Sunday, March 30, 2008

These Shoes are Made for Walkin'

We've put our car through a lot in the past month. We drove roughly 3000 miles across Mexico, including passing through the Sierra Madres three times, and have been playing taxi to guests at Ibis' hotel. She hasn't protested too much, just asks that we give her oil a little more than normal.

The tires have been problematic since last summer. We replaced a couple different parts having to do with the brakes (there's a more detailed explanation but I've made a point to not absorb it; if you need to know more, please ask my husband) and we thought everything was fine.

This past week the grinding/knocking sound it makes when we turn has gotten a little louder, and her whine has become more high-pitched. "Must be all the dust," I said. It hasn't rained since November and I remember my old Corrolla used to scream at me when her pieces got dry and dirty. I think I mentioned it to Ibis, but I honestly don't remember. He's been driving, too, so if it was that bad I figured he'd realize it on his own.

Well... yesterday we were leaving the beach and the grinding/knocking/screaming was so loud people on the sidewalk were staring. The majority of the cars in Mexico are falling apart so if you get a look you know you're in trouble. Ibis got out of the car to check the tires (both of us being so mechanically inclined) and discovered the brakes are gone. Not only that, the shoes are wearing down and starting to eat the metal on the wheel frame.

He thinks we need both brake pads and shoes. Fabulous! Looks like I'll be walking again till we get them replaced.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How Mexico Has Changed Me - Part 2

I thought I should do a follow-up to my post the other day about ways that I've changed since moving here. While those things are all true, they make it look like my life is all palm trees and piña coladas. So here's the flip side.

I've Become a Rude Pedestrian
I'm generalizing here, but a lot of the locals here don't pay any attention to other people when walking on the sidewalk or down the middle of the street. There are also people who purposely put themselves in the way, actually take a step to the side so they are in your path and you are forced to get out of their way. After months of this happening (especially the young men & woman who try to nudge me off the sidewalk) I decided to fight back. I hold my ground while walking and make other people get out of my way. If people refuse to move (usually teenage girls) I make sure to say something. This may not sound like anything groundbreaking, but I try hard to be polite and I feel bad I've stooped to their level. I do get around much faster though.

My Body Has Weird Scars
I have a big one on my thigh that appeared overnight last spring, as well as a couple smaller ones near my knee. We think it may have been a jellyfish (long story) so that's the story I tell people. Recently a strange mark the size of a silver dollar has appeared on my side. It doesn't hurt but it's noticeable. I always have random bug bites, especially around my ankles, but there's a clump in the middle of my back that won't go away. Oh, and my toenail is still missing.

My Social Life is Nearly Non-Existent
I've always had a busy social life, whether going out to restaurants or dancing at night or playing sports during the day. Here we didn't make our first friends until November and I didn't find my first girlfriend until two months ago. I spent months and months sitting in front of the computer, reading, and watching movies. All pastimes I enjoy but I would have much rather been out having fun. Ibis and I would do things every now and then but we weren't earning any income at that time and it's tough to spend money on anything but necessities when you're in that situation. Now I've been going out a lot more and he thinks I'm trying to make up for lost time. Even so, I spend more days at home than I do out and about.

I No Longer Flinch at the Sound of Gunshots
Don't get me wrong, I still react, but now when I hear a gun fire in the neighborhood I merely turn my head to make sure nothing came through the window. Their frequency has lessened since the holidays passed, but around Christmas and New Years we heard at least 20 to 30 shots per day. New Years Eve I think each person with a gun personally fired that many. We just stay away from the windows and go about our business.

I No Longer Cry When I Hear a Dog Being Beaten
Sadly, this is another common occurrence. I do flinch when I hear the sudden cries of an animal but it no longer disrupts my day. I pause for several minutes and wish I could do something, but really, there's nothing to do. Animals are not viewed as they are in the US. The streets are filled with strays and kids learn early that it's ok to take a swing (or kick) at four-legged creatures.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Question for All the Writers Out There

I'm getting a little antsy and could use some advice.

I finished the first draft of my memoir in two and a half months, then spent the next couple months editing. I had a couple people critiquing for me and they made some suggestions that, in my opinion, strengthened the beginning. Problem is, one dropped out after a couple chapters and the other hasn't had as much free time.

I enlisted a new reader at the end of January, so now I'm back to two readers. I have another person lined up to edit once I incorporate the others' suggestions.

Here's the problem: it's taking forever to get my book back. I'm in more direct contact with one of the two but it still doesn't help me work on my book. I'm not criticizing or judging anyone for having a life and needing to focus on themselves. No one's getting paid for this so it's certainly understandable to step aside. Everyone has been honest with me and kept me somewhat in the loop about delays, but I can't help but get frustrated that it's been away from me for almost as long as it took me to write the thing.

Initially I'd hoped to start querying agents in the spring but it doesn't look like that's possible. I've thought about trying to find an additional reader but I don't know if that'll just make things more confusing.

To make sure I'm clear - I'm not mad at my readers and I try really hard not to pester them. I never asked how long this process would take and that's my fault. I've started my next project to keep myself moving forward, but I really want to get on with the query and synopsis.

My question(s) for you, dear reader, is what should I do? Am I just being a needy writer and need to calm down, or is there an understood amount of time that beta-ing should take?

Thank you in advance for your help.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Mexico Has Changed Me

Sorry for taking so long to post, this day has been non-stop. Overflowing the washing machine - and therefore flooding my three downstairs neighbors patios - is just a highlight. But here I am, as promised, with a sampling of how living in Mexico for the past year has changed me. Feel free to add to the list in comments if you think I've missed anything.

I Rarely Wear Makeup
I was never one to coat myself in makeup suitable for theater, but I rarely left home without the basics. After one summer in Mexico I've discovered why Mexican women wear so much eye makeup: it's the only thing that doesn't slide off your face. I don't own eyeliner, although I have been experimenting with darker shadows, so I tend to stay bare-faced.

I've Learned to Cook
I could cook before moving here but I didn't experiment very much. I could follow a recipe and not burn things but I didn't try things without knowing how they'd turn out, especially when cooking for someone else. Now I can cook several traditional Mexican dishes and don't even hesitate when dinner time rolls around and I need to whip something up. Perfect example: tonight I'm cooking fish in foil on the stove top. I've never tried it this way but I'm tired of fish tacos and the fish always falls apart if I just cook it in the skillet. It'll taste good, even if it looks scary.

I Can Drive Like a Mexican
Today I drove a few people to the airport and the traffic was particularly disorderly. I maneuvered through without batting an eye, talking to the people the entire time, when one of them commented I drive just like the locals. I think he meant it as a compliment because he also threw something in there about being aggressive. Go me.

I'm Much More Relaxed
Or so they say. You really can't be uptight and try to live here. Everything moves slower, takes longer, and sometimes can't be done till mañana. When I was home over Thanksgiving a friend commented that they've never seen me so calm. I'm not sure how they reflects my personality before, but I guess it's a good thing.

Oh Yeah! Spanish
I can function on my own in a Spanish speaking country. I still get tripped up on certain words but I can even understand the radio!

I Don't Mind Killing Bugs
Or ingesting the occasional ant (said as I pick an ant out of my water glass). This doesn't mean I like bugs, just that I don't scream and run when I see them. Today at the market I saw a mouse running through the produce, I pointed it out to the lady, and we shared a laugh over the ratón trying to eat the avocados. That's funny right? Please tell me that's funny. Anyway, not so scared, I just clean things extra well.

I've Become a Housewife/Taxi Driver
Every morning I sweep, put away whatever has been left out from the night before, and do endless amounts of dishes. Some days, like today, I spend hours doing laundry and mopping the floor. Although today I mopped because of the washer, but whatever. I know other people do this, too, I'm not claiming to be anything special, just pointing out how I've changed. The taxi driver bit... well, I've spent a lot of time ferrying hotel guests around town. Perhaps that's why my driving has improved.

I'm Talking Like a Canadian
This is a recent change, all thanks to my lovely girlfriend from Canada who says 'ay' every other sentence. I'm also saying 'sorry' with a long 'o'. Didn't think I'd pick up a Canadian accent in Mexico, but I did.

So, did I miss anything?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Coming Soon...

This weekend has been a little hectic with friends in town and 10,000 tourists all over the place. We're going to the beach tomorrow with our neighbors, but after that I'll put up a regular post. Coming soon: How Mexico Has Changed Me.

Happy Easter or whatever this day means to you. :)

Friday, March 21, 2008

What a Crybaby

Everyone throws a little pity party now and then. A quiet afternoon where you wallow in whatever misery has wronged you this time, a drunken night with friends to help you forget your sadness, a week in bed watching old Friends episodes (that Joey cracks me up every time). Some people may even write in a journal so they can get the icky feelings out and get on with their day.

But have you ever put all those mopey, waaaaaaaaa, my life sucks thoughts into an official document for the US government? Didn't think so.

Next month Ibis has to return to Ciudad Juarez for the second of two immigration appointments. The interview this month was all about him; this one will be all about me and why I'm better off living in the US. We've worked with our lawyer for several months, documenting every random thing I can think of that has made my life difficult. I don't get into a lot of those things in this blog, but there are plenty. I've sent her emails at all hours of the day, filled with one more obscure thing that came to me while sleeping. (The latest was that we don't have regular mail service and half the letters/cards people have sent never arrive.)

I consider myself an upbeat, optimistic person, and whenever I catch myself wallowing I try to remind myself that there are others much worse off than me. So to see all my gripes bulleted over nine pages almost made me laugh. "What a wimp!" I thought. "Is this what I've become?" I recognize that it's all true but still, who goes and writes their complaints in a list? Besides Heather Mills anyway.

The meeting isn't until April 17th so we still have plenty of anxious waiting ahead of us. In the meantime I finally made contact with my friends and made plans for several different things over the next week. Then I have another friend coming in three weeks. Lots of things to look forward to.

Ibis has tomorrow off and we're taking some hotel guests to the beach, then going to dinner with my friends, so I won't be posting tomorrow. For all of you buried in snow, I'm sorry. :) And Happy Good Friday.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Waiting for That Call

I'm sure you've all been there: you're waiting for a phone call, trying to keep yourself busy as the minutes, then hours, slowly tick by. "Why aren't they calling? Did they get in an accident? Are they just avoiding me? What's going on?"

You pace around the house looking for something, anything, to occupy your time. You finally settle in with a book and are just getting lost in the story when it hits you: the phone must not be working! You race to the phone to check for a dial tone and...

It works, right?

Not today, my friend. I can't tell you how many times I've checked for a dial tone and been disappointed to hear that familiar buzz. But now, when I'm waiting for a call from someone I haven't seen in fifteen years, my phone doesn't work.

I'm hoping it's just the cable since my internet connection is fine, but it doesn't help me right now. We use Skype to call family back home and since Ibis brings his computer to work I rang him till he messaged me back. Now he's trying to get a message to my friends so they at least know I'm not trying to avoid them.

As for why the phone doesn't work, I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Odds & Ends

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on the blog but it's spring break here in lovely Zihua. That means the kids are running around more than normal and half of Mexico has come for vacation. It's kind of like Coast Guard Festival in Grand Haven (for those of you familiar) but with less clothes, more trash and everyone has beaded hair.

My morning errands included a stop at the mercado where there was an actual tour going on. I'm assuming they came from the cruise ship that anchored this morning - one of those "See Zihua in Seven Easy Steps" tours - and they made the place more chaotic than normal. I had a few more things to do in town but opted to walk. With all the extra traffic I got faster on foot and decided to grab a quick lunch at my favorite spot near the ocean. Three hours later I'd read a good chunk of my book, met a local author and had a song sung to me by a wandering guitar player. For free.

On my way back home I noticed a group of construction workers in the median of the road, all tied together with a rope. Like a chain-gang but they seemed to be pulling someone or something out of a hole in the ground. I did a double-take and that was my mistake. They all seemed to notice me at once and started shouting at me as I walked by. First in Spanish, then in English. And there were seven or eight of them. I was only a block from my street so I tried to hurry along but their shouts encouraged the men standing outside the store I was passing and they joined in too. Twelve men, all shouting things at me. I mumbled obscenities at them but was afraid to say anything they could hear for fear they'd approach me. I made it across the street and hurried home.

Then, good news. One of my friends is coming to visit in three weeks! She thought about coming last fall but it didn't work out and this time it's really happening. Thank god for expiring frequent flier miles! Yay!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This Writing Thing

When I was writing my memoir I got into a schedule and was very good about sitting down every day and writing. This time around I seem to have spring fever. We don't really get spring down here, just a lot of dust, but that's what I'm choosing to blame for my lack of focus.

Granted, I have written on a regular basis since November so it's understandable if it takes some time to get back in the swing of things. What's crazy is I'm enjoying the writing process more this time around yet I can't seem to get my butt in the chair. It's possible my decision to write by hand is contributing to my hesitation (procrastination, whatever...) but once I finally settle down with my notebook the story streams out of me. I have more friends than I did last fall so my social calendar involves more than trips to the mercado, but I don't even feel guilty for not writing. Sure, I feel a twinge and tell myself I could've sat down for half an hour and been productive, but I'm not losing any sleep over it.

My cousin Jenna writes about putting herself on a schedule, and I know a few other writers who give themselves deadlines for word count or chapters. Perhaps that's what I need to get myself motivated. Writing by hand makes it more difficult to gauge word count and I don't want to start typing things in yet, but I suppose I can aim for 4-6 pages per day. I think that's about 1000 words, roughly the same daily goal I had for my memoir.

Do you have any tricks to keep yourself going?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wow. 33, eh?

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of my birthday I'm heading to the beach in a couple hours. Yes, that's been a bit of a theme lately. I'm going to a restaurant/bar/pool thing near the beach with a couple girlfriends, then tonight Ibis and I are going out for sushi. Yum.

This blog will return to normal tomorrow!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Enjoying Mexico

I spend a lot of time in our condo, sitting in front of the computer. I try to run in the mornings and sometimes grab a drink in town in the afternoon, but for the most part I stay home. It's always sunny and warm so I don't feel that urgency I did in Chicago; when a nice day landed in your lap you went outside and took advantage. Here, I know tomorrow will also be nice so I don't let the weather dictate my schedule.

Friday I went for a drink(s) with a friend and we sat near the ocean till well after the sunset (ironically, at a bar named Sunset). Yesterday I left the house at 10am to go to another friend's and help set up for our birthday party. By noon the house was clean, the food was prepped and the sangria was fermenting so I took a nap by her pool. I know, it's rough.

I'm not telling you this to rub it in that I'm in tropical Mexico and you're not. I'm sharing because it's taken me a full year to finally be living a life that almost resembles what all my friends back home think my life is like. I received many emails from people jealous of me sipping piña coladas by the pool while they were struggling through a Chicago spring, when my life was nowhere near that fantasy. I spent the majority of last summer holed up in our non-air-conditioned condo, only going to the beach once or twice a week despite not having a job. (I realize it sounds like I'm complaining and I'm not, just pointing out that I wasn't out galavanting as much as people might think).

Well, today I'm going back to my friend's house to help eat the leftover food, and hopefully the sangria, too, poolside. My birthday is tomorrow so I suppose it's ok to live decadently for a day or three.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The New Wip*

I'm baby-stepping towards being ready to talk about my new story idea. I'm still not ready to divulge the storyline itself, but a few things have happened that I'm anxious to share.

The whole time I was writing my memoir I was jealous of all these writers talking about character development and motivation, plot running off in an unexpected direction, characters doing things you didn't expect, new characters taking on more important roles, the list goes on and on. I could work on my character development to an extent but it felt more self-help than I really intended. Sure, I analyzed myself to figure out how I had grown over the course of the book so there would be character arc, growth, etc, but I can only do so much with my life.

The thing I heard most and that I knew I'd never experience while writing my personal story is the idea that the story writes itself. What do you mean, writes itself? My imagination is always two steps ahead of me and I can create scenarios in vivid detail without much prompting, but to have the story just flow out of your fingers without first thinking about what you're writing just sounds too... I don't know... surreal.

There's a long-standing debate between people who follow outlines and those that wing it. The outliners also tend to do a lot of research and have a very clear idea of where their story is headed. The wingers complain that outlines limit you, prevent you from following new plot bunnies that pop up as the story develops.

Both sides have merit. I followed a loose outline for my memoir but didn't need to do much research as my story was already in my journal. When the idea came for this new idea it arrived in a fully formed scene, a movie in my head. I dream that way, too. I scribbled down my ideas before they could flit away, then didn't go back to it for over a month because I couldn't decide where to go from there. I've already strayed from my original idea but I'm still using that initial spark for inspiration.

In the past few weeks I've figured out more of what's to happen, sketched out a rough outline, so to speak. I'm worried there's not enough story to fill out an entire book but I'm not getting hung up on those details right now. I had one particular detail that I knew I wanted to happen but couldn't figure out the transition to the next scene. Well, the craziest thing happened. As I was writing my pen came up with the perfect explanation. It was exactly what I'd been brainstorming but I didn't hit on it until I was "in the scene." Amazing.

I'm finally getting what all those other writers were talking about. This whole time I've been thinking it was just a fluke that I finished my memoir. Everyone writes a memoir. Sure, it's an accomplishment to get the words down (almost 100K of them in my case) but this feeling I have while writing, the way the ideas just flow without even thinking about them, that's what I've been striving for.

*wip = work in progress, not leather strappy apparatus

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I Saved the Bay!

Wow, I'm fast. On my way to buy the aforementioned t-shirt I ran into a couple friends who told me the powers that be declared they no longer plan to put the pier in Zihuatanejo Bay.

Phew! Good thing I bought my shirt. I doubt they'll make any more after this.

Apparently they plan to put the pier on the other side of the bay at Playa Larga. It's closer to the airport and further from downtown so I'm not sure how that will affect the tourists the city hopes to bring in with this new structure. They'll have to build up that area to accommodate extra people, as well as set up some kind of shuttle and improve the roads.

I'm just happy the city listened to the people!

Side Note: That's my computer, etc, behind me if you've been at all curious what my workstation looks like.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

¡Viva La Bahia!

Zihua is a small fishing village nestled in a bay off the Pacific Ocean. There are four beaches on the bay and a walking path connects two of them, Playa Principal and Playa Madera. One, Las Gatas, is only accessible by boat and our favorite, Playa La Ropa, is home of the fancy hotels.

Cruise ships stop in the bay several times per week during the high season (November through April) and there are always a number of smaller pleasure craft anchored, sometimes for weeks at a time. Since it's a fishing village, small fishing boats make up the majority of vessels in the water, but water taxis take a close second.

Why am I telling you all this? The city has proposed building a pier, un muelle, in the middle of the bay. Tourism keeps Zihua, and neighboring Ixtapa, afloat and they've decided a huge slab of concrete will bring in more money. Sure, a pier would enable more than one ship to dock at a time and speed up the process of getting all those rich tourists with itchy wallet fingers to shore, but it will destroy the natural beauty everyone who sets foot in Zihua loves.

There have been marches, parades and demonstrations protesting this muelle. I wanted to join the march but the Mexican government doesn't like it when tourists protest them (little thing about getting deported) so I've watched the commotion from the sidelines. Someone designed a t-shirt that says Viva La Bahia, Save the Bay, and I've finally decided to buy one. I'm worried that will fall into the government protest category so for now I'll only wear it at home. For all the t-shirts they sell here I've yet to buy one - I'm not big on dolphins and butterflies - but I think this is a good representation of our time here.

Here's the bay now:

This was taken on our anniversary and is the only picture I can find. I think they're all on Ibis' computer. The pier would go in right about where his head is.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shorter Post Today

I've been busy today! I had to run a few errands this morning, including a quick doctor's visit where it looks like everything is working properly. Without going into too many details my procedure last summer seems to have done the trick and I'm all clear. Just one more check in six months.

I played airport taxi again for a couple leaving Ibis' hotel and had to do a quick spot-clean before I left. The car still looks like it went on a 10-day road trip and I would be too embarrassed to drive people in it looking like that. I didn't do nearly as good a job as Ibis would but at least the sand is gone.

Tonight is one of my friend's last night in Zihua. As I've mentioned before I've gotten to know several people who come down here for the winter and most of them leave in March and April. – Gross! I just killed an ant on my forehead! – Anyway, I'm not sure if Ibis will join me since he over-celebrated last night, but it'll be fun to see our friends.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Trip Home

Happy Birthday Ibis!

As promised, here are the exciting details of our trip home. Because my tummy hurts this will be the speed-racer version. Well, MY version of speedy, anyway. ;) If you'd like to know more, by all mean, ask away!

Wednesday - left Juarez
We were on the road by 2pm and Ibis had overly lofty aspirations of reaching Durango that day. We made it to Gomez Palacio, a small town next to Torreon. I wasn't able to drive because that stage of my cold involved constant watering eyes and leaking nose. Makes it hard to see.

Things were fine till we were in the town looking for a hotel and ran over a sharp metal object. We had to unload the trunk on the sidewalk so Ibis could change the tire. I tried to look menacing to the teenagers hanging out on the next corner. We were right in front of the plaza and while I was very glad we were in a town and not on the highway, it was still scary.

We found a hotel for less than 300 pesos and man did it look it. But it had a free parking garage and Pancho Villa apparently stayed there. The sheets looked it.

Thursday - GP to Mazatlan
We skipped a shower and aimed for the coast. I'd been warned the road between Durango and Mazatlan was very slow and windy but after the drive with my dad we figured we could handle everything. I drove the first shift into the mountains and as we zipped along the cuota (toll road) we wondered what the heck our friend was talking about. Then we came to the end of the road. As in, they were still building it. Ibis tried arguing with the guy but there was no where to go but back where we came from. We had to backtrack about 10 kilometers then join the truckers on the free road.

Four hours later we emerged from the mountains and saw the ocean. Once in Mazatlan we found a nice hotel right on the ocean for only 400 pesos. It even had a balcony with a gorgeous view! We drove around town and I couldn't believe how much it's been built up since I was last there in '93. I almost missed our time share because the area has changed so much. We walked through the hotel so I could show Ibis the way I'd gotten to know Mexico as a kid and we nearly got kicked out by an over-excited security guard. At least he earns his keep.

Friday - to Guadalajara
The drive to Guadalajara was much better. We still had a few mountains to deal with but it was two-lane roads the whole way. We found a hotel near the historic district for around 500 pesos and it was nasty, nasty, nasty. Parking was included but we opted not to shower, again. We walked around town and I wasn't that thrilled with things - I blame the eight days we'd been on the road - but all that changed when we hopped on a double-decker tour bus! I'd never ridden one before and it was a wonderful way to see the city. The tour lasted almost two hours and we got to see a lot of the city. Because it was Friday night we also saw which neighborhoods are popular with which types of people. Between that and numerous Starbucks sightings we decided if the whole greencard thing doesn't work out we might try our luck in Guadalajara.

We debated staying an extra night and going to a live soccer - er, futbol - game but I was anxious to get home. The tickets were fairly expensive, too, and knowing we have to go back to Juarez in a month we decided we should be on our way.

The bed in the nasty hotel was surprisingly comfortable and I did not want to get up. I had pushed an arm chair in front of the door for added security (that'll stop thieves!) but I slept well despite the lack of a good lock. After finding a Starbucks and almost running over an already dead cat we were on our way to Manzanillo.

We arrived by 11am - the first city we got to at a reasonable time - and hated it immediately. There's a thermoelectrical plant on the south end of the city and the ocean breezes that make Mexico famous blow the smog into the bay. The city itself is nice - a happy medium between Zihua and Ixtapa, touristy AND local - but the sand was polluted with oil and the air quality ruined it for us. I did see a whale in the distance as we approached the town but that was about the only exciting thing. We had planned to stay overnight but after sharing an order of over-priced tacos we decided we'd had enough. It was time to go home.

On our maps, curvy roads are indicated by curvy lines. Makes sense, right? So we were a little frightened when the road between Manzanillo and home had almost right angles. Once again I started the drive towards the mountains - after a quick stop for a chicken. Ibis fed me as I drove and he lasted two hours without getting carsick. He's notorious for being a bad rider and if he's not driving he makes everyone and anyone sit in the backseat. I drove as carefully as I could and never made it over 40 mph so the chicken wouldn't make a second appearance. I kept waiting for something wacky to happen since my past two driving shifts involved hitting a bird, being attacked by a tumbleweed and running out of highway, but nothing happened.

We switched on the top of a mountain (long enough for a potty break) and quickly encountered two burros nuzzling on the opposite side of the road. There was a car coming towards us and trying to pass in our lane but we were able to avoid a collision. The burros never even noticed us.

Then Ibis ran over an iguana. Gross. He claims he only hit the tail so we're hoping it'll regenerate, but I'm not so sure. Depends on how much he got. We passed many dogs, all of which looked at us with a mixture of bemusement and disdain when he honked to get them out of the road.

We got to Lazaro around 7pm and felt more than a little guilty about not stopping to see him family but that would be a several hour visit, minimum. So we kept on going and arrived in town by 9pm.

All total: 3000 miles round trip / 5000 kilometers.

Zero stops at military checkpoints even though we passed by plenty.

One sunburned arm (me) since I was in the sun the entire drive home. No, the AC is not fixed yet. We're leaning more and more towards Ibis flying to Juarez next month for the second appointment but either way, at least we know what to expect.

It's good to be home!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

That's a Lot of Miles

We're home. We arrived in Zihua about 9pm last night after driving most of the day. We drove 1720 miles to get home and roughly 3000 round-trip. That's almost 5000 kilometers and 13 states!

I'd say it's good to be home but that would be an understatement. It's FANTASTIC to be home. First thing I did when we walked in the door is take a deep breath to make sure nothing had died, rotted or set up camp while we were gone. Aside from stale air all was well so we dumped our things in the middle of the floor and went out to dinner.

I'll do a more detailed update of our drive home tomorrow. I'm still not feeling 100% and I need to record what happened in my journal first. Since leaving Wednesday we stayed overnight in Gomez Palacio (next to Torreon), Mazatlan and Guadalajara, drove through both the Western and Southern Sierra Madres, and hung out for a couple hours in Manzanillo.

Ibis' next appointment in Juarez is April 17th and we still need to figure out if it's less expensive to drive again or have him fly and me stay in Zihua. The toll roads are very expensive and I need to add up the two-inch stack of receipts to see how much we actually spent.

After that appointment we will know if Ibis will get his visa. If approved, he'll get it there and we plan to return to the States once he finishes school in June. If he's denied we'll have to figure out our next step. We've been thinking Canada but we really liked Guadalajara so that's a possibility as well.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

So Many Thing I Can't Decide

For not doing much I sure have a lot to say today. I choose sub-categories.

Today is My One-Year Anniversary with Mexico
One year ago today my dad, brother and I left Michigan at dawn. We left my brother in Chicago, where he took over our old apartment, then my dad and I continued on our way. Four days later (March 8) we arrived in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan. Three months later Ibis and I moved into our condo in Zihuatanejo and nine months after that finds us here in Juarez. I still can't believe the coincidence that his immigration appointment is on the exact day I left Chicago.

Ibis is at the Consulate RIGHT NOW
I suppose I'll have to do a bonus post later today to let you all know how the interview went. He went yesterday to get things started (fingerprints, etc) so today should mostly be the interrogation. He left at 6:30am and it's almost noon and I have no idea when to expect him. I brought him a takeout box from our free breakfast buffet since he hasn't eaten anything today, then later we're going for burgers at a cheap & yummy place we found.

We're Leaving Juarez Tomorrow
Nothing personal, but this city sucks. Sure, there are suburbanite things to do but neither of us are real big on those types of activities. I can only circle a mall so many times without ripping my hair out or pushing the people strolling in front of me. Last night we ate at Applebee's so I could get a buffalo chicken salad *drool* but we normally do our best to avoid TGIF-type chain restaurants.

We plan to visit Mazatlan and Guadalajara on our way back. From the looks of things on the map I think we'll end up just stopping for lunch in Manzanillo, but I'm not sure. We may stay overnight in Durango (yee-haw!) tomorrow night so we can go to the beach in Mazatlan. We'll see how that works.

I've Created a Beauty Salon in My Hotel Room
I do a lot of cleaning at home and as a result rarely paint my nails. If my hands are every dry long enough to actually apply the lacquer the color quickly peels off after a couple sinkfuls of dishes. I've only washed dishes once since we left a week ago and that was only a few cups. Yesterday I gave myself a pedicure and put on a bright red polish, and as soon as I'm done posting this I'll do my fingernails. I also colored my hair this morning. I brought my Garnier box along in case I felt the urge and last night I felt it when Ibis looked at me and said, "Your hair, it's really dark." He's nice enough to not scream out, "Look at your roots!" and laugh hysterically, but the point was made. As of this morning the problem is solved.

Hillary is Back!
I never counted her out but last night Hillary won three of the four states having primaries and while she's still behind in delegates, she's proven she's still in the race. I don't want to get all political but it was very exciting to watch as the various precints sent in their totals. When I first turned on the television Barack was leading and was already a projected winner in Vermont, but then things swung to Hillary's side. Yay! We're just across the border from El Paso, where Bill Clinton spoke Monday night, so we feel as close to the election as we have in the past year. I'm prepared to send in my absentee ballot when the time comes but I'd love to vote in person.

*fingers crossed*

I Have a Cold
I'm blaming the smog and cooler weather. I've been sneezing and congested since we left Zihua and woke up with a horrible sore throat a couple days ago. Yesterday my entire head started leaking. I think the odors in the laundromat were partially to blame (mountain fresh scents do a number on my sinuses) but it didn't improve after we left. By the time we got back from dinner I looked like I'd been crying for awhile. I'm a little better today, just in time for the trip home.


That's all for now. I'll post a little more once I hear from Ibis.

UPDATE: Ibis is Speedy
I'd barely posted this when he walked through the door. He had his interview and said it was uneventful. They asked him a few questions about our relationship - he had to remember our anniversary! - then sent him on his way. He didn't receive his visa, as we expected, but was approved for the next step: the extreme hardship waiver.

Because he finished so soon we've decided to leave Juarez today. If we're going to pay for another hotel anyway we may as well get some distance between us and this lovely city. I'm not sure when we'll be back online so keep a light on for us. ;)

This also means that once again my nails will not be painted. *sigh*

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I see London,
I see France,
I saw Texas
While we were renewing my visa yesterday!

Ibis had his medical exam yesterday at the crack of dawn. Technically dawn had not yet cracked but he was still standing outside in line when it did. There were flurries overnight and it was still only in the 30s when he got there. Fortunately my stealthy husband cut in line - ahem, joined his friends - so he was only there for four hours. Who knows how long it would've taken if he didn't know anyone.

He had a bunch of shots and they took his blood, so combined with not eating breakfast he was pretty wiped out when he got back to the hotel. After he napped we headed for the border to renew my tourist visa.

I was more than a little freaked out that we would somehow miss a turn and end up trying to cross the border. That Ibis would get in trouble with la migra even thought we weren't really trying to get into the US. But we found the building and I had a new visa within twenty minutes. While walking back to the car we noticed the sign welcoming people to Mexico and took a picture on his phone. It looks like we were in the US, anyway.

Last night we had to go back to the medical building to pick up his results, then this morning he went to the Consulate to get things started. Basically giving them some of his paperwork and they took his digital fingerprints. Very cool. Tomorrow is the actual interview.

Today we need to find a laundromat. We somehow missed the memo that it would only be in the 30s and 40s while we're here and didn't bring enough warm clothes. I managed to spill red wine in the middle of my long sleeve shirt, only one of two I brought along. I'm freezing!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Holy Dust Storms!

Last night we left the hotel to buy dinner supplies and were attacked by pelting sand. I realize we're more or less in the desert but certainly didn't expect to be confronted by a howling dust storm. I first noticed it as we walked to the car and was trying to shield my eyes when Ibis exclaimed, "Look!"

I turned around, thinking he'd seen a transvestite crossing the street (that's for you V) or more hooligans on bicycles, but no, he was pointing at the dust. Which flew right into my eyes. Thanks dear.

We weren't in it for very long and huddled inside the hotel room for the rest of the night. This morning Ibis had to leave around 5am for his medical exam; the first of various things he needs to do before he's allowed back in the country. Our hotel has open air hallways and when I kissed him goodbye at the door - I needed to lock it behind him before going back to sleep - we were struck with a blast of cold air. I'd seen on the weather that it was supposed to get down into the 30s overnight but I was still surprised by the chilliness of it.

While running on the treadmill later this morning I saw that there were actually flurries overnight. In Mexico? What the heck? I know we're not in Zihua anymore, but dust storms and snow in a ten hour period is more than I expected! I was lucky, I got to climb back into my warm bed. Ibis had to wait in line, outdoors, for an hour and a half. At least the dust had settled by then.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Live from Juarez, Mexico!

Bienvenidos! We arrived in Ciudad Juarez Saturday afternoon - a full day sooner than we expected - but I'm just now getting to post this. Yesterday we ate at the local market and took a couple naps, then today we stopped by Home Depot and hung out at the mall. We even had decent Chinese food! Ibis has since gone back to Home Depot since I refused to spend more than half an hour there. We stayed long enough to buy a light fixture for over the bathroom vanity, then we were out of there.

The trip from Zihua was very uneventful. We left early Thursday morning and had planned to stay in Aguascalientes, but we got there by 4pm and decided to keep going until the next major town. We stayed in Zacatecas and I'm so glad we did. It's a beautiful city, very similar to Morelia but much more condensed. We found a hotel one block from the cathedral for only 400 pesos and then walked around the historical district that evening. They were filming a tourism commericial on the veranda of one of the old buildings and there's a good chance our car will be in the final product.

Friday morning we had real coffee and fresh pastries from a small shop then were back on the road. I didn't drive at all on Thursday but put in my share for the second leg of the trip. Very little happened while Ibis was driving, but during my five hours I managed to kill a bird and get attacked by a crazed tumbleweed. The bird was flying across the road and miscalculated the strength of the wind or something because it smacked into my windshield. It's actually the second time that's happened to me. We saw several tumbleweeds tumbling across the highway but I never imagined one would find its way inside the car, especially through MY window while I was driving. Scared the bejeezus out of me.

We were making good time and Ibis thought we might be able to make it all the way to Juarez on the second day, but all the warnings we've heard said the northern stretch of our trip would be the most dangerous. We opted to stay in Chihuahua and had a lovely dinner at Wendy's. The city wasn't as bad as we first thought - the downtown area, which is typically the nicer part of Mexican towns, was very run down - but the more suburban area had a lot more going on. We were only three hours from our final destination so we slept in a little and took our time over breakfast. Sadly, we did not see a single Chihuahua while we were there.

Ibis drove the final stretch to Juarez and we arrived by 1pm, then were checked into our hotel within another hour. It was nice to finally be able to settle into a room and bring everything in from the car. We brought a lot of food and water along for the drive but left it in the car overnight because we weren't always able to park near the hotel. In Zacatecas we were only two blocks away but it's a hilly city and we had to climb many many stairs to get there... so only the essentials made it to the room.

I kept a notes during the drive and have a few stats to share.

Day One
Animals That Ran in Front of the Car: 1 coyote, 1 goat, 1 squirrel, and almost an entire herd of goats.

Military Checkpoints and How Many Stopped Us: 2/2

Day Two
Animals That Hit the Car: 1 bird

Other Animals: we passed many many cows but one cattle farm in particular stood out - there must have been several thousand within a couple acres. Moo.

Tumbleweed Encounters: 1, the one that flew into my window

Military Checkpoints and How Many Stopped Us: 2/3*

*we were not stopped at a checkpoint that asked if we were transporting fruit or vegetables, despite the bananas and apples in the backseat.

Day Three
Animals That Ran in Front of the Car: None; there is nothing in that stretch, only desert

Tumbleweed Encounters: 1, Ibis hit one that stayed attached to the front of the car, then gradually shed it's pieces as we continued down the road

Military Checkpoints and How Many Stopped Us: 1/1

We figured out that the military guys were most likely stopping us because of how far we'd traveled. The first thing they ask is where you're from and where you're going, and we'd traveled a long way. One of the searches on my shift was particularly thorough: they looked in the engine, under the seats, looked for hidden compartments, searched all our bags and even questioned our 4L bottle of wine!

That's all for tonight. I'll post more after Ibis has his medical appointment tomorrow.