I arrived back home at around noon yesterday, Tuesday—that is most of me is here, but I miss some of my mind, which stayed back in a different time zone. Perhaps by tomorrow all of me will be here.
Monday, after the Sunday VBS graduation activities, we went to Chingnahuapan. Getting there involved three different buses and took around three hours one way. Chingahuapan is a charming mountain town. Fifty percent of all the inhabitants earn their living from making and/or selling Christmas tree ornaments. When I say ornaments, I mean a very wide variety of glass figures manufactured locally and sold in just about every shop along main street. There are some really amazing variations on traditional round decorative globes. Every color, style and shape you could imagine, and then some. It was a delight to walk through the shops and see that although they all had certain standard items, each had some unique thing the others did not have.
We had a leisurely lunch in a small restaurant just off the town square. They served delicious lime aide and cappuccino along with traditional Mexican fare. Fine, casual dining at its best. The only thing that would have enhanced the experience would have been if the fountain in the courtyard was working.
We started home on an express bus, leaving around 7 p.m. to be home by 10 p.m. But we had an adventure along the way. Wasn’t it Bilbo Baggins who said, “Adventures are horrible things that make you late for dinner.”? We were sitting at the very back of the bus. I was in the middle of the seat and could see out the massive front window. I noticed the bus driver was closely tailgating a small car. Bus drivers in Mexico are extremely aggressive. The driver could not seem to pass the car, but did stay within inches of its rear bumper.
All of a sudden two other cars passed the bus at high speed. Then they and the car that the bus had been following, forced the bus to stop by boxing it in and slowing to a stop. The driver of the car that had been in front of us got out and started yelling through the window at the bus driver, shaking her fist and demanding he open the bus door. Wisely he did not comply. Thus we stayed at a standoff for almost an hour before a police car on routine patrol arrived on the scene.
By then the 15 or 20 occupants of the three cars that had brought the bus to a halt were all outside the bus, milling around and waving other vehicles around the scene. They immediately began to talk animatedly to the two officers. Pretty soon the bus driver, deeming it safe, got out and joined in the conversation.
The woman alleged the bus had cut her off and had damaged her side mirror in the process. Our driver and some of the passengers who were sitting at the front of the bus asserted that she had in fact cut in front of the bus, almost hitting it, and had broken off her mirror as a result. Back and forth the argument went until an agreement was reached between both parties. Ahhh. We could finally be on our way and still catch the last night bus out of San Martin and get home before midnight.
Not so. At that moment the Federal Police arrived on the scene and took over. More conversations. More allegations. More arguments and testimony. In the end, the Federal Police demanded “payment” for services rendered before they would let the bus go. The term for this in Spanish is “mordida”—or “little bite”. Only they did not want a little bite, they wanted a big feast. Their demanded bribe was too high for the driver to pay, so they determined the bus would be seized and towed to an impound yard. We, the passengers, would have to take another bus that would stop and take us on our way.
When we finally arrived in the town where we could switch to the second bus to San Martin, it was too late to make the last night bus to Huejotzingo where our TUtP center is located. Fortunately we found a cab driver who would take us at that late hour and for a reasonable rate. Mission accomplished. Still getting home at a somewhat reasonable hour. Not.
As we went through San Martin that morning the town was busy setting up what is claimed to be the largest clothing flea market in all of Latin America. By the time we got into San Martin, the main street through the city was closed. Hundreds of people were out shopping for bargains. It took us over a half an hour to get around the closed area and onto the highway on the other side of town. We had to stop a couple of times to ask directions, and accidently wound up briefly going the wrong way on an unmarked one-way off ramp. We got turned around without accident and finally were on our way.
We arrived at the center around midnight. I still had to complete my packing and deal with a few last minute details before getting to bed, only to get up at 3:30 a.m. to catch my cab to the airport. My cab which did not come, despite assurances in a call when we got home that the driver would most certainly be there on time.
Abraham tried calling a couple of other cab companies he knew, with no success. He finally decided to walk to the main road, about 5 minutes from the house in hopes of flagging down a passing cab. Meantime, we prayed that God would send a cab as my plane left at 6 a.m.
Rachel and I were standing in the open door of the classroom looking out at the deserted street when an airport cab stopped in front of the house and asked if I needed a ride to the airport. I thought maybe Abraham had flagged him down or called him somehow. Or that the cab driver who did not come had sent him. Not so. He just happened to come by and decided to stop. Answered prayer or what?!
Though I got to the airport later than I should have, when I arrived, the check in counter was still closed, with some of my fellow passengers lounging around, waiting. This is, by the way, an international airport.
With all that, our plane still took off at 6 a.m. and I connected with my Monterrey flight in plenty of time. They march to the beat of a different drummer.
Now, if I could only find my brain. And my camera, which is missing–but that is another story.
Thanks for your prayers. This was a remarkably fruitful mission trip.