Driving home from Saltillo, we had time to reflect on all that we had learned and experienced during those few days of adventure.
First and foremost we learned that the language we are learning online is often not the language spoken in Mexico, we also learned that there is a big difference being able to read/write/speak/understand in a controlled environment online with no time constraints or pressures to understand and respond immediately. I personally suffered 'stage fright' when on the spot in a live situation, whereas Gerald is not at all scared of making mistakes and not being understood or of understanding incorrectly. We proved yet again that we are a good team, he communicates well and I have the vocabulary and numbers.
Secondly we learned that the driving style is much different there than at home. We are constantly amazed how close the vehicles get to each other, how crowded the roads are and often without distinct lanes. There were so many times that we could not figure out if we were on a 2 lane or a 3 lane road - the truth is that these were likely 2 lane roads that 3 lanes of traffic were squeezing onto. The driving skills in Mexico are much different than they are here, with so much traffic coming from all directions, people just push into where they need to be whether or not there is space for them. There is a patience and understanding though, if someone needs to be in the lane that you are in, then you just let them in front of you and you move to change lanes when you need to - no matter how fast or slow everyone is going, that merging attitude just works somehow. The other thing is that there are speed humps in unexpected places and they are usually barely (if at all) visible. You really have to keep your eyes wide open and your wits about you at all times, watching the traffic in front and behind (overtaking is a real high speed art involving split second decisions). There was one speed bump that we even hit bottom on even though we were moving slowly and carefully.
Generally the laws of the roads are suggestions in Mexico, where even solid double yellow lines do not prevent overtaking and you need to be very aware of what is happening behind you because you are expected to pull onto the hard shoulder so that people can pass you.
We also learned that the people are generally very friendly and prepared to help and to understand your struggles - we need only to try our best to speak the language, to communicate to the best of our ability and to be respectful and understand that we are the strangers.
To all those people who have been warning us about the dangers of Mexico and cannot understand why we would want to travel the roads there, we say Mexico is no more dangerous or corrupt than the USA. Never once did we encounter any problems with our safety or even feel threatened in any way. We walked the streets of the suburbs and the city and encountered only normal, friendly and compassionate people. Not once were we in a situation where a bribe seemed to have been expected, nor were we ever pulled over while on the road for any reason.
We are ready to face the challenges ahead and feel more confident that we have a better understanding of what we will be up against.
The next step now for us is to have a planning session to iron out the details about when to do such things as renew our passports, finalize the end of lease on our apartment, sell/donate the last of our possessions, sort out details and timing of car insurance etc. At the moment, we have kept the Temporary Import Permit for the car and our visas, they are valid until June 2017. Then we will have to make a decision as to whether to do a border run to get the T.I.P. money back and buy a new one as well as get new 180 day visas for ourselves or just to cross the border into one of the other countries that we will be exploring.