Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Final Countdown

One of my fellow bloggers, Andrea, over at Life on Mars... I mean TJ, published a post earlier this week about her impending move to Tijuana. She is planning on leaving the US next month to reunite with her husband and described her current state as being, "Exhausted. Sad. Excited. Homesick. Frustrated. Nervous." As I read her blog post, I was taken back to the month before we left for Juárez.

We were in the final countdown. The house was all packed up and had been for some time at that point. In my pathetic attempt to feel like I had some sort of control over the situation, I concentrated all my efforts into the act of packing. The furniture was disassembled and protected with bubble wrap. Because we were leaving during monsoon season and had an open trailer, I purchased 20 gallon Rubbermaid totes to use instead of regular boxes. I bought red and green totes on sale after Christmas, 8 months before we planned to leave. I carefully labeled all of the containers and stacked them neatly in what used to be our dining room. By that point it looked like a full blown warehouse.

I spent every second of 2010 plotting and planning the move because I knew if I stopped concentrating on the actual move itself, I would have to start thinking about what would happen after the move. Looking back, I really can't believe I had the balls to do what I did. I'm not an adventurous person. At the time, I wasn't a faith based person. I didn't trust that everything was going to work out. I had no idea what would happen after we got to Juárez. And that right there is what changed me and made me into what I believe is a better version of myself today. I had to embrace the fact that I don't know what's going to happen. I can't control everything. And that's okay.

However, when people reach out to me about leaving the US to reunite their families after a deportation, I always tell them the same thing. Some days it's not going to be okay. Some days you are going to be curled up in the fetal position wondering what the hell happened to your life. Some days you are going to miss the US so much that your heart aches. Some days you will feel spiteful towards your spouse for the entire situation. Some days you will question why you moved at all and kick yourself for making such a stupid decision. But every single day will be worth it, I can promise you that.

Because it isn't a stupid decision. It's a brave one. And at the end of the day, when you lie down next to the person you love, you will remember why you were so brave. As you see your family grow together without walls or borders between them, you will know you made the right decision.

I don't envy Andrea's state right now. The uncertainty, the insecurity, the fear of the unknown. But I truly believe that George Addair was right when he said that, "everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thank You Ellen

I don't know who you are or how to get in contact with you, but I wanted to say thank you. This is the only way I could think to do it.

So thank you, Ellen. That was an awfully sweet gesture. I wish the best to you and yours.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

This Love Is Not For Cowards

Some time ago I was as hungover as they come and 4 hours deep in the most boring class of my lifetime when I gave up understanding the instructor. I scrolled through my entire Facebook feed for the first time in ages, looked up countless recipes on Pinterest and double-clicked on a few too many #livingthedream pictures on Instagram before I finally decided to delve into the world of Twitter. Several of you had urged me to log on over the years and although I set up my account back in 2009, I couldn't get into it.

A couple hours later, I was hooked. And a couple hours after that I received one of my first "mentions." Robert Andrew Powell had tweeted that The Real Housewife of Ciudad Juárez was "finally on Twitter." I have to be honest when I say that I didn't know who he was. I'm clueless like that. After Googling his name I learned that he was a writer, more specifically a sports journalist, who had lived in Juárez for a couple of years while shadowing los beloved Indios.

After reading a handful of reviews for This Love Is Not For Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez, I knew I had to read this book. I could see that this wouldn't be like the other things people have published about Juárez. This would be real.

When I finally got my hands on a copy, I was sucked in from the get-go. Before the 3rd page I had read what is by far the best explanation of Juárez culture that I could ever even imagine. By the second chapter I wanted to watch a soccer game, and it must be said that I am not a big fan of soccer. It is the golf of sports to me and is something I watch when I want to take a nap. After almost 4 years in Mexico and a significant time spent without cable TV, I've taken a lot of naps.

By the third chapter, I was convinced that I was destined to read this book and that it was going to change my life. You see, Marco Vidal was number 12. My big sister, a fantastic basketball player throughout high school and college, was also number 12. I quit doing drugs on January 12th 2006. It's a good number. Then I read that Los Indios used the number 12 to honor their fans (i.e. the 12th man on the field) and right after I googled "how many players are on the field per team in a soccer game?" I just about shit my pants with feliz. Maybe I was just 3 vodka cranberries deep, but it seemed obvious that this book was written for me. I'm selfish in my thinking like that.

In the months that followed I spent a ridiculous amount of time pouring over this book. I would read sections of it over and over. Taking my sweet time. I took it with me everywhere, and it became a permanent fixture on my dashboard as I would place it there after reading each morning and afternoon in the line. I took it with me to the bank when Ray had to request a new debit card. I read it on my lunch break at work. It accompanied me to the Seguro Popular several times when Ray was under the weather for his ailment of the week. Someone once called me saying they wanted to say hi and knew I was at the same dollar store as them. How did they know? Well they saw a car like mine outside and recognized the book on the dash so they knew it was me. I became a little obsessed and wasn't sure why.

I had never read something that resonated with me so profoundly. It was so... relevant. This book depicts my love and hate for Juárez so perfectly, it almost scares me. The sporadic poppies that Powell notices in the otherwise barren Chihuahuan Desert as he makes his way to Cuauhtemoc for a match? That pretty much says everything right there. He manages to capture my love for Juárez while still showing the grit and grime of the city that I may have neglected to share with you. I haven't done it intentionally, but in my quest for positivity, I may have left out some details about life in Juárez here and there, for my own sanity if nothing more.

I couldn't quite understand my obsession until I finished the book. Months after starting it. I am a slow reader who is easily distracted by wine and shiny objects, but this was ridiculous. Every time I would sit down to read, I was quickly inspired to write something. In fact, since I turned the first page, I wrote 48 blog drafts stemming from subjects that Powell discussed in This Love Is Not for Cowards. Forty eight. 

I got my first fine from the El Paso Public Library because I failed to return this book for far too long. And even when I did drop it in the return slot reluctantly, I still hadn't finished it.

Why? For the longest time, I couldn't figure it out. I see now that I didn't want to finish it. It had become a friend. It became someone who understood my journey, someone who actually got my struggle. Someone who knew what it was like to assimilate in this crazy city and everything that it entails. 

And then I met Robert. 

He came to town last year to work on a story about FX's, The Bridge. You know how I feel about that hot mess. You can read his piece about the show here

I told him my sad little story about not finishing his book. I probably sounded like a complete nut job but ni modo. As soon as I met him, I knew why I was obsessed with his work. I knew it the second I saw his faded macrame bracelet that read, "El Kartel." I knew it when I served him some pollo asado and a shot of pisto at my home on a weekday night and he said, "See, this is what I love about Mexico," as he moved his hands about in a grand gesture motioning at his surroundings.

That was when I knew the reason I loved this book. It wasn't about soccer or Los Indios or the drug war. This book is the diary of a man who moved to Juárez just a while before I did. This book is a love story between an American and Juárez. It is a love story with circumstances far different from my own, but so similar it's almost unbelievable. Each step of his story was relateable to me in a very special way.

I must say that the ending left me feeling a little crazy. Seeing reality in front of you in black and white can have that affect on a person. Robert is a man I deeply respect and relate to, yet at the same time that he decided to leave because the violence in Juárez became too overwhelming, I was packing up my trailer, border bound. His work left me questioning my judgement a bit, but reminded me why I fell in love with this city in the first place.

If you were ever curious about why so many people stayed in Juárez throughout the drug war, or why so many people love this city with ever fiber of their being despite it's obvious flaws, get your hands on a copy of this book. It's a compelling read that brought me solace during the confusing transition of hating and loving my life in this complex city.

And trust me, it's not about soccer.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Tales From the Bridge II

I got in line in a good mood tonight. No, a great mood. It's Friday, I'm going out with friends tonight, it's Friday. Did I mention that it's Friday? Good times. The line was long, which is normal for a Friday. But the evening quickly took a turn for the worse. 

Several lanes of traffic flow into two lanes going Southbound onto the Bridge of the Americas. Cars are coming from I-10, US-54 and Paisano. The 54 is my chosen route because you have less issues with people trying to cut in front of you in line. However, people do still try to cut in line, and it creates an extremely dangerous situation. I've actually been a part of an accident at this very spot that sent a little girl flying out of her seat and into the windshield. To cut into the line from the 54, you have to stop your vehicle. In the middle of a freeway. With cars rushing up to you at 60 mph.

Let that marinate for a minute.

So tonight, I have this genius in front of me who is leaving a good 15 ft between her and the car in front of her at all times. Whatever lady. We'll that slide. Then someone stops in the middle of the freeway up ahead to try and cut in the line. The traffic coming up behind is having to slam their brakes or swerve around the guy. This dude is a good 5 cars ahead of the lady in front of me at this point, but what does she do? She stops, waits to let the person cut. Okay, maybe it's a friend of hers. That's cool. 

Then she does it again. Every car behind me is honking repeatedly at this woman and she looks at me in her review mirror making weird faces like I'm insane. Surely she couldn't think I was making all that noise on my own? When she did it for the third time and someone had to slam on their breaks barely avoiding a collision with yet another person cutting I absolutely lost it. 

I did one of those loooooong hard honks. Yeah, this time it was me, lady. Did you hear that? And then she stopped advancing at all, probably just trying to be cute, as everyone behind us continued to honk.


Looking back, this is one of those moments where I do something I completely regret, but just couldn't help myself at the time. 

I yell at her. Aggressively. At the top of my lungs. En Español.

What is your problem lady?! You are going to cause an accident!! It's not my problem that you don't have anywhere to go but that doesn't mean you need to piss off everyone else or cause a bunch of accidents!!


Normal people would have just flipped her off. But I wanted her to understand why we were all honking because clearly she wasn't getting it. Even though I was embarrassed for losing my cool, I have to admit, I felt much better getting all that off my chest. I grabbed my phone and posted something on Facebook about how idiots bring out the worst in me when the lady sticks her phone out the window and starts taking pictures of me. This is where the regret started to sink in because maybe this chick is certifiable and is going to hunt me down, chop me up into bits in a basement and put me in her Christmas tamales. My mind wanders.

To avoid letting it wander too far, I spent the rest of the time in line on the phone with my husband, planning our weekend and whatnot. By the time I reached the US checkpoint to leave the country, I was already over the whole thing. But this women, all 10 gallons of crazy in a 1 gallon bucket, decides to continue with her insane behavior. She waives 3 officers over to her car and has a conversation that I, of course, could not hear. 

One of the agents comes over to me with a smile and asks if there's a problem. 

"Apparently there is. This woman was letting everyone come in off the 54 and cut in front of her in line and it was causing other drivers on the freeway to have to slam on their brakes. This caused myself and everyone behind me in line to start honking at her. I yelled out the window at her and then she started taking pictures of me and now here we are, taking up your time and causing everyone to wait in line even longer."

The other two officers come over to my car at this point stating that the lady is scared because I was honking at her for no particular reason over and over and that I took a picture of her.

You have got to be kidding me.

I produced my phone for all of the CBP agents as the people behind us continued to honk their horns incessantly in desperation. Here's my camera roll, no pictures to be found. And why would I want a picture of the back of this nut job's car anyway? They didn't even care to look at my phone. Two of the agents went back to speak with the woman a bit more and the other agent and I chatted for a bit. When can Raymundo come back to the US? 2020. Oh man, that's a long time. I know, hey listen, I'm so sorry we're wasting your time like this. Don't worry, happens all the time.

I really hope that somehow this young lady comes across this blog and reads this: Mija, I did not take any pictures of you. You did, however, feel the need to take pictures of me for whatever reason, but I could care less. Not sure if you just wanted to play the poor victim with Border Patrol, but you don't have to be afraid of me. However, if you keep acting like such an idiot, I would assume you will regularly encounter people in your lifetime that you will need to be afraid of.

End rant.


Happy Friday?