Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lady Balls and First World Problems

I could never live out in the country in Mexico. To all the expats that once lived in the comfort of America, and then moved to El Rancho de Whatever: I applaud you.

Let's be honest; I just don’t have what it takes to hand wash, go to the bathroom outside, kill my own dinner or go without water certain days of the week. I wish I was that kind of woman because those skills would be damn handy in an apocalypse.

Unfortunately, I can barely handle this:


I'm really not looking forward to taking a bucket bath later on...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Car Accident and La Ruta

Last Friday, I was coming home from work, so excited because it was raining. After so much time in Arizona I have become obsessed with rain because it was such a rarity. I was driving very carefully. Gordo had just called me to wish me a safe trip home and remind me that our back tires were worn down and to be careful driving in the rain. The road I take home is Montana and is the main road that connects downtown El Paso to the East Side. There is tons of traffic, especially during rush hour. It was 5:15 and I know I was going 40 miles per hour. I was at the part of Montana where it slopes down slightly, just after Paisano. The speed limit is 40 mph and there is always a police car staked out in that area, pulling people over just before Trowbridge. Because of the decline, I have to hit the brakes to make sure I am at or under the limit. I am 100% positive that I was going 40 mph and was a good distance away from the car in front of me. It was a moving van. A Penske moving van, but the Penske logo had been painted over with yellow paint and had temporary plates. The truck slammed on its brakes to turn left. That intersection is dangerous because Trowbridge comes in at a diagonal and there is no turn lane from Montana. It is such an awkward intersection that upon telling this story, several of my friends asked me if it is even legal to turn left there.

The truck slammed on its brakes and I quickly looked to my right rear-view mirror and saw that I had space before swerving to the right to avoid a collision. I honked my horn furiously at the moving van just before my truck began to hydroplane through the intersection, across 3 lanes of traffic, over a median, and across the lanes of oncoming traffic before it did a 180 and slammed into the curb. At this point my truck tilted to the side, so much so that I looked to the right and saw the sidewalk, assuming it would flip. Gracias a Dios, it ended up slamming back down on four tires. It took me about 10 minutes at that point to even get out of the car. I waited as traffic passed for what felt like forever before I had a chance to even get out of the car. I was shaking as I called my husband to tell him that I had had an accident. Of course he was freaking out. Knowing that I was on the other side of the border and he couldn’t come to my aid, he of course felt instantly desperate and hopeless. Next I called the police and then my insurance company.

I still can’t believe that in this intersection, at this time of day, I didn’t hit anyone. I can’t even believe that I didn’t flip my SUV going over that median, but even more so I can’t get over the fact that I didn’t hit any of the oncoming traffic. God was with me that day and I was being watched over. Clearly there is some sort of purpose for me (beyond drinking brandy and eating Cheetos) that I have yet to address.

Luckily my friend Elizabeth happened to be driving home a friend and took a different route from the office leading her to see me on the side of the road. When she first saw me, she thought I had just been pulled over. Thankfully there was no damage done to the body of my truck. The rear axle cracked in half and the middle console is a mess because I’m an idiot and wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. Looking at the driver’s side, you would never know there had been an accident. As she drove by she just thought I had been pulled over. The only thing that tipped her off was that my truck was facing the wrong direction (not towards the bridge.) Luckily she called me and I had a chance to explain what had happened. She parked her car down the road and walked over to me. I know I’ve said this a million times but I am so thankful that I have met the women I know here in Juarez because they are such good friends to me. I have a lot of expat friends who don’t have that luxury. She stayed with me until the tow truck came and was sweet enough to take me home that night.

Injury wise, I got out of there without a scratch. I had a big bump on my head, bruised thighs and arms and some pain in my hip and neck but considering the circumstances, I am beyond lucky. By now the pain is mostly gone with the exception of my neck when I lie down or sit up. I am so thankful that I can even be writing this blog because I know I should probably be in a lot worse shape. I did have full coverage on my truck so I really only have to worry about the deductible which is a blessing because there is no way we could financially replace our car at this time. The biggest issue has been waiting for the repairs. With no other options, I have had to ask my girlfriends for rides and they have been beyond gracious with their time and gasoline. I will be forever appreciative of their help. I am hoping to have my truck back by the end of the week.

In the meantime we are just hanging out here at the house in the evenings and on the weekends without a vehicle. Today I finally took my first “route bus” trip.  It was pretty interesting. We went to the grocery store. You know, as an American, I really do overlook the little things in life. When we first got here I didn’t entirely appreciate the washing machine. There are so many people in this world wash their clothes by hand but I never really thought about it. There are a lot of things we take for granted in America. Cars or washing machines or dishwashers are things we really overlook in the US and I never really stopped to think about it. These were simple things and for most of my life I kind of considered them to be rights as opposed to privileges. It’s just an eye opener and of course humbling, as is my entire experience here in Mexico.

It is one thing to ask for a ride to work but asking for any other reason just seems unnecessary to me. The bus schedule in Juarez and El Paso do not function in a way that allows me to make it to work in time but it certainly serves it’s purpose for weekend errands. Today we took a trip to Soriana which is the local mega-grocery store. After we made our purchases, we carried our grocery bags over the “puente pateonal” which is like a bridge/walkway that has been built over Tecnologico which is a major roadway in Juarez. By this time Ray was seriously annoyed with me and all of my comments and observations that he really looked like he just wanted to jump off of the bridge. Luckily, it was build with rejas on the top to ward off any suicide attempts and save annoyed spouses.

After the bridge we only had to walk about a mile to the bus stop. We didn’t really have to walk that far because there is a bus that picks you up right outside of the store, but we didn’t want to have to take 2 buses. Each bus ride costs 6 pesos which is just under 47 cents right now in US dollars. When I say 47 cents in English I really feel ridiculous but when I say 6 pesos in Spanish I feel like that is a significant amount of money. Is that weird? We didn’t want to pay an extra 12 pesos for less than a mile so we did a little more walking. We barely made it to the bus stop in time and actually had to run a little. I’m sure everyone who knows me personally is laughing at this point…

That bus took us into our neighborhood and dropped us off just about a quarter mile from our house. It was my first trip on “La Ruta.” My husband takes these buses everywhere, bless his heart. He goes and pays our utility bills on the route bus and takes 3 routes in order to get to the bank where we pay our rent on the 10th every month. He even visits friends on the bus; it’s how he gets around. It’s how everyone who doesn’t have a vehicle gets around in Juarez and I definitely take my truck for granted. I am so thankful to even have transportation that is so convenient and simple. He has told me tons of stories about the route buses here and the drivers are pretty notorious for getting in horrible accidents so I was pretty nervous before we got on board.

I’m pretty sure the bus driver today was deaf. He had a hearing aid in both ears and there were a couple occasions where people got on the bus and didn’t even pay. I’m not really sure what that was all about. It was hot. So hot. Today is the first day of fall but that made no difference. The bus was a mess. The bus wasn't crowded like I had expected but the seats were torn and it was beyond dirty. Everyone was sweating and the only comfort was the occasional gust of wind that came through the tiny cracked windows. The funny thing is that as I am making all of these observations, my husband looks at me and says, “This is the nicest route bus I’ve ever been on! Oh my God, I can’t believe it baby, tuviste suerte!” The incredulous look on his face made it clear that he was being serious.

Apparently, my experience wasn’t indicative of a typical bus trip in Juarez but it was an experience nonetheless. I had a good time and it was humbling and we can only go forward from here. I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gone, But Not Forgotten

I suppose by now you all know that I tend to ramble when I talk about America and what it means to me, so I’ll go ahead and skip that lengthy disclaimer.

I was just watching all of the old news footage from September 11th on YouTube and I swear I remember it like it was yesterday. I was getting ready for school and listening to the radio like I did every morning. At first, I thought it was just a horrible accident, but by the time the second plane hit, reality had sunk in. Of course I was terrified, who wouldn’t be? Growing up, I had learned all about war in history class, but for some reason, I just considered it to be a thing of the past. I learned about the Revolutionary War and the struggles that took place to develop our great nation. In middle school, I became fascinated with World War II, unable to wrap my mind around the Holocaust. I learned about the draft that came years later and tried to imagine what it was like for my parents to grow up in a time like that. I found it all so unbelievable and I certainly never imagined that war would play a role in my life outside of textbooks or movies or video games.

At the time of the attacks, I was a junior in high school in Tempe, Arizona. I may have been thousands of miles from ground zero but I had never felt as close to the East coast as I felt that morning.  We spent the entire school day watching the news. We went from class to class, keeping our eyes glued to the television as much as possible. We watched in silence, wide-eyed in disbelief, as chaos took over our country. I remember an eerie feeling of unity that day. I couldn't quite place my finger on it at the time, but now I know that my classmates were united in fear. It’s hard to explain now, how I felt as a teenager; watching people jump from buildings because they had no other option and seeing our country literally crumble before us on live television. I can’t really put it in words.

It didn't really resonate with me until recently that this is the war that shaped my generation. My children will be learning about this in school and it will seem unreal to them as well, just as other wars before it had seemed to me. As a child, I knew that war was something unforgettable and horrible, yet it seemed tucked away safely in the past. This is the war that changed my life, although it didn't affect me in a way that some might think when they read about it in their history books for years to come. For me personally, this war hasn't meant hiding out in bomb shelters for the last 11 years or fearing gunfire from our global enemies on a daily basis. Others haven’t been so lucky. Even though I haven’t been on the frontlines, it’s changed me nonetheless.

I cross an international border everyday so national security could not be more relevant to my life. Obviously, our national security policies were forever changed by 9/11. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Customs and Border Protection officers are trying to protect our country from the very things we all fear. We’re too busy being annoyed and feeling inconvenienced to be thankful for the security they aim to provide. I am a member of countless Facebook groups that are focused on immigration and at times, there are a lot of hateful words exchanged about CBP. Sometimes the comments make me cringe. Trust me, I get it. I don’t blame anyone for being angry. It’s hard to accept the invasive inspections, harsh comments about immigrants, or countless hours spent waiting in line. I know I’m not a terrorist or a criminal, but how could they possibly know that? They don’t have the luxury of picking favorites, or excusing people because they are U.S. citizens. How can they tell the difference between me and the next person with a smile on their face and a trunk full of ammo that will eventually kill innocent people? The answer is that they can’t.

I feel so torn at times with my perspective on all of this because everyone seems to think I’m nuts. I’m supposed to be pissed off, right? I guess I am pissed off that I’m not allowed to be with my family in the United States. No… that’s putting it lightly. Knowing that my husband is not welcome in my own country is beyond devastating. It’s so many things that I can’t even begin to describe. Even so, how in the world can we even begin to blame a CBP official for the way things are? When I go back eleven years and remember what happened to this great nation, it really puts everything into perspective for me. I guess it doesn’t have that affect on everyone, but for me personally, it explains a lot about our laws and really defines the purpose of CBP. Remembering 9/11 makes their demeanor so much more understandable. As crazy as it sounds, when I look at the whole picture, it’s actually difficult for me to not have some sort of empathy for their struggle. If I take myself and my personal situation out of the equation, it becomes blatantly clear why things are the way they are. The horrifying acts of terror that occurred on 9/11 were only able to take place because this country lacked security.

A lot of people probably think I am an idiot for having the respect that I do for border patrol but I’m not as naïve as some may think. I know there are controversial issues involved and inappropriate and even inhumane acts that occur on the border. As unfortunate as it is, I think the same can be said of any branch of law enforcement. At the same time, I don’t think the actions of a handful of officials should speak for entire departments. There are going to be racist CBP agents who abuse their powers. There are racist doctors and judges and professors who abuse their powers as well. This is an unfortunate reality of life. What happened on 9/11 is another reality that we have to accept. The tightened security on the border and stricter immigration laws are an unfortunate result of this war. It’s easy to blame it all on the the guy asking if you have any fruit to declare for the hundredth time, but at the end of the day, they didn’t develop the laws they are enforcing, so it just doesn’t make sense to point fingers in that direction.

I guess I had to say all of that so that it would make sense when I say this: I truly respect and appreciate our border patrol agents and our military and our government. Even if I don’t always agree with their actions, I am thankful for their service, and I am thankful to be an American. I wanted to recognize today, and take a moment on my little platform that is this blog, to remember all of the fallen men and women. From those who were trapped in those airplanes and buildings, to the service men and women who risked everything to save the lives of others: You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Southwestern Eggrolls

We haven't done this in quite a while, have we?! Well I've certainly still been cooking big Sunday dinners but have obviously been too lazy to post...

Chili's is easily my favorite chain restaurant of it's type. I'd pick it over Applebee's or Ruby Tuesday's or 54th Street any day. I can never decide what to order there and inevitably end up choosing the Triple Dipper every time. An easy solution for the indecisive. Chili's in Juárez is as equally delicious as the American counterpart and even boasts some impressive additions to it's menu, my favorite being the Jalapeño Margarita. Unfortunately, it's prices are also equal to that of the US and with our current income, eating out is rarely an option. And so, I took it upon myself to recreate my favorite item from the Chili's menu: Southwestern Eggrolls.

The menu description is "a crispy flour tortilla filled with smoked chicken, black beans, corn, jalapeño Jack cheese, red peppers and spinach. Served with avocado-ranch dressing." I can work with that. I googled some recipes but each one seemed to have all sorts of additional spices added and I really think the ingredients speak for themselves. I decided to get rid of the sweet red peppers as well and replaced them with fresh diced jalapeños to add a little kick. I also prefer the thin, crispy texture of an egg roll wrapper than that of an actual fried tortilla. The following is my own recipe, sans unnecessary spices and salt. As much as I hate it, I really am trying to cut back on sodium. The cheese in this recipe provides more than enough though so you won't really miss it.

A la Pioneer Woman, here is our cast of characters...

Egg rolls wrappers (or flour tortillas if egg roll/wonton wrappers are not available), 1 whole chicken breast without skin, de-boned, 2 Roma tomatoes, 1 medium white onion, 1 jalapeño, 1 can yellow sweet corn, 2 cups fresh spinach, 1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I chose mild cheddar),  2 cups cooked black beans, ranch dressing, avocado, fresh cracked black pepper.

To make dressing add 1 half diced avocados to 1 half cup of ranch dressing. Add fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate while the eggrolls are being prepared.

Dice chicken and heat with 1 tbsp. oil (not pictured because I'm thorough like that) until cooked through and set aside. Dice veggies and cook until onion is translucent.

Remove skillet from heat and add in your cheese. Stir until it's incorporated. Fill each eggroll wrapper with 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling mixture.

Fold in the sides of the eggroll wrapper as you would fold a burrito, unless, of course, you are from Northern Chihuahua where they don't fold the sides in and the burrito filling just falls into your lap. Then you are just fucked my friend.

Fold your eggroll to completely envelope the filling mixture. Set aside and continue this process until you have used up all of your filling and/or wrappers/tortillas.

In a large skillet of oil (about 1" high), cook eggrolls over medium high heat.

Cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes, then flip to cook the other side.

Remove eggrolls from oil when completely cooked and drain on a paper towel lined plate. This recipe makes about 20 eggrolls. Serve with avocado ranch dressing.

Bon appétit and bocagasmos por todos!
*Leftovers can be frozen and are delicious when reheated for 10-15 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Third Eye Blind

I’m thoroughly enjoying my 3 day weekend. I was supposed to have to work on Saturday to complete payroll but my boss allowed me to work ahead of the deadline. With Monday off, I'm not feeling my normal Sunday doom-esque thingy. Gordo had little to no questions answered at his doctors visit on Monday. Basically, they determined that the issue is plantar fasciitis. They aren’t sure, but I am happy to join in on that bandwagon as it is in-line with what I have thought this entire time. He has been feeling well the last 3 days and I'm hoping it continues.

I had an amazing birthday party last night and was once again reminded of what wonderful friends I have here in Juarez. The beauty of it is that I might not have been friends with all of these women had I have met them back in the US, but because we bonded over our situations, I now have friends that may not have the same view points as I, but I love nonetheless. That is a gift from God because I think the best friend you can have in this life is a friend who is willing to disagree with you.

I was on one tonight and ran out of wine but had no intention of pausing my felicidad so I asked my husband to take me up to S Mart for a bottle. I love going to S Mart late at night. We live on the edge of Campestre here in Juarez and S Mart is on Vicente Guerrero so a late night grocery trip involves bumping elbows with Campestre fresas. I don’t now why, but I really love to observe the rich of Juarez. This isn’t what I even want to talk about though. I was leaving the store and Gordo put in my Alternativa #3 mix CD which got me thinking.

I don’t know if it’s from the drugs I did years ago, but every once in a while I get these intense flashbacks and I certainly had one tonight. Suddenly I was back in the 8th grade and on the phone with a boy who I thought I was in love with. I'm listening to some angst-ridden alternative music and drinking a beer I stole out of the fridge from my step dad. I was genuinely afraid, wondering if he would find out, as I talked to the boy for 7 hours. I don’t know in detail what we talked about, but I know I’ll remember it for years, as I still remember that it was the conversation of my life. We talked about our families and theology and love and life, but I can’t remember the details that left me so enamored. This seemed to happen all the time.

I never forget these conversations or question their importance. This morning I was in bed with my husband and asked him if he ever had such an experience when he was a teenager. He bursted my bubble by telling me that they didn’t even have a phone at their house until he was in his 20’s. Back to the first world…

These conversations shaped my future. They made me who I am, even if I don’t recall the details. Every time I listen to Everclear or Red Hot Chili Peppers or the Smashing Pumpkins or Third Eye Blind, I remember these late nights, tip-toeing into the living room for the phone, and covering the cord with my blanket in a pathetic attempt that my mother wouldn’t realize I was still talking at 4 am. What I most remember is that I was longing for the love of a boy during those conversations. I wanted a certain boy. I wanted a boy who acted just so, and thought just so. It was all I desired and all I thought of, thus motivating these late night conversations that lasted for hours and hours.

I’m the fool because I just realized that I got that boy. I am such a fool because I have had him for over 7 years and it’s just now come to my attention. My husband is everything I could have ever desired, even as a dreamy, unrealistic, fickle, 13 year old girl. He is caring and street smart and thoughtful and observant and funny and understanding. He is the man I dreamed of as I sat in my bedroom on Paseo Way listening to the Dizzy Up the Girl on repeat.