Diving In

Hi, my name is Amy.  I have a pathological fear of oceans.  Maybe it is just an overthinking problem.  As soon as I am up to my waist in water, “What about sharks though?” begins playing on a loop in my head.  Actually, sharks and those really creepy, glow in the dark creatures that live at the very bottom.  Oh, Sea of Cortez, you aren’t fooling me calling yourself a sea.  I know your water comes straight from the Pacific OCEAN!

So it seemed the best way to acquaint myself with my new neighbor was to first explore it from above.  My son, Caleb, and I signed up for a guided kayaking trip in and around one of the most popular coves in San Carlos.  From the shore I counted at least nine of the most beautiful shades of blue I had ever seen; colors that inspired feelings of peacefulness and serenity.  My flopping into the kayak disturbed that calm momentarily, but once settled I noticed how warm the water felt.  There was none of that goosebump inducing stuff happening here.  As Caleb and I paddled out a bit, we looked straight down and realized we could see all the way to the bottom.  I thought, “This is definitely the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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We had just maneuvered our way through a craggy arch.  My heartbeat increased.  My eyes teared  How freaking cool!  I inhaled deeply… “Mom, pay attention.  Quit paddling.  You’re getting water in the boat!” Caleb brought be back from my “moment” to the reality of the situation.  Yep, our kayak was filling with water.   “Hey, I did not fling water into…”  I never finished my sentence.  Our kayak  turned, and a wave smacked us hard on the side.  In a state of shock and disbelief, I flew out of the boat and landed in the Sea of Cortez.  Which, by the way, now looked more like something from the movie, Perfect Storm.

It was at this point Caleb and I realized that a “guided tour” in Mexico might just be a little bit different than the guided tours we were used to taking.  The tour, you see, continued while Caleb and I dealt with our little problem.  Okay, while Caleb dealt with it.  Because I couldn’t see through that blue water to the bottom any more.  I expected my imagination to hit the “play” button any moment…

All of the sudden it occurred to me that I had our car keys in my pocket.  Protecting them became my mission.  I pulled them triumphantly from my pocket and held them high above my head.  This meant Caleb single-handedly dragged both the kayak and me to another rock outcropping.  He hoisted the kayak onto the rock, opened the plug on the bottom, and drained the water.  We somehow managed to climb back in and rejoin the tour.

Our little kayak limped back to shore.  We parked, thanked the guide, and  staggered, completely spent, across the beach to our car.  I puked salt water along the way.  Caleb’s foot bled where it had been crushed between the kayak and our temporary island.  “Amazing!  Wow!  I can’t believe it!  I didn’t think of sharks one time!” I exclaimed as we climbed in to the car.  Caleb rolled his eyes and shook his head.  Hey, I’ll take my little victories.  One day at a time.

“Just Deserts”

IMG_2604Confession time.  I did not connect the name of the state, Sonora, with the desert of the same name.  What can I say?  I am more of a Pacific Northwest landscape kind of girl and didn’t spend a lot of time thinking of others.  Prior to our move, everything I knew about the desert, I could count on one hand.  When I heard the word, I conjured images of Georgia O’ Keefe’s colorful, almost succulent paintings and the smooth, soft lines of Ansel Adams’ photographs.

We arrived in San Carlos in the middle of June.  It was very, well, brown.  The desert between Hermosillo and San Carlos appears harsh.  Jagged mountain peaks rise  brazenly from nearly barren land. Hints of green appear every now and then as the landscape is dotted with brush and trees that seem to struggle in the heat.  There is nothing to mute the brilliance of the sun in the endless, blue sky above.  My eyes hurt looking at it all.  Where were the six different shades of Georgia’s orange?  And Ansel’s perfectly manicured sand; you know, the fluffy stuff?

I asked because all I was seeing was, well, brown.  Succulent?  Soft?  Try knife-like.   I was also pretty sure that was not sand in this desert, but dust. This was later confirmed when I stepped out of the car on our first gas stop, and a strong wind blew it in my face.  (Side note:  Wind chill is measured and reported in the desert.  Summertime wind chills are regularly between 117-121 degrees Fahrenheit!)

On various excursions we examined our new environment more closely.  One misstep on a climb up an ancient volcano, led to a piece of rock  piercing my son’s hiking boot and cutting his foot.  I made the mistake of not wearing long pants on a horseback ride.  (With wind chills of 121 degrees, are you kidding me?)  My legs rubbed against the brush and trees and came away bloodied.  Don’t ever grab a cactus if you slip on a mountain.  After a morning trimming our bougainvillea, my arms matched my legs perfectly.  How does one even hold a palm frond to fan a person?  Those are barbed too.   Every single thing in this desert is tined, thorny, or prickly!

Summer is our rainy season.   In a blink of an eye, it all changes.  There is an explosion of green on the mountains and on the ground.  If one looks closely, bursts of purple, yellow, white, and orange appear.  Water holes fill, beckoning the abundant wildlife to come closer for a drink.  It has taken time, but my notion of a desert is changing.  (Nothing personal, Georgia or Ansel.)  I am slowly recognizing and appreciating the beauty this desert hides behind its spikes, and spines, and sharp edges.  It is an artist in its own right, protecting its creation.

How we got here…

My husband first traveled to Guaymas/San Carlos Sonora, Mexico for business in 2003.  Over time,  his trips became more frequent.   I was excited for his experiences and proud of his hard work. I was even more thrilled that he could bring back authentic souvenirs for my elementary Spanish classroom.

I had never traveled to Mexico.  I did create a Mexico unit for my kindergarten students.  We pretended to visit thanks to great imaginations, YouTube videos, and clever lesson planning.  So basically, what I am saying is that I had the knowledge of a kindergartner when it came to Mexico.  And while I truly knew that Mexico was so much more than the resorts of Cabo,Cancún, and Cozumel; in my mind, Guaymas/San Carlos was one big all inclusive resort.

I imagined that Steve spent his workday in a hammock at the Soggy Peso Beach Bar, sipping margaritas between conference calls. Winter cold, darkness, and isolation  added to my grand illusion. (Why were these trips always planned for the months with the most snow anyway?!) While pulling on a third layer before heading out to cover my morning shift in our school’s carline, I could practically see the tequila shots lined up on the conference table and the unlimited breakfast and lunch buffets he was eating. While I slipped and slid, flinging heavy shovels of snow off the driveway, Steve was surely flinging sand into his bucket on the beautiful beaches.

And then along came a job opening, an interview, and an offer of an incredible opportunity.  We moved to San Carlos, Sonora in June of 2016.  While definitely not an all inclusive beach resort, San Carlos is an amazing place.  You are welcome to join us on our adventure, as I share our experiences here.