October 30, 2012
After driving for a couple of days with no phone service and no identifiable food, we stopped in San Antonio and stayed with Morris and Rocío Woods, friends from our first mission in Mexico City. It was wonderful to be able to relax in a comfortable home, eat a very bountiful and delicious spread, and get caught up on each other’s lives. We attended church with them at their Young Single Adult ward where he is in the Bishopric and then headed down to Laredo.
Laredo is definitely only one step away from Mexico both literally and figuratively. We had a hard time finding anyone speaking English. The next morning, we picked up pesos, got gas and headed to the border. We had to get approval and seals for our visas (visa approval #2). There was one man at the desk when we arrived. He soon called another nearby man over to help. Within minutes there were three more “working” on our visas: one on the computer, one watching the man on the computer, one watching the TV show next to the computer, and two visiting with any and all. In a mere 30 minutes--which easily could have been days--we had our papers and were headed over to do the same thing for the car.
As we were leaving the parking lot, the security man told us to drive through an opening near the gate to get to the correct office. As we approached the narrow opening between two fences we noticed a large sign right in front of us that said, “Exit only, Do Not Enter. Authorized Vehicles Only!” John stepped on the brakes and I looked back at the security guard and pointed questioningly toward the opening. He looked right back at me and nodded, “Yes,” motioning us through. With fear and trepidation, we went down a steep curving driveway that popped us out right in front of the building we needed!
In the “car visa” office, we got our papers reviewed again, stamped again (visa approval #3), and then passed on down to Window #2 for photocopying and a few more fees. Off to the next window to wait in a long, long line for the last part of the process. About 30 people and who knows how many minutes, we were at Window #17. In no time at all we were inspected, stamped, and more money--lots more--was requested. John handed him the credit card which didn’t work. It demanded that he call for approval. He generously made the call and our credit was soundly refused. So there we were on the wrong side of the border owing the Mexican government $300 dollars and no ATM, no acceptable credit card in sight. In desperation we called the bank in the US (we don’t even want to know how much that call across countries cost!) and after a million and one secret passwords and genealogy questions our credit was restored, the card worked and we received a special hologram permitting our funny old car to be in Mexico for 30 days (that means we get to do it all again in a new way in Monterrey). Now some might say that we should have notified our bank that we were going to be traveling and would be using the card in a foreign country. We did--three times, the last time being two days before we crossed. Imagine what might have happened if we hadn’t told them! One thing we know for sure is that our bank is watching us.
We found the right roads, paid a few more fees, and arrived in Monterrey about 3:00 p.m. We were met at the temple and taken to our little “casita” about 10 minutes away. It has one bolt and one large lock on the front gate plus a lock and a dead bolt on the front door, grates on all the windows and doors and several other miscellaneous locks--we are safe! We are moved in. We have food and water. We have instant friends with interesting stories. We can find our way to several important places and back home again. We love the stark, beautiful mountains surrounding us. We start work tomorrow. We are content.