Thursday, December 23, 2010

la frontera

We kicked around town for a while and then I surprised the kids and Wil with the Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theatre with a twist. Each row of seats faces a long low table and is separated by an aisle. On the table is a menu with a decent beer and wine list and a menu of quite yummy food. You write your order down on a little sheet of paper and the waiter comes by to pick up and deliver in silence as you kick back and enjoy Tron in 3d. The riesling went a long way in counteracting my deep-seated anxiety about talking during a movie (even if it was to a waiter in the theatre's employ). Speaking to the staff, however, is the only acceptable communication in the house — any other kind of chatter is met with immediate expulsion by the staff (my dad would love it but the Jenny & Fiona wouldn't last a minute!)

Wil decided to head back to the garage this morning to get a new water pump installed. Having it on hand along with a garage we trust is a combo Wil couldn't resist. He decided to head back to Austin Veedub first thing.

We've decided to head straight south and cross over at Laredo based on the advice of one of the Mexican mechanics at Austin VeeDub. The owner of the shop, an older gent who spoke so quietly and slowly that you really had to strain to hear him, told us about the house he used to own in Ciudad Miguel Alemán and his love for Mexico. "I don't go anymore," he said simply. The last time he crossed over, some bandits were in the midst of carjacking him when the police arrived. When he pulled up outside his house he found it had been totalled. The whole town was taken over. The drug runners showed up at night clubs carrying bags of decapitated heads. Nice. Later on one of the mechanics told us that Edward, the owner, had spent every weekend for many years in Mexico but that the recent violence kept him away. His quiet but firm reluctance to go, despite his deep fondness for the country, was so much more persuasive than the fear-mongering we've endured since the first speech from the border guard in Richford, VT.

The water pump replacement took a turn for the worse. There is just no rushing business two days before Christmas. The weather certainly doesn't feel like Christmas. Yesterday, it was eighty, today was in the seventies. Edward loaned us a Jetta for another night in Austin while we waited for the van. Austin is a great town but not an easy one to navigate without a car. The neighbourhoods are interesting but many miles apart. After a fun morning at the great kids' museum, we killed some time at the garage walking through the nine acres of VW skeletons out back, looking for a piece from the steering column that we needed. It was a bit creepy, seeing row upon row of beetle, jetta and, at the very back, van after van (old and new) propped up on rims and stripped down. I couldn't help thinking that there was a story associated with every one; the travelling stories of people like us come to a sad end.

Another great night in Austin. This town is seriously cool. There is excellent food on offer everywhere, much of it organic & local. Ceci dit, it is absolutely deadsville at this time of year, the state politicians are no longer in session, the university of Texas is out and the newer locals (Austin is growing at an astounding rate) have headed home to be with family for the holidays. The only place we encountered any kind of crowd was at the Whole Foods Flagship store where we stocked up on some of the things we'd prefer not to do without in Mexico, namely good chocolate and wine.

We said our goodbyes to the team at Austin VeeDub, packed up the van and hit the road for Laredo. Wil and I are both battling some serious jitters. 'Butterflies' doesn't even begin to cover it. Despite our dogged resistance, the horror stories have taken their toll. Thankfully the trepidation abates a little every time we are passed by a pickup or Suburban packed with a Mexican family — every inch of the roof or pickup bed piled high with belongings & bikes & barbecues. We even saw a couple of vehicles being used as trailers — one chockablock pickup, the driver's head barely visible through all the bags, towing another pickup full to bursting with stuff. We'll spend the night in Laredo and then hit the border at 8 for opening hours.

Our dinner out was interesting. I heard the next table over speaking Spanish so I went over to ask their opinion about which bridge to take. Their eyes rolled up in their heads and they recommended that if we felt we had to go that we find people to convoy with. One of the gentlemen handed me his card and said to call him for anything (except to come pick us up he made quite clear!) As they were leaving, he came over to our table, put his hand on Wil's shoulder and asked if we minded if he prayed for us. No, we said, not expecting him to do it right there. "Father God, please keep these people safe. Father God, etc.. for literally several minutes. The kids looked on, completely mystified. I don't think they'd ever seen anyone pray before we got to Texas. Needless to say, it has done very little to settle our nerves. We'll see if sleep comes tonight.


Unknown said...

i suppose a prayer or two can't hurt! good luck on the road. godspeed ... and merry christmas!!!! xx

Jenny Wren said...

I am on this adventure with you. I am also saying a prayer to keep you safe. Now I think of it - lots of prayers! Your writing, Sarah, is extraordinary. I can't wait to read the next installment. I am asking Annabelle to keep me up to date on my cell until I can get to a computer. Safe travels. We are packed and ready to go. Love and hugs to you all. Happy Christmas xxxxx

ajm said...

write the minute you get across and have internet access ... i can't really settle until i know you're all okay, and i'm pretty certain i am not the only one. love you guys xoxoxo

A Friend Indeed said...

We don't know what to say. We love you and we're thinking of you.

Maria Araujo said...

Wow I can understand the jitters! My only advice for y'all is to take the time to listen to your gut. You're a wonderfully smart and resourceful pair... I trust all will turn out just fine. In the meantime I sending muitos beijos, abraços, paz e amor to the five of you. Merry Christmas!

kelli ann & lorie said...

thinking of you all! safe travelling and tell the kids everyone says 'merry christmas.'

ajm said...

merry christmas william, sarah, henri, alice, and frances - wish you were HERE!!!!xoxoxo