Giving, Kindness & Acceptance

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Recently I was invited to join a group called South of the Border Bloggers (SOTB), a group of writers who have all had experiences like mine living in Mexico and other countries south of the US border.  I have never considered myself a blogger or a writer, but I like the idea of connecting with others who have their own crazy stories to tell and of sharing ideas and thoughts and maybe even support.   Each month the group picks one topic to write about and this month, in honor of American (and Canadian?) Thanksgiving they chose the title Giving, Kindness and Acceptance.

Although I don’t have American or Canadian cable TV, I do have Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.  I hear what is happening in the world.   I know that giving and kindness and acceptance are having a difficult time right now.  Definitions are shifting.  Opinions about who deserves acceptance and who needs to give it are being debated by politicians and churches.  Kindness is being lost in polls and demonstrations and hashtags.   They say that the solution to gun violence is not more kindness but more guns and the streams of broken people seeking shelter and safety are not brothers we should give to but invaders coming to take from us.  They…. We…. are building walls to separate us rather than bridges to connect us.   No, I’m not picking on any one political party – it’s just all of us.  We all do it.

IMG_20160704_174431_edit_editI know I do it.  One of the things I have struggled with here is looking into the bitter eyes of the children I work with, and not being filled with anger and judgement towards their parents and caregivers.  Oh, how I want to judge.  Drug addiction, prostitution, poverty, alcoholism, violence, abandonment.  So many mistakes that have landed on the shoulders and hearts of these children.  It’s not hard to justify my stinkin’ judgey attitude.

 

This month as I considered this topic and as I considered Thanksgiving, I was reminded that “but for the grace of God go I”.  I know how much I have to be thankful for.  In fact, every day in 2018 I have been writing in my Lovely List – 20181113_162547_resized.jpgI have over 950 items now.  The hummingbird in the garden today, the laughter with my husband, the help of a friend, the crazy antics of a puppy, a text from a daughter, a really good taco …. So many things to be thankful for.  Family and faith and home and my daily bread.  But I also recognize that I did nothing to deserve any of it.   Where I was born, who I was born to, the education I was given, the security I have always had and always taken for granted…. I did not earn any of it and do not deserve it.  Not more than the sweet boy who lives in a one room house in the slums made of tarps, or the 5-year-old who was given an STD by a relative or the young daughter raped by her father who she trusted.

So what does acceptance look like in this place?  I don’t think it means that we accept injustice.  We must keep fighting that.  But I am trying to accept that these parents are doing the very best they can.  I accept that they were also broken as children and don’t know how to give love or guidance because they’ve never seen it.  I’m trying to believe that it is in the acceptance of the broken, that we can finally get to the giving of the kindness.

So Happy Thanksgiving to my friends North of the Border!  Enjoy the turkey and the trimmings and the love of your family.  Don’t feel a bit guilty – you have been given a great gift.  But please, take a moment to give away some kindness, to offer love and acceptance to someone who might not seem to deserve it.    Put the debates on hold and the Facebook rants on silent and the judgements in the trash can – and just go #love someone!

“Freely you have received; freely give”  Matthew 10:8

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45139569_10215621288638874_8553295776481017856_nCheck out some other thoughts on this subject by the SOTB

 

 

Posted in Challenges & Frustrations, Things I've Learned, Uncategorized, Volunteering in Mexico | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

A Major Purchase & More Bureaucracy

Finally! We made a major purchase, licensed and registered it with the State of Nayarit and it WORKED almost perfectly.
You’ll remember that in late July we drove our truck and trailer back to Canada to sell. It wasn’t pretty – the accident, the near arrest, the breakdowns, the late arrival. (Maybe our Worst Trip Yet!)  It was ugly, but it was done and since then we have been keeping our eyes open for a replacement truck. A couple of weeks ago we got serious about the search. Grant has a new business idea brewing (stay posted!) and he will need a truck to make it happen. We had expected to buy a vehicle in Guadalajara, but after a LOT of online research, we decided to check what was available locally. Big club cab trucks aren’t all that common here, so it didn’t take us long to check out every used lot in the Bay and to settle on two options. A sleek, shiny black truck and an older bright red one – both Dodge, both heavy enough to haul a lot, and both roomy enough to transport a crowd of little Mexican children. Both in good shape. The red one was considerably cheaper but also considerably older. We test drove them both, had our mechanic give them the once over and chose ….. (insert drum roll) … the black one!


20181101_123714_resizedThe main hurdle to purchasing anything major here in Mexico is figuring out how to pay for it. The dealer only wanted cash – no cheques, no bank wires, no drafts, no credit cards. Just a lot of cash. We started raiding ATMs and then realized since I would be in Canada for a few days for family business, I would be able to get most of the pesos we needed from our bank there. I called ahead to order the rather larger number of pesos and when I arrived, I was thrilled to be told they had just received a shipment of mostly $1000 and $500 bills. My stack of bills would be manageable. Oh, the irony of going all the way to Canada to find pesos to purchase a truck in Mexico.

The dealer had promised to repaint the truck hood which had peeled a bit under the grueling summer sun and on Thursday we went to pick it up and get the legalities of registration taken care of. We expected the worst. When dealing with bureaucracy we always expect the worst. We’re rarely disappointed. Remember our story of buying my little VW?  (Shopping for Wheels) Or registering the trailer? (One Full Year to Get Some Plates)  It never goes smoothly, and we didn’t expect it to this time either.

First, we had to get it inspected and the serial number verified – last time that cost me a ladder! But that went smoothly, and we were only there for about 1 ½ hours waiting in line. The next stop was the registration office in the town of Mezcales. It was around noon and they are open until 2:00 so we were confident we could get this done. We knew the next day all government offices would be closed to recognize Mexico’s beloved Day of the Dead – a day to remember and celebrate those loved ones that have passed on – but we still had 2 hours and we really wanted to get those plate before the weekend. But of course, no. They were already closed. “Why are you closed today?” “Well tomorrow is a holiday, so we closed today at 11.” “But the holiday is tomorrow.” “Yes, so we are closed today.”
Well okay. I guess Monday will work. Today we headed back to the office knowing there would be a big lineup after the two-day closure. We arrived at 8:30 and at 9:00 when the doors opened, we were at the front of an already long line. We had brought multiple copies of everything – we’ve been through this drill before – but after the shuffling, stapling, reshuffling, restapling we were sent across the street for more copies. 3 copies of this, 2 copies of the rest. Fine. More copies, more waiting in line, more shuffling, more stapling, many of the copies handed back to us as unnecessary (but you just told me to get them???) and finally, we were handed our new license plates. We also realized that we were supposed to have renewed our registration on Azulita the Volkswagone every year and we hadn’t done that since 2016, so we took care of that too. Oops.

20180915_091319_resizedSo, Grant is back on the road. We are again a two-vehicle family. Well three if you count our favorite, the little blue golf cart which really has become our main mode of transportation over the rubble and through the potholes. Our lifestyle is so very different here that I know we could get by with just 1 set of wheels, but I am not quite ready to let go of my own sense of independence and identity. My freedom. I really have absolutely nowhere to go that I can’t walk to or bounce to on the golf cart, but I’ve owned a car since I was 16. My powder blue convertible is just one more of those material things that I continue to cling to as some kind of weird crutch to prove that life is normal. That I am okay when so much is uncertain. That I can go….somewhere….  I know that’s not where my comfort lies, but hey I’m just being real here!  Besides, who doesn’t want to see a couple of old people and a fluffy white poodle heading to the beach with the roof down and the music blaring. It’s all part of the dream and we’re loving living it!

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Are We Happy?

Recently one of my friends emailed me to question whether we are really happy here.  Whether we are at peace.   Which made me realize that a LOT of my blog posts are about the crazy and difficult things that happen to us here.  Let’s face it – drama makes for better blog reading.

But as the 3-year anniversary of our move passed in September, I thought this would be a good time to consider the question.  Are we happy?  And if we are, why?  What are the things we love about living here.  Just thinking about the question made me smile.  YES!  We are happy.  I am happy.  It is a bit hard to put into words what makes something ‘right’ or ‘good’ but I can think of many tangible things that I love about our life here:

  • The weather. I can’t lie.  The weather had a lot to do with why we moved and that has not changed.  Yes, it is super hot right now, but I still love the perpetual summer and although autumn is no longer about pumpkins and gourds and red and yellow leaves, there are changes in the flowers that bloom and the foliage that grows.  The bouganvilias are back and the pretty purple vines are now everywhere.  Soon the nights will cool and our air conditioner remote control will be put away in the nightstand for a few months.
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    Fish Taco heaven!

    The food.  Who doesn’t love a good taco?  I am surrounded by Mexican food – taquerias and loncherias – not to mention donut trucks that show up at my door and a French Fry cart that recently appeared right across the street from my house.  I almost never tire of Mexican food, but when I do there is also a great Sushi place around the corner, the best burgers ever across the highway and a delicious pasta/pizza place a couple blocks away.  All of it for less than $10 a meal and most of it less than $5.   Unfortunately, that means I’ve gained some weight, so that brings me to the next thing….

 

  • The beach.  Any time I want to I can walk or run on miles and miles of soft sand beach or jump in the ocean which right now is as warm as a bathtub.  Gorgeous sunrises, beautiful sunsets, majestic lighting storms – it is easy to get my 10,000 steps in if I want to.  Those are the key words and I admit I have been slacking lately – time to get back on it before my Fitbit buddy Cheryl comes down to kick my butt as she has threatened.

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  • The people.  There is something infectious about the passion of the Mexican people.  Whatever they do is accompanied by loud music, loud laughter, loud children, loud dogs.  Even the barrios most touched by poverty have streets blocked off and pinatas hanging from trees when birthdays roll around.  Today we drove around town on our golf cart and we headed into the poorest communities in our town.  Groups of men sat on corners sipping from giant bottles of beer, but they all waved at us and yelled greetings as we went by.  I have no idea why I like that, but I do.  I love these people and I love being part of the rhythm of life here.
  • The meaningful work we do. The most important part of our life here is the work we do at Manos de Amor, the local Children’s Shelter.  We have seen the worst of the worst there – a 10-year-old repeatedly raped by her father, a 5-year-old with an STD, a young preteen whose mom recently went to jail for killing her husband, leaving the girl without mother or father or home.  Pregnancy, and drugs and prostitution and poverty.  I hate it all.  But we love these children and we believe that our presence in their lives matters – teaching them English, inviting them to stay in our home when they have nowhere to go, driving them to visit family on weekends, playing silly games and singing and dancing. Loving on them.  It all means something that has become more valuable to us than careers, salaries and possessions.

I guess the bottom line is that we have changed and what matters to us has changed.  We have less security but more peace.  Less comfort but more joy.  Less success but more compassion.  I could make a long list of the things that are harder here, but you can read the rest of my blog to get all those stories.  Tonight, we rest in the assurance that we are where we are meant to be, and we are indeed happy!

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So dear family and friends, please stop worrying and go book your winter vacation flight – we’ll be waiting for you curbside in the golf cart with a taco in hand.

 

 

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Sisters in School

It has been a very long time coming, but finally all 3 of our weekend daughters are in school and we couldn’t be happier.   Here in Mexico children must have birth certificates before they can enroll in school, and the two youngest in this family had never been registered, never been counted, never really existed as people with the right to be educated and employed.  After more than a year of knocking on the closed doors of doctors, lawyers and other bureaucrats, Britany and Pricila finally possess the papers they need to open locked classroom doors.

During the week these girls live at Manos de Amor, Casa Hogar and on weekends they hang out with us – at the pool or at the beach, eating chorizo quesadillas and tacos.  Little Pricila has a medical issue that keeps her from living at Casa Hogar right now, so she is temporarily living with us all week.  It’s been a long time since I took a little one to her first day of school, but I was pretty excited to do so this week.  So was she!  I definitely need some practice on how to create pretty braids and keep white uniform shirts clean,  and what the heck do I do with Spanish homework?  But I’ll learn.  More importantly, finally Pricila has her own opportunity to learn… to read and to write and to dream of a future where she can grow up to be whatever she wants to be.

 

 

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Maybe our Worst Trip Yet!

It wouldn’t be the first time a road trip between Mexico and Canada clobbered us with challenges and frustrations, but our recent trip last week might top them all.

We knew we would need to take our truck and trailer back to Canada within the next 2 years – our truck was not the correct type or year to be imported – and since Grant’s family had planned a reunion for the August long weekend, we decided that would be a perfect time to drive north. Our intention was to leave Wednesday or Thursday at the latest, drive 2 or 3 days on smooth Mexican toll roads, eat our way through American restaurants, spend a couple of days in my Canadian hometown with my family and some friends and then hop on a plane to Alberta for the reunion on Friday. Somewhere in there we would take our trailer and our truck to a consignment lot and eventually jump on a plane back home. It was a good plan. It should have worked. But…..

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The first snag was that we really wanted to have the trailer painted a spiffy black, so it would look a lot younger than its actual years. Of course, when the painter guy said it would take 2 days, he actually meant 4 days, which meant we didn’t get away until Saturday morning. The driving days would need to be longer, the restaurants more fast food than sit down, but we could still make it. Until Guadalajara. Only 4 hours from home we hit our biggest, and scariest, challenge to date.

Guadalajara is a REALLY BIG CITY and we knew it was going to be tricky driving a truck pulling a 30-foot trailer through there. But the highway goes straight through the city. It really is just put the car in Drive and go straight. Unfortunately, Mexican motorcycle drivers seldom just go straight and, on this Saturday, a young man on a motorbike decided it would be faster if he could just weave in and out between vehicles, making the 2 lanes into 3. What he didn’t calculate well was the width of our dually truck and that trailer. As he tried to drive between us and the car beside us, he scraped against the side of the truck, bounced off the trailer and landed under the tires of a Jeep behind us. We didn’t see this happening, but we did hear the squeal of brakes and tires and when Grant looked in the mirror he saw the Jeep run over the young man. We still didn’t realize we had been involved in this accident until someone beside us yelled for us to pull over.

And that’s when we realized this was serious. It looked like the young man was okay, but we still didn’t have a clue what had happened and no one around us was speaking any English. Immediately we pulled out our insurance policy and called an agent – please come, we’ve been in an accident. It didn’t take long until our agent was there as well as the agent of the other driver. Still, no English. So of course, we did what we always do when we can’t speak the language – we called our friend Francisco. 35 times we called Francisco over the next 8 hours as we sorted this all out at the side of the road.

In Mexico, accidents are basically about the insurance settlement – you don’t leave the scene until the insurance has been settled. For the next 2 hours the police measured scratches and took photos and wrote statements while the insurance agents negotiated. Finally, our agent told us that they had reached a settlement – everyone would pay their own damages and that would be the end of this. Huge sigh of relief. Maybe this would be okay. The motorcycle guy obviously had injured his legs and feet, but basically seemed okay.

And then his dad arrived and decided that he was most definitely NOT taking that settlement, and in fact was deserving of receiving money for his injuries. Now I get that Dad was worried for his son, but the police were very adamant that this accident was the young man’s fault and he did not deserve any cash, but Dad was not having it. Either give us money, or we’re going to court.

At that point our agent told us that the deal had fallen apart, we would be going to court on Monday, which meant our vehicles would be impounded tonight. And they could keep them impounded for up to 2 months if they needed further investigation. Oh my gosh. 4 hours into the trip and our vehicles were being seized.

The negotiating continued. The police and the insurance guys kept pushing the father to accept the deal they were offering. If we indeed went to court on Monday, he would probably lose and then he would be responsible to pay all the damages on all the vehicles. But Dad stayed firm and then he made the call that escalated this all to the next level – he called an ambulance for his son. Now this young guy had been sitting there for 3 hours and definitely should have gone to a hospital, but calling an ambulance increased the severity of the situation – and that is when we got the call from Francisco who was clearly upset. The agent had called him to tell him that Grant – as well as the driver of the jeep and the motorcyclist – would be going to jail for 48 hours. Until court on Monday. Grant was going to freaking Mexican jail. I stood there shocked. 48 hours? In jail in Guadalajara? Where no one spoke English? This was so not good. The police lined the other driver up with Grant and 2 women officers came with the necessary paperwork to process the arrests. By this time our friends in Bucerias were frantically calling everyone they could think of who might be able to help. Shortly thereafter, an acquaintance of Francisco and Veronica arrived to see if he could help. He didn’t speak English either, so we will never really know what went on, but he started negotiating with everyone, pushing them to let us go, trying to find a way to make a deal. By this time 5 or 6 hours had gone by and just when we thought the day couldn’t get worse it started to rain. POURING with giant hail stones. They let us jump in our truck and then the streets flooded. Water to the top of the police car’s tires. Just so dark and dismal as we sat waiting for them to take Grant to jail. We hadn’t eaten since 7 am so we were starving. Our agent had gone to buy us a bottle of water, but we had nothing else.

The police kept going back and forth to the hospital and finally things shifted for us. The police had continued to pressure the boy and his family to make a settlement. They continued to resist until the police said “Enough, this accident is your fault and you’re going to jail. You’ll be paying all the damages as well as paying fines for dangerous driving”. Right there they arrested him and took him from the hospital to the jail. They were still planning to come for Grant and the Jeep driver, but after his arrest, motorcycle dude’s family left him alone – they had had enough of this mess – and he agreed to take a settlement. To pay for his own damages and not go to court. Which meant we would be free to go. It was another hour or two before all the papers were drawn up. We had to agree to:

  • not press charges
  • not ask for damages
  • pay the police officers 500 pesos for all their hard work (negotiated down from the 1000 they asked for at first).

By this time, it was after midnight. It was still raining, and we had to find a hotel. We were exhausted, hungry, scared and just really grouchy. But we were okay, Grant was not in jail and the hotel we found agreed to take puppy.

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Of course, this wasn’t the end of our troubles. Not even close. The next morning, we came out of the hotel and saw we had a flat tire. After changing it, we left the hotel, eager to get out of this city. We had only been on the highway for 2 or 3 minutes when a siren pulled us over. You have got to be kidding me. I don’t know if we were flagged in the system or if it was a coincidence but again we were on the side of the road trying to talk to policemen who did not speak English and did not look happy. We finally understood that we were not to drive on this highway with this vehicle – we could only drive on the side road, the lateral. Fine, we will do that. And we would have to pay a fine. On Monday. 1200 pesos. Oh my gosh. I do not want to stay here another day. Can we pay you here somehow? Well if you give us 2400 pesos we can pay your ticket for you on Monday. So another 2400 pesos down the drain to the Mexican ‘legal’ system. But we were free to get out of town.

Over the next few days we had challenge after challenge. 5 hours inching along in a 106 degree lineup to cross the border into the US. Vehicle problems. Tires wearing. 5th gear shot. Some kind of broken belt. Which pointed to some other part that was needing to be replaced. The realization that it was now August and Grant’s driver’s license had expired in July and he couldn’t renew online because it was time for a new picture. Every day more hours behind schedule.

We had already told our family we would not make the reunion by Friday. But Saturday. We would be there Saturday. Our oldest daughter was driving 2 days from Vancouver, so we were not about to give up. But each day it seemed less likely. Our flight was booked for 5:00 on Saturday morning and Friday at noon we were still in South Dakota. Which meant we had to drive through South Dakota, North Dakota and Saskatchewan. We had to drop the trailer at a consignment lot 40 miles north of Regina. We had to drop the truck at our mechanic’s shop. Which we did. At 2:30 am. One hour before having to head to the airport. One hour to spare. After 1 week on the road with accidents and breakdowns and border delays and police encounters, we had arrived with 1 hour to spare.

I know you’re asking why we keep doing stuff like this. Why do we keep driving back and forth hauling vehicles full of weird stuff, encountering weird people and experiencing weird situations? I guess because we’re weird people who are in the middle of doing something pretty extraordinary. Trying to build an unusual life in the best way we know how. Yes, we could have stayed in Canada until all our ducks were in a better row, until our language was better and our bank account bigger. But then we would have missed hugging little Perla today, would not have little girls who need a safe home living with us on weekends, and would not have realized that the things that are most worthwhile in life are always the most difficult.

“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” – Rising Strong by Brené Brown.

In the end, we had a fun weekend with family from Canada and the US and Sweden. We celebrated being Swansons. We hugged our daughter and played fetch with our puppy and ate soup with Uncle Paul and Aunt Rita and celebrated cousin Albin’s new log home. We told our stories and laughed about the whole crazy adventure. And then we got on a plane and came home – because this is now home and it is indeed all worth it!

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Birthdays, Birthdays and Birthdays

Last week was a week FULL of birthday fiestas – from Cristofer celebrating his very first birthday to Grant enjoying his 60th.    And Mareli who is now 11 but having her very first party with friends and gifts.

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A selfie of me smuggling a pinata on a golf cart – lots of laughing neighbors!

First was Grant’s birthday.  I bought a Minion piñata and a cake and smuggled it into the orphanage on Friday before classes.  The children spent the morning making cards and letters.  Lucio spent all morning using a YouTube tutorial to make a box that exploded confetti when Grant opened it.   We had a YWAM team visiting that day, so they joined in with the singing and dancing and piñata smashing.  The children absolutely loved the surprise and at this age, our celebrations are more for these little ones than for ourselves. That night we took our weekend girls and headed to a pretty restaurant on the canal for a birthday dinner of flaming fajitas.   It was a good day and I know Grant felt the love many times over!

The very next day was Mareli’s birthday.   Although her mom had recently moved to Bucerias, we hadn’t heard from her and we knew we needed to make sure Mareli felt loved and special on this day when her family hadn’t showed up.  Our good friends Francisco and Anita offered us their home and pool for the afternoon.  We bought another piñata – a unicorn this time – another cake, chicken and ceviche tostados and we invited some Manos de Amor friends to come and celebrate Mareli’s day.  She knew we were going swimming together, but the rest was a surprise.  I loved the look on her face when the doorbell rang and 5 of her friends walked in as well as her precious Tia Laura, a caregiver from the orphanage.  Again, face planting in the cake, piñata breaking, and lots of food and drink.  She was thrilled with the MP3 player we bought her to listen to her Soy Luna music.  A super fun day for kids and us adults too.

 

And then one more.  This week was the first birthday for 1-year old Cristofer.   Last year Cristofer was born to his young mom – the second child to the then 16-year-old.   If you remember from my blog story last year, 2 or 3 weeks after Cristofer was born, he still didn’t have a name.  His mom just couldn’t decide, so she asked for my help and I was honored to name this little guy Cristofer Alejandro.  I visit Cristofer every Friday and Sunday  – along with his brother Kevin, and cousin Lupita and lots of aunties and uncles and his grandma.  His 6 year old uncle comes with me to Manos de Amor each week.  It is a full house and although there is not a lot of material stuff in the one room home, there is definitely love and family.

 

Happy Birthday Cristofer and Mareli and Grant!  I never could have guessed that when Grant turned 60, this would be the life we would be living.  It’s a weird combo of missionary social work retirement and we are loving every minute of it!  So Feliz Cumpleanos mi esposo – te quiero!

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Gael’s Gets His Surgery

Most of you now know the results of our long-awaited trip to Guadalajara for the Cochlear Implant surgery for Gael. It was the day we had been working towards since late last fall when we first took Gael to a doctor to find out just what was possible for him. Since then there have been many trips to many doctors in Puerto Vallarta and Tepic and Guadalajara. Tests and more tests -MRIs, CT scans, Brain stem tests, blood tests, audiology tests. Hours and hours of research to find the best surgeons, the best implant device, the best sign language and speech therapy resources. And of course, the fundraising. 5 months of events and online crowd sourcing campaigns and Facebook posts and email blitzes and PayPal transactions and bank wires. After many setbacks, many date changes and location changes and device changes, we were finally on the road to Guadalajara to have the surgery. Gael, his mom, his teenage cousin, Francisco, myself, Grant and a big red cooler – all piled into the Blue Explorer SUV owned by Manos de Amor. We had a three-bedroom Airbnb booked for 2 nights, the cooler full of important stuff like coffee and peanut butter, and Grant’s leather bag packed with cash. Yes, we were paying the hospital and the surgeon in pesos – a giant pile of pesos.

The surgery was booked for early Tuesday morning and the doctor had asked to see Gael on Monday afternoon at 5:15 in preparation. We headed out around 10:00 in the morning – certainly better than the 3 am start on our previous trip to Guadalajara. We stopped ½ way for some tortas and gorditas and were just coming up to the outskirts of the city when a warning beep and light came on. An oil light saying oil pressure had dropped. Of course. This day had been all together too smooth to be a Swanson story! Almost immediately we saw a small shop that sold oil and other lubricants – how perfect was that! We pulled in and the owner said he only sold products – he didn’t fix vehicles, but he would call us a mechanic. It didn’t take long for a young mechanic to arrive in his beat up blue half ton truck. He looked, listened and agreed that it didn’t sound good. We better not drive any further. Aargh. This was not in our plan for

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this week at all. On the up side, we had made it to Guadalajara. Almost anywhere else along the way would have left us stranded in the middle of nowhere. On the down side, Guadalajara is giant, and we were nowhere near the surgeon’s office and now we had 5 adults, 1 deaf boy, a bunch of suitcases and one big red cooler standing by the side of the highway.

The mechanic suggested we call Uber and for the next 3 days that is just what we did. In Guadalajara, Uber only uses small cars for up to 4 people so that was our first challenge. And you can’t call a second Uber with your app until the current trip is finished. So we placed our request and within 5 or 10 minutes Ana Patricia was there. Francisco and Gael and mom and cousin jumped in the car, leaving Grant and I and the luggage and of course the big red cooler on the side of the highway while Grant downloaded the Uber app on his phone. I watched as the tiny car on my phone app rushed Gael to meet Dr.

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Macias. They left us at 4:06 – arrived at the hospital at 5:18. 3 minutes late for the appointment we had been planning since last fall. Ana Patricia waited for them outside the hospital – in the end the trip was over 2 ½ hours and it cost $392 pesos – that’s about 20 bucks. For 2 ½ hours. In the meantime, Grant and I had called another Uber and loaded it up and headed to the apartment that would be home for a couple of days.

We had expected to take Gael to the hospital by 7 on Tuesday morning, but instead Dr. Macias decided to admit him Monday night, so he would be prepped and ready for the early morning surgery. His mom was nervous and scared but also excited. She and Gael were given a beautiful private suite with a separate sitting area for her to spend the night. We promised to be there in the morning when Gael came out of surgery.

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The surgery took about 3 hours and the doctors told us it had gone perfectly. While there is never a guarantee, they were confident it had been a success. We won’t know for sure until activation day which will be in 6 weeks. That is the day the device will be turned on and Gael will hear.

We were relieved and thrilled. Gael was carried back from the operating room and his mom and I shed a couple of tears as he moaned in pain. His head was wrapped in a giant white bandage. The nurses laid him in his bed and as I leaned over to kiss his cheek he reached up with his one arm and hugged me tightly around the neck. He was groggy and in pain but still the affectionate Gael we love.

I expected him to be dopey and in a lot of pain all day, but it couldn’t have even been an hour before he sat straight up in his bed, grabbed Grant’s phone and started playing Candy Crush. It was as if nothing had happened. Soon he was out of bed, entertaining us and playing with the 2 trucks the hospital had given him. He was concerned as they took his IV line out, didn’t like the teensy drop of blood that was on his hand, but he was amazing and strong and brave and was proud of his bandage when I showed him his picture.

About 9:00 that evening he was released from the hospital and we made plans to go home the next day. Except of course we had no vehicle. After many conversations with the mechanic it was determined a timing chain had broken but he promised it would be repaired by Thursday at noon. Guaranteed. We really didn’t want to keep the whole gang in Guadalajara. Our suite was not available for another day and we couldn’t all fit in one Uber so we had to take 2 cars every time we wanted to go anywhere. So on Wednesday morning Francisco, Gael, mom and cousin headed to the bus station to take a bus back to Bucerias. Grant and I found another suite in the same apartment building that was available, and we moved our suitcase and our big red cooler down the hall. We would stay for one more day – have a mini vacation – and bring the car home on Thursday.

Wednesday was a fun day. We went to the giant Guadalajara zoo and had a romantic dinner in a nearby restaurant. I was ready to be home, but this had turned into a nice bonus day together.

On Thursday morning we called our Uber, loaded our crap into the trunk and headed to the mechanic shop to get our vehicle. He said he was on track – it would be ready by noon. The first problem was that we didn’t really know where the shop was. The address he had given us was super vague. The Uber guy couldn’t figure it out. We knew the general vicinity of where we had pulled over when the whole problem started, but the mechanic had towed the truck to his shop and we weren’t sure where that was. Finally, thinking we were close, we told the Uber driver to let us out and then we piled our suitcase and briefcases and the big red cooler on the side of the road and started asking people if they knew where this shop was. Turns out we had quite a way to go and we weren’t even on the right side of the highway. Luckily there was an overpass to walk over the highway nearby, so we started the long walk to find the shop. Along the way we kept asking people where this shop was, and we got all manners of directions – all of them different. 5 more blocks. 3 more blocks. You’ll have to turn left and go one block. No, it’s on this highway. No back the way you came. We just kept walking. We piled the red cooler on top of the suitcase which promptly hit a hole in the road and dumped the contents of the #*(#**@ red cooler all over the road. Just as we were getting frustrated and a bit grumpy, we came upon the shop. In fact, we almost walked right past it until I spotted the car right out front. Still being worked on. Not quite done.

Fine. I was happy to sit for a while and wait. After a 1/2 hour or so, the mechanic guy got in and started the car. He stepped on the gas. And then we all heard it. A weird knocking noise. It didn’t sound good. Long story short….. the car wasn’t ready. It needed more work. Maybe Monday or Tuesday. Not today.

And that is how we found ourselves boarding a fancy 2-story bus heading back to Bucerias. I laughed when Grant frowned and said, “We’re not really bus people”. No, we’re golf cart people and this bus had huge reclining seats, flip out foot rests, individual TVs, and a free sandwich. A big upgrade for us!

As always, the week had more challenges than expected. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. But we arrived at the correct destination unharmed. Gael had the surgery we’ve been dreaming of for a long time. If all goes as expected, his life will never be the same. The course of his future has completely changed, and we are so grateful for your generous help and God’s provision and protection. And of course – even in the midst of celebrating, there’s another bumpy surprise! The day after Gael got home, a red rash broke out – he now has chicken pox! Oh Gael….

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