BootsnAll Travel Network

99% Nerve

The border crossing from El Paso, Texas into Juarez, Mexico went really smoothly.  We did get the red light (for those of you who have been to Mexico know what that is all about).  However, the woman who was searching our car was so helpful.  We asked her where to get our tourist card and our car permits, and she told us where to park and how it all worked.  (Matthias is really good at starting conversations with total strangers.)  The men issuing the tourist cards were even friendlier.  We felt like we were off to a good start.  Then we tried to get out of Juarez.  It took us 45-mintues to get out of the city.  First we missed our exit, then we turned around went back, and then took the wrong exit.  We were lost.  At one point we stopped at a stop sign and their happened to be a policemen standing next to our car.  He seemed awfully concerned that I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, which seemed odd to me since no one cares about all the Mexican’s riding in the back of pick-up trucks.  But he was at least able to get us back on the road to Chihuahua and out of Juarez. 
We had to drive all the way to Chihuahua that day as there really is only 1 small city between Juarez and Chihuahua.  Chihuahua is big (not sure of how many people live there) and we found it awfully difficult for us to navigate.  We found a hotel room for $15.00 but I backed down and said I wasn’t ready for that room.  While wooden floors might seem quaint, they sure weren’t in this hotel.  There were gaping holes in the floor, they were uneven and squishy in parts.  The shower was crumbling concrete and there was no way I was going to take a shower in there.  There was a closet in the room, but the light level was so low in the entire room that it was impossible to see what was really deep down in any corner of any part of the room.  We drove around for at least another hour until we found a hotel that we were all ok with.  It cost 50 instead of 15, but breakfast was included and Matthias and I both were willing to spend that for our first night in Mexico.  We are going to ease into the entire Mexico experience.
We sure do turn heads here.  Today we went from Chihuahua to Jimenez, which is a very small town with exactly 4 Gingos – Allison, Matthias, William and Julian.  Julian has always been the focal point when we walk through town with his almost white-blonde hair and pale white skin.  In just the day and a half we’ve been in Mexico so far I’ve heard “Nino bonito!” in reference to Julian more than once, and we really haven’t been out that much. 
To be honest, I don’t always feel so comfortable here.  Our Spanish is bad.  We are able to rent a hotel room, buy a map and I almost ordered breakfast completely in Spanish today.  (I didn’t understand ‘scrambled’ or ‘over easy’ in Spanish when the waiter was referring to my eggs).  We get stared at a lot, and it is hard to interpret those stares.  Are they just looking and don’t care that we are here?  Are they curious about us?  Do they want us to leave?  Probably all of the above.  We’ve been here for less than 36 hours, and I’m sure it’ll get easier with time and some improved language skills.
30 kilometers outside of Juarez is the office where you get your vehicle permit.  While there we talked to a really nice couple (both anthropologists) who were on their way into southern Mexico to live for a year.  Starting when their son was 3 they used to take a year sabbatical every few years, move their whole family to Mexico and do independent work in some very remote areas.  When they heard about our trip they were really excited for us.  Neither one of them was all that shocked about what were doing since they had done it a bunch of times themselves already.  She told me “Most people don’t do these kinds of trips but really they are about 99% nerve.”  It’s good to remember that in those moments where I don’t understand anything anyone is saying and have no idea where I’m going to sleep that night.  It is also good to remember when yet another person skeptically says “Ohh, Mexico.  Well, be careful.”  But it is also clear that this woman is right when we meet yet another Mexican on the street who strikes up a conversation with us just to see who we are and where we are from, or when the guys next to us in a traffic jam asks us where we are from and gives us directions to where we are going.  There are a lot of really nice people here, and a few bad ones, just like in every other country.  Now it is up to us to see what is interesting about this country.

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