Monday, March 30, 2015

2 days, 800 delightful miles

You might be saying:  2 days, 800 delightful miles?  How can that possibly be?  

Actually, I was kind of saying that to myself last night, when I arrived home at 11:00 pm, tired and sore from driving every one of those "delightful" miles.  

But honestly, it's the truth.  As I was taking this marathon trip, driving from nearly one end of my consular district to another, and then back again to Merida, kind of making a triangle, I was thinking that I'm just so lucky to live in an area where I can drive freely without fear of overt danger.  Of course I still need to be careful, and I am.  In fact, I drove a few miles extra on my way home to take a more well traveled road vs. the more convenient, less traveled, no cell phone reception road -- definitely not a road you should take at night.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me take you back in time, 2 days ago. 

It's Friday night and nearly time for the consulate to close, and here come the email notifications:  one American in custody in Campeche, and 4 Americans in custody in Chetumal. Having detainees in Chetumal is hard enough to coordinate because that means a 5 hour drive (one way) with our limited resources, but also having a detainee in Campeche, which is on the opposite side of the peninsula, means someone is gonna do a whole lotta driving this weekend.  With one officer on R&R, another on annual leave, and the other on duty, guess who's going driving? yes, that's!

First thing Saturday morning, I drop Oscar at doggie daycare and I'm out the door. In two hours, I'm at the main prison in Campeche, conveniently located right off the federal highway, next to the hammock makers, I'm here to visit someone who perhaps did something perhaps not so good (isn't that always the reason?).  Out of all the prisons I've been to, it was actually one of the "better" ones.  It had automatic cell doors that actually worked.  (I guess it doesn't take much to impress me!).

Despite their "fancy" doors, this is not a place I'd like to stay for long.
After doing all that I needed to do, I'm back in the car, heading to Chetumal, more than 300 miles away.  I travel south through seaside towns, until the road turns inland, and then I'm back on the route that Patrick and I took for our 1500 mile journey (Yes, I promised a blog about that, didn't I? It's coming, it's coming!)  

About 6:30 pm, just when it's getting dark and I'm getting restless, I pull into the town of Xpujil.  As I pass the yummiest restaurant in town (Sazon Veracruzano--in case you are in the neighborhood one day), I recognize the mini van of my colleague Robert (who is on leave), and I remember that he's visiting Calakmul with his family.

I'm such a firm believer that God gives you what you need when you need it, and this was the perfect time to take a little break, have a little snack, and get some little hugs.  As you can tell, we were all kind of wild and crazy.  :-)

Mary, Vivianne, me, Ben, Henry, and Marshall
Then it was back in the car, for the remaining 2 hours drive to Chetumal....only it was worse than that, because as I got into the car, I remembered that the state of Quintana Roo is actually one hour ahead of us, and that really meant a 3 hour drive!!!  Oh no! But all in all, I gratefully arrived safely, and was snuggled into bed by 11 pm.  

Sunday:  Rise and Shine and off to the Mexican Immigration Detention Facility.   Being the "good American consular officer that I am", I arrived punctually at my appointed time, only to wait 45 minutes for someone to come and unlock the door to the area normally used for consular interviews. Oh well...and whoops, by the way, instead of 4 Americans, there are really 6.  Alrighty then....let's get to it.

3 hours later, forms were completed, requests were facilitated, phones calls were organized, and 6 Americans were a bit happier having seen their American consul.  It's honestly a great feeling when you legitimately help someone.

3pm - what to do, what to's a beautiful day.  The sun is shining and the sky is so blue. I don't frequent this part of the peninsula very often, so I decide to drive 40 miles to visit the sleepy fishing village of Mahaual.  We've had some cases from this area recently, and I thought it would be good to check it out. 

They say that Mahaual has two faces....the one it shows when the cruise ships dock and tourists arrive, and the other one it shows when everyone leaves.  I definitely got the "everyone's left" face.

el faro, aka the lighthouse

crepe paper storm and that thing would be off to sea!

"downtown" Mahaual...I use that term  loosely

Time to hop back in the car and make my way back to Merida....5 hours away--sigh.  But for right now, I'm thinking about how the road between Mahaual and the federal highway is very interesting.  40 miles of mangroves and low shrubbery, and I just can't help but feel how healthy and beneficial it must be for all the animals who live here.  It's wonderful to see land preserved in it's natural state.  About 2/3 of the way to the end, I am rewarded with a glorious site.  I see this amazing area of mangroves and grass,where all these beautiful birds are just hanging out.  I pull over to the side of the road and just sit there, listening to them honking and squaking and chattering about their life.

I love how the pink birds have a shovel-like bill.
Birds of many feathers flock together

Just one lone "blue bird", hanging out

You can really see the mangroves here. 

Like I said...800 delightful miles!

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