Saturday, March 31, 2012

Too Much

You know what I hate? When you are in this situation, living in another country, and you’ve given up everything you thought you wanted for what you really want, and you write about it all for everyone and their mother to read on the internet, you can’t always say what you want to say. Your relationship is under a microscope and every time your husband pisses you off because he had a bad day or you had a bad day, or whatever, there is someone right around the corner telling you to leave that illegal immigrant and that you deserve better. This drives me to insanity at times. It’s probably worse because I am well aware that I am the irrational and overly-emotional one, and 9 times out of 10, I’m the one that’s wrong in the argument.

What is it like to be in a relationship where you aren’t constantly reminded about someone’s citizenship or the fact that they make a dollar an hour? Or is it always like this? If it’s not citizenship, it’s social class and if it’s not a dollar, it’s eight?

Sometimes I just want to be able to mad about trash that didn’t get taken out, or money we don’t have or a new outfit that went unnoticed without it turning into a heated political debate.

Is that so much to ask for?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Home Sweet Home

It has been far too long since I have blogged and I hope everyone is doing well. Things have been fantastic here and I’ve just been busy living life: Another testament to the fact that life goes on after immigration woes.

We moved again in February so I was without internet for a while as we got settled in. Yes. We moved again. This marks our 4th house here in Juarez and I was slightly embarrassed as our neighbors watched us packing up our things for the 3rd time in a year and I swear I heard someone yell, “pinche gypsies,” out their window. Maybe it was the wind. Regardless, this move was the right thing for us and I am so happy we did it. The last house was perfectly fine, but definitely not where I wanted to live until 2021. The parking was horrendous, the security situation was laughable, there was no room to entertain our friends, no storage space and no yard for the dogs.

We actually found the new house on accident. It’s in the same neighborhood but in a section where the lots are twice the size so we never really looked over here, assuming the houses were out of our price range. My husband was giving a friend a ride when he saw the Se Renta sign in front of the little red brick house that I now call home. We are both semi-obsessed with brick homes but don’t see a whole lot of that here in the stucco/concrete jungle that is Juarez. He drove me past the house the next morning, with no true intentions behind any of it. Oddly enough, when we pulled up a woman called out to us from a car parked across the street.

“I’ve been waiting for you!” she said as she motioned for us to come over to her. We both looked at each other in utter confusion, but for whatever reason we parked the car and got out without exchanging a word. It was like the damn house was pulling us in. We didn’t ask any questions as she showed us around but eventually it came out that she thought we were the couple from El Paso that were scheduled to view the house that morning. Luckily, they never showed up.

I instantly fell in love with this place. I tried not to. I tried really hard. Well, not that hard. I knew it would cost more than we were paying, and we were already struggling. And I was right. It’s $1,500 pesos more than we were paying, but I was in love. What’s a girl to do? I crunched the numbers as soon as we got home and found a solution. We would have to cancel our cable service and our home phone, switch to a cheaper internet service, cut our cell phone minutes in half, cancel my UPS mailbox in El Paso and start getting my mail at work, put half as many pepperonis in my calzones, and voilà! $1,500. Can you feel the love?

When I am here I don’t even feel like I’m in Mexico. The fixtures and other details are beautifully done and not really what you would typically find in a home here. The kitchen is more than double the size of our previous homes. There is so much cabinet space that I even have 2 cupboards that are entirely empty, and I am that woman that has every kitchen gadget you can think of: multiple sizes of crock pots, George Foreman grills, griddles, a Cuisinart, different blenders, you name it. Hell, I have 2 coffee pots and we don’t even drink coffee. My gigantic tamale pots even fit inside one of the cabinets! For as much as I cook this kitchen has literally changed my life. There is also an island that looks out to the living room so we actually have a place to eat other than the coffee table.

Let’s be honest though… The island is mainly used to throw crap on. At the other house it was the stairs, which drove me insane. This works much better.

The house has wood floors throughout except for the kitchen and bathrooms which are tile. Yes, I said bathrooms. Plural. There is a half bath on the first floor and sometimes we like to pee at the same time just because we can. We have never had more than one bathroom, even when we lived in the US. The windows and doors are also framed with wood and have a very rustic look. It brings this color and warmth and richness that we never thought we would find in a home here. But I’m telling you, with all this wood, this house is a termite’s wet dream. That does make me nervous although I never hear people talking about termites here, or see pest control companies for that matter, so maybe it’s not a huge issue?

There is a laundry room off of the kitchen which is really awesome after spending the last year and a half washing our clothes outside or in dilapidated, poorly covered patios. The stairway is nice and wide, and not steep at all. This is also a huge contrast from the narrow death traps we had at our last 2 rentals. I swear I always knew that if I were to die in Juarez, it wouldn’t be because a cartel member chopped my head off for having blonde eyebrows but because I had one too many and plummeted down the stairs.

The staircase leads to a loft that has built-in bookshelves, a desk and even more storage space. I had all intentions of making this area my office, but as you can see, I’ve set up shop on the kitchen island and am feeling pretty comfy down here. I mostly go up there to read.

The two bedrooms are a nice size and the gigantic closets distract from the weird paint on the walls.

We have been pretty lazy about painting our bedroom because let’s be honest, we don’t spend a lot of time in there with the lights on! Everyone assumed we’d have it painted right away but… eh.

The best part about the house is the outdoor space. We finally have a gated area to park our car, and nice back patio to grill on, and grass. Real grass! I think the yard is as exciting to us as it is to the dogs. They even have a doggie door now and can come and go as they please. It is so nice to be able to have friends over to cook out, and not have to get up from our lawn chairs every 5 seconds to move someone’s car so that a neighbor can get out. Our last two houses were on the end of a dead end street and the lots were narrower than the length of most cars. That combined with the fact that each house seemed to have about 3 cars parked on the street caused some serious headaches.

We also have an actual security guard and keyed entry to the neighborhood. By “actual,” I mean that he’s not 80 years old, doesn’t spend his day making trips to Bip Bip to pick up milk for my neighbors, and doesn’t drink Tecates until he passes out around noon at the front gate. Win. This house is also equipped with an alarm system, motion detectors and all, which is another added comfort considering we are at work a good 13 hours a day.

So yes, maybe I am completely nuts to have moved this many times and was so embarrassed we didn’t even ask our friends to help this time around, but it was totally worth it. We lost about $15,000 pesos in deposits in the search, but I know this one’s a keeper. We actually fully unpacked for the first time since we left Arizona. I feel so blessed that we found what we've always wanted and hope that this blog didn't bore everyone. I just wanted to share that it is possible to find a place to proudly call home even if it isn't in The United States. I'm crossing all my fingers and toes that this will be our home for the rest of the time we are in Juarez.

Did I mention one of the bathrooms has a toilet paper roll holder? #firstworldfeliz

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bring It

This morning I woke to find my husband taking short breaths, grasping his chest as if he had just been punched by Mike Tyson. His face was the absolute definition of fear and frustration and eventually, he broke into tears, asking me to take him to the hospital. I hadn’t taken him seriously until the waterworks began. He may cry during an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but if not subjected to watch children suffering from a terminal illness or the likes, tears are a rarity with my husband. We ventured into the early morning darkness in search of an IMSS hospital. We passed several “regular” hospitals (like the kind we are used to in America) in our search for a public hospital. IMSS hospitals in Mexico do not charge their patients, do not require insurance, and fill all prescriptions at no charge. I am told the care is sub-par, and the waits are horrendous, but that it usually does the trick when you can’t afford anything more than… a trick.

I didn’t get a chance to develop my own opinions of IMSS because apparently we arrived hours before they opened and we couldn’t find any Urgencias (Emergency Room) entrances. Instead my husband suggested I take him to work where he could see a nurse in the infirmary, and assured me that if it were a matter of life or death, she would be able to call an ambulance. It’s quite a predicament, isn’t it? We are in “my husband’s” country, yet it is so foreign to him, he doesn’t even know how to call for help in an emergency. We will be investigating this for sure.

The nurse at his work took his blood pressure and immediately diagnosed him with alta-presion. After a couple of hours of observation he was sent to S-mart to purchase celery, which was said to be the solution to all his problems. Whatever. I stopped judging my husband’s gullibility a long time ago. Maybe I’m just a skeptic asshole for even considering him to be gullible in the first place. All I know is that celery isn’t the answer. I called him every hour throughout the day to make sure he was still alive and left work a half hour early with the intention of taking him forcefully to the hospital. When I finally made it home he didn’t look as desperate as he announced that we could no longer eat pork and I saw a bag of dry oatmeal and an aloe leaf out of the corner of my eye. Here we go…

Dr. Magallanes was recommended to us by the mechanic on the corner. When we entered his office, conveniently located in front of a Farmacia Benevides, my husband was comforted by the fact that he recognized a patient in the waiting room as one of our neighbor’s “rich, older brothers.” His words, not mine. I guess my husband isn’t familiar with just how stupid and uninformed rich people can be, but that’s another blog, my friends. The floor of the clinic was dirty and I was just happy they had a wi-fi connection so I could distract myself with Facebook. Gordo seemed to be working on some deep breathing, Zen type techniques as we watched Canal Historia on the television in the waiting room. I can’t remember what show was on. The distractions turned out to be a necessity because from the second we walked into this place I was skeptical. Not only am I naturally skeptical to medicine in general (thanks to my mother and her schooling on homeopathic remedies) but I also happen to be American. As an American, I think “our” medicine and methods are better than that of any other country out there, whether it’s true or not.

When it was our turn for Ray’s “consulta,” I carefully studied the degrees and accolades that hung haphazardly on the stained walls of the doctor’s office. I questioned whether or not it would be rude to ask why there were only copies of the doctor’s degree from the Universidad Autonomo de Ciudad Juarez instead of the originals. I decided to keep my mouth shut. I bit my tongue as Dr. Magallanes took my husband’s vitals and asked him routine questions. I fought the urge to argue that further tests were needed and why the hell doesn’t this dude know what Aleve is? When the questioning was done, I was surprised and pleased to hear his diagnoses. There is nothing wrong with my husband.

He didn’t have a cough or chronic heartburn or episodes of vomiting. He didn’t have any pains in his arms or legs and hadn’t turned purple as he struggled to breath this morning. The doctor’s solution was so simple that I almost struggled to swallow it. He announced that Gordo’s pain was due to stress and only relaxation and profound sleep would resolve the problem. As they discussed it further I learned that my husband never feels fully rested and rarely even gets 4 hours of a deep uninterrupted sleep a night. I am a person that goes to sleep after my husband and require a solid 8 hours, so I was quite shocked by this development. As quickly as I concluded that this doctor was a genius by his diagnosis, he gave my husband 4 prescriptions. Four. Cuatro.

Wait a minute; I thought there wasn’t anything wrong him? Again, whatever. I was in no mood to argue and hoped I was just being the skeptic asshole that I am prone to be. We took his pink slip of paper straight to Farmacia Similares. Ketorolaco, Paracetamol, Ivel and Benedorm. That’s the trick. It’s now been 17 hours, 590 pesos and my first visit to a Mexican doctor since his original episode and we are both feeling much more at ease.

I am trying to ignore my assumptions of Mexican medicine and Gordo is eating bits of papaya as I type. It’s no surprise that I am not a health expert, but I remain a skeptic. I am drinking Padre Kino and plan on eating copious amounts of pork in the middle of the night, just before bed. No one would ever make an example of my current lifestyle, that’s for sure. Gordo fully intends on cutting back his sodium and fat (bacon) intake and I intend to never wake him up until he asks. Our first medical emergency in Mexico has passed, for now, and we are both still alive. Us 3, Universe 7. That’s right, we’re keeping score. Bring it.