Yes, we finally got our getaway. For the first time since we’ve had kids (and Cameron is pushing 19 years in less than 3 months), we were sans kids for four days. Our biggest concern? Not really the transmission. Would we remember how to talk to each other when kids and work weren’t part of our environment? What would we talk about? (pretty much the same things that we always talk about: plans, work/ministry, kids/family, etc.)
I guess we managed. I don’t recall any life-shattering conversations, but we conversed fine. We rested. We walked. We ate out. I drank too many “lecheros” (the Veracruz name for “café con leche”…I guess that’s like a latté). Just kidding. You can’t drink too many of those. I ate a whole red snapper. I took a few pictures. It was really only two days at our destination, but those two days “hit the spot.”
Unfortunately, the city was mostly nondescript. The center of Veracruz is both a tourist spot and an industrial/shipping center. It is an odd mix. It really doesn’t quite work.
A few miles from there by our fancy Fiesta Americana Hotel, the beach is littered with broken glass and garbage, even old tires (it appeared that in one nearby section of beach, a former dumping ground in the dunes had been dislodged by the tide and was just an ugly disaster for a beach meant for tourists). We didn’t swim in the surf out of concern for what was in the water and under our feet. On the sand we walked while wearing sandals to avoid the garbage, glass, and the arrival of sea urchins menacing our passing feet. Our nice room had a great view of the swimming pool, the beach, and a continual flotilla of huge cargo ships out in the bay. Almost lovely. No wonder Hernán Cortés burned his ships at Veracruz. They spoiled the natural view.
One thing I think we realized is that there are some things that we can’t get away from on a getaway. Maybe we’re not supposed to ever totally get away from everything. Obviously, we’re believers in Jesus, and we never take a getaway from that…from him. Of course not! We all know that. But when your vocation is full-time ministry, do you get away from ministry? From people? Should you? Can you? My head says yes, my heart says no. I don’t know. I do know that I handed out more gospel tracts during our getaway than I probably do during my normal routine. Why not?
We ate at a nice Italian restaurant on our last getaway afternoon. The food portions were huge. What do you think about when you’re on vacation in a strange place with no refrigerator where you’re staying, and you’re not sure you’ll be able to finish your massive meal? All we could think about was where might we come across someone who is hungry (here in this touristy area) who wouldn’t be offended by an offer of leftovers and who would genuinely want to eat it. Beth left our meal table and walked over to a window to see if the guy selling “flowers” made out of beer cans was still out on the street (no where in sight, bummer).
Finally, we left with our leftovers and began driving toward an area a couple miles away where we thought we might come across someone who looked hungry. We finally ended up passing by some kids begging at a traffic light, but we were on the opposite side of a divided highway, and I couldn’t get us turned around in the congested traffic.
We drove on further to a supermarket to see if they had anything unusual we might like to take home (we found some “tacos al pastor” seasoning that we haven’t seen in years…cha-ching!). Heading back out to the van with our meat seasoning, I decided we could go back to the hotel the opposite way, back where those kids were (about a mile down the highway), and turn onto a seaside road to get back to the hotel from there.
This was not a sleepy road. It was 3 lanes wide in one direction and at the intersection where the kids had been, two of the lanes went left and the other lane went right (the Gulf of Mexico was straight ahead). We saw the kids. Their presumed mother was also there in the concrete median. She was a very young woman…a girl really…in her Guatemalan indigenous dress. I remember catching a glimpse through the traffic of two young jet black-haired kids. I think there was a third kid. Maybe a baby too. I swerved off to the far right near some cars that were parked along the the curb. Our van was still partially blocking the far right lane. Most of the traffic was turning left at the light, but keep in mind that lanes and traffic patterns follow the Mexican “rules” that lanes and “rules” are subjective, e.g. two lanes can quickly become four lanes just because, red is just a color and a red traffic light doesn’t always mean “stop” and sometimes apparently means “speed up.”
As soon as I pulled over, Bethie jumped out with the bag of Italian leftovers, some pasta but more cheesy-garlicky bread than anything, and a couple bottles of water, a plastic fork, and an “ABC de La Vida” tract that I had hastily shoved in the bag. No telling if the girl could read it. The light had turned red, so Bethie dashed through the lanes of cars and dodged a couple of buses flying by the far right side of them and barely missing the back of our van.
To be honest I was a little nervous about letting my wife risk her wife in that traffic to give away some leftovers. What if she got hit by one of those buses flying by? What would I tell people back home? Sorry to report…I sent my wife into a life-ending real-life game of Frogger while on our 2nd honeymoon. What was I thinking? I should have jumped out. I’m the one with the bad ticker anyway.
Well, the good news is she didn’t get hit and die; my beloved frog made it across and back to her prince (hmmm…that sounds backwards for some reason).
The better news (not really) is those kids were truly hungry (and by “kids” I mean the momma too). We had just feasted on an unnecessarily huge meal and just a short drive away were some precious people who Jesus also died for, and they were practically starving…and the best we did for them was to give them some cold leftovers of a type of food that they probably have never before tasted, might have gagged on the strange flavor and textures, a couple of small bottles of warm drinking water, and a gospel tract that any illiterate couldn’t read.
To be honest, out of our whole getaway adventure, apart from having the precious solitary time with my bride which was immeasurably valuable, this small act of kindness and of good intention was pretty much the only other thing that seemed of any lasting value.
How does one really getaway when we live in a world that we don’t getaway from and in every turn and in every place there are people who are in desperate situations, and above all, they desperately need Jesus?
I took some pictures of Veracruz. I will post a few below. There aren’t too many. But the sparse number of pictures betray another internal struggle. How do I share pictures with our friends on Facebook of our nice resort, our meals, and our experiences, when I know that we minister to people whom we love deeply and none of them can afford any of this, all of them are married, all of them work 6 days a week (sometimes 7), and what “getaways” do they ever get? Some of them struggle to put gas in their vehicle just to get to church. At times, some of them struggle to even put food on the table or buy needed medicine. I know this is true because at times I’ve bought them some bags of food and some needed medicines that otherwise couldn’t be purchased.
I don’t mean to say that I felt guilty about any of this. I wouldn’t say it was guilt or a sort of fake hyper-compassion. It’s just maybe I don’t know how to do a getaway. Or maybe I don’t know whether I should do a getaway. Or maybe this is just a normal thought process for any believer who desperately wants to love Jesus like Jesus loves people and is unsure if Jesus would ever take a “getaway” from ministry or work or thinking about a cross to bear. I don’t think he ever took (or takes) a getaway from loving people. I don’t think we should either. And maybe that’s all I was trying to avoid.
In a way, I’m glad I couldn’t just pray and BAM! feed thousands of people. If you want to guarantee that you could never even consider getting a getaway: feed thousands of hungry people who are miles from home and don’t have a car or access to public transportation. They’d follow you like a herd of cats whose only source of a bowl of milk is you. The only way you could get away from people you’ve fed like that, in a seaside place like Veracruz would be to somehow walk on water. Oh. Right. Well, maybe Jesus did understand the way and the need to a getaway.
Does this make sense to you? I’m not sure if I’m talking a foreign language or if this is how you feel when you take a vacation or get a getaway. Maybe it’s just because our getaway was in a place where the culture of rich and poor collide in a way that doesn’t in most places in the USA. That probably has something to do with it. I didn’t notice any experience quite like this while we traveled in the USA last summer. We met some people who seemed to be hurting, but nobody that I recall seeing who seemed hungry. I know there are hungry people in the USA, but in Gatlinburg, TN? At Pensacola Beach, FL? I didn’t see them. Maybe I wasn’t looking.
Soooo…before the getaway blog post has gotaway, here are a few pics of our getaway in Veracruz:
Above is the “zócalo” (the main plaza downtown) which was not terribly impressive. The bell tower belongs to the local Cathedral. At least it all looks neat and clean though dated.
This is a national naval building. The statue and the name to the left on the building go together. Carranza was a military hero of the past. “Faro” means lighthouse.
From the back, it looked like Carranza has a man-bun.
Our market seafood restaurant and waiter. He looked happier after I had eaten, paid, and oh yes, left him a nice tip. There are lots of seafood restaurants in Veracruz and down by our hotel there are plenty that would have charged me triple the price for that I paid here. It was clean (enough), smelled ok, and turned out, I didn’t get sick and die (always a plus).
This is red snapper (“huachinango”). I don’t know what a whole red snapper would cost in the USA. Here I paid $250 pesos which included a salad (the waiter was very clear on that point before I ordered). I didn’t touch the salad and ate just a bite of rice. I imagine that avoiding the “salad” possibly saved my life. The purified ice in my glass of Coca-cola didn’t have the tell-tale hole in it to prove it’s purified. I may die yet. I’ve got about 35 days before we know for sure.
The fish was nearly too much food as it was. It was amazingly tasty. Well salted (don’t tell my cardiologist), and even Bethie (who doesn’t like fish) said it was good because it didn’t taste like fish. Fresh red snapper is the chicken of the sea really.
BTW, $250 pesos is somewhere around $13 USD. They had other much cheaper fish, but I really don’t know what they are, so I stuck with the best of the best that they had to offer and the only fish they had that I knew by name in Spanish. For that price, for a 2nd honeymoon getaway meal, I couldn’t pass it up no matter what the other fish were.
At a stop light, I spotted this pathetic-looking bird (I guess it’s a pigeon) on the top of this Chrysler Voyager. After the light turned green and the van sped up, the bird didn’t fly off. Why fly when you can take the van for free?
My bride doing two of her favorite things at the same time…soaking in a pool and reading.
Our late evening view on our last getaway evening…like two…no three…no…at least, like six ships that pass in the night. Romantic, no?
But what does it all mean? Stay tuned for part 3…unbelievably and rather unmercifully…the Second Honeymoon saga continues. (I believe there may be a reward in heaven for those who read these through…yeah, I know, I know…there’d better be!)