The Mazatlan Memoirs IV– the end

March 23, 2009

by Jen Bakken

Our family looked forward to our February Mazatlan vacation for months. With 15 of us going, it took a lot of planning, but we were excited to have a chance to make memories to last a lifetime.

With my dad’s diagnosis looming over our heads, going to Mexico was like taking a break from cancer.

In hopes of remembering every detail, I kept a journal. Each night while the others were sleeping, I’d sit up next to a little lamp and scribble down every activity of the day, along with my thoughts.

Aside from our near death-experience by the beach and having every muscle ache from struggling to swim, we had a wonderful time.

My dad and the guys all enjoyed a couple fishing trips and, even though it was painful for him to be on the boat for so long, I know he is glad he had the opportunity.

There were a few times my mom had to convince my dad he shouldn’t be walking and needed take a break. This was tough for both of them and for us all.

It was just last summer we were all out at a baseball field, by Dassel-Cokato High School, playing an energetic game. My dad was jumping and diving to catch the ball and even running the bases. Sometimes reality can just slap you in the face.

One thing that was strange for us was bartering with vendors and store owners. We had to put our Minnesota nice behind us and try to get a fair price on things.

People trying to sell things would follow you around and finally you would have to say, “No!”

Crossing the narrow and busy streets was an experience all to itself. Basically, you ran for your life.

One day we visited an aquarium and watched a sea lion show. We couldn’t understand what they were saying but it was fun to watch.

At one point during the show, they pulled Brynna out of the audience and had the sea lion give her a kiss.

Of course, Bryer had to do this, too, and then the sea lion dove in the water, splashing him and soaking his clothes. I also got a kiss from the sea lion and now my family likes to kid me about my “boyfriend in Mexico.”

The beggars sitting on the streets were hard for anyone to walk past, but Bryer had an especially rough time with it. Every time we went somewhere, he would ask me for coins. He just couldn’t pass one of these poor people without putting something in their cup.

For me, the worst thing was seeing all of the children on the streets. They would stand and look at me with those big, beautiful dark eyes.

Their clothes were dirty and worn. It would be dark, past 9 p.m., and there they were, all alone, with a cup in their hand. I wanted to bring every single one of them home.

One of my favorite things was visiting the orphanage. One day I hope to return and volunteer. I was fortunate enough to have three days there. When we left Mazatlan, I brought three boxes of items to donate to the children. Next time you go on vacation, before you throw anything away – check with a nearby orphanage or church.

We gave all of our leftover toiletries such as shampoo and toothpaste, food we purchased but didn’t eat because we ate at restaurants a lot, and many things we bought for our children to use while there, like a stroller and beach toys.

We were in the old historic part of Mazatlan where there weren’t many tourists, but we did make a trip to what they call the “gold zone.” There were vacationers everywhere you looked.

On the way back to our villa, we separated into three golf cart taxis for the 20-minute ride. The kids and I had a crazy driver. He had Michael Jackson and other 1980s songs blaring through his stereo.

He would pull up next to my parents’ driver and act like they were going to race. While he stuck his leg out the side of the cart, he would dance and sing along.

Bells, sirens, and whistles escaped our little taxi as he flipped a switch to work lights like a disco ball. While we weaved in and out of traffic, he would repeatedly tap the breaks. We were laughing so hard tears were in our eyes. It was so much fun, and the kids wished he could be our driver every time.

This trip forced me to realize that I am addicted to my cell phone, text messaging, and the Internet. I had no phone service the entire time and couldn’t send a text. Many times I reached for my phone only to realize I couldn’t use it.

Twice I was able to use the Internet at a tiny computer shop. Though I paid by the hour, the ancient computer ended up freezing up halfway through.

The keyboards were different, and it took me 15 minutes just to figure out how to make the “at” symbol. (You had to hit Alt then 64.)

I learned in Mexico that I absolutely love coconut ice cream, I think I had some every day, but real coconut is disgusting. (If you know where I can buy this kind of ice cream here – let me know, or maybe you shouldn’t because I’d probably gain 20 pounds!)

Coca-Cola light, from Mexico, is not anything like Diet Coke here. The first thing I did once home was enjoy a Diet Coke. Oh, and I was sending text messages the second the plane landed!

The end.