Seeing Stars

starHappy New Year, and may 2017 bring you health, joy and many of your dreams! It is the time of year when many people around the world focus on much-awaited stars, including the star signaling the Prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) birth, the Star of Bethlehem at Christmas, and the Star of David during Hanukkah.

December is also the time of year for stars of the not-so-desired variety. When I lived at 10,000 feet in the mountains of Colorado, we were blessed to regularly see the full Milky Way in all its glory, but we also had the unwanted joy of windshield “stars” (estrellas, as they are called here in Mazatlán—very apropos, as that’s exactly the shape of new windshield chips) each winter. The Colorado highway maintenance workers laid cinders on the snowy roads to provide us traction, and those tiny but mighty lava stones were murder on windshields. Nearly everyone on the road experienced a “starred” windshield at least once per season.

Though windshield “stars” were common in Colorado, I love that we have lived here in Mazatlán NINE YEARS and have never gotten one; at least not until earlier this week. Like I said, it seems to be the time of year for stars…

It also seems to be the time of year for our poor car to have trouble. First someone stole our motorized side-view mirror, then after we delivered the chickens and clothes on Christmas Eve a lady rear-ended us, and finally (we hope!), on the way back from picking up a friend at the airport, a rock flew into our windshield, creating a big, ugly, star-shaped crack. Friends attribute our bad auto luck to Mercury’s retrograde.

Thanks to Colorado mountain living, I am very familiar with the need to have “stars” fixed promptly, to prevent them from growing and necessitating replacement of the entire windshield. Our first Mazatlán window chip was very bad, so we knew we had to act quickly to get it repaired.

In Colorado, we luckily had special windshield insurance with only a $100 deductible, but repairing or replacing the windshield meant losing your car for the day while they worked on it.

Did we use insurance here in Mazatlán? Of course not. Did we lose our car for the day? Psshhht. We just headed over to Avenida de la Marina, across from Memín, to ask José Arzamendi to fix our windshield. He did so while we waited—the process took only 10-15 minutes. José used minimal tools that he took out of the trunk of his car. He worked with care and attention to detail, and repairing our star cost us 350 pesos. I’m confident we could have negotiated that price, but, hey, it is a holiday week and no one likes to feel like a Scrooge. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Nearly every neighborhood in Mazatlán has their own José Arzamendi. Estrella-fixers work with minimal tools and space, and seem to be able to make a living for themselves. José also takes out the cloudiness on car headlights, again with minimal tools he brings out from his trunk; his small business even has a website!

In addition to estrella-fixers there are so many great, affordable services available here in Mazatlán, whether it’s house calls when you need a doctor, the pharmacy delivering needed medicines, a caterer bringing you a special dessert or a favorite restaurant delivering lunch to your door. Just one more reason we are blessed to call this port “home.”

Thank you very much for joining us on this journey through a star-filled life, whether it’s stars we hope and pray for, or stars that we’d rather have pass us by. As we close out 2016, I trust you will be able to let go of those things that have not served you well, and fully embrace all the blessings and opportunities that 2017 will bring our way. May the Year of the Rooster wake us up fully to all the joy around us.

You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

We picked Danny up from Boy Scout camp on Saturday, June 14, 2008, my friend Basma’s wedding anniversary, to begin our big adventure. Before leaving Leawood we had to stop one last time to say goodbye to our dog, Nacho, who now lives with good friends on their acreage.

The day before we departed had been the 35th anniversary of my first airplane ride. This time we were driving: a Honda Civic hybrid, loaded to the gills with three people, four computers, and loads of other have-to-have-right-away goodies. Needless to say, we wwaaayyyyyy exceeded the weight limit of the vehicle and the car barely cleared the ground.

We drove diagonally through Kansas—truly a beautiful state. We knew we’d miss the prairie, the Flint Hills. We were psyched to be able to drive through Greensburg, the town so devastated by the tornado and now rebuilding itself as a world-leading green city. What an encouraging way to leave the US. We spent our first night in Liberal, Kansas, two blocks from Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz; quite fitting, we felt.

The journey went really quickly and smoothly. Good highways the whole way, we met all terrific people, and it was fun counting the states. We crossed the border in Nogales, where we had our foreign resident cards stamped, and 50km or so later registered our car. Hooray!!! ¡Bienvenidos!

Crossing over the thousands of topes (speed bumps) on the journey through Mexico was not easy given our heavy load, and we had to stop at a mechanic’s once to have something underneath the car tied back up. The only really hairy episode was at one point on the highway in Sonora. Greg was driving, and heading towards us on two wheels, out of control and loaded to three times the height of the cab, comes a pickup truck. Greg froze: heading to the right would take us off the road and into a deep ditch, no doubt flipping us; heading left would take us into the path of the pickup if he was able to right the truck and course-correct; staying where we were seemed to be suicide. Fortunately, the driver was able to get back on all four wheels and onto his own side of the road, and all was well.

We spent our third night, the only night on the road in Mexico, in a “Romance Hotel.” Pulling in it looked great: advertising air conditioning, cable television, room service. It looked clean and new and very private; like a Japanese “love hotel,” you drive straight into a garage with your car, close the door, and no one sees who you are; great for secret trysts. Once we were in the room, we realized the AC didn’t work and the window didn’t open; we were stuck in a steam bath! We ordered dinner delivered, but when they brought it, they couldn’t get the garage door (only door to the outside) to open; the switch had come loose and fallen inside the cement block wall. No worries. We survived, spent one of the most steamy, sweaty nights of our lives, but the next day we made it to our new home and all was well. Seeing that ocean in front of us made everything good!