one of those days

You know those days when you can hardly believe how cool your life is? When you’re so appreciative of this opportunity to live in crazy parts of the world that other people only get to read about or maybe visit briefly on vacation?

And you know those days when you wonder what in the world you’ve gotten yourself into? When something that would be so simple back home is unbelievably frustrating because of cultural or language or whatever other differences?

I had both of those experiences today.

It was Friday on the eve of Labor Day weekend. As all my colleagues were describing their exciting upcoming trips, I was feeling sorry for myself to be somewhat trapped by the fact that my car hadn’t arrived. There are taxis, yes, but we have kids and carseats to consider, so there’s only so much taxing we can do. But then I had a thought! We live in civilization. There are car rental companies here — American ones, even. Why not rent some wheels for the weekend? So I logged onto Orbitz and proceeded to rent a car at the local Budget. How awesome that I was living somewhere I could use these American conveniences! (As you might imagine, such luxuries didn’t exist in Benin.) How amazing it was going to be to finally get to do some exploring!

But alas, that wasn’t to be.

First problem: the address and phone number on the local Budget website were wrong, so it took us an hour of walking and finally 15 minutes in a taxi to get there. But we did stumble upon some cool sights along the way, like:


Still, overall this adventure wasn’t off to a great start, but all’s well that ends well? Visions of driving my family to fun places all weekend keep me going. Unfortunately once we arrived at the Budget shop, things went further downhill. We were told there was no car for us.

“But we have a reservation!” we explained, waiving our confirmation sheet. But this wasn’t America. It didn’t matter. There was no car and no apologies. Maybe reservations aren’t as firm here? Maybe everyone knows online registration systems aren’t to be trusted? But the phone number on the website didn’t even work, so we couldn’t have called to reserve a car if we’d wanted to. What were we supposed to have done? We didn’t know. All we knew was that there was no car for us. So home we went in the taxi.

The only thing that elicited a brief smile on the long and mostly sulky ride home was hearing Andy trying to answer our chatty driver’s many questions about American male hairstyles — not exactly his area of expertise.

But back to the point… How should we salvage this weekend? Any creative ideas?

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3 Responses to one of those days

  1. Cupcake says:

    Tlaquepaque! Tonala! Or just check out all the cool sights in downtown Guadalajara. We loved Hospicio las Cabanas. We also had a similar car rental story in Mexico City. We ended up getting a car but it died at the first toll plaza and it took nearly 4 hours for them to get a new car to us.

  2. Lis says:

    There is a great Seinfeld scene about this, as you may know. “You know how to take the reservation; you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation.” I so enjoy your candid representations of foreign service life. We are headed to Togo in a little over a month and will continue to read your reflections from there. Hope you guys can salvage the weekend!

  3. QuelleBelle says:

    That was the first thing I thought of too – the Seinfeld reservation bit:

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