Hi Everybody!! Yes, we are finally living in Paraiso, Tabasco, Mexico! Lots to learn. The trip down was more crazy than we had planned. Settling in now. We can find our house now which is pretty important when all you want to do is to go home. So, read on if you would like to be brought up to date on our big adventure.
I must not have thinking clearly or at all because the time I had allocated to moving was not enough. Even I was shocked by how much stuff we had accumulated throughout the years. I stored what I wanted to keep in case we ever move back to the U.S. We gave lots of items away—that part was fun! We had a yard sale too! Megan was super helpful with the sale and in countless other ways along with Blaine and the girls—she is an ace seller! In the end our congregation came through and helped with the packing, yard clean up and then with the cleaning of the house. I got sick. At first I thought it was the dust making my allergies kick in but the fever and chills made me think that perhaps I really was sick. So many friends asked if they could help but I said no because I was not feeling well. I was surprised to tears when some friends said that it did not matter they would still help. Some brought dinner. One dear sister baked me a wheat free chocolate cake!! Some young brothers worked hard helping out. I was carefully packing our car but the worse I felt the more that others packed it. Mexico doesn't have a lot of Volvos driving around so mechanics are hard to find and you must wait for the parts to be shipped in. Robin decided to give his precious little Volvo to Sage. We bought a 1997 Dodge mini-van from Levi & Nicole. They even drove it out to Phoenix from Oxnard, CA since they had to be there in order for Levi to give a talk in a sign-language congregation.
One brother took us out for a nice sit down dinner which was much appreciated after eating so much take out food from the local Mexican restaurant. The congregation had a coffee and munchies for us at the hall on our last Saturday in Clifton. It was very nice to see everyone. It was also very sad to say good-bye. Our service group had had a lunch for us the week before...it was a delicious turkey dinner. Missing familiar foods already...
We were so overwhelmed with moving that we asked our very dear landlords if we could have some extra days at the house. Thankfully they agreed to let us stay on. We were under a time frame to cross the border by Friday, February 8, 2012. We had to get an import permit to bring our car into Mexico. The permit expired on Friday the 8th. We had also decided to try to stay in the U.S. For as long as we could while driving so we planned to cross the border in Brownsville, Texas into Matamoros, Mexico. The problem was that our permit was tied into crossing the border at that crossing. We could not change our schedule. Our dogs (yes, we brought them too!!) had to get an international bill of health from their vet but that too was only valid for a limited time.
February 3rd found us trying to finish the packing, taking boxes to storage, cleaning the house and yard and leave to see Sage in Phoenix. I felt terrible and Megan was sick too. Friends came to help before meeting and realized that we were really behind schedule so they said that they had decided to stay and continue helping rather than go to meeting. I am truly grateful for the genuine brotherly love they showed us. We could not have done the move in the time frame we had if it had not been for the love and help we received. It was humbling to realize how truly a spiritual family we are...we care for each other as if we were biological family. Still makes me tear up thinking about how family and friends went out of their way to help us.
We were told to just go around 2pm. Our friends said that they would take care of the rest...taking stuff to storage, cleaning, taking unwanted items to a local charity's shop. Thank you just doesn't cover the heartfelt gratitude we feel towards the Clifton Congregation.
When we tried to start the van it would not start. Battery trouble. Guess what? A brother had a new battery at his house that would fit perfectly! New battery in place, good-byes said, tears shed, and we were finally off.
Going to Sage's through the mountains was a little hard on our over packed old mini-van but five hours later we arrived at Sage's only planning to say good-bye and move on. Sage realized that I felt horrible so she insisted that we stay and go in the morning to a Walgreen's walk-in clinic. Megan had gone to her doctor in Morenci after we left. She tested positive for strep. Yuck! Donna, Sage's room-mate/landlord, agreed that we could stay since she too was sick. I too tested positive for strep and had the prescription for antibiotics filled. The doctor made the prescription out for double the length of time she would normally have done since I would be in Mexico by the time I finished taking them and could get re-tested. Robin's doctor agreed to call in a prescription for him too since our situation was unique. We were really worried about all of the friends we had exposed to strep especially a pregnant friend. So far I have only heard of one sister who got sick but may have been sick before, still, I feel very guilty about exposing any of them when all they wanted to do was to help us.
Finally on Tuesday we continued our very long drive. We drove from Phoenix to El Paso, Texas and spent the night with Lela and her very cute and obedient dog. Thankfully Lela is an elephant trainer at the El Paso Zoo and didn't mind welcoming us and our two dogs. We all appreciated staying at her place.
Wednesday night found us in San Antonio staying at a La Quinta hotel since the chain accepts dogs.
Thursday was border-crossing day! Yikes! Would we have to unpack everything? Did we have all of the paperwork in order? We still needed to complete the car import at the border-crossing. The drive from San Antonio down was pretty nice. I had never seen that part of Texas.
Oh, forgot to tell you that Robin had bought a Garmin on Ebay and was enjoying using it. It had a chip for Mexico too.
Robin and I did not know what to expect. We had heard that there could be long lines. We were nervous about what line to get in. We drove over a bridge and suddenly we were in Mexico. We had crossed but still had customs and the car permit to complete. We drove into an area with buildings and parking slots under cover. This was the first stop in Mexico. We were told to park and walk into a building to complete our car importation permit. There was another man being helped and then it was our turn. Yes, the man agreed that we had completed the paperwork on line and then gave us a sticker to put on the windshield behind the rear view mirror. When we returned to the car a customs officer wanted to meet the dogs and asked what we were bringing. He asked us to make a list. We did. Since we could not find notepaper we used a sheet off a drawing pad that I had. As he read down the list he ran across “art supplies” and said such as the drawing paper that the list was written on. Very observant! He said that he was good with everything and that we could go on through but that we would face a federal customs police blockade in about an hour from there and if we got through that we would be good to go for the rest of Mexico. So, maybe it wouldn't be so easy-peasy afterall.
It was strange being in our new country. Everything was so different and had suddenly became so. The Garmin was doing her thing and leading us to Victoria. We saw farmlands and local houses. People living their everyday lives. Wow! Our life was indeed changing! Around about an hour on the road we came to the blockade. The customs officer asked the same questions. What did we have in the van? Household goods was our answer. We gave him the list the other officer had seen. He looked it over. He did ask Robin to open his ammo boxes that he uses to carry his hand tools in. Blaine had mentioned in Clifton that maybe that wasn't such a good idea for this trip. Wise man. The officer was okay with what his random searching had uncovered. He said to have a good trip. We were through!!!! One of the most amazing things was that through all of this our dogs never barked or growled. It was as if their mouths were sealed shut!
We were stopped about 6-8 times more by Federal Police blockades but the officers were nice and asked where we were going. They sometimes asked if the dogs were “brava”, biters...I said maybe, I couldn't really say since all of this was new to them. The officers said okay, they understood...have a good trip! Wahoooo!!
Mexico Bethel had told us not to drive at night so we had decided to stay in Victoria but were having a rough time finding a hotel that took dogs. It was hot. The Holiday Inn were sorry but if we wanted to we could leave our dogs in our car in their underground parking lot. No. The girl was very nice and said that she would call around and help us find a place. She found a Mexican resort that would. She gave us direction and sent us off. It turned out to be the best place on the trip. La Fuentes is an old Mexican gated resort with tennis courts, pools, horses, and a great breakfast buffet. The room was beautiful! We got room service and it was great food with cold beer! In the morning we walked the dogs, had breakfast and checked out.
The garmin now had a name, Michelle. She was still on task in directing us on Mexican roads. Traffic was interesting. Slow traffic stays to the right with one side on the side of the road. Traffic was like a dance....passing, moving over to let others pass, blinking lights to help others know when it was safe to pass. We thought driving in Mexico might not be so bad.
About 30 minutes outside of Victoria, the van started to slow down. We pulled into a Pemex ( Mexican Petroleum gas stations...the only ones in the country) Something was very wrong with the brakes or the wheel bearing. We called Bethel. They promised to get help out. They got the gas station number and the phone number in order to find our exact location. After a while three cars pulled up. Bethel had called the circuit overseer for that area who then called the congregations around there who then called a brother who was a mechanic to go out and help us. We were so happy to see them! Their english was very rough. It was decided that the problem was the brake. We would drive in a caravan to the brother's shop where he could repair it. On the way we started to smoke. The caravan stopped and repairs were made on the side of the road so that we could complete the drive. The emergency brake had stuck so it was burning up. Bummer.
We did make it safely to the Brother's garage. He repaired the brakes. It was decided that it was too late in the day to get back on the road. The Brother invited us to stay at his house. He and his wife lived with her parents who were in Honduras helping in Spanish congregations. His wife's sister and brother-in-law also lived in the home and they were getting ready to leave that Monday for their first circuit assignment. They are part of the Nhautl speaking congregations---the spelling is probably very wrong but it is an indigenous language here in Mexico, in fact, Mexicans think it was their first language. So, it was very nice to meet all of them and have dinner together. The next morning the brother drove us out of Victoria back on the right road. The road was a potentially dangerous road for the inexperienced. Safely back on the road, we were off again! The pictures are from my phone showing the dogs and the border. The group shot is from tonight at a restaurant with the friends from Villahermosa. More later! Love you!