Just a little background on why I decided to write this blog. I am horrible at keeping journals (getting ready for this move, I found exactly twenty-seven and a half unfinished journals) so I figured I would keep a blog instead. All that societal pressure to keep it up will hopefully drive me to post every day. I plan on keepin' it real on here (cause that's how I roll in general) but to keep an accurate account of our time in Mexico. I know there will be days where I question my sanity, where I am over-the-moon excited about being here, and all the days in-between...and I plan on sharing it all on this blog.
For those of you wondering, Andy and I decided to sell our home in Portales, sell most of our belongings (thanks for keeping the rest for us, Mom!), and head down to Puebla, Mexico for a year. As long as I have known Andy, he has wanted to live in a Spanish speaking country. So, after his two week stay here in November for a language school, we decided this was the place...and now is the time! (He really had to twist my arm pretty hard to come...*wink*). We plan to travel as much as we can while we are here...it's a nice jumping off point for Mexico and Central America.
So here we are...in our little apartment, I'll share more about how this came to be in a later post, and are starting our new adventure!
On to the first day...
We left Portales on February 3, 2014, a little later than planned. Who would have thought it takes a while to pack up your entire life into a Prius?! We also made our last rounds to say goodbye to some friends. Andy had lived, off and on, in Portales for about 21 years, and I, off and on, for about 13. I never thought that I would miss it, or be sad to leave the town, but I realized that it was the people that I was going to miss the most. But it was time for us to spread our wings and fly from Portales' Nest. (Sorry, sometimes I can get a little cheesy).
We drove to San Antonio, TX, stayed with our good friend Mona, and had one last night in the US for awhile.
The morning of February 4, we headed for the border in Laredo, TX. We had carefully mapped out our route to Puebla using toll roads (the safest way to travel in Mexico) and a stop to visit Dr. Arizpe. Dr. Arizpe is a surgeon who works with Smile Train, an organization that we have supported for years, that Andy has written a song for, etc... Check it out here http://www.smiletrain.com Anyway, Andy met him while he was here in November. We figured it would be a safe place to stop, with people that we know, and we were right!
Once we crossed the border, way easier than we had anticipated, we were thrust into Mexican roadways. To say it is fast-paced and confusing is a bit of an understatement. The speed limits are fairly slow, but most people don't seem to follow them. The nice, orderly lanes on the roads we are used to in the States were no longer there.
There were these guys...
No, I didn't take this picture...it is from The Google
They are the Federal Police...driving all through the Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey, and on the toll roads. It was a combination of comfort and nerves to see these guys all over...they are the "good guys" AND the "bad guys", depending on who you ask. The opinion differs even among family members that we talked to. My American brain is choosing to believe that they are good.
Once Andy expertly navigated the city of Nuevo Laredo, we were out on the highways. The landscape looked just like that of Southern Texas, cause nature doesn't have borders, yo! We were quiet surprised to see how quickly the landscape changed from brown to lush green.
The drive to Monterrey was easy and nice. The roads were better than most roads in New Mexico...just sayin'.
See...we are happy with the roads!
We had put the address of Dr. Arizpe's clinic into the iPad's satellite navigation...we were all set.
BAHAHA! Anyone who has ever trusted Sat Nav (as we affectionately call it) knows that sometimes it's not always 100% correct. (Side story, one time Andy was playing a kids concert in Albuquerque, we put the library address in...and it took us to a strip club. The bitch just can't be trusted!) So, we pull into Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city, and I successfully navigate us, with the help from our friend Sat Nav Bitch from Hell, to our "destination." I use quotes here because, as you can guess, it wasn't where we needed to be. There was literally a horse and cart on the road, which kindly moved over for us, and according to the navigation, the clinic was down a little alley.
This is my face as Andy left to see if the address was correct. The horse and cart had just passed me.
We quickly realized we were in the wrong place, went to a convenience store (Oxxo) to ask for help. This is where my utter lack of Spanish slapped me in the face. Andy was trying to activate our phone (thanks again, Mom!) in Spanish, I was trying to get directions all the way across the city from two young men...in Spanish. (Did I mention I don't know Spanish?!)...all the while trying not to freak out because one of the men working the desk was a midget. (If you know me...you know what this must have been like for me). After lots of hand movements, "lo siento"s (I'm sorry in Spanish), and a phone call to the clinic for directions, one of the young men whipped off his Oxxo vest and said he would take us to a meeting point for the Doctor to meet us. Walter, our guardian angel in an Oxxo vest...seriously.
He took us to a train station stop...dropped us off, we paid him a small "finders fee", and then we waited for Dr. Arizpe to come and get us. We had our first Mole at a little restaurant by the train/bus station...and I had a Mexican Coke (not the drug, the pop) to help ease my worries.
Dr. Arizpe arrived as planned, we somehow stuffed me in the back of the car, Dr. Arizpe had my large backpack with him in the front, and we hit the packed roads to the doctor's ACTUAL clinic...about 20 minutes away. We were then given a tour of the clinic, had a few beers on the roof of the clinic aka El Rincon Del Diablo, and were then told that we had just been lost in one of the scariest parts of Monterrey. I didn't really know to be scared until then...I just figured, "well, this is what Mexico is going to be like." I never had the sense that we were in danger...because we weren't. What's that quote? "Ignorance is Bliss." :)
Dr. Arizpe and his wife, Teresa, took us out for a tour of the town, showed us where they had grown up (only four blocks from each other, but didn't meet until dental school), and then took us to dinner at La Taqueria de Juarez...am-maze-ing food. Dr. Arizpe and Teresa kept ordering us food to try...all of it was fantastic. Sorry, no pictures of that...I didn't want to draw more attention to us. (The blonde hair is attention attracting enough).
We were then treated to a view of the entire city of Monterrey from the bottom of one of the mountains. We stayed the night with Dr. Arizpe's brother, Armando, a self-proclaimed Hippy. The house smelled like patchouli and food.
In the spirit of keeping this real, I'll tell you that a few people were telling me about how people had been killed in the places we were...but reassuring me that it had happened 3 years ago, and that we were safe. I just nodded and rapidly began checking my sanity. It had been a long day, it was midnight before we got to bed, my brain hurt, and for about five minutes, I wasn't sure I could do this. (I'm sure I'll have more moments like this). It did help that everyone we talked to, the people we were staying with and even store clerks, kept saying that Puebla is REALLY safe (which is totes the case). ;)
We slept well, had a wonderful breakfast prepared by Armando, and one last look from El Rincon Del Diablo. My faith in our decision was restored!
With Armando on El Rincon Del Diablo
View of one of the mountain where Dr. Arizpe lives
Me and Armando (See, I told you he was a hippy)