I’ve come to the conclusion that other countries aren’t bad, they are just different. It’s easy to take on the air of superiority when places we visit aren’t as clean or fancy or luxurious as we are accustomed to. I’ve been visiting Mexico since I was a little girl. Curiously enough, it hasn’t been to visit family. I don’t know of any family I have living in Mexico. Pretty much everyone is here in the U.S, in California, Arizona or New Mexico. Our trips to Mexico have been solely for recreation.
When you drive through the Tijuana border, the first thing that smacks you in the face is how rundown the homes are. Roofs are fashioned out of plywood, some are without windows, there are many decaying buildings and schools, there is graffiti everywhere. And there is that massive fence, meant to keep the natives in. You used to be able to see groups of people flocking that chain link fence with backpacks in hand, waiting for their chance to cross the border. This time around, however, I did not see one single person near there.
Mexico is such a paradox to me. It can be ridiculously beautiful. It can also be dirty, loud, chaotic and smelly. Driving down the coast to get to Ensenada, there are many vacation homes and resorts near the cliffs. There are some in the process of being built (Donald Trump is building a huge tower as I type this). And then right across the street there are tiny shacks made out of scrap wood that people actually live in. Try building yourself a plywood shack in Malibu. I doubt if you’d get too far. What also stuck me was how there were so many homes and buildings in the state of construction. Places that you know have been sitting there for weeks or months, in a sort of limbo, either waiting for eager hands or finances. It was funny to see. I guess I am just used to construction jobs in the U.S. A new school, movie theater or tract homes seem to mysteriously spring up overnight.
I don’t ever remember being nervous or anxious on the many drives down to Mexico. But now that I am an old lady with children, each and every little thing that could go wrong on a trip hundreds of miles away from home in a foreign country just messed with my mind. I jokingly told Michael that I needed some sort of painkiller to help me cope with the drive. Much of the winding roads were spent with my face stuffed in a pillow. But we got there, safe and sound.
Life at our campsite seemed to settle into a rhythm: wake up at 6 am, make breakfast for the troops and then clean up and get everyone in their swimsuits. The kids were in the ocean by 8:30 am. They would trail in whenever they got sand rashes or wanted a snack. Some of them would just walk in their grandma’s tent and collapse for a much-needed nap. After dinner, the kids were back in the water. Then it was shower time, getting everyone warm and clean and then me trying, very much in vain, to keep everyone’s feet clean. What a battle! It was me against the dirt and sand and you know who won that one. I just resigned myself to the mess of it all, as long as they didn’t get near my inflatable mattress with their feet. Which brings me to nighttime. We were all ready to go to sleep by 8:30pm–even after downing two cups of coffee by the fire. But we were exhausted. By the end of the first day, my back was literally killing me because it was bend over and fold up blankets and tidy up the tent, then it was bend over the table and chop potatoes for breakfast…bend over and get everyone’s swimsuits and towels…bend over and put Xixi’s sandals on…bend over bend over bend over. Thank God for my sister and her bottomless supply of 800mg Motrin.
One of the really cool things we did on this camping trip was discover the hot springs. Right near our camp site was a place called Agua Caliente. Every day we would walk down the beach where you could see the steam rising from the ground with our shovels. It was this narrow vein that came all the way down from the neighboring mountain and stretched all the way into the ocean. You could literally feel the heat under your feet when you wanted along the shore. The sea water felt as warm as bathwater.
One day my brother Josh, my brother-in-law Justin and Michael carved out this huge pool. When I walked up to them they were laying like kings, in warm water and steaming mud all around them, the sulphur smell swirling under your nose. What was great about it was that unlike a warm bath, the water never got cold. It just seemed to get hotter and hotter until we had to get out because it was starting to get uncomfortable. Even after we had the kids dump buckets of cool seawater in the pool, it was still too hot.
One scary aspect of our trip was trying to cross the border to come home. As we pulled up to the window, the officer looked like he was not having a good day and we were just adding to it. He had already ordered my parents to pull over for an inspection of their trailer right before us. After he checked us out, all while maintaining an expression of extreme irritation, he started to question us. Then he made us open the sliding door to ask all the children their names, from my oldest all the way down to Xixi. He asked me if I had their birth certificates and I said no. In all the years of going back and forth, we were never required to do so.
So I didn’t bring any.
He proceeded to rip me a new one. You are traveling through an international border. You must have proper documentation for your children. Had your children been asleep and unable to answer when I asked for their name, you would have been detained and it would have been at least a three-hour wait. Next time, be prepared and bring the necessary documents for your children!
After they let my parents through, I called my mom and told her what happened.
She nearly had a heart attack. I spent the rest of the ride home with my head hung in shame.
Mexico is beautiful!