And so the countdown begins. Today is the 6th and I fly out of Cabo on the 16th. Considering I only have about 150 miles to go, I’ve decided to stay here in La Paz a few more days. It’s a nice town with much to do. I found the old town church yesterday and after asking a couple of people who do not speak English, I figured out the schedule for masses today. I think I’ll attend the 10:00am mass. It should be interesting as it will be in Spanish. Being raised Catholic, like most Catholics I can almost recite the whole mass word for word, so it shouldn’t be to difficult to comprehend… other than the sermon. That is where I will pick up a word here and there and hopefully get the jest of what he will be saying. Yeah, sometimes it would be good to speak Spanish.
There are other times when I find it best to not speak Spanish. Those times are when I go through the military checkpoints. I’ve heard from other bike riders that the soldiers went through all of their bags. They found nothing of course, but the inconvenience was a hassle. I’ve approached it from the “dumb American” angle, asking them for a cold cerveza with a smile on my face as soon as I pedal up. They laugh, and already think I’m crazy riding my bike through the Mexican desert. Once they realize communication isn’t going to happen, and it will be as difficult for them as it will be for me, they wave me forward, back into the desert, in search of that cold cerveza. Many people have said they are afraid of the armed soldiers at the checkpoints, but the reality is, they are there to maintain peace, not harass the tourists.
Yesterday was a fun day of exploring Playa Balandra, a local beach. I did a little snorkeling and took a few pictures. The water was clear and warm, very nice. Well, until the clouds blocked the sun and the winds picked up. At that point, it was time to head back into town.
A couple of nights ago at the hostel, there was a group of young Mexicans, all very well groomed and traveling to different places. One of the young men brought a large sweet bread/cake to the common area and started to explain the holiday approaching (which is today). This holiday is known as Rosca de Reyes. It’s a religious holiday celebrating the 3 kings who followed the star leading to baby Jesus. In Mexico, everyone gets a piece of cake and if they find a little plastic king in their piece, they must provide tamales for all. Marco, from Switzerland was standing near me and started to tell me about a similar tradition in Germany and Switzerland. There, this celebration is called Dreikönigskuchen (three kings cake). If you get a king in your piece, it is good luck. A world away and yet so similar. Christian backgrounds…
I attended the mass at the old church a couple of hours ago. An old Catholic church. Yes, I didn’t understand the words so much, but it was as it always has been. I knew when to sit, to stand, to kneel. And as expected, everyone around me, the young, the old, the well dressed and the not so well dressed, followed suit. So many thoughts raced through my mind, all related to church… My Mom’s funeral, my Grandparents’ funerals, my ex-wife walking down the aisle toward me, my daughter’s baptism and 1st Holy Communion, my cousin being ordained as a Catholic Priest, and a favorite story of mine being in church with my Grandparents… my Grampa pinching me and when I burst out in pain, he told my Gramma he was going to take me outside. Little did she know he took me across the street for a donut while he had coffee. Of course we made it back into church before mass ended. For someone who didn’t particularly like going to church, I will never forget there was standing room only in the same church – at his funeral. To me, that said it’s not about following rituals all your life, it’s how you live your life… it’s the joy and love you spread.
So this morning, as the church bells rang and the choir played the Christmas song about the 3 kings and a drummer boy… Pa Rum Pa Pa Pum… and the three young ladies sitting next to me recited the mass as they should, I saw the goodness of people, I saw a lady with a white beret who reminded me of an aunt who passed away, I saw my foundation, I saw the commonalities of people who gave up ego and joined together to celebrate a higher power. And me, who couldn’t understand – got it.
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