Perhaps there is something in its name, The Peace. Or perhaps there is something about a place that that has whale murals and puppy graffiti around every corner. Or perhaps it is that its streets are lined with trees and shade and old world cobblestones. Whatever it is, La Paz is calmer, the traffic less hurried, the people less harried. It has seeped into our psyche, too, and for the first time in months, we feel like we can take deep breaths.
But it didn’t happen immediately. We arrived in La Paz exhausted and relieved, but left after only a few days for Isla Espiritu Santo so that we could at least get a small taste of the islands of the Sea of Cortez, especially before Sara left to return to Denmark. We arrived back to La Paz only to do three hurried loads of laundry, pack ourselves up, and board a bus north for Loreto, leaving Tom behind to work on the boat.
My parents awaited us at the beautiful resort of Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto. The desert colored hotel blended into the towering brown and rust hills, dotted with Baja sand, trees, and cacti. I felt a strong “hurry up and relax” reaction as I looked down on the turtle-shaped pool and swaying palm trees. It was someone’s verion of Paradise, but as long as such strong anxiety and helplessness kept my brain hostage, I wouldn’t find my paradise. While you can’t argue with happy hour cocktails over a stunning view of red cliffs rising out of a tourquoise bay, there was no amount of forced relaxation that could keep me from wondering whether Dylan’s increasingly difficult behavior was a manifestation of some diagnosable problem or simply the reaction to his world being flipped upside down. Either way, I questioned everything about what we were doing and my ability to handle it.
A tear-filled late night discussion with Tom resulted in our agreeing to have a family meeting to establish a more regular schedule and expectations (long overdue, but it was so difficult with our intense travel schedule). We also agreed not to make any decisions about the future until we had had a chance to see if a modicum of stability would have an effect. And so we returned to La Paz for our Pause. As the bus concluded its five hour journey, meandering through the streets of La Paz and pulling into its parking spot along the malecon while the sun began to dip below the horizon, I felt hopeful that we could find something here that we had lost. Perhaps a little bit of peace not only in our daily lives, but in our minds. We sat down to set our schedule together, the kids deciding which day should be baking day and which days should be game night and movie night. And so we began our week and our new year cautiously hopeful.
By Thursday, Dylan was declaring that he wanted to do science every day including Saturdays, and by Friday he was explaining to Andy excitedly that they had to work together to sweep and vacuum the floor. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t still meltdowns and episodes of uncontrollable intensity (there are). It doesn’t mean that our kids are running through fields of flowers and bringing us bouquets of flowers with peppering us with kisses and hugs (they aren’t). And it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some work to be done on our own parenting, teaching, and acceptance skills (there is, and we are still working our way through some new books and resources). But it does mean that might be able to find a way to live together. It means we have a little hope.
It means we can enjoy exploring this city for a little while and discover all the little things that make us happy: shrimp tacos, craft beer, swingsets, pools with lane lines, wood fired pizzas, restaurants with playgrounds, bunnies to pet, and turtles to feed. So here are a few descriptive pictures of the La Paz that we are getting to know:
The 50 meter pool I found out in the corner of the city was surrounded by dirt roads and rickety bus stops and took a 15-minute walk and a 15 minute bus ride to get there. It was old, but clean, cool, long, and empty. I was so excited to be in my first proper pool since San Diego that I did far more than my aching muscles appreciated.
The kids are currently on their second trip to the Serpentario to look at turtles, snakes, and alligators and to feed a bunch of rescue bunnies and guinea pigs.
We’ve made multiple stops at an open air taco restaurant with wood tables and a grass hut roof that has shrimp tacos to die for. And nestled in the back corner of the restaurant is a treehouse and swingset that is the most welcome sight of all. Another restaurant has become a favorite: Harker Board Co, which has amazing wood fired pizzas and craft beer on tap. We hear perhaps more English there than we would like, but the atmosphere makes us happy, and the waiters are thrilled when we speak Spanish.
The malecon is a never-ending delight. There is great pleasure in being able to walk along the path, watching roller bladers, runners, walkers, cyclists, and tour boat operaters encouraging more recruits. Parents sit on benches while their children lick ice cream cones or crash tricycles into trees. Toddlers navigate the playground with overwhelmed and eager eyes as older kids climb and run circles around them. Bronze statues rise out of the concrete every few hundred yards, giving homage to a life that is connected to this Sea.
And so we pause and enjoy life here. The time will come when we will move on. But that is not today. And though there is a lot of planning to be done, this Pause in La Paz gives us time to remember how to live in the present. And this city of peace is the perfect place to do it.
An addendum about Christmas:
Despite the change of the plans and Dylan’s increasingly erratic behavior, the almost two weeks we spent up near Loreto really were quite wonderful. The bus ride up to Loreto was uneventful, and the kids were over the moon to see their grandparents. Dylan spent the day getting his energy out by swimming and swimming and swimming, while Andy kept his water antics to the safe depth of the stairs.
We found a small Christmas tree at a Segundo in Loreto, decorating it with the small handful of ornaments that I brought.
The kids were also delighted with the opportunity to make gingerbread houses, though their favorite was the human sized gingerbread house in the resort’s courtyard.
We had a wonderful Christmas dinner in Loreto with family and friends and had time to explore this small city, which is almost exactly the same size as Anacortes, about 17,000 people.
We said goodbye to Sara, who had been with us for 3.5 months. It was a tearful goodbye, and the boys have already been asking when she is coming back! We hope she’ll be able to come out and visit us in the Pacific Northwest someday, so she can see a little of our neck of the woods.
Though the 12 days we spent near Loreto was angst-ridden on my part, it was really wonderful to spend time with family, to be away from the boat for a little while, and to begin the resetting process. We are hopeful and excited to start 2019, and wish all of you a very happy new year, too!