Archive for August, 2009

What a weird world

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

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With Martha at the opening of our new Consulate gym

I went to the juvenile detention center this week to visit our Americans detained there. The group of 6 included two kids in for homicide. I just never thought that I’d have a job where I’m chatting it up across a small desk with folks who have killed other people. Very odd.

On the feel good side of the coin, I also met a young kid there who has been given a chance to turn his life around. I guess that the authorities in charge of the detention center recognized his athletic talent, and got him hooked up with the professional soccer team here in Juarez. Now he’s training with them and has an offer to play for their divison two league when he is released. I asked him if he realized how lucky he was and he just grinned and said “This is my dream and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

John got a new toy this week: a new carbon bike – he loves it! We went over to El Paso on Wednesday night to pick it up, then went for a nice dinner at Geske’s. He took it out for a long ride Saturday morning while I was at work. He just got in today (Sunday) from another ride.

The work week was pretty busy. I was happy to get a recycling program approved and funds committed, so I spent a  lot of time picking out trash cans to put around the Consulate.

We had a great speaker at work this week, a woman named Perla Bustamante, who won a gold medal in running (and set a world record) at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 (and at the age of 44!). She’s from Juarez and was a very dynamic and inspirational speaker. After her talk, she stayed to cut the ribbon on our new Consulate gym.

Friday night, John and I went to a baseball game in El Paso with a bunch of folks from work – it was a beautiful night and reminded me of many evenings spent in Little Rock watching the Travs.

To Nuevo Casas Grandes

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

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With souvenir Menonite cheese

On Wednesday, I headed down to a small town about three hours from here to do a passport outreach, where the local American residents could come in and apply for their passports. I went with four local staff and another officer. It was fun but a lot of work! We took almost three hundred applications during the two days we were there, which is pretty incredible.

It’s an interesting area because there are two Mormon communities outside of Nuevo Casas Grandes – one is polygamist while the other is not. We would have the family of one man in front of us one minute, with his other family a bit later. Colonia LeBaron, the polygamist colony, had a terrible tragedy a month or so ago, when two of their members were assasinated by the narcos in retalition for them speaking out against the narcos (after the narcos kidnapped another family member). There are also relatives of Mitt Romney down there (one was also kidnapped and released not too long ago).

This trip was also a valuable lesson for me. I didn’t realize that before we could start our work, I would need to meet with the mayor (“I’m sorry Mr. Mayor, but I can’t spend the afternoon siteseeing with you, but what a kind offer!”) and that I would be beseiged by press and interview requests. It’s a very small town!

The rest of the week was low-key – John and I had dinner at Los Bichis Monday night after work, then massage night on Tuesday.

Saturday morning, John broke his record by riding 50 miles on his bike – fanastic! He’s back at it this morning as I write.

We watched several movies this weekend, including “Babel,” “Waltz with Bashir” and “Doubt” – all good.

Good week

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

It was a good but busy week at work. I finished up duty Wednesday morning and am able to return to my regular schedule. I had a couple of disturbing calls on Sunday and spent some time talking to Americans who were having problems in Mexico. Hopefully, they will have good outcomes. The violence here continues – I think Juarez is on track to meet or exceed last year’s number of homicides, despite an increased military presence here. It’s depressing.

On the upside, I had a few good social outings. John took me out for a nice dinner on Wednesday to celebrate the end of duty week. I went out with some of the girls from local staff on Thursday night for drinks after work. They are so funny, cute and smart – we laughed a lot. John and I spent Tuesday night down at Michael and Teresa’s house yakking – they’re always fun, and we got to play with their puppy. Then last night, we went to a birthday party for our neighbor Lara across the street that was a lot of fun.

Wednesday was an admin day, so we had some meetings in the morning, then I went to do prison visits in the afternoon – always interesting!

We watched a few movies this week – “O Jerusalem,” “Madagascar 2″ and “About Schmidt” – I had seen “About Schmidt” when it first came out, but we had been wanting to see it again – so funny.

John’s off cycling this morning – he’s having such a good time with it. He had his personal best of 45 miles yesterday – bravo!

Duty week

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

It’s duty week for me, which means I’m on-call 24/7 for emergencies. It also means that I have to open the Consulate building at 6 AM and close it at 6:15 PM, so it makes for long days. So far, I haven’t had any big emergencies, fingers crossed!

Last Sunday, John and I watched a good cop movie with Edward Norton called “Pride and Glory.” I also made a yummy chicken curry for lunch, and John grilled steaks for dinner.

The week was pretty low-key, just work as usual. We had a couple of brownbag lunch meetings that were interesting.  Wednesday night, I had a nice dinner with one of my favorite co-workers, Pam, at a local Mexican restaurant – she and I work together in ACS.

Yesterday we went to a small get-together at our friends Whitney and Ali’s house – they have a new baby who is cute. Afterwards, we stopped by a neighborhood BBQ that our Mexican neighbors were having – they were a lot of fun and it was a pretty evening to sit outside.

I also stopped by a co-worker’s house after work one night to see their new beagle puppy – he’s cute. And I dog-sat for Jasper on Saturday for a couple of hours while Michael and Teresa were in El Paso for the day. He’s a sweet, well-behaved puppy. He really likes John and “helped” him roast coffee and would whimper if John went inside – cute!

Happy birthday to cousin James today!

Five months to go

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

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Michael and Teresa with Jasper

It’s hard to believe we’ll be leaving here in five months! We don’t have a definite departure date yet, but it’s going to be here before we know it!

We had a good, but busy, week. Last Sunday, John made a great pork dish that we served over rice  – yum! We also watched a couple of movies – we especially enjoyed “The Great Buck Howard” with John Malkovich. It had an interesting magician angle that made it interesting, plus it’s just a great story.

Book club was at our house on Monday night. We had a small group, but an interesting discussion on “Three Cups of Tea.” It’s a true story of an American mountain climber who starts building schools in remote parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Check it out.

Tuesday was massage night – my muscles are feeling a lot better with the weekly sessions.

We had to have the radio replaced in the truck this week, so we dropped it off in El Paso on Wednesday night and picked it up Thursday night. I have to say that crossing back into Mexico at rush hour in 100+ degree heat is not my favorite thing to do! The air conditioner on the Volvo just won’t work without overheating, despite multiple mechanics looking at it. I’ll probably just live with it until we go to Israel and I trade her in.

While in El Paso, we had a great dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Geske’s. They have great hamburgers and nice entrees. I had a well-earned martini after dealing with a particularly irritating client at work.

Friday was an admin day at work. I spent the morning at the local jail visiting seven American prisoners. In the afternoon, I got some desk work done and also did a phone interview with a new prisoner. We had a great dinner at Michael and Teresa’s and really got caught up on our gossip! And we enjoyed playing with their new pound puppy, Jasper – what a cutie!

I worked most of the day Saturday, then we went to a nice birthday party for a co-worker – we called it an early night and crashed.

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