On the Road Again

I can’t quite believe it either – we’re driving north again to get one last load of stuff.  Business stuff this time – our bobcat and scaffolding so Grant can do some building.  And my BBQ and Christmas stuff which didn’t make the last load.   We have combined it all together with a graduation in Tepic, a wedding in Penticton, a visit with my sister in Squamish and our daughters in Vancouver, time with family in Regina, and a work retreat in Moose Jaw.  And if we have to drive through Mexico, we decided to add a few vacation days and check out some new territory.  So this is a combination family/vacation/work trip and we will be gone about a month.

Our first stop was to say goodbye to the kiddos at the orphanage.   On Thursday when we told them we were leaving, they were not happy.  Samantha just mostly glared, “you said no more Canada, you said you live in Bucerias now”.    Yes but we need to visit our daughters and our parents.  We’ll be back, we promise.  We hugged and kissed goodbye and reminded them to be good for the English teacher sub Luke.  We will be back – this is our home now.

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After driving 2.5 hours through crazy winding mountain roads, our first stop was Tepic for our friend Diana’s graduation from Vanguardia – a Bible school connected with La Fuente church.   After spending so much time every day seeing children and teens who seem to have so little hope, it was refreshing and emotional to see a room full of young adults passionate about their futures, all of them eager to start internships where they will care for others and live out their faith.

 

This 113 km trip takes almost 3 hours because of crazy roads and crazier drivers

We then headed to the historic center of Tepic to start the vacation portion of our trip.  We hadn’t been in Centro 10 minutes before we were pulled over by the police – who knew you couldn’t turn left at any corners?

 

 

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Good morning view from my bed

Today we are heading to Guadalajara – the adventure begins!  We are taking a different route this time so we can see some new places.  Some gardens and waterfalls and historic towns.  Some Pueblos Magicos – magical Mexican towns.  Stay tuned – you know there’s going to be entertainment along the way!

 

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2 Mamas, 2 Boys, 2 Showers

I have been to 2 Baby Showers in the last month.  I love both of these mamas – they represent totally different parts of my life here and I am excited to welcome both of the little boys that will be arriving any time.  The showers – and the life stories of these moms – were completely different and yet surprisingly alike.

18157921_10212893575482317_2120895677132309211_n - Copy2Marthita and her husband Gregory are pastors at the church we attend – they are some of the first friends we made here and their children Elly and Gady are excited to welcome a new baby brother.  This baby was not easy to create and he was so loved and wanted before he even was conceived.  The ladies at the church planned this fun garden party and it was just a beautiful evening with delicious food and baby boy decorations and lots of gifts for little Mateo.

18944632_10154558954506198_354226748_nLast night I attended another shower – this one for sixteen-year-old Ibet who is also about to have another baby boy.  I say ‘another’ because Ibet is also mom to 3-year-old Kevin.   The first thing that struck me is that we played all the same games as we had played at Marthita’s shower.  I guess these are traditions.  Considering I was the only English speaker at this shower, it was a relief that I kind of understood what was going on as they were wrapping toilet paper all over Ibet, writing on her face with lipstick and taking away nametags whenever anyone crossed their legs.  They had done all the same things to Marthita at her shower.  Although I had pretty halting conversations with the other young moms and their children, we laughed a lot and I felt like I was welcome, although maybe not totally accepted.  I think they weren’t quite sure who the heck I was or what I was doing there – but Ibet had invited me 4 or 5 times and I knew it was important to be there to support her and Kevin and the new little one.   It is not going to be an easy road for this young family and I struggle every day to know how to best help them.  For this week, a few tiny blue clothes and a stroller which will double as his crib is what my heart told me they needed.  I could be wrong.  I just hope they know they are loved and can accept that they are deserving of that love.

A few more weeks – 2 more little boys in our world to love.

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Happy 99th Birthday!

Happy 99th Birthday Puerto Vallarta!  One of the things I love best about my new country is it’s love of parties.  Mexico really loves to celebrate, and although I look around and see a lot of problems, I also see a lot of singing and dancing and joy.  Any excuse to turn up the music is a good excuse – and you can imagine that a 99th birthday is a REALLY GOOD EXCUSE!

Although we don’t live in Puerto Vallarta, we are close neighbors and last night we headed down to the Malecon to celebrate the city’s 99th birthday with our friends.

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The streets were packed – thousands of Mexican families and gringo tourists singing and dancing along with Celso Pina, the famous Cumbia singer.  My new favorite music!  We were lucky to find a table at an open window on the second floor of a pizza restaurant overlooking the Malecon and the ocean – a perfect view of the band and the fireworks, with room to dance while we ate pizza and sipped sangrias.   It was a great night with great friends and I can’t even imagine what the 100th birthday will be like!

Feliz Cumpleanos Puerto Vallarta!

 

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Be Bold – Daniela is my ‘WHY’….

2017 is almost ½ over – unbelievable!  I told you about my words for the year “Be Bold”.  I have thought of those words often and they have given me courage many times.   I tend to analyze decisions – a lot – and I have convinced myself on many occasions to stop thinking so much – just be bold and do it.  Recently I was reminded of the ‘why’ behind those words.

We met Daniela in 2011 – she was 5 or 6 then.  She was the friendliest, smiliest little girl and we connected right away.  Every time we returned she was waiting with open arms.  I remember the first time Team Restore came to work at the orphanage. Daniela followed us around with her little notebook writing down every English phrase she could find – t-shirt sayings, backpack logos, shoe brands.  She really wanted to learn English.   At some point – I forget just when – she told us she wanted to be called Dani.  I have noticed that these children often shorten their name or start using a middle name – I wonder if they are trying to establish some type of personal identity in the midst of an uncertain life.

Dec, 2011                                              Oct, 2012

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Reunited Dec, 2016

Eventually Daniela left Manos de Amor to move back with family – I think with her grandmother.   We didn’t see her for a couple of years and then this past Christmas she came to spend her vacation at the home.  We reconnected in a big way – as if no time had passed.  My biggest worry is always whether our presence in the lives of these children is good, knowing it may be temporary.  The days we spent together at Christmas assured me that love is good – period.

A couple of weeks ago a volunteer invited the children to a restaurant for pizza and Daniela (yup – she is back to being called Daniela now) was invited.  We were so excited to see her.  And I couldn’t believe the shirt she was wearing.  Be Bold.   Seriously.  She was wearing a shirt that said Be Bold.  As I looked at her it was as if she was my own personal billboard reminding me of the WHY to all this

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Yes I want to be bold because life is short and I want to have adventures and experiences.  I want to live life fully.  I don’t want to hold back out of fear or insecurity.  But Daniella’s shirt screamed at me that it is because of little people like her that we are here, that we are stretching ourselves so taut that some days I fear we will tear.    Not just for Daniella but for all of them.    They are my WHY.  Daniella – and her shirt – was my reminder.

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A Crappy Week? Or a Great Week?

No point lying – this week was difficult, with more bad situations than good.  Or at least that is how I felt at first.  Bad things always take more of our attention, more of our energy, more of our focus. If we’re not careful they will settle in our hearts and become larger than they need to be.  That was my test this week.  Was it a crappy week or was it a great week with a couple of crappy moments?   I mostly failed the test, but when I sit here and think about how to recap our week, I remember we had a lot of great experiences too.  So for the sake of being real I will share some of the bad stuff – but no need to dwell on the details:

  • We had some stuff stolen and lost some stuff – the golf cart keys, Grant’s phone, a watch, a big tub of bungee cords from the back of the truck. Aargh…..
  • I didn’t feel so great.  I had an ear infection and pink eye – painful, plugged ears and red, goopy eyes.
  • We had to take baby Alison to the hospital twice – she had a bad flu and seems to have an allergy to milk. The pediatrician tried to convince her 15-year-old mama that she needs to nurse the baby but she’s embarrassed to discuss that.  She’s 15.
  • We first began the process of importing Grant’s trailer full of tools in September. We have hit roadblock after roadblock.  Months of bureaucracy.  Come back in 3 months.  Bring more papers. Bring different papers.  Pay more pesos.  We finally made it to the final stage of getting the actual plates but needed one last inspection.  We took all the papers – stamped by every imaginable Mexican department – to the inspection place.   And then….. No.  The serial number on our Saskatchewan registration form does not match the serial number on the paperwork done at the border in Nogales.  WHAAAT??
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    Doomed inspection

    In all these steps no one had noticed that the trailer manufacturer had placed 2 VIN stickers on the trailer.  Saskatchewan had recorded one of them.  Mexican had recorded the other.  And they don’t match.  “Okay but senor, you can see both stickers are there.  It is clearly the same trailer.”  No sorry – you will have to take the trailer back to the border and start over.  Have you ever seen 2 gringos stand and just stare blankly at a Mexican official – no language, no emotion.  Just unbelief.  Our only hope is that he said to come talk to his supervisor on Tuesday – maybe he will have a solution?

 

BUT, we had some fun too.  Yesterday we went roller blading AND boogie boarding.  One afternoon we took the golf cart and the Bucerias map and drove up and down a whole bunch of streets and neighborhoods we had never experienced before.  Everywhere we went people waved at us and children ran alongside our cart.  We found new restaurants, new tiendas (stores), new potholes and speed bumps and dirt piles.

Friday we bought a piñata for little Kevin.  Last week when we picked up Jose, his little 2-year-old nephew Kevin kept saying he wanted a piñata.  I have no idea where he got that idea from but he was very serious in his request.  So I told him I would bring a piñata on Friday when we came back.  Of course, I promptly forgot my promise and on Friday morning Grant reminded me.  My first thought was “Oh, he won’t remember I said that”, but after Grant gave me the look of incredulous shock, I remembered how important it is for these children to be able to trust our word and to be able to depend on us.  So we went piñata and candy shopping in a little shop in San Vicente.  The only piñatas they had were far bigger than Kevin but I filled that giant Spiderman with a pile of candy and we delivered it to Kevin.  He was so excited – I expect Kevin has never had anything given just to him.  In a few weeks his 16 year old mama will give him a brother and he will have even less for himself.  We couldn’t stick around to play with him as we had to take baby Alison to the hospital but before we drove away I saw a whole bunch of 2 year olds – most with few clothes, no shoes, droopy diapers – gathering to have their own piñata party in the dirt.

Last night we had good friends over.  I grumbled about our week.  I think I whined.  But as we sat in our candlelit garden sipping coffee and eating cake, I remembered that I really love living here and believe I am placed here for a purpose.  I don’t love everything that happened this week, but I know that every good thing comes with opposition.  I believe in spiritual battles.  And I believe in being bold in spite of it all.  I believe that this week Kevin needed a piñata and that Alison needed to get to a doctor.  I believe that 12 children will have better lives because they learned a couple new English words and were kissed on the forehead by Maestra.  I believe in the Good Shepherd who leads me through the valley and to the still waters on the other side.  So I just step out in faith and say “This was a good week”.

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Who Follows Signs Anyway?

One of the things we love about Mexico is the more relaxed and fluid attitude about almost everything.  Except for driving, things just move slower here and matter less.  Manana is real.  Sometimes that can drive us crazy.  Our insurance agent told me three times in the past 2 weeks that she will call me back in 5 minutes.  I am still waiting – and I suspect she had absolutely no intention of calling me back.  People don’t mean what they say and rules are meant to be ignored.  The up side is that we can get away with a lot and we feel a kind of freedom that you won’t find in Canada.  On Friday we decided to take our golf cart into Centro to find a burger, which meant going the wrong way down the highway lateral for a block.  Meh.  No one cared and a woman on a motorcycle slowed to let us pass with a big smile.  We then drove right through the middle of the market stalls yelling “permiso”  so that vendors would pick up their chairs and move out of our way.  They just smiled and waved us through.  I can’t even count how many traffic rules we broke, but the burger made it worth it.

The trick is to figure out when ‘they’ mean it – we have been given tickets for not wearing a seat belt (fair), for going through a yellow light (come onnnn), for driving too slow (what?) and for speeding (we weren’t – and the electronic speed sign RIGHT BESIDE US proved it).

Here are some signs around our neighborhood that don’t seem too effective:

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No Littering – or you will be punished

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No Parking – Respect my space and I’ll respect your car

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No Tenting sign – right beside the tent

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No Passing – on the double solid yellow line.

These photos below come from videos I took of stop signs a block from my house – neither of these cars even slowed down.  I don’t even know what that sign on the right is for – it is in the middle of a block and there is not a crossroad there at all.

And these aren’t the only unheeded stop signs in the Bay.  Last year approximately 20-30 new stop signs were installed in Nuevo Vallarta – I have never seen anyone stop yet.

Of course some ‘signs’ are useful for finding what you are looking for since addresses are completely useless here.  This church used what was handy to point the way!

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Of course, directions to important places are important!

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Emergency signs don’t always translate well:

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Only porpoises can use the phone?

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Warning at the Zoo…. “Hello Giraffe, please meet my hand….”

But you don’t always need language to get the message:

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No flip flops for construction workers on this site

Warning signs are always good but unfortunately this DANGER: Do Not Use sign was only at one end of this sketchy bridge and we saw it after we had crossed over.

And finally, this sign is just an irony I laugh at every day.  One of the main reasons we moved was to get away from Canadian winters.  Well now I live on Calle Invierno:   Winter St.  What are the odds?

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Happy Mexican Mother’s Day

No, I’m not early in wishing you a Feliz Dia de La Madre – here in Mexico Mother’s Day is always celebrated on May 10th, no matter what day of the week it is.  Our observation so far is that this day is celebrated with:

  • Flowers
  • Cake

While we were at Costco waiting for our battery to be tested (nope it was no good so they gave us a new one) we watched all the carts go by on their way out the door.  The place was packed with Mexicans (usually it’s mostly Gringos at Costco) and there was a constant lineup to get out the door.  Well over 90% of the carts had at least one bouquet of flowers – most had 2 or more.  And more than 80% had a cake.  Flowers and Cake in almost every single cart.    We also saw a lot of tables set up in the streets selling bouquets and the street vendors at every stop light were doing a brisk sale of their roses.  Tonight as we drove home from our evening with friends, we saw families with tables set up in the streets, laughing and listening to loud music.  And eating cake.

Feliz Dia de las Madres!

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A lot of flowers and a lot of cake!

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Mexican Mother’s Day Dinner with my Mexican children

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