Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oh Mexico..

Just my luck, I lost memory space on my camera 30 minutes after landing in Mexico and haven’t yet got a replacement. If you wanna see some great pics of the wedding try Kelly and Troy’s wedding site or one of the fam’s facebook postings. I know, bummer, but you’ll just have to use your imagination on this one, sorry. It was fabulous, by the way. Idealic would my word of choice. My whole family (minus my husband who had to stay behind with the bus and kids) converged on a seaside resort in Cabo San Lucas. I realize that we are L.U.C.K.Y. to be able to experience something this incredible. I was admittedly a little confused because where we were looked suspiciously affluent, well taken care of, absent of smog and full of chains like Costco and Home Depot. I have no idea what percentage of tourism dollars actually trickle down to the local economy; but it was nicer, much nicer, than many places I’ve been in the states. I learned the Mexicans can do two things quite well: service and drinks. We were pampered, doted on and after every interaction they replied, “it’s a pleasure.” I don’t care if they were lying through their teeth, do you know how nice that is to hear? (Especially when last night’s tequila is hanging like a cloud on your morning!) For example: “May I have some orange juice?” “It’s a pleasure.” “Can you add some rum to it?” “It’s a pleasure.” Can you tell me where the nearest bano is in case I need to puke?” “Just to the left, it’s a pleasure.” Where else can you go where they offer gratitude for you losing your lunch in their toilet? Not that it happened, well, I can only speak for myself, my liver was used and slightly abused, but she held in there well. I think we only lost a few soldiers, say 3 people in our 40 person group. Not bad. We’re not amateurs. Traveling with my family is so different than with my husband. With Torben it’s all about the adventure and finding our own way. We travel like it’s our job. With my family it’s much more relaxed. Some other main differences include eating at restaurants that actually have table cloths, and my favorite: valet parking. In a word: spoiled. Dad, I cannot thank you enough for slaving away for 30 years inside other people’s dirty mouths so that we can enjoy such splendor. Muchas gracias Papa! And now that your last little girl has been married off, perhaps you’ll get to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Jen, my other sister, and I never had Bachelorette parties. Me, because I planned a couple weddings before I actually got married (my friends had a hard time determining whether this one was “for real” or not), and Jen because she was already knocked up So we really had some personal making up to do for Kel’s night out. Perhaps it was a little cliché and tacky but I dragged my husband (yeah, right, dragged) to a XXX palace before I left to find the latest and greatest in bachelorette paraphernalia. I was determined to do this thing up right; spare no expense, this was, after all, my last little sister to get married. We practically had to get a line of credit from the bank to cover the expenses of the chocolate and strawberry body paint, two foot penis squirt gun and oodles of other anatomically stretched dohickeys. I carefully wrapped each prize and packed them in my bag. I have learned long ago never to check my luggage on airlines, the fact that I was flying to Mexico doubled that commitment. So I carefully stashed my week’s worth of clothes, the XXX goodies and my sister of the bride dress (I refuse to be called matron of anything) in my backpack. My eagerness to join my family for a week’s worth of playing on the Mexican coast blinded me the morning of my departure. My head was floating in the clouds…until Mr. I’m Too Uptight and Hate My Job Transportation Security Officer brought me back to earth with a little “bag check”. It’s hard not to blush when someone pulls a penis out of your bag. But let’s be real - I had a suitcase full of one eyed soldiers in every shape AND color, blushing is not the word. I think I added a new color to the rainbow. With a lot of unnecessary huffing and puffing he unwrapped, and not delicately mind you, ripped the pretty paper off, held the damn things up to the light, waved them around for all to see. Then with a judgmental eye asked loudly so that passengers boarding ten gates away could hear…if I was a call girl! My mother would be so proud. What’s a girl to do? So I said yes and told him I had a little extra time to kill before my flight and was he interested? I was quickly cleared. This all made for a good story later at the bachelorette party, especially while donning out semi-wrapped gifts with wrapping paper hanging on by a lone piece of tape. Ok, so perhaps giving my Grandmother a glow in the dark penis ring toss game was a little over the top, but she was a terrific sport (thanks Grandma!) The girls traveled to Cabo-Wabo, an internationally known bar, owned by Sammy Hagar. I felt like a dork that I had to go ask who Sammy Hagar was. If you don’t know, go look it up, you too can share in my embarrassment. Not to worry, alcohol numbs all feeling. We danced like maniacs. Even my Mom, post knee surgery, was able to get out and do a little movin and groovin on the dance floor. (Not that she should have, but she did. She probably shouldn’t have had that punchbowl cocktail that was potent enough to strip paint off the wall, either, but, well, you know.) We were smart enough to schedule our girls’ night out several days before the actual wedding, so we could recoup. I got to spend lots of time snuggling up to my three month old nephew, Beau. He is the happiest little chunky monkey. And my grandmother (the aforementioned recipient of the glow in the dark ring toss game) was in her prime taking care of him while the rest of us floated in the pool. My grandmother is one of those people who has the “gene” for mothering. I don’t know why some people just exude the confidence and enjoyment of nurturing and some don’t, but she definitely does. Wonder why it skipped me? The wedding itself was impressively emotional. The ceremony even had the fathers wiping their eyes. My new brother-in-law bawled like a baby when he saw his bride for the first time. It was pretty moving…until he gave her a handshake because he didn’t know what to do.. Classic. I think everyone cried harder because it was so damn funny. Seriously, though, Kelly and Troy are wonderful for each other. As individuals they are incredible people, as a couple, they are even better. It is such a blessing to know your sibling has found a lifelong mate…though Lord knows I probably would never have guessed she’d pick the younger brother of a girl who threatened to beat me up in high school! We can joke about it now, and thankfully neither of us can fully remember the what and why of the issue. But seriously, in high school, I would avoid certain hallways so as not to come face to face with her, and when I first learned Kelly was dating Troy my first words were, “Oh shit.” Sorry Lisa, you’re wonderful!. The entire Shaffer family is awesome and whether they like it or not, in good times and in bad….they’re stuck with us! Coming home was an experience…I don’t want to even get started on the process of US customs and immigration and why those of us holding a valid passport had to wait twice as long as those who didn’t. Nor why my uncle has the tendency to always get taken to a “special room” for “special questioning” whenever he flies internationally, despite the fact that he is as American as apple pie. Or that some of the customs and immigration officials spoke no English. No, I won’t even jump up on that soapbox today. When I first moved to Florida I remember smirking as I threw out the window de-icer scraping tool that had been in my trunk since I first got my license. Good riddance, I thought, I won’t be needing that anymore. The moment was long awaited, but my foresight was short…of course. Our pipes froze last night. Ever needed to flush only to find the water isn’t flowing? Good times. Not that a de-icing scraper would have been any help, but it made me wince at the sign of things to come. We’ve seen some incredible things this trip. Perhaps none will rival the most recent incredibility. The other day we awoke to find stray dogs running through our camp, cute as can be, we thought they were doing a special little booty shaking dance. After a few minutes we looked a little closer…they were stuck together, well, actually they were frozen together, doggy style. I imagine there was a real missed photo op when I scrambled around on all fours behind them trying to warm the necessary parts while Torben poured warm water on the extended appendage and we helped them pry loose. More good times. The fun continues…guess where we were all last week? You can’t beat an exciting adventure to…the repair shop. Yeah, again. We had to have our engine rebuilt. We’ve been entertained with flashing lights on the dash for several weeks, which we were reassured by the manufacturer was “just faulty wiring” and didn’t mean anything was wrong. Even you know better! We had one monstrous fear before going on this trip; that we would somehow have to leave the motor coach and bear the fun task of finding a hotel that would allow the whole barking shedding lot of us. Ugh. That day came. I couldn’t even find the humor in the situation as I sat day after day in the hotel room smaller than our RV, begging and pleading with my kids not to bark at every noise. There are only so many hours in a day one can hang out at the dog park. Thankfully the Marriott Residence Inn in OKC (that’s city slang for Oklahoma City y’all) not only tolerated us, they hosted a daily happy hour. God bless free beer. The engine is now running better, but we have a list a mile long of other things they couldn’t fix. The recommendation, you won’t believe it – go back to Red Bay, Alabama. Our home away from home. I nearly shit my pants. So we finally moved back into our big ol’ rig and we try valiantly everyday not to think of her as a rolling disappointment. But sometimes when I open a drawer and the bottom falls out I can’t help it. She looks pretty and cost a fortune, but “lemon” is rolling around back in my head. And if everything went smoothly you wouldn’t have anything to laugh at, right? Ignoring bad news is a skill I have perfected. So we kept on sightseeing like nothing was wrong. Along the road we passed the ever extra-terrestrial looking Storm Chaser car. It was barricaded with steel and had a few weather antennas peeking out the top. It looked a bit like a robot. We were ever so pleased that it was driving the opposite way. In Oklahoma we headed out to find the Cherokee Nation Torben’s mother’s lineage was Cherokee and lived in the hills of West Virginia. In the mid 1800”s our swell government made the audacious choice to repeatedly break every treaty they made and brutally remove the Indians from their own land, thank you, President Jackson (please apply heavy sarcasm). The Cherokee tribe was divided, some left with government escorts and walked barefoot through freezing conditions to be relocated to Oklahoma (and those were the lucky ones). Others, like Torben’s family hid in the hills as a final act of self preservation. As a result they were never “formally” registered as belonging to the Tribe, not that it really mattered to that generation: the Eastern Band of Cherokees were not provided US citizenship until 1924. Cherokee Nation does not actually have a reservation like many other tribes. Thanks to their own tribal council disagreement and typical government b.s. they were denied a reservation. What the Cherokee Nation lacks in land, they make up for in spirit. The tribe has a wonderful museum and family history research center. I learned that the Cherokee people were the first Indians to develop written language, which is beautiful by the way thanks to Chief Sequoia, and they built the first missionary school for women west of the Mississippi river. Who knew Indians were pioneers in Women’s equality? Fabulous. We happened to visit during a New Moon festival and besides free admission we got to shoot fake poison darts by blowing sticks through bamboo shoots (come on, admit it, your jealous). Ok, so it was really an education station set up for Cherokee kids to learn about life in the 1600’s, but during their lunch break Torben and I snuck in and played like we were kids. We also got some great souveniers like a CD of tribal music and a book to begin learning the language, not to mention the terrific resources to begin filling in the gaps on Torben’s family history. We’ll keep you posted on what we find. We’re now back to an old favorite destination of ours: Fayetteville, Arkansas. People used to laugh at us when we told them how much we loved Arkansas (right to our face and they didn’t even try to hide it!). Arkansas is like a favorite pair of jeans, it always fits right! We’ve been to half the states in the country and this one still makes my top 5. There is so much to do outdoors and if you look in the dictionary under ‘friendly’ the entire town of Fayetteville should be listed. We’re enjoying the festive fall season with brisk outdoor hikes in the Ozarks and cozying up in restaurants with warm fires in the evenings. We also made friends with our nightly servers and scored free samples of some fine bourbon – jackpot! Arkansas is where we first discovered caves. Not all of you may wax poetic about crawling on your knees in a dark muddy cave, but I get a little misty eyed when I think of all the caves we’ve stepped foot in. And it all started here… romance comes in many forms my friends. Tune in next time as we travel back to Alabama (can’t you hear the banjo playing?)!