellphone out to snap a selfie with them behind you – you never know…) but I found that walking long distances at the airports just gave our two children more chances to trip us with their roller-luggage. A little girl walking through the airport dragging her own bright pink Hello Kitty luggage with light-up wheels behind them might be cute to a typical onlooker, but honestly, it’s a very deadly weapon and I strongly suggest you make a very wide berth around them. Getting tired of risking a broken ankle, or worse from these parent-seeking missiles of ours, we ended up carrying our own luggage as well as the kids – which probably was their strategy to begin with, and made all the walking seem that much longer. They should add “walking through airports with children and their luggage” an obstacle in the Tough Mudder courses – I guarantee that would be the hardest part of that entire race.
For any international flying you’ll have to factor in extra time to deal with the immigration process. And, if you are like us and your immigration paperwork hasn’t been completed yet (even though we were assured it would be), that can add a little spice to the entire process. Luckily our trip to and from Mexico went smoothly – but I’ll admit I lost a little sleep beforehand worrying about that process. I also have to share how awesome our rental guy is at the airport. I’ve said it before and will say it again about living in Mexico – things are slower and a bit looser than what we are accustomed to in the U.S. So I will be the first to admit that when the rental guy assured us weeks ago that he would wait for us on Christmas Eve to return and give us our rental car back, I didn’t believe him. I’m sure at the time he meant it – but I figured: 1) this is Mexico; and 2) it’s Christmas Eve… all the rental places will be closed and we’ll have to figure out an alternative method of getting home from the airport. But sure enough, on Christmas Eve, after going through immigration and thankfully getting the green light with our luggage, we entered the main airport to see all rental car companies closed: their gates down, lights off, etc. But the last rental company in the hallway, the one we needed, was open and our rental guy was sitting there by himself, waiting for us – just like he said he would. I can honestly say that his “gift” to our family that night is easily one of my favorite gifts from this season – and a good lesson for me as next time I promise to have a little more faith in people.
The rest of our actual travel journey is basically the same as any other domestic flying (although I’ll add a note to look out for international roaming charges… yikes! and even though most airports now offer “free” WiFi – the connection is so bad that you shouldn’t bother): if your family is anything like ours, then you have an addiction for electric outlets to frantically charge those little devices we depend on so much; trying to eat healthy in an airport is really challenging – and should you come across a Shipley Do-Nuts – do yourself a favor and get a treat – they are all amazing; talking on speakerphone while on your cellphone is really annoying no matter what language you are speaking so please do the world a favor and just don’t do it (unless you are speaking French, and are a dude… in which case, come have your conversation near me).
At the end of our holiday travels, it was strange to me to be leaving the U.S. to “return home”. Being in Orlando with my folks: I was already home. But even missing the U.S. and our family and friends, while in Orlando we also missed our new home in Mexico, too. As the saying goes: “home is where the heart is”, and I’m learning now that I’ve left pieces of my heart with my parents in Florida, with family and friends back in the Chicagoland area, and now in Mexico. We’ve been here now for five months, and I guess that’s long enough for this country to grab a small piece of our hearts.
So our first Christmas in Mexico is now past. If you observe Christmas, then where ever your heart lives I hope your holiday was wonderful and filled with stress-free travels with people you care about, bright critter-free trees covered in hand-made pre-school memorabilia and an opportunity to restore your faith in people.
Just keep an eye out for those kids and their roller-luggage.