I found out I am in the tournament on friday night. All the flights that day to Monterrey, Mexico were already gone. So the only way I could get there in time for my match was to take an early morning flight. I am not an early riser and hate morning flights, but I was happy to play one of my favorite tournaments again. So alarm clock was set for 4 am and the bags were packed in a matter of an hour.
When I am traveling, I love watching people. People that are going, people that are coming, people that are waiting.
Here is a woman dragging her bag, a huge teddy bear and a crying child on top of it. Another very large woman who is trying to walk in her high heels, that look like they are going to brake. And in line at starbucks a woman who's race and age I can't tell. She has a long ponytail with lots of bows in it, piercing of every part of her face and a big bump growing on her ear that is tied with dental floss.
Ok, lets look at men. There is always a man that thinks he is hot stuff, I look around and see one. He is siting with his legs crossed, cell phone in one hand and blackberry in the other. He talks very loud about some meeting he just had and trying to let everyone know how important he is. I smile and look away.
Thank God my flights were on time and I made it to Monterrey with enough time to check in to the hotel, eat and warm up for my match. I was tired, but mentally prepared to play. And also happy to be there.
You see, before I came to USA, I went to Mexico. I played a lot of small tournaments there and happen to have lived in Monterrey and practice at the club where the tournament is. People of Monterrey were always nice with me and have helped me a lot. So when I go back there I always feel like home.
My match against Zec Pesciric was very long. I was loosing a set and 2-0, but then came back and won the second set 6-3. Third set started even, but I went ahead 5-3. It was a very long game that I lost, and then lost the next two, feeling very tired. But somewhere in my brain I still had that fighting power in me, that always made me stand out and helped me win lots of matches. It came in handy at 3 match points down, I just felt so calm and confident under the pressure, and it helped me win the deciding tie-breaker.
After the last point I felt exhaustion piling on.I dropped in my chair unable to move for a few minutes. Thank God for good trainers and massage therapists on tour, without them I wouldn't be able to function! And thank God for nice soft bed and black out curtains in the hotel. At 8 pm my lights were out!
Next day I woke up to a nice view of the mountains. Had a nice big breakfast and was mentally ready to battle again. But my body had a different plan. It wanted to sleep, it wanted a massage, it didn't want to be on the tennis court running down balls.
It was a good fought match, with long points and many "come on". I gave everything I had, but lost.
That evening we had a player party. Location was one of the older hotels in Monterrey. Three course dinner was served and entertainment contained Mariachi and traditional Mexican dances. It was also Jelena Jankovic's birthday and the tournament director had a surprise for her, a huge cake and a Mariachi band.
Ok, it was time to plan a trip back home. Flying directly from Monterrey was very expensive, so I decided to take a bus to Laredo and fly from there. The good news was, tickets are more then half a price less from Laredo. But do I want to do it again? Probably not!
When we pulled to a bus station, I must have had a scared look on my face, because a local police asked me in a broken English:" Americana? Come with me." He took my bags and showed me the way.
The bus station looked run down and old. Counters and people were everywhere. Bus company signs were the only lights that illuminated the station inside. And a couple of empty cafes, that looked like small holes in the wall, waited for someone to buy something from a large selection of potato chips and soft drinks.
With assurance and re-assurance of the hotel concierge, that my bus was at 9am, I found out that the bus was at 8.15am and I missed it by 10 minutes. So I bought a ticket for the next one that was leaving in an hour.
Holding my luggage as close to me as possible, I was looking for a place to sit. The seat cushions were torn out, don't know who would do such a thing. Maybe someone decided to stuff their pillows.
I sat in the corner and looked around. There was not enough light to read and I really didn't want to open my Louis Viutton bag.
In about half and hour I needed to go to the bathroom. Finding it was easy, getting inside was a problem.
Risking to never see my bags again,I asked a girl at the counter if she could look after my luggage while I go to the bathroom. She agreed.
The "Banos" greeted me with steal bar entry, like at some NYC metro stations. It was impossible to sneak in or pass with bags. For a moment I mentally measured the size of my bag and the entry, but gave up.
Once I got through the metal bars and took some toilet paper from a huge role hanging on the wall, I was in for a "green treat" inside the ladies bathroom.
The doors had no locks and the walls were so low that you could see other women's heads.
After that memorable experience I stopped drinking water and was hoping not to use that toilet again.
Getting on the bus was confusing. My ticket said "Sala-1" but it led to a big open space outside with a line of buses. My bus was nowhere to be found.
A man appeared in front of me, he attached a bag tag on my bag and disappeared. He appeared again half an hour later and announced that my bus was arriving. "Where?"-I asked. He pointed to a couple empty spaces "Maybe here or there."
Well,that was promising! But thankfully I spotted my bus early and was able to get to it's stop on time.
I was surprised how soft and comfortable the seats inside were. I took out my book and pillow and happily sat down. But my happiness didn't last long. A very large woman sat next to me, cutting my lovely space in half. Almost right away she started eating, offering me a piece of her taco. And when I said " no, thank you" she replied "Whats wrong with you? You only eat fruits?The rest of the trip she ate and slept. Every nap she took followed up with a snack and humming to herself.
When we got to the Mexican border I was the only one who got my documents checked. My "neighbor" said-"Because you are the only white one on the bus." I looked around, she was right.
At the american border things were different, I was barely looked at and the rest of people were throughly checked.
After crossing the border, the bus made his final stop at a very small station. It was full of people and stuff they bought. There were boxes inside and outside. And I was wondering if it will all fit on the bus.
In Spanish, I asked for a taxi to the airport and when it came I thought: "Does anyone speak English in this city?"
I told the driver to take me to the airport to Continental terminal, she smiled back. And I understood why. There was only one terminal, and it had Continental and American Eagle counters. There were two people working and I while eating at a small restaurant near the counter, I was looking at my lonely bag, standing in the middle of a room waiting to be picked up.
Two days, two matches, one bus ride, four flights. And many new memories. Every week brings something new and exciting. Good or bad, I will never want to change any of it!