Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lost In Translation

I suspect we will be tempted to write a lot of blog posts in the next few years titled "Lost In Translation".  Given that we plan on spending the next many years in Latin America, I would say we should get moving on learning a bit more Spanish.

One of our more recent lost-in-translation moments happened after we stopped on the side of the road to see if a large family needed our help.  Their vehicle and trailer were parked in the sand on the side of the road.  One of the younger girls came running up to the window and started spewing Spanish at Scott.  Despite multple attempts to get her to slow down, he surmised that they had spent the night on the side of the road, and someone wanted to catch a ride with us into the nearest town.  In his best Spanish, Scott tried to confirm that they wanted a ride back to town, and if so, how many people.  Before we knew it, 8 people were in the back of El Tigre (4 adults and 4 kids).  The only person who stayed back was grandma.  "Regresamos (we will return)", said the last adult son as he closed the camper door.

Driving 1.5 hours with 8 Mexicans would have been a good time to practice some Spanish, but our Spanish is so poor that we didn't even try. We feared that the translation would come out something like this sign we saw on a beach near a fishing cooperative. My favorite part is "LAKEWISE". Scott likes "THE PAIN". 

The extraciton is prohibited of marine products concesionados to the cooperative and protected species, for the commission of protected natural areas.  

Lakewise they are informed to all those people that they are surprised with products concesionados, in times of prohitibed or of it carves inferior to the established one for the law of he/she fishes, it will be sancioned and alternated to the federal autorities, and they were applied the 1 articulate 420 established wich aplies the pain from 3 to 6 years of prison without right to deposit.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Out-Running Our Visa

Americans (among others) who drive to the southern state of Baja (Baja Sur) must have a visitor's visa which is obtained when you cross the border.  The visitor visa is only good for 6 months and cannot be renewed in ANY WAY other than crossing the Mexican border.  We crossed into Baja on November 4th, 2011.  That meant that our visa expired on May 4th, 2012.  Consequently we overstayed our visa by almost 3 months.  Our experience, and what we have been told by others, is that the immigration officials only check for your visa in one place:  AS YOU ARE DRIVING SOUTH at the state border between Baja and Baja Sur (Guerrero Negro).

Back in March, while we were near the southern tip of Baja, we knew we would be overstaying our visa so we had a bit of a backup plan.  It wasn't fool proof but it gave us a little more leverage to play dumb if we got caught.  I won't go into details here, but we did in fact have a new visitor visa that we paid for and had sent to us.  Although it was paid in full, it did not have the required official stamp that you recieve when you cross the border.  That was where we had planned on playing dumb if necessary.  "No stamp?  Ohhh, we didn't know we needed to get a stamp.  There was no one in the immigration office at the Tecate border when we crossed."  I know, weak.

So, as we were heading north, we started to get a little nervous that maybe the immigration official at the Baja Sur border would stop us (even though we've never heard of this happening).  We had been told about a route around the immigration checkpoint that many people take if they don't have their visitor visa.  We hemmed and hawed about whether we should go around the checkpoint.  The night before, we even went for a run and checked out the route beforehand.  It seemed really easy, so after spending the night in a hotel parking lot before the checkpoint, the following day we drove around the checkpoint.

Sat image of the checkpoint

Since this story is part of our blog, you probably expect that something interesting might have happened, right?  Well, fortunately, everything went according to plan.  We drove through the wide-open, salt-flat, desert within sight of the checkpoint and went on our way, without a hitch.  The checkpoint station was a few hundred yards from the road. We could see the checkpoint, just as they could see our conspicuous camper truck rumbling along the desert road.  Gotta love Baja.