A couple weeks ago, I got back from a family vacation in Mexico, but I haven't had time to actually do this post until now. So let me indulge you for a moment.

My family (parents, siblings, and I) spent a week in the Riviera Maya of Mexico, about an hour and a half south of Cancun. Our resort, the Grand Palladium White Sands, was GORGEOUS, and all-inclusive. We'd never stayed at an all-inclusive place before and I'm telling you, it was worth it. Much more affordable, actually, than when we went to Hawaii five years ago. The Grand Palladium had four different lobbies, so it was almost like four different hotels, but we had access to the amenities in all of them. Here are some shots of our resort:

This was my bed in our villa. Our parents had our own room. I had to share with Melissa and Nathan. Sadly we didn't get towel animals every day.

Here I am by the fountain in the center of our villa. It's open air, which I love about it. It was really humid every day though, so a lot of times the camera would fog up and it would take a while for it to get back to normal.

Below you can see a random shot of the resort as we walked around on the first day.

It was nice not having to carry money around and to enjoy huge meals (we ate WAY too much) and unlimited drinks. We usually tipped our servers a dollar or two because we heard they don't make much, which I believe. All the employees were so friendly and welcoming. I know they work extremely hard and sometimes I felt bad that we're just there lying around on the beach or at the pool when I know there are people out there working so hard so I could enjoy myself while they can barely make a living. It was nice to just relax though. I haven't been able to do that in a long time!

Mexico really is a beautiful country. I was amazed just looking out at the clear, turquoise waters and the white sand. I enjoyed seeing schools of fish (including Dorie from Finding Nemo!) as I snorkled in the Caribbean Sea, various colored crabs, and iguanas. It's hard to believe huge whales and other creatures live in the ocean too. God is just incredible to have created such things!

But I also couldn't help but notice the more run-down parts of town (or maybe these were the "normal" ways of life) as we drove from the airport to our resort. The resorts are perfectly manicured and well-maintained, but I know that's not how true Mexicans live. Reality for them doesn't look like an all-inclusive resort.

It was obvious to me that Mexico as a country is not as wealthy as the United States. All the money seems to go to keep up the touristy parts of the country, but the rest of the towns seem to be left to fend for themselves. We went horseback riding on the beach one day (my request, of course) and one of our guides told us how they pay taxes to the government but all the money just goes into the pockets of the policemen. I know that probably happens in the U.S. and we have great disparity here between the rich and the poor too, but it's just heartbreaking to see the stark contrast. It's quite a paradox.

Whenever I go to a foreign country, I always come home having a place in my heart for the local people (Canada seems to be the exception, but I love Canadians too! It's just too similar to the U.S.). Chicago has many Mexicans living here as well, but when I got back it was strange to have these same Mexican people serving me but speaking English, a foreign tongue. I know they spoke English to me at the resort too, but it just made me realize that these immigrants are here because they want a better life for their families. They're still hard workers. They're just trying to make a living for themselves in a land that promises "the American Dream."

I'm not trying to make a statement about immigration in the U.S.--I'm not well-informed enough about that issue at this point to come to a conclusion about it. However, I feel as though I'm starting to see people (right now the Mexican people in particular) the way God sees them. He loves them deeply and He wants them to know Him personally and to have not just the wine and spirits working in them, but the Holy Spirit moving through them. It's not that I "feel sorry" for the Mexicans and their living conditions, but I am recognizing that we're all broken people in need of Jesus to make our lives full and whole.

Whether we live in a comfortable suburb, on a beach resort, in the bustling city, or in the run-down part of town, we're all in need of Him. I've been praying for the people of Mexico, and I know God holds them close to His heart too.

What are some lessons you've learned from traveling internationally?


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