Visiting a country is something one usually plans for weeks, months, or years, but my family planned it all in five minutes- in reality, we never intended to go to Mexico. The day before that, there had been a robotics competition. Our team ended up with an award, and as a reward, my father urged us to explore the Mexican border since we were near it.
My family members all found fascination in the never-ending pathway of cars, particularly my father, who insisted on driving ahead to further “explore the border.”
He swerved the car onto a freeway. But what “seemed” like a freeway alongside the Mexican border eventually led to Tijuana, Mexico- a city we had never been to before. We were simply an Asian family isolated in a van.
First, none of our phones functioned, which excluded the option of Google Maps. My mother was angry, my sister was crying, my father felt guilty, and my grandmother was restless. I absorbed all these feelings- but couldn’t do anything except translate basic Spanish.
My father’s idea was to drive to the gas station across the street in order to find someone with reliable directions. A man he asked responded, “Let me drive your car to the border for you.” I thanked the man, but declined his offer. If he had entered our car, who knew where he would drive us next?
Before my father closed the window, a taxi driver waved us over.
He was our only hope. That is, if we were willing to exchange our safety for a bit of money. My mother pulled out a twenty, and the “trust test” began.
He led us past a winding road, past streets with buildings of faded paint, and as we drove we began to question his honesty. We all reminded ourselves that we had limited options: to trust him and suffer the consequences, or be lost forever. Finally, we reached our destination- the entrance to the American borderline.
The line was longer than any I had ever seen. Gradually, we inched our way forward; ahead, a sight nearly moved me to tears. It was a girl and her brother; her brother stood on her shoulders, juggling, as she juggled simultaneously and walked along the line of cars. Their desperation for money made me realize how lucky I was even to be stuck in a car- something that they probably could not afford to buy. Yet there were others whose business appealed directly to your car window, repeatedly knocking until they gave up. The Mexicans’ persistence mirrored ours; both situations were desperate and hopeless.
Hours had passed and a final curve lay ahead. As our van pulled up along the final station, the officer asked for our passports, which no member of our family had bothered to carry that day. We explained our situation and displayed our ID cards- our only identification back into the U.S. San Ysidro Port. After much consideration, he let us pass through; we had returned into our home country.
Despite being in the same situation as my family, the feeling of isolation latched onto me throughout the entire journey. I’ve never felt as misplaced and worried for the safety of my family as I did on that day. Without a planned trip, without phones, and with no guide, my family had to rely on our luck to return safely. Yet we were able to see others in conditions we had never experienced ourselves. Ultimately, it is isolation that allows one to reflect upon oneself and view the world from a new angle.
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