Nate and I went to Mexico!!!
Like I said in my last post, we really didn't have any plans as to where we were going or what we would do. We just drove and did whatever we wanted when we wanted. It was fun to just be free and flexible and enjoy the journey as it came.
After talking to several people about going to Mexico that I trusted,
my amazing friend Ashley who is from Mexico,
my 1st grade student Nathan's dad who drives to Mexico often for vacation with his family,
and my brother in law who does motorcycling trips to Mexico,
we decided that it was completely safe.
They all said that it is safe as long as you mind your P's and Q's, drive the speed limit, fill up on gas before you leave America, don't drive at night, and get Mexican car insurance. So we took all the necessary pre-cautions, and off we went on our adventure.
We also got some waters and snacks just in case we got stranded somewhere.
Here is a picture of our first glimpse of Mexico from California.
It is still so crazy to me how you can be in beautiful expensive California one minute and then the next minute you are in poor Mexico and it feels like a whole new different world.
You can't see it in this picture, but the craziest part was seeing the HUGE Mexican flag flying in the distance. I felt like I was driving into the closet in the movie Narnia and going into a new magical land so different from my home.
Here is us about to cross the border. Nate's mom called right about as we were ready to cross and she said, "Where are you guys?" "We are crossing the border into Mexico right now." "Are you guys crazy??!! Are you driving across or walking?"
"Maybe. Driving. We got to go mom. Talk to you later. Bye." It was hilarious.
The first part of Mexico that we saw was in fact a little on the scary side. That is what we had heard so we weren't really that surprised. Tijuana isn't known as that great of a place. A lot of bad things happen there right now. So our plan was to drive through Tijuana as quickly as we could with our doors locked until we got into a safer area. Right after crossing the border we saw tons of the most ghetto looking old houses. I don't even know if you could really call them houses. They were more like shacks. So sad. We saw tons of barefoot homeless looking people just camped out everywhere. Some had kids too. There were lots of drunk guys walking down the road and creepy looking people everywhere. It definitely wasn't a place we wanted to stay in for long. Border towns seem to always be like this they say. Lots of crazy people trying to cross the border illegally.
Here are some of the "nicer" looking houses in Tijuana that we saw.
It hit me hard how crazy it was that just a couple miles down the road from here that there were people in California living the rich life in San Diego while these people here in Mexico had nothing. How different a few miles can make. I all of a sudden felt so grateful for my country and our freedom and life that we enjoy. We don't know how lucky we are! Then I saw the big electric fence that makes the divide between the USA and Mexico. This fence stretches out for what seems like forever, making sure that people don't cross illegally. So sad that this fence is what is keeping people from having a better life. There are so many Mexican people who are probably praying and wishing that they could just somehow make it over that fence to have a better life for their families. So sad.
I am so proud to be an American!
As soon as we got through Tijuana, we were amazed at the beauty of Baja California! Wow! It is absolutely gorgeous! Most of the drive down to Ensenada is on the coast so you have ocean views to enjoy as you are driving. There were tons of beautiful hotels and houses.
The farther we drove the nicer Mexico became.
It was like beautiful California but almost better because it was less crowded and more green.
I took this picture because I found it funny that they cut out a chunk of the mountain to continue the road. It worked out nicely though.
We finally got to Ensenada!
It seemed so Americanized. We saw quite a lot of white people too. There were tons of tourists. There was even a cruise ship that was docked. We felt very very safe. They had so many American stores- Home Depot, Burger King, McDonald's, Radio Shack, Walmart, Costco, and even Starbucks!
We saw tons of people outside of Starbucks waiting. At first we didn't think anything of it but after a while we realized that all the people waiting outside were standing in line for job interviews. They all had applications in their hands. It was crazy! Starbucks is a popular place to work.
I guess there isn't that many jobs in Mexico right now. Part of the problem I guess.
We didn't know where we were going to stay when we first got there but after driving around a bit we found a Best Western hotel. We thought that sounded safe and familiar to us so we went with it. It was actually quite nice for Mexican standards. And they had a locked parking area which was important to us because online it said to make sure you park in one to avoid being broken into in the middle of the night and having stuff stolen out of your car and your window bashed in. So that was a must for us.
Here are some pictures of the view from outside our hotel window.
Here are some pictures of the inside of our hotel. It wasn't the nicest hotel that I have ever stayed in by any means but it was clean and safe and that is all that we really cared about.
After checking into our hotel we decided to call our moms to let them know that we got there safely so they wouldn't worry about us and wonder why our cell phones weren't working. We called Nate's mom first. We showed her around our hotel room using FaceTime on our IPad.
When we called my mom, she didn't know that we were even thinking about going to Mexico. We knew that she would be so worried about us that we thought we would share the news with her after we were already there and safe. We didn't want to kill her and make her have a heart attack over the stress of it all. When we called her she asked where we were and what we were doing. Nate showed her where we were using his IPad and showed her out our hotel window. He showed her up and down the street and then zoomed into the Mexican flag. She said, "What is that? Is that supposed to mean something to me?" Nate was giving her clues about the colors of it and asked her to guess where we were. She didn't know. We finally told her and she went silent. After we told her we were fine and how safe it was here she seemed to be fine with it all, curious even.
And best of all, there was no heart attack. :) Love you mom! :)
After we got all settled we went out on a walking exploring tour. We just started walking around. I love exploring new places and new cultures. It made me miss London and Europe and all of our adventures that we had there last year!
We walked through some markets, walked around the coast line and saw all the boats, and then found some good food to eat.
We found some homemade churros!!!
They were so good. There was this cute little old lady who was making them from scratch. She poured the batter into the machine, pumped the batter out into churros, fried them in oil, rolled them in cinnamon and sugar and then filled them with all types of yummy fillings. It was cute. I was in heaven.
We also found a cute little Mexican food shop. It was cuter on the outside and inside then the food tasted but we still had a good time.
Then we saw that McDonald's had something cool that it doesn't have in the USA. They had Oreo cones filled with vanilla ice cream so it was like eating an Oreo in an ice cream form. So good. And it was only 25 cents. :)
The next morning we drove down to a famous tourist destination, La Bufadora.
It is a really pretty place right on the ocean. La Bufadora is a blow hole where the waves crash into a little crevice of the rock and water shoots up super high. It is actually quite amazing the things that nature can do! It was a gorgeous day too with perfect weather.
As you walk down to see the blow hole there is a street that is made into a market. People are coming at you left and right trying to get you to buy things and bargain with them. It is a little overwhelming but after being in Morocco for a week last summer Nate and I were pretty used to it. Everything was super cheap and you could talk them down even more. Nate bought some Mario and Luigi piggy banks for his 6 year old twin brothers for their birthday. I bought some sunglasses and two pairs of earrings. One pair was made out of a coconut shell and the other had real starfish hanging on them.
The funny part about this part of our trip is who we ran into!
We saw a father and his daughter shopping around and we noticed them telling someone that they were from Salt Lake City. Nate started talking to him and telling him that that is where we are from. Nate was also wearing his BYU hat which was a big give away. I noticed the little girl staring at me but didn't think anything of it. The little girl ran away and then pretty soon came back with her mom and the other siblings. The mom of this family was the art teacher at Willow Canyon, the school that I teach at! Her daughter recognized me and went to tell her mom, "Mom! Mrs. Hembree is here!" It was so funny to run into her in a totally different country. What a small world. They were on a family vacation for spring break taking a cruise. The cruise ship that we saw was their boat!
After we left here, we decided to just go for a long drive, continuing on south down the peninsula of Baja California to see what there was to see. There were a few towns here and there but not really that much. We ended up turning around after a couple of hours and heading back to Ensenada.
The most interesting part of this whole journey though was the random stops that happened to us. Every once in a while with just a little notice we would be stopped by the Mexican military. They wore uniforms and carried machine guns strapped to their backs. No, not intimidating at all......They were standing on the side of the road and stopping people to search their cars for drugs. They don't speak any English. The first couple times this happened they would stop us and ask us a couple of questions in Spanish. We would just look at them and say, "American." Then they would look at each other and just motion us on through to keep on driving. It was so funny. It was like the key word was American and if we said that then they didn't even bother us or give us any hassle. :)
There was one time that they stopped us though and did search our car. The American password didn't work on this one, dang it. We just got out and stepped aside while they searched whatever they pleased. They checked under our seats, in every draw, nook, cranny, and inside of our trunk. Then after about 5 minutes then let us continue. We were glad to be on our way again.....
Ok.....let's talk food.
One of the main reasons that we wanted to go to Mexico, especially Nate, was to eat their tacos. Nate loves authentic Mexican tacos. He searches them out wherever he goes and loves the little stands. He talks about when he went down to Mexico City before we met and he got tacos, 5 for a buck. He ate 10 that day in one sitting. He loves them. So of course our goal while in Mexico was to find a great taco stand....and we did. Oh yes, we did. :)
This place was so good. They were selling tacos 2 for a buck. The lady was making homemade tortillas right there in front of us rolling out her homemade dough and frying them up. All of the salsas and guacamoles were homemade and fresh. The meat was delicious, having been marinating over night with pineapple juices and spices. Then they roast it on this thing that circulates as it cooks. I am not even a meat person, in fast I am mostly vegetarian, but I love this al pastor spicy pork. Yum! Authentic places always serve their tacos with radishes which I used to think was kind of odd but I realize why they do it now. The radishes are so good to eat with the tacos because they kind of lessen the spice of everything in your mouth. They clean your palate like a saltine cracker does or a spoonful of sorbet. It is really is the perfect combination- tacos, radishes, and of course a Mexican soda of some sort. :)
After driving around a bit more, we decided to head on back to our home country, the USA. We wanted to spend some more time in California before it was time to head home. So we hit the road again and started singing our road trip Willie Nelson song, "On the road again, I can't wait to get on the road again. The life I love is making music with my friends. And I can't wait to get on the road again." And we started driving again.....
Getting back into the country was a little on the difficult side.....
It took us 3 hours to get back in!!!
The lines were so long and it was completely ridiculous.
Nate and I watched a movie while we waited and moved up about a few feet every five minutes. We were so close yet so far away from getting back home. There were people selling junk in between the cars pushing around carts and holding up signs. There were kids juggling for money. There were old women begging by the car doors for money. We just couldn't wait to get back to America again. We were worried that we were going to run out of gas before we crossed into the border!
When we finally got up there the guy asked us tons of questions. He searched our car and inside of our trunk. He was really strict with us and meant complete business. Then after about 7 minutes, he finally let us through. It was so nice to get back on American soil again. :)
Next....on to California!....