Saturday, December 21, 2013

Q & A Part 2

It has been a long, rough, week. Among other things, we haven't had a car since Sunday and when you're a daily border crosser, car problems are pretty much your worst nightmare. It's at the mechanic now and will hopefully be fixed by Tuesday. Of course paying for the repairs will be another fun experience involving pay day loans and credit cards and whatnot.

I suppose I could write a long, depressing blog about money problems and Juarez/El Paso public transit shortcomings, but I don't think that'll do anyone any good. People all over the world struggle with money and their vehicles so let's just leave it at that. Am I right or amiright?

No, instead I'm going to go ahead and give you Q & A Part 2 and answer some more of the questions you all sent in a couple of months back. Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend and staying warm. Remember to make it a great day, or not, the choice is yours.

(I am totally trying to convince myself right now. Did I sound convincing?)


Do you feel safe in Juarez? Does if feel as dangerous as it's depicted in the news?

I feel perfectly safe in Juarez. Did I feel safe when we first moved here in 2010? No. That was the height of the drug war and it wasn't a rarity to see a body lying about or caution tape blocking off an intersection in your neighborhood. However, times have changed. It's not as though I just got used to the violence si no que the violence isn't as prevalent. People don't want to hear that and if they do hear it, they refuse to accept it because at this point, they have been so scorned by the murders and those who haven't cling to dramatically gory news stories. At this point I almost feel as though people don't want Juarez to rise from the ashes. Because after all, what would they have to write about in the Sunday paper? People are attracted to drama and violence, that's no secret. And so I suppose I'm trying to say that yes, I feel safe. And no, I don't think the media accurately portrays Juarez. I am not discounting the violence that has happened and continues to happen. I do not have amnesia as someone recently accused me of on Twitter. Horrible, graphic things have happened in this city. Yet, I feel safe. And I believe in my heart of hearts that Juarez will prevail. It's people are too strong, too resilient, too passionate, for it to go any other way.

Why doesn't your husband just learn English already?

He's too consumed with learning Mandarin, he just hasn't had the time to delve into English.

How long does it take you to cross the border every day?

This is a tough question to answer because it changes so much. However, for the past few months, it generally takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to cross on Mondays and 15 to 30 minutes to cross the rest of the week. That is when I cross in the Ready Lane with my RFID enabled card. You can read more about that here. However, for the past week I have been hitching a ride with anyone and everyone and crossed in the regular lanes. It took much longer in those lanes and we waited at least an hour each day. Bridge wait times fluctuate greatly though. For much of 2012 and 2013, wait times were very low, whereas in 2011, I would sometimes wait over 2 hours to cross during the week. Now, I can only imagine that long of a wait on a weekend or holiday. All in all, Juarez wait times are typically longer than say, Nogales, and much shorter than Tijuana. Best Time to Cross is a great website (and app) to refer to if you would like to look into it more.

Since you make dollars in the US can you live in like a big fancy mansion in Juarez? Doesn't that make you live close to like the bad rich drugs lords and stuff?

This question literally made me laugh out loud when I saw it in my email and bless your heart for asking it. Before moving to Mexico, I thought we'd be living the sweet life. I assumed that if I could find a decent job in the US, we would have loads of disposable income. I imagined us going to Parral every weekend to visit Ray's family. I imagined us traveling all over the country on a whim. Yet here we are, over 3 years later, and I have yet to visit Parral. We haven't taken off to Chihuahua for the weekend, we haven't vacationed in Mazatlan, Ray still hasn't set foot on an airplane. So no, earning US dollars does not automatically make a person in Mexico wealthy enough to live next door to el nuevo Tony Montana. Even if we didn't have a mountain of credit card debt, we still wouldn't be able to afford to live in a big, fancy mansion. At least not by Juarez standards. The thing about Mexico is that the rich are really, really rich. Filthy rich. And the poor are disgustingly poor. Because of my US income, we fall somewhere in the middle of this. Our rent is 4,000 pesos. That is very high compared to most of the city, however it only equates to about $310 US. It's a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath home a few miles from the bridge with gated parking, daytime security and a generous back patio. Plenty of closet space. But definitely not a big, fancy mansion. I jokingly tell Ray that we solely represent the middle class of this city. We can afford to pay our bills, including US debts, but there isn't anything left over for emergencies. It isn't what I expected, but I just feel blessed that we can pay the bills.

Are you jealous because I live at the beach?

Insanely jealous. Are you jealous of my answer to today's 3rd question?

What your most embarrassing moment when speaking Spanish?

After I quit smoking meth, and around the time that I really began to buckle down and learn Spanish, I secured a job doing customer service for a company in Gilbert, Arizona. I had lied on my resume, claiming to be bilingual, which wasn't exactly the case. I knew street Spanish. I could score you an ounce of whatever without skipping a beat, but scheduling an appointment in a professional situation was a different story. I was speaking to a customer in Spanish one day and told her that I had scheduled for the vato to stop by her home the next day. No one around me spoke Spanish, so I didn't get in trouble for telling this poor woman that I'd be sending a "homie" to her house, but she was quick to correct me. I was extremely embarrassed and apologized profusely.

Why did you leave your son in the US and move to Mexico? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Everyone needs to back up when it comes to this topic. I think I've made it perfectly clear that I do not want to discuss the details of our situation. We do not live together. We didn't live together prior to me even meeting my husband. I did not abandon my son to move to Mexico with my lover. He lives in the best place I could ever imagine him living. I visit him every single chance I get. Our situation is quite complex. It is an extremely emotional subject for me because of course, I love him with all my heart and living apart is the hardest thing I have ever done. Please remember, he is only 10 years old. I do not want him reading about this on the internet. Have a little respect. I will write about what happened when I am ready and when it's right for him, but I'm not and it's not. I feel like I share a great deal of my life online so I would appreciate it if everyone could respect my family's privacy just a bit. If people could just stop emailing me with questions about it, that would be fantastic. I suppose from now on, my only reply will be a link to this blog post.

How many Americans live in Juarez?

I have no clue. After our piece on This American Life aired, I was contacted by countless men and women who are living here for the same reason. I tried to keep everyone straight, even stopped to make a list at one point, but eventually I lost track. I still have that list, and it has 23 families on it. But I learned of countless more after the fact. So the answer is countless? I have no idea. And if there are this many of us in Juarez, I can only imagine how many families are living in other border towns. I would assume Tijuana hosts the bulk of families in our situation.

Do you ever regret moving to Mexico or would you do something differently if you could do it again?

I will never, ever regret this move. It is the best thing that ever happened to me. Not only did I fall in love with Juarenses, but I found myself. I give full credit to this city, to it's ebb and flow, even to the fucking line. If I could start all over, the only thing I would change is that I would have brought 2 cars. We purchased an SUV before we came with the sole purpose of crossing the border with a trailer. If I could do it again I would have brought a second car. A tiny itty bitty nugget of a car. The smallest one I could fit in. This way, we would save countless dollars in gasoline and of course have a back up if something happened with the other car. Word? Word.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would immigration reform look like to you?

This question has plagued my mind for ages. I've thought about it even more since someone messaged it to me a couple of months ago. I still don't think I have an answer. I'd love to be this intelligent person who can spout off a response to this question without second-guessing herself. That's just not the case. I guess all I think is that the law should be less black and white. We are talking about love here, after all. Spouses, brothers and sisters, children, parents. How can one law establish eligibility for everyone? I don't know that I believe in open borders. Maybe I do, maybe I don't. All I know is that thousands of families are suffering. Many of them unjustly. I'm not very smart though. I don't follow politics well. I don't understand economics much. I don't have bold, concise solutions to suggest on how we should fix the system. I don't have a plan. I wish I did. I wish I had an answer. All I know is that many of my friends are living in less than questionable conditions because of their spouses' menial immigration violations. I know that even if my husband would have tried to do things "the right way," there wouldn't have been a path for him. There is no legal way for a blue-collar worker, without connections or hefty bank account balance, to enter the US legally. I know that countless individuals are living apart from their family because of the draconian immigration laws in the US. And I know that there has to be some sort of solution. Maybe some type of farm-worker bill is the solution? Maybe not.

All I know is that I don't know anything at all.


  1. Another great post! I hear you on the car problems and payday loans, had to do it last month for a battery:(...Your family is your business and dont let people asking insensitive questions get you down....whoever asked the immigration question it was a good one and I don't have a comprehensive answer either, it is hard because every single immigrant has a different situation...Feliz Navidad y saludos de la familia Perez en Mexicali

    1. Thanks Layla. Feliz Navidad... a little late ;)

  2. According to last week's Sunday NY Times, Juarez is indeed, a safer place than it used to be. The article spoke of upscale cafes etc. Good news.

    1. It was a great article. I had to defend it like a mad-woman on Twitter, but Damien Cave did well.

  3. Emily, you've done it again. Great responses to some good and at least one assholish question.

    I have seen any signs for Juarez, but along I-35 in Texas there are all sorts of billboards proclaiming that Larado is safe. I often wonder if any of the reporters who continue to tell of such a grim situation in Juarez have ever been to Chicago.

    I hope the car situation gets fixed.

    1. Thanks Dave! I can't speak personally of Laredo, but have friends living there happily.

      I want to light that damned car on fire right about now, but such is life.

  4. Thanks for being so candid in your answers. I guess nobody can truly understand another's situation until they walk in your shoes.

    Hope the car situation works out.

  5. Hey, I hopped on over to your blog from the link in your signature on the forum, and I'm glad I did! This pretty much answers the question I asked. :) I look forward to going back through your previous posts! Glad to know others in my same situation!

    1. Thanks Holly. I'm glad you found the forum and that it led you to this blog. It's always good to interact with those who understand us.

  6. I know it's trite, but here's wishing you and yours a better New Year than this one and this one hasn't been all bad. (if I go by your blog, ) As you know, I always get something out of your observations and feelings, so keep on keepin' on.

    1. Thanks Zoe! You're right, it was a good year. Thanks for the reminder. I'm needing it right about now...