another setback

We received the following fax this morning:

To: Jeanne Maly / Ron Lussier
From: Laura

Hi to both of you,

I was told by Alicia that I could fax to you any information thru a number she gave me.

Jeanne, Ron, and Tyler what I wanted to tell you that since you left Miami we have been in contact with APL for the letters of intent and they finally arrived to me yesterday Wednesday September 20, 2000 at 11:15 in the morning. Enclosed proof of DHL reciept. I was suppose to have received them on Monday early in the morning and APL never DHL them to us on time (as usual). After I recieved them I had to go to where your vehicles are at and have the letter of intent signed by Southern Star. Once I had the letter of intent signed by Southern Star I headed to the Port of Miami to U.S. Customs for the validation. Unfortunately, I was involved in a car accident on my way to the port. After taking care of the matter, I proceeded to the port, and arrived two minutes late. While all this was going on, Alicia told me that she had spoken to you, and she spoken to you and advised you that the validation was complete not knowing what had happened to me on my way to the port.

I went back to customs this morning to speak to the supervisor from U.S. Customs to get a waiver on the 72 hours, they explained to me that they were not allowed to give waivers, unless it was a government emergency or earthquakes emergency to anybody and that permit had to come from U.S. Customs in Washington D.C.

You do not know how bad I feel that this has happened, because I have done everything in my power to help you get these vehicles on time to you.

I am very sorry that your vehicles will be finally leaving now on the Sea Ocelot voyage 6 on Oct. 2. They will arrive on Oct. 5. Final customs is processed on your vehicles. […]

This was devastating to me. With the first delay I’d been stoic… I felt I could deal with a week’s delay and make it up on the way south. Another week’s delay before we even begin left me feeling very depressed.

Jeanne saw the fax over my shoulder. She couldn’t believe this was happening to us. The previous delay had been entirely APL’s fault, and had cost us a week of our journey. Now they had delayed again, costing us another week. Our forwarder had tried to get the paperwork through customs in the small amount of time that APL left her, but the accident made that impossible.

While Jeanne finished reading her email, I went back to the hotel where Tyler was packing for the trip to Mérida. I showed him the fax. He slumped. After a moment, he asked me what I was thinking. “I’m thinking I want to go home” I said, and I was. I wanted my life to be predictable again, and I wanted to be surrounded by friends, not three unpredictable strangers. I could feel myself sliding towards a complete meltdown.

We had tickets to go to Mérida at 2pm, and it was noon. We each finished packing and met in the lobby. I was feeling dazed and lost and very, very homesick. I only remember bad things from the ride to the airport… piles of garbage on the sides of mountains below slums, pollution, the increased army presence on the roads in preparation for the OPEC II summit, the never-ending sound of blaring horns.

My mind was churning. Why was I doing this? Could I bail out and live with myself? Could I leave Jeanne and Tyler to fend for themselves? Did I even like them? Why wasn’t I taking trains around Europe and staying in nice hotels? Why wasn’t I a stronger person? Why couldn’t I just let go and let things happen? Questions and more questions overlapped in my head. I felt like I was going to be sick.

Halfway to the airport, I turned around and said “I’m going home.” It felt good to say it. I’d retrieve my van, drive back to San Francisco, hole up in my home for a few months of depression, and then get better. The math added up… two months of depression in fairly comfortable San Francisco is greater than 9 months of depression in fairly uncomfortable South America.

The rest of the ride to the airport was in silence.

We got to the airport, and the others checked in. I hung back. I told them I was going to fly back to Miami immediately.

“You’ve been planning this two years. Do you really want to change your mind during a cab ride to the airport? Come to Mérida and think about it.” said Tyler. His tone was kind and non-judgemental. I wanted to hug him. I needed some kindness. I needed lots of kindness.

“I just don’t want to be unhappy for nine months” I whined. (I hate whining. I don’t want to be a whiner, and here I am whining. Argh!)

My rational side came forward for a moment. “We need to talk.”

“Okay, we have time before the plane leaves. Let’s talk.” said Jeanne. We went to one side of the airport, piled our bags, and sat in a circle on the floor.

I almost immediately started crying. “I know I’m a control freak, and I thought I could stand being out of control. But I can’t. I thought I could do this trip, but maybe I’m not the right sort of person to do this. And I don’t want you all to hate me.” I was sobbing now. Sobbing and whining. It was not a good day for my self-image. Both Jeanne and Tyler put a hand on my shoulder. I didn’t say anything, but I appreciated the contact.

After a while of more talking (on everyone’s part) and crying (on my part) I agreed to go to Mérida. So I checked in, we got onto the plane, and off we went.

Mérida is built into a hanging valley between two mountain ranges. It’s about 2 km wide by 15 km long. The entire town slants from one end to the other. Just past the airport the town drops off, and standing on the runway, I felt like I could start rolling down the tarmac and fall off the edge of the world.

We’re staying at the Posada Luz Caraballo. A posada is a small inn. This one is charming, and tries very hard to have a warm, home-like feel. There are blankets, baskets, paintings, and old plows mounted on the walls. The public areas are filled with rustic chairs of wood and leather. It’s the sort of place where you can just hang out and relax, which is good, since that’s the sort of place we all need.

The posada faces the Plaza de Milla, a small public square with a bandstand, statue of Simon Bolivar, and lovers occupying every bench. Teenagers on skateboards practice their jumps against Bolivar’s pedestal. The trees in the park, like all of Mérida, are covered with spanish moss and bromeliads. The climate here is cooler (at ~4500 feet) but still tropical.

My ‘room’ is more like a cell. I have a ‘matrimoniál’, or a large bed, and there is also a bunk bed in the room. It’s hard to imagine a family of four in here… the space is tiny. The entire room is perhaps 12 feet by 8 feet, with a separate cramped bathroom. The walls and ceiling are rough and lumpy plaster, so the place looks more like a rectangular cave. There are jalousie windows which look out over a tin roof. I opened them, but closed them again when the vent on the roof started pumping out the smell of burning kerosene.

At around 8, I went outside to the Plaza de Milla to make a few phone calls. First I call Jahan, our contact at APL. I get his answering machine and leave a message telling him the situation, how distressed I am, and ask him to fix things. I don’t really think he’ll be able to do so, but perhaps he’ll work a miracle for us. Airlift the vans to Caracas, or get them onto another ship sailing earlier. Who knows?

Next I call my boyfriend Dan in San Francisco. We talk and he says the right things. He understands, and basically says he’ll love me no matter what. It’s what I need to hear. We talk about other things, and I want to fall asleep to his voice. But the rains start, and I use them as an excuse to say goodbye.

It’s now 10pm, and it’s raining outside. The rain is hammering on the tin roof outside my window, and the kerosene smell has been washed away. I love the sound of a r
ainy night, and hope that it continues.

I’m not as ready as I thought to make this sort of journey. Continuing on the journey will develop the strength of character I need. I think that if I get through the next 3 months, I’ll be okay. But the next three months may be very tough. My rational side knows I can survive this. My emotional side wants to be at home in San Francisco, in bed, under the covers.


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