Saturday, December 25, 2010

laredo to el potrero chico

The kids played in the hotel pool as wil & I watched, complimentary cocktails in hand, all of us enjoying American luxuries for one last night. We walked through the parking lot of the sprawling Mall del Norte to find our spot for dinner, Logan's roadhouse, a restaurant the kids fell in love with in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on the way to Mexico last year. The mall was throbbing with people. I assume most were American although we were the only whities and there wasn't much English, if any, being spoken. We kept asking people which bridge to take (there are four that cross over in or near Laredo) and number 1 seemed to get the most votes. Back at the hotel room the kids watched a cooking show while Wil and I worried in the other room. Then Wil started checking travelocity for flights to cities in Mexico from Texas. So very depressing. Fear is such an uncomfortable emotion, it twists your insides and is like jealousy in that it seems to come hand in hand with that other feel-good emotion, shame. Finally got to sleep. We tanked up for the last time in the States drove through Laredo across the absolutely empty Bridge No. 1.

We crossed over with zero fanfare and pulled over to get inspected by a very nice young woman. We were in the wrong place. She redirected us to the Migración office where we pulled into the parking lot with a hundred or more vehicles, most of which were piled high with goods, everything from tables to mattresses, jolly jumpers and carrier bags, all strapped down under flapping tarps. The building was a flashback to last year. One is expected to know where to stand, what forms to fill out, where to go first and second and third. The first counter is where you pick up the tourist applications, then you find a little spot around the island to fill out the form (you need to bring your own pen). A beautiful scene as the young men and women stand over the form, patiently reading it aloud for their mother or father or grandparent, some of whom I assume could not read. After the form, you go back to get it stamped, then to the photocopy section where they give you copies of everything you need, then to the Banjercito to pay for everything and to get the hologram sticker for the car windshield. Just standing around in line with all these Mexican families made me feel better -- standing in line after line with a bunch of normal people going about their normal business totally assuaged my fears.

The Migración bathrooms were another flashback. No toilet seats, no toilet paper. I forgot to come into the stall prepared. The roll of toilet paper was probably no more than three feet away, at the entrance to the bathroom. And so begins the retraining of getting over the lifelong habit of dropping the paper into the bowl.

Unlike last year, no one inspected the car, no one came out to ensure that the VIN number was actually the number on the car. We asked a couple of older gents sitting on the back of a pickup for directions to the highway. When I asked if the highway was safe one of them kissed his fingertips to indicate what great shape the road was in. The drive was completely anti-climactic. The landscape started out as scrub, low prickly bushes filling the flatter-than-flat land, then the Joshua trees and agave flowers started poking their heads above the scrub. Not long after, hazy silhouettes of distant sierras starting appearing on the horizon. We were taking turns in the lead with a mid-eighties boat of a car, a blue cadillac with a threesome of middle-aged folk. They waved every time they passed and we waved when we passed. When we finally got into Monterrey, they pulled up beside us at a traffic light. The driver signalled to me to open the window and while we waited for the light we chatted, he asked me where we were from, where we were going, the usual. How to explain to him the comfort his car brought me on this road we'd been led to believe was going to be a life and death adventure. "Que Dios bendiga" (God bless you) he said as we pulled away.

As we approached our first destination, Posada El Potrero Chico near Hidalgo, outside Monterrey, the mountains suddenly jutted out of the haze. The kind of mountains that look like huge sheets of rock on their side, massive limestone faces, which explains the impressive population of climbers in this tiny little posada. We signed ourselves up for the Nochebuena supper. The piñata is being filled. The kids are pumped. All is well.


Peter C said...

Merry Xmas !!

Unknown said...

Vaya con dios, amigos

doreyme said...

What an amazing adventure! xoox Merry Christmas to you, all.

A Friend Indeed said...

Just home from Jules`s. Woke to find a message from Annabel directing me to Wil`s FB page so left here without the weight I`ve been carrying these last two days.
Can`t help caring so much. Merry, merry Christmas.

Unknown said...

MERRY MERRy christmas. will be following you like a hawk!oxox love to all . i love reading your stuff. so talented madame. love you sarah

ajm said...

next christmas we are buying you a cell phone :)
no crime in 'caring so much' janine - what more beautiful and meaningful xmas gift... i wish my family would just STAY PUT! but then i would have to be the first one to do the same, and well ... no way! love you guys. can't wait for the next installment. xo

sally said...

Very happy to hear you're safely in Mexico. I will never forget the fear we felt as we crossed the same border. Unfortunately we got lost though and had to go through the town. Some men wanted to help us and tried to convince us to let them in the van to help us get to where we wanted to go. No thank you, we'll figure it out. We ended up at the border to go back to the states. It was pretty bad. Those moments bring a family together don't they? lots of love to all of you.

Carolyn said...

Hi Sarah and Will,
Love your blog. I so remember driving across the bridge into Mexico from Laredo with the same fears and doubts. The bridge was packed when we crossed - filled with people rapping on the window hoping for handouts. My 12 year old daughter put her blanket over her head and didn't take it off for a few days. Brings back so many memories. Not an easy part of Mexico but all part of the voyage.

Carolyn B.