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Published: October 3rd 2009
Ruben & Julia, My Gracious Friends and Hosts
I've known them for 30 years, but only reconnected recently after being out of touch for almost 15. They said, "Come on down!" and I did!
Here I go, out from under the clutches of the PAW and on to my first new vista...
10/02/2009 08:35 AM
The trip from Ontario by bus to Guaymas (they don't pronounce the "G" here: "whymas") was interesting but not too eventful. The bus was clean and only half full for most of the trip. I couldn't make much sense out of why and when new drivers would come aboard. Some came and rode as passengers, two kept taking turns driving for 15 - 30 minutes each, and one jumped off the bus at a roadside taco stand in the middle of nowhere about 100 miles south of the border. The driver who remained with us from the border to Guaymas was very fidgety, had some facial ticks, and drove very fast. I'll ask my brother the cop if that adds up to anything.
Things worth mentioning began at the border. As long as we were in the States, the drivers kept strictly to the speed limits. I was asleep when we got to the border, which turned out to be a good thing. We stopped first at the American side, a first in all my
Ruben & Julia, My Gracious Friends and Hosts
Don't be fooled, behind the frown is some quip or tease in the act. Ruben has me laughing on a regular basis. And the slightness of smile on Julia's face is the photographer's fault: quite a feat to catch her in a rare moment without a big one...
border-crossing experiences. Granted, this was only my third cross into Mexico, but I've gone to Canada countless times, (I love that expression—it implies that the times are too many to count rather than the fact that I'm just too lazy to do it,) and have never seen the border guards check people going OUT of the country. I think that the border guards chalked my fumbling for answers to their questions up to my being half awake, which was correct, and didn't spend too much time with me. I was seated in the first row, so the border guard doing backup stayed put next to me as the other guard checked the passengers. They took two male passengers off the bus in handcuffs. After the first passenger was taken off, I asked Oturo, the guard next to me, why they took the young man in his twenties away. Oturo said that the man was an illegal and that there are often reasons why they go back to Mexico, such as outstanding warrants for their arrest. The guard said that they would detain the man for a few hours while they checked him out, and that if there was nothing wrong
Moshe, My Little Buddy
Moshe is the youngest of two grandsons living with Ruben & Julia, along with John & Julie, their daughter and son-in-law.
he'd be released to return to Mexico. As the two passengers were being taken off, they didn't look particularly concerned, although they appeared a little embarrassed. I'm always interested when I see people react to things very differently than I would. If I were standing there in handcuffs and made to face the rest of the passengers, as was the second man taken away, I would have been mortified. I always wonder about why I would react differently. It could be that my sense of shame is appropriate and that the man who actually had the handcuffs on had lost some sense of dignity, hardened as a kind of defense against the significance of what was happening to him. Or, it could be that my own sense of dignity has more to do with hubris than merit. I guess that's the kind of decision that I'll have to make for myself at the time, if the opportunity ever arises!
The Mexican side of the border was also interesting. All the luggage was pulled of the bus. It was kind of like the clowns' car at the circus: you wondered when it was ever going to stop and how they
Moshe and His Big Bro Arman
You should see these two go at it! No matter what Moshe does--and he's GOING to find some way to get it over on Arman--Arman's smile hasn't left his face once yet. Now that's a patient 14-year-old!
managed to squeeze so much into the available space! Everyone had to find his own luggage, which I did except for the carry-on bag I'd left in the overhead compartment. After I'd been standing with my bags for 10 minutes or so, the only English-speaking guard (as far as I could tell) asked me if I had anything on the bus? I told him that I did in the overhead compartment. He didn't bother trying to find further words and motioned me to retrieve it, which I did. I think that this both put me on their radar and gave them the impression that I was just another clueless American, which was pretty accurate. I ended up last in the line of about 40 passengers who shuffled through the inspection hut, pushed a button, and waited to see if they got a green light, which meant they could simply carry on, or a red light, which meant that their bags would be searched. The first dozen passengers seemed to take forever to process, and then the line started moving at a more reasonable rate. As I and the last few passengers moved our bags into the hut, (theirs they moved,
Moshe, My Little Buddy Take 2
He seems to think this is the best pose and expression for publication. Actually, when not wrestling with Arman or being tickled by me, he's a very intent, curious 4-year-old, so this shot isn't far from normal.
mine I heaved—just ask the bus drivers who had to load and unload them!) we moved past a luggage cart loaded with luggage. I quickly counted 14 pieces. I wondered whether these were confiscated from the last bus or something.
After we were all processed, there were still plenty of comings and goings. A couple of passengers went off with officers to another building, presumably to account for their items. One man spent a lot of time apparently answering questions and explaining a large, heavy item, wrapped in plastic, gray and otherwise featureless, that had been loaded onto the bus in Tuscon. It had an odd shape that brought to mind a toilet, but it was not quite big enough to be one. At one point I noticed an elderly lady slip a bill to one of the officers, who promptly slipped it into his hip pocket. I couldn't see the denomination. When they started reloading the luggage, the strange plastic-wrapped item had disappeared and the luggage cart piled with bags remained put in the inspection hut.
I asked the English-speaking officer what was going on. By that time we had been at Mexican customs for well over
Ruben and His Home
That's Ruben brushing away one of the bobalitos (gnats) which have invaded since the storm. I hear there are mosquitoes here, but I'll tell you it's nothing like it was in Winnipeg! Haven't seen a flea yet. Gnats, shmats, no bigee!
an hour. Now the guard was smiling, apparently having relaxed after his part of the inspection work was over. He was a good-looking, clean-shaven guy in his late twenties with a gun on his hip and mousse in his black hair. He motioned to the elderly lady I'd seen slip the other officer some money. He told me that all the bags piled onto the luggage cart in the hut were hers. They confiscated her bags because they suspected that they were full of used goods that she planned to sell in Mexico. It didn't take long after that to get all the luggage stowed again and we boarded the bus for the Mexican leg of the trip. The elderly lady, clearly distressed, got on as well without all that luggage. Although I couldn't understand them, a number of the passengers who I hadn't notice talk to her before were now saying all sorts of things to her, apparently in condolence.
The bus got underway, pulled out of customs, and went all of a half mile before we pulled into the bus station in Nogales. There we took on a new driver and retained the one we'd just had,
Julia, Arman & Moshe by the Driveway
You can see how much the storm flooding eroded the road in this shot. The original grade of the road was just a few inches below the bottom of the gate on the right. This view is west from the road in front of their home.
the one who eventually jumped off at the roadside taco stand. The first of the many almost ritualistic preparations that the new driver made prior to pulling out from the station was to insert a radar detector into the mounting bracket already suction-cupped to the windshield. I thought, "OK, this should be fun."
The next 50 miles or so, (I still automatically convert metric back into U.S., a habit I picked up while visiting my brother David in Germany in 1978,) were a series of unexpected stops with the drivers switching back and forth at each stop. I saw no reason for this. Funny how we think that there should always be a reason and that we should be the ones to see it. At one point, the driver we acquired in Nogales came back from a roadside taco stand with a great-smelling plate of food which he devoured while the other driver kept us going. At the next taco stand, the driver who had taken us across the border jumped off and that was the last we saw of him. There was no settlement or town in sight, so he probably hopped aboard one of the many busses
North View of Road & Surroundings
Ruben & Julia's road was a smooth, well-graded gravel road as is common in the area. The storm flooding turned much of it into barely navigable mud and rock. Nothing but hills to the north for about 60 miles.
that passed us as they headed north, to which our drivers always waived or motioned signs as they went by.
The rest of the trip wasn't eventful, unless you think events are things like driving 20-25 miles over the posted speed limit on very twisty roads, (my motorcycle-riding sons and nephew would love that road!) braking whenever the radar alarm went off, passing freight trucks at 70 - 75 miles an hour in narrow lanes with maybe 6 inches of clearance between vehicles. We did have a close call with a police car in Hermosillo which attempted a U-turn and darted out in front of us, then stopped dead when the driver realized that we were coming, blocking our lane of travel. To the bus driver's credit this was the only time that he had to do a panic stop, swinging the bus around the grill of the police car and somehow managing to continue on without hitting it or anything else. At that point I realized that I had nothing to worry about for the rest of the drive, in spite of the fact that one or another part of the driver's body was in constant motion the
entire trip. At least he was alert!
In spite of the long delay at the border, we arrived in Guaymas only about a half hour late. My friends Ruben and Julia picked me up at the bus station. This is the first time I've seen them in fifteen years, and it's been great to catch up and to see how their family has grown. They live with their daughter Julie, her husband John, and their two boys Arman and Moshe. Julie is pregnant with her third child.
Tomorrow I'll write about the conditions here after the hurricane. A few pictures of Ruben and Julia and their home are attached. In a few of the photos you can see some of the work being done on their home to repair damage caused by the more than 40 inches of rain that fell here in about 36 hours.
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