Archive for July, 2009

Visit with Beth and Bruce

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

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With Beth, Bruce, and Bruce’s sister Lark

We had a wonderful visit last night with Beth, Bruce and family at Bruce’s mom’s house in El Paso – so great to see friends! Beth’s kids Ruby and Maggie are getting all grown up and beautiful. Ellen cooked up a good dinner and we had a grand old time. We also got to meet several of Ellen’s friends who were a hoot.  Bruce grew up in El Paso and his mom is still living there. It was also a treat to see Lark, who I hadn’t seen in many years.

An interesting thing about Ellen are her turtles. She has a bunch of turtles in the backyard as pets – they are so cute! A couple of them came over to sniff my toes – evidently, they thought my red toenails might be strawberries!

Earlier in the day, John went to cycle while I worked for a bit (never enough hours in the week to get my work done, it seems). After that, we went to an Employee Recreation Event at the local water park – we had a burger and visited for a while  – boy, was it hot!

This week was a little calmer than last week. We walked down to Teresa and Michael’s last Sunday night for party leftovers and visited for a while, then came home and watched “Wall-E” – cute movie.

We didn’t have anything going on during the week, so we were pretty much home every night – a nice break from the last few weeks.

Mom was put in the hospital for overnight observation on Thursday. Sue called to let me know that as Mom was driving to the hospital for lunch (her habit), she started feeling bad and her vision started getting dark. She made it to the hospital and found her blood sugar was so low, the doctors said she should have been in a coma. Evidently, she had skipped dinner the night before and had some fruit for breakfast and her blood sugar crashed. She was released the next day with instructions from the nutritionist to eat six meals a day. So, all’s well.

We had a bit of excitement near the Consulate this week. The drug violence in Juarez is on track to surpass the 1800 murders of 2008, despite the presence of 7500-10,000 federal troops in the city. Wednesday, a man was gunned down inside a Denny’s restaurant during the lunch hour just a couple of buildings down from the Consulate – supposedly one of the safest parts of town. A little too close.

I visited an American citizen in an El Paso hospital on Friday who was a bystander wounded during a shoot-out last week. The rest of the work week was filled with passport cases, many of them, well, odd. Keeps it interesting!

I’ve started mentoring a class of local staff once a week – they are taking a tough long distance learning course about American Citizen Services, so we’ll meet every Thursday to talk about the material and real life examples. Our first class was a lot of fun. Luckily, we have some long-time ACS employees in the class and they have a lot to contribute and it makes it a lot more interesting.

This morning I watched “CBS Sunday Morning” (thanks to Mary for getting me started on that -  it’s such a well-done show) – today was a special edition on animals and was great. The day is off to a good start!

Short week

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

We were off work last Monday, so this was kind of a short week – but still pretty busy.

Tuesday night was a great massage – I’m really getting spoiled. Wednesday night, we had a new officer over for dinner and had a nice visit with her. John grilled up some arrachera steak and we had lots of good veggies.

Thursday night, we stayed late at work for an interesting professional development event with two men from Border Patrol. They have some pretty good stories, as you might imagine! After that, my friend Cathy called from Nuevo Laredo and we got caught up on all of our gossip.

Friday I had a lot going on at work. I took notes for the Mission Mexico consular managers’ telephone conference. After that, we had a consular brown bag meeting over lunch. And the day was sprinkled with odd passport cases along the way!

I worked Saturday morning, trying to get caught up on some stuff while John was out cycling in New Mexico. Last night, we went to our neighbors’ 1980s party – lots of fun. John pulled together a totally preppy look – all I had that was 80-ish were my original pair of Birkenstocks, which I proudly wore (they have been re-soled once and still are great!).

We were happy to get to talk to cousin Dail on his birthday yesterday – can’t wait for home leave so we can spend some quality time with our favorite people!

We started watching a movie with Kristin Scott Thomas called “I’ve Loved You for so Long” – so far, it’s really good. Hopefully we can finish it this afternoon.

Here’s a photo from the TV show we did a couple of weeks ago.

TV Show

Here and there

Monday, July 13th, 2009

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Typical voting station in Delicias, Mexico

Last Saturday, I drove down to Chihuahua City with one of my favorite local staff members Erik in preparation for Mexico’s mid-term elections on Sunday. We left around 4PM and it’s about a four-hour drive to get down there. We spent the night and headed south for another hour or so – first to the town of Meoqui, then on to Delicias for election observation. Although there was some worry that the military might try to intimidate voters outside the polls, the most exciting thing we saw was an impromptu soccer game.

The observation was interesting. We hit 15 polling stations – all the folks were really nice, although somewhat confused about why this tall curly-headed gringa wanted to watch people vote. It all appeared very controlled and orderly, and seemed to be a good social occasion for all.

We got back to Chihuahua City around 9PM – hot and tired. The restaurants finally started serving alcohol again, so we stopped at Applebee’s for a late dinner and a much-deserved drink - Mexico shuts down serving alcohol the night before the election, to prevent hungover or rowdy voters.

The next morning, we teamed up with our boss and local staff supervisor and visited the state prison. We saw around eight prisoners, then went to the juvenile facility to see a minor. After that, we went to the child services facility to visit a baby American citizen. Erik and I finally headed back and got home around 8PM.

Tuesday’s massage felt great after riding around in the bumpy armored SUV for three days! We were busy at work – I had my first encounter with a very angry American citizen pretty much right off the bat that morning – welcome back!

Wednesday I went with local staff Lalo to repatriate an American minor to Alamogordo, NM – about a two-hour drive from the Consulate. It was nice to get out of the office, and also good to know the kid was headed home.

Then, vacation! We flew to Las Vegas on Thursday for TAM (The Amazing Meeting), an annual critical thinking conference. It was a lot of fun with a lot of good information, although we weren’t as jazzed about the line-up as in the past. That said, I got to see my favorite doctor speak, Dr. Steve Novella, and it’s always a treat to see Michael Shermer. There was a great panel discussion on the anti-vaccination movement (yes, there are people who (wrongly) believe vaccines cause autism). We met some very interesting folks, too. Oh, and they had a good magic show with Mac King, one of our all-time favorites (honestly, if you are going to Vegas, you have to see his show at Harrah’s – even if you don’t like magic, you’ll laugh till you cry).

We left mid-morning on Sunday to come back to Juarez. Today (Monday) is our re-entry day, as John calls it – just a day off from work to spend at home. Flavie was glad to see us! Our neighbor Michael took care of her and watered the yard.

Thanks to our good friend Stoker who fixed the blog after the database was mysteriously deleted!

Keep moving

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

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At the 4th of July party with Pam, Sharipova and a guest

Another busy week – I’m ready for a break!

Last Sunday night, we had our good friends Beth and Tom over for a farewell dinner. John smoked a delicious chicken and we had a good visit with them before they left town. We’ll see them again in DC in February, but we’ll sure miss them here in Juarez.

Monday night we hosted book club. I have to admit I didn’t get around to reading the book this month – oops! But it was a good discussion and a good turnout.

Tuesday evening I was ready to relax with a massage – I’m really enjoying getting them again. It makes such a difference, especially after so much computer work all week.

Thursday morning, I went with some other ELOs from the Consulate to a local TV station for a “Cooking with the Consul” segment on their morning show. We were supposed to cook things that are traditionally American food – I took the easy route and made root beer floats, which were a big hit. It was a fun diversion from a typical work day.

Thursday night, we had our 4th of July party on the Consulate grounds. It was a lot of fun, and the weather turned off somewhat cool, which made for a nice outdoor party. I spent a lot of time talking with some of the folks from the TV station – they are young and funny.

We were off work yesterday for the 4th. John and I took Kerry with us to Las Cruces. We went the back roads so John could show us where he rides his bike on the weekends – really pretty, and man, he’s going a long way! Last weekend, he went 39 miles! Then we went to the bookstore – while John and Kerry were shopping for books, I walked over to a bakery that I’ve seen before but never have visited. I bought a yummy loaf of rosemary ciabatta bread. We stopped at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants on the way out of town where we had some of the best cheese dip I’ve ever had.

Last night we watched a good movie that my friend Jim recommended, “The Beautiful Country.” Very good.

John went off to ride this morning and I’m getting ready to leave for a couple of days for a combination of observing Mexican elections tomorrow and visiting prisoners down around Chihuahua City. More on that next week!