Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Different Kind of PSA

This morning I was chatting online with Aaron about my wip, he gave me a great tip for a way to fix the plot hole I'd stumbled into, when suddenly BLAMMO! The power went out. This happens frequently so I wasn't surprised, and the power came on pretty quickly. First the fan, then the modem and the phone, then Ibis' computer. But mine? Nothing.

I pushed the button. Nothing.

Ibis suggested I wait a bit, for what I'm not sure, but it sounded reasonable to me. I showered and got ready for the day, then came back to the computer.


About this time nausea was taking over. I mentally ran through the things I would lose if my computer was gone forever and some freelance work was the only item I came up with. Sucky, but not the end of the world. I'd just burned cds of all my pictures, and I always back up my writing, so that was safe.

Half an hour later Ibis had my computer flipped over and was searching for a reset button (there doesn't appear to be one). I was already thinking of the new computer I'd have to buy - laptop or desktop - when I heard the glorious orchestral opening that Macs make when they boot up.

"What did you do? How did you fix it?"

He pressed the button for a really long time. Voila!

So, this is a long-winded way to remind you, via Public Service Announcement, to BACK UP your work!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ooh, Pretty

Another beautiful sunset last night.

I finally got a picture with Ibis in front of his masterpiece.

Thanks for all the support on the editing issues. You're all making me feel more like a "real" writer every day!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Redundant Repetition

I've noticed something about myself about myself during the edit stage of my novel: I have a tendency to use a word several times, in very close proximity. I know this is a common mistake and one of the many reasons why we edit, but I've taken it even further.

I'm at roughly the 25K mark and every ten pages or so I have to find a replacement word for the duplicate. But what's weird is I will use one word twice in two sentences, then never use them again.

Weird words. Words I don't use often.

My MC glances and breathes a lot - he's trusting his life to some shady characters, what do you expect? But "swatting" someone's butt (twice in three pages), "fresh produce" (twice in one page), "tipped his bottle" (and not to drink it) - these phrases don't appear anywhere else, except for right next to each other. Then there's the occasional "slumped against" the whatever. Weird.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Public Service Message

This video has been on several blogs I read daily but I feel the need to include it here as well.

It scares the living bejeezus out of me to think there are people in the US who think Sarah Palin will be good for our country. The fact that the Republican Party thought women would only see a pair of breasts and scream "Hallelujah! Hillary didn't make it to the final round but we get to have a woman in the White House anyways!" makes me ashamed they're one half of our political machine.

The one positive thing I've heard about her is she's the only one who has actual governing experience, as opposed to Obama, Biden, or McCain, but that alone does not make a good leader. George Ryan anyone?

I don't get into politics here for a reason, but this is too important to ignore. Yes, Obama lacks international experience, but at least he recognizes that and chose a running-mate who makes up for his limitations. The odds are fair that McCain could die in office and our country will be run by a person that seems most popular for her Japanese glasses and beauty pageant photos.

I must say, well done Katie Couric for not laughing in her face.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Photo Blob

Guess what? I remembered to bring my camera with me yesterday, and as tends to happen when I carry my camera, bizarre things happen.

First, some pictures from the market.

I'm providing links for the last two because they're GROSS and I know some of you won't appreciate blood on the blog. Here's a pig's head, and here's a large, unidentifiable creature (I'm guessing a cow because of the sheer volume).

On the way home from our friend's house last night we found ourselves in the middle of a traveling rally for a local politician (who happens to be the cousin of Ibis' boss). What the pictures don't capture is the music, honking, and cheering.

This was the row of cars before we turned onto our street.

Here's one of those megaphoned-cars, as I like to call them.

I've mentioned how people customize old school Beetle's here, and this is one we passed during the parade.

Here's the median on one of the main streets. It's a typical example of the landscaping throughout Zihua.

And finally, the counter is done!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Minesweeper Video

I found this on the blog Editorial Ass. If you've ever played Minesweeper, you'll love it.

There's Something in the Air

The next step of the countertop is underway: sanding.

I awoke to the gentle hum of the sander in the other room, and it's been going strong for several hours. Ibis set up a fan so the fine black powder is staying in the kitchen - or more accurately, blowing outside - but there are new tracks throughout the house. The concrete looks really smooth to me, but I know better than to pepper him with questions about how much longer until we seal it.

(I laugh every time I say "we", like I'm doing anything...)

He has today off and this afternoon we're going to our friend's house for a pool party/BBQ. Her mom arrived yesterday - she lives here during the winter - so the party is in her honor.

My dryer still isn't working so I'm hoping to wash our linens here, then hang them to dry at her place. We have a clothesline but it's really low and the sheets would drag on the floor. Considering the state of the patio right now (see black dust above) I don't think that's a good idea. Oh, and this will only be possible if the water comes back on. I LOVE it when the pump stops working.

I finished Writing the Breakout Novel yesterday and loved it all the way through to the end. I had to laugh a little at the last chapter, which talks about getting your breakout novel published. He lays out all the steps - get agent, woo publisher, market book, and voila! Instant success. Mmm-hmmm. But all in all, I highly recommend it to anyone who dreams of being published one day or just wants to write an awesome book.

Have a great day everyone!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Notes on Zihua

Today I'd like to share with you a lot of little things you may not know about Zihuatanejo. Now and then I see things around town and think "huh, that'd be cool to mention on my blog," but it's just something in passing, not big enough to warrant an entire blog post. So now I'll do a whole post full of the little things.


The first cruise ship of the season is here! During the high season (Nov-Mar) there are sometimes three per week, and by May they're gone for the summer. Last year the first ship arrived in mid-October so I was pleasantly surprised this morning when I stepped onto the beach for my run and saw a huge ship in the bay. We can even see them from our condo, but since we can't actually see the water, it looks like a ship is parked on the trees.


Speaking of trees, whoever's on charge of horticulture here decided that trees cut into fun shapes means F-U-N for tourists. There's quite a variety, but the only figures I can make out are baskets and chickens. But trust me, the chickens are quite amusing.


And while I'm talking about chickens, the blocks surrounding the market are filled with stores selling whole chickens. They're already dead and skinned, their yellow bodies swing in the air from a bar that runs the length of the store. The prices vary depending on the size, so as you look down the row, they get bigger and the prices go higher. There's so many I sometimes do a double take because they look fake.


Vendors make the world go round, and Zihua is no different. Want a Coach bag or Versace sunglasses? Odds are there's someone on the corner selling them for a "good price. For you, good price. Almost free." I have a lovely pair of "Ray-Bans" that I purchased for $5.


Many things are also sold from trucks. Men drive through the neighborhoods, yelling out whatever they're selling. Water, gas, fruit... even the garbage truck announces itself blocks before you see it. But my favorite is the sweet potato man. He doesn't have a car - he pushes a cart that looks like a little oven. It has a smokestack and whistles just like a steamboat. You can hear him coming - "Weeeeee-eeeeeee" - in plenty of time to run outside and buy a hot sweet potato covered in sugared cream. Delicious.


I hope that gives you a little insight into our town. :)

Monday, September 22, 2008


I'm still reading Writing the Breakout Novel and it's gotten to the point that I have to have all my notebooks spread out around me while I read. Most of what the book explains is common sense but it's triggered all kinds of ideas for my novel. I kept jumping up and running over to my desk, so I finally gave in and brought my desk to the couch.

One particular comment about drawing out the details to really highlight a scene in the reader's mind inspired a whole new scene. For another book. One that had never occurred to me. I quickly wrote the opening scene - including an awesome hook - but I don't know what will happen after that. It starts with a murder, not something I thought I'd do, but I'll keep it in mind for a possible NaNo work. You're not supposed to have anything already written but I think 100 words is acceptable. (I'll check on that. If not, please don't tell.) You are permitted to outline and work on character development, so I can pour any new ideas into that over the next month.

I edited another 2500 words yesterday, bringing my count to roughly 16K. I'm not quite to the halfway mark of my notebook so I think my original guesstimate of 40K written is pretty accurate. Hopefully it's a little more. I hope to get it to at least 60K on this draft, but more would be fine too.

In other news, Ibis started smoothing the counter this morning and is currently out buying a new trowel (he'd borrowed the other one). After smoothing comes sealing, then we can put the kitchen back together. Smoothing isn't very exciting so I'll skip the pictures for today. ;)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Day Off

There hasn't been any more progress on the counter since I last posted. I've cleaned, but the floor still has a grayish tinge and the contents of the kitchen are still in the living room. Ibis has promised the next step (smoothing? sealing? not sure...) will happen tomorrow.

Meanwhile I've been busy editing The Other Side. As you know, I wrote it by hand and it's hard to do much with it until it's in the computer. I can't imagine being a writer two hundred years ago when most everything was written longhand, including all the drafts. *shudder* I'm at the 13K mark, or 45 pages, or six chapters, and I absolutely love my new keyboard. I'm not thrilled it, too, has a grayish tinge, but I plan to take care of that this afternoon.

I've been pleasantly surprised with the story so far. It's easy to forget the little scenes when they were written months ago, and overall I'm pleased with what I'm finding. I'm still reading Writing the Breakout Novel and, I tell you, it's helping me so much. Donald Maass points out so many little things that you can change to improve your writing, to elevate it to that breakout level. One example: don't overuse (or try to avoid) phrases such as "walking across the room, he answered the phone." He points out that these types of phrases show two simultaneous actions, which in itself is not all bad, but that novice writers tend to have the characters do things that cannot actually be done simultaneously. I was explaining this to Ibis earlier this morning and am unable to come up with a good example. I guess I'm a step up from novice, lol.

I knew going into these edits that there were several scenes that need more depth, more description, but so far I haven't done much of that. I did write one scene that shows my MC interacting with a secondary character that doesn't reappear until later in the book. When I finished the first draft I realized this other character had no motivation for his actions. Now he does.

I'm feeling very unenthused today but I'm going to do a little more reading and hope that gets me excited for more edits. Every chapter has given me ideas on how to improve the plot, so I imagine this next one will do the same.

Happy writing. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day Two: A Fine Layer of Soot

Ibis made a lot of progress yesterday and now the house is black. Who knew fine black powder could spread so quickly? Add to that a torrential downpour last night and we now have fine black mud. We'd run out for dinner and it was so heavy on the way home that we had to stop a block from home until the water lowered enough for us to get by in the car. We wanted to take pictures and planned to run home for the camera, but not being able to get in kind of threw off that plan. Next time.

Before I get into more pictures, I want you to check out A Really Nice Murder Blog. Our favorite Soccer Mom posted the first five of ten lessons she's learned about writing from television. It's well worth a peek.

And now, on to the pictures!

Pouring the black cement

Smoothing the black cement

The transplanted kitchen

Admiring the pour

Removing the mold for the edge

What a kitchen looks like after a day of pouring black cement (the rest of the house looked about the same)

End of day two

Friday, September 19, 2008

We're Expanding the Ant House

Ibis has two days off and yesterday he returned from running errands with supplies to build our concrete counter top. Haven't heard me mention it before? That's because so far it had only been talk. Before I left for Michigan we talked about colors (you can stain the concrete) in case he was able to have someone come in while I was gone, but when I got back and nothing had been done, I wrote it off.

Well yesterday he hauled concrete, metal caging, and all sorts of trowels, up the stairs. He ripped off part of the existing counter, which is nothing more than the top of the cabinets, then hammered down the metal to frame the concrete. The stove is inside the cabinets, the sink on the patio, and everything else is in the living room.

At one point I looked down and saw the ants scurrying all over the place, more frantic than usual.

"They're probably wondering what the hell is going on," I said

"They probably think we're adding an extension to their home."

Despite what they think, I do not plan to allow the ants to stay.

There was no warning that any of this was happening. I would have appreciated a heads up so I could make breakfast or, oh, shower, first, but I'm not complaining. I'm so excited we'll finally have a proper countertop. I think we're even getting a new sink! It's been stained since the developers built the unit and I'm tired of looking at a mess I didn't make.

And in case you're wondering, no he's never done this before. The hotel where he works is still under construction so he's consulted with the concrete guys there for all the little tricks, but we're still not sure exactly how it'll turn out.

I seem to have gone picture happy lately, but here are a few more.

Meanwhile, this is what I was doing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Books

Yes, I carried all of these on the plane with me. Yes, I paid extra, and yes, the handle of my suitcase broke. But I think it was worth it. :)

Here's a close up of the writing books. I'd really rather not type all these in, but I can clarify a title or author if you have trouble seeing it in the photo.

I'd like to thank my numerous benefactors for supplying me with this staggering supply. My mom, who bought eight of the writing books and who also let me raid her basement library. Megan, who bought four writing books plus two novels. Zoe, who sent me a writing book and became my first online friend with whom I had physical contact. My aunt Karen, who gave me five books that were all duplicates (they are all Backspace authors). I'll also thank my dad who waited patiently at the bookstore while I perused every single aisle.

Finally, a sunset picture from the other night. The sun is actually behind me in the picture; the bright spot is a cloud.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Who Knew Editing Could Be ... Fun?

This morning I started Donald Maass's'es's's Writing the Breakout Novel. I finished Self-Editing for the Fiction Writer yesterday and figured I may as well dive into the next on my list. Self-Editing was good; it pointed out a lot of amateur mistakes I didn't realize I was making (always a helpful thing from a writing book) but didn't deter me from writing altogether. I'd say my overall experience was pleasant.

But Writing the Breakout Novel made my heart race! In the foreword! I know it's silly to get so excited while reading a writing book, but I couldn't help it. The foreword in my edition is written by historical mystery writer Anne Perry, and she basically just talks about the book's goals.

Simple enough.

But I kept catching myself nodding enthusiastically* and fantasizing about the day MY book hits the bestseller list and is dubbed my breakout novel. Then I moved on to the Introduction by Mr. Maass himself and found myself agreeing with everything he said. (Of course I did, he's a GENIUS!)

Among his points is that word of mouth is the best marketing tool, but for that to work you must write a phenomenal book. No amount of publicity in the world will force people to buy a book that is below-par. I won't bore you with all his wisdom. Let's just say his pep talk really got me revved up. :)

Before my vacation I said that upon my return I'd start edits on my memoir. Funny thing, that. My novel will not get out of my head. I knew while writing the first draft that I'd have a lot of expanding to do: scenes I intentionally left short, characters that need deepening, one minor plot hole that my research uncovered. The solutions kept coming to me so I decided it'd be best to focus my energy where my passion seems to lie.

I have every intention to tackle the memoir edits - I even rewrote the opening to the final chapter on the plane home - and I may slip it in when I need a break from my novel.

All in all, not a bad place for me to be.

* This is an example of one of the things amateurs do. I included it purely to demonstrate a point. Mmm-hmmm.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Faster Than a Speeding Texter

I had a plan to demonstrate the wonderfulness of my new keyboard through a pictorial spread, but my photographer had to go to work. Instead I have one shot of me typing really fast.

I moved my fingers as fast as I could to make them blurry, but our camera is just too fast. (I'll have to remember that next time I'm complaining because it's too slow.) Then I got the bright idea to take several pictures from the same angle, then I'd lay the photos over each other so the only thing moving would be my fingers (brilliant, eh?) but Ibis was not having it. Even though you can't tell here, trust me, it RAWKS!

I'm also loving my new webcam - I had a two hour show & tell session with a friend last night; my new speakers - I jump with glee every time music booms through the relatively small boxes; and my new mouse - can you say tracking ball and FOUR buttons? And Ibis loves his new laptop too.

Today is Mexican Independence Day and last night there were fireworks in one of the neighborhoods. Normally we see them from our south facing window, but yesterday they were to the east.

Ooh, ahh.

ETA: My bags arrived last night and aside from several tears and a broken handle, everything looks fine.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"The Rainiest Day in Chicago's History"

In case you missed the news, there was a bit of rain in Chicago over the weekend. The baseball game was rained out (although we did go and I got my polish with onions) and my friend's house flooded so the BBQ was also canceled. I did manage to get my friends together at a bar on the north side of Chicago, then met with a few more later that night for dinner (mmmmm.... Cafe Iberico).

Despite the hurricane that's taking over the nation, my flights were all on time and only had a little turbulence. I almost finished the first from my huge stack of writing books (Self-Editing for the Fiction Writer) and hopped off the plane in Zihua, happy to be home.

As I watched the bags pass by on the conveyor belt, I heard a man singing "Me-la-nie..." but looked around and didn't see where it was coming from. Soon all the bags were gone and I was left standing there with another woman who looked just as puzzled as I did. I found someone with a uniform and asked if there were more bags in the plane.

"Are you Melanie Avila?" he asked.

I nodded, even more puzzled.

Then he showed me a form that said my bag "fell late." I have no idea what that means (he didn't either) but I do know it means my bag isn't lost. Perhaps it just needed a nap? I was in Mexico City for almost 4 hours so I don't know how it missed the flight, but anyway. He assured me it'd arrive within 24 hours.

*checks watch*

Still a few more to go.

In the meantime, I wasn't sure if Ibis would be able to pick me up or if he'd send a friend, but I didn't see anyone I knew. The cab drivers all pounced on me the minute I approached the door, but I assured them I had a ride. One man started talking to me so I divulged that I'm from Chicago but live here.

"Really? That guy over there is from Chicago!" he pointed at one of the many drivers.

I can guarantee I wouldn't have known this man, but I smiled politely and nodded, watching for Ibis while he kept talking. I eventually excused myself to use the pay phone, but when I got there the Chicago friend followed.

"You're from Chicago?" He watched me search for a coin slot on the pay phone (they only take cards). "Do you want to use my phone?"

I offered him money but he refused, he wanted to help out someone else from Chicago. I was pleasantly surprised he was fine with our two minute conversation and letting me use his phone (they charge per call here), especially since my bags were still on vacation.

It hasn't stopped raining since I've returned and it's so humid everything feels damp, but it is nice to be home. I am absolutely LOVING my new keyboard. If you thought I typed fast before, look out! That might be a bad thing because I can see my blogs getting longer in the future. ;)

I'll spare you for now.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Off I Go, Again

Friday I head to Chicago for the Tigers v White Sox game, with a minor detour at the Four Winns casino. Saturday my girlfriend is hosting a BBQ in my honor so I can see all my friends in one place, then Sunday I fly home.

It's been a wonderful trip home full of lots of visits and running around and I'm both happy and sad to leave. Happy to see Ibis but sad to say goodbye, again. I still have to figure out how to get everything into my two suitcases, which is why I'm posting this tonight instead of tomorrow.

I'll be back online Monday!


Today means different things to each of us. Regardless of our opinions about the state of our country, the war, or the government, all of us were affected when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

I was out of the country on this anniversary last year, and the years before that I avoided the footage as much as I could. The non-stop coverage in the hours and days following the tragedy were so overwhelming that I couldn't handle any more.

I lost my friend Craig Blass that day. I can't help but cry every time I see the towers collapse. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald but I don't know the exact details of where he was. I do know that if he wasn't killed by the planes, he died when they fell. There are few times in your life when you can watch a loved one die over and over again.

I saw him almost every day for three years in college and he touches most of my memories from that time. I've recently reestablished contact with several of his friends, guys I considered my close friends and share space in those memories of Craig.

My friend Jason organized an annual fundraiser for a scholarship in Craig's name, and it touches me to know that his friends haven't forgotten.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Books, Books, and More Books

I spent several hours at Barnes & Noble yesterday but shockingly only walked away with four books, one of which is for Ibis (some Steven Hawking thing he loves). I bought my first vampire book so I can finally see what my online friends are always talking about, plus the latest Alice Seybold book and Drowning Ruth. My mom and I also scoured her basement library, and combined with the stack of writing books she bought for me, I think I'll be set for the next six months.

Before the bookstore we stopped in a sporting goods store to look for a collapseable grill (another Ibis thing) but of course I got sidetracked. Aside from trying on sneakers and testing every eliptical machine, I managed to get in a complete arm workout with the 8 pound hand weights. Please tell me I'm not the only person who does that? I didn't buy anything but there are several things I'm mooning over.

Today I'm picking up my new glasses - no more scratches in both lenses - and meeting my best friend's sister-in-law for lunch. AND, I'm meeting my friend's mom to pick up my burned copies of the first four seasons of Alias! I have breakfast plans tomorrow with the minister who married us, but other than that I get to just sit on my butt. My plan is to finally catch up on my blog reading, so expect a slew of tardy comments. ;)

ETA: I just remembered I need to read a book my sister loaned me before heading to Chicago Friday morning, so the blog reading might have to wait a bit longer.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I'm back at my parents after several days of running all over Michigan. My dad and I may run up to the bookstore this afternoon (after we check out car parts, fun) but other than that I don't have much planned.

Since Friday I've seen several cousins, their children, my aunt & uncle, a couple more cousins, my gramma, sister, brother-in-law, a niece and nephew, and a long-lost friend. I haven't talked this much in months!

My family is big on playing word games - surprise - and my mom introduced a new one: Bananagrams. It's like Scrabble except there isn't a board and players only build on their own tiles. You start with a set number, then pick more from the pile as you complete words. It's fun because you can rearrange the words you've already built; you aren't locked into what's already been played like in Scrabble. Plus you're racing against the other players, and who doesn't love speed spelling? And the kicker - it comes in a cute little banana bag.

Do you have a favorite game I should know about?

Friday, September 5, 2008

I'm Meeting a Soon-to-Be-Famous Author Today

My mom and I leave in an hour to drive across Michigan to see family. First we're meeting an aunt and a couple cousins (and their children) for lunch, then we're going to another aunt's house before dinner. The second aunt is Karen Dionne, she of Freezing Point, her debut novel coming out next month.

I can't wait to see her in person! We last got together a couple months after I moved to Mexico, but I hadn't started writing yet so we didn't talk about that. Now I can pick her brain a bit over dinner. :) That sounds a little gross, but you know what I mean.

We're all going out to dinner with my gramma, then mom and I will stay overnight at her house. It's so nice to be back. Although I could do without the rain. ;)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm Here

My flights were fine and I arrived safely. My dad picked me up in Chicago this morning and now I'm at their home in Michigan.

I have an eye appointment in a couple hours, and the doctor's office is conveniently located next to a Mac Exchange. New keyboard & mouse (and possibly web cam and speakers...) here I come!

Did I miss anything while I was gone?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hoo Am I: The Answers

Well I feel silly. Here I named my blog What Am I Doing in Mexico?, but I neglected to answer the question. The most popular question in yesterday's comments was just that, what am I doing here? I've blathered on and on about the food, the bugs, the police - yet I never fully explained how we ended up here.

But first, the other questions and answers, plus a bonus for the most flattering question. :) And let me just say, you guys don't mess around!

Colbymarshall said... What is your favorite Disney movie and why?

My first thought was The Little Mermaid, so I'll go with that. I love the songs, plus the idea of a woman reaching for her dreams even if it means a sacrifice on her end reminds me of my own situation. (which I JUST realized as I was typing this.)

Turkey Lurkey said... What food are you looking forward to eating when you go back home this week?

I've been most looking forward to a steak and didn't find out until last night that I'm getting one tomorrow! We're having some family over for dinner and my dad is grilling.

Also, I'm having Olive Garden on Friday, a ballpark frank loaded with grilled onions next Friday at the White Sox v Tigers game, and then a BBQ at my friends house with REAL hamburgers! Yum.

Oh, and I'll probably squeeze in a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup or twelve.

AC said... I'd like to know your family's initial reaction regarding the relationship. Not just because he is Mexican (they probably didn't have a problem with that), but the overall package. Someone who: at the time, was undocumented; had limited education (in terms of schooling); had limited funds and limited prospects.... How did they reconcile your decision with unapproving whispers?

They were surprisingly understanding. I've always dated foreigners so we passed that bridge when I was in high school, but the immigration issue was a new one. They have supported us all along - even paid for our legal fees - but have made it clear they will only do that if we follow the letter of the law now. Fair enough.

As for the education, my father left school early to join the Navy, then went back later; another thing they understand. Plus Ibis didn't drop out, per se - his family couldn't afford to pay for his school. As for his prospects, we were making the same amount of money before moving here, plus he had more assets than me. :)

Robin said... Did you or Ibis dive off of that cliff like they did in the Elvis movie "Fun In Acapulco" when you were there?

That would be a NO. But we did watch the professionals do it. I'd love to go back and see them at night because rumor has it they turn off the spotlights and dive with torches.

Erica Orloff said... What is your favorite Mexican dish? What do you miss most about the US, aside from family?

That's a close call, but I'd have to say molé rojo. Mmmmm.

Obviously I miss my friends and family the most, but I'd say we miss our basic way of life. Not the shopping, or Starbucks... but being able to be surrounded with other like people. People with similar interests (movies, dancing, politics, to name a few). We were just discussing the other night what we do to stay mentally stimulated here, and it's very difficult.

Stephen Parrish said... Is it just me, or are the two of you simply gorgeous?

Since that was the only sentence with a question mark, I'm guessing that's your question? lol. I'll say no, but thank you. As to your other comment, it's in the works.

Nadine said... My question would be - if you could choose to live anywhere in the world, where would you want to live? Second question: what is your favorite book?

Right now I'd say Chicago, but I've always wanted to live in Spain. I minored in Spanish in college and studied the country quite a bit, plus I adore tapas. I've never been to Europe so this is purely off what I know if it, but yes, Spain.

I hate these types of questions, I can never pick a favorite anything. I'll say Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It spoke to me during a difficult time and I admire the way she pulled herself through her own rough period.

Janna Qualman said... Taking into account where you've lived before and your current situation, where would you live in the future? And a fresh question... How often do you worry for your personal safety in Zihua?

I'll twist this into what we'll do if we can't return to the US: we plan to move to Vancouver. It's another place neither of us have been, but between the weather, the location, the English, job opportunities, health care, it seems like something we'd like.

I don't worry about my safety very often, mostly because I spend a lot of time at home. I lived in Chicago for nine years so my sense of awareness is very high. I know ways to avoid being a rape victim, I know basic self-defense, I avoid scary alleys... If I let myself dwell on it I'd have panic attacks - I chose to get through my day.

Allen said... It seems to me that you've had the opportunity to experience what Ibis experienced when coming to the US when you moved to Mexico. Do you think that having a similar experience has given the two of you a new and better insight into the other?

It certainly has for me. He has very high standards for me; he always says I'm "so smart" that he doesn't want to accept that I can't do something. So when I have trouble with Spanish - the latest is me not wanting to call the cable company because they don't speak English - I have to remind him how hard it was when he first moved to the US.

btw, he kept insisting it was easy with the cable (we pay over the phone) but he didn't tell me there were package options, so now we have the lower version and don't have CNN, etc. That'll teach him. ;)

Spyscribbler said... I was curious about the story, when you left the States to follow Ibis. Was he deported? Did you follow right away? And leaving your job, your country, that's such a HUGE change! I think that's so brave. And romantic. :-)

Aaroncrocco said... I'm curious to know how exactly you ended up in Mexico. It seems like it would be an interesting tale. I guess I would tack on the question of do you ever plan on returning to the US?

Robin said... I'm being a major copycat and stealing from Spy and Aaron. How did you end up in Mexico? Will you guys ever come back to the States?

*deep breath*

Ok, here goes. Six months before we were married, Ibis' mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. He hadn't seen her in 12 years because he was in the US "sans papers," but knew he wouldn't let her die without seeing her. That year her health went up and down (this was the same time immigration took a front page nationally), we got married, and thought with the potential new immigration laws we'd get to stay. Three days after Christmas we got the call she was on her deathbed and we flew to Mexico, knowing he couldn't return.

He's been here ever since. I returned to Chicago for two months to shut down our lives there and start the process to get him back. My dad and I drove here in March '07, and Ibis and I lived with his family for three months in Lazaro Cardenas before moving to Zihuatanejo. Picture no running water, sharing a twin bed in a room with no door, and no one speaking English.

I'm here on a tourist visa so I can't legally work. We live off his salary as a hotel receptionist, plus any freelance I can find from the US.

We had his first immigration meeting last March (there are several posts that week about the trip), then he returned in April for the follow-up (link). Our lawyer thought our case was the strongest she'd seen, but we were told they need another 8-10 months to make a decision. That should come this winter, so for now, we wait.

We want nothing more than to return to Chicago. I don't want to say we hate it here, but we don't love it. An example: as I was writing this paragraph the power went out for half an hour. There's no storm, the sun is out, I can't see a reason for it, but that's how Mexico is sometimes. We want to move on with our lives but don't want to do it here. Sure, it's beautiful and people retire here all the time, but we were happy in Chicago and didn't want to leave. We aren't ready to "retire."

One note about his status. A lot of people assume that because we got married, he magically becomes a resident, but that's not always the case. If a person had a valid visa but it expired, then they got married, that scenario would be true. However, if a person never had a visa to begin with, the US government does not reward you with residency just because you get married. That is our scenario.

I think that about explains it. As I'm sure you've picked up over the course of my posts, my family has been beyond supportive. I'm sure they had other hopes for me, but they haven't turned away just because my life has taken a different path.


Thanks for the great questions!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hoo Am I?

Colby had a great idea, and as I do with most good ideas I stumble upon in Blogland, I'm copying. :)

I do a lot of talking about myself here, but it's occurred to me that I might be leaving something out. Is there something you've wanted to know about me? Something you keep hoping I'll bring up... but don't?

Well now is your chance. Bring it on.


And because I can't help myself, here are more pictures from our trip.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Scary Update

Back in May I posted about a raid in a town half an hour south of here, Petatlan, that ended with many people killed and one young woman kidnapped. Things have been pretty quiet since then, but we have avoided going to that town.

Yesterday at work Ibis discovered that the man whose daughter was taken (Man #1) finally took out his revenge. He sent men to kill the other man's (Man #2) wife and daughters. The wife's sister was also in the house so she was killed, too.

This morning as we walked into town the "radio cars" as I call them (vehicles with loudspeakers attached to the roof, blaring the latest news) were excited as always, but a couple words stuck out: cabeza (head), casa (house), and Petatlan. Ibis raised his hand to stop the questions about to burst out of me and listened as the car approached. He flagged the driver and held out five pesos for a newspaper.

Apparently the best friend of Man #1 disappeared yesterday and no one could find him. This morning his HEAD was found on the front step of Man #1's house.

The circle of violence continues. Stupid me looked at the paper and saw the head, close up.

Ibis was also told that Saturday afternoon a group of men attacked a truckload of federalies, killing several of them. This happened on the SAME road we were driving on, only a couple hours earlier. I guess the gunfight lasted for almost half an hour - or maybe just the spectacle - but there were helicopters and everything.

We passed a couple places where people were collecting money to pay the ransom for a kidnapped loved one, but no signs of a gun battle.

I think it's a good thing I'm going home for a couple weeks.