Driving down Baja means a lot of military stops and inspections. We were stopped at least a dozen times in our drive up and back, always by a fresh faced teen holding an AK-47 or a clipboard. They would politely ask our permission to search the vehicle, Mark and I would step out and they'd poke around the car banging on panels and opening a couple bags to peak inside. Not once did they ask about or search the car top carrier or canon looking device strapped to the top of the car, which we found appropriately shocking.
What was a surprise was the way the soldiers interacted with our children. We were never asked to get them out of the car but at almost ever stop one of the guys would wave, smile at or even speak to the girls. I wish I had my camera at the ready when we passed through the check point near Mulegé. I was standing next to the car when one of the guys said, "Children?"
"Sí. Dos ninas." I replied. He motioned towards the door so I opened it for him. He leaned in and stroked Anya's cheek so tenderly, smiling at her before turning back to me.
"Anya y Lily." I answered, pointing at each of the girls in turn.
By this point five soldiers were standing around the car, waving at the girls and even picking up their dolls and playing with them. "Old?" he asked.
"Anya tiene dos años y Lily, cuatro."
Lily chose that moment to start smiling big and giggling and I thought those young men, some of them more rightly called boys, might melt right there on the side of the road. They were totally smitten.
And you know, I kind of want the girls to have that impression of soldiers. I want them to assume they are there to protect and not to be feared. It's so easy for me to be afraid of these kids with big guns after a lifetime of movies where the foreign soldiers were wild and unpredictable. I'd rather them have this impression; this notion of young men who adore children and are just looking for a reason to smile. I sincerely hope that's the only image they'll ever need in their life.