I have to play catch up, starting this blog when I´m already one week into my stay in Mexico. So, I take you back to my arrival in Mexico City´s airport, a suitcase bulging with clothes -- half of which I´ll probably never wear -- and a bag within my bag -- full of condoms.
Let me explain. You see, I´d never even seen a condom until about two months ago, when I was womaning a table at an event bringing services and food, clothing, and other items essential for the survival of some of the most desperate of economically deprived immigrant families in Richmond, VA. The representative of a health consortium seated directly across the way from me was displaying and giving away a wide array of condoms for every possible eventuality.
"Perfect," I thought. "Maybe I can ask her for a donation of condoms for when I return to Oaxaca." The woman told me she´d give me any left at the end of the day, but we never closed the deal; that´s why, feeling as if I were involved in some criminal endeavor, I ended up being handed a bag o´ rubbers on a Richmond street corner the day before I left town.
Obviously, I have to explain myself once again. My American expatriate friend, T. (name has been abbreviated to protect the innocent) had requested only three things from me when I asked what he would like me to take to him on my next visit to Oaxaca: a microphone or some other piece of equipment for use in a radio station, a block of cheddar cheese, and a load of condoms that he could distribute in his unpaid and unheralded work to fight the spread of AIDS.
A week before my departure, I´d informed T. that I wouldn´t be able to bring the cheese. It would have had to have lasted, without refrigeration, for 5 days. He told me that cheddar was now available and that we could skip the microphone. But the condoms would be exactly what the doctor ordered.
The rub was that, to avoid paying duty, I would have to tell customs that the condoms were for my personal use. As a woman of a certain age (i.e., at least a generation older than my 19-year-old son), I was dreading the embarrassment of being questioned, my suitcase opened for the world to see, while every customs agent in the place gawked at me and at the hundreds of condoms that I would be using during my 6-week stay in Mexico.
My friend, A., who was meeting me at the airport, had suggested various solutions to this condilemna. First, she offered to take the condoms off my hands and was concocting a rather elaborate story about delivering them to an artist who worked in that particular (and peculiar)medium. Before I could give them to her, however, she suggested that I bring a gift bag with me and tell a customs officer, if queried, that I was giving them to a recently divorced friend, as a gag gift. I´m a rotten liar, but I was willing to try....
So, there I was on Mexican soil, my suitcase rolling through the airport X-ray machine, plainly revealing the outline of a plastic bag containing hundreds of circles. The two guards assigned to watch for weaponry, drugs, illegal 4-ounce bottles of liquids, and duty-free condoms, were busy conversing with each other and didn´t notice anything.
The first hurdle hurdled, I faced the red button. If I pushed it, and the light turned green, I would be home-away-from-home free. If the light turned red, so would I. My suitcase would be opened, its contents -- and I -- exposed!