Public transportation around the world often brings up the Southeast Asian adage same same but different. This bus has a reclining chair, this bus has a bunk bed, but what are they in the end… a bus. Usually similar with one little difference. Taking a ferry in Mexico from the Baja peninsula to the Mexican mainland was a very different experience, with very little in common with the ferry transportation so familiar to my hometown of Edmonds in the Pacific Northwest.
The most similar experience I can equate it to is a cargo ship. First and foremost, similar to the buses in Southeast Asia, the transportation of people sits backseat to the movement of goods from the Baja peninsula to the Mexican mainland. Semi-truck after semi loaded their shipment or parked their rig along a giant parking lot on the deck of the ship. Meanwhile, a van ferried people up to a long stairwell and into the personal quarters. If you wanted to spend a little extra you could get a cabin with your own private space, but Mandy and I decided that the 6-7-hour ride wasn’t worth the extra spend and sat down in our coach seats. In our opinion for this ride, it is the way to go.
After more crappy American movies dubbed in Spanish than we could take, we followed the winding stairways to the deck on the back of the boat. Having never been in open ocean before where there is no land in sight in any direction emerging out of the cabin onto the deck was a surreal feeling. No birds circling, no cities in the distance, no boats cruising in the distance, just the rolling waves, the hum of the engine, and the setting sun. Like being in a dream we watched the sun set over the ocean of waves; an unforgettable experience, and one that left me wanting more.
Going to Topolobampo and then Los Mochis was not in the plans when we were mapping our voyage from La Paz to the Mexican mainland but sometimes you need to roll with the punches. There was only one hotel in Topolobampo and nothing much to do, so we decided to take a 30-minute taxi ride to Los Mochis. Taxis were readily available after we were finally taken off the ferry. Adios Baja ferries, and thanks for all the fish.
Traveling as an American with Donald Trump as president has been eye opening, simply because no matter where you go you see his face. His ego has pushed his image into the American hegemony and the world is reacting. An insulting t shirt or bracelet, a conference with the world’s most aggressive authoritarian figure Kim Jong Un with commemorative t-shirts, the scarlet letter of our time. I didn’t vote for him, would love to talk to people that did, because the damage he is doing now to American allies, perception of our country, trade, civil rights, and the environment will set our nation back years. We all now wear the scarlet T for Trump.
We have had our share of what it means to wear this badge. In one of our lowest moments with our spirits broken in Southeast Asia, we had a reminder. In the middle of our 36-hour bus ride from Hanoi to Luang Prabang when we were dropped in the wrong city and told tough cookies. We boarded a flatbed truck with a Chinese family and headed to the bus station on the other side of town. Through broken English the family found out we were American, and they immediately start laughing, pointing at us, and chortling about Donald Trump. Shouldn’t have bothered me, but exhausted and out of place, I have to admit it didn’t feel great.
While crossing into the Cambodian border a gregarious border passport runner calls out name by name of the 20 people waiting to get their passports back. Italy, France, England all go without so much as a blink but when the final two names are called, our American passports, he is quick to mockingly label us as part of Donald Trump’s America to the laughs our fellow travelers.
In Mexico we feared it even more considering the ever-intensifying rhetoric surrounding border security on the US-Mexico border. The moment we are identified as American the questions and the tone changes. How could he get elected? Will he get re-elected? How come he hasn’t been impeached yet? What state do you live in?
Once revealed we are American often the next response is a gesture to our scarlet T. It is with us wherever we go and it will be with us throughout history, we will wear this shameful badge. The moments in SE Asia were all in jest and good humor in most cases, but in Los Mochis for the first time I felt the anger. The anger at the actions of a man who will, like it or not, be written into American history. The moment our cab driver knew we were American the energy changed. It didn’t matter he had lived in Wenatchee for several years and we could talk about Washington. It didn’t matter we were nice and trying to speak all the Spanish we could. We were stained. We were marked.
Los Mochis itself echoed the same sort of energy. As we walked down the street to grab a bite before our bus, we drew stares, cars slowing down as they passed. In Southeast Asia we didn’t so much as get a second look walking through the streets with our backpacks. Backpacking across SE Asia is common and done by thousands every year. Not many Americans go across Mexico and it’s a shame. As of this writing we have been for 6 weeks and I can honestly say it has been amazing with fantastic people and culture. But back in Los Mochis, we were glad to only spend the one night. I had never felt the weight of our shameful badge more than in our short detour through Topolobampo and Los Mochis. If only we wore the American badge of the infamous city on a hill. A beacon of light for the world whose citizens wear a badge of honor, nobility, and virtue. A badge of truth, freedom, liberty, and justice for all. One day I hope we all can again wear this kind of badge, not the scarlet T.