Puebla, Mexico Trip

If you look back at my last post, there is information on just why I was in Mexico. This post is just to recap what the trip was like and give you a little glimpse into one facet of our work. This will be pretty long – so just click on the link below to see the whole thing.

Sunday, March 22

We left Orlando early on the morning of March 22nd. I needed to head to the airport about 5 a.m. That’s a bit early to drag the kids out of bed but fortunately my neighbour and fellow staff member David Hand was willing to pick me up and give me a ride to the airport. Living 15 minutes from Orlando International is pretty nice. It didn’t take long to get through security and then I started the process of sitting that is such a big part of modern travel. We went up to Charlotte, had a quick layover and then flew from there to Mexico City. It is possible to fly directly into Puebla, but flying into Mexico City was $200 cheaper. That meant a savings of $600 for the 3 of us, so it was a bit of a no-brainer. There are buses that run between Mexico City and Puebla. They take off every half hour or so, and it is a 2 hour drive. The little bit of extra time was well worth the savings as the bus costs about $13 each way.

Getting on the bus was a little bit of an adventure. We were very fortunate that one of the people we would be working with during the week, Philip DeCicco, was getting into the airport just before us. He was coming from Costa Rica and speaks excellent Spanish. He met us at the part of the terminal where we could buy tickets for the bus down to Puebla. Even with his Spanish skills we still ended up doing some running around due to confusion about where we were going and just who could sell us the tickets. But eventually my two partners Mark Griffen, Steve Pierce and I were safely on a very comfortable bus headed to our destination. Philip stayed behind to meet up with a friend in Mexico City.

The bus ride was as close as we would get to doing any sight seeing so I really tried to soak it up. Puebla sits at about 7,000 feet. So the ride is a climb up and through some mountains. Between the two cities there is a lot of farm land and smaller villages. Steve mentioned to Mark that the small villages reminded him quite a bit of the villages in Africa. The cinder block homes were without windows though I did spot a few satellite dishes. All of the roofs had large black containers on top for water. The two hours went by quickly and I enjoyed the Japanese style peanuts the bus company gave us for a snack.

Steve Morgan, a staff member that lives in Puebla, was waiting for us at the bus station. He took us to our hotel, the Villa Florida. It is brand new and was very nice. It was the second nicest I’ve ever been at in Mexico. (For the record the nicest was the one Ingrid and I stayed at on our honeymoon – in Cancun.) I did have to switch rooms after checking in because the one they originally gave me had a king size bed. I was sharing my room with Philip and while I knew he was a good guy, I’d much rather we each had our own bed. The staff were very helpful straightening that out.

Steve came back to the hotel a little later with his wife Terry. They took us out to dinner at a local restaurant. I finally decided to try Mole Poblano. It wasn’t really my favourite. But now I can say I’ve tried it. The company was delightful. Steve and Terry work in the Mexico national office for Campus Crusade and have been there doing ministry for quite a few years. I really enjoy being around people like them and just hearing about the things that God has done in their lives. It’s always very interesting. After dinner we went back to the hotel and spent some time in Mark’s room getting things ready for Monday morning. We’d had meeting in Orlando, Sunday night we wrapped up some details and we were all set. Philip had arrived by then and joined us getting things ready.

When that was done, Philip was asking me about what was around the hotel. I told him about the Super Walmart right around the corner. He was going to go and I didn’t want him to be on his own so I went along. We picked up some bottled water and Philip was hungry so we stopped at a little taco place. We grabbed a couple tacos each and went back to the hotel. It was a pretty packed first day.

Monday, March 23 and Tuesday March 24

The tacos the night before were not the best idea. I woke up not feeling too well. Mark had a conference call with some Asian staff in the morning so we weren’t heading to the office until 9:30. Fortunately that was enough time for me to feel well enough to head on over with the team. The office was 10 or 15 minutes from the hotel. It is where we spent most of our time. We would head over in the morning, do training until 7pm or so and then get dinner and crash at the hotel. We ate lunch in the office so that we could keep on working. Not only did we need to go over how the system worked, but we needed to set it up. The software we were using is very flexible and can be configured for each area that uses it. This is great, but means that a lot of decisions need to be made so that everything is prepared for the staff that will use it. All staff and even volunteers will be going in and entering reports on what is happening in their ministry. We needed to make sure that all the right categories and structures were in place so that it would be the most useful to leadership. Long days sitting in a room talking and working through software isn’t exactly exciting but I am excited about what this will mean for the ministry down the road.

Wednesday March 25

I needed to head home on Wednesday because our whole family would be driving to Des Moines on Friday morning. That gave me Wednesday to get home, Thursday to rest a tad and pack. This was the one part of the trip that made me a bit nervous. For some reason my cell phone wasn’t working in Puebla. (We’ve fixed that since I got back with tmobile) I had to catch a cab from the hotel to the bus station and get a ticket and be on the bus to Mexico City in time to make my flight out. My Spanish is non-existant for all practical purposes. Once I left the hotel in that cab, I was completely dependent upon the driver to get me to the right place. If anything went wrong I’d be in a tight spot with no way to call anyone and no Spanish at my disposal. But God looked out for me and everything went smooth. As the bus left Puebla, I had an incredible view of Pico de Orizaba. There was a haze that made it looked as if the entire volcano was floating in the sky. Steam rose from the top and it was just amazing. I just watched it for a good 20 minutes or so until Matlalcueitl got in the way. That was beautiful too.

Due to the way things worked out I ended up in Charlotte in the evening without having eaten all day. I grabbed a cheese burger in an airport restaurant. Then I was on my way to Orlando. We landed around 9:30 pm. It is always a great feeling when Ingrid and the kids pick me up there. I was very happy to be home and be with them. I was looking forward to our week together in Iowa. My time was short in Mexico, but I learned a lot about the Global Measurements Application. I’ll be working on it in the future and seeing how it is set up and used was invaluable. We also ran into a few technical glitches (when doesn’t that happen?) and I was able to help get them fixed so we could stay on task. And finally, Philip will be our on site guy for much of the rest of the Central America roll-out. I’ll be doing what I can to help him from here and it helps immensely that we had a few days together to get to know one another better. Philip has a real heart for people and the great commission. He loves God and wants to see the world changed. That was so encouraging and challenging to me. Thanks to those of you who made it possible for me to go and do this work – as always – we couldn’t do any of this without you.