Saturday, November 28, 2015

Leaving Tomorrow and a Mexico Mix-Up

Tomorrow we hitch up and get the heck out of this frozen tundra.  We are going as far south from Pahrump Nevada as one can go without being in Mexico, Yuma Arizona. 

Since we're leaving two days early we're probably boondocking one night in Quartzsite and then one night in casino parking in Yuma.  Then we'll move into the RV park that I booked and paid a deposit on.

The truth is...I actually already drove down to Yuma two days ago.  I've been having issues with my antidepressant for a while and finally just stopped taking it in October. 

Once it was out of my system I had a crisis I'm not going to go into.  It told me I needed to be on something, but I wasn't going to go back on a medication that wasn't taking care of the depression.  I got in touch with a psychiatrist friend who advised me to get on a regimen of Wellbutrin.  It's an antidepressant derived from amphetamines, so you can benefit from the effects in a few days rather than weeks.  Unfortunately I couldn't get an appointment with him or anyone else to prescribe me the new antidepressant.  It was Thanksgiving week.

You can walk into a pharmacy in Mexico and get prescription pills without a prescription.  I left my mom and the cats in Nevada and drove the five and a half hour drive to Mexico alone.

I had hear you just go to the Quechan Casino, pay to park in their lot, and then walk to Mexico.  This is true, but there are two Quechan Casinos, Quechan and the "Q".  I WENT TO THE WRONG ONE.  I was driving around like an idiot trying to find the border crossing.  Finally, I just asked some guy on the street how to get to Mexico.  The guy sent me to San Luis Mexico.  Not Los Algodones.

Los Algodones:  Safe during the day.  Tourist Trap.  Easy in, easy out.  Everyone speaks English and takes American money.  Pharmacies, Doctors, Dentists, Glasses.

San Luis:  Desolate.  Scary.  AK-47s

The border crossing for San Luis is 20 miles from Yuma at the end of the 95.  I wanted to get the stupid pills ASAP, so I went into Mexico after 4pm Mountain Time, with dusk fast approaching.  I thought maybe 'San Luis' was the province name and that this was Algodones. 

No.  This is not where you're supposed to go.  This is not where any gringa who doesn't speak Spanish should be going, particularly when the sun was descending fast.

Once I had crossed the border into San Luis I was greeted by a man in military fatigues holding an AK-47.

@_@  WTF IS THIS?!

There were several more armed soldiers scattered around.  The street I entered into was empty and the stores were already closing.  There were none of the pharmacies, dentists, doctors, etc., I'd expected to find en masse.   

It quickly dawned on me that I was NOT in Algodones.  My wide-eyed horror caught the attention of an old man who quickly ushered me off the street.  I found myself in a store that had bottles of Viagra and Cialis in a glass display case.  So I asked the worker in my horrible broken Spanish if he had Wellbutrin.  He offered to sell me 15 pills for $35.  This was an obvious rip-off (though in retrospect, maybe he meant Pesos?) but I figured I could just get some here so I could at least start on the prescription and then I'd go to Algodones tomorrow and get more.  

He called two places but couldn't get anyone to bring the pills.  So he said that he could just sell me Xanax in the meantime and then I could send him a Moneygram and he'd mail the Wellbutrin to me when he got it in. 

"Yes!  Of course!  That sounds awesome!" I gleefully said like idiotic moron, "I'll just carry a scheduled drug over the border and have it seized by Federal agents who will probably charge me with drug trafficking!  Oh, and we've known each other so long, a whole five minutes, I'm sure you'll send me pills after I send a Moneygram that I can't possibly get back once it's sent.  This sounds great!" 

I got the Hell out of there and ran back to the border crossing to get back into the USA. 

There was a line...a HUGE line...a monstrous line.  When I got to the front I realized there were two lines and I was in the stupidly long one.  They both went to the same place.  x_x  Ugh.  It took me two hours to get to the checkpoint.  I hate lines.  It was cold.  The sun went down.  I was in Mexico after dark, but the soldiers with AK-47s were wandering around us and made me feel slightly safe.  That was probably naive.  I obviously don't know anything.

It was easy enough to get through the border with my passport card.  I ran back to my car and went to the hotel I'd book in Yuma.  Still without pills.  Today was Thanksgiving and in my rush to get to Mexico I hadn't eaten all day.  I drove around until I found a Chinese restaurant that was open and finally got something to eat.  Then I bought a GoPhone from Walgreens (because I hadn't owned a cell phone prior to this) and called my mom.  She had a much nicer Thanksgiving than me because the pastor of her church had invited her over to share their feast.

The next morning I researched online and found the correct 'Quechan' casino called the Q.  Things went a lot easier.  You park in their pay lot for $6 and walk into Mexico.  This time I saw a true tourist trap and no soldiers with guns.  Hawkers hassle you every few steps.  I was suffering from lack of sleep and proper medication and was rude to them.  I shouldn't have been, but later, when one of them tried to scam me, I felt less guilty.

I was sold some Mexican version of Wellbutrin, 100 pills for $35.  This was at the purple Liquis pharmacy you see right as you cross into Mexico.  No prescription needed.  Great.  I bought some prozac as a back-up but probably won't be taking it.  That was $4 for 100 pills. 

(The Wellbutrin seems legit, and I am having positive effects from it. I will be going back to stock up.)

On my way out I stopped at an open-air gift shop place and bought my mom a Ballero or ball in a cup toy, since she'd played with one as a child.  The guy selling the Ballero asked me if I wanted Xanax, Oxycontin, Adderall, or Ativan--all drugs that are generally illegal to take over the border. 

I said I wasn't interested in going to prison, but thanks anyway.  He assured me it would be fine, because he truly cared about me from the two seconds we had spoken.  He tried to take my arm and walk me down the street to the "Pharmacy" he ran out of his house.  He assured me once again that I would not get caught because they put them in fake bottles so I can carry them across the border.  WTF!!  I broke free of him and headed back toward the crossing. 

As I'm leaving this is what he said, "You got to eat a big feast of turkey yesterday.  I didn't have no turkey.  I have nothing.  You should buy at least something."  -_-  I did buy something.  I bought the overpriced Mexican toy.  And he was awful portly for someone who doesn't have anything to eat.  I'm insulted that he tried to pull that shit.  Is any tourist this dumb?  Why am I seen as an easy mark?

I'm really annoyed that I have to fight so much in order to do business in the 'good' Mexico.  Everyone has such a low opinion of the country.  I felt this was unwarranted ignorance, and that the places that are safe to go should not be prejudged.  But when people are trying to do this shady business, for someone who wasn't even interested, it's making me understand the bad reputation.  People like this creep are just ruining Mexico for tourists. 

Algodones is relatively safe.  Go during the day.  Leave early so you don't have a long line at the checkpoint.  Don't go to the shady brothel/bar.  Don't buy stuff you know you're not supposed to.  Don't trust anyone.  Don't pay for something unless you have the merchandise in hand, even at the big Liquis pharmacy.  Don't assume you're getting what you asked for.  Write down the name of the active ingredient in English and Spanish before you go and make sure that's what it says on the bottle.  Don't pay someone a large bill and let them run off to get you change--they won't come back.  Don't stay in Mexico after dark!  The police are as corrupt as these vendors.  They will not be on your side.  You're just a walking dollar sign.  You're a privileged American and they are in a land of turmoil.  They don't feel any obligation to deal with you fairly. 

I've also heard not to go to the dentists the hawkers try to take you to.  There are reputable dentists there that don't use hawkers because word of mouth brings them traffic.  A Canadian RV blog tells of the horror in his mouth after going to a dentist a hawker brought him to.  They're not all good.

That's the impression my short visit left on me.  When I return with my mother, maybe I'll see it differently.  As it stands, I'm not impressed.

What I am impressed with is the city of Yuma.  It looks like a fine metropolis!!  I can't wait to live there.  I'll report more on that later on.  Hopefully this will end up as our winter base, since it looks really nice.

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