Phillip is an amazing driver, and we are truly grateful to be safe and sound in Morelia. Our first couple weeks will be in the city dogsitting, so stay tuned for El Terreno Reverdecer updates in mid-April. In the meantime we'll be walking dogs, keeping tough dogs away from little dogs, going to language classes and eating mangoes. Oh, and figuring out 2017 taxes.
Pictures are from our trip through Mexico, and hanging at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónomo de México http://www.morelia.unam.mx/campus) where my uncle works.
Smooth border crossing; only papers reviewed were our passports (glad we didn't spend $600 on health certificates for the dogs, and they didn't even check the vaccine records we brought). The bikes and grill must've made us fit some camping stereotype for travelers because once they inspected the box Phillip built to hold the kitchen and be a bike rack, they weren't concerned with any of our other stuff. One agent did lift a corner of the bed and then seemed to agree with my conclusion that it's too much hassle to get into the storage tubs below, and he waved us through.We asked how to get stamps in our passports, having heard we might need those when we go to the consulate in Morelia to buy our actual temporary resident visas (see earlier post). Waiting and filling out that form took longer than our inspection. We left eager to get as far into Mexico as we could before dark, with nearly 700 miles to Morelia.
We stopped for fuel, bathrooms, letting the dogs out (they haven't noticed we crossed a border, by the way). An hour into this trip we reached the edge of the borderlands, at least in the sense that we came to the checkpoint at which they check vehicle import permits. "Isn't that part of our temporary resident visas?" I asked, and showed him our approval. "No." But we already have Mexican auto insurance, we're so official, it seemed to me, so I showed him our proof of insurance. "No." We had to return to the border.
As we drove we realized all this did sound familiar, but the process of moving to Mexico has been slow and often imprecise, and we're really sleep-deprived (see last post).
We drove back, had to pay US$1 per page of copies and needed copies of all sorts of things, including our van registration. At first we could only find last year's, and had flashes of horror that we might have accidentally left it in files in my parents' barn. In that case we would've either gone back to the US and applied anew for temporary resident visas (our current approval is only good for one entry to the country, so we really need to get to Morelia and buy our official cards) or waited for my mother to find and FedEx the registration to... where? The hour we spent between border and vehicle checkpoint was nearly sin servicios. Desperately, we explained that we had an up-to-date plate, could we just show him? "No." One more search...yes!
Oh, stress and sleep deprivation do not bring out the best in us!
So now we're back on the highway hoping the sun sinks ever so slowly and we can drive out of Nuevo León before dark (considered a particularly dangerous place to be).
Still, grace. As we left San Antonio today we realized that when we'd applied for these visas in Atlanta we expected to cross in Nuevo Laredo and she put that in our records. Later Phillip read that crossing by told road a few miles away in Colombia would be easier with less traffic since many people avoid the US$3.50 toll.
We called the Atlanta consulate and left a voicemail on the visa line asking if this would make a difference. After I hung up I realized I said our names but not our phone number. Even so, Consular Maria called us back to say, "it won't make a difference, have a great trip!" (See earlier post about this friendly, helpful official)
Why am I surprised when people are so kind and helpful along this process? Oh right, because in the US many people first feel suspicious of anyone who wants to be in our country.
One of many reasons we are drawn to Mexico for this van-dwelling permaculture adventure is to increase care and interest across this border. More soon - love from 3 hot dogs and 2 tired humans
stuck in San Antonio...
As some of you know, we had to replace the van's transmission a couple weeks ago. As we were leaving Atlanta for a disaster recovery volunteer week in Missouri, our hearts stalled in our throats as the van couldn't shift into third gear. We drove very slowly back to our friends' home, grateful this hadn't happened in rural Mexico. We missed the whole workcamp since it took a few days to rebuild the transmission, but now the van is ready for the next long haul, right? Nope, while they were working on the transmission, day 3 of them moving it around the lot and test driving, the van wouldn't start. This is a familiar problem, but we've replaced the battery, Phillip did some work on the starter - what next? Then it spontaneously started. So perhaps a fuel pump? Or ignition switch? Or ?
We took it to a new mechanic who said all they could do was start replacing parts, so they suggested we wait til it break all the way.
That happened last night in San Antonio. We are visiting my cousin, walking along the charming river and enjoying this beautiful climate and friendly community. Three people and three dogs piled back into the van at 9:30pm to drive back to my cousin's house for the night. We would get up before dawn to drive a few hours to the border and we were nervous about whether we'd be turned back for more dog paperwork, we weren't nervous about the van. But it wouldn't start. Definitely not the battery - Phillip checked and charged it from the solar panels just to be sure. Maybe we'd need a tow, but maybe it would spontaneously start again?
To enjoy the riverwalk we'd parked at a school, since it was evening and the lot was empty, just a block from the path. But not an appropriate place to park overnight. So Phillip and I decided to sleep in the van with the dogs as impound insurance, and my cousin called a friend for a ride home.