Reflections at Half Time
06 April 2010 | 23 16.1472'N:106 27.9054'W, Mazatlan
This seems like a good time to reflect back on this journey. The "half time" title is appropriate despite the fact that we are 2/3 of the way through the trip since I had intended to write this in Zihuatenejo as we turned around and started heading back up. But as you all know I'm a bit of a procrastinator, so the electrons are just hitting the screen now, 450 miles and two months late. Besides it's my 41st birthday today (April 5th) and if we average the ages of all my grandparents I may be halfway through this larger journey on Earth too. Despite being an engineer, I'll resist the urge to share the standard deviation and other statistical measures of those ages.
How to rate the trip thus far.? To use Melanie's human resources business-speak I'd give it an "exceeds" in its performance rating. The good has definitely exceeded our expectations. The people are the highlight of the trip. Without exception the Mexicans have been warm, friendly and rightfully proud of their country. The cruisers are generally good people who share a sense of adventure and flexibility that makes spending time with them fun. The kids, Melanie and I have all made a larger number of good friends in the last five months than we made in the previous five years. Living closer to nature and further from urban sprawl turns strangers into people who can potentially help you cope with the more obvious dangers out here (weather, equipment breakdown, running aground, etc.) instead of the strangers actually being the less obvious but far more malevolent danger we fear in cities. Maybe in part it's our fear of the strangers who make the evening news that make us all less willing to engage with the other 99.9% of people we meet in the park. In any event, out here we expect others to be helpful and friendly, and they are.
Of course the family time has been incredible. By far the best part of the trip. This experience has of course confirmed that I chose spouses well. Even after practically living on top of one another for the last six months, I can't get enough time with Mel. A trip like this magnifies what you have, a good married becomes better (but if you have a shaky one, don't buy a boat!).
The safety has also exceeded our expectations. Since we've been to Mexico before, we knew the stories in the US and Canadian press did not reflect the reality on the ground here. But even we have been surprised by the nearly total absence of threats. We have not once felt our safety threatened or even felt like we were getting ripped off. Having zero interest in drugs and not being into getting drunk and staggering down the street (a GREAT way to say "mug me"!) has probably helped there. But we do regularly wander around the streets well after dark in poor neighbourhoods. You can't avoid poor neighbourhoods in towns were everyone is poor. We avoid touristy areas whenever possible.
The message from the Canadian news in particular is that in Mexico if the drug cartels don't kill you the Swine flu will. We've dodged both the lead and sickness bullets so far. In fact I've just gotten over a brief cold, making me the first person to even get the sniffles since we left. Living on a small sailboat is a lot like camping in that we are outdoors most of the time. It's a healthy way to live and not being cooped up with dozens of people in transit systems, schools and offices sure keeps the virus exposures low.
The wildlife has exceeded our expectations. Just two days ago we saw our first whale shark. Last week we were at the bow yet again riding above a dolphin that would frolic in the bow wave then roll onto his side and look in our eyes. Magic! As we watched him, we passed over top of a sea turtle! The turtle was about five feet below the surface and the same distance to the side of our bow. So Journey, the dolphin and us blasted over and just by him. He probably got home and said "Honey you'll never guess what happened to me today."
On the negative side, the work has exceeded our expectations too. I'm not referring to the boat since it has been very solid, and despite having to replace the transmission in Puerto Vallarta, it has been remarkably free from serious breakdowns. The three years of preparations have certainly paid off. The work I'm referring to it that of daily living. Melanie is very tired of having to do dishes by hand and cooking three meals a day, lugging laundry around is a pain and of course I do still have a case load. The fact that my work (and rather diminished income) has continued has been a huge blessing, but I am very busy. I've only read three books in six months and I can only think of a handful of days where I decided to just take it easy and read. I do take lots of time to run around on adventures with the kids and in towns, but just relaxing is rare. I'd probably get bored, so maybe it's for the best.
Before we left I said that home schooling was our biggest fear. Hurricanes came a distant second. My instincts were right and sadly even that expected difficulty has been exceeded. Hug a teacher for me today! I don't want to say too much in such a public forum (anyone under 30 is saying, "what an internet dinosaur!") but we're taking to steps to turn the corner of that issue soon. And I am happy to report that Marcus has made a huge leap forward with his reading!
On the whole it's been a wonderful journey and there is lots more to come. We are just about to re-enter the Sea of Cortez which is the part of the trip we have been looking forward to the most. As far as my larger journey on Earth is concerned, I'd give it an "exceeds" too. But we should always strive for continuous improvements...