Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kermés de San Lorenzo

Last weekend we had the pleasure of going to an event in the San Lorenzo neighborhood in Juárez. It was the first time we've gone and honestly, although this event is held annually only a couple of miles from my house, I'd never heard of it until a couple of girlfriends mentioned it to me a couple of days before.

It was sort of a combination of a religious festival, a street fair and a carnival. The city closed off several streets surrounding Iglesia San Lorenzo to have room for all of the carnival rides, food stalls and vendors selling artisan goods and the like.

As soon as we neared the area the sound of drums was overwhelming and you could see large crowds of people surrounding groups of people dancing in native clothing. Those people are referred to as matachines and they perform their danzas all day and into evening to honor Mother Mary, or a Saint, or more generally to worship Christ. The reason behind the dance varies depending on the tribe and the occasion.






These pictures don't really do them justice but if you check out my Facebook and Instagram pages, you'll find some videos of them dancing.

The matachines were spread out around the church and in the park area in front of the church there were stalls where you could buy traditional Mexican pottery, artwork, kitchenware, jewelry, toys, etc. We picked up the game Lóteria for a mere 25 pesos.




There were also carnival games set up throughout the area. The more popular games involved shooting darts at balloons and rolling marbles into numbered holes.




                


As we neared the end of the rows of game booths there were a couple questionable set ups thrown in the mix. This booth scared the absolute shit out of me...




I couldn't quite tell what the point of the game was and the tequila bottles popping out from behind those dirty stuffed animals just gave me the creeps.

Oh and Ray wanted me to show you guys one of the ticket booths... It's seen a carnival or two, that's for sure.



The food was delicious though, as always. I'm a big fan of Juárez street food so I didn't expect anything less.




                             


Enchiladas and gorditas seemed to be the big thing but everyone in my group was in the mood for tacos. Except me. I wanted a gringa. No pun intended.




The tacos were reasonably priced but why someone would want to pay 5 extra pesos to eat intestines is beyond me...




I guess that's a taste I haven't yet acquired?


             


The streets were packed and definitely gave off that Mexico vibe that so many people have easily fallen in love with. Sometimes that feeling can fade away as I spend a large portion of the week working in El Paso. The culture, the vibe, the people... What's not to love? We had a great time and definitely plan on making it an annual tradition.


             



Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Giving Tree

I was going to write something profound and meaningful to celebrate the 4th anniversary of us moving to Juárez but instead I'm just going to talk about a tree because I am an asshole like that.

I started writing this blog in July after tipping back a few too many and actually accidentally hit publish. So to those of you on my direct email list who got a blog full of drunken gibberish last month, I'd like to apologize. I aim to be only half as belligerent.

So about this tree...

A while back I was talking to my dad about the weather in Juárez and mentioned how much a tree in our backyard had blossomed since his visit. The truth is, this tree I spoke of started off as nothing more than a nuisance to us.

Last year a weed popped up in our backyard. Even though I've always dreamt of having a home with a garden, the truth is that I am lazy and have no desire to get down and dirty with seeds and dirt and give endless attention to said garden. So I never pulled the weed.

A year later, I had no desire to knock down the little bush that was the result of my laziness. Raymundo bitched and moaned about this... weed, but I just let it be. Two years later, it had converted into a full blown tree, but the trunk promptly split in two.

Fast forward to today, two and a half years later. I am discussing this once weed, now tree, with my father and I see that it holds so much more significance than I could have ever imagined.

Simply put, it's a weed that grew. It was neglected and left to grow without supervision. This little weed became a tree and in time the trunk began to separate. When Raymundo saw this he tied the two trunks together with a rope. The rope caused the original trunk to become even stronger.

In time, the two trunks have grown back together and are now joined as one.

Maybe I've had just a few too many glasses of wine, or maybe I am still riding high on the romanticism of our wedding anniversary or the shock that we've actually survived the last 4 years here but I can't help but feel that this tree symbolizes my marriage and the journey we've taken together here in Juárez.




To most, this is just a picture of a tree. For me, it is so much more. It is a reminder that each marriage has it's own unique ebb and flow. It's a reminder that when we question what's going on in our lives, God finds simple ways to guide us or give us hope. It's almost as if right when we felt like nothing made sense, or that the only thing around us was disparity, He stepped in and literally planted a seed.

Like our little tree, or the tomato plant that unexpectedly grew out of the drain on the cement patio at our friend Veronica's house in Juárez, or those poppies that Robert Andrew Powell noticed in the middle of the otherwise barren Chihuahuan desert on the outskirts of town.


"Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all."


- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The 7 Wonders of My Ancient World

After nearly 4 years living in Juárez, there are a handful of things that leave me awestruck each time I encounter them on a trip back to the States. I've heard plenty of Mexpats comment that living on the border isn't like living in "real" Mexico but I never did fully understand that sentiment. To me that would be like saying that living in San Diego or Detroit is not like living in the "real" US because they are on the border. Nonetheless, I am left with a dropped jaw each time I make a visit to Missouri and see certain things that we don't have back in Juárez. And with each visit it becomes more and more apparent.

Here are 7 wonders that leave me marveling at their convenience or innovation every time I head North of the border to visit my family. Not to be confused with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this is just about things that were once a huge part of my world. Not that I should be comparing a kitchen appliance to the Great Pyramid of Giza, but fuck it pareja.

1. Dishwashers

A magic box that you put dirty dishes in and then they come out spotless and dry? The notion seems unheard of to me now. I'm blessed in that my husband helps out with all the household chores and my only real responsibilities here are to cook and do the dishes. From time to time I fantasize about what it would be like to have one of those magic cleaning boxes again...

2. Garbage disposals

You mean to tell me you can put egg shells and Ramen and jalapeño stems down the drain and then flip a switch and it all disappears? #mindblowing

3. Bath tubs

I will never understand why most people do not have a bath tub in Mexico. Baths use less water than showers and are just more efficient/cost-friendly all around. With that being said, I typically just took showers when we lived in the US, but it was always nice to know I could have a long hot soak if I wanted to.

4. Carpet

Getting out of bed in the winter with that warm, cushy carpet enveloping your feet with love? Ahhhh... Here in Mexico floors are generally tile or depending on the area, just cement or dirt. Oddly enough we have all wood floors in our current home though. Regardless, I miss being able to just run the vacuum cleaner over the floors for a quick clean up. Now it's like, sweep the whole damned house, then bust out a bucket and a mop and ugh... No thank you. Raymundo!?

5. Drinkeable tap water

The thing that probably shocks me the most when visiting my family is being able to drink the tap water. Really, in all fairness, we never drank the tap water in Arizona, but that was because it tasted like crap. Here in Juárez, if we drink the tap water, we get physically ill and small black flecks appear on our teeth. I know, I know, that was one experiment I probably shouldn't have done. I almost feel dirty drinking right from the faucet when I'm on vacation because at this point my brain is so wired to think that tap water is bad for you.

6. Refrigerated air conditioning

Late summer is the time that I miss refrigerated air the most because it's somewhat of a monsoon season in Juárez and the heavy, sporadic rains leave the air feeling thick and humid. Humidity and swamp coolers, which is what most Juárenses have if they are lucky enough to have AC, do not mix. We turn ours off all together when it's raining and give in to the sticky, sweatiness that is a given. We just try not to move much or turn on any lights. 

7. The DVR

This is the most coveted of all of the wonders for me. When I first arrived in Juárez this was obviously the least of my concerns. But after the dust settled and we had a place to rest our heads and were in search of cable service, it came up. I still remember asking a woman at Cablemas how much it would cost to add a DVR. At first I just assumed the acronym was different in Spanish because she just looked at me funny. As I explained that I wanted to be able to pause, rewind and forward live TV and record my favorite programs for later she looked at me like I just told her I wanted to ride to the moon on a pogo stick. Apparently Mexico hasn't quite reached that level of technology?

The funny thing is that although these things surprise or maybe stand out to me more and more as time passes, it's not because I feel I need them anymore. I used to long for them to be in my life again but now it's slowly turning into a, "Wow, I used to depend on that?" type of a feeling. Not with all of these things, but with a couple. Like I would really love to be laying on some fluffy carpet and binge-watching Bravo shows off a DVR right about now.

I suppose the longer you go without something, the less you need it though. That's really become a lesson in and of itself for me.

Friday, July 11, 2014

2,555 Días



Raymundo,

Como nuestro amor creció con las cartas, voy a seguir la tradición. Y aunque todavía batallo con mi Español, creo que he mejorado un poco desde mi última carta.

Hoy te he amado por 2,555 días. Bueno, te amé mucho más antes de que nos casamos, pero hablo de lo oficial. Me recuerdo cuando fuimos a casarnos y me sentí tan nerviosa que no podia pensar con claridad. Mis manos sudaban, caminé en circulos. Hasta que olvidé mi bolsa en la casa esa tarde.

Y ya cuando estabamos allí, a punto de decir, "Si, acepto," tenía lágrimas en mis ojos. Y hoy en día te puedo decir que esas lágrimas fueron porque tenía tanto miedo. Había cometido tantos errores en mi vida anteriormente que no podía estar segura si estaba cometiendo otro error. No sabia que estaba haciendo, pero en fin, todo me salió bien facil, como que alguien más, o algo más me estaba dirigiendo. Tal vez fue el destino, tal vez fue Dios. Pero sea lo que sea, sabia lo que tenía que hacer. Lo que quería hacer.

Y yo se que hice lo correcto porque me has enseñado día tras día que eres el hombre indicado. Se que he equivocado durante los años. Te he gritado sin razon. Se que soy una controladora y a veces me porto como una lunática y soy más sensativa de que debo de ser. Pero no soy perfecta. Y agradezco que nunca has pedido que sea perfecta.

Los Americanos hablan de la "7 Year Itch," osea, comezón del séptimo año. Según es la temporada cuando parejas empiezan de tener dudas sobre su matrimonio y tal vez ganas de estar con alguien diferente. Dicen que pasa a muchos despues de estar juntos unos 7 años, más o menos. Y siempre tenía miedo de llegar a los 7 años casados porque no quería sentir asi.

Pero aqui estamos, y por ser honesta, la verdad es que ya he tenido mis dudas durante los años. Despues de que aprendí que no podía arreglar tus papeles. Despues de una pelea. Despues de una mentira, tuya o mia. Despues de mudar a Mexico. Pero cada vez, termino pensando igual. Aunque a veces me fastidias, y a veces quiero alejarte de mi, y a veces me molestas más que la chingada, siempre ha sido mi media naranja.

Me haces reir mas que cualquier otra persona en mi vida. Eres mi persona favorita a quien gritar, mi compañero de Netflix, mi amante, mi tutor en la vida, mi confidente. Eres mi mejor amigo.

Gracias, gracias, gracias por ser quien eres y por aceptarme como soy. Y cuando me equivoco en el futuro, porque estoy segura que lo hará, espero que recuerdas lo tanto que te amo. Espero que pasamos muchísimas mas años juntos y que nunca olvidamos de donde venímos o en donde queremos estar.

Con muchísima amor en nuestro séptimo aniversario,

Tu pinche vieja

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Out and About @ La Rodadora

I try my best to keep up with the immigration forums and Facebook groups so that I can answer questions from people who are visiting the US Consulate in Juárez for the first time. People are worried for their safety and obviously stressed beyond belief about their pending cases, but surprisingly, they're also looking for fun things to do during the time consuming process.

If I was just passing through, I think I'd be content to lounge in the hotel room the entire time, but well, I'm a sloth. So for the rest of the world, who is nowhere near as lazy as I am, I've decided to do my best to feature some fun things to do while people are in town.

Just a mile or so from the US Consulate, next to Parque Central on Avenida Tecnologíco and Teofilo Borunda you will find one of the coolest children's museums ever. If you ask me, it's up to par with the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix or Kaleidoscope at Crown Center in Kansas City.

There are a ton of science and art related exhibits that are geared towards children of all ages. And as you can see by the pictures that follow, Ray and I were more than entertained spending the afternoon finding our inner child. Another thing I loved was that everything was written in English and Spanish, and even the museum guides spoke both languages at most of the exhibits. 

At 60 pesos for general admission, 30 pesos for the 3D movie (we caught a special with friends about the Great White Shark) or 79 pesos for both, it was well worth the fun we had.

  
Getting ready for the 3D movie!
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The archeology exhibit where kids can get down and dirty in the sand looking for fossils and whatnot.

Ray on the flight simulator.

Yeah... I don't know.

Raymundo learning about physics as he's lifted on a bed of nails!


All different types of poop. For your viewing pleasure.

A mini grocery store where little ones can enter on their own and make their own purchases with Rodadora dinero.

Too bad this isn't a video or you'd get to hear me laughing hysterically as he fell seconds later.

Raymundo vs. Robot. Guess who won?

The beautiful library that we were told would be public eventually.

Plenty of photo ops throughout the museum, with props! (Yeah, in case it isn't obvious, these aren't our hats) They even asked for our email addresses so the museum could send us copies of the pictures!


For just over $6.00 US, it's definitely a good deal if you are searching for something entertaining in Juárez that is less than a 5 minute cab ride from the consulate or maybe 15 minutes from the El Paso border.

Hope you get a chance to check it out!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Little Boys and Little Fences

I went for a walk tonight and my dogs got away from me. They took off down the street on their own little adventure. A Bonnie and Clyde of sorts.

As I rounded the block, I ran into some kids at the neighborhood park.

¿Quieres que te ayudamos con los perros?

Si! Please!

¿De donde eres? 

Missouri, y ustedes?

I didn't think you were from here! I could tell because of your hair. We're from Denver. Our mom got deported. Our dad still lives in Colorado. He sends us money. We miss him.

All of that in one breath.

From a boy who is probably no older than my son. Maybe 9 or 10? I was overcome with emotions. I thanked the boys for their help and choked back tears as I walked back to the house with Meeko in my arms.

And here I am, feeling more hopeless than ever. Immigration reform? I put it on the back burner mentally. I've given up on it because my heart can't handle the what ifs. And then I happen upon things like this. Situations like this. People like this. Little boys. 

That little boy didn't know anything about immigration law. Or breaking laws. Or jumping fences. Or political parties. Or amnesty.

He was just a little boy who misses his dad and doesn't understand why he has to live in Juárez.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bills Bills Bills

This is going to be a rant. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 
Paying bills in Mexico is a huge pain in the ass. The problem isn’t the money. I mean money is a problem, it always is, but that’s not the problem I want to talk about.
In the US, I utilized things like automatic bill pay through my bank or automatic withdraw to pay bills with a credit card. I could pay my rent with a check. Here I have to go to different stores to pay certain bills and down to a bank to pay my rent. Actually, I can't even pay the rent myself unless I want to take half a day off work because our landlord's bank isn't open on Saturdays.
I know a lot of people have issues with the mail in Mexico. I’m constantly hearing stories from expats. My sister sent me a care package and it’s been 3 months. I ordered a book online and it took 5 months to get to Mazatlan. Sometimes the package has been opened. Sometimes items will be missing. I think a lot of it may have to do with the shipping company. I’m not positive but there doesn’t appear to be a national postal service here like there is in the US. I actually have a mailing address in El Paso (one of the perks of border living) so I can have packages sent there, but nevertheless, I still have a huge hang up with the mail. We regularly get our mail late and/or find it in the middle of the street because the mailman just puts the envelopes in the curves of our wrought iron gate instead of in the actual mailbox so sometimes it blows away in the wind. Irritating beyond all belief.
None of this would really matter to me at all if I could just hop online and view our accounts and pay our bills. I know I mentioned this before in my Shit I Don’t Get About Mexico post and some of you schooled me about being able to pay my utility bills online. I honestly haven't looked into it because all of our money is in a US account and if it's anything like my automatic Netflix Latino payment, it will just become a hassle of international transaction fees and peso to dollar conversions and whatnot. 
So if they don't mail in checks or pay online, how do most people pay their bills in Mexico? Well, there are a couple options. You can go to the grocery store to pay your utility bills at no charge or you can go to each company’s office and pay at no charge. At a convenience store like Oxxo you can pay your utility bills and also other bills (like Cablemas or Telcel) for 7 pesos per bill. Here’s the kicker. Once you reach the 3 days prior to the bill’s due date, you can no longer pay at the convenience or grocery store. So let’s say your electric bill is due on the 9th and it’s the 7th. You can’t go into the store to pay that bill because it’s too late. You’re not late with your payment, but it’s too late to pay at the "convenient" locations.
Now you have to go down to the electric company’s office to pay your bill. Their office is open 8-5 Monday through Friday. I work 8-5 Monday through Friday. In a different country. And I drive our only vehicle to said job. My husband works 6-4 and is a slave to the city bus. This means he has to take time off of work and take 2-3 buses to go down and pay the bill. Two days before it’s even due.
So imagine the fury that runs through me when we receive our last Cablemas bill on April 30th with a due date of May 2nd and May 1st is Labor Day in Mexico. What. The. Fuck. That was annoying. But obviously it wasn’t annoying enough for me to mouth off about it a month ago. What brought the whole mail thing full circle was an issue with the gas company.
We get home from work on Wednesday to see that that they have jumped our fence and physically removed our gas meter. They didn’t just shut off the gas, they removed the whole meter. Who does that? Holding our recent paid receipt in hand, Ray calls the gas company, ready to tear them a new asshole.
But instead we learn that we didn't pay a bill a couple of months back. We dig through our receipts and sure enough, don't have one for that month. Now did any of the bills after the fact indicate that we had an previous balance? Nope. Did we get a letter or phone call from the gas company? Nope. 
While I'm racking my brain trying to figure out how we could have possibly missed this bill, Ray goes outside and opens the mailbox. You know, that little box that the mailman has never, ever used in the 2 years that I've lived in this house? Guess what he found inside? Yup, the missing gas bill. Classic.
Señor Mailman: Could you please be a little more consistent? Gracias.