Archive for March, 2008

La vida loca

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Really, the only one leading la vida loca is Noodle, as evidenced by his glee at being (wrongfully) in the middle of the dining table when we happened upon him!

This was our first full week of work – although Friday was an “admin day” and we had nothing to administer, so we used it as a reading-at-work day. We started doing non-immigrant visa interviews on Wednesday afternoon, then did some more on Thursday morning. It’s very interesting to try to figure out who is telling the truth and who is fibbing – our main goal is to try to figure out who is not an “intending immigrant” – i.e., who will actually come back to their home in Mexico after visiting the U.S.  I turned down an older woman, and she made an odd hand gesture to me – someone who grew up in Mexico confirmed that it meant pretty much what I thought it meant!

We were also able to visit quite a bit with our new co-workers this week. On Easter Sunday, we had Elise and her husband and toddler over for a gallo pinto brunch. We had met Elise (pictured below) while at FSI in training – she is also here on her first tour.

During the week, we enjoyed visits from a couple of our co-workers who are also neighbors. Martha (pictured below) came from the world of academia, and coincidentally knows one of our favorite Hendrix professors quite well – small world!

Friday at lunch we went out with our new boss and some other folks for a very nice lunch at Misión Guadalupe, followed by really good seafood dinner with a group of co-workers that night at Los Bichis.

Saturday afternoon we went to a Consulate party at the public affairs officer’s home; that night, we had our A-100 friend Whitney and his wife Ali over for dinner.

All in all, it was a good week, and we think we are really going to like it here!

On a sad note, my Uncle Gilbert passed away this week. I was glad I had the chance to visit with him in Arkansas on the drive down to Juarez. He’ll be missed.

Martha, John and Elise at Los Bichis

Settling in

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

In Arkansas with Dail and Nancy, March 8

Wow – it seems like we have been here much longer than a week! We are getting settled and really enjoying ourselves. I love the process of “nesting” and can’t wait till our own stuff gets here to really make it feel like home.

Due to Mexican holidays on Monday, Thursday and Friday, we only worked two days this week, and even then much of our work was getting settled at home – getting the alarm system, internet, etc. set up.

We’ve spent some amount of time in El Paso shopping – prices are better and it’s so easy to bop over the border and be at Sam’s Club in 20 minutes. We also had lunch in E.P. today at a great restaurant near the University (UTEP), Mesa Street Grill. I had one of the best salads I’ve ever had: greens topped with brisket, Jack cheese, red onion, green chilies and avocado, tossed in a vinaigrette. Their dinner menu looks great, too, so we’ll definitely be going back there.

My favorite thing so far are the weekly car washes at the house on Saturdays. The young guys who work in the neighborhood wash the cars, take the trash down to the bins at the end of the street and wash out the tile garage for us – love it! As soon as I find a housekeeper, I’ll be set.

John and I drove into New Mexico on Thursday, just to explore a little. By coincidence, we ended up near Ruidoso at the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino where we had lunch and John played a couple of hands of blackjack. Driving up there was really like being on the moon – long stretches of desolate highways, then craggy mountains, then climbing to 7600 feet elevation.

Our biggest excitement this week was getting pulled over by the police for making an illegal turn. Since it was a holiday, there was no traffic, but they were pretty hard-nosed. After much discussion and a bit of a wave of a diplomatic passport, they let us go, thank goodness – we were more relieved just because we wouldn’t have to deal with the mechanics of paying a fine and getting our driver’s license back (yes, they confiscate it). It cracks me up that the transit cops are so vigilant…when there are multiple murders each week – some in broad daylight and in “good” neighborhoods – that go unsolved (primarily between drug gangs). Oh, well.

So, here’s a photo taken from the Volvo driving behind John through west Texas on the way out here. It got pretty boring…!

We made it!

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

After close to 2000 miles, we finally made it to our new home in Ciudad Juarez! We stopped Monday night in Abilene, and then drove in to El Paso late Tuesday afternoon. We spent the night in El Paso, then our sponsor came to our hotel Wednesday around noon to pick us up and escort us over the border.

After about an hour’s stop at border patrol to get our SENTRI passes (sort of like an “easy pass” to go back and forth over the border), we pulled into our new home.

We really like it, and will like it even more once we get our art, dishes, and other things to make it feel like home. It’s a two-story townhouse on a quiet cul-de-sac. It’s old, but nice and spacious.

Our sponsor had milk, eggs, etc. waiting for us at our house, and the Consulate equips the house with a welcome kit that we can use until our personal goods get here (probably in another month), so when we arrived, the beds were made, the kitchen was set up, etc.

We went to the Consulate on Thursday and Friday, and spent most of our time walking around and meeting people. It’s a huge operation (the largest immigrant visa post in the world) and there are hundreds of people outside and inside, waiting for their visa interviews – it’s pretty overwhelming!

Wednesday night our sponsor had us over to have dinner with his family, and Friday night, a classmate from Washington had a party for us – it’s fun to be able to see familiar faces.

Today is Sunday, and we drove over to El Paso to do some shopping – it was a breeze to cross over. We’ve stopped at the public library to use the computer, because we don’t have access yet.

So far, we really like it here! The landscape is like being on the moon – desert, tumbleweeds, mountains with scrub brush – today it’s very windy, which means it’s also very dusty. The temperature is around 80 with wonderful cool breezes.

The cats are adjusting well – they did so great on the trip. I think they are glad to be home, too!

So…so far, so good!

On the road!

Monday, March 10th, 2008

We started our trek to Ciudad Juarez early Thursday morning, me with the cats in tow in the Volvo and John in his new truck, both of us packed to the gills. We planned to just drive to Nashville, but we started hearing weather forecasts of snow in Arkansas, so we pressed on to Hot Springs, arriving after midnight in snow flurries.

The cats did great in the car! Noodle slept in the floorboard most of the time, and Flavia, who had had a little bit of a tranquilizer, spent most of her time in her kennel.

We spent the weekend at Mom’s (with only a little snow). It was great to see family and friends! We saw Mary, and also had dinner with Dail and Nancy. I also went out to visit Gusta and Gilbert. John’s parents Pete and Ginger drove down Sunday and had lunch with us and cousin Alison.

Before we left DC, we went to a good production of Macbeth at the Folger Shakespeare Library. I had dinner Monday night with our neighbor Deb, and Tuesday we went to Lebanese Taverna with our good friend Della who was in town from Santo Domingo. Our last night we went to have Vietnamese food.

It’s Monday morning and we are loading up the cars and cats to continue on. We plan to arrive in Juarez mid-day Wednesday!

Free at last!

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

So, Friday was our big day – John and I had our Spanish exams and we both passed! We can continue on to Juarez and we are officially off of language probation. The tests are very stressful – you are in a small room with two examiners for two hours, speaking, listening and reading. We are very glad it’s over! We celebrated with a wonderful dinner at Harry’s that night.

Saturday we took a road trip in the new car to Pennsylvania to visit with my father, Joyce, and his wife, Carol. We had a good visit, plus we got to see Carol’s mom, Emma, and meet her son, Chris. We came home with a big container of homemade spaghetti sauce and fixings, which I can’t wait to have for lunch today!

We also had a few chances to visit with friends this week. Last Sunday, we had Eric and Janet down for a gallo pinto breakfast. That night, we went to a going-away party for Jimmi at her apartment – she is leaving for Matamoros, Mexico.

Our friends Carolyn and Konstantin had us over for an excellent dinner on Monday night – plus, I got to meet their new dog, Goose. Thursday we went to happy hour to say goodbye to several friends who are heading out this week.

The movers came on Wednesday, so we are officially packed-out!

Dinner with Carolyn & Konstantin