When I head up north next week, I know I am going to experience the reverse culture shock I usually do. I will miss the laid back life I have here in Aguascalientes. And one person who I will really miss is my friend Raul.
Two years ago this October I arrived in Aguascalientes from San Luis Potosí. I had researched the city and thought that two or three weeks would suffice to visit the museums, templos and pueblos mágicos close by. Instead I stayed for three months.
When I lived in Mazatlan a few years ago I was looking for an opthalmologist and asked for a recommendation on an expat Facebook group. Jose Alberto responded along with a few others. I wound up going to Guadalajara for the cataract surgery instead.
Flash ahead two years and I’m in San Luis Potosí. Again I post in Facebook groups looking for recommendations. Jose Alberto responds and tells me that Aguascalientes is his hometown. He refers me to his nephew Fernando who still lives there. Fernando refers me to his cousin Raúl who owns a hotel.
Fernando offered to pick me up at the bus station and take me to Raul’s hotel. However he had to cancel as he had come down with the flu and was running a fever.
I took a taxi to the hotel. Expecting a hotel, I was quite surprised when I was dropped off at the door of a house. Two workers repairing a drain answered the door and showed me to my room.
I was anxious to settle in and go exploring despite the light drizzle but wanted to talk to Raúl first. What if the workers had let me into the wrong room? And of course I had no keys.
A few minutes later Raúl showed up. And he spoke English!!! I felt better already. That day was also the first of many times I would hear the comforting expression “don’t worry” from Raul.
Seeing as Fernando hadn’t picked me up and taken me to the ATM as I had anticipated, I didn’t have rent money for Raul. He assured me I could pay him when I found an ATM once I settled in.
I then asked him where I could find a garrafón of drinking water as tap water is a no-no here. He asked me to wait and in five minutes was back with one and installed the pump as well.
Another comforting expression I heard for the first of many times was “anything you need, anything you want, just ask” And I admit I did take him up on his offer a couple of times.
His son had a birthday party and I was invited to the celebration. His wife and all of his family were most welcoming. Fernando had a loncheria and I would often see family members there as well.
It was time for the Ferria and I was supposed to have left by then. Raúl had already rented out my room. No problem. Raúl moved me into his home for the weekend. And he drove me to the bus station when I left for Puerto Vallarta.
I told him I wanted to come back the following winter. There was a communal kitchen at the house that I didn’t use. I asked if it was possible to have a fridge and a microwave in my room. No problem. Just a week’s notice before I return.
And return I did. At first I moved into a room on the second floor in another house. However when a main floor room became available at the house I’d stayed in last year, Raúl moved me over.
I had intended to stay for six months, but COVID-19 changed my plans. I had numerous frantic emails from the Canadian government urging me to return immediately to Canada. I couldn’t go to Leavenworth as the insurance companies refused to cover COVID-19. I decided to stay in Mexico.
My FMM expired in April. At that time Mexico was allowing tourists to obtain another FMM, for humanitarian reasons, without leaving the country. When Raúl offered to help me deal with INM, I’m not sure he realized it would mean four visits (two on one day once) and a mountain of paperwork. It was great having him as a translator. The staff at Immigration spoke really fast and the masks made it even more difficult to understand.
Then came the advisory from Mexico Hotel and Tourism that hotels would be shut down and tourists would have nowhere to stay. Raúl said that didn’t apply to him as he was registered as a long-term hospice. He also assured me that if he was shut down that he would move me in with his family.
For three months we were under lockdown. I went out for daily walks to pick up groceries only. Raúl chauffeured me to the ATM and to Telcel to renew my phone plan. He also stopped by regularly to check on me and chat.
I had begun to stockpile some extra medication in anticipation of spending six months in Leavenworth. When that ran out, I went to Farmacia Similares where I was told it was no longer available in generic form. I then went to Farmacia Guadalajara where something got lost in the translation when I was talking to the pharmacist. Raúl to the rescue and the medication magically became available.
Yesterday morning I walked down to Farmacia Guadalajara to pick up extra medication for my upcoming trip to Leavenworth next week. I bumped into Raúl at the pharmacy and jokingly suggested he stick around when I talked to the pharmacist. And it was a good thing he did!
There was none in stock and the other locations weren’t answering their phones. Raúl offered to drive me to Farmacia Ahorro and I eagerly accepted.
His translation skills were extremely helpful once again. This pharmacy had a slightly different medication that also had a diuretic included in the formula. So now only one pill a day to control my blood pressure. A separate diuretic not necessary anymore.
Then it came to paying. I had a discount card I’d gotten in Guadalajara years ago, but my card was at home and not with me. I speak a lot of Spanish but don’t really know the alphabet all that well. Raúl helped me spell my name so it could be checked on the computer. And they found it!
Thank you Raúl for being more than just a great friend, for being a part of my family. I never worry because you always say “don’t worry” and I will miss your comforting words “anything you need, anything you want, just ask”
At the moment I’m not sure just when I’ll be coming back to Aguascalientes, but I know I have more than a room here. I have a home.