Trip Start Jul 29, 2012
Trip End Aug 01, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Wisconsin
Friday, July 5, 2013

We're back! This entry comes to you from the shores of beautiful Lake Geneva, in southern Wisconsin, where we are attending the annual Bruner family reunion, held at this location for the past thirty-eight years.  It feels like a perfect first stop after ten and a half months in Mexico.  We arrived here at 10:20 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, after having woken up in our house in Oaxaca at 5 a.m. that morning.  All things considered, our day of travel was smooth sailing.  We’re back, all in one piece, and feeling a great sense of accomplishment, celebration, peacefulness, and joy about reconnecting with family and friends.
Our final two weeks in Oaxaca were a wonderful blend of quality time with friends, logistical and organizational wrangling, and closures.  That we got to spend a good chunk of our final time in Oaxaca with our dear friends Dave, Heidi, Hazel, and Gus and Yanna, Aiden, Marianna and Maeve (and Livie), was a real treat.  With them, we did a kind of highlight bon voyage tour, seeing great sights, eating delicious food, and enjoying wonderful conversation.  A perfect way to cap off our experience.

It had been over four years since we had all been together in Bozeman.  Yanna and Aiden moved to Decatur, GA in 2009.  Dave and I sold Refuge in 2010 and he and Heidi moved to Spokane, WA.  To reconvene in, of all places, Oaxaca, Mexico, was a hoot.  For starters, Leah and I hosted a dinner for everyone at our house.  With all hands helping, we prepared a Oaxacan-mixed-grill feast – fresh salsa, guacamole, and hand-made tortillas; grill fare including beef, pork, chorizo, and sausage; fresh lime soda and a selection of Mexican beer; and of course, beans and rice.  Good food.
The next day, we went to Hierve el Agua, spring-fed swimming holes atop "petrified" waterfalls.  An hour and a half from Oaxaca, it had been on our list of things to see/do for our whole year.  It didn’t disappoint.  I’ll let the photos tell the story.  On the way home, we hit one of our favorite restaurants and enjoyed a long, relaxing meal.  Over the next week, we went horseback riding, visited the Tree of Life, strolled around downtown, enjoyed more great meals, and simply enjoyed each other’s company.  When Dave and Heidi left, they joined Zac and Sarah in offering to take home some of our stuff with them.  Like angels sent from heaven.  Yes!

A few hours after Dave, Heidi, Hazel, and Gus headed for the airport, Leah and I got to tag along on Micah and Zola’s last school field trip of the year, a walk to a nearby stream for fun, frolicking, and a couple of birthday ceremonies.  Micah’s birthday is July 14, after the end of school.  The teachers decided to do a special celebration for the two kids with summer birthdays.  Leah and I particularly enjoyed how relaxed the whole outing was.  The teachers were happy and patient.  The kids got to explore a streambed without tight leashes on.  We chuckled when we noticed a few of Micah and Zola’s classmates, who had stripped down to their skivvies so that they could stomp around in the stream. 
The next day, I began a two day drive across Mexico to return Leah’s Dad’s car to Manzanillo.  As some of you may recall, Leah and Gary drove the car from Manzanillo to Oaxaca when we first arrived in August.  It was left to me to get it back.  So, at 7 a.m. on June 25, just five days before our scheduled departure from Oaxaca, I set out with the car en route to Manzanillo for what I figured would be a twenty hour drive. 

I just needed to make a quick stop downtown before I headed out of town.  Leah had gotten sick a few weeks before and reached the conclusion that the cause of the problem was most likely a parasite that had taken up residence in her gut.  The only way to be sure was to take a stool sample to a local lab to have it analyzed.  Friends told us to be sure to do this in Mexico, where they know their parasites, rather than back in the States.  I figured I might as well get myself checked as well, even if I hadn’t experienced any symptoms, so I picked up the official lab containers the week before.  At that time, the lab technician had instructed me to return the samples “fresco”, within three hours after we filled them. I proceeded with the noble mission of dropping off poop samples; the last Oaxaca errand of our trusty Nissan Sentra.  Leah would return to pick up the results while I was on the road.  On my short drive to the lab, I found myself scouring my Spanish vocabulary for something that could help me express “stool sample”.  Thankfully, the receptionist keyed in on what I had in my plastic bag before I could even say anything.   She greeted me with, “Ah, excremento?” Sure enough, Leah tested positive for a parasite. Whereas my report came back negative, I returned to the States with the same symptoms Leah had a couple weeks before. Leah has concluded, following extensive internet research (from someone who took her last natural science class perhaps 25 years ago), that although I likely had the parasite when I was tested, it did not show up because it had not yet taken up residence in my intestinal wall. Hmmmm... 
On the road, I opted to not stick to only toll ways.  My selected route took me through some incredibly beautiful terrain.  Mexico is a stunning country.  Though I was on the road for twelve hours the first day, I never got tired.  There was really no room for that.  The driving is of the high-intensity sort.  Imagine driving on a scenic byway version of the autobahn, like the Indy 500 being held on the Blueridge Parkway (VA) or the Echo Trail (MN) or the road up to the Hyalite Reservoir (MT).  Cars passing one another all the time.  I had my hands in the ten and two position the whole time (not like I don’t always have my hands in the proper position, Micah and Zola).  At one point, I found myself playing a game of tortoise-and-the-hare with an Audi A4.  We were both stuck behind a slow moving vehicle, so when he went around it, I followed him.  He proceeded to leave me in his dust, but a few minutes later, I came upon him again, stuck behind another slow moving vehicle.  Again, he passed, I followed, he zipped off, and I eventually caught up.  Eventually, I wasn’t comfortable passing when he did, and that was the last I saw of him.  After a long day of focused driving, I arrived in my hoped-for destination of Morelia before the sun went down, found a hotel, and walked down the block for a boatload of tacos. 

The next morning, I took an easy jog around Morelia, enjoyed a couple of memelitas and some freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast, and continued on my way at 9 a.m.  At 6 p.m. I rolled into Puerto Las Hadas, the location of Gary’s condo in Manzanillo.  Twenty one hours en route.  Not bad.  It was certainly a relief to arrive safely and without having had any run-ins with the police.  While visiting with our good family friends, Jimmy and Barb, who live in a condo in Manzanillo year 'round, I felt a wave of nerves when I realized I hadn’t brought my passport with me.  Could I fly back to Oaxaca without my passport?  No international borders would be crossed, but the question remained.  Jimmy suggested that we head out to the airport the next morning to ask whether there would be any problem.  If we learned that I would not be able to fly back to Oaxaca without my passport to serve as my ID, Jimmy and Barb would take me right to the bus station.  Twenty plus hours on busses was not something I was eager to experience, but if that was my best option for getting back to Oaxaca, I was ready.  Fortunately, there was no problem at the airport, and I made it back to Oaxaca even earlier than expected.  Whew!
On our final Friday in Oaxaca, Micah and Zola graduated from Papalotes.  Oh, the pride we felt.  They bring perpetual smiles to our faces.  Enough said.

Also in our last weeks in Oaxaca, Leah sent her completed manuscript off to her top choice press.  Within four days, the editor had read the whole thing and said that she was sufficiently impressed to send it out for review (which means that the manuscript is sent out to other leading scholars to get their feedback on it).  Our fingers are crossed. In short, from a professional standpoint, Leah accomplished what she set out to accomplish, and is even ahead of schedule in terms of shopping the manuscript to publishers. 

Our family has talked a lot about what we’ll miss and what we won’t miss about Oaxaca.  I had thought I might include our reflections in this entry, but am going to hold off and post one more entry in a month or so, after we’ve had some time to enjoy being home and have gained some perspective on our year.  Until then, I’d like to let all of you know how much it has meant to all of us that you’ve given this blog your time and attention throughout the year.  Sincerely.  Your comments, both on the blog site and via email, have nearly brought tears to our eyes on a number of occasions, from laughter and from heartwarming joy.  Thank you for your positive feedback.  Thank you for your encouragement.  Thank you for being there for us to remember and look forward to seeing upon our return.  You were a bigger part of our experience than you would ever suspect. 

Ahhh … It’s good to be back.  
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John Bell on

actually, if you haven't left the family reunion already, you're not far from us in madison. If you're doing a road trip back to Bozemanb (not likely, I suppose), c'mon by!

Did you by chance do any gardening in Oaxaca? Sorry if missed it in an earlier blog, but I do remember your efforts to grow peppers at Widji--plants that I almost killed for you with an overdose of matchsticks and phosphorus.

Otherwise, welcome back, and thanks for the diary of your time in Mexico.


Uncle Bob on

Muy bien! Welcome back!

Andrew Janis on

Have been so excited to read all your updates fro the past year. Sounds link you have had an amazing time! Let us know when you're back in Minneapolis.

Lots of love,


Hunt and Sue on

Your blogs have been so much fun for us to read,,, Thank you . They were so descriptive of little and big things happening in your daily lives. Hooray to Leah for the successful completion of her work!! See you soon in Bozeman

Hunt on

More ... yes please please do one one your reflections on your time in Oaxaca

Patricia Arend on

Oh, I forgot to say congratulations to Leah on finishing and sending off the book. Hooray! And congrats to Steve for the work you do that makes a book possible as well.

Patricia Arend on

Hm. My other post didn't show up. Oh well. I was just excited for the adventure you took this past year. How awesome! The kids look so happy and healthy in the pictures. You should frame the gnarl one. Also, watch a couple episodes of Monsters Inside Me and you might feel a bit different about parasites. Eeek! :) Leah, you are not hysterical. Hope you're OK. Hugs all around!

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