20 October 2016

Tijuana "Autumn"

-Autumn is my favorite season. My birthday is in October, and the warm autumn colors prepare me for the upcoming cold of winter. Or at least, they did. Unfortunately, the autumn of my past life in Oregon does not exist here .Here, the weather continues in the 70s and 80s, the trees continue to be green, and the flowers continue to bloom. The lack of four defined seasons was very difficult to get used to my first year here. I've learned that I have to create my own autumn. Yes, the flowers are still in full bloom, yes the trees are green, but the night air is a bit crisper. There is pumpkin spice in the stores. Halloween costumes are hot ticket items in the markets.

How does one recreate autumn in a place that it doesn't exist? Well, step one is to buy yourself a pumpkin. That is what I did for myself for my birthday, I also bought a Halloween door hanger and a Halloween welcome mat. If you surround yourself with autumn things, you begin to think that is is autumn, even when your sweating out 12 lbs.

Fall is around in places. I found these few fallen leaves in Carlsbad on a family outing with my kids. I had to stop to take it in. I finally found some. Usually, we're so busy, I never get to notice the little details around me that scream "FALL".  Noticing autumn means to slow down and find the small details and reminders.

My welcome mat was a birthday present to myself. I was feeling so bummed, so depressed about being away from Oregon, that I bought myself some autumn. I unfortunately could not find any candy corn for myself, but this is good. I get to see this fall reminder every time I step out my front door.

There is one reminder that we cannot escape- there is the rainy season that is approaching. Here the rainy season is somewhere from late fall through late winter. There isn't much rain or accumulation throughout the season, but nothing says "home" to me like rainy fall days.

Not everything is autumn. There is still reminders of the endless summer that is this place. I had always dreamed of a place of palm trees and flowers, but I didn't know that it would mean giving up my truly favorite season. Now if the temperatures could drop into at least the 60s and 70s instead of the 80s, I would finally find my fall.

15 August 2016

Border Life

Living on the edge of two nations that are so tightly related is the most interesting experience. Tijuana is so Americanized that it could hardly be called Mexico, and yet, when I pop into the US, people speak Spanish to me. I now have a job, a real CNA job that I love and hate all at the same time. I love it because I simply love what I do. I hate it because I don't relate to anyone with my cross-border lifestyle, and it's very difficult to make friends. This post is a glimpse into my cross-border life, and what makes it so darn difficult.

7:00ish AM- Leo wakes up. This wouldn't be so bad if he hadn't woken up 3-4 times throughout the night.

7:45ish AM- I finally get up, and begin checking what The Line is like. The line reigns supreme here in TJ, even for people who don't cross. If the line is slow and long, no one is going to get downtown or to Playas very quickly.

8:00-9:00 AM- This time period is filled with getting ready for work, which means eating breakfast, getting the kids all ready, heating up the hot water for showers, and me actually showering and dressing. I also have to pack my work bag- 1 gallon of water, a breast pump, milk storage bags, Cecilia's lunch box, and my wallet and phone charger.

9:00-10:00ish AM- Obsessively check Facebook posts about The Line. Depending on the reports of fellow Tijuanenses, I decide what time to leave home.

10:30ish AM - The average time we all load into the car and head to the line. Because it's summer and Cecilia has no school, we have been doing the Line as a family.

10:30 AM-12:30 PM- 2 hours is an average line time for us at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The kids get bored, Leo gets hot, Hector drives the line for most of the time. This is our family time. Right before I get to the gate, Hector and the kids all get out of the car. I take over driving and they go up to the pedestrian bridge that they will take to walk home. Hector tells me which caseta is moving the fastest and which line to get into.

12:30 PM- I get across into the US. I stop by a grocery store and buy my lunch for the day. Then I drive the 30-plus miles to the town where my job is located.

1:00-1:30 PM- I get to work. I don't start for another hour, but since Leo cannot drink any formula without getting sick, I have to pump. The only real place I get to pump unbothered is in my car. Go me.

2:00 PM- I clean up my pump and put the milk away in the employee fridge. I get ready to start my work day. The next time that I'll get to pump will be my lunch break.

10:30 PM- Get off work and drive the 30-plus miles home. Hopefully, Mexican customs doesn't "randomly" stop me.

11:00 PM- Get home from work. The kids should all be asleep. At least Leo should be. I change out of my scrubs and into my pajamas.

11:15-12 AM- I pump once more, just to make sure Leo will have enough milk for the next day. Since he is still so needy, it is extremely difficult to get time where he isn't attached to me on my days off to pump and build up a freezer stash.

12:30 AM- Go to bed and do it all the next day.

Sometimes, the line is super fast and I cross quickly, sometimes by 11:30. That means Hector is with the kids for 3 hours before I even start my shift. Sometimes, the line is very slow and I have to pump while in the line, and once it took 4 hours and I was late to work. I spend about 5 hours of quality awake time with my Leo a day, and most of it is spent sitting in a car or me rushing around him. He barely knows who I am except that I am his food source.

Is it worth it? Sometimes I don't know. I make decent money, enough for us to live humbly, but comfortably. But I am not living at home. I am living in my car, in a state of constant commuting. My patient's remark what I am "tired already?", and I explain that I've already had a full day even before starting my shift. Will I keep it up? Absolutely. While I may be lonely and missing my family, they will be clothes, housed, and fed. There is nothing more that I need than that. It's not that I want lots of money and that is why I work like I do and commute like I do. We have just enough, and it is finally nice to be able to be caught up.

22 June 2016

Cecilia's First Holy Communion

We are Catholic. I try hard to raise my children to understand their faith enough to explain it to others who may not understand. Part of growing up Catholic is receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time. Cecilia has taken classes every Saturday for two years to lead up to this moment.
First Communions in Mexico tend to be large social gatherings, where friends and family get together to mark this important life event. However, we are not incredibly social. Our family is very small and Hector and I prefer to keep to ourselves. The large party that usually accompanies this event was absent on this day. Instead, we tried to keep the focus on the sacrament. As Catholics, we believe that the bread and wine is truly transubstantiated into the literal Body and Blood of Christ. You don't get much more of a personal relationship with Christ than that. We didn't go to a salon- I did Cecilia's hair myself after Cecilia picked out a hairstyle from Facebook. Her dress had transparent sleeves, so I made her a satin cape to go along with it. I couldn't find any godparent as Mexico requires godparents for everything, so her Catechism instructor stepped in and did the favor.

We got to the church about an hour early because parking can be ridiculous. That gave me some time to take pictures in the park. I really wanted a family picture, but neither Leo nor Hector could not cooperate at the same time. I tried to get some pictures inside the church beforehand, but the hustle and bustle made it near impossible. 
Fortunately for me this time, everything in Mexico is a hustle. The church hired a couple of photographers to take pictures. I'm glad because I couldn't get a picture of Cecilia receiving for the first time. People tend not to be very nice when it comes to their kids. I get it. The photographer charged me $50 pesos per photo, about $3 USD. I was very happy with their work, and I didn't even get their business card.

After the Mass, in leiu of a party, we went out for Chinese food. Cecilia loved walking all over and having everyone see her in her dress. After eating, we went to the beach to take a couple more pictures of her.

All in all, the day was not what I had always dreamed for her. I would have loved for us to be surrounded by friends and family, but we were able to keep everything focused on what was really important. First Communion is not about the fancy dress, the party, the godparents, or the pictures. It's about Jesus, and nothing more. I hope that when Isaias and Leo make their FHC, we will be able to focus on Jesus and not on how many people show up.