Before you read Part Two, read Part One, Here.
“How long have you lived here?” Stephen started back up.
Fidel, desiring a break from the silence as well, responded happily enough, “15 years. I’m not originally from here, though. Mexico City is where I was born. Not as nice as here.”
“Mexico City? My friend lived there for a year, teaching English. He said the people were friendly, the food was good, but the air and streets were really dirty.”
“Si, si. That’s Mexico City”, Fidel agreed. “Another place in Mexico with so much opportunity.”
“How did you end up here, in Cancun?”
“A cousin got me a job. He had worked here for a few years. This service, Grey Line, is a well-known company. We do trips all over Mexico. There’s so much to see.”
“I’m sure. I hope to see more of it sometime.”
“What did you visit for this time?”
“A friend’s wedding.”
“Oh. Wonderful! Friends from home?”
“Yeah. My buddy from college. We’ve known each other a long time.”
“That’s great. Good friends are important and rare.”
“Yeah, well, that’s one area in life that I’m very lucky. Philadelphia has lots of tight knit people, small communities, you know?”
“Have you ever been to the states?”
“Si. I worked in Oregon for five years and then Hawaii for ten.”
“Wow. Those are two different places, no?”
“Yes. I worked different jobs, made good money to send home, but it was difficult being away from my family and amigos so I came home.”
The van continued past more dilapidated buildings. The sun pounded down on the roof of the van and shone through the windows, making it hot even with the air conditioning. Stephen took a sip of water and continued to look out the window and consider all that he was passing- things he’d never see again and people he’d never know, and then his thoughts were interrupted.
“What do you think of this part of Cancun, huh?” Fidel inquired, almost reading Stephen’s thoughts.
“It’s a lot different. I doubt they show this on the travel brochure.”
“Ha! No, no. No travel brochure for this part of town. But it is getting better, believe it or not. To be honest, it could be much worse. The government is starting to realize that they must invest in the city and not just the resorts if they want things to really change.”
“Do you think things are going to keep getting better? I mean, no offense, but I can’t see too many people wanting to travel outside the resort if things look like this.”
“I agree, but there are small steps being taken. Unfortunately there are not enough jobs here. And what jobs there are, usually go to the young people.”
“You’ve got a job. How’d you get so lucky?”
“I know a few people, like I said, so I was lucky, as you said. But too many people my age aren’t as lucky. If you’re over 40, you’re considered too old.”
“Too expensive, I guess.”
“Si! Too expensive.”
“Well, I’m sure it’s not as bad back in America, but we are struggling as well. What’s funny though is the young people are having the hardest time finding work, especially if you didn’t go to college.”
“No. I know. It’s hard everywhere. Do you have elections coming up?”
“Yeah, in November. The big one, for president.”
“Obama. You like him?”
“I don’t know. It’s so complicated. I think he really means well and genuinely wants to make things better, but it’s so complicated that I don’t think he really can.”
“Si. That’s politics, though. Same here. Calderon, he’s a good man, but there is too much corruption. He promised a lot of improvements which haven’t come, so what do we do? Give him more time or vote him out?”
“Time. That’s the big thing. Everyone wants easy fixes, quick solutions, but it’s not realistic. I mean here, Mexico has had violence for so long, and the causes are so complex, that it’s not going to get better over night. But people don’t want to hear that.”
“No disrespect, Stephen, but when things get worse, that’s when people become angry. Calderon promised an end to the violence, but it’s only gotten worse. The good people in Mexico are tired of it, so it may be time for someone new.”
“That’s true. If things have gotten worse, then there’s no excuse, but sometimes people think things are worse when they’re really not. You know? I mean it may be worse for them individually, but for the majority, it’s better.”
“Si. Around here, things have improved, but throughout the country, much worse.”
As Fidel finished his last thought the van came to a red light and stopped. Stephen looked out the window and saw the entrance to the airport ahead.
“Si. Good timing.”
“Yeah. Good work.”
The light turned green and Fidel turned the van onto the exit for the airport.
“Well, it was good talking to you, Esteban.”
“You too Fidel. It’s a shame we don’t have more time, or we could solve so many other problems. Ha!”
Fidel laughed as well. “It’s been a pleasure and maybe you’ll be back soon.”
Stephen nodded, “I hope so.”
The van pulled to a halt in front of the airport and Fidel put it into park and hopped out of the car to grab Stephen’s bags. Stephen opened the door and stepped out, the hot sun hitting him hard. He walked toward the back and greeted Fidel, giving him a generous tip and extended his hand. The two men shook and smiled, sharing a brief recognition of something good.
“Thanks for the ride, Fidel. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had.”
“No. Thank you, Stephen. Have a safe flight.”
“Thanks and be well.” Stephen added as he walked away.
As walked into the airport, Stephen realized that his headache had cleared and didn’t feel nearly as bad as he had forty minutes before. He had a long wait, alone, for his plane, but he felt surprisingly content. Soon enough he would be home. Soon enough. <-->