January 25, 2022
Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
This is not going to be a political or judgmental story. Whether or not you choose to have a covid vaccination is your own business. We chose to be vaccinated, and this is the tale of everything we went through here, in Mexico, to get “the jab.” Believe me, it wasn’t easy.
When you are in a place other than your home country, and there is an alien (covid) invasion going on, what do you do? We check the world news every day, and yet, it’s hard to know what to believe, which set of statistics to trust, and what the heck is really going on. Here is the timeline of our “jab”ber-whacky experiences.
We were in the middle of a house sit in Cancun when we first heard about covid. The virus had infected some people in China, and we didn’t give it much attention. Pshaw! What’s the worst that could happen? We had heard rumblings like this before, and we were too busy taking care of dogs and cats, and enjoying a gorgeous house in a tropical paradise.
Wow, in 2020 things began to change. The virus had made its way to the Americas. We behaved ourselves and did exactly what Mexican officials suggested we do. We isolated, masked, sanitized and washed our hands so many times it’s amazing we still have fingerprints.
We stayed in Cancun until the end of April, since we were due to be at our next house sit in Barra de Navidad on May 1st. When officials in Cancun began to make masks a requirement rather than a suggestion, as people in the US were scrambling to buy toilet paper, we were hunting for masks. Masks aren’t things beach people keep in surplus. Finally, our housekeeper made us some.
We were thinking that the covid scare was probably exaggerated and now that we had masks, we could hide at our Caribbean compound from the world turmoil. No worries, amigos! Then two things happened that shattered our idyllic fantasy.
First, we were not allowed into Superama (our favorite Cancun grocery store), because we were, gulp, too OLD!
I protested, but it didn’t do any good. The Superama people were trying to protect anyone over 60 from covid germs by only allowing them into the store early in the morning. Good grief! Early morning was my running time, and I didn’t think we looked that old, especially with our masks and sunglasses on. But hey, we are guests in Mexico. I knew not to push it.
We learned to buy groceries online and have them delivered, and we isolated even more. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. I ran, walked the dogs, and drew a lot of cartoons. John swam, gave instructions (from a distance) to the gardener and pool guy and did photography stuff. We got A LOT done. In our minds, we were invisible and covid was not going to find us.
And then our bubble popped. Ka Pow!
John got an email from the airlines. Our flight to Barra had been cancelled due to covid. Yikes! After booking, rebooking 3 times, and losing a significant amount of money, John finally got us a flight that would take us to Mexico City, and then to Manzanillo. We would catch a taxi to Barra from there.
You may not realize that Mexico City is the largest city in North America and its airport is humongous. Get this. We were 2 of 8 people on our flight there. Unbelievable! The CDMX airport, which is usually packed, was like a ghost town. Inconceivable! But we were glad for the emptiness, since we were just getting used to wearing masks. We made it to Barra with plenty of leg room, arm room, luggage room, and airport room with a day to spare.
Our first 6 months in Barra were like a dream. Healthy people. Very few masks. We continued to isolate, but did try to experience a few of the open restaurants and attractions of the area. We decided to get my eyes fixed in Colima (about 2 hours from Barra), because house sits were few and far between, and travel restrictions prohibited returning to the US for cataract surgery. We rented an apartment in Colima and 2020 ended with me being able to see fireworks clearly for the first time in years! Yay!
Fireworks were not the only brilliant things going on as 2020 came to a close. Brilliant world scientists had rapidly developed a vaccine to fight covid. Woo hoo!
It was highly recommended that folks over 60 be vaccinated, because they were more likely to contract covid than other age groups. And again, even though we don’t think we look that old, we, gulp, are. We knew it would be prudent for us to get vaccinated.
On the US news, we saw long lines of people waiting to get the precious injection and, after a few weeks, we heard that all US citizens could simply walk into a local pharmacy and get the shot. Mexico was a bit slower to roll out their inoculation plan and it wasn’t until we got back to Barra, in May, that we started hearing about shots being available locally. This was great news. We were so excited, until we found out that the jabs were only available to Mexican citizens and residents. Well, we’re not Mexican and, at that time, we weren’t legal residents. We were house sitting a huge villa and couldn’t abandon it. There was no way we could leave Mexico to get our shots.
The end of July, we found out that vaccinations were going to be available in Cihuatlan, a town about 15 minutes away from Barra. We opted to take our chances, throw ourselves at their mercy, beg, and cry for our jabs. We knew the injections, at this time, were only available for three days, so we went on the second day, thinking the line would be shorter and it would be easy to get in to plead our case.
We easily found the hospital. It was the place that had a courtyard with a multitude of people lined up between stanchions in a zig-zag pattern like at an airport. But unlike any airport we’d ever visited, the line continued down the highway further than we could see.
As John pulled our car to the side of the road, a guy hustled over to us and, in English, asked us if we were there to be vaccinated. When we replied, “yes,” he told us that the health workers were only administering 1000 shots a day and they had already made their quota for that day.
I looked down the highway at the crowd, and said, “So these people must have gotten here really early.” He responded, “Oh, they are waiting in line for tomorrow.”
We looked at each other, thanked him, and went home. We knew we wouldn’t get jabbed in Cihuatlan.
We had heard from my friend ,Paco, that shots were also available in a small town called La Huerta (about an hour from Barra), and we could probably get in there. So, we gassed up the car, packed a lunch and plenty of water, and saved the route on Google Maps. The next morning, got up while it was still dark to venture into a part of Mexico we’d never seen. Our goal was to return home with anti-covid juice running through our veins. After all, we are the king and queen of adventure. What could go wrong?
I noticed on the map (I’m usually the navigator while John drives) that the road to La Huerta looked like it had been drawn in a moving vehicle on a bumpy road. It was a long series of zigs and zags. Now, since I was a kid, I get queasy on curvy roads. But, there was no other way that we saw to get there, and John swore to me that he would go slow. What neither of us realized was that the zigs and zags also went UP! La Huerta is nestled in a valley just past a mighty mountain range. Zig-zag roads are hard for me, but when it comes to heights, well, heights trump curvy roads any day. I’m terrified to be up any higher than two floors. My fear is like a Stephen King nightmare epic!
I tensed as I glanced out the window and noticed that there was no shoulder or guard rail. I stared down into a huge gulch and there was nothing to catch us if we went off the road. I gulped, tried to look calm so as not to distract John, and willed myself not to puke. John kept reminding me that we were on an adventure and to relax.
Okay, I have to admit, if I hadn’t been gripping the door handle till my knuckles went numb, and closing my eyes when the big buses and trucks passed us, I maybe could have enjoyed some beautiful country. But we kept meeting patches of fog and visibility was limited. John told me it wasn’t fog, but rather clouds.
My ears popped, and I tried to yawn to calm down. And then, as our car made a particularly sharp hairpin turn, I noticed about a dozen white crosses clumped by the side of the road. My panic level got dialed up to a 10. I was sure that this road would kill us way before covid could, and then suddenly, because of John’s steady hand at the wheel, we were there.
On wobbly legs I got out at the place where we saw a crowd of people lined up. There were also young, hunky National Guardsmen with machine guns guarding the area . John told me to pull myself together, that I may have to cry to get us in. He then smiled and reminded me that, after all, we were on an adventure. Okay, okay, I willed myself to focus on our mission…to get those jabs.
We waited in a line that wound around a neighborhood next to an open air, covered school basketball court, which was the staging area for giving out the shots. We were prepared, so we thought. We had brought drinks, snacks, paperwork which included originals as well as copies of our passports, visas, proof of address, etc. The only thing that we had left at home was bug spray, and of course, we got eaten alive by mosquitoes and no see-ums. Wonderful!
After standing in line for about an hour, feeding the bugs, we arrived at the first tent-covered area (Holding Area #1). We had to sit in chairs that were numbered. A lady came around to check our paperwork. We had agreed not to say anything unless we had to. We were hoping we could slip under the radar without any type of confrontation involving Google Translate. We were the only “old” people in our group of pre-jab compadres. We were also the only gringos, and as far as we could tell, the only ones speaking English.
After a young, really nice lady in nurse scrubs looked over our paperwork, we were each given little yellow slip of paper with a number on it. Hooray! It appeared we had passed, by golly, we both had tickets to be jabbed! After about 30 minutes more of waiting, we moved on to the next level.
We were seated at a different outdoor area where chairs were arranged adjacent to the main covered basketball court. Here two cute nurses came around and took our temperatures and our oxygen levels. I guess we passed, since they didn’t send us home. We watched folks sitting in numbered chairs, in the basketball area as a team of nurses rolled a cart up and down each row and administered the shots. It was a slick, efficient operation. We were impressed.
We were led in single file to the big area, and we had to sit in the chair that matched the numbers on our little slip of paper. And wouldn’t you know it, John and I got separated by the big aisle down the middle that separated the two main areas of chairs. Yikes! John’s Spanish is better than mine and often he comes to my rescue as I try my best to communicate. I looked at him longingly across the great divide (about 20 feet) that separated us. He shrugged, as if to say, “Frankly my dear, you are on your own.” Gulp.
At this final area there were checkers that came around to thoroughly look at and collect our final paperwork. I could see that my checker would be a Mexican man that looked a little younger than us. I got my paperwork in order, made sure I hadn’t dropped my yellow ticket, and grabbed my phone with Google Translate ready to go. When it was my turn, I handed over my papers, and before I could recite my “please vaccinate me” spiel, the gentlemen said, “Oh, hi, I’m David. So, you are here from Barra?” Oh my! Real tears began to well up in my eyes. David spoke perfect English!
As we started visiting, I found out that he owned a local gym and had lived in the US for about 15 years. He was there as a volunteer to help the health officials. Gym? Holy guacamole! David was my kind of guy! I told him about my background in the gym biz, and asked him if we were going to be able to get our shots even though we weren’t residents. He smiled and replied, “I’ll make sure you do. We are not turning away anyone.” I could have hugged him. But with the armed hunky Guardsmen keeping a close eye on things, I figured it would be inappropriate.
The next part was a breeze. The nurse cart came around, and SNAP, we got jabbed!
On the way out, I introduced John to David. David gave me his phone number and invited us to work out at his gym, as well as, come to dinner at his home when we returned for our second shot. We exchanged phone numbers and left with huge smiles on our faces. What an awesome adventure.
Evidently, there were no singing fat ladies in La Huerta that day. The saga continues…
Our smiles dissipated when we got back to the car and John turned the ignition. The car was dead. Really? In our fervor to get our jabs John had forgotten to turn off the headlights. There was no one moseying down the street, so while John stayed with the car, I walked back to the jab staging area to find David.
Of course, this wonderful man, who now had achieved ninja status in our books, was happy to help. It wasn’t easy. One of David’s friends had jumper cables (another thing we had forgotten to bring), but his car was in the shop. David called everyone he could think of to give us a jump, but it was siesta time in La Huerta. Finally, we spied, chugging our way, an elderly woman driving a dilapidated truck that was full of kids. She was more than willing to help us, and within minutes John and David had both vehicles connected via the cables, she revved her engine, and our car started. As we drove away David said the second dose would be available in about a month, and he looked forward to seeing us again then. Wow! What a guy!
I think when they injected the anti-covid juice in me they mixed in a big dose of courage, because I didn’t panic, grip the door or have any kind of angst all the way home.
We were notified that on September 8th, we should go back to La Huerta to get jabbed yet again. August is normally rainy season in this part of Mexico. Of course, it had been raining for about a week, and the rain was coming down steadily on the morning of the 8th. We had our favorite taxi driver, Gabby, take us to La Huerta this time. Yes, because of the rain, it was even scarier than the first trip, but we trusted Gabby’s expertise, and I just closed my eyes and listened to a book the whole way.
This time we didn’t have to wait to get poked. Because of the rain, I guess, we had picked the perfect time. In and out, easy peasey. We were back home within three hours.
The next day there was a horrible landslide on the curvy road to La Huerta. Cars were destroyed and a few people lost their lives when a huge boulder tumbled down the mountain and hit them, blocking the route. We were lucky.
Since September, the omicron variant of covid has made its nasty presence known. We thought we were supposed to wait 6 months to get the next shots, but with the omi“crud” going around, we went ahead and got “boosted” here in Morelia. Last Thursday was two weeks after our boost, so we now have had all that’s available in our bodies to fight covid.
When I was a kid, I hated going to the doctor. I grew up in the “olden” days when injection needles were monstrous, long and girthy. They had yet to invent the sleek, tiny pokers that are used today. Shots were painful. I was not a fan.
Never, ever would I have believed that I would go to such extreme lengths to get jabbed.
Things have certainly changed. Welcome to the new normal.
Bring it on. We’ve got this. Life is an adventure.