Archive for November, 2008

Our first visitors

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Pete and Ginger came to visit us in Juarez for the weekend – first time we’ve used the guest room! They drove over from Pittsburg, Texas, after Thanksgiving with the Texas relatives. We met them in El Paso Friday after work and had dinner in Juarez at Los Bichis.

Saturday we took them on a tour of the Consulate, stopped for burritos at Crisostomo’s, went through the Juarez market, then drove to Old Mesilla, New Mexico, for lunch. We shopped around the square, then headed home via the scenic route over the Franklin Mountains. We topped off the day with grilled arrachera steaks at home.

They headed back to Arkansas this morning – we were so glad they came to visit!

We had a lovely Thanksgiving at Caroline and Harold’s house, along with our other manager Roger and his sweet Turkish wife Aisha. Caroline is a fabulous cook – we had a feast. Harold is a great host, too. It was a nice and relaxing day.

I stayed home from work on Monday, then went back on Tuesday. Luckily it was a short week – we worked on Friday, but it was a day for desk work and no applicants.

We were most impressed by Flavia during Pete and Ginger’s visit – she actually came out of hiding and even sat on my lap while we were all talking in the living room – progress!

Here’s a shot of Caroline and her feast…


Pass the Kleenex

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

I’m fighting a cold this weekend – and feel like I’m losing the battle! I came home early from work on Friday and have pretty much been in bed since then. Hopefully I’ll be feeling better by tomorrow – our sweet neighbors just brought over a bowl of chicken soup for me!

Work was incredibly hectic this week. We were off on Monday, but worked overtime the rest of the week as we got used to the flow in the new Consulate building. We run about 1500 applicants through a day, so logistics can be challenging, even on a good day!

We enjoyed last Sunday in Silver City. We had coffee at a local coffee shop (complete with nice live acoustic guitar), then poked around a few shops and galleries. I’d like to go back sometime on a Saturday, since many places were closed on Sunday. We left there and drove to Old Mesilla (near Las Cruces) for lunch, then did our weekly grocery shopping and came on home.

Monday was a holiday here, so we just relaxed. I made pork stew again, and Michael and Teresa came down for dinner.

I’ve read a couple of good books over the last two weeks: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian. Eat Pray Love was a fun read although a little too hooey-ish for me (why don’t you quit meditating and actually do something to make the world a better place?). I really enjoyed Before You Know Kindness – very well-written and interesting fiction.

I haven’t been good about posting pictures lately – I keep forgetting the camera. Here’s a photo from a couple of months ago. We hosted a cook-out for a new incoming officer in early October – it was a lovely night, so we set up the table in the garage and invited the neighbors and a few other co-workers.

Relaxing after a hard week

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

This week was the grand opening of the new Consulate building – it’s fantastic to have a nice, safe and clean environment to work in. We’ve been working out bugs and trying to get used to our new space. We opened for business on Wednesday and had small numbers of applicants the rest of the week.

Thursday the VIPs started arriving. I helped plan a party for officers, spouses and VIPs at the Consul General’s house Thursday evening. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and the weather was nice enough to sit out back on the patio.

Friday morning we had the official ribbon-cutting, complete with a very moving flag-raising by a local high school color guard and national anthem sung by a woman from the El Paso Opera. The governor of Chihuahua was there, along with two Ambassadors. We were all busy as bees trying to make sure everything went smoothly, which it did ( Luckily, one of our officers was a professional events planner in a former life!).

Friday night John and I crashed – we had a nice dinner at Corralito’s, then opened a bottle of wine, put our feet up and watched a movie. We were pooped!

Let’s see…the rest of the week before and after the opening:  The office was closed on Tuesday for Veteran’s Day. I spent the day shopping and putzing around in El Paso.

John had a great time in Las Vegas – he got to see a lot of his magician friends at the convention. He flew home on Wednesday. We celebrated by grilling steaks and catching up over dinner.

Yesterday, John and I took off in the truck for New Mexico. We drove up to Truth or Consequences and walked around a bit. It’s an odd little town. It seemed neat, but a bit shut down for winter, so we opted to keep moving. (I wanted to go there because my friend Luke told me about a friend of his who, for his funeral procession, had his casket placed in his bass boat and pulled through town.) Before leaving the area, we made the loop up to Elephant Butte Dam – really pretty.

To get to Silver City, we drove through the Gila National Forest – gorgeous! I think we got up to 8900 feet and the temperature dropped as low as 35 degrees – we even saw snow on the roadside. It was sunset, and the views and the light were just beautiful. We saw a curious family of mule-earred deer along the way, along with bunnies and hawks. The drive through the forest was our favorite part of the trip so far.

We drove into Silver City at dark, so we just grabbed a bite to eat and checked into a hotel (where I am writing this post). Our plan is to explore around town, then head back to Juarez. Tomorrow is a Mexican holiday, so we’ll have another day to relax before going back to work.

On the Move

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

The long-waited move to the new Consulate building finally happened this week. It was a huge undertaking, as you might imagine. Wednesday was our last day of business, Thursday was a “get ready” day, and the move took place on Friday and Saturday. I worked all of those days – it was exhausting and fun at the same time. We re-open for business next Wednesday.

John celebrated his birthday this week! We had cake in his honor at work on Wednesday the 5th, then he and I went to a good Argentinian restaurant for dinner here in Juarez.

Of course Tuesday night we were glued to the election coverage, and were happy with the results. I was so pooped that I was already asleep and John had to wake me up to tell me Obama had won. The Consulate had an election night party that was attended by a lot of students and other Mexicans, but we opted to stay at home.

Friday night we went with Caroline and Harold to a new Los Bichis location near our house – very yummy and a good way to end a hard week of moving. Love their shrimp quesadillas.

John left Saturday morning for his annual trip to Las Vegas for a magician’s conference. I talked to him this morning and he’s having a blast. He managed to find the blackjack tables last night…of course!

I went to a dinner last night at Matt and Daisy’s house – they’re the couple who hosted the Halloween party last weekend. Daisy is a great cook. After the food, they broke out the karaoke machine, their trademark. I didn’t sing, but got a lot of laughs out of it from my perch on the sofa. I left around 10:30 and they were still going strong.

You’re probably aware of the violence related to drugs here in Juarez. On my way to work one day this week, the south-bound lane of an overpass I use was closed and lots of federales were there with their big guns. Later, I learned why.

The day before our move, I had lunch with the NIV local staff at the Consulate. They are mostly in their 20s, and just a super group – very smart and a lot of fun. The supervisors ordered pizza, and I ended up being the only American in the group. One of the girls started doing impersonations of other people at the Consulate (including John and me) – she was really incredible, and I don’t think I have laughed so hard in a long time. It was so much fun, and I was glad I didn’t go out for lunch with the officers – the local staff was lots more entertaining.

Flavia has been so much fun the last few weeks. John brought her some really big rubber bands and she loves to chase them and play with them. So cute!

P.S. The ancho chile pork stew that I made last week was fantastic! 

Busy week

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Once again, John and I had a busy week, and are happy about having a Sunday with absolutely nothing to do but relax.

The week started with me taking a TDYer from Monterrey to the outlet mall so she could catch up on some U.S. shopping, followed by a delicious gordito lunch at The Little Diner – which always reminds me of our former neighbor here, Martha, because she’s the one who first introduced us to it. We also made another trip to El Paso on Tuesday night with another TDYer from Merida – his wife will be happy to have some corn starch and a flour sifter – things she hasn’t been able to find down there.

Monday night we had book club at our house. The book this month was about the femincides in Juarez – we had an interesting discussion, but it was a terribly written book (“The Killing Fields“). If anyone is interested in reading about the murders, “Daughters of Juarez” was better.

Wednesday we had another professional development event at the CG’s house, this time to talk with the visiting gentlemen from the Office of the Inspector General. They joined the Foreign Service back in the 1970s and had a lot of interesting advice and observations.

We’ve also had two enjoyable dinner parties – on Thursday we went to Whitney and Ali’s for raclette – it’s basically a little grill that sits in the middle of the table – you toast raclette cheese underneath it, grill sausages on top, and eat it with boiled potatoes. Ali’s Swiss, so she always has interesting things going on!

Last night we went to Tom and Beth’s for dinner – they made a mini-Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and dressing. It was a lot of fun, and we got to meet their neighbors, a Mexican-Swiss couple.

We were surprised that we didn’t have trick-or-treaters at our house Friday night – we finally gave up on the kids and we went to Michael and Teresa’s to trick-or-treat them for a cocktail.

Yesterday John and I had a really enjoyable outing. We drove over to Las Cruces where John went to his favorite used bookstore and I wandered around the farmers’ market (I bought some yummy green chile sourdough bread). Then we wandered around the town square in Old Mesilla, where they were having their Day of the Dead celebration. Families had altars set up to honor their dead (including favorite pets) – it was interesting and moving. Just from looking at the altar, you get a feel of the person, because the families put favorite foods, hats, photos, etc.

On the way home, we took the backroads through the pecan orchards, which was really relaxing and shady. Along the way, we found a corn maze that we want to go back to.

Today will be a great stay-at-home day. I ran up to the grocery store and got ingredients to make a pork stew with ancho chiles – I’ll let you know how it turns out!