I step off the chilly ADO bus into the sweltering heat of Valldolid. I heave my overstuffed backpack onto my shoulders, which has disappointingly grown in size after being stationary for several months this year.
I power walk to a hostel that has been raved about by several travel bloggers to find it stuffed to capacity. The only room available is a ten-bed female dorm. I shove my stuff into a locker and head back into the steamy day, map in hand.
I wander around the little Mayan town, admiring the rustic red walls of the church in La Candelaria park and complementary colors of the surrounding buildings. I stop for a $2 lunch of rice, beans, and tortillas on the leafy central plaza. I eyeball the family sitting next to me, studying their tortilla rolling technique. I realize I have a few meals to go until I can get the beans to not run out of the back end and onto my hand.
Midway through my meal, an older lady who had been sitting at a table diagonal to me hobbles over and plops herself across from me.
I’m immediately wary. Not that I don’t like old people or anything, but I want to soak in the atmosphere solo and I’m not in the mood for forced social interaction. Plus, the look of crazy in her eyes is undeniable.
Luckily (?) for me, she relieves me of that chore. She immediately begins peppering me with personal questions like why am I here alone, where is my family, where are my friends, what’s my last name. Once she’s got ample information, she tells me I should not be traveling alone here. I will get assaulted and kidnapped, she says.
I bite my tongue and maintain my composure. I try to accept her for what she is – an eccentric old lady.
Soon enough, the topic of my safety bores here and she goes into a monologue describing some black magic someone put on her recently. She describes a scene in which a large green snake thicker than my glass laid on top of her.
I don’t question her. I just do the polite smile and nod routine while I plan my exit.
Another gentleman selling sweets walks over to our table, and my new acquaintance begins a new conversation with him. Finally – the perfect opportunity to excuse myself.
As I stand up to leave, she exclaims, “You’ve barely eaten anything! Well I’ll just take these because you’ve already paid for them,” she asserts, helping herself to the rest of my tortillas.
Whatever. Buen provecho. I make my way to the cashier and fork over 25 pesos, hoping she doesn’t stalk me with more tales of witchcraft and safety tips.