Staring at the sparkling new ring on my finger, I couldn’t stop smiling as I began this romantic adventure into marriage. I was shocked when the love of my life popped the question earlier that evening, and now I was being whisked away on a spontaneous vacation to his family’s yacht in Ensenada to celebrate our engagement. It was all happening so fast that it felt like an incredible dream. Our time together on the water in Mexico was the perfect oasis, and I wasn’t looking forward to leaving. But it was eventually time to go home. If I had only known that the drive back to San Diego would be the worst journey of my life, I definitely would have extended our blissful escapade.
After a memorable day, we started driving home at sunset. And as the sun was going down, clouds were rolling in. It started raining hard. Fast. The road disappeared before my eyes as the rain flooded the windshield. It seemed like my fiancé was driving blind on slippery roads as our car began to shake in the wind. I’m always a bit nervous driving in Mexico simply out of fear of their police and vigilantes, but driving at night in a storm added a whole new level of nerves and fear. My strong man next to me was the only thing calming me down. But my heart was still pounding as I sat on the edge of my seat, completely alert.
We finally made it to Tijuana, which I thought meant we were about to be safely back in the U.S., but I was wrong. The road we had to drive on to get to the border was like a ravine. The roads above us were pouring down water, quickly turning our road into a river. Suddenly and unexpectedly, this California girl was in her very first flood! The water was rising up against the car fast. And before we knew it, water began to creep its way inside the car! My fiancé was driving with his feet submerged in water as it continued to rise. The water outside of the car rose to the top of the windows, lifting us off of the ground at times and drifting us into trees and other cars. It felt like a terrifying version of bumper cars. The water kept rising inside the car, leaving me standing on my seat as I saw my fiancé waist deep in water. All I could do was pray.
Some relief came as I noticed a police car driving behind us. Although I was afraid of them moments earlier, their presence now brought me a sense of safety. And my fiancé kicked into emergency mode and showed that he could take care of his soon-to-be wife. He gave me all the pesos we had left, and advised me what to do if we had to jump out of the car and if we got separated. I was grateful to have a man who could take care of me, but he also awakened me to a whole new possible reality that scared me beyond measure. Being in a flood with dirty, smelly Tijuana sewage water was bad enough, but the thought of being alone at night in Tijuana…and in a storm…scared me even more. I love Tijuana and Mexico, but most people will agree that Tijuana isn’t exactly a clean or safe place. It’s notorious for sex trafficking, gangs, violence, and poverty. I’m a petite 5’2’ young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, so I was terrified. My prayers intensified. And minutes later, as we were debating getting out of the car, we saw salvation---we finally reached a road out of the river. We immediately opened our doors and watched the water rush out. And to my relief, my terror fled with it.
We continued to drive towards the border in awe of the fantasy and nightmare we had just experienced. And as we made our way through the torturously long line at the border check, which if you’ve ever been through you’d agree is often a horror story in itself, we found ourselves cherishing every moment of it. We were just grateful to have survived a flood in Tijuana, to still have a car that was running miraculously well, and to still have each other. I lovingly held and looked upon my groom as we inched forwards, overjoyed to know that we could weather any storm together.