The Joys of Hosting: Household Planning, Policy and Provisions
You have an idea what your guests want out of their visit to Mexico, and how to help them get to where they want to go. Now you have to stock up and make sure your household is ready to receive the weary travelers.
Before they leave, make some last checks about diet just in case the daughter has become a vegetarian, or uncle has developed cholesterol problems and shop and plan menus accordingly. Pack the fridge and shelves with healthy, familiar foodstuffs.
After refreshment, rest is essential. So consider carefully beforehand which room is best to put them in, ideally with its own bathroom or near a bathroom in case diarrhea strikes, and away from the road if you live close to heavy traffic and your guests are not city folks.
Discuss policy with spouse and kids (if they are old enough). My partner, for example, plays music at top volume from dusk 'til dawn, a problem for my visiting mother who is slightly hard-of-hearing yet nobly insists on conducting conversations with all Mexican friends in Spanish. Miles Davis blaring in her eardrum, after all those language classes, can ruin her evening.
Strategy is especially important regarding mealtimes. Lunch at 3 pm without warning for someone who is accustomed to take it bang on 12 can be extremely distressing and probably will add to the sense of imbalance and queasiness caused by jetlag. Meals suddenly served hours before your family is used to them also rock the boat. Suggest at home eating at 8 am and 1 pm, and then 8:30 am and 1:30 pm to break guests in.
Smoking policy is also worth sorting out in advance, curbing domestic fumes if guests are non-smokers, and banning them temporarily if they are asthma sufferers. Agree a defined smoking zone (balcony, patio, room with a window open, landing, puffing out of one window) for chain-smoker guests if you boast a cigarette prohibitive household.
If soon-to-arrive travelers have a medical condition or pet allergy, they should of course tell you well before they embark, so don't take it on yourself to inquire after every detail of their respiratory and digestive functions. At the same time keep pepto bismol and lomotil in the medicine cabinet, a mild analgesic containing paracetamol, aspirin and if you are swamped with insects and biting creatures, anti-histamine sprays and tablets are always wise to have around.
Have the number of your doctor handy, and the nearest casualty department (which you should have already). If your guests do suffer from a medical condition you know little about, talk with your doctor first in case you need to be prepared for some related eventuality.
Garrafones galore of drinking water (give them the spiel about not drinking even a sip of tap water, even if you drink it yourself when the purified stuff runs out) are essential, and toothbrushes, spare shampoo and conditioner, sanitary gear, sun-block and mosquito spray won't go amiss as they can easily be forgotten. I always appreciate hosts offering me a hat (or better still, a choice of hats) for the sun, as it is a bulky, horrible object to have to drag around on planes and buses.
Occasionally bedding can catch you out. If it is winter here, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the cold is nothing compared to where your guest hails from. But if freezing climes are their thing, no doubt so also is central heating. They won't need thick duvets or spare blankets in January in their home, but they may in yours.
What is going to make you more homesick than waking up tired and cold, and reluctant to awaken anyone? So either fold extra bedding at the bottom of their beds or show them where the supply is (ideally in a closet in their room, so they don't have to come bothering anyone).
And remember, even if they are warm and comfortable, a time difference of over five hours can cause a ferocious and remorseless jetlag, so be sure to provide a reading lamp. Steal one from another room, even lend your own if you don't have enough. An additional touch is to place some light, but appealing books in their room, from coffee table picture books and guidebooks, to light novels and a spot of history.
Needless (one hopes) to say, try to eliminate the awkwardness of toilets that don't flush, showers whose water is only hot at limited time or that trickle out before you can say "there's no place like home," by fixing domestic details well in advance.
It isn't impressive to hear your hosts say, "Oh, I meant to get that mended before you came." So this means well in advance (making normal Mexican allowances, i.e. service people not arriving, transport breaking down, public holidays and puentes, mixed up messages, and so forth). I learned this having ordered curtains for my guest room two weeks ahead of a visit some years back, and the rail was up, but the curtains didn't arrive until two rather bright nights had been endured.
Now your home is ready, all you have to think of is the flight.
By Barbara Kastelein
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