Friday, July 11, 2014

2,555 Días


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 lunátic 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!

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.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Final Countdown

One of my fellow bloggers, Andrea, over at Life on Mars... I mean TJ, published a post earlier this week about her impending move to Tijuana. She is planning on leaving the US next month to reunite with her husband and described her current state as being, "Exhausted. Sad. Excited. Homesick. Frustrated. Nervous." As I read her blog post, I was taken back to the month before we left for Juárez.

We were in the final countdown. The house was all packed up and had been for some time at that point. In my pathetic attempt to feel like I had some sort of control over the situation, I concentrated all my efforts into the act of packing. The furniture was disassembled and protected with bubble wrap. Because we were leaving during monsoon season and had an open trailer, I purchased 20 gallon Rubbermaid totes to use instead of regular boxes. I bought red and green totes on sale after Christmas, 8 months before we planned to leave. I carefully labeled all of the containers and stacked them neatly in what used to be our dining room. By that point it looked like a full blown warehouse.

I spent every second of 2010 plotting and planning the move because I knew if I stopped concentrating on the actual move itself, I would have to start thinking about what would happen after the move. Looking back, I really can't believe I had the balls to do what I did. I'm not an adventurous person. At the time, I wasn't a faith based person. I didn't trust that everything was going to work out. I had no idea what would happen after we got to Juárez. And that right there is what changed me and made me into what I believe is a better version of myself today. I had to embrace the fact that I don't know what's going to happen. I can't control everything. And that's okay.

However, when people reach out to me about leaving the US to reunite their families after a deportation, I always tell them the same thing. Some days it's not going to be okay. Some days you are going to be curled up in the fetal position wondering what the hell happened to your life. Some days you are going to miss the US so much that your heart aches. Some days you will feel spiteful towards your spouse for the entire situation. Some days you will question why you moved at all and kick yourself for making such a stupid decision. But every single day will be worth it, I can promise you that.

Because it isn't a stupid decision. It's a brave one. And at the end of the day, when you lie down next to the person you love, you will remember why you were so brave. As you see your family grow together without walls or borders between them, you will know you made the right decision.

I don't envy Andrea's state right now. The uncertainty, the insecurity, the fear of the unknown. But I truly believe that George Addair was right when he said that, "everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thank You Ellen

I don't know who you are or how to get in contact with you, but I wanted to say thank you. This is the only way I could think to do it.

So thank you, Ellen. That was an awfully sweet gesture. I wish the best to you and yours.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

This Love Is Not For Cowards

Some time ago I was as hungover as they come and 4 hours deep in the most boring class of my lifetime when I gave up understanding the instructor. I scrolled through my entire Facebook feed for the first time in ages, looked up countless recipes on Pinterest and double-clicked on a few too many #livingthedream pictures on Instagram before I finally decided to delve into the world of Twitter. Several of you had urged me to log on over the years and although I set up my account back in 2009, I couldn't get into it.

A couple hours later, I was hooked. And a couple hours after that I received one of my first "mentions." Robert Andrew Powell had tweeted that The Real Housewife of Ciudad Juárez was "finally on Twitter." I have to be honest when I say that I didn't know who he was. I'm clueless like that. After Googling his name I learned that he was a writer, more specifically a sports journalist, who had lived in Juárez for a couple of years while shadowing los beloved Indios.

After reading a handful of reviews for This Love Is Not For Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez, I knew I had to read this book. I could see that this wouldn't be like the other things people have published about Juárez. This would be real.

When I finally got my hands on a copy, I was sucked in from the get-go. Before the 3rd page I had read what is by far the best explanation of Juárez culture that I could ever even imagine. By the second chapter I wanted to watch a soccer game, and it must be said that I am not a big fan of soccer. It is the golf of sports to me and is something I watch when I want to take a nap. After almost 4 years in Mexico and a significant time spent without cable TV, I've taken a lot of naps.

By the third chapter, I was convinced that I was destined to read this book and that it was going to change my life. You see, Marco Vidal was number 12. My big sister, a fantastic basketball player throughout high school and college, was also number 12. I quit doing drugs on January 12th 2006. It's a good number. Then I read that Los Indios used the number 12 to honor their fans (i.e. the 12th man on the field) and right after I googled "how many players are on the field per team in a soccer game?" I just about shit my pants with feliz. Maybe I was just 3 vodka cranberries deep, but it seemed obvious that this book was written for me. I'm selfish in my thinking like that.

In the months that followed I spent a ridiculous amount of time pouring over this book. I would read sections of it over and over. Taking my sweet time. I took it with me everywhere, and it became a permanent fixture on my dashboard as I would place it there after reading each morning and afternoon in the line. I took it with me to the bank when Ray had to request a new debit card. I read it on my lunch break at work. It accompanied me to the Seguro Popular several times when Ray was under the weather for his ailment of the week. Someone once called me saying they wanted to say hi and knew I was at the same dollar store as them. How did they know? Well they saw a car like mine outside and recognized the book on the dash so they knew it was me. I became a little obsessed and wasn't sure why.

I had never read something that resonated with me so profoundly. It was so... relevant. This book depicts my love and hate for Juárez so perfectly, it almost scares me. The sporadic poppies that Powell notices in the otherwise barren Chihuahuan Desert as he makes his way to Cuauhtemoc for a match? That pretty much says everything right there. He manages to capture my love for Juárez while still showing the grit and grime of the city that I may have neglected to share with you. I haven't done it intentionally, but in my quest for positivity, I may have left out some details about life in Juárez here and there, for my own sanity if nothing more.

I couldn't quite understand my obsession until I finished the book. Months after starting it. I am a slow reader who is easily distracted by wine and shiny objects, but this was ridiculous. Every time I would sit down to read, I was quickly inspired to write something. In fact, since I turned the first page, I wrote 48 blog drafts stemming from subjects that Powell discussed in This Love Is Not for Cowards. Forty fucking eight. 

I got my first fine from the El Paso Public Library because I failed to return this book for far too long. And even when I did drop it in the return slot reluctantly, I still hadn't finished it.

Why? For the longest time, I couldn't figure it out. I see now that I didn't want to finish it. It had become a friend. It became someone who understood my journey, someone who actually got my struggle. Someone who knew what it was like to assimilate in this crazy city and everything that it entails. 

And then I met Robert. 

He came to town last year to work on a story about FX's, The Bridge. You know how I feel about that hot mess. You can read his piece about the show here

I told him my sad little story about not finishing his book. I probably sounded like a complete nut job but fuck it pareja. As soon as I met him, I knew why I was obsessed with his work. I knew it the second I saw his faded macrame bracelet that read, "El Kartel." I knew it when I served him some pollo asado and a shot of pisto at my home on a weekday night and he said, "See, this is what I love about Mexico," as he moved his hands about in a grand gesture motioning at his surroundings.

That was when I knew the reason I loved this book. It wasn't about soccer or Los Indios or the drug war. This book is the diary of a man who moved to Juárez just a while before I did. This book is a love story between an American and Juárez. It is a love story with circumstances far different from my own, but so similar it's almost unbelievable. Each step of his story was relateable to me in a very special way.

I must say that the ending left me feeling a little crazy. Seeing reality in front of you in black and white can have that affect on a person. Robert is a man I deeply respect and relate to, yet at the same time that he decided to leave because the violence in Juárez became to overwhelming, I was packing up my trailer, border bound. His work left me questioning my judgement a bit, but reminded me why I fell in love with this city in the first place.

If you were ever curious about why so many people stayed in Juárez throughout the drug war, or why so many people love this city with ever fiber of their being despite it's obvious flaws, get your hands on a copy of this book. It's a compelling read that brought me solace during the confusing transition of hating and loving my life in this complex city.

And trust me, it's not about soccer.