20 January 2017

Looking Out, Looking In

We didn't always live by the fence. When Hector first arrived, he lived in a different neighborhood, close to the border, but not like we are now. Then he lived up on a hill, where we could look into San Diego, but it was in the distance and easily ignored. When I joined Hector here, we lived far enough into Tijuana where I didn't think about the fence at all. Now we live practically pushed up against it. When I open my front door, the fence is right there, staring me in the face. It's presence is a constant reminder of the "here" and the "there".

When Hector was first arrived in Tijuana, I was angry. I was scared. I did a lot of blaming and finger pointing, most of it directed at the United States. How dare they separate my family? How dare they take my children's father from them? What kind of government would intentionally wreck the lives of its own citizens? Every time I visited Tijuana, the fence was a hideous reminder of the life I had lost. I hated the fence, with it's hideous flood lighting illuminating midnight and seen for miles off. I hated the barbed wire, feeling like it pierced my own heart.

After moving to Tijuana, the fence became less of an issue. I began to accept that this was the life that I was going to live. The government just did what it does- millions of times in the last 8 years. The fence became less of a problem as the line to cross consumed my hatred. My job and circumstance began to fill the place that the fence had occupied. I did not look at the fence regularly, and it became a case of "out of sight, out of mind". My feelings toward my situation changed. I no longer blamed the U.S. for my situation. I blamed - and still blame- ourselves for what had happened. I can look back and see all the mistakes that Hector and I made over and over that led up to that fateful day.

But now, there it is. It looms on the bluff just above our apartment, the flood lights pouring in through the screen door. Sometimes the border patrol perches their Jeep up between the fences, and I wonder if they're watching me turning on the gas or leaving for work. They could with a good pair of binoculars. Their cameras are pointed right down the street and I wonder what they could possibly be monitoring that's so interesting. The fence gets a lot of thought, but none at all. It is just part of the scenery, but it makes you think and remember. It is almost like a public memorial. It makes me recall my journey to this exact moment, to this exact place. It makes me think about the evolution of my relationship with the it. But most of all it simply reminds me that my family is all together on one side of it. It doesn't necessarily matter which side it's on.

18 January 2017

52WGC|Week Three

Welcome to week three of the 52-Week Gratitude Challenge. I started this challenge for 2017 as a way to recognize the small things in my life that make it magical and worth living. Other posts can be found here.


Week three of the challenge invites me to focus on my family. Well, I have no issue being grateful for them and to them. My family puts up with a lot from me. I leave my house insanely early to get to work now that I am on foot. I get home insanely late. I am sometimes gone for fifteen hours a day. In that time, I leave before we spend any time together and I get home when every one is asleep. All for a job that feeds them and puts a roof over them. But that is not all there is needed in life. Life is more than food and shelter and basic needs. There are other needs that cannot be met for them while I'm working the way I do. I know this and I lived this with a mother who worked three jobs and I never saw. I wanted for nothing, except maternal affection. I know the effects that this has on a child growing up. But what else could I do in my current state? I must work, and I have to travel far to get there. Hector stays home and has to me mother and father to the kids, which is something that does not come very naturally for either of us. He has to do homeschool and shuffle kids from one activity to the next, all while maintaining a house and caring for Leo, and do it without a car. Sometimes we know we've bitten off more than we can chew, but we're already too late to back out. 

Cecilia has been the savior of us all, helping with the baby, with cooking, and with housework. I'm afraid sometimes that we'll become too dependent on her- she's still only a little girl. She wants to play dollies and visit her friends, but instead she's been having to take up a role far beyond her years. She puts Leo to sleep every night. He lights up when she enters the room. Leo has not once called me 'Mama', or anything for that matter. He says "Cece" and goes to her. He adores her and she him, but sometimes she does not want to be a pseudo-mama. She just wants to do her homework uninterrupted or hang out with her mama. Can I really fault her for that? Without her, Hector would have to put Isaias into public school. Without her, my house would probably never get clean, cars would not get worked on. Hector would probably lose his mind from being forced into a role that he never expected to take on without getting a break, a break that Cecilia's help gives him.

When I chose this life of being the main bread winner, I knew that I would have to sacrifice a lot. I knew that Hector was going to have to sacrifice a lot. I never realized how much my children were going to have to sacrifice as well. I know that I would not have chose a different life for our family- separation was not an option, but I may have been able to prepare ourselves for this kind of life a little differently. Now we're in the thick of the battles of daily life and I can only tell my family thank you, for making it possible for me to work. I can only continue to care for them from afar, putting in the hours that get me to and from my job, that physically support them. I try my best to give them love and attention on my days off, but I know it is a poor substitue for having your mother there most of the time. We are losing out on time with each other for the sake of a job. I must work so their physical needs are met. I am only sorry that their emotional needs are not, a sacrifice we are all making. 

16 January 2017

The Rainy Season

The rainy season for the San Diego area is technically the "winter" months. It rains a few times usually December through March. Tijuana is not quite the desert, but it is a drier climate than Oregon ever was. I am more acclimated to the rain and cooler temperatures than my peers. Rainy days are the contempt of most natives of this area. I, on the other hand, relish walking in the rain. The cool droplets on my face give me a small taste of home. The cooler temperatures give me a shiver, but the feeling is one of longing for a life that's passed. The rain in Tijuana is rarely the same type of rain that would fall in Oregon. The air is not as cold. The raindrops themselves feel warmer on the skin, and wearing a damp hoodie quickly becomes suffocating instead of freezing. However, the real difference between the rain here is not what it feels like, but the effect it has on the city and its people. 

The major difference is the flooding. Oregon floods, sometimes massively. The rivers and creeks often overflow into wetlands surrounding the waterway. Tijuana is almost entirely concrete. The city is a topographical mess of hills, vallies, and mesas. The streets themselves are victims of the overcrowded, urban environment: there's garbage and debris all over. Usually, it's maybe a piece here and another over there. But come any day with more than an inch of rainfall, and the landscape and pieces of junk in the road become part of a recipe for disaster. The rain washes down to the slick cemented hills headed toward the Tijuana River. The bumps and potholes that can be treacherous in dry daylight become traps for all of this semi-floating junk. All of these things act like a dam, with water filling up behind it.

I don't know if the city was designed by people who don't usually deal with rain, but many places lack any type of drainage at all. The uneven walkways and roads turn into temporary ponds, as water flowing from the hills turns into muddy waterfalls. There's no where for the trapped water to go except wait for the sun to come out and evaporate. The road remain flooded and people have to drive through it, risking car engines, hitting potholes, or splashing pedestrians. Sometimes I wonder why the city was designed like this, but then I recall that it's Tijuana- there seems no point to road design or planning. How can a city just 'deal' like this? There seems to be no urgency or need to try and remedy this problem. No one seems to mind, except that no one really goes out when it rains, save the few of us idiots that still try to go to work. For all of the work Tijuana puts into making themselves seem like a "modern" city, they should at least come up with a solution for the run off.

The rainy season is just one of those annoying things that remind me that however 'modern' Tijuana seems, that it's really not quite. Tijuana is not the U.S. no matter how close the fence is. It's easy to forget, sitting in my living room watching a movie in English, speaking English with my kids and Hector. Sometimes I forget that we're not in Oregon. And then, upon stepping outside, I'm rudely reminded of the reality of my situation. Some things are very similar, like rain. Some things are not, like rain.