As it’s now been the better part of a year since the last riveting installment of our sub-tropical memoirs, there is much more to tell than an average person will want to hear. But I need to write something, because I’m getting really tired of having a ridiculous picture of a guy in dressed in a blue tick-suit on the front page of my blog.
I want something dignified, which reflects well on the writer:
More on that in Part II
Beyond simply hating the giant blue tick man, I figured it’s high time that we update everyone as to the “goings-on of Galen and Amanda in Belize” since, well, there are no more “goings-on of Galen and Amanda in Belize.” We left Belize in the rear view mirror last week. (This is not technically accurate, since our truck is so jam-packed with stuff that I can see absolutely nothing out the rear view mirror except for the hideous, paisley-patterned suitcase perched menacingly behind my head waiting to decapitate me should I brake too hard.)
For many of you, this is old news, but we’re pulling up stakes for the headed out west. Northwest, actually. Our new home will be Nuevo Ideal, Durango, Mexico. In terms of flora and fauna, it’s about as opposite from Belize as you can get.
The ‘vibe’ is very different, as well. While San Ignacio, Belize is a busy town, where you can always hear somebody playing their raggae-influenced rap, and you see Mayans, Rastas, Guatemalans, Garifunas, and Gringos all on the same street at the same time, Nuevo Ideal is more like something out of an old western, with tumbleweeds and cantinas radiating tuba and accordion music.
But they have one thing in common: Mennonites! At our Low German District convention last year, (more on that in a minute) we were told by the circuit overseer that the place of biggest need in the Low German field was Durango. They have a congregation there with 19 publishers, and they actually have some interested ones from the territory attending meeting regularly and making good progress. Our original goal had been remain in Belize at least 3 years. We visited in March, to sniff around a bit, and thought, maybe after we reached our three year goal, we’d move. Shortly after our visit, though, the lone elder in that congregation was invited to Bethel. Another has moved in, but his plan is to only be there temporarily. So, we decided to put that goal to rest, and make arrangements to move.
Our move got off to a great start when we left Belize on August 16th, immediately following a tremendous pioneer school (more on that in part II). The people at the Belize border had apparently failed to properly vet their newest hires, and had carelessly allowed a professional, friendly guy to infiltrate their staff. Our car paperwork in Mexico was a breeze, and we found a cheap, comfortable hotel on the Mexico side from which to get an early start the following morning. We made good time the following day, riding high from the pioneer school and the fumes from the Kambucha mushroom in a jar that my friend Jake had given us when we left Belize. Then, just outside of Coatzacoalcos, our destination for the day, our transmission breathed its last. Somewhere along the line, it developed an oil leak, and didn’t give much indication until it was too late.
“So,” you say, “bummer about the transmission, but glad to hear you made it to Nuevo Ideal without further incident.” Um, actually, we’re still in Coatzacoalcos. Unlike Belize, where many car parts simply do not exist, they can be found in Mexico…eventually. Combine this with a comedy of errors and miscommunications, and well, here we are…still. Thankfully, we got in touch with some brothers here who’ve helped us tremendously and one very hospitable family invited us to stay with them until we can get on our way. But the end result of all this is, of course, that I have plenty of time to ramble on with this blog post.
However, since even I have my limits for how long I can ramble at one sitting, I will not inflict upon the reader the entire last 9 months, all at one time. Instead, I’ll break this into two sufferable doses, the second of which will follow soon.
When last we wrote (late November), we were in Palenque with our friends Ruben and Laura, on a side trip through Chiapas on the way to our Low German District Convention in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua. In Belize, southern Mexico, and Guatemala, Mayan ruins pop up with about the same frequency as ‘state historical markers’ in California (“In 1849, on this spot, Hezekiah Johnson’s covered wagon broke an axle as he traveled west to try to find gold.”) If you have to narrow it down to seeing only one Mayan ruin, Palenque wouldn’t be a bad option.
Agua Azul waterfall wasn’t bad, either, although since we were there in the rainy season, it was more like Agua Cafe than Agua Azul.
The highlight may have been Canon del Sumidero, although the groups of large crocodiles basking on the banks of the Grijalva river put a damper on swimming.
Upon conclusion of our side trip, we proceeded on to Mexico City, where we got to tour the Central America branch.
We met the rest of our group in Mexico City, and then traveled together to the convention in Chihuahua, which wound up being probably the most encouraging event we’ve ever attended.
Brothers and sisters were there from Mexico, the US, Canada, Belize, and Bolivia. Actual countries of origin included the aforementioned countries, as well as Argentina, Paraguay, Germany, Austria, Italy, and a couple more that I can’t remember right off the top of my head. Peak attendance was about 550, and probably 75% are regular or special pioneers. It was a high-energy convention. There were also several local Mennonites who attended, and a couple Bible students traveled from Texas and Canada to be there.
The day before the convention, we got to see the remote translation center, currently staffed by 3 translators, an overseer, and a housekeeper. Then, the convention itself. The Mennonite kids really loved the drama (actually so did the parents) – there’s not much available in Low German in terms of plays or movies. After the convention was over, everybody hung around and took picture. This picture shows all the people in attendance who either are, or used to be, Mennonites.
Fast-forwarding from the convention, our friends Ruben and Laura finally had to head back to Germany at the end of January after a year with our group. After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but we finally accepted the fact that they were leaving.
As you may recall from the last installment, our other friends David and Maria were slated to go back to Germany in March to attend the Bible School for couples. And that they did. So, quite quickly, a big chunk of our Low German group evaporated.
Fortunately, reinforcements had arrived just in time.
Tune in next time to discover who they were, hear what has happened between then and now, to learn whether we ever got past Coatzacoalcos, and most importantly, to find out if I managed to pry that bottle cap the rest of the way off the giant beer.