My 2,500 mile journey to Oaxaca while keeping insulin cool.
As I’ve mentioned in a few posts, insulin must be kept at standard fridge temperatures (36-46°F or 2-8°C) prior to use. Any colder and it could get freezer burnt, any warmer and it will start to degrade. Once it has been brought to room temperature, it should remain there.
I purchased a 72 Hours Insulin Cooler from 4AllFamily (use code: KELTON27257 for 10% off your purchase) to help get insulin to Mexico. Since we would be here for two months, I would need to take extras that would have to remain at fridge temperature until my current pens had been used up.
The drive into Baltimore wasn’t bad. We were coming in slightly after rush hour, so traffic was light as most people were already at work. I had my insulin cooler plugged into one of two power banks I had brought along. One I purchased specifically for this cooler and trip, the other was a long, lost remnant from my days of playing Pokémon Go.
We easily made it into the terminal and through security. I left the cooler plugged in and in the pocket of my totebag as it went through the x-ray and had zero issues.
We continued on to our gate and as I held my tote up to my ear, I noticed the background hum of the fan was no longer there. My power bank battery had died…
Okay, no worries, we can make this work. The power bank it had been plugged into had been sitting in my car for several years going from hot summers to bitter winters. Maybe it was just old and shot. I had a backup and the freezer biogel pack was still inside. According to the manufacturer, that should get me through 36 hours.
We always tend to arrive super early for flights so we get first dibs on seats at our gate. I quickly found ones that had plugs so I could plug my insulin cooler into a USB port and start recharging my dead power bank.
Rachel and I split turns going for food runs and so I could catch glimpses of the USA-Iran World Cup game playing in the food court, but for the most part, needed the entire few hours to charge my power bank.
I switched back to the portable battery just long enough to board. Once we found our seats, I tried to switch to the USB charger that was available on the entertainment screen at the seat but neither mine nor Rachel’s seemed to work. I was forced to use up both power banks as we made the short flight from Baltimore to Atlanta.
Arriving in Atlanta, we once again had a chance to take our pick of seats at the gate and, once again, chose the seats with charging outlets. I felt bad hoarding them, but justified it by only using them for medically necessary purposes and not charging my phone or anything else.
Our flight had been oversold and the airline started offering people flight credits or gift cards to change to a flight the next morning. The offer started at $600 but quickly rose to $1,000. Rachel and I seriously considered it ($2,000 between the two of us) because we were fairly flexible. I would have asked that they threw in entry to the Delta Sky Club for the night. I have uncomfortably slept on many airport floors and would have needed some sort of comfort to justify the delay.
We decided to stick with our initial flight and I was able to switch into the USB port for my cooler while using Rachel’s port to recharge both power banks for the flight to Mexico City. I watched Bullet Train which took up most of the flight. I like ensemble movies and it was what I expected. Not a must-see. Inner dialogue: Should Rachel and I start a Letterboxd account?
Our flight had been delayed to find the luggage of those who did switch flights which brought us into Mexico City about an hour late. This was okay because immigration lines were pretty much non-existent.
Due to a high influx of digital nomads into Mexico during the COVID-pandemic, they haven’t been handing out the typical 180-day tourist visas as easily in an attempt to thwart people who do border runs out of the country and coming back to renew it. The desire is to get people like that to start applying for citizenship. We made sure to stress our pre-booked accommodations and that we needed at least 60 days for vacation purposes. The officer did look through the passport for previous Mexico stamps and asked if we had been to Mexico before. Since we had both recently renewed our passports, it didn’t show our previous visits, though that may have been taken into consideration (I’m guessing, not sure) but he gave us both the maximum 180 day allowance.
We eased through customs next, my cooler still powered by one of the battery packs. As we exit into the open Arrivals area, there’s a plethora of options and little, if any, guidance. The stands you run into first seem like rent-a-car companies and private cars. We just wanted a standard yellow taxi that you can pre-pay to take us to TAPO (Terminal de Autobuses de Pasajares de Oriente) station (Uber is not allowed to pickup/dropoff passengers, though it is apparently not a heavily enforced law.)
We grabbed a ticket from the Taxi stand outside and stood in a clearly marked line adjacent to it, waiting our turn. Our driver wasn’t enthused about taking us to the bus station, seemingly more interested in some damage to car that he kept texting someone else about on his dash-mounted cellphone.
Arriving at the TAPO station, we quickly made our way inside to try and find the next available bus to Oaxaca. We walked to the ADO station as we were familiar with the company and had ridden with them before. We did our best Spanish version of ordering tickets to Oaxaca and picking our assigned seats. With two tickets in hand, our next job was to simply wait for 11:00pm for the bus to leave. What’s the best way to do this? By stopping at the conveniently located snack bar inside the station. We grabbed some limoncito crisps and nacho-flavored Doritos and a bottle of water.
Getting on the bus, there were only a handful of other passengers and the seats were pretty comfy. I plugged my insulin cooler into an outlet under the seats and started recharging one of the power banks (thank goodness for these outlets because I would be relying solely on the biogel pack without them). Rachel and I proceeded to work through the sitting yoga-pose handbook trying to find comfortable positions to fall asleep in, mostly to no avail. She eventually gave up on me as a pillow and moved to the open row behind us to stretch out, while I was able to finally prop my head onto my arm and head off to slumber land. There were a few stops that our driver made throughout the night that woke us up as well as some bump moments, but I was able to fall right back asleep.
He must have been taking advantage of the lack of middle-of-the-night traffic, because we arrived at the Oaxaca bus station at 5:25am, about an hour sooner than expected. Great, except we had a check-in time of 3:00pm at our Airbnb, about 45lbs of luggage between us, no idea what to do, and we were still pretty tired.
Coffee? Yep, that will help.
I needed Mexican pesos and we found ourselves sitting beside an ATM at the Oaxaca bus station. I waited in line, took out some cash, and had Rachel get in line. She got a café de olla and I got a cortado. This should help us get the ol’ noggin going.
The sun started to come up and as we got closer to 8am, we messaged our host to ask if we could drop off our bags and wander around the city before checking-in. She agreed but asked to give her some time.
We found a little bakery to stop in and ordered a few more coffees and pastries. So far, we’re getting by with our limited, but improving, levels of Spanish. While we sipped on our dark elixirs, another guy who had just arrived in Oaxaca asked us about our trip and where we were from. Based on his response to our answers, I’m not sure if he was impressed with our itinerary or thought we were on a strange path. Messaging our host again, she said she was ready, so we hiked the few blocks to our new accommodation, rang the doorbell and began our next conversation.
After our initial greetings, I was left to figure out how to ask about my medicine. My power banks were both dry and it was nearly 27 hours since I took my extra insulin out of the fridge at home. I needed to get it back into the fridge.
Soy diabético. Necesito poner mi medicina en el refrigerador.
She responded with a lengthy acceptance and asked if I needed it to be “frio?”
No, only refrigerated.
Wanting to make sure, she welcomed me into her house (she lived in the bottom section and rented out to the top two rooms of the abode) and pointed at both sections of the fridge. I clarified the bottom, fridge section, and gave her my insulin cooler to store. Mission success.
Relieved of our backpacks, we set off into Oaxaca de Juárez to kill our next sixish hours until we could finally, officially check-in.
Any Oaxaca guide tells you to start at the Zócalo (main square) and get aquainted with the layout of the city, so that’s what we did. I had switched out my simcard for a Telcel one so we would have 4G service during our stay which essentially meant we had access to Google Maps. The city center is easy to navigate. Essentially most roads are one-way and north is uphill, south is downhill, and east/west are navigable from there.
We made it to the zócalo and slowly made our way around the perimeter as we people-watched and scouted out potential places for lunch. Tired and hungry, we opted for one of the easy restaurants that lined the square complete with other a small handful of other gringos reading the available English menus. Rachel ordered enchiladas that could have easily fed us both, but I had to contend with a giant torta of my own.
We were now full and had taken advantage of available restrooms. Next stop – Mercado Benito Juárez, where we walked up and down the aisles looking at different shops and stands. I’ll come back to this in a future post.
Leaving here, we strayed along a few more streets, continuing to get acquainted with the layout of the city and killing the last hour and a half before check-in.
A small café near our Airbnb would be the perfect venue for such.
We took turns ordering a single drink at a time to warrant our staying. Between a slow amount of business, afternoon rain, and the nail-biting Mexico-Saudi Arabia World Cup game, the waiter had no issue with us using his space to sit.
3:00 finally came and we checked in with our host. Nap time then we can take on the beautiful city of Oaxaca. For now, estoy cansado.
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