Saturday, June 5, 2010

Crossing the border - Nuevo Laredo

We left San Miguel De Allende on the afternoon of April 19th, 2010 and drove 2.5 hours north to a city called San Luis Potosi. 
Evan had some work to finish up so we parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I made food while Evan finished up a translation project using his AT&T wireless internet card. We managed to make it an early night falling asleep around 9:00 PM. A looooong day of driving awaited us in the morning (10+ hours!).
I remember we woke up around 3 AM and peeked out the window at the parking lot. The Vandurian was the only vehicle left. We decided to relocate so we drove to the other side of town and slept at a gas station. We got a knock on the window from the policía asking us to move once again to a spot behind the gas station. Totally cool. At least we got some decent sleep. We woke up around 8 AM and began our long journey north to the border: Nuevo Laredo.

To be honest, yes we were quite nervous about the border crossing as we'd been hearing in the news (and from friends and family) about numerous daytime shootings and drug lord violence near the border towns and throughout Mexico. We kept our mind focused on positive thoughts and had several "intention sessions" along our route to keep us out of harm's way. I'm happy to say it has been working well for us so far.

I didn't take any photos during our drive to the border because a) my camera battery was dead and b) I was working on a new blog post.

I did, however, take a few photos with Evan's iPhone. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share with you the photos I captured outside the city of Monterey.
The thick smog made Los Angeles look like just that, an angel. Believe me, it looked even worse in real life. It was like driving through low-lying fog with 200-ft visibility.
It took us about 8 hours to get to the border and my camera was charged up so I snuck some photos (and then accidentally deleted most of them. Dang it)

Basically, we got to the border and approached the first set of checkpoints. 
We were asked to stop the vehicle while border patrol walked around the perimeter of the van with a contraption that looked like a small black rectangular box with a long antenna. We got the O.K. to proceed. We were then directed to pull forward and to wait in line for the next set of checkpoints. This looked like a standstill traffic jam with three or four lanes of traffic heading into the states from Mexico and two lanes of traffic heading into Mexico from the States (I only saw a few cars driving into Mexico, everyone else was leaving). While we were in line, border patrol men and women walked around with a tool that looked like a long stick connected to a rearview mirror of sorts - I'm guessing to facilitate having eyes in the back of their head. A border patrol woman stopped at our van and asked us a few questions. I'm trying to remember what they were...

They were pretty basic questions like:

"Where did you travel from today?"
"How long have you been in Mexico?"
"What brought you here?" 
"What other cities did you travel to?"
"Do you have any passengers in the back?"
"Do you work? What's your occupation?"
"Where are you headed from here?"

I had originally taken a few photos waiting in line on the bridge over the Rio Grande river, but then I accidentally deleted them :/

I do have photos of our first United States checkpoint, however.
The border patrolman asked us if we could open the side door and the back doors. He walked around, looked inside, and knocked several times on the exterior of the van. 
And that was it! He asked for our passports and we were free to go.

We were now in Texas! It felt great (and a little strange) to be back in the states.
There was a significant decline in urban aesthetics once we crossed the border. I will say that much.
Once we were over state lines...
...we hit another border patrol checkpoint about 15 miles inland.
This time they utilized a German Shepherd dog sniffer (not pictured) in their efforts to uncover our non-existent drug stash.
From there it took us about two more hours to get to our next destination: 
San Antonio, TX.
These are some photos from the San Antonio River Walk
 
Both Evan and I had been to San Antonio before. He was here a few years ago on a business trip for a prior job unrelated to translating. I traveled here when I was 16 years old for a softball tournament. It was nice to revisit. The jasmine blossoms were out in full swing (along with the humidity). It smelled heavenly. There was also a San Antonio annual tradition going on the week we arrived. The entire city was preparing for Fiesta - a 10-day celebration, which originally began in honor of the heroes that fought in the Alamo and San Jacinto. Over the years, Fiesta has evolved and is now referred to as "The party with a purpose" bringing together non-profit organizations and holding events of all kinds - music, sports, pageantry, parades, and more. Read about the history of San Antonio Fiesta here. Evan and I didn't hang around long enough to check out any of the events because we were too eager to get to our next stop: Austin, TX!

We did spend one day there before we left, however. We woke up and, as usual, sought out a wifi cafe. I forget the name of this coffeehouse, but we ordered a small fruit cup and some tea. It was so nice to be able to communicate in english once again. Wow. 
After that we went to the nearest grocery store - it was more convenient than driving across town to the Whole Foods Market. This grocery store was called HEB and I'm assuming it's a state-wide Texas chain. I've never seen them anywhere else.
Their organic section.
This is the type of squash they have in Mexico. I was calling them zucchinis the whole time (which is also a squash), but it's actually calabaza squash.
Yes, organic fuji apples. Yawm.
I found that being in Mexico really "de-organified" me in terms of how picky I am when it comes to buying strictly organic produce. While I will always prefer organic over conventional, I've become a lot less concerned (for better or for worse) about eating only organic or nothing at all. I did pick up some non-organic jalapeno peppers and dried peppers as well as non-organic lemons at HEB. I don't think they had organic lemons available. 

From there we looked for another coffee shop. We found a coffeehouse located in a complex called Blue Star Art Complex. The complex had several art studios, galleries, a coffeeshop, and a brewery-restaurant. We took a peak at one of the galleries near the coffee shop.
We were really impressed with the quality of art here. I forget what the gallery was called but you should definitely check out this art complex if you find yourself in San Antonio: Blue Star Art Complex
The coffee shop was closing in an hour so we decided to go to the Blue Star Brewing Company, which also had wifi (nice). I ordered some tea, Evan ordered a beer and bar food and I eventually left to make some raw food in the van with the groceries I picked up at HEB. 

I wanted to make a salad with a fat-free raspberry lemongrette (that's a dressing made with lemon juice instead of vinegar). I discovered this recipe on the Renegade Health show and adapted it to my slightly less complicated version. 
Arugula Salad with Raw Raspberry Lemongrette
The salad was comprised of: arugula, mushrooms, and carrots. 

The raspberry dressing ingredients included: 1 pint raspberries, 1 celery stalk, 1/2 cup of raisins (soaked in water), a handful of dulse flakes instead of salt, and 2 cups water.

Start by soaking your raisins in water.
Chop up 1 stalk of celery.
Add your celery, raspberries, soaked raisins, juice from 1 lemon, and some water into the blending vessel. (Note: If you're using a less than optimal blender, the raspberry seeds are not likely to get blended up very well. You can blend raspberries first if you'd like and strain it through a nut milk bag to remove the seeds)
Add a handful of dulse (for flavor and an added dose of iodine!). You can use sea salt or no salt as well.
Blend and pour over the salad.
Fat free, raw, and full of flavor: 
Arugula salad with Raw Raspberry Lemongrette
We left San Antonio the following day for Austin, TX. Austin was chalk full of raw and vegan restaurants, juice bars, and all-around awesomeness. Check back soon for my next update.

Thanks for reading.

2 comments:

  1. Fabulous find - and I'm looking forward to trying the Arugula Salad with Raw Raspberry Lemongrette - perhaps substituting the raisins and rasberries with chinese red wolfberries I have on me

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  2. Great site! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more.

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