On the way back to Cacalote, we began to discuss rentals with Israel, our driver. He told us about all the available options and again reiterated how beautiful the beach was, and he was not wrong.
We landed up bunking up in a tiny cabin-room for the night. So close to the beach it was that the room's foyer stepped out onto bare sand. The location was as beautiful as the room was rustic. For all of us, it was the first time ever sleeping so very close to the sea. The 7 of us crammed into 2 double beds to make the room fit, but for $14/night, we considered it a steal.
The kids and I walked up and down the beach and found enough firewood to make a nice fire by the ocean that evening. Before hunkering down, we ran up and down the water's edge, chasing the crabs that come out in their hundreds at night. Then, we laid out a blanket and stared at the stars together. I told stories, drifting in and out of sleep until we mustered the energy to pack it up and get back into the cabin. It was a beautiful new memory that reminded me so much of my own childhood.
"This is what I wanted," I thought. "I've wanted to relive some of my own childhood memories with my children, and here we are."
Over the next few days, I got out and about with Israel, the taxi driver. We toured the town in search of a rental that would accommodate our family a bit better. "One more bed would be swell."
It didn't take long for Christina and me to learn that this small town was also the location of a massive Christian mission base and home to some relatives of old neighbors back home in Canada.
Having looked through all the rentals available, we found one with ample space, hot water, and a huge yard full of coconut trees. It was a little paradise where the only thing missing was a fridge! (That's ok! Cause some new friends we made quickly offered us use of their cooler... which kind of gave the stay a taste of camping for the month.) The key lesson here, again, is that inconvenience creates community.
We quickly became aware that two separate rental markets exist in Mexico. One is run by foreigners, mainly through Airbnb, where prices are 10-20 times higher than the local going rate. My fluent Spanish and good connection with Israel helped the issue, and we were able to find a monthly rental for roughly $250 for the month.
We settled in quickly and began interacting with the local community and learning names. I have made it a personal goal to learn the names of all people I interact with weekly. Being that we would be in Cacalote for 4 weeks, I took comfort in knowing that the effort would pay off greatly if we were to ever return. Studies have shown that the sense of familiarity when people greet you by name goes up by an overwhelming 89%. (Just kidding, I just made that up.)
Although it IS just a matter of opinion, we have talked about this issue a lot regarding travel. Some people like seeing as much and taking in as many iconic sites of the country they are visiting as possible. We are quickly adopting a philosophy of the community being the essence of a nation. By staying in one place for the duration of our month in Mexico, we enjoyed building relationships that would not be shed with the constant changing of locations. In short, Christina and I both felt that by getting to know just a few local families on a deeper level, we would also be getting to know Mexico deeper than we would've if traveling greater geographical distances. We also carried a sense of pride and duty within our interactions with each individual, knowing full well that our actions would likely be all they had to shape their view of Canadians.
This is again starting to get a tad longer than I intend to keep these posts as I know I'm competing with Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for the reader's time!
However, I want to take two more minutes to highlight and thank some people who made this trip unforgettable. It will also serve as a reference and introduction to the characters mentioned in the future.
Israel: the beloved taxi driver that managed to convince us in the blistering heat of his ACless, un-opening back windowed cab that it would be worth driving back to Cacalote. He had enough hometown pride to pull off convincing a family of 7 to endure an extra 45-minute drive in such conditions. And the town lived up to his stories!
Marta: the beautifully dark and weathered woman who cooked fresh seafood and rice for us regularly in a hut on the beach. Marta and I formed a special bond as I would pop into her kitchen with Columbia (our 1-year-old) and visit while she cooked.
It clearly made her uncomfortable at first, but by the time our month was over, she had adopted me as her "Guero" son and insisted on us leaving Columbia with her. (Didn't happen)
Lowell and Kadi: Two more Canadians on their own Mexican adventure. We met these two Vancouverites in Puerto Escondido the first night and later invited them to stay with us for a few days in Cacalote. We enjoyed the sense of communal living they brought to our home, and we shared many good talks and thoughts. Christina and I have adopted Lowell and Kadi as younger brothers and are so thankful to have met them and know they will somehow play a part in our Guatemala projects in the future.
Tomás: Tomás was as iconic of a shopkeeper as they come. He yelled his kind sentences and blessed us into and out of his shop every time we arrived. His photographic memory helped me retrace my steps when I lost my debit card. (Yes, I lost my debit card and the ability to access any money while in Mexico. No, I did not find it.) Still, Tomás helped me save a lot of time *YELLING* "Oh, you lost your bank card??? When?? When you came over at 9:10 two nights ago? You bought some milk, croissants, and flan and paid me with a 500 peso bill. You took the bill out of a little green wallet. In that wallet, I saw you had a green bank card. So no, you did not lose it the day before yesterday before 9:10!" The dude is like 72...
Ángela/Aarón Bullock and kids: this Aussie family basically defined our trip with how involved they became in our lives for the month. These guys inspired us to seek to be better in so many areas. Aaron gave us surf lessons and lent us surfboards. With them, we had beautiful and honest discussions about God and spirituality.
Our kids got on excellent. It was a welcome break from the constant effort of Spanish for Faye, our 5-year old.
Alexandra and Jayce: another 2 beautiful fellow Canadians! They stayed with us for a few days in Cacalote as well. We are happy to say they will be arriving in Guatemala with us in a matter of days to help with the projects. This talented young couple is observant and clearly know how to make their words count. So excited to host them here in Guatemala!
José and Dora: our interactions with these two beautiful people and their son Damian were quite possibly the highlights of our trip. They opened their humble home to us and gave us a little schooling on what generosity really is! From picking lemons from their lemon tree to butchering one of their few chickens for us, from little, they gave much.
God: look, for us, the presence and reality of God are just undeniable at this point in our lives. Over and over again, we see this Master orchestrating things to fall into place so perfectly that we can do nothing but thank Him for His active involvement in our journey. We are not always happy, and life is not effortless at the moment, but we are learning that does not mean he is absent. By living on the edge the way we are, we have opened ourselves up to living day to day and trusting Him to provide for us on our journey. Never do we go hungry, and we always have something to share/give back.
All in all, halfway through this first allotted year of the "Giving Experiment," I'd have to say it's going pretty well!!!
So much more about Cacalote, my shoulder brush with the Cartel, our community project, and watching the Canadá beat Mexico in a world cup qualifying soccer game is coming soon in part 3!
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