Hi! Back at the wifi coffee shop! So here is another trip update---
The day's drive was pretty uneventful, (thankfully), and we ended the day in Poza Rica, Veracruz. We drove over many bridges. The most impressive of the bunch was one by Tampico. It was very tall. I felt like we were climbing a mountain. When we got to the top, Rob told me to look around at the view but I was so freaked out that I did not even take a picture! In Poza Rica we stayed at a Quality Inn. Great hotel—-clean, welcomes dogs, good restaurant with a wonderful breakfast buffet included in the hotel rate and a....laundry!!!!
After enjoying a wonderful breakfast we continued on to Paraiso. Veracruz is full of bridges and most bridges have tolls. The tolls can be $28 pesos per car or as much as $285 pesos. The roads were terrible---full of huge potholes. I complained that with so many tolls you would think the roads would be in better shape. I was sure that anything breakable in the van was broken. As the sun was setting we found ourselves about two hours from Paraiso—the question now was what do we do? Press on since it was only two more hours? Obey the instructions Bethel gave and not drive in the dark? We decided to press on. Bad choice. We were unable to avoid many potholes. With one huge thump, we finally got a flat tire. We drove off to the side of the road and tried to contact the friends from the Paraiso
congregation. Megan was very helpful during this trying situation. The highway is not like in the States. There are two lanes of traffic in each direction but because of the potholes cars and trucks are going all over the road. There are no overhead lights. We kept our hazard lights on. At one point there was a knock on my window. It was a man. I thought for sure that I was going to be killed—not that I am dramatic or anything! The first thing out of my mouth was that we are Jehovah's witnesses on our way to Paraiso. The man said that he too was a witness but I, of course, had my doubts. He told us that he also was driving a mini-van and that he too had not been able to avoid the pothole and now had two flat tires! He wanted to know if we could help him by lending him our spare so that he could go get his two tires patched....there are 24 hour tire shops, muffler shops and local outdoor eateries all along the road. We now found out that his car included four other men who were all on their way to Compeche to work on a construction crew. Robin went off with them and one young man was left to sit on the highway with me. I found out that they were not witnesses but all related somehow and that many in their family were witnesses. After they got back it was their turn to help us. Our van weighed too much for our jack. The jack broke. The men said okay, they would use their jack. They tried to put the van on blocks to help level it off and then a man got under it. I could not watch. It was so dangerous. I busied myself making traffic move over. After the car was leveled the jack was put in place and once again the weight was too much, the jack broke. The man said he didn't know what to do. Just then a brother from a nearby congregation drove up in a white truck. We emptied the van into the bed of his truck. The spare was put on and we found out that we had bent the wheel too. The man said that we were lucky that our friends showed up just in time but Robin told him no luck but Jehovah helping us! He agreed and said that they needed to study the Bible and go to meetings. He also said that he felt that Jehovah used him to help us and keep us safe. I hope he does study. They will be in Compeche for five months. We said our good-byes and they were on their way. The brother decided that it would not be safe for us to go far on our spare so we followed him to his brother's house in La Venta where we spent the night after having a dinner of quesadillas with nopal (cactus). In the morning we had breakfast with the family and then Robin went to try to get the tire repaired and the wheel hammered out. The tire was not repairable and neither was the wheel. I spent the time walking to the markets with my wonderful new friend. She stopped at a brother's photography shop and introduced me. We also stopped by a pioneer couple's home. The market was interesting. There is so much to learn how to do. We returned home in a rickshaw! Fun! After lunch, we reloaded the van and were back on the road being especially careful with any potholes. So our two hours had turned into a day's delay and unexpected expenses. Must learn to be obedient!!
We arranged for friends to meet up with us at a Pemex station in Paraiso. We were very excited to see our new home. We had decided to rent a home in a Pemex neighborhood for $6,000 pesos but when the sister went to sign the paperwork it had just been rented. Then she found us a condo in a gated community for $4,500 pesos without a/c. Both places were three bedrooms, two bath and patio. Kitchens are varied here. A kitchen might include just a sink or it could be with everything just like in the States. The Pemex home had just a sink but the condo had an American type kitchen with cabinets. The sister signed the paperwork for the condo but on Saturday before we arrived that Monday was told by the owner that he was cancelling the contract because he wanted to do some work on the home and increase the rent! On Sunday the sister and her husband were out to dinner with his parents and their friends when the topic of finding a house for us came up.
The parents' friends said that the house across from them had been vacant for eight months due to a divorce. They contacted the owner who agreed to rent to us for $3,000 pesos. It is a two bedroom, one bath, laundry room and a kitchen with a sink, cabinets, refrigerator and a one burner “stove.” It also has an enclosed yard with a palapa, covered patio. There are coconut, mango, lemon, orange, and papaya trees along with pepino brushes (brushes with tiny chiles that turn red when ripe). Today, (3/5/2013), we had an a/c unit installed in our bedroom. In April and May it is supposed to be really hot here. We did have to secure the yard better for our dogs. We did clean up the yard and are still working on it but that is something I enjoy doing. We have a bumper crop of mangos. I harvest each day! I really like this house! On the down side---we do not have water from 9am to about 7pm but we have a water container on the top of our house so we do have water in the house. We do not have hot water. Yes, we take cold showers!! I am sure that in April and May we will welcome them. :)
Service has been very enjoyable. Long days. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we start at 9am and work all day, regrouping at 3pm, 6pm and 8pm. Since dinner is usually around 9 or 10pm here, nobody minds if we call on their house before dinner. Very different. On Tuesday night we have a meeting in Comalcalco (about a half hour drive from here.) On Saturday at 2:30pm we have meeting at the same Kingdom Hall followed by an English class at a nearby brother's home. We just attend and help the brother out who is teaching. On Monday nights Robin has an English class in our home. We will be splitting up into two groups. I will get the very new English students.
Last Friday we drove to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. It is about a five hour drive from here. We are at sea level in Paraiso but San Cristobal is close to 8,000 ft elevation. They had a cold snap so we froze. The city's convention center auditorium was cold. The hotel did have hot water but no heat in the rooms so Rob went to bed early because he was so cold. Chiapas is a beautiful state. They grow lots of grains and coffee!! San Cristobal was just what you would imagine a colonial town to look like—narrow cobble stone streets. They are very smart in developing/preserving the town to be tourist friendly. Many of the streets in the center of town are block off from cars so that pedestrians can shop and walk easily. We want to visit again but take the bus so that we can enjoy the drive and not have to worry about driving around. A taxi ride is $25 pesos. The peak attendance at the assembly was 400 with 5 getting baptized. The audience only filled about a sixth of the auditorium. On Sunday night we ate at La Lupita's. Many brothers and sisters were there. Apparently there is a list of restaurants that give assembly attenders a discount and this one was on it. Rob and I went in for the 'tacos & margaritas.' The nice surprise was that there was live music...a girl violinist. She played 'Kingdom' songs! Yes, she was our sister!
I will tell you more about living here and the changes we have had to make later. Love you!