So, before I was a crazy, single, adoptive, blogging, special needs mom, I was a crazy, sun-seeking, flip-flop wearing "missionary" in Mexico. (I say "missionary" because my life there was pretty cushy. Not like missionaries in African huts or anything.) I met some amazing friends down there and spent every free moment I had there from 2005-2009. Vacations, summer breaks, and even a school year. (I actually blogged about it on a Xanga blog that has probably since been deleted.)
I met my dear friend Anna down there. Neither of us have been there much since we left in 2009. We were looking forward to visiting and showing off my new daughter and her new fiance. We've been planning this trip forever!
So excited to be responsible for two US Passports on this trip.
Loaded into the cab and ready to go. She was not too thrilled about the early morning thing but she is always up for the airport.
She always does very well on planes. Surprisingly well. (Well, except for when she intentionally poured my Diet Coke in my lap.... Maybe Nana's been telling her how bad it is for me.) After a four hour flight, she fell asleep ten minutes before landing. It set a pattern for the day. She fell asleep ten minutes before we stopped for lunch and ten minutes before we got to the last rest stop before the mountain drive.
Riding on the shuttle bus to the car rental place. She looks like she could be a California girl!
On a side note, do not EVER rent from Thrifty/Dollar in San Diego. I've hated Dollar for years. I thought we were renting from Thrifty. I've always liked them but apparently they combined with Dollar. Bad move! We waited for over an hour outside in the sun to get to the counter. We were then told that they didn't have any cars left. (Why weren't they telling the huge line of people that?) They "found" a couple of SUVs we could choose from but charged us twice what we had planned to spend. The entire experience was a nightmare but the thought of shuttling back to the airport and trying another company made me want to cry so we paid up. The line was just as bad when we returned the car a week later. The staff said it's always like that. How frustrating to get off a four hour flight and then stand in another long line!
Sara did pretty well in line--except when a plane flew over. The first time she freaked out and planted her face into the butt of the man in front of us. Awkward! Especially since we had to stand behind him for another hour!
We made it to In-N-Out burger for a very late lunch. Sara was very excited that we finally decided to feed her. Personally, I don't understand all the hype. It's just a burger but Jonathan wanted to try it and Sara loved it.
We had a very uneventful trip south. We didn't get stopped at the border or any military check points. We had to make a few extra stops with the munchkin but Anna and I know where all the usable bathrooms are. (And the ones you can use if you really, really, REALLY have to.)
We stopped in to check in with our friends Andrea and Ricardo. It was so good to see them and Sara and I were very blessed to be able to stay with them. It's so nice to have a "home base" when traveling with a child. A hotel just isn't the same thing.
We stopped at the mission to check in with our friends there. Of course, everything took longer than we had planned. By the time found a taco place that was open, Sara was EXHAUSTED!
On Friday, we got up early and went to devotions at the mission where we used to work. It was so good to see everyone in one place! We then stopped in and checked on our old students. And they are OLD! It's amazing to see how much they have grown and changed in 4 years!
Unfortunately, something about the mission and the learning center triggered something in Sara. She did NOT like it there. I'm not sure if it was all the Spanish or the institutional setting or the complete exhaustion but she freaked out--especially in the learning center. It was not pretty. She made it very clear that she did not want to be there. Because of that, I didn't get to visit with my students like I wanted but Sara's needs definitely come first and she needed her mommy in that moment. I carried her out to the playground and assured her over and over that she was safe. Mommy was not going to leave her here. Mommy and Sara were visiting and then we would leave. TOGETHER. She calmed a bit after that but was pretty vigilant when ever we were on the mission grounds and wanted nothing to do with anyone who was speaking Spanish. That was definitely one of the moments when I wished she had more verbal skills. I wish I knew what triggered those feelings of panic in her.
Anna and I joked that were really going to Baja for the food. (It's kind of true.) There are foods there that you just don't find anywhere else---like fish tacos. (Don't turn your nose up. They're amazing! And I'm the worlds pickiest eater!) We gathered a group of friends together and headed down to the taco stand in town. Of course, there were other people there as well and we all crowded into the little stand. Randomly, one man looked at Sara and said "she looks adopted." Ummmmm? What??? I mean, she is but how in the world did he know that? I hear all the time that she looks just like me. It was the weirdest thing. (He later asked if we were down in Baja to drink for the weekend. Why, yes. I always take my four year old to Mexico to drink.....) I also had my old supervisor ask if she was really my daughter or if I adopted her. I informed that she really is my daughter because I adopted her. (The things people say....)
Sara and Micah watching the animals! They rotated that, Annie and Glee. They both LOVE to dance! Micah was fascinated by Sara. She prefers people that don't try so hard---and people that don't try to steal her shoes!
Reading a book with Kevin.
Watching Monster Trucks with Micah and his Daddy.
The best group of staff the Day Home will ever see!
These girls were my amazing co-workers when I lived in Mexico. We taught some really great kids with special needs. These ladies worked tirelessly creating curriculum and activities to teach children that were not being educated in the public school system. I miss working with these girls and being inspired by them!
(Not sure what those faces are....)
Saturday morning we went to Shipwreck beach for breakfast. I've heard people talk about the amazing breakfast there but have never made it out there. It was just as good as every one says. The French toast was phenomenal.
Checking out the Pacific Ocean. We've seen both of the oceans this summer!
Hanging with Mommy and Tia Anna.
We had planned to go to the beach but it was crazy windy. Fortunately, Micah has a pool. These too were incredibly happy and didn't fight or argue while they were swimming.
How many people can you put on a couch?
A big part of trips to the Baja involve slowing down for a bit and just BEING with people. There really isn't much to do there (besides eat). You are forced to slow down and just enjoy being together. And watch Human Planet.
Hanging out at Andrea and Ricardo's house.
Ricardo took the kids out to play. They both ended up in the pool fully clothed. I can't say that I was surprised. This girl LOVES water.
Sara ate this chip and then started begging for water. Apparently the salsa was a little much for her.
On Saturday night, Ricardo's brother had a concert for the release of his CD with his band Press One. It was at a local restaurant so we headed over for dinner and some music. Sara had a blast dancing away to the house music before the concert started. Poor baby was so tired that she was asking to go to bed before the concert actually started (an hour and a half late). So, we didn't actually get to hear them play but my burritos de machaca were great!
It would seem that they were tired of Human Planet. There were looking for a different DVD. (It's not often that Sara looks so tall!)
Sunday's lunch involved cheese quesadillas and guacamole. (Even those taste better down there!) Sara helped me make the guac and then ate some---even though it was GREEN! (She did pick out all the tomatoes, though.)
We told them we were going out for tacos. They had their shoes on in record time and were waiting for us at the gate. I think I may have to install one of those. It's very handy. No random dogs in. No kids out. Win/win.
Andrea gave her a lime to lick because they forgot to make her quesadilla. She loved it!
Only some of the kids come to the learning center on Fridays so we stopped back on Monday morning to see my two boys. Sara is playing on the playground with Uzzi since she didn't want to go back into the learning center. At this point, he's begging her to slow down! Notice the difference in how they are dressed. The differences between Americans and Mexicans are very apparent sometimes. And, my child refuses to ever admit she's cold.
The great kids that I used to teach English to that just aren't kids any more. I'm so proud of how much English they have learned. I still maintain that's the most important skill they can learn!
Anna and Jose. He's so grown up!
Anna and Lupita. I have known this little girl since she came into the clinic at 3. She has a heartbreaking history but such a great future!
My little Martin just turned 8!! I taught him back when he started in the learning center after just turning 3. He did nothing but cry all day. He couldn't do anything for himself. He drank from a bottle and showed no emotion towards other people. The only time he reacted to anything was when we turned on his road at the end of the day. I watched him learn to feed himself, drink from a cup, give hugs, and recognize people outside of his family. I almost cried when I watched him pick up his pencil and trace some lines. He's come so far but I swear he still recognizes me. His face lit up! Sadly, my little Angelito was sick that day so I didn't get to see him.
After our visit, we loaded into the car and headed to the states. I volunteered to drive through the mountains so Anna ended up in the back with Sara. (I prefer to be in control of the car as it winds up and down.)
Tia Anna has a hard time saying no to Sara.
I have mastered the art of playing dumb at the military checkpoints. You want them to think you speak a little Spanish since you are driving in their country but you don't want to let on that you are fluent. If you do, they ask a lot of questions. So, when they ask where we are coming from, I mumble that we came from Zapata and are going to San Diego. I then pretend I don't understand their next question. (It's helpful that they all mumble so it takes me a second to process.) They then tend to let me go. I can't imagine getting Sara out and standing on the side of the highway while they search our car. Maybe they didn't want to deal with it either. Maybe that's why they let us go.
I stopped driving just before we got to Tijuana. I HATE driving there. I always get lost. ALWAYS. EVERY SINGLE TIME. So, I got out and jumped in the back with Sara. Anna decided to tackle the awful city. She got lost. Really lost. Every sign that we saw that pointed to the US was on a road that was blocked off. We know how to get to the border but all our usual routes were blocked. The poor GPS was working over time trying to find us a route. We were all getting a little frustrated. TJ is not really a safe place to be lost.
We finally found a sign that said USA so we made an illegal U-turn and got in line. I saw the Sentri signs but it was too late. We were in the line. I wasn't really sure what Sentri was but I knew we didn't belong in that line. 18 minutes later we were at the booth. (The wait is usually HOURS!) We handed the guy our passports and he informed us just how wrong we were to be in that line. Sentri is a program for people who cross the border frequently. They go through background checks and interviews to pay for a card that allows them to cross easily. We explained that we were not from California or Tijuana and that we were really lost. We didn't mean to break the rules.
He put that yellow cone thing on the windshield and sent us to Secondary Inspection. They brought over a "fruit dog" that supposedly found something in my suitcase. They completely ripped it apart. There definitely wasn't any fruit in there. They kept asking things like "were you eating an apple when you packed this?" Sara alternated between wanting to pet the dog and yelling at it for being in my suitcase. Both of these things were unamusing to the agent. After a while, they said the bag was fine and we would have to wait while someone processed our paperwork. Sara was starting to wander between cars so we were allowed to put her back in the car.
She watched a movie while we waited for them to "process our paperwork." After a while, we realized that we were the only ones with a yellow cone. And the only white ones. And the only ones not getting processed and leaving. It was then they we realized we were in Adult Time Out. No one would make eye contact with us. No one would even look our way. Finally, after about an hour, someone came over and processed our paper work. He told us that if we do it again, it's a $5,000 fine!!! We reiterated that we really were lost. We weren't trying to skirt the line. We had no where else to be that day! We weren't in a hurry. He basically told us that they made us wait for a while since it wouldn't be fair to let us go too quickly since we didn't wait in line. He said that because we weren't local they believed that we were lost and were going to let us go this time. They let us go exactly one hour after we got in line.
*Just in case anyone important sees this, we really do understand how serious of an offense it was. We would never intentionally do such a thing. We really were very lost and frustrated. It WON'T happy again and we are very grateful for the grace shown to us. None of us have an extra $5,000 lying around!
After finally getting to the US, we spent a couple of days in California hanging out with my sister and celebrating Sara's birthday. Check back for that post.