I arrived early this morning in Tapachula, 1:30am to be exact, and the tiny Rapidos del Sur bus station was empty, aside from one guy watching Game of Thrones en español, an employee passed out in a chair next to a shrine dedicated to Mary, and another employee "guarding" the baño (aka charging 5 pesos to use it (10 complimentary squares of toilet paper included!)). The worst part was the station was open-air, and it was hot and humid.
"Great… what the fuck am I going to do until the sun comes up? There are NO hostels here, and I'm sure as fuck not paying for a hotel just to check out in a few hours."
Time to read more Dune!
I got sucked into reading Dune a few days ago when my friend Josh told me he started listening to the audiobook and it reminded me I had it on my Kindle. I have been glued to my Kindle for hours every night slamming through that book. I've read over 400 pages in a few nights and I JUST CAN'T STOP!
That's what she said.
After moving around a bit and doing some reading, exhaustion from the little sleep on a long, bumpy bus started to take its toll. I didn't want to sleep when I first arrived, even though I was tired already, because the station looked like it was in a sketchy area and I have major trust issues when I'm carrying around everything I own in two packs. But after enough time I gave in and hesitantly bundled my shit together under a bench in the station. I secured everything as best I could and laid down with my Kindle in hand. After reading some more, and nodding off a few times and waking up after only a minute or two I decided to test my Spanish and just ask one of the employees how I could get to Guatemala City.
"Hola. Como voy a la Ciudad de Guatemala?"
"Ah – un momento."
He slips his hand into a drawer and pulls out a slip of paper with the words "Abordar en Terminal OCC – 3a Norte y 17a Oriente."
An address, which he tells me is only 5 minutes away.
"Cinco minutos caminando?" I don't know if that's a real sentence, but I tried.
"No," he says, and points outside, "Taxi!"
Hmmm… 40 pesos for a 5 minute ride?
Cue the foreboding music.
I go back to my backpacks and disconnect them from each other, pack up, and walk out the door.
Aside from a handful of taxis waiting just outside the streets are bare.
I exit left out of the station and past the taxis. I see another kid walking down the street with me – he has a small backpack on and ear buds in.
Alright, I think, maybe this place isn't too sketchy.
I walk through an intersection and a couple guys and a girl cross my path, walking like they just came from a bar.
Ok, so there are people out.
I approach a hill with taxis regularly coming down it. I decide I'm not in such a bad area after all, so I put my earbuds in, press play, and blast the volume. As I'm walking up the hill I loosen up and start moving to the rhythm.
I'm halfway up the hill when my earbuds are violently jerked out of my head. They're not pulled out, but the force from the arm suddenly wrapped around my neck jolts them out, and instead of music I hear, "Dinero! Dinero!"
I see orange in the right corner of my vision. His sleeve. Orange shirt. I feel the arm around my neck tighten, so I push my chin down, grab onto it, and try to bend over in an effort to lift up whoever is behind me. I feel a surge of heat on my lower left jaw, which doesn't sink in as a punch until a moment later.
I feel another fist land in my left shoulder and start to lose my balance as the guy I'm lifting up on my back releases me to land back on the ground. I spin halfway around to see four guys surrounding me. The one in orange who tried to choke me is in the lead, his eyes are narrowed, and he's yelling something in Spanish, but all I catch is "Dinero!" over and over. There's a short stumpy guy in a grey shirt next to him, and I don't even have time to scan the other two before the kid in orange takes advantage of my instability and pushes me back. I attempt to spin back around and catch myself but the angle of the hill trips me up and I crash down on my right side, my glasses going flying and the backpack on my right shoulder getting dragged off my arm by the road. The two guys I couldn't identify rip the small backpack away before I have time to realize what's happened, and snag the iPhone and my earbuds that fell to the ground the same time I did.
Then I sense a bright light in my peripheral and hear the sound of a car approaching.
My lucky day!
But the kid in orange stands up, and as the car honks, he waves him to drive around us, yelling something in Spanish, and the car drives around us.
As far as I could tell in that clusterfuck the two who grabbed my small pack backed off as the car passed, and started walking back down the hill. The kid in orange and the guy in grey try to pull at my backpack while hitting me a few times in the left shoulder and taking a couple weak hits at my skull.
Luckily I always pull the straps on my big pack hard because it's heavy enough that the shoulder straps might snap if there was enough slack.
Orange and Grey can't get my pack off, and as I start to fight back, struggling to get back up, they make a hasty retreat to rejoin their friends halfway down the hill.
By the time I'm up I realize my glasses are gone. I spend a few seconds looking for them, but finding a pair of glasses on a wet Méxican road with imperfect vision turns out to be too futile for me when some punks are trying to make off with a bag chock full of electronics, my wallet, a Kindle, my journals, and some books.
I start walking down the hill after them, trying to think of what to say, but my Spanish is such shit the only thing I can think of to get their attention is, "Tengo dinero! Tengo dinero!"
I have money! I have money!
Good one, Rick.
As I get within 20 or so feet of them the two guys who took my small pack keep walking, but Orange and Grey turn around, "Tienes dinero?!"
You have money?!
"Sí! Give me back my pack. Tengo dinero!"
The two start walking toward me and by this time I'm at the bottom of the hill, next to the corner curb of one of the sidewalks. The two guys are standing in front of me, demanding the money I told them I have, but I hold my ground, yelling at them, "Give me the backpack!"
"Tienes dinero?!" They repeat as they get in my face, trying to pat me down to find the money. They start getting aggressive again, the kid in orange going so far as to put his hands in my pockets. Unfortunately for his ignorant little brain I had been wearing a low profile money belt under my shirt which they failed to check. I began to push them away when out of nowhere flashing lights and the sounds of sirens fill the intersection. The two guys walking up the street with my backpack and iPhone immediately break into a sprint while Orange and Grey make a run for it but get slammed into the ground by two officers who had jumped out of the bed of a Policía pickup truck as it slid to a stop in the middle of the intersection. I start going after the two guys who have my small pack but carrying the weight of my big pack I quickly lose sight of them – I wasn't going to risk losing both packs by dropping the big one in the middle of the street. I turn around to see one of the officers pushing Orange toward the truck, kicking him in the back when he resists, and slamming the barrel of his handgun into the punk's left shoulder blade, causing him to keel over in pain, falling on his knees only to be jerked back up the officer and thrown in the back of the truck.
There's a petite Méxican girl in a tight little dress screaming, looking at me and seeming to plead for my help, yelling, "Mi hermano! Mi hermano!"
Ah, so that little shit in the orange is your brother? Go fuck yourself.
One of the officers approaches me, stops about 15 feet away, and says something in Spanish while pointing down each road, which I interpret as him asking which way the other guys went. I point down the road the two guys ran with my pack and the officer orders two other officers on motorcycles in that direction and they take off, followed soon after by another Policía truck screaming down the hill swerving around the first pickup, and then a patrol car with its lights blaring. The pickup with Orange and Grey in the back speeds off, and before I have time to register what just happened in the past 30 seconds, I'm alone once more in the intersection.
Except for the girl in the tight dress, who comes up to me again, hysterical, and pleading with me to do something, but I have no idea what she's saying. Within moments after the intersection is cleared, a taxi pulls up, rolls down the window and gets my attention. It takes a moment for me to pull myself together and I speed toward the taxi. At first I'm not even sure where I want to go, or where I should go, or if I should wait to see if the police come back, and then I realize I probably shouldn't be standing around outside alone anymore. I hop in, and the girl tries to get in with me, pleading with me again. The taxi driver looks at me and points at the girl.
"No!" I say. "Go! Uh – estación del autobús!"
He waves the girl off and starts to drive away. "Donde?"
"Ah – sí, sí!"
Having undoubtedly witnessed the tail end of the police action he tries to make small talk with me, but I don't understand what he's saying. After driving a block and seeing the bus station on the next block I have a face-palm moment, and get the driver's attention, "La Policía!"
"Sí! La estación de Policía!"
Immediately he floors it and takes off down the street, swerving around every car in his way and ignoring every street sign. He tries to ask me questions, but I don't understand him. Eventually he just focuses on driving. We're taking back road after back road, driving through abandoned neighborhoods and storefronts, swerving around massive potholes and deep puddles in the road. I'm beginning to think this guy is taking me to an isolated part of town just to get jumped again. I raise my guard and heighten my senses. After what seemed like a lot longer than it probably was we arrived in a busted ass part of town, where it looked like a few homeless people were just hanging around.
Great, I thought. I was right.
He replies, assuredly, "Sí, aquí" and he points toward what looks like the guard shack of a parking lot.
50 pesos. 10 more than it would have cost me to take a taxi to the other bus station instead of walk. I hand him 70 and thank him again.
I walk into the parking lot and see a wet, dirt parking lot of busted up Policía vehicles – cars, trucks, motorcycles.
I guess this is it.
I hear a voice to my right say something in Spanish, and I turn to see a uniformed officer. After a brief interaction we come to the mutual understanding that neither of us understands the other.
I try to convey to him I've been robbed, but I don't have the vocabulary to even hint at it, and he just keeps repeating the same few Spanish words until it clicks in my head.
It's Cinco de Mayo. The police station is closed to the public.
My mind explodes.
I'm speechless, and all of a sudden scared again. I'm in buttfuck nowhere in a city that already felt like buttfuck nowhere. I feel hopeless.
And then the girl in the tight dress gets out of a taxi that just pulled up.
You've got to be kidding me.
She recognizes me and gives me a look like, I don't know whether to hate you or not give a shit about you.
She approaches the guard house as well and starts talking to the officer. I have no idea what she's saying except I keep hearing "Mi hermano" sprinkled throughout, so I try to explain with "Su hermano" (her brother), and a grabbing motion with my backpack.
Nothing. It's Cinco de Mayo.
Then I see the sirens coming down the street.
Please let this be them.
And I see the big stocky officer who shoved his pistol into Orange's back standing on the bed of the truck, and I see the little fuckhead's orange shirt as he's sitting down and bent over in the bed.
I point at the truck and look at the guard, "Su hermano!" The guard looks over at the truck and the big stocky officer jumps out of the bed and comes over, tells the guard to let me in (and only me – the girl is forced to wait outside).
The big guy is wearing a Texas shirt, so I'm calling him Texas, and the average built guy driving the truck gets out wearing a black shirt with bright red snake eyes on it, so I'm calling him Snake Eyes.
I'm told to wait just inside the gate, but after a few minutes one of the officers waves me over and I enter the station. None of the officers speak decent English and I speak shitty Spanish so our interactions are simple, but I identify the two little fucks, Orange and Grey, and a man in a yellow shirt (who I think is a senior officer) motions for me to follow him down a hallway and sit down in a chair in an office he shares with another officer.
Let me tell you guys, if you think you've seen a shitty police station, you have not seen a shitty police station. The "reception area" didn't have a door, but it did have a big open hole you could walk through from the outside to be in the reception area. The office for two men I was led into was about 4' x 8' and had no windows, but it did have a 2' x 5' hole in the wall covered up by several pieces of cardboard except for the top inch, from which you could see the back of the police station where they kept a few more busted patrol cars. Oh, and the office had a nice pile of debris in the corner, too. Amarillo (the name I'm giving to the senior officer who guided me back here) uses Google translate to ask me what happened.
Guys, I have never gained more value from Google Translate than I did today as I had an entire conversation with this man AND gave a complete account in English, translated by Google into Spanish, and fully understood and appreciated by the officers who came in and laughed appreciably at me sitting at Amarillo's desk typing away on his computer.
After filling out the report I asked Amarillo what the possibility of getting my stuff back was (I had already set my expectations low, but since they had detained 2 out of the 4 fuckheads I wasn't without hope). He told me the chances were indeed low, and I told him I understand, I just wanted to ask, and he very carefully added in his heavy accent, "You can demand money from them if you want. We help you."
Fuuuuuuuuuuuck! I never thought I'd be on THIS side of Méxican law.
I declined his offer though. The guys who took my shit looked like they lived at the bottom of life – not only did I not think they would have enough money to give me much of anything, I also didn't want to break them. If they were willing to attack me like that while they were out with Orange's sister, they must be desperate, and I'm not going to make them more desperate by taking what little they had to begin with.
Jail, though? Yeah, put 'em in a fucking cell for a few days.
I didn't voice all of that to Amarillo, but he understood my desire to decline. He told me the next step was to take the pricks and the paperwork over to the Department for Crimes Against Immigrants, submit the paperwork, and prosecute the criminals.
Out of curiosity with regards to the extortion offer Amarillo asks me what I would estimate the value of the contents to be. We had already listed everything for the police report so I scanned through the list in my head as he threw out a figure.
aka $1,000 USD
He types a figure into the calculator on his computer and shows it to me.
I nod my head from side to side, conveying the message, "More-or-less."
His eyes widen and he sits back in his chair. "What is that in pesos?"
I do a rough calculation in my head. "Almost 30,000?"
His jaw drops and he starts to laugh, understanding I've also taken on a sense of humor about the situation by this point, "Man! Ellos no tienen treinta mil. They are small criminals."
They don't have 30,000.
Note – I created a super FUN GoFundMe campaign (<– click the link to check it out) to help blunt the cost of replacing some of the items I lost! If you want a good laugh then take a peek and feel free to share it with anyone you feel would be sympathetic to a man on a mission around the world!
After printing everything out we head to the Department for Crimes Against Immigrants and the waiting starts. It's Amarillo, Snake Eyes, Texas, Orange, Grey, and yours truly, just hanging out in the parking lot (the dildos are in the bed of the truck, Grey is basically passed out drunk). It's only 6am at this point and while I didn't keep track of the time or care to ask, I assume we sat out there until at least 8 or 9 when they finally opened the front door, only to see "su hermana" walk out in that same tight dress, locking eyes with me and giving me that same confusing look. By this time I just feel like she wants to fuck me, but stab me right at the end for getting her brother arrested. She starts talking to me in Spanish again, I don't understand her, and Texas tells her to go stand in the corner, but she won't stop talking shit to me so Texas motions her to stand outside the entrance to the parking lot, next to the road.
She fits the stereotypical hooker image flawlessly at this point, which is funny because that's what I thought she was when she first approached me in that intersection during the chaos.
Texas and Amarillo are incredibly nice and conversational with me while we wait. Well, as conversational as they can be given their limited English and my limited Spanish, but we make do, have a few laughs, and bond on a satisfying level.
While we're waiting Orange says something to Snake Eyes and laughs, to which Snake Eyes responds by picking up an empty 2 liter coke bottle in the bed of the truck and throwing it at him. Orange looks at Snake Eyes confused, and Snake Eyes gives him a stern look like, "I'm not fucking around" and Orange understands. He tries to find a comfortable spot to kneel, unzips his pants, and starts pissing into the 2 liter bottle.
I love these guys.
Amarillo comes over after and tells me he's going to get his brother on the phone because he's an English teacher and he'll be better able to translate between us. Amarillo explains via his brother that the chances of getting my stuff back are indeed very low, but it's still important I file the report and press charges, especially when it comes time to go to Guatemala since my immigration papers were in my stolen pack. I agreed, but he also mentioned something about having to stay for 48 hours in the event they catch the other two guys and recover my stuff. I inquired about another option and was informed I could also leave my contact information and they could get a hold of me in case they get my shit back.
I opted for the latter-latter option – I have no desire to stay in this town any longer than I have to, and considering the remote possibility I'll see my shit again, I'm fine with just doing whatever it takes to make the shitheads sit in jail for a couple nights and making sure I can get to Guatemala.
By the time we're let in not only is su hermana still there, but their fucking mom shows up and barely seems upset. She's a large Méxican woman who looks like she has a miserable resting bitch face, so it's hard to tell, but judging by her tone, she seemed more annoyed at Orange for wasting her time than she seemed angry at him trying to gang up on me and steal all my shit.
Figures. That must be one big family tree of garbage.
It takes about an hour before the woman in charge is able to see me, and we immediately reach an impasse when she realizes I barely know any Spanish and she knows no English. But I did understand when she introduced herself as Mercedes, and that's a cool fucking name in my book. We conversed briefly via Google Translate, but she let me know I needed to speak with an interpreter to ensure everyone in the building that needed to speak with me could understand in detail what I was saying, and I would need to understand the paperwork I'd be signing as it would be in Spanish.
In the meantime she asked me if I was hungry and wanted breakfast.
I had been fasting the entire day before, only had a few hours of sleep last night, and had already passed the phase of hunger in my fast so I was fine going another day without food, especially if I was going to be sitting around in this building all day.
"No, estoy bien."
She typed something into Google Translate and the English translation popped up, "You're going to eat breakfast."
I laughed, "Ok then."
She smiled back and asked me if there was anything else she could do, so I asked her if I could use a computer and a phone to call my banks and my mom to let them know what had happened, and that I was ok. Well, not the banks – I didn't care if the banks knew I was ok, but telling them I needed to cancel my cards because I was mugged by four men near the border of Guatemala was almost as fun as telling the Wells Fargo rep on my birthday 4 years ago that I needed to take out $1,200 from an ATM to fuck two strippers from the Spearmint Rhino in Las Vegas.
After I come out of making the phone calls I'm told my breakfast has arrived, and, MAN, I got excited. I walked into a room containing just a round table and a few chairs, with a small rectangular styrofoam plate sitting on the table, wrapped in aluminum foil, a stack of warm, fresh tortillas sitting on top, and a small plastic bag filled with a purple liquid (known in México as Agua de Jamaica, or just Jamaica for short, which is a sweet Hibiscus Flower Tea).
I sat down, placed those warm moist tortillas on the table and slowly removed the aluminum foil to find half of the rectangle filled with scrambled eggs and sliced ham while the other half was split into two more halves – refried black beans and caramelized bananas with a tiny bit of cheese on both.
Mercedes was right, I definitely wanted breakfast. And let me tell you, if you thought I loved the taste of food after fasting, you should have seen the smile on my face when I picked up a couple little warm tortillas in the palm of my left hand, forked a little egg-and-ham into them, covered the mix in the refried beans, and took that first bite after fasting for more than 24 hours AND having $1,500+ worth of shit stolen in a mugging because I wanted to save $2 on a taxi ride.
Within minutes the entire stack of tortillas was gone, the eggs had vanished, the beans were the victim of a legume holocaust, and those beautiful, tender, juicy bananas were taunting me, talking dirty to me, and teasing me just by existing. They made sweet, sweet banana love in my mouth, and I closed my eyes, loving every moment of it.
The rest of the day cruised on by. Just a lot of paperwork, talking to different people in the office via the interpreter – my new friend Raphael – and trying to figure my life out via the only piece of technology I had left – this damn laptop.
By the end of the day the mugging was legitimately an afterthought. Between the police and the staff of the Department for Crimes Against Immigrants, I met a bunch of cool humans, all of whom were incredibly accommodating, super patient with me and my shitty Spanish, and going out of their way to help me out or talk to me, whether it was Amarillo trying his hardest to speak English with me or getting his brother on the phone to translate for us, Texas asking me about my travels and where I'm going, Snake Eyes always treating the dildos like shit in front of me, Mercedes getting me breakfast, basically EVERYONE in the office helping me figure out how to call my mom using the office phone, or Raphael just dropping a delicious fruit bar in my hand that he got from the vending machine while I was on the phone with my mom for a while, I was just super stoked to have been mugged this morning, and how many times are you ever going to hear someone say that?
Oh, and let's not forget that before everyone started closing up for the day, they made sure I had something to eat as I was getting ready to leave.
Once again I walked into that room with the round table and found another rectangular styrofoam plate wrapped in aluminum foil, with another stack of fresh, warm tortillas, but this time with a plastic bag of a deep yellow liquid.
Mango. Fucking mango. I LOVE MANGO!
And under that aluminum foil?
Some delicious, soft rice, and a beautiful chicken thigh with potatoes and carrots, smothered in some kind of dark sauce. The chicken was cooked so well that after shredding the meat off to put on the tortillas with the rice and veggies the ends of the bone crumbled under the gentle pressure of my molars and seemed to melt in my mouth while I licked the bone marrow right off the shattered center piece.
And that mango juice. That goddamn mango juice.
Fuck yeah, guys. Fuck. Yeah.
Méxicans are awesome, and I love México!
FELIZ CINCO DE MAYO, TODO EL MUNDO
Note – Once again, I created a super FUN GoFundMe campaign (<– click the link to check it out) to help blunt the cost of replacing some of the items I lost! If you want a good laugh then take a peek and feel free to share it with anyone you feel would be sympathetic to a man on a mission around the world!
Have you ever had a super shitty day turn into a super awesome day? What happened? What made it change in your mind? Comment below and tell me about it!
- MÉRIDA – THE ADVENTURE BEGINS IN MEXICO
- REFLECTIONS ON MY TIME IN TULUM
- LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF A DREAM
- THE COST OF WALKING AWAY FROM LIFE
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