We had the unfortunate opportunity to suffer the effects of the pandemic in a different way than most. We had been exploring the back side of a volcano which had erupted in 2018, when we sunk into a ditch and heard our differential “thunk” on something. Whatever we hit, we hit it hard. Hard enough that when we started driving, we could hear a whirring noise that just kept getting louder and louder with each passing day. Two days later, we were scheduled to move to the Beach at El Paredón, when the whirring became so loud we were concerned to even drive the vehicle. Well, turns out, we broke two teeth off of our ring in our differential and needed to have it replaced. We sourced the parts locally and when they were inspected, they were found to be faulty, so that set us back a few more days while trying to source new parts. Ultimately, we decided that due to the amount of weight we’re carrying and the types of roads we’re likely to be traveling on, we would re-gear the car to a 4.88. Awesome, we had our local specialist source the parts and order them which he said would take about 8 days because they were coming from the USA. Ok, no problem, we’d still be able to get to the Honduran border by the middle of the month and be able to get in to Costa Rica fairly quickly.
Follow up to 8 days later, our local specialist (Byron) called the company to check on the parts and the company said that they never received them because everything is back ordered due to the pandemic and they were at least two weeks out. So, Byron called to tell us that it would take another two weeks until the orders are in, 8 days until the part arrives in Guatemala and a day or two to re-gear the axle and half a day to get to the beach and get the axle re-installed. At best we’re looking at three weeks to a month before we can even drive our car. In the meantime, we enlisted the help of our friends down here who drove 2.5 hours down to the beach to pick us up and bring us back to their house where we ultimately would be spending the next month. 5 hours of driving in one day just to pick us up. When we arrived at our new home for the month,
The next morning, we woke up and got ready to exercise when we realized that Bronson didn’t have any of his exercise clothing, nor did he have any shoes, we quickly realized that nobody grabbed Bronson’s bag when we left El Paredon, so the only clothes he had were in our dirty laundry that we desperately needed to wash. Not really a great start to our new living situation. The weather in Chimaltenango is much cooler than at the beach and the only clothing B has are beach clothes. So, off to the mall we go. New shoes, socks and a jacket later we’re back in business. Our friends have been gracious enough to literally drive us everywhere we’ve needed to go. From getting haircuts and grocery shopping to the US embassy in Guatemala City to turn in our voter ballots. They have been most gracious and so helpful that it’s made the inconvenience of not having our vehicle very minor. The best thing about it is that we get to work on speaking Spanish every day. Alfredo (our friend) speaks pretty great English, his brother speaks a little, and his mother and sister don’t speak any at all. It’s really great for the boys. They are trying harder and learning more every day, while my fluency in speaking is tenfold better than when we arrived last December. I have taken every opportunity to speak the language and tried. Sometimes, I’ve failed miserably, other times I feel pretty fluent. Yay for small victories!
We had been checking on the border re-openings for Honduras and El Salvador, and as it turns out, the borders to Honduras aren’t open until Monday, Oct. 19th. So while we were planning on being at the border the first week of October which obviously didn’t happen, we weren’t actually missing out on anything; And while there are many people traveling in much of the same manner as we are, I’m pretty sure that the borders will be backed up with traffic as people try to get to their next destination- afraid that at any moment we’ll be locked down again with border closures and unable to continue moving forward on our journeys.
This is not quite what we had in mind as far as where we wanted to be and what we wanted to be doing, it doesn’t help us at all to stress out about it. Which I admit, happened to me one night. I cried. I had this overwhelming feeling of despair. The fact that we’d been locked down and pretty isolated for 6 months with no end in sight, unable to continue traveling and unable to return home because of the border situation in Guatemala being closed for foreigners. We didn’t know if we’d be able to get back into Guatemala, we couldn’t leave our car and no airlines were flying pets. So we’d have to leave our 12 year old dog and our vehicle. Either way, we were stuck making hard decisions. Kaden’s passport expires in January and flying back to the states wouldn’t work to get his passport renewed because they were backlogged 8-15 weeks. One of us would need to stay with the car (the fines could very well equal the entire cost of the vehicle if we left without it because it is actually tied to your passport upon entry), but to get Kaden’s passport renewed, we either both had to be there in person as parents or have a notarized letter of authorization, which we could get but would have to be apostilled (and you have to find an attorney that can apostille and the letter would be written in Spanish because they speak Spanish here and then have to be professionally translated to English) because one of us would be in Guatemala and the other in the USA. It all takes a bunch of time and are only good for a short amount of time. Then to be separated from each other for almost 4 months without any certainty that we’d be able to get back in to Guatemala to be reunited as a family, that was not an option for us. The Embassy has been closed since April and only allowing emergency services to US citizens and residents since June. It is still closed today, October 18, only available for emergencies. I’ve been trying to get Kaden’s passport renewed here since April with NO luck. Hopefully Honduras and Nicaragua will allow us in and we can renew his passport in Nicaragua. They are stating at the US Embassy in Nicaragua has a 10-business day turn around for passport renewals. Problem is, we need his original birth certificate. Copies are not allowed. So, yeah. Thinking about all of these things sent me into a tail spin. Thinking about all the paperwork involved, the multiple places we had to go to get everything done, the lawyer fees involved for notarization or the cost of getting to the City to get the Embassy to notarize anything and trying to figure out how to get a birth certificate sent to Guatemala for less than $150.00, it’s taxing. Especially when we were planning on doing all of this over the summer back in the USA until COVID.
So, while traveling the world seems like a dream and so many of our readers only wish they could do it, it’s not without its trials and tribulations. While we seem like we are pretty easy going and adaptable, and we are, there are still things that stress us out. We argue, we need alone time, we struggle to get along sometimes. But we always figure it out. Being together 24/7/365 is not an easy task, it’s a job in itself. There are things that we can’t control and they’re important things. I can’t control the embassy. I can’t control the State Department. I can’t control the passport offices, or the airlines or their policies. I can only control me, my surroundings and the things that I do and how I react. Sometimes I find it cathartic to cry. Most times when I get stressed out I have to laugh because there is literally nothing else I can do. Not because I find it funny, but because I don’t have enough tears to cry. So no matter how hard things get, there will always be a way to achieve your goal if you look hard enough and continue to forge new paths; you just have to keep your options open.