Sunday, August 26, 2012

Netflix and Paracetemol

In July my husband went to visit his family in Hidalgo del Parral while I was in Missouri for my son’s birthday. A couple of days after he came home, he woke up and was unable to walk. He had excruciating pain in both feet, but no other symptoms. I was still in Kansas City at this point and when he told me over the phone, I wasn’t too concerned. From what he described, I thought he probably had heel spurs and that they could give him cortisone injections at IMSS. I know how painful they are as I have them myself from time to time but at least there is a simple solution. I told him to just rest up and we would visit the doctor when I got home.

When his vacation ended he hobbled to the maquila where he was immediately sent to the infirmary and then the hospital. He had a series of visits to the hospital and on July 27th the doctor gave him the diagnosis I had suspected. Espolón. They told him that they would need to take x-rays to confirm the diagnosis and the first appointment available was on August 16th, 3 weeks away. I was appalled that it would take so long but with no money to go to a regular doctor, our hands were tied. As we waited impatiently for his appointment date he was required to visit the IMSS hospital once a week to renew his “incapacidad.” It’s basically a doctor’s note stating that he is unable to work. He has to turn it into his boss each week so that he doesn’t lose his position at the factory.

He went to his first few appointments without me and when I found out that by his 5th visit the doctors had yet to examine his feet I literally lost all my marbles and decided I would have to start going with him. Of course I demanded answers from the doctors and insisted they do a more thorough examination and not just look him up and down and send him to the scripts line. My efforts were not rewarded. When I realized they really didn’t know what’s wrong with him all I could do was march my defeated butt down to the prescription line like everyone else.

My purse full of Ray's medications that made me feel like a pill-popping crack whore.

His x-rays were finally done and it turns out he doesn’t have bone spurs. His blood work came back normal ruling out gout and the like. Upon reading his test results the doctor just shrugged his shoulders and threw his hands in the air. “¿Pues… quien sabe?” Apparently he’s a medical mystery! So we’ve been spending every Friday evening at the IMSS hospital. Each time he sees a different doctor or nurse or whatever the hell they are and each time they look at him like he has 3 eyes and then proceed to prescribe various medications. Because his doctor changes every week and there is no apparent system which shows who’s prescribing what, he is getting a cluster-fuck of medications which we then have to take home and WebMD and Google Translate our asses off until we can figure out what can be combined and what shouldn't even be given to a lab rat.

Just trying to make some sense of all the recetas and come up with a schedule for everything

We finally got an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at a different hospital. That appointment is on Monday morning and we are praying for some answers. In the meantime I felt so bad that my poor husband is stuck in the house all day with his feet up that I finally signed up for Netflix Mexico so that he would have something to entertain him. For anyone who is hesitant, let me just tell you, it’s awesome! It’s 99 pesos a month and you get tons of movies and a bunch of American TV shows to choose from. You can watch in English or Spanish audio and English or Spanish subtitles. My favorite part is the TV shows of course. They have several seasons of The Real Housewives of Orange County that I can’t wait to see and tons of other series that I have always wanted to watch but never had the time for. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter! They even have every season of 90210. Enough said, right? I knew it was worth the $7.62 US when I was 7 episodes deep in La Reina del Sur before I realized that I still hadn’t brushed my teeth and I wasn’t wearing any pants.

Stuck on Netflix.

I’ll let you all know how it goes on Monday. Please cross your fingers for us! Hope everyone’s having a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


2 years ago today, at this time exactly, I was in the fetal position in the corner of a dingy motel room on Ejercito Nacional. The pase-1980’s-southwestern décor was enough to make anyone want to vomit, but I had bigger things on my mind than the cactus pattern on the comforter. Like what the fuck was I doing in Juarez?

What was I thinking?

Who does this shit?

Seriously though, who does this?

Where are we going to live? Am I going to have to live in this puta’s paradise of a motel for the rest of my life?

Would I become another murder statistic?

Melodramatic much? Yes, at that moment, as I drank Boone’s Farm Sangria straight from the bottle and stared cross-eyed at the rental section of El Diario, this was how I felt. I was never a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person and I decided in that moment that moving to Mexico was by far the stupidest thing I had ever done… and I’ve done some pretty stupid shit. When I look back at that moment, I realize how much I have grown in the last 2 years. I thought that our 10 years here would be something lamentable that we would one day refer to as “the lost years” as we regrettably whispered explanations to our children.  Instead, I learned the most valuable lesson that I may ever learn; life is what you make it.

I have tried so hard to focus on the good and “fake it till I make it” and blah, blah, blah. For a while there I was doubtful, but PSA people: It works. There really is something to all that “when life hands you lemons,” bullshit. I wasn’t sure I would survive a week in Juarez and now here I am, lovingly referring to it as mi Juaritos as I jokingly duke it out with other expats over which border city is inferior. (Much love to my TJ beach bums. #wink) I’m sure a lot of what I have grown to love can be shared with people all over Mexico, but I have to assume that some things are specific to this region.

1. I love hearing the people. Mexican people are a passionate breed. They love big and fight big. When I first got here I just silently thought, “Why can’t everyone just shut the hell up?” Of course I was a different person then and was quite used to the idea that the world revolved around me and that everyone should go to sleep when I went to sleep. After a year of living behind a park where teenagers played soccer until midnight most weeknights, I suppose you can say I’ve gotten used to it. The random dog’s barking is even growing on me whereas just over a year ago I was strongly considering slipping my neighbor’s Chihuahua a lethal dose of quaaludes.

2. I like chile con queso although that’s more of an El Paso thing than a Northern Mexico thing. Artery cloggingly delicious nonetheless. I no longer scoff at burritos that are the size of my pinky finger. Apparently the US has the whole burrito thing all mixed up. Burritos are not supposed to be that big. Whaaaatever. On that same note I have become semi-obsessed with street food. I will try anything from anywhere. Balls to the wall. I had an incident where I bought a bean burrito from the back of a Sandusky-ish van to fight a fierce hunger pang and actually bit into a chunk of bar soap. Other than that the street food can be pretty superb and in a worse-case-scenario, edible. I have finally stopped dreaming about Barro's, Rubio's, Filiberto's, House of Eggroll, Burrito Express and Gecko Grill.

3. I no longer question when someone says they’ll show up (or pay us back or deliver XYZ) on Tuesday at 4:00 pm and I don’t hear from them until the following Sunday at 6 am. That’s become normal to me (outside of the workplace) and although it’s not how I operate, tardiness no longer drives me to fits of rage.

4. I don’t bat an eyelash when I see a caravan of bullet-proof SUVs. This is probably the most fucked-up change in mi ser but when I look at the big, worldly picture of it all, it’s not a bad thing. I have learned to drop my head down quickly and draw little or no attention to myself. I’ve also learned what areas best be avoided so that the aforementioned becomes irrelevant.

5. Above all, I think I can accredit my newfound happiness and Zen with life to my fellow expats and others involved with US immigration. I don’t know what I would have done or become had it not been for you all. I’ve met some of the most amazing people in the last 2 years, along with a few people I wish I’d never met. I’ve learned to be cautious with everyone, especially people I’ve met on the internet. It’s hard to tell who’s going to be that friend that you go to the movies or share a bottle of wine with and who’s going to be a raging, hormonal, lunatic who shouldn’t leave the confines of padded walls. Some people are good company and some people are just Kelly Bensimon.

6. I can’t imagine paying more than $4 US for a hair cut or more than 30 cents for a pound of potatoes, onions, tomatoes or jalapenos. I have quickly learned which items are cheaper in the US and which are bargains in Mexico. It’s taken some time to get used to it all, but at this point shopping has become smooth sailing.

7. On that same note I have learned to live on so much less. We earn less than half of what we earned when we lived in the US and we are still alive and pleasantly plump. It hasn’t been an easy adjustment by any means but we have adjusted to some degree and if nothing more we have become more grateful, humble people in the process.

8. I can find things! Office buildings, people’s homes, restaurants, stores... I can find them all! I don't need a Garmin or a Tom-Tom, I just find shit. Can you believe it? At first I lost my mind when I realized that no one uses major cross-roads here and East and West were confusingly referred to as Oriente and Poniente and not Este and Oeste as I had assumed. Now, if someone tells me that it’s “a few kilometers down from the red building next to the burrito stand by the elotero behind the gas station with the graffiti,” I no longer revert back to the desperate fetal position of my first night in Juarez.

A lot has happened. I have changed in ways that even I cannot see at this time. I never expected it. I don’t regret a single moment and couldn’t feel more blessed. Thank you.