Mexico was THE place I dreamed about for many years. This was where we were going to enjoy the new chapter in our life. Laptop lifestyle in the sun, here we come!
Fast forward nine years...
... four books written, including two Amazon No.1 best-sellers, house sold, belongings packed, goodbyes done and tears shed!
Our sons were excited for us, our parents less so. My parents told me in no uncertain terms that they would never come and visit us. Mexico was too far and too dangerous. We promised to come over and stay with them for a fortnight every year.
We welcomed our new adventure in the tropics with open arms. Hola to tropical heat, blue skies, new culture, new lifestyle, new home!
Little did we know that all was not going to be easy. But isn't easy boring?
Seven weeks after selling our beautiful home, we left Jersey, my husband's island, my home for thirty years.
When we arrived in Cancun airport, the first day of what was supposed to be our new life in paradise was soon to become a nightmare.
Our chihuahua Coco had been loaded off the plane and was being held in a Mexican Customs hangar.
They would not release him back to us until we had the animal import documentation in 'cuatros copias' of each form.
No, they don't make photocopies.
Yes, we had to find somewhere else to make copies.
No, we wouldn't get him that day without the paperwork filed before closing time, 5PM sharp. It was 4.45 PM. No, she wouldn't wait.
It looked like Coco was staying in the hangar overnight!
Our dog had left Jersey two days earlier by cargo plane to London Gatwick, slept overnight in the airport Animal Reception Centre. The next morning, he flew nine hours in our plane's hold, bound for Cancun. And he was still in his cage!
By that time, we had not been allowed to see him, we didn't know if he was ok as he was not used to high temperatures, if he had water, if he had food or if he was even alive!
To say we were upset was an understatement. I left the customs compound outside the airport in tears, when told by a guard to come back the next day at 9AM.
In a desperate attempt to break the deadlock, we went back to the airport to see the people at SAGARPA, the government department tasked with controlling the import and export of animals. The lady from SAGARPA agreed to come with us to Customs to check on our little dog. She later confirmed to us he was ok and had water. She couldn't understand why the customs officials were making such a fuss. We had the correct forms and should have been allowed to take Coco away. But the customs officials would not listen. A Siberian tiger may have been easier to bring in!
We had booked a special taxi from Cancun airport to Merida as dogs are not allowed in coaches, unless put in the 'not air-conditioned' hold. Would you put an animal in the hold of a coach among all the heavy suitcases, in this heat, for four hours? No, neither would I.
Our bilingual taxi driver was amazing. He helped us find a hotel nearby and arranged to take us back the next morning to the customs office to get our dog back.
We had heard that it can be difficult in Cancun to get animals through customs, even when you have all your papers, which we duly had. However, we had also heard that some officers can ask you for other documents, to release your animals. Conclude from that what you will...
The next day was still fraught with frustration of language barrier and meeting with administrative nonsense. They wanted other papers that we were never asked to obtain before, such as the actual original cargo manifest, not a photocopy! The agriculture department lady also had to fill in forms for us, which my husband and our driver had to take back to have corrected because the customs official pointed out a couple of typos.
While all this back and forth was going on, I had to stay in the customs officer's office and was not allowed to leave.
Finally, after another 2.5 hours, we were allowed to get our dog.
No, this is not yet the end of it. My husband was allowed in to the customs area to see the dog from afar and see that he was still alive and well. He was! Who said chihuahuas are not tough? He then had to go back out of the customs area.
A little while after, I was finally allowed to leave their office to go pay a release fee at another area of the compound. We had then to leave the compound 'sin el perrito'. For whatever reason, our driver alone, not us as the owners of the dog, had to pick up the cage with the dog still inside, and go through to the gates to give it to us. The handover was something out of a pure farce. A customs officer oversaw the handover. The driver approached the gate and had to place the cage exactly on the white line under the gate. He then had to back away from the gate before we were instructed to walk forward and pick up the cage and take it off the white line!
Coco had made it into Mexico!
By this time, it was almost 12.00. Coco had been in his cage for 32 hours!
I was crying with joy and relief on seeing our poor little Coco again safe and well, although rather smelly. I swear he was smiling when he saw us! My husband bagged up the soiled bedding, cleaned up the cage before loading it up in the car. Meanwhile I walked Coco nearby to exercise his legs. He slept at my feet for the entire 4-hour journey.
After the long drive in the pouring rain, we arrived in Merida and our rental home.
What will happen next?
(Read 'our new country', coming soon in Part 3)
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I'm Marie-Anne Lecoeur Amazon best-selling author and founder of The French Chic Academy.
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