Sunday, December 30, 2012

La Paz

    After the long drive through the seemingly endless deserts of Baja, lots of small towns, and several days camping on the beach, we really enjoyed our time in La Paz. It's a city of about 200,000, not too touristy but with an active expat community, beautifully situated, lots of art and culture, and with more of a mainland Mexico feel to it than other places we visited. We stayed at Campestre Maranatha, a nice RV park on the outskirts of the city. It had a great swimming pool with a kids' pool too, two playgrounds, teepees, and a friendly and helpful owner. It was a great place to spend some time catching up on laundry, email, shopping, etc. It was a city where I could definitely envision spending more time. We stayed there three or four nights on the way south and then a few more on the way back up north. These pictures cover both visit. 

We were boon docking at the beach when Thanksgiving rolled around, so we decided to wait until we had electricity to enjoy out Thanksgiving dinner. It makes the culinary magic just a wee bit easier. I made a pumpkin pie from a calabaza regional, as well as stuffing, chicken, a green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes.  Oh, and we actually found a can of cranberry sauce in a little grocery store in Mulege, which Peregrine was very excited about! It wasn't the yummiest meal I've eaten, but it was very special, and we were all thankful to squish around our little table and count our blessings.
La Paz has a really nice malecon, and we enjoyed walking it a couple of times. The kids always seem to gravitate to the sand! 
Water bottle art. Of course my kids were compelled to climb inside it, knocking out about forty water bottles in the process. What followed was probably humorous to watch, as we desperately tried putting them back, only to pop out more with each one we put in. A security officer came over and told the kids to get out and put the water bottles back, which was easier said than done. Lesson learned: please don't climb inside the art, children! Oh, and for pete's sake, carry your own water bottle and don't contribute to the trash problem!
La Paz seemed to have a big arts community and this was a cultural center of sorts. We walked around for a while, enjoying the art and the air conditioning. 
Saint Nicholas day came around so we celebrated by opening our stockings and eating freshly baked gingerbread muffins. I bought a few little things for the kids and Erik, and they tucked lots of little paper crafts and tiny gifts in each other's stockings as well. It always blesses me how they want to get in on the giving each year! 

Yummy! Where on earth did Erik find Trader Joe's chocolate in Mexico?
Daddy checking out the comic Peregrine drew and gave him.
The malecon, like the one in Puerto Vallarta, is lined with large and interesting sculptures. I really liked this one.
I was happy to see a small peregrinacíon as we sat eating ice cream one evening. 

Of course we had to stop at La Fuente, a little ice cream shop along the malecon. They make their own ice cream and it comes in so many flavors. We had some serious indecision going on with a couple people. (That would be Peregrine and myself.) So many choices! 

The tree and brightly colored benches out front seem entirely fitting for an ice cream shop! 

Sunset over the bay.

We enjoyed going out in the evening a few times. There were some night markets and the kids enjoyed a little browsing and shopping before we finally tracked down a taco place we wanted to try. Octopus tacos? Check. Manta Ray tacos? Check. Exciting times for our adventurous eaters!
Poppy took this picture of Erik and I one night while we were out for dinner. On a date, just the two of us, you know, with our four kids. 
Just another evening out! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mulegé and Bahia Concepcíon

    I'm woefully behind on posting pictures of our time in Baja, and am going to try to make a point of getting caught up over the next while! 

One of the beautiful beaches at Bahía Concepcion. At low tide you can walk all the way out to the island on the sand bar. Unfortunately we weren't able to get down to this beach, as rubble from a recent storm had left the road impassable. 
We camped right on the beach at Playa Santispac for three or four nights two different times. The water was shallow and warm and the kids had so much fun swimming and playing in the sand. They could go out really far and the water remained shallow, calm, and clear. It was a very relaxing and fun time. We didn't have electrical hook-ups, so to conserve our batteries we all settled down early, which was good since the kids seemed to be up with the sun every day! There was a restaurant on the beach and on Saturday evenings many people came from town for dinner and dancing. We took the kids one night and it was a lot of fun. Peregrine worked hard making jewelry from seashells and yarn, then walked around charming the women and selling his wares. He earned 200 pesos!
After three or four nights at Playa Santispac, we headed back to Mulegé, about 15 minutes north. We camped in an RV park there for a few nights so we could do laundry, dump our tanks, etc. before going back to the beach. Mulegé was a nice little town, a desert oasis near the ocean. Here we were high on a hill overlooking the town, exploring the old mission grounds.
Overlooking the river that flows through town.
Looking west from Mulegé, the mountain ridges fade into soft silhouettes. The eastern side of the peninsula had a real beauty. I have a soft spot for mountains.
On our way back north we spent one final night at Playa Santispac. On one end of the beach was a large mangrove swamp. At low tide we could walk into it and I stalked this bird in the evening. The next morning this was all underwater.
Mangroves are so interesting, providing habitat for all kinds of wildlife. I first learned about them from my brother Jacob when we were in Thailand together many years ago. There is a great book for kids called The Sea, the Storm, and the Mangrove Tangle that helps explain how important they are to marine ecosystems, and how they are being destroyed in many places. 
Our campsite in the early morning golden sun. It was such a lovely place to stay.
Good morning!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours.... we wish you a Merry Christmas! 

  It’s been a busy couple of weeks. We’ve driven all the way back up the Baja Peninsula and are spending Christmas back in Oregon with our families and friends. The cool, wet weather has been a bit of a shock to our sun spoiled bodies, but we’re tucked snugly into our trailer, warm and dry, and only feeling slightly claustrophobic. (This tiny space, in this climate, with this many people is just not quite big enough. Not complaining, just saying!) We arrived back in town just a few days ago and were instantly caught up in the whirlwind of busy days, happy reunions, and Christmas preparations. 
    It’s late on Christmas Eve. All the children are sleeping soundly, Erik is washing dishes (God bless him!), and I’m snuggled under a down blanket with a hot flax bag on my feet. Lights twinkle on our little living Spruce tree and there is a modest pile of presents waiting more patiently than the children whose names they bear. At Christmas time I always spend a lot of time thinking about beauty and pain and sadness and love, all mingled together, inescapable on this earth. I think about hope, and peace, and joy, and what those really mean, and a Baby born so long ago. My heart seems to alternately burst with joy and feel deeply the brokenness of this world, the brokenness in my own heart. I come back to being thankful, humbled, blessed, knowing that I cannot change the world but I can let Light shine in the dark places of my own soul. Tonight I’m grateful for so many things, too many to list, but here are a few that I can’t keep to myself. 

  • Remember Ian, from my last post? They just got news today that he can go home for Christmas! I was so happy to hear this news. Though they are by no means out of the woods, they are being given this wonderful gift of being all together as a family, in their own home, for Christmas. What joy! 
  • I love watching the kids get into the spirt of giving. When Peregrine turned ten almost two months ago he was given two of the same Lego set, and we finally had a chance today to return one of them. He’s been planning for weeks what he wanted to get, but today he chose to spend over half the exchange money on a gift for his cousin. He was extra excited when the item he wanted to purchase was on a buy one get one free sale, so he got to give him two! He was bursting with excitement all day over this, and was sure God put that on sale just for him. He also wrapped up a couple of his own Lego sets as gifts for another cousin and friend. It’s brought me much joy to watch him experience the blessing of giving. 
  • On a similar note, both of the younger children’s godparents recently gave them a small gift. Peregrine’s and Poppy’s godparents decided that since we are living in such a small space and don’t need more stuff that they would donate money to a charity that helps combat hunger. When I told Peregrine and Poppy, both of them lit up and seemed absolutely pleased about it! I was so blessed to see their reaction. 
  • It's wonderful to be "home" with family. Both of my brothers are here or coming soon, so excited to see them and their families. We had a nice quiet Christmas Eve dinner at one of my sisters' houses, and are staying very close to another one. My Grandma is still here, so we have four generations celebrating together. We're looking forward to catching up with more family and friends as well.
    Our future plans seem to be unfolding as we go, so we move forward, enjoying this time and looking forward to seeing what God has for us in the new year. We send our greetings for a blessed Christmas! 


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Be Well, Ian

  I'm staring at this blank page after a few weeks' absence from my blog. We've either had no internet connection, a very poor one, or too much going on. I've got several posts swirling around in my head. I totally flaked on keeping up with thankful posts. (I did continue to write each day in my little thankful book though.) We've covered lots of ground, and some water, since I posted last. It's been good. Tonight though, the story that has welled up in my heart is not mine...

    Eight years ago Erik and I were at the wedding of my dear friend Christy. I was six months pregnant with Poppy, and Peregrine had just turned two. I still remember him dancing, all wild and crazy like he used to do. I was thankful that the MC announced that women and children would be served their food first. I was a hungry and tired mama, but I wouldn't have missed this celebration. We'd driven nearly six hundred miles to be there, to take part in the joy of these two lives becoming one. I'd never met Ian, the groom, but I knew that he was a gem if he'd captured Christy's heart. 

    I lived and traveled with Christy for the better part of a year. We spent the first part of that time in San Fransisco and the Redwoods, then the next nine months wandering around Thailand, India, and Nepal. Christy is known for her sweetness, mercy, and compassion, her ability to put herself in someone else's shoes and walk with them. When I was extremely ill in Nepal, it was Christy who stayed close, who nurtured and cared for me as I slowly regained strength. My mom has always been so grateful to her for all she did for me in that time. 

    Ian and Christy have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, Asha and Fiona. A few weeks ago, their life was "normal". Tonight, Christy is sitting in a hospital room with Ian, who is a couple days into his first round of chemotherapy for acute leukemia. They didn't see it coming, at all. Ian was strong and healthy. Now he is weak, nauseous, groggy. She wrote these words earlier:

   I'm sitting here next to my love. He is so nauseated, he doesn't want to be touched. And if you know Ian, touch is his language. Foot massage can't ease the discomfort like it did a couple days ago. So I sit here in silence by his side. Heartbroken and weary, but clinging to hope. 

    Christy is dividing her time and strength between their two daughters, who are also struggling to make sense of this, and her husband, who is in the hospital in a different city. This round of chemo will keep him there for at least a month. She is facing an uncertain future, one never imagined on that joyous night eight years ago when they joined their lives together. 

    My heart is heavy for Christy, and for Ian, for little Asha and baby Fiona. My husband has also had cancer, and I look back on that time and am in awe of the peace and grace that we were given to walk through those uncertain days. (He was diagnosed and had surgery just a week before I was due with Peregrine, then went through radiation for five weeks with a newborn. Thankfully he's been cancer free for ten years now. You can read our story here.) I pray the same for them, for strength to hold them up, for healing and grace, and peace that is deeper than understanding. 

    I'm reminded of a line from an Indigo Girls song: "So we must love, while these moments are still called today..." Today is all we have. This is one of the reasons Erik and I are doing what we are, why we sold our home, left a secure job, stepped out into the unknown. We meet lots of retired people on the road, but not many families. We've felt strongly that we don't want to wait, to put off for another year or decade what we can do now. There are no guarantees in fifteen or twenty years, when Erik would have retired and all the kids grown, that we would have the health, strength, or finances to travel. There is no promise that we will both still be alive, as little as I like to think about that. We want to share this life, to live it to the fullest, to experience it with our kids, to give them the world, so to speak. 

    Christy and Ian have reminded me once again that we must love now. I waste too many moments feeling irritated or frustrated, or worrying about things beyond my control. I miss out on time that I can never get back, that I can't make up in the future. I want to embrace life, to savor each moment I'm given with Erik, with each of our precious kids, with our family and friends. I want to live intentionally, fully present in each moment, with no regrets. 

   If you'd like to follow the journey of Ian and Christy, go check out their blog, Be Well, Ian. Please join me in praying for healing and strength for this precious family and that they will be surrounded by those who love them. And let them inspire you to love, while these moments are still called today, because you never know what tomorrow will bring. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Baja 1000

Baja Bug on the road just outside our camp in San Ignacio.
 When we were in Ensenada we saw a lot of race cars and support rigs gathering for the upcoming Baja 1000. We knew the race was coming up and had actually been advised to avoid it. As we traveled down Baja, we ran into a crew who gave us a map of the race so we were able to see where it intersected with the Mex 1 we were traveling on. We just happened to arrive in San Ignacio hours before the first motorcycle was supposed to come through, so we decided to stay and enjoy the action. It ended up being a really fun thing for us and the kids, and I'm so glad we did it. I've never been into racing but it was really fun and I learned a lot too. It was neat to get to talk with pit crews and racers and get caught up in the excitement of it all! Having just driven the highway through the desert I didn't envy these guys doing it off road one bit. 
The kids were super excited to watch the helicopter touch down. It's hard to see them, but Erik and the kids are standing in the foreground of the picture.

This was one of the "Baja Pits" set up for racers who don't have their own pit crew. Lots of tools, racing fuel, and other gear ready. This was just a short walk down the road from where we camped.

Motorcycles were the first to start coming through. We were pretty excited to see the first one! (This isn't it.) Trucks started coming close to 11 at night, and Erik and I stayed up and saw the first one go by. Cars followed sometime in the night, and the next day we saw lots of everything, including quads. 
Think there's a lot of money in these rigs? 

These guys were parked right outside the entrance to our campground waiting for their racer to come through. We visited with them a bit, and were excited to watch them switch drivers and tune up the bike when it came the next morning. 
Riff Raff Racing was a family affair. The driver's wife was part of the crew, and he was eagerly anticipating his son being old enough to race in a few years. He said his kids' school wouldn't let them out to come be part of the race and it made me so thankful we homeschool and can include these things in our kids' education. We talked with them for a while and cheered as they drove off.
I loved seeing the teams work together. The guys in the pit do so much, and then as soon as they send off their car, they all pile into their rigs to be able to meet up with them at the next place. It's a long, tiring race for everyone involved.
Peregrine and Raphael with the Riff Raff driver and navigator. My boys now have big plans to race together one day too! (Although Peregrine was a big grossed out by the pee tube coming out of the pant leg. No need to stop that way! I was curious how they dealt with "that", so I was glad to find out the answer to my question. And yes, I asked.) 
Riff Raff about to head back out. 
A bonus for the kids was the stickers many of the teams hand out. When we drove through Mulege later in the day, Mexican boys were swarming the chase rigs, holding up cardboard signs with "stickers" written on them. They were collecting quite a few! Our kids are putting theirs into their travel journals.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

San Ignacio

We camped beneath towering date palms. The kids happily collected dates to snack on.
    After spending nearly two weeks with my family in San Miguel, we finally headed south, making our way slowly across Baja's deserts. We intended to take three days to reach the beaches of Bahia Concepcíon. We only drive for four or five hours in a day, as that seems to be plenty for the driver (Erik), and the drivees, particularly the kids. We spent two nights in overpriced hotel parking lots with hook-ups, the first in El Rosario, the second in Guererro Negro. A night in both of those places was plenty. We were all looking forward to the beach and being done with driving for a while. I'd read that the church in San Ignacio was worth seeing, so we decided to drive into the little town, walk around, see the church, and have lunch before making the rest of the drive. 

    San Ignacio is a welcome sight to the desert weary traveler. A nearby spring feeds a pond and river, creating a lush date palm oasis. From the main highway we drove into town, hoping to find a place to park near the square. However, the usually quiet town was a bustle of activity, as they were expecting the first racers in the Baja 1000 to start rolling through within a few hours! Pit crews were set up along the side of the road and the square, anxiously awaiting their teams. We couldn't find a place to park so we hesitantly decided to leave. As we drove back toward the highway, we made the spontaneous decision to stay the night instead of continuing on. We are, after all, not tied to a schedule. And when else would we get to watch the Baja 1000 up close and personal? In the end we were so glad we stayed. 

The inside of the church, which was built as part of a Jesuit mission in the 1700s. It's surprisingly narrow inside due to walls that are four feet thick! It's constructed of volcanic stone.
We spent a fair bit of time wandering through the courtyard. I thought this corner was pretty.

The kids and I were excited to find this tiny nest in a huge lime tree. There were also several orange trees as well as a cactus garden. 

The front doors.

We pulled into a small camping area and were the only ones there. We were hardly alone though, as there were two pit crews at the entrance, right along the road. We had front row seats as motorcycles, cars, and trucks started to come through! I'll save pictures of the race for a separate post. 
A beautiful river ran right by our campground as well. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hotel Riviera del Pacífico

    One afternoon we visited the Centro Social, Civico, y Cultural in Ensenada. Built in the 30s, it was a luxury hotel and casino, the Hotel Riviera del Pacifico. It was during the time of prohibition in the United States, so it drew the rich and famous from north of the border. It has an interesting and varied history, operating at different times as a military base, hotel, and now as a museum and events center. An employee came upon us wandering through the building and gave us our own personal tour, which made our time there much more interesting. 

Once a grand entrance to the hotel, this is now the museum lobby. For a few dollars, we enjoyed our tour of the museum, which is really nicely done. It showcases the native peoples of the Baja peninsula, their way of life, food, flora and fauna, and the coming of the Spanish. The building itself is also fascinating, and I imagine if the walls could speak they'd have some stories to tell!
The entrance to what is now the museum.
Some cutie kids.
I love all the Spanish tile.
This was the ballroom. Our tour guide, like most people we've run into in Mexico, loved kids and didn't mind ours running and playing.
A picture of the hotel long ago. It's not quite this close to the water anymore.
This is an original chandelier in a huge, round room. The ceiling was quite beautiful.
Much of bar room is also original. It's said that the margarita was invented here. I wonder how many other places claim the same thing.
Peregrine complained of being bored while we were in the room with the huge chandelier. I told him this was the kind of place where movies were filmed, that at the last moment someone would surely cut the chain and send the whole thing crashing down on the villain's head. Bored no more, he made up a  movie plot in his head and has big plans to film it here when he grows up. (When he and Raphael aren't racing together in the Baja 1000.) Here you can see a bit of the rehearsal going on: Poppy has just been wounded by a bullet and Raphael is in a shootout with the villain. Erik and I often lament that our poor kids have no imagination.
I liked the bells.
And I have an affinity for St. Francis.
More tile... sigh.
The light was so pretty as we were leaving.
And of course we had to pull over on the way home so Erik could take a sunset picture!