Yesterday was a rather strange day.  A series of bizarre events that felt like they lasted several days happened in about 7 hours.

It was Saturday, so we tried to let Hubby sleep in.  He’s been getting up pretty early for these 3 weeks that we are two hours behind HQ in Boston instead of just one. Hubby wanted to take the family to try a new cenote (underground swimming cave), so we made plans to head to Chacsinicchee. We decided to take the Jetta because it has a Yucatan plate and is less attractive to rogue officials who want to pull you over for a “pay-now” ticket.

It took us quite a while to leave the house – suits, sunscreen, towels, breakfast, change the litter box, change the turtles’ water (haven’t written about them yet – J got two turtles for her bday).  We finally left the house by noon. Then we stopped for gas – luckily Justin realized the gas pumper was trying to scam the gringos and got our correct change back. They we realized our map didn’t cover the area where we were going, so we stopped for a map and Hubby stopped for coffee at Starbucks.  Perhaps the rest of our day was caused by Dunkin – the god of Dunkin Donuts – as retribution for Hubby’s treason.

We followed our new map “Mundo de Maya” as well as we could, but we have found that around here, signage and mileage estimations are arbirtrary.  We were trying to get to Cuzama, a town between Huhi and Homun.  But we drove straight from Huhi to Homun without seeing anything but vegetation, churches, and incredible examples of poverty. 

church homun houseroof

We drove into Homun and saw a sign for a different cenote.  As we were pulling into the driveway we heard and incredible thud and realized we drove over a well hidden rock, but the car seemed fine. 

Rock(The Rock)

That cenote didn’t seem very special, so we drove onto another.  We were greeted by an adorable little boy, about 6 or 7 who did an amazing sales pitch to get us to come to his cenote – much less expensive that the others he told us in Spanish.  We got out our towels and walked to a ladder in an abyss in the ground that would have given Baby Jessica post-traumatic-stress flashbacks and nightmares. We could not see the bottom of the ladder, but could hear splashing below.  Hubby and H are usually adventurous, so I told them I would hang back with J if they wanted to, but H said uh-uh and we left with a polite “muy peligroso for las ninas (very dangerous for the girls)”.

As we got into the car, I got on my belly to see if there was any damage from the rock, but the Jetta is so low to the ground, I couldn’t see anything. Within a few minutes and a couple kilometres, we knew there was a problem.  The lights were blinking, the engine was grinding, and smoke was starting.  We pulled over and informed the girls that the real adventure was about to begin.  Here we were on a roadside, in 95+ degrees in bathing suits, one small bottle of water, and no signal on our cell phones.

Hot Car Hot Car

Amazingly, people stopped right away, lots of different people stopped to see if we were okay.  We just weren’t sure what the next step was yet, and the engine was too hot to look at yet.  One man stopped, gave us 3 brand new bottles of oil that he happened to have in his car and directions to his house and told us to come if we needed him.  He refused money for the oil.  Hubby was heroic pushing the car in the heat while I tried to steer in neutral.

Next thing we knew, a beat-up white pick-up truck with three guys pulled over, parked, and came walking towards us.  They tied a rope to our car, towed us to a safer area (an egg farm/distributor).  There, they and others determined that nothing could be done on a Saturday, so they towed us again, by rope, the driver’s house, in Homun.

car worktowhorsewaitingroadside

Abimael Basto brought us to his house, put our car in his garage until we can arrange for a tow, introduced us to his huge extended family, had his son drive us to the bus stand and refused to take any money for his amazing act of samaritanship because his heart is with God.

The kids we starving, but the bus was leaving as we pulled up, so without food, we got on the short-bus eqivalent of the Fung-Wah bus.  This little van with intermittent AC holds about 15 people and makes many stops along the way onto Merida – so a ride that might have taken us 30 minutes on our own, took about an hour and a half.  But we were by no means complaining, we were happy to be on our way home, and the poverty out the window makes you grateful for everything.

The bus arrived in the city center around dusk with tons of people rushing to get a space on it for the return trip – they work in the city and want to get home. We grabbed water and a snack for the girls at the first bodega we saw and started walking towards the main center where it would be easier to get a cab home.  In exchange for the girls general sanity and good nature on this adventure, and out of desperation for some kind of expectations met, and out of not wanting to look ridiculous anymore in the city in our bathing suits and coverups, we dove into a Burger King to get some more food fast (note: junk food here is called “comida basura”, one of my favorite translations).

We caught a cab and went home, expecting to have to climb the security gate because we left the clicker in the car in Abimael Basto’s garage.  Luckily, a neighbor was entering and the gate was open.  Hallelujah! Our luck has changed!

Not so fast.  As Hubby and the girls were diving into the pool at 7pm for the swim they’d been looking forward to all day, I noticed something was amiss.  Damn!  A turtle is gone! In our rush to get out of the house, we left the turtles on the counter when were were changing their water – we didn’t move them out of Gully’s reach!!!!!  I searched everywhere with no luck – H’s turtle “Squirmy”, looked – excuse the pun – shellshocked – he refused to come out of his shell and I was desperately trying to determine if he still had all his limbs.  J’s turtle – “Serafina” was gone.  Hubby told her that we thought Serafina escaped, but J immediately said “Oh no – did Gully eat her?!”.  Smart kid.

Next thing I knew, J was in tears saying “I miss my tortuga” and she and I were in the car, headed to the mall to replace Serafina (not the best lesson about death, but it wasn’t her fault – dad and I left the turtles out).

When she came home all smiley with the new turtle (also Serafina) she picked out, all was right with the world – the day was over and nothing else bad can happen.

new turtle

“Mom” she said, in her cute little tiny fairy-like voice as she got ready for bed, “You look like there’s a baby in your tummy”.


(We’ll keep you posted on what happens with the car.  May we all be inspired to pay it forward in the spirit of Abimael Basto. Random acts of kindness are truly special.)