Sunday, Feb 19, 2006
In which we manage to get from Redmond, WA to a completely different country.
We are (barely) awake and assembled at the church. "Stunned" pretty much summarizes it. Somehow, we manage to pile into a pair of vans, load the bags for 17 people and make it to the airport.
After standing in the check-in line for a while, we're now standing in the security line. Amazingly, Robert makes it through Security the very first time without being wanded or patted down or shoved headfirst through the X-ray machine.
We are on our cute little 757 waiting to depart. Because of the strenuous warnings in the promotional literature for this trip ("Don't bring anything that you don't want stolen!"), Robert has no DVD player, no CD player, no MP3 player, and no noise canceling headsets.
Only a book to amuse him. Of course, this may have something to do with his clearing security so easily...
Although we didn't think it was possible, the quality of airplane food has managed to deteriorate. For $4, we can buy a shrink-wrapped box containing a breakfast bar, some trail mix and a biscuit. They don't even throw peanuts at you any more.
We feel old.
Consumers strike back!
Mike, one of the youth members of our team, has brought banana bread that his mother (Bonnie) made. Laura pronounces it "wonderful," Robert pronounces it "free" and everybody happily chows down on imported banana bread.
*Time Change!* Two hours ahead
We land at Dallas/Ft. Worth, where we are advised what to do after we "deplane," which makes us bonkers. What's wrong with saying "depart" or "exit" or "get off the plane"? Who invented "deplane," which serves no purpose, and has no analog in any other mode of transportation (detrain, deboat, decar, decafe)?
We replane (aargh! now we're infected!). Robert discovers that you cannot buy a cowboy hat in the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. Laura points out that you can buy a very nice Stetson in downtown Redmond, which Robert sniffs at.
*Time Change* One hour back
Apparently, we flew right past El Paso in our haste to get to Dallas, so now we have to turn around and head back the other way, and cross back into a different time zone.
El Paso really is in West Texas—over in that little pointy corner bit all the way to the left. If you go North from El Paso, you end up in New Mexico.
Seems it's a bit chilly here—so cold that we have to get de-iced, which, because it doesn't happen very often in Texas, is a very inefficient procedure. The pilot announces that it will take about 30 minutes to get through the de-icing procedure and gallantly lets us use our cell phones to tell anyone meeting our flight that we will be late.
We arrive at the de-icing stations. The anal-retentives among us (Robert) note that we have now sat in the plane on the damn runway for longer than it will take to fly to El Paso.
The de-icing process itself is kind of like a Jr. High School Car Wash. This guy with a hose sprays the plane with this gunk. We notice that the machine has two settings: de-ice and anti-ice. We wonder why they don't just spray all the planes with anti-ice every day and then we could just take off.
American Airlines finally got de-iced and re-planed enough to get us to El Paso, where we meet up with Fr. Dan, who runs this whole she-bang. We load up into two vans, toss our luggage on the top and drive over to Fr. Dan's Ministry Center.
Along the way, we discover that El Paso has the World's Largest Harley Dealership (which we find exciting because we're big fans of the world's largest! [embarrassingly enough, if you Google "World's Largest Robert" we take first place...]).
We stop by Fr. Dan's home base to drop off his wife and peer at his buildings. They've been here 2-½ years and have managed to transform a drug dealer hangout into a ministry building.
They build about 30 houses per year, and run two to five Vacation Bible Schools in Mexico. They also have a Youth Minister School in El Paso and work on youth ministries in Juarez.
If you want more information, go visit www.GatewayMissionTraining.com (that's the URL painted on the side of the vans, and we're assuming there's more information there, but we wouldn't know because we have no Internet access beyond the cobbled together tin can and wire e-mail setup we have going.)
We enter Mexico. We've entered a number of different countries, so we thought we knew what to expect. We were thinking "This will be like driving into Canada, where they say 'Good Day, eh? What will you be doing in our fine country?' and we say 'Drinking beer and watching hockey, eh?' and they say, 'Well, get on with it, hosers!'"
A Mexican customs official idly glances at our van packed with people and doesn't even bother to wave us through. They only interact with you if they pull you over—otherwise you just drive past them.
Driving into Juarez (which is across the Rio Grande from El Paso), we see lots and lots (and lots) of small businesses, most of them in 10 by 10 foot buildings.
There are not many people on the streets, because Sunday Evening is church going time in Mexico (like Sunday Morning in the USA).
We have finished our excellent Mexican dinner (cooked by the local Pastor's wife and her able assistants).
Fr. Dan (the guy who runs the mission) gathers us to go over his 21 Commandments. He makes a point of telling us that he has run between 100 and 200 of these mission trips and has never had any injuries or troubles with the local folks in the neighborhood. He credits his commandments.
#1 is "Thou shalt only leave the compound two by two" (unless you're two young females, in which case, it's two by two plus a guy).
Robert likes #12 "Thou shalt not eat from the street vendors" mostly because it prompts a spirited discussion about "projectile diarrhea," which is always funny (to Robert).
Laura's favorite is #14 "Thou shalt drink of the purified water each day until thou must peeth" which is a reminder to not get dehydrated.
So, at the end of the day, we are safe and sound in Mexico (as is everybody else we started with, for any parents out there who are fretting).
We also feel pretty confident that Fr. Dan knows his stuff and we're unlikely to have any trouble if we pay attention to what he tells us.
Robert & Laura