My parents sacrificed everything they had to bring our family to the United States 14 years ago. To this day, they sacrifice their time for money, just to maintain a very simple lifestyle. Needless to say, they don’t venture out to explore the Colorado state, let alone the country or the world, and it is something that they have learned, but I refuse, to accept.
In 2015 my mom was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive form of breast cancer. The time that my mom spent in treatment and recovery was lengthy and exhausting (physically, mentally, and emotionally), but it certainly allowed me to acquire a different perspective on life as I began placing more value on experiences rather than materialistic things that, as a society, we are so conditioned to desire.
Throughout this tough time, my mom and I became inseparable best friends, and once she made a [relatively] full recovery, in experiences, I wanted to pay her back for all of the sacrifices that she continues to make for our family. I decided to take those venture matters into my own hands and a couple of years ago my mom and I flew out to northern California where we got to explore the wine country. Our last adventure fell on the opposite side of the spectrum of the classy time picnicking at vineyards, as Momski (my nickname for Mom) and I traveled to Miami. Now, I hope that you are not imagining a 20- and a 50-something going wild, like some girls do on spring break in South Beach, so let me tell you what went south in the south.
It all started with my mom booking concert tickets to see Andre Rieu – I can’t pronounce his name correctly – who is a Dutch conductor known for classical music concerts with his Johann Strauss Orchestra. For some reason, as I later learned, the app’s location was set in Florida, and we thought the only available shows in the United States were outside of Miami and Tampa, so we chose to go to Miami. The tickets were meant for my mom and dad to celebrate their wedding anniversary, but since my dad has a serious flying phobia, I instantly became Momski’s date and Miami partner in crime.
I took on the responsibility of booking flights and lodging. I reserved red-eye flights and after thorough research I found us an Airbnb apartment. Well, as it turned out, I misread the dates and times of the red-eye flights and the ones I booked were to get us in a day after the concert. Luckily, I caught the mistake just in time and the airline customer service representative I spoke to about rebooking was really understanding and cooperative and changed our flights at no charge. Score!
So, on a Thursday night in November, we were Miami bound. We landed at 6 in the morning on a Friday, extremely deprived of sleep and food, so we decided to make a stop at a coffee shop for a little pick-me-up. But first… the rental car.
I’ve never had issues renting cars on vacation, so naturally I neglected to reserve one when planning this trip. Once we got to Miami, I was clearly notified by every car rental service at the airport that the only availability, if any, was for a heavy-duty cargo van, which Momski and I were not about to use to drive around on our vacation. I found an off-site rental company which provided an airport shuttle service and with such limited choices, we just had to pursue this opportunity.
At that time, we were the only customers of this company, and the shuttle driver made a clear point that it would be THE ONLY time that we were customers of this company. I don’t remember how our “it’s our first time in Miami” introductory conversation turned into us learning that the driver is admittedly an alcoholic who almost smashed us into oncoming traffic, and later a train – because after the bars had lifted with no train passing, the driver proceeded to drive over the tracks, without realizing that there was in fact a train headed in our direction. Luck would have it, we avoided the collision. I wanted to report the driver and his unprofessional manner, but once we arrived at the leasing office, the black eye of the leasing agent told me that my concern would be ignored, so we got our car in silence. As we opened the car doors, we got an overwhelming sense of a lemon-scented carwash going through the inside of the car; on a side note, it took a day and a half to air out the pungency to a bearable atmosphere.
But then we were on our way to coffee and breakfast. We explored a few coffee shops, beaches, a state park, and took part in other unforeseen events, before picking up some groceries and heading to our Airbnb apartment to get ready for the concert.
As we pulled into the neighborhood, Momski got an eerie feeling once she noticed that all of the windows and doors in all of the homes consisted of metal security bars. I thought that was the norm, since I have never been to Miami before, so I accepted it for what it was. We pulled into the driveway of the Airbnb, got out of the car, and proceeded to the entrance. We knocked, but no one answered. We walked around the property and found another door with a key lock, to which I did not have the combination, as the hostess failed to communicate anything with me. I tried contacting the hostess, to no avail. With only an hour to get ready to hit the 2-hour drive to the show, my mom got irritated and called the hostess herself.
At the same time, another car pulled into the driveway and the woman who got out of the car, started off by asking us “Hablas español?” Well, used to, but you don’t use it, you lose it. So, we were dumbfounded because we couldn’t communicate with this woman, neither in Spanish, nor in English, or Polish for that matter. Eventually we agreed on which apartment we were staying in, which wasn’t even an apartment at all. The woman opened a garage, in which there was a bed, little kitchenette, and a built-in bathroom. As she opened the door, we got another overwhelmingly pungent smell coming from the inside. Momski, thinking it was the air refresher sitting on the little table, took it outside with disgust on her face. The woman who introduced us to the garage shook her head, indicating that it wasn’t the air refresher causing the foul smell. She reached into the little closet, from which she obtained a little wax cube, waved it at us, and said it’s for “las cucarachas” – and those of you who don’t know what cucarachas are, they are cockroaches. And chances are, that if a chemical is strong enough to prevent a highly resilient insect from thriving, it can cause harm to humans, too. So right then and there Momski said to me that we will get ready for the show there and leave the place faster than as if a snowflake was to melt in Florida.
After a few hours we finally arrived at the arena where the concert took place. The show was nothing but extraordinary, with many humorous elements, most notable of which was Andre pointing out women in nightgowns and heels, and men in suits and ties, binging on nachos, hot dogs, popcorn, and beer. Live on, American traditions 😀
It was about midnight when the concert got out. Momski and I were exhausted, hungry, and still needed to find a bed to sleep. We couldn’t find any non-fast-food restaurants which would still serve us, but luckily, we did our grocery shopping earlier in the day, so in the trunk of the car, we had tucked away pita bread, horseradish sauce, cheese, ham, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, crackers, hummus, nuts, and some other snacks, because we are Polish, efficient, and economic, especially when we travel. While we made ourselves sandwiches in the car, we brainstormed and searched for hotels in the area, but for some reason, if hotels offered any vacancy, they were obnoxiously priced. We ended up finding a reasonably priced room about 45 minutes away from the stadium and once we finally got there, we were able to relax and take in all of the events of the day, some of which go beyond the scope of this essay, so I will just leave you wondering.
One may think that our first day in Miami was crazy, but if there is one thing that packing up our life and moving across the world to start a new one taught us, it’s that we have become really good at making lemonade. And this combined with traumatic life experiences taught me appreciating the way I spend my time however out of the ordinary it may be.