Thursday, February 18, 2010

A run for the border

Well hello there. The lazy blogger is back. I know, it's been a while. I have no excuses. It's a bad habit that happens to me after taking a few days off from the blog. I have a seriously hard time getting back into the swing of things. Well, not just blog wise - with everything.

I'm in a lull in all regards of life - blogging, there more? Sometimes it doesn't feel so much like there is, do you know how that is? I recall days (more like months) at my old job when I felt like life would begin when I walked out the doors at 3.30 pm. It was like I slept walked through nearly half of every day. Now if that isn't a sign that it's time for a change, then what is? But since change is hard for me (usually appreciated, but definitely difficult) it took me a long time to actually do something about it. And finally when I did, it was big. Like pack up your life and flee the country big. Now after some time here I'm finding myself back in a similar situation. I need some change. I'm not sure how I'm going to go out and find it, but I'm tired of starting the "living" to life when I walk out the doors at 5pm. After all, this time I have in this life right now isn't going to last forever, so I need to take advantage of what's left.

Well, that's enough of the heavy stuff for today. On to playing catch up.

A couple of weeks ago, we had to do another border crossing in Dewey. You may remember how FUN the first couple were from previous posts, here & here. Since we want to save our once yearly permitted crossing into El Salvador for later this spring, we decided to try a border we have yet to cross, but have heard so much about, Tapachula. Plus it made for a great excuse to visit our Chiapanecan neighbors and friends, the Avendaño family. Ben arranged to do a bit of work while we were there, so his co-worker Otto tagged along with us. So just like one big happy family, northward bound we went.

Wheee! Roadtrip!

1st stop: Ciudad Hidalgo - the Guatemalan border town. Not generally known for being very nice, this one actually wasn't too least the first time we crossed through (more on that later).

Cuidad Hidalgo's central park could be the cleanest park in Guatemala.

Next Stop: the border
This was actually an easier process that we expected. Since technically Dewey has to remain out of the country for 3 months before he can re-enter Guatemala, we knew we'd have a difficult time at the most heavily crossed border in Guatemala. But after coughing up some Q to a shistey off-duty aduana agent, we made it through with our re-entry sticker in hand. (You know us, always thinking ahead!)

Welcome to Mexico

It's hard to see, but in the distance there are rowboats that take people back and forth illegally. No one tries to hide - in fact you can watch right there from the bridge.

My travel partners

Getting Dewey across the border actually ended up being the easiest part of the crossing. Obtaining Otto's visa on the other hand, was quite time consuming. Luckily Mario was able to hook us up with a tramite friend of his, and after a few patient hours and a couple of phone calls to Aguas de Unidad, Mexico, he was given the go-ahead.

4 hours later: we finally arrive in Tuxtla Gutierrez at the amazing home of our friends, Mario, Kim, Lilian & Megan.

They have an amazingly beautiful, gigantic tree in their backyard.

The whole house is really fabulous. (& I love the yellow leather!)

So for one day I got to play second fiddle to Supermom Kim, while the boys worked. I love participating in "normal" life - grocery shopping, making lunches, school pick-ups, etc. (Sometimes living in Antigua feels like we're in a bubble.)

After school Megan entertained us.....

...and Lilian played hostess with the mostess.

Saturday: Ben & I snuck away for a visit to San Cristobal de Las Casas, one of my favorite places in all of our travels. Remember our first visit back in April 2009? We stopped in at the ultimate weaving cooperative and picked up a few more treasures and then shopped till we dropped in the outdoor market, even though it was raining. We chatted about life would be different if we lived in San Cristobal. While it has a similar feel to Antigua, it's bigger and feels a bit more like a city (where you could go unrecognized a bit easier), but it's still quite touristy and safe feeling. I suppose coming from a big city, certain aspects about small town life are starting to get to us every once and a while.

I cannot tell a lie. I heart the handicrafts from Chiapas.

After just a few short hours, we headed back down the mountain to catch a football match.

It was a pretty good game.

Even the beer boy took a break to watch.

Lils & Megs ran into a few of their friends....

.....and pretty much kept themselves entertained all night....

...except for when it was time to do hair.
Lucky me!

Afterward we ate tacos....for the 3rd time in 2 days! YUM.

Sunday: That morning we packed up our things to leave (much earlier than we would have liked), but the goal was to make it home that evening and head back to work first thing Monday morning. But of course we got to chatting....and chatting....and chatting and didn't end up leaving until 1pm.

Otto helped in the arts and crafts department whlie we caught up on happenings over the past several months with Mario & Kim.

And when we finally packed up Dewey and departed from Tuxtla, it was sad. Of course we'll be see them again, but the time between visits is much longer than we would like it to be.

5 hours later: After a brief stop in Tapachula (or what I think of as the armpit of Mexico - kind of like New Jersey) we arrive at the border. It's the town closest to the most heavily crossed border between Mexico & Guatemala. A lot of Guatemalans go for the "cheap" shopping since the quetzal is better off than the peso.

(These photos don't make it look like the armpit, but outside of the tourist area it's quite different.)

And then on the way back to the border a noteworthy milestone passed.
Dewey hit the 20,000 mile mark -very appropriately during a roadtrip.

Considering we bought him a year ago February with a mere 5,000 miles, he's worked pretty hard this past year. Hopefully he had as much fun as we have!

This is where the photos end, but this is not where the trip ended.
Unfortuantely it was not smooth sailing from the border on out.

Upon our arrival at the border around 6.30 pm, we attempted to hunt down the aduana and cancel the temporary car permit. We had received it on the other side of Tapachula during our original crossing. Tthe Mexican government gives travelers the 30 kilometers between the border and Tapachula free and if you chose to go further you need to pay for an official permit. This is done with Banjercito (a bank) though and not the goverment. Well upon passing the bank on our return, we noticed that it was closed. So stupidly we assummed that we could just cancel the permit at the border. (Note: Although the permit expires within 5 days, it is necessary to cancel it clearly states that you are not allowed to re-enter Mexico with that or any other vehicle. Basically they want to make sure you pay taxes on any vehicles that you import and plan to sell.) But alas at the border, no one is able to help us. After several hours of questioning random goverment officials, we learn that we will have to go back and cancel the paperwork at the Banjercito where we filed it, but that thye are closed on Sundays (Why didn't they tell us that when we crossed, who knows? Welcome to travel south of the border). Guess we won't be making it to work in the morning!

So back across into Guatemala we went (Otto had to cross as he only had a 72 hour visa) and spent the night in a lovely border town hotel in Ciudad Hidalgo. The next morning Ben & I were up bright and early, crossed back into Mexico, drove a half hour to cancel the paperwork, retured to Ciudad Hidalgo to collect Otto and on our way we went. By 2pm we were all safely (and sleepily) back at work.

Lesson learned: No matter how long you've been here, never assume that things will go smoothly!

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