Sunday, August 28, 2011

Catching Up

There has been so much going on, so I would like to forewarn everyone that this is another long-winded blog of randomness in a quick attempt to fill you in with what's been going on in my life.

We moved. We lucked into a house once again and although the outside looks horrible, the inside is gorgeous. When I say we lucked into it, I just mean that it is extremely difficult to find a rental so close to the border that fits into our budget. Plus, it's everything that the last house wasn't. Don't get me wrong, our last house was very nice compared to many (most?) here in Juarez, but after 8 months, the bad began to outweigh the good. There was no air conditioning, no heat and the floors were a mess (some concrete, some broken tile, some laminate) so it constantly felt dirty. There was no natural light, the patio roof was caving in and when it rained, every room on the 2nd story would leak horribly. There was mold in the bathroom, no drain in the shower, and parking was near impossible. We tried to grin and bear it, but the leaky roof was the straw that broke the camel's back for us. We attempted to contact our landlords about the air and the roof, but their phones had been disconnected. Of course. As much as I hate to use the old cliche, it's true. When one door closes, another really does open. We began talking to our neighbors, and as it turned out, the house 2 doors down from ours was for sale. Given the situation in Juarez, you can imagine that the real estate industry isn't really booming, and so the owner was open to renting it out instead.

The house looks horrible on the outside. It's beyond dirty with oil stains all over the driveway and paint splatters or cracked paint covering the entire front. But looks can be deceiving! This house is in much better condition than the last. The swamp cooler is new-ish and the heater is about 15 years newer than the one at the last house. The patio roof is in great condition and the boiler is only a couple of years old. There is beautiful light gray tile on the first story while the stairs and the 2nd story have a light tan carpet that is in pretty good shape. There aren't wacky paint colors on the walls like the last house where we had a bright red bathroom and a sunflower yellow living room. In this house the living room is white, while the kitchen is a very light blue and the upstairs walls are painted tan. We've got cool light fixtures from IKEA in the living room that operate on a dimmer switch and there is crown molding throughout. Yeah, I admit it, I like my little slice of America, even in the middle of Juarez...

This has been a very difficult, yet humbling, month for us. A bad combination of moving, car problems, and a lower income from my vacation to Missouri, created the perfect financial storm. It brought us back to our roots, and reminded us of a time when we had so much less. When I first met my husband I was still on drugs. Although I got sober shortly after, it took me a while to re-establish some resemblance of a normal life. The majority of our first couple of years together was spent in empty apartments, sleeping on the floor, eating a whole lot of eggs and tortillas. We could barely pay the bills and had to walk everywhere because we couldn't afford to buy a car. Years later, one tends to forget that struggle. We've spent many years now not wanting for anything (other than a greencard) and losing touch with the difference between necessity and desire. This month served as a much needed reality check. Although we had a serious shortage on cash, it wasn't detrimental to our well-being in the least bit. I was still able to pay all of our bills, I was just reminded that eating out everyday for lunch is ridiculous, paper towels aren't gold, and it's okay to pay bills the day they are due. I got creative with my cooking and was reminded that going to the grocery store with a list and a budget should be a given, not just something you do when cash flow is low. I feel so blessed that I have been through tough times in the past, so these moments aren't so shocking, and I am well aware of the steps to take in order to ride out the storm.

Because of the move and some "quality issues" with Cablemas we have been without internet and cable since August 13th. It made me realize how much I depend on my online networks, and my friends, for my sanity! I have felt so disconnected from the world and just being able to type this right now is extremely refreshing. I did an interview recently for an online podcast that should be coming out shortly, and this month really solidified everything I said in that interview. Being able to communicate with all of the other women going through the same thing really does make or break my emotional success in Mexico. If it weren't for all of you, I don't know if I would be able to do this.

I guess that is enough randomness for now, and I hope everyone is having an awesome Sunday. Enjoy what's left of it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

And then you eat lunch...

My biggest fear in life is car problems. Yeah, you read right, I live in the murder capital of the world and I am more worried about possible transmission failure than with being kidnapped and decapitated. I have trouble prioritizing.

When you live in Juarez and work in El Paso, being carless = being jobless. The city buses on the Mexico side of the border don't start running early enough to get to the border in time to catch a bus to my work. And even if I took a taxi to the border, I would have to take 2 more buses and walk over a mile before I would get to my work a bit after 9. Even if I was ambitious, that wouldn't work considering I start at 8am. Maybe this is because I don't work downtown so I am not near the major bus lines? I'm not sure. I swear I have a point here.

Today I went to Fashion Bug because I'm low on cash, needed an undergarment, and have store credit there. It's on the end of town (at least my vision of the end) in an area I'm not familiar with at all. I found it just fine but while on the freeway my car just began to... rumble? And then came to a slow stop. Nothing on the dash signaled trouble, there was no smoke, and when I restarted the car, it continued without problems... for about 5 feet. Then it would die again. I called my husband hoping he would be able to advise me but just got his voicemail. 17 times. He was 30 minutes into a 12 hour graveyard shift.

And this is when I felt it again. To anyone who has read my blog since the get-go, you might remember my first post. It was the one where my trailer tire blew out on my final trip from Phoenix to Juarez. Where I was so insanely dramatic and desperate that I mentioned feeling "as though life as I knew it was over and I would be forced to build a hut from the wood of my trailer right then and there and live the rest of my life alone on the side of the I-10." Cue the violins.

I'm not sure why I lose a sense of reality when things go wrong, but I do. I burst into tears, have a panic attack, and instead of realizing how many great friends I have at work, and back home in Juarez, I just shut it all out and try to solve things on my own. I'm too proud. It's always been an issue. I don't like it when someone else offers to pay for dinner, I feel compelled to give a person gas money if they give me a ride, even though we're going to the same place and I can't take a compliment. Asking for help when I'm broke down on the side of the freeway? No thanks.

I could turn the car off, wait about a minute, then restart it and drive about 5 ft. I drove like this in a huge circle for over an hour, not realizing that where I started was very close to the Zaragosa Bridge. I never really venture out in El Paso so I still don't know my way around very well. I felt pretty stupid when I chugged pass the Fashion Bug almost 2 hours later. I was determined to make it to Juarez. What I would do when I got there? I wasn't so sure. All I knew is that in Juarez I would have more possibility of my husband being able to help so that was the goal.

I managed to get to the bridge and of course caught Border Patrol's attention with my emergency lights flashing. What better time to be pulled to secondary inspection than this? Perfecto. A few minutes, and some German Sheppard paw prints all over my backseat later, I began to feel like I would actually make it and I did. At this point I had sucked up my pride and gotten in touch with my girls in El Club de los Deportados (fondly named as such by a friend's hilarious husband.) I waited for them to come for me in a parking lot on the other side of the bridge. Because I am so set in my ways, I rarely cross at Zaragosa and instantly felt uneasy because I was so unfamiliar with the area. I talked on the phone with my mom until my friends arrived as if our conversation would be my saving grace from criminals or the likes.

More puttering and laughter occurred before I finally made it home. Annalisa was right when she said it all seemed like a quirky movie. It's funny how friends can bring humor and reality to a situation that would have otherwise seemed so dismal. I really do have the best friends here and I never saw that coming... I left the most amazing women in the world behind in Arizona and I honestly didn't think I would find that again in life.

I am going to end with this: The moral of the story is that car problems are not the end of the world. Turns out I need to reassess my "biggest fear." I think an I2US's friend's family member put it best when they said, "Shit happens, and then you eat lunch."