3. Jingle In the Jungle
...Molly and Grainne are traveling with her parents, magazine travel writers, through Mexico. At one of their first stops, Grainne finds a mysterious notebook with directions to a hidden treasure...diamonds. The only problem is, the first page is missing. That was the page that told the location where the diamonds were buried.
They go on the search of a lifetime. Search with them and see if you can figure out where the diamonds are buried
Spanish - 4
Molly - 0
I just don’t have a talent for languages. I’d been trying to learn Spanish since we crossed the border to Mexico, but just couldn’t seem to pick it up. The only thing that made me feel better is that my parents had even less language talent. My father was hopeless. He’d gotten us into some funny situations with his attempts at Spanish.
I’ll bring you up to date.
After the Renaissance Festival, we got ready for our trip to Mexico on the way down to the Rio Grande Valley. There was so much involved to leaving your home country for a long period. We had to do everything from get our passports, to get travel documents for the bus and car. There was just so much to do and very little time to get it done.
We’d spent the last three weeks in an RV park in Pharr, Texas. It was convenient to the offices we needed to go to and the vet there was familiar with the shots that Grainne would need to prevent the different strains of diseases that she could get in Mexico.
Dad needed some tools for the bus and car, minor repairs and maintenance, so we loaded Grainne into the Jeep and hit Home Depot.
In the car, on the way over, Grainne looked puzzled. “Iz da daddy goin' to buy yipstick at da Home Depot?”
Before I could stop it, a snort of laughter escaped. “Yipstick? Don’t you mean lipstick?” I was giggling now and trying to hide it from my parents by pretending to cough. Since they didn’t know that I could talk to Grainne, they’d think I was crazy if they thought I was laughing for no apparent reason.
“No, I meanz da yipstick. You knowz, it’s for your yips.”
Not laughing was getting harder. I didn’t know what Grainne was talking about. How did she get this silly notion and why was she calling lips yips? “Grainne, what on earth are you talking about?”
She cuddled closer and gazed at me.
“A couple of da daze ago, when you wuz supposed to be doin da schoolwork, I seed you laffin. When you went to da baffrum, I hitted da puter wid my noze and saw da video of da liddle gurl wid da red stuffs around her mouf. When her daddy asked her what it wuz she say da yipstick from da Home Depot. Iz dat what da daddy iz goin' to da store for?”
Now it was making a little more sense. I had been watching a video instead of studying. Grainne had caught me. It was of a toddler that had gotten into her mother’s makeup. Her dad asked her whose lipstick it was, and she answered “it’s my yipstick”. He asked her where she had gotten it and she told him she had bought it at Home Depot.
“Grainne, are you spying on me?”
“No, Iz not spyin. Iz just not know whut wuz makin you laff. I wanted to see.”
At that moment, my parents were opening doors and getting out of the car.
“I will talk to you about this later!”
While my dad got the tools he needed, my mother stocked up on cleaning supplies. I continued my conversation with Grainne. I told her she should never go near my computer and I didn’t like her checking up on me. I already had parents for that.
She sniffed and stared up at the ceiling. I loved her dearly, but she had a snippy attitude sometimes.
After stowing our supplies and eating our supper out, we went to bed very early. One thing I had learned while traveling was, it was always a good idea to get lots of sleep the night before traveling. You never knew what the next day would bring.
After checking and rechecking our lists, we were finally ready to cross the border.
We left our RV park at daybreak for the trip to Brownsville and the crossing at Matamoros. It turned out to be a lot easier than my parents were told to expect.
“Mexico Mike” the guy at the map place, had told my parents that we’d have to do things like post a bond for both the Jeep and the Bus.
When we got to Aduana, the Mexican version of Customs, the officer said, “No problema” He also said the same thing about the dog permit and our radio permit. This was going smoothly! We asked him if there would be a problem with Grainne going into stores and restaurants. My dad explained she was a service dog, and I had to have her with me all the time. He said that wouldn’t be a problem. Mexico wasn’t as strict as the United States about dogs and cats. Since she wore a service dog vest, everyone would know that it was fine for her to be with me in areas where they rarely allowed dogs.
Everyone was helpful. We met a young Mexican/American from Alabama, who helped us to smooth over the rough spots in translation.
After my father called the police officer officero, my mother told him to stop trying to speak Spanish. You would think that, with all of us growing up in Texas, that one of us would have picked up a little Spanish. Nope, we didn’t. I set my mind to work hard to learn the language. If we were going to be in their country, we should attempt to learn to speak their language.
The young man from Alabama was a big help. I think the people in Aduana thought so too.
We had all the documents we needed with us. My dad had to give them a letter of permission from the magazine, allowing us to take the bus to Mexico. We had to give them a copy of the title to ensure that we didn’t sell the bus while in their country. In addition, we had to have US insurance papers on both vehicles, Mexican insurance papers, our passports and our Social Security cards. The bonding agent kept those documents until you left the country. When you were leaving, you had to stop at their office to get your documents back. My mother and father both had to give them copies of their Texas driver's licenses and another form of identification with a home address on it. You then post a bond for a percentage of the value of your vehicles. Luckily for us, that was taken care of by the magazine. Mom and Dad had a company credit card for those types of expenses. From the time we got in line at immigration to the time we drove from the parking lot was only an hour and a half.
I was glad that my parents had gotten the detailed maps. I don’t know that we could have ever found our way to any of our destinations without those paper maps. You can use GPS, but those hard copy maps were a blessing. Their step-by-step instructions got us through Matamoros, and down to Ciudad Victoria, without a hitch.
My father made me navigator, since I was studying World Geography. He said it would fit right in with my homeschool classes. I didn’t mind. The directions and descriptions were actually fun. Some of them were downright funny, like “go 4km and then turn right at the brown spotted cow”. The funny thing was there actually WAS a brown spotted cow at 4km. There were new traffic signs that the map book explained. I loved the one that showed a car falling off a cliff with a circle and line through it. The book said it meant “do not drive off cliffs.” Was there a problem in Mexico with people driving off cliffs on purpose?
I just hoped that we could easily find the RV parks listed.
We planned on spending the night at a place called “Hacienda Alta Mira”. We drove down a pothole filled gravel road and approached locked gates. There was a Pinkerton guard there who told us they were closed. Dad drove to another listed park called “Lago Vista” and their guard told us they didn’t have a place for RVs! He said to drive down the road about three more miles until we came to another RV park.
By now, it was getting dark, and we were all getting nervous. We’d heard the horror stories about being out on the road after dark. Luckily, the guard from “Alta Mira” flagged us down. He had spoken to the owner and we could stay there overnight for no charge. The owner said he would be happy to be our host.
Driving through those gates was like entering another world. There were flagstone driveways flanked by brilliant flowering bushes. I recognized hydrangeas, bougainvillea., hibiscus and impatiens. There were hundreds of others I’d never seen before. There were small wild parrots calling from the treetops. At the end of the long drive, a hacienda with a palapa on the roof dominated the skyline. We were all enthralled by the lushness and beauty. It looked like something from a travel poster. Even the sky was bluer than it had been in Texas.
There were cages that had once housed wild animals. Old world luxury overflowed. Wooden lounges with fluffy cushions dominated the patio. My mother said that she felt she would turn a corner and come across LBJ sipping margaritas by the pool. Once upon a time, this place was the place to be if you were Texas rich. Now, new owners had it and were sprucing it up to become a luxury resort again. We found a shady spot to park the bus and got out to look around.
It felt good to work the kinks out from the long drive from the border. We hadn’t even stopped for lunch, just pulled over to use the bathroom in the bus and grab a quick bite.
The guard had come over to help us get settled into the camping spot. He spoke a little English and wanted to practice. Unfortunately, my father thought he should practice the little Spanish he had gotten out of a guidebook.
“Did you have a hard time coming from the border?” The guard spoke slowly, but clearly. His English was pretty good!
My mother opened her mouth to answer but my father jumped in, proudly answering, ”Los camarones gigantes que bajan por la carretera son muy peligrosos.”
The guard’s mouth dropped open, and he dropped to his knees, put his hands over his mouth and laughed so hard, he cried.
My mom and I were dumbstruck. My dad had just told the guard that the giant shrimp, going down the road, were very dangerous. I think he meant trucks. That word is cambiones shrimp is camerones, similar but VERY different.
The guard jumped up and ran from the campsite. I think he had no words for my dad.
After I stopped laughing, I tried to tell my father what he had just said, but started laughing again every time I tried. My mother was still wiping her eyes. Finally, she got ahold of herself and told him what he had just said. His face was brick red. Boy, was he embarrassed!
“What iz dis plaze? Why ebberybody laffin?” Grainne looked around like she had just woken up in wonderland. “I smelz da animalz Iz we at da zoo?.”
Grainne was right, I smelled something musky, like a lion cage. I hoped that there weren’t any wild animals running around. I didn’t see any, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there somewhere.
I answered her silently, “This is where we’re spending the night.”
“I hopez dat dere not scary animalz here.”
Did I mention Grainne’s a service dog, not a bodyguard?
We spent a couple of hours exploring the property. My dad got a surprise when he approached what he thought was an abandoned cage. “Hey, there’s a bowl in here and a water bucket. I think I hear something. It sounds a little like a motor running in the distance.” He walked around the cage a few times, trying to peek inside to see if there was anything in there. Just as he leaned over to look more closely, a streak of brown rushed at the bars. It was a mountain lion! My father jumped away from the cage so fast he almost fell over. “Wow, it’s a good thing I didn’t open the cage door. There isn’t a lock on it!” He was actually shaking and sweat had broken out on his forehead. He staggered a little as we hurried away from the cages. If there was one animal, there might be more. He grabbed my mother’s arm with one hand and mine with the other.
He practically dragged us away from the cages. Poor Grainne was getting dragged along with my mother and me.
“It’s getting late and we’re all tired. Let’s get back inside and eat. We need to get to bed early to get on the road by eight. Besides, I need for you to not get eaten.” My mother laughed as she put her arm around his waist and tried to slow him down a little. Dad was just not having his best day.
Grainne had jumped about three feet in the air when the cougar rushed the cage bars. She hid behind me. What a great protector!
“Come on, Grainne, before a monster gets you.” I was laughing at her. As big as she is, she is really a wuss.
My parents still didn’t know that Grainne and I could talk to each other. I was going to tell them soon. Keeping something like that hidden was getting harder and harder. Every time Grainne and I talked, when we were near my parents, they looked at me funny. I think they already knew something was going on. Grainne and I had hidden this secret for a long time.
The evening was beautiful and so peaceful. We ate out under our awning. Dad barbequed chicken, and we had a salad made from fresh veggies that someone had left on our picnic table while we were exploring. After the meal, we sat and relaxed, enjoying the soft warm breeze.
What a wonderful start to our adventure. Tomorrow we would head on south, towards the ruinas at Palenque to celebrate Dias de las Muertas or Days of the Dead.