Leaving Cuba

We’re in the Havana airport catching our plane to Mexico, but it’s three minutes until the plane leaves and the airport hasn’t posted which gate to go to, or any other information whatsoever. But this seems to be normal. I wander around the airport asking at various (also unmarked) gates where people are headed. At one point, an American pilot advises a crowd of people headed to Atlanta: “I think the gate is actually over there, because that’s where the plane is. That’s where I’m going.”

I find the correct gate, and apparently we’re delayed, just because there’s nobody boarding. We don’t board for another hour, and then, suddenly, the doors open and the attendants begin scanning tickets, no first class, no pre-boarding, no warning at all.

We arrive to Cancun hours later than we expected, and meet up with Ailsa, whose flight from Boston was also delayed. Once we’re in Mexico, we can get our backlog of messages, including the one that Liathan, Collin’s youngest daughter, is also delayed, and will be arriving around midnight. We pick up our rental car and drive towards Cancun to find some dinner. Both Collin and I remark upon how weird it is that all the cars are new, that the roads are new and totally straight, that the strip of box stores and shining lights and gleaming chrome looks as if it’s been transplanted from California. Cancun, I think, is LA for douches; a colony of US amenities washed up on foreign shores to capitalize on the tourists who flock to gaudy resorts with night watchmen.

“I miss Cuba,” Collin says.

We eat dinner and wait for Liathan to land, accompanied by Ailsa’s boyfriend Ben, whom Ailsa has convinced everyone else to allow on the family vacation. As it turns out, it’s a good move, because we discover after dinner that their flight has been postponed yet again. After boarding they were un-boarded, which means now they’re supposed to get in at 4 or 5 am. They’re not sure precisely when because their plane is being fixed. By this time it’s nearly midnight, and we decide to check in to the Cancun airport Marriott in order to be close by; the night watchman at the gate, however, speaks no English, and keeps asking for our reservation. I repeat a couple of words I’ve seen advertised on the casas in Cuba: habitación, disponible: nosotros no tenemos un reservacion pero, uhhh, uhh, un habitación por la noche? Esta disponible? The night watchman nods and writes down our license and we drive through. We then attempt to sleep in between getting tearful phone calls from Liathan and more stoic messages from Ben, who is apparently passing the time by Facebooking minute-by-minute updates to one of Ailsa’s friends from school:

1:15 am — I just got on a second broken plane so that’s how my day is going.

1:20 — I bought pizza and then an hour later they gave it to the rest of the people on my flight for free.

1:23 — Aila’s sister is currently sleeping next to me.

1:28 — I scored blankets from first class.

1:33 — Liathan wakes from her slumber after being roused by a rude elderly woman.

1:36 — I’m now exiting the plane because we can’t get the flight done in a “legal” amount of time so peace out and bye world. If you need me I’ll be in the Minneapolis airport slowly rotting in a corner.

The second time they’re de-boarded, and subsequently told that the flight is cancelled, Ben makes a beeline for the help desk and tells Liathan they are not moving until they get the first flight out. They manage to get the first flight out, and arrive, after staying for a few more hours in the airport, at noon the next day. We drive to Tulum, check into our Air BnB, and take some serious naps.

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