Archive for June, 2008

Back to work

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

It was great to have last Monday off after returning from Vegas. We headed to El Paso early in the morning to have the oil changed in the Toyota, had breakfast and did our shopping.

We watched a couple of good movies this week. I really, really liked “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and we laughed through “Knocked Up.” “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” isn’t exactly an uplifting movie, but it was very well done – and, of course, I love Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Last night we had our Foreign Service neighbors over for dinner: Teresa and Michael and newly-arrived Caroline and Harold (coming here from Frankfurt). We had a great time…so much so that I have a wee bit of an overhang this morning. It was a lot of fun.

John is duty officer this week, which means he is on call for American Citizen emergencies. So far, nothing too dramatic has happened. As it would happen, he got several calls during the dinner party last night. One Mexican citizen called him a couple of times because her Mexican citizen family was in some sort of trouble here in Juarez. I’m not quite sure why she thought she should call the American Consulate, but John was able to refer her to some Mexican authorities for help.

While we were gone, Michael turned the dirt in our little back “yard” and seeded some grass. We’ve been watering faithfully each night…John calls it our Chia backyard. It’s pretty sad.

What happens in Vegas…

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

John with James Randi

Well, really, there was nothing incriminating about our time in Vegas – in fact, we didn’t even have the time or energy to gamble or see a show – but we had a great time. We were at the sixth annual Amazing Meeting (TAM) (scroll down the link to see some of the speakers), hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation. It’s two and a half days of lectures, mostly by scientists, doctors, etc. and it’s fun! Penn & Teller are always there, too, and one of the guys from MythBusters – and, I got to meet Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson, Matthew Chapman, one of the founders of Science Debate 2008. A couple of my favorite speakers were Dr. Steve Novella, director of neurology at Yale and host of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, and Sharon Begley of Newsweek.

To see a couple of other photos from TAM, click here.

John flew out from his class in DC and we met Thursday night at the Flamingo. (Celebrity sighting: Robert Duvall was on John’s flight out.) He had a good time in DC, and got to see our friends Martha, formerly of Juarez, and Mary from our A-100 class.

Our one indulgence in Vegas was dinner Saturday night at Table 10, one of Emeril’s restaurants. John had a great steak, and I had gumbo with a couple of sides of veggies.

Bad Vegas timing: Bette Midler opens at Caesar’s next week. Doh.

One of my favorite things was walking the Strip each morning around 6AM. There are still people sitting in the casinos gambling and drinking, walking outside drinking and stumbling, hookers still out, etc. It’s pretty wild. And then there are the walkers and runners like me getting our exercise in before the temperature hits 100, stepping over beer bottles.

The week prior to leaving for Vegas was pretty low-key, especially since John was out of town. I’m continuing in the immigrant visa section. Luckily, we have tomorrow off to recuperate from the trip before we head back into work.

Flavia was happy to see us when we returned. Our friend Michael took care of her while we were gone.

Go along to get along

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Flavie on her favorite rug

Flavie loves rugs, especially this one, made by Joan’s housekeeper back in Costa Rica.

For people who don’t normally eat out much, we seem to have been in restaurants a lot this week. Last Sunday, we took a drive to El Paso to eat at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing (where I had gone to the farmer’s market the day before). It’s such a fun, funky atmosphere with 1950s decor. Thursday night, we went back to El Paso to pick up a few things, and had dinner at Mesa Street Grill.

Saturday we went on a “windshield tour of Juarez” with some folks from the Consulate.  John and I had seen most of the sites, but we had not yet been into downtown Juarez, so it was fun to drive through. There were some beautiful, grand, old houses on the main street, and we saw the cathedral and the Mission de Guadalupe. The downtown sector was bustling with shoppers. After the tour, we had lunch together at an Italian place, Caruso’s. It was a good time to sit and socialize.

Saturday night, we joined a small group of folks to meet the new NIV deputy chief and her husband at Frida’s, a neat restaurant dedicated to Frida Kahlo. Good conversation, food and margaritas. It was odd because this is a pretty well-known restaurant, but it was practically empty on a Saturday night – we speculated it was due to the continuing violence in Juarez. In fact, the owner of Frida’s was gunned down a few weeks ago while he was leaving another one of his bar/restaurants.

(I came across a fairly short article about the history of vice in Juarez – click here if you are interested.)

Work got pretty interesting this week – it was my first full week in the immigrant visa section. These are people whose families are Americans or permanent residents, and the families have petitioned to get the person to live in the U.S. For the first time, I had to tell an 86-year-old woman in a wheelchair that she couldn’t go live with her daughter in CA. (Why? Because she had been living with the daughter illegally on a tourist visa for the last year, so she is denied re-entry for 10 years.) Then I got to deny a guy for 10 years because he had a string of illegal presence, attemped illegal entry, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, burglary, etc.  I was happy to tell him no. His wife stood there crying and sniffling about the children – I figured I was doing her a favor. (That said, I’m sure he was over the back border in Texas before I went to lunch that day.) Anyway, it’s interesting.

John left super-early this morning for DC. He was selected to be the Post EEO counselor, so he went to training for a week in Washington. If an employee has some sort of grievance, John will be their liaison. Once again, John is the family super-star!

We watched an odd, but good, movie this week: Lars and the Real Girl.

I uploaded some photos of the house since we got our artwork and other things delivered. We really feel at home now!

Criplomats – The Lost Weeks

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

With Border Patrol in May

With Border Patrol in May

Thanks so much to our good friend Stoker for getting Criplomats back in business!

During our little hiatus, life in Juarez has continued pretty much as normal. John was selected to work in Guadalajara for a week, which he really enjoyed. (While he was gone, I realized how much I enjoy his good lattes!) He also spent a weekend in Mexico City with his buddy and former co-worker Keith, who is still working down there with Fidelity.

Last Saturday we had a fun breakfast at the H&H Cafe and Car Wash, a tiny hole-in-the-wall with good huevos rancheros and even better people-watching. We came back to Juarez that afternoon for a surprise going away party for a co-worker. The next day, John left for Guadalajara, and I went to a small get-together for some more of the recently-arrived officers. Lots of coming and going during the summer months.

I moved over to the immigrant visa section last Monday, but ended up back in non-immigrant visas on Thursday and Friday due to the high workload there. As fas as I know, I’ll go back to IV next week.

We’ve watched a few movies in the last couple of weeks: Love in the Time of Cholera, Oceans 13, and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. I also re-read Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven while John was away in Mexico City.

I hung a hummingbird feeder and am happy to report we have a pair of black-chinned hummers. We also hung a seed feeder in the front yard, but so far there haven’t been any takers. The only birds I have seen around here are sparrows, house finches and grackles.

Flavie continues to play and want to sit in my lap, which is so pleasant. We sure miss our Noodle.