We are the Marincas-Bucy Family, Gregg (Daddy), Marlyn (Mama), Alex John (4.5 years old), and Gregorie Ann (3 years old). This blog will be the story of our 6 months spent traveling through Mexico and Central America. Please read along to follow us on our adventures, to find information about planning your own adventure, to get hints and ideas on traveling with small children, or to just daydream.
[Alex is now 7 and Gregorie is 5.5 , and our six months were spent. We are still reliving our adventures every day. And sharing them here. And dreaming of more... always dreaming...]

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Magic of Quintana Roo

Today we headed north from Monclova, MX to the Texas border at Piedras Negras/Eagle Pass.  About 30 miles south of the border we came to a customs check point.  We'll pulled to a stop in our lane to wait our turn as I watched an agent open a Suburban from Texas in the lane next to us.  As the cargo door went up a cooler felt out onto the agents feet.  Like ours, that vehicle was packed to the gills.  I thought, "UGH, we're next.  Full search.  Take it all out.  No cooler will fall out, but maybe a saddle or a bottle or two of rum..."  The car ahead of us (with bottles of tequila scattered across the back-what's-it-called (the area behind the rear seats in a sedan), got waved on and it was our turn.  We pulled up to a young man in full military attire.  He asked from where we were coming.   Monclova.  You have relatives in Monclova?  No.  Why are you coming from there.  Just drove through it on our way back to the US.  You've been vacationing in Mexico.  Yes!  Have you been to Quintana Roo?  Yes!  Tulum, Mahahual, Chetumal.  Que lugar lindo!  

A smile spread across his face as he said, "I'm from Quintana Roo.  I'm going back in three weeks on vacation.  I can't wait.  Buen viaje.  Pasen adelante.  Adios."

But that is only part of the magic of Quintana Roo.

I wrote this as we driving through for a children's poetry book I'm working on:

I'd like to be 
In Quintana Roo
Where the sea is green
And the sky is blue
I'd like to be in Q Roo
How about you?

Yes, on the beach
In Mex-i-co
I'll snorkel and swim
While the breezes blow
I'd like to be in Q Roo
How about you?

Yes, on the paths
Of Mayan land
With temples and statues
Above pure white sand
I'd like to be in Q Roo
How about you?

Yes, on the coast 
With splashing waves
Swamps of mangroves
And hidden caves
I'd like to be in Q Roo
How about you?
Marlyn A. Marincas, March 2010

When we decided to add the Yucatan Peninsula to our journey, we altered our route from heading west from Tikal into Mexico to heading east into Belize.  The Guatemala/Belize border presented us with it's own special challenge -- the Guatemalan teachers were striking and had blockaded the immigration office and locked the exit gate.  That had music blasting and were having a kind of fiesta, while frustrated travelers waited in the burning sun.  When we finally got to Belize we were interviewed by the local news station.  Later that night we the second story on the Belize City news.  PLEASE do not google the story and find the taped footage -- it's embarrassing -- I look frazzled and horrible and sound like an idiot!

[More to come on Belize and crossing in to Q Roo.]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Homeward Bound

We are now in Tuxpan (pronounced toosh-pam), MX, headed north towards Texas rather quickly. There are so many stories to tell, pictures to share -- I have failed the blog miserably.

Street scenes in San Cristobal de las Casas:

Daddy and Alex shopping:
Greggie modeling her new hat and sweater:

A visit with some old friends:

Rainy day fun at our hotel in Lago de Catemaco:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cigars, Leather, and Thrift Stores

20 enero 10, Esteli, Nicaragua.  Esteli has the best selection of thrift stores I've seen since Golfito, Costa Rica, 7 years ago.  I got an amazing skirt for 60 cords today.  Shopping has been the theme of our visit in this town, rich in Sandinista history and child-painted murals.  Esteli is the cigar capitol of Nica and Gregg has been on a quest to find the finest (not that he is much of a smoker).  Esteli is also known for its leather goods and we have bought a saddle (for a horse we do not own) and Gregg got a belt.  We have also ordered two pairs of custom made boots.  I'm very excited.  The man traced my foot and took three measurements of my calf!  The girls got handmade "princess dresses" of pink chiffon.  And we have been trying desperately to find these amazing wooden bass guitars -- thinking of a certain couple to be married soon -- but where is that barber shop that sells them?

We have been here a couple days -- arriving yesterday afternoon in spite of L.C.  We stopped on along a dirt/rock road so Alex could go to the bathroom and when Gregg tried to start the car, no go.  40 minutes of tinkering yielded nothing.  Finally, he banged on the starter while I turned the key and "vrooom!".  We drove to the Toyota dealer.  And some $40 later, L.C. is fixed.  

We came from Matagalpa where we spent several hours trying to find first the cemetery and then the grave where Ben Linder is buried.  Ben was a young American engineer killed in '87 by the Contras while he worked to bring electricity to some remote villages in northern Nica.  We wanted to pay our respects.  Alex said some moving words at the gravesite.  Seeing her as moved as she was made the hours of searching in the bright sunlight very worthwhile.  Yes, Ben, thank you.  If anyone comes to Matagalpa and is looking too, it's plot number 4069. 

We spent 3 nights at Finca Esperanza Verde --  a gorgeous eco-lodge/coffee plantation. Alex was fascinated by the coffee process, truly.  We hiked, examined ant life, saw monkeys, relaxed in the cool climate.  

I had hoped to add pictures to this post and the last but the camera is locked in the car -- across the street in the locked lot.    A few more journal entries:

17 december 09, El Valle, Panama:  FAITH:  

Walking home from dinner tonight Alex said to me, "Have you seen more animals than I have?"

Yes, I have.  I've been to more countries than you have, so far.  More places, more animals.

She replied, "I want Gran to be my mom too -- so I can go to all the places you've gone to."

I thought, "Gran isn't why I went to all those places."  Then I corrected, "maybe she is...."  She always encouraged me to go...

Earlier that day we had visited the small municipal museum, located behind the large Catholic church.  As we pulled up to the curb Alex said, "Is that the god place?  I'm not going in there.  No way.  I don't do the god thing."   I just shrugged and said, "We're not going to the church."  

 As we were walking down the street, hand in hand, talking about the animals of the world, I watched Alex marvel at the holiday decorations (looking anachronistic in this tropical place, even more than in LA, despite the historical setting and the fact that for half the earth Christmas does fall in summer...).  I thought of another conversation she and I once had.

A: Mom,do you know God?

M:  No, I don't.

A:  But other people do, right?

M:  Yes, other people believe that they know God.  When you are ready, you can figure out what you believe.

As we passed creche scenes set on lawns and fences wrapped with tinsel and bows I thought of the faith of this season, not just for Christians but for Jews, Pagans, others.  A season that is about finding lighting your soul in the dark part of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere at least).  And I thought about my faith.  I thought about what I believe in. 

I believe in the power of love and kindness.
I believe in our ability to heal this earth -- despite the geological forces that may bring our eventual extinction -- I believe in OUR power to not let this happen in my children's lifetime.
I believe in our power to end war, feed the hungry, heal the sink -- if we could all look into our hearts and not into our wallets, purses, and brokerage accounts.
I have faith in the power of my child's small hand, tucked into mine.  

5 enero 10, Bijagua, Costa Rica:  North By West North West

We have made it to our Southern/Eastern most destination and have "turned around" and headed towards home -- sort of, in a round about kind of way.  We left Panama a little more than a week ago -- leaving behind La Coralina in Bocas, our home away from home.  We spent a few days on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica -- went to a national park where Alex got mugged by a monkey.  A sloth was living in the tree over our cabina and would drop fruit on our tin roof in the mornings. From there we cut diagonally inland and up towards Nicaragua.  We spent New Year's Eve at a beautiful rain forest lodge where we saw green macaws, toucans, and other brightly colored birds.  On a short hike Alex spotted a tiny red frog.  Next we spent three days soaking in thermal waters and sliding down tobagones at a resort near Vulcan Arenal.  The resort was a different experience for us on this trip -- pretty luxurious, pretty crowded, pretty expensive.  Over the weekend, the crowds were a bit intimidating -- we were thankful for the afternoon rain that sent most of the people scrambling from the warm pools.  Monday was mas tranquilo.  We met a fun and friendly family from Boston -- mom, dad, and Maddy (5) and Max (3.5) -- Alex and Maddy became fast friends!  Gregorie and Max played "frog" together.  Today we continued northwesterly towards the Nica border.  We are now at a great lodge on the side of a volcano that has amazing views of Lago de Nicaragua and the Solitaname Islands.  So we hear.  Since we arrived it has been torrentially raining.  We have a fabulous wooden bungalow complete with jacuzzi tub.  It is neat, pretty, comfortable and spacious -- which is a handy thing given all the rain and the fact that Gregg is "under the weather".   He is huddled under a wool blanket AND our Guatemalan quilt as I write -- twist of irony -- he wishes and wishes for cooler locales and when we find one, he's got a cold and is cold.  Hopefully tomorrow we will get a break in the wet, he'll be feeling better, and we'll have a chance to hike around the trails and suspension bridges.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Of Comfort and Cold Tiles

We are now back in Granada.  Wow.  (If you are following us by reading the blog, you wouldnt even know we've been here yet.  I thought of naming this post "The Lost Art of Blogging" but decided against...)

Catching up, at this point isn't possible.  I could offer apologies.  Demands of children, intermittent internet connections, how traveling with other destroys self reflection...  a waste of time.  Anyone who is reading doesn't want to hear my excuses, but rather my adventures.



We left Sabolos, a small town down the Rio San Juan.  Fabulous place.  Magical.  We had a  cabina that hung over the [very fast moving] river.  The river of my pre-trip nightmare. Alas, we are fine!  I told the girls "you never go on the deck when mama and daddy are not here" and they, largely, listened.  Greggie (Goya) did tell me, "I went on the deck while you were gone" a couple times, but I know it was in the doorway, where she was coloring.  She, they, understand.  Anyway, c'mon Gam, don't worry.

This morning, early morning launcha to San Carlos, breakfast with our friends, long drive back to Granada.  Granada is like, like, I dunno, there is no word -- just a place that is so easy to come back to.  

And with that, I will leave you to my journal posts, and hopefully, some pictures, to fill in some blanks.

8 Jan 10, Juigalpa: I am standing on our roof watching a little boy on rollerblades.  He is trying to skate on cobblestones.  A moto pulls up, with a little girl on back, his sister.  Dad comes out of the storefront that is also their house and plucks the girl off.  She is in a shiny rainslicker.  She runs inside and gets her scooter and begins to ride with her brother.  The Pepsi sign for the Restaurante Palo Solo - where we ate dinner - swings in the wind.  The metal on metal sound, like a garden gate, I've heard all afternoon.  I smell a Belmont burning, hear a futbal match on TV.  I watch the clear black sky, with so few stars.  I watch a small girl ride by, in front of her dad or someone, on a motorcycle. She wears glowing, light up mouse ears.  The pit bull in front of the pretty blue house across the street sleeps.

8 Jan 10, Road to Rama:  Yesterday we left Heleconias Lodge, 
Bijague, C.R.  which is located on the side of a verdant volcano in a cloudforest.  On a clear day you could see Lago Colcibolca.  We were not there for a clear day.  Around noon yesterday we crossed into Nicaragua.  She welcomed us with pale blue skies, the wind swept lake, and the silhouettes of volcanoes.  We drove though to Granada. Granada, at the end of the tree-lined road off the Interamericana that is like a long lane home.  Granada is easy, comfortable, pleasant.  We know her streets, her restaurants, her markets.  Gregg got his hair cut.  We bought a bottle of Flor de Cana (C155 for a fifth) and some ice.  Later we ate pizza and pasta on a cobblestone pedestrian only street, with a breeze off the lake cooling the warm summer night.  After dinner we found an old friend, a streetboy we met last month.  He sold us chicles and played with the girls and shared their ice cream.  This morning Gregg took him shopping for school supplies.
After breakfast we headed north and east, then south, around the lake towards the Rio San Juan, the Costa Rican border, not far, as the crow flies, from where we were at Helaconias Lodge.  And now it is hard ot imagine cold or rain.  The cattle country of Chontales reminds me of a Kenyan plain.  

7 Enero 10, Granada:

Why Nicaragua


Hard to say
It's somethingyoufeel

You are on a swing
of wood and rope
like a chair
The most comfortable
The wind off the Lake
blows through 
banana and palm leaves
through your hair
Your feet slide over
tiles and grout.
Rough Smooth Rough Smooth
This is Nicaragua.