Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thanks Mom

I just took a cold shower because it's 109 degrees in Juarez and at that temperature the swamp cooler is starting to lose some of it's magic powers. I'm seriously irritated because for some reason, even the cold water smells like rotten eggs today and usually only the hot water does. It's Sunday evening and I don't want to work tomorrow or do the piles of laundry I have or clean the house or really have any responsibilities whatsoever. =) Is that so much to ask?

Too many dishes to wash? Too many loads of laundry? Oooh boo hoo my diamond shoes are too tight! :*( Yeah I had a moment. Time to move on. This is when I think about that leggless man in the parking lot at Mesa Drive and Basline... This is when I have remind myself that there are people out there with no dishes or clothes to wash, no washing machine to wash them in, or maybe no running water at all. I remember that 8 days after the winter freeze when we had no running water and were taking bucket baths and going to work smelling like pescado. And then I remind myself that 8 days is nothing. I remember that some people have to walk (shoeless?) for miles on end for a small container of water that isn't even safe to drink. Yeah, the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

I am so happy to have come to a point in my life where I can think like this and talk myself out of the negativity. It's a powerful thing to be in control of your happiness. I didn't always feel so strong but at some point I had to stand up, tell all of those woe-is-me feelings to eff off and move on with my life. This comes into play a lot lately when I get down about our situation. The negative thoughts flow through my mind frequently. It may be because the line took extra long that day, or I went to some great restaurant that my husband would love but can't go to because it's in the US, or because somebody got their head chopped off on the corner.

This is when I have to smack myself in the face with reality. The reality is that I have a wonderful life. I have a roof over my head and food on my plate and clothes on my back. I have my best friend by my side and a great job and an amazing family. And let's be honest, there are worse places to live than Juarez. I've spent a lot of time building relationships with others who are affected by immigration and it is crystal clear that we are lucky to have a lifetime ban that is waiveable after 10 years as opposed to those who will never have a chance at a waiver. We are lucky that we are from 2 countries that share a border so we are even able to take a stab at this lifestyle.

I know a lot of people are getting sick of listening to my spiels on the power of positive thinking but tough cookies. You can thank my mother for teaching me all of this. She spent my entire life teaching me to be grateful for what I had and to be conscious of the bigger picture. She always made sure that we had enough, but not too much to the point where we didn't appreciate it. I can never repay her for that lesson. The result is this. Me. Me being okay here in Mexico, me realizing that this isn't the end of the world, or even close to it. Me growing from this entire experience! Thanks mom.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Let Go.

To anyone wondering what to do next in life... Let go. Jump in. There's beauty in the breakdown.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Secondary Inspection

I'm deep in this week's issue of US Weekly when I hear a loud thump at the back of my car. I look back and see that it's just a Border Patrol agent with a dog and the dog must have jumped onto the back bumper, no biggie. It's not enough to take me away from the intimate details of Kim Kardashian's latest relationship. That's right; not only am I freakishly obsessed with bacon, but I'm well-read too.

I carry on with my reading for about another 30 minutes at which point I get a knock on the window. I look up to find that the agent and his pal Lassie never left my car and there are now about 4 more Border Patrol agents around my car, maybe 5 or 6 Customs agents and 3 oddly tall, Thor/Hulk types in khaki with what I can only assume to be sawed-off shotguns. Not sure who they were. It was... intimidating? I was okay with it though, I have nothing to hide. I roll down my window, smile, say good morning, how can I help you? A wonderful woman who lives on the border in Matamoros told me a couple of years ago to "kill them with kindness" and it was one of the best tips of border crossing I have ever received. It's hard to muster up friendly conversation with someone who is not friendly at all, much less at 5:00 AM after having waited 2 hours to cross a line in the sand. The smiles always prove to be well worth it in the end. If BP doesn't like you they can make your life a serious pain in the rear.

"Turn off your vehicle ma'am."

"What was the purpose of your trip to Mexico?"

"Where are you going?"

"Where do you work?"

"Where is that?"

"That's a weird name, what kind of work to you do?"

"Why do you live in Mexico?"

"Can't he just get his papers?"

"I've never heard of that ban before. Have you consulted with an attorney?"

"Why Juarez?"

"Anything to declare?"



"Wouldn't Tijuana be better?"


"More than $10,000?"


"Is this your vehicle?"

"Have you had any repair work done to the vehicle?"

"When did you buy the vehicle?"

"Seriously... Juarez?"

Fun stuff. At this point we are going on 45 minutes with like 15 agents surrounding my car. I'm trying not to pay attention to them. They're walking down the bridge alongside my car as the line progresses. I'm wondering if it would be inappropriate to go back to my magazine. They take turns coming to my window and asking the aforementioned questions over and over as the rest determine whether or not my back doors sound hollow or if my trunk has some sort of secret compartment full of mangoes. I start wondering if someone could have gotten onto our street in the middle of the night and stashed something in my car. I try to remember if the security guard actually showed up for work last night. I'm running out of places to look without seeming sketchy and paranoid.

Ahhh screw it. I pick up my magazine. Oooh Leanne Rimes lost weight! Wow Ashlee Simpson's cheating on her husband? Yes people, it's the little things. I'm still just as American as ever. And there's nothing like a good celebrity scandal to take my mind off of the reality of life.

"Oh, I'm sorry, what was that? You want to see my passport? I'm sorry I was so engrossed in my magazine here." Yeah Emily, way to act casual...

"Ma'am the dog smelled cocaine in your spare tire."


"We're going to have to take a better look."


Although there is always that lingering fear in the back of my mind that someone could have done something (?) to my car at some point during the night, there were really only 2 things worrying me at the time. 1: I hope they "take a better look" quickly because I am exhausted and was really looking forward to a nap in the Walmart parking lot. And 2: Did the dog tell the agent that he smelled cocaine specifically? Was there an actual conversation in some sort of secret K-9 language? Was Lassie like, "I think I found something!" And the officer said, "Is it marijuana?" :serious doggie pause: "Nah, it's coke this time boss." I wanted badly to make light of the situation and tell the BP agent that if this dog actually told him it was cocaine then the dog may be better suited with a career in Hollywood than in Juarez, but I bit my tongue. Funny thing about CBP... they don't think that sort of comment is funny. It's sort of like joking about bombs in airports; it doesn't really sit well with people.

Once I (finally) got through the line I was sent to the secondary inspection area where they make you get out of the car and sit on this metal bench. You aren't allowed to look at the car while they inspect it. I've decided that this must be because CBP believes that I'm such a badass that I have the ability to move my things from one section of my car to another with only my eyes, as to never be caught in my drug smuggling schemes. The bench is dusty as all hell so you get that sexy brown film all over your work slacks and since I'm so short my feet don't touch the ground, after about 30 minutes of my chubby legs dangling there I start to lose feeling in my toes. This is what leads up to my favorite part. It is finally determined that I am not a drug smuggler and Lassie was just having an off day and/or smelled some of my dogs' pee on the tire. I am told that I am free to go. When I stand up, my foot is asleep and I get that super fun, tingling sensation which causes me to laugh uncontrollably. Everyone looks at me like I am crazy as I try to stifle the giggles.

The pins and needles sensation helps me finish off the experience with a smile. Although I was annoyed to have missed my nap, after all is said and done, I don't want drugs getting into the US anymore than the next guy and I do value and appreciate the work they are attempting to do.

Just another fun day on the border baby!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The New Kid

Today I went to my first Zumba class in El Paso. Yeah, get ready people, this blog is about to go healthy. Anyone who knows me knows that my weight has been a life-long battle for me that has recently took a turn for the worse. My constant, anxiety-filled, eating and drinking binges prior to moving to Mexico has caught up with me and I have more than a few bad habits and pounds to get rid of. I have always loved working out, dancing and running mainly, but damn if I wouldn't love to have a couple of glasses of wine every night to wash down my bacon.

I should've known what was about to happen when the instructor walked in wearing pink track pants, a black spaghetti strap shirt with a rhinestone Playboy Bunny and a pink and black Von Dutch hat. Yeah. I guess I should have expected this. I mean, a Latin dance class? Where would you find a more authentic Zumba class outside of Latin America? El Paso. That's where. I thought I had been to a Zumba class before, but it was nothing compared to all the erotic, booty shaking that went down in this classroom! At one point we were actually "dancing" pretending to ride a... horse? While slapping the "horse"... to make it go faster? Uh huh.

I don't usually notice these things but I think I was overly self-conscious about being the new girl, the biggest girl and the white girl. I was the only white person in the room. Damn my blonde eyebrows. Living in Mexico, I'm getting used to being the only white girl around, but it was just too much in addition to being new, to being so overweight, etc. I felt like the new kid in school, with no one to sit with at lunch. It was an uncomfortable situation. Imagine belly dancing in a circle with 60 other strangers? Straight from a Geneen Roth self-help book, that circle was just AFGO... As the class went on I became more and more okay with the fact that I looked like an idiot and I'm no salsa expert. Oh well. I burned 459 calories! Although, it was pretty funny to see everyone do a double take when I started to do the basic quebradita moves perfectly. Priceless.

Afterwards I felt really excited and I still do. Of course I'm excited that I am making some positive changes in regards to my health but more so I am excited that I can still get through these uncomfortable situations and grow from them. I'm adapting to a whole new culture (on both sides of the border) and loving it. I'm sure one day I will make a friend in Zumba and won't feel like such a fish out of water. It takes time. This lifestyle is definitely giving me a lesson in independence because once I cross that border back into the US, I'm sort of on my own. I have to have my own life that my husband really has no part in. My career, my colleagues, my hobbies, etc. I'm starting to like that. It's forcing me to discover my strengths within and develop myself more as a person.

I'm so excited to see what tomorrow will bring! In the famous words of Mr. Rincon, "Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours."

Friday, June 3, 2011


I left work a couple of hours early today. On the way home I found myself suddenly in a line of trucas blindadas from DF. There were 4 and I'm not sure how but suddenly 2 were in front of me and 2 behind me. All of a sudden I heard a blast and my truck was hit with something. I thought for sure someone was shooting at them but it was actually the car in the next lane over whose tire had blown out. Part of the tire must have popped off and hit my car. It scared the crap out of me! It must have scared the little caravan too because everyone slammed on their brakes when it happened and I almost hit the truck in front of me. That would have been beyond bad...

I was still shaking when I stopped at Bip Bip to pay our water bill. I get out of the car and as I am walking to the store there is a woman sitting on the ground with a cup asking for money. Her 2 children are at the door trying to sell mazapanes to all of the customers leaving the store. When I walked out the woman called to me. "Guera, un peso, lo que sea, por favor, tu tienes por compartir!"

Maybe it was because I had a stressful work week, maybe it was because I was freaked out about what happened on the road and not thinking, but I finally said something I had been wanting to say for so long. "Mija, levantate. Solo levantate. Como vas a tener esos pobres jovencitos trabajando, mientras que estes alli sentada?"

Before you think I am a total bitch, I have to say I understand that I am beyond fortunate and blessed to have been born in the United States where there are endless opportunities and resources. I am not so ignorant to think that everyone can get work in Mexico or has access to help and support when times are tough. I see that many people are poverty stricken in a way I will never fully comprehend. I think it was the way she was just sitting there, while her children were on their feet WORKING... it was just too much for me. And the sad thing is that I see it every single day and it really makes me sick. If you are so desperate for work and a home and food, then get up. Stand up. You have two legs. I do give to the poor in Mexico on a regular basis, but I rarely give money. I give food to people almost daily. Lord knows I have too much of it. I suppose the reason I do that is because the majority of the people I see begging look seriously drugged, drunk or just plain lazy and as a former addict I refuse to support another's addictions or laziness, even if it is just a peso. The people I do give money to are people who I feel really deserve it. I know that I am not the person who decides who deserves what, but come on people, do something... anything. My husband and I don't get paid to sit on the corner with a cup. Is that was this woman thinks? "Tu tienes por compartir!" Seriously? Less than 15 minutes before I gave to a woman who was singing in the line. She was just standing there singing and bless her heart, doing a terrible job at it, but she was doing something. She was singing her heart out. I'm sure she had nothing left to give but her voice, but she gave. And so did I. This is what makes the world go round. You have to work for your money. There was a time in my life, when I was getting off of drugs for the last time, that I had to rebuild my life from nothing. I didn't have anyone letting me live with them rent free, or giving me money while I pretended to look for work, or throwing pesos in my fucking cup. At some point you have to stand up, and stop feeling sorry for yourself and be the best person you can be instead of wallowing around in your misfortune.

I guess this really has nothing to do with this particular woman. My frustration lies with so many people's entitlement issues. This really isn't even an issue I typically have in Mexico. However, it's a constant issue in the United States. It's even more annoying in the Land of Opportunity because there is not as much of an excuse for the behavior due to the availabilty of unemployment benefits, Medicaid, food stamps, homeless shelters, etc. I suppose seeing that woman sitting outside the convenience store was the equivilent to seeing at least 20 people come into my work in the past month pretending to apply for a job and doing as bad as they can during the interview process to ensure they wouldn't get hired or lose their benefits either... Maybe I took out my frustrations on her. Maybe not.

I felt terrible for saying what I said after the fact. As I drove away the woman was glaring at me in that "I'm about to do some serious brujeria on your ass"-look. I got back to my house and promptly packed up a grocery bag with some rice, beans, canned veggies, maruchanas, tortillas, etc and went back to Bip Bip. (Not because I was afraid of possible spells, trust me. I just felt bad.) I gave her the bag and I apologized. I told her that it was hard for me to see her there sitting while her kids were working. I told her that if she really, truly wanted to work she should stand up and offer to clean someone's house, or wash someone's windows. I told her that I wished her the best and I am sorry I said something so rude. She started to tell me about how she didn't like the jobs in Juarez because they were too hard so now she was just homeless. Too hard? What? Was this woman seriously telling me that she could/did work but just didn't like it? Then she told me that I should feel bad for her because she doesn't have any family here in Juarez "like me." I told her that I didn't have any family in Juarez either and that before I moved here I lived without any family within 1000 miles in the US for a long time. Then she... GET THIS... opened the bag of food I brought and sighed and then rolled her eyes. She didn't even say thank you. At the same time a man came out of the store and put like 10, one peso coins in her cup and while she said gracias no less than 3 times. That got a smile out of her. I wasn't expecting anything out of this woman, but geez, not even a thank you? I told her good luck and left. The whole thing really got to me.

I understand that this woman, and these people coming into my work to pretend to fill out an application, do not represent all of those who are struggling in this world, by any means. I guess the thing is that I feel bad for the people that are truly struggling in life and just can't catch a break. These lazy, free-loaders are ruining it all for those people who really just need a helping hand.

I feel like there is a reason for everything happening in my life. I feel like there is a reason I was able to learn Spanish so easily and a reason we are forced to live here in Mexico. This must be a sign that I should give back, teach someone something or try to change the world... But how can you know who to help? I have learned recently that many people just don't want to be helped. They are content in their misery and their role of playing the victim. How can I weed out people who will scoff at a donated bag of beans from the people who will praise God for those beans and feed their family for a couple of days with them??

I don't know... I'm sure I will get slack for posting all of this and sound incredibly naive. I just don't understand why someone wouldn't want to better their life. I don't understand why people just give up. I don't know why so many people expect a fairy to come around and give them the world. I don't understand why people resign themselves to failure and I don't know how to end this blog. I suppose there is no end or solution to this eternal battle.