13 February 2017

February SOTB Blog Hop- And A Free Printable!

Hey, look at that! I made it to TWO SOTB blog hops in a row! Woo-hoo. As I mentioned last month, this blog hop was started a couple years ago, but me and a group of fellow Mexico-dwellers have tried our hardest to revive it this year. It's February- meaning the theme is "love". I have already written a million times about how much I love Hector, so I won't bore you with that same song and dance. Instead, I thought I'd focus a little bit on my love for the Spanish language. 

I started learning Spanish around 8th grade. Schools still wanted us to know a foreign language and Spanish seemed to be more useful than French in urban Oregon. The class was just basic vocabulary, but I absorbed the words like a sponge. When I headed to high school, I learned to study. I was always an avid reader, but I realized that I needed more than reading the mock conversations provided in my text book. I copied them by hand. I copied verb conjugations repeatedly. I filled notebooks with grammar rules and irregular verbs and nouns. I read the Spanish-English dictionary cover to cover. By the time that I was a senior in high school, I was in a class for native Spanish speakers. I never thought then that the language of my daily activities would one day be Spanish. I learned because I wanted to possess the knowledge. I'd write Hector letters and try to impress him. I'd watch Spanish TV to get my pronunciation correct. 

What I love about Spanish is how incredibly simple it is as a language. It is phonetic- everything is spelled exactly as it sounds. Of course, it can sound completely different in different countries or in different parts of Mexico. Sometimes Hector and I will listen to people and try and guess where they are from based on their accent. Spanish, because of it's phonetic nature and gender-associated nouns, it is a language that is perfect for poetry and music. It is very easy to rhyme, although no one writes me any sonnets. Music is always part of life here in Mexico, as I'm sure it is elsewhere. There is always something playing somewhere in the background as you go anywhere. 

While I conduct most of our daily business with the outside world in Spanish, we still speak English at home. Isaias still struggles with Spanish, even though we do lessons with him. It's very difficult to give up your mother tongue completely, I've noticed. I've dreamt in Spanish, a sign that I'm bilingual- but I still don't feel bilingual. I have a hard time with Tijuanisms and the local slang here. I struggle with being confident in my language abilities. I say the wrong word every now and again, but I try and I keep trying. That's where real language learning takes place: immersion. I copied textbooks and dictionaries until my hands cramped up and I couldn't write any more, but book learning only takes you so far. Immersing myself in the language, and not forcing the other person to use English, has been the greatest education I have given myself. Words are magic, says Dumbledore, and by learning Spanish, I increased the magic in my life.  

To celebrate Valentine's Day and my love of the Spanish language, I made this printable, with free digital elements found here, for you to download and use for a love note, scrapbooking, or home decor. Just click here and save it to your computer.

Happy Valentine's Day! ¡Feliz día de San Valentín! ¡Feliz día de amor y amistad!

What do my fellow South of the Border Sisters love? Check them out in this month's blog hop:

11 February 2017

52WGC|Week Six- Tijuana Edition

Welcome to week six 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 in the series can be found here.

Week six of the challenge invites me to take a look at what makes me grateful for the city I live in. Sometimes, it is very difficult to love Tijuana. It is filled with increasing crime, poverty, and sad stories. Children have been hurt and taken from the streets here. The sex trafficking and tourism industry is ripe. There's insane overcrowding in areas near the border. The pollution is awful. The hopeless deported wander the streets aimlessly, dreaming of crossing again. Tijuana is not a place that is historically known as a place to better yourself. Most people have the impression that Tijuana is dirty and crime-ridden. In fact, most people believe Tijuana to be an unsafe place, especially for me as an American woman. Stereotypes are brought about and perpetuated by having a twinge of truth in them. Tijuana has a lot of awful things going on in it's streets. But, Tijuana has grown on me with time, and I'm learning to not necessarily love, but like this place.

Tijuana is a family-friendly place. There are parks everywhere. These aren't exactly like parks in the U.S. It's not a small grassy area with a play structure. These parks are expansive and are fun. There's a zoo, lakes with paddle boats, amusement park rides, arts and crafts, and restaurants. There's an amazing science museum here with all kinds of interactive exhibits that kids can learn with. There's play structures and schools. There's even a holiday dedicated to celebrating children. There's a small aquarium, the IMAX theater, and the history museum. The dirty streets are overpowered by the lively street art culture here. And of course, there's the gastronomy- tacos for days.

But the real reason that I love Tijuana is that Tijuana is where the whole world comes together. I've met Haitians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, American Expats, Canadians, Chinese, Japanese people, and people from all over Africa. Then of course there's Mexicans from every state in the republic and every indigenous group from Mexico. And then the Americans are further divided into groups by our areas of origin, and our reasons for emigration. Then there are the deported people who were all over the U.S. Tijuana is the real melting pot of the Americas. It boasts the title of "Most Visited City in the World", and it's easy to see why. The current political climate in the U.S. no longer lends itself to being the "melting pot" of the world. Tijuana has taken up that torch from Lady Liberty.

Not only is Tijuana this big mixture of people from all over, but they are kind to me. We are all immigrants here, from one place or another in this city. I live here, but I am not from here. Tijuana has given my family the opportunity to keep my family together. It's given my child the opportunity to go to school. It's given me a place to start my life over with minimal hassle. It's given Hector a type of freedom he never knew and helped him connect with himself and his Mexican background. I am grateful for this city, it's people and it's customs. Tijuana is such a mixture of everything: near and far, old and new, developing and modern. Tijuana is a welcoming place, even if it doesn't look like it at first. I am grateful for the city that adopted me when I was made to leave my home and was sent adrift in this world.

09 February 2017

Unnecessary Tragedy

There are children kidnapped every day, all over the world. They are taken by a non-custodial parent, another relative, a family friend, or complete strangers. We don't like to think that these things happen. We hear about them happening on the news and we think "how terrible", then we move on about our day. We get AMBER alerts on our phone, but rarely do we see the suspect car. But sometimes, there is a case that completely rocks us to our core, and changes us and our thinking. For me, it was the case of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis.

Ashley on the left, Mirandaon the right
They were my age (13), lived in the next town over, and they disappeared from the school bus stop at the end of their driveway in the morning daylight. Ashley disappeared first. Miranda disappeared 6 weeks later. There were searches. They had a spot on America's Most Wanted a few times. They were both found 8 months later burried in their neighbor's yard. My parents took me to the memorial that had sprung up around the house where they were found on the police barricade. I brought a bouquet of grocery store flowers. We had to park several blocks away because there were so many people and news crews to get through. The fencing put up around the property was completely covered- no one could see through to the police working behind it. In the aftermath of that experience, I was much more careful about how I went places. I was more aware of my surroundings and even of people that I knew.  I didn't visit people's houses except for a very select few. Their faces were always in my mind, and have remained so- they are never forgotten.

For Cecilia, the case that will forever alter the course of her tiny life will be Memffis Marroquin de Leon. On November 14, 2016, ten-year-old Memffis was walking home from school in her uniform. She called to tell her mom that she was two blocks away, but she never made it. An AMBER alert went out for her, but nothing came of it. Days went by and her face showed up in every Tijuana Facebook group, in every telephone pole, and in every business front. I made her Missing Person poster my Facebook cover photo. I followed the case with obsession. As Christmas approached, I began to beg God to return her. There was a rumor that she had been seen in southern Mexico. I began to pray that maybe she was sold into the sex trade or was being held for ransom somewhere. As awful as that sounds and as traumatizing to her it would be, I was praying that she was alive and would be returned to her mother. The trail went cold, but we kept sharing her picture and her mother and the community kept looking.

On the morning of Friday, February 3rd, the badly-decomposed body of a girl matching Memffis' description was found in an abandoned lot about 2 miles from where she was last seen. She was wrapped in a garbage bag. The news was devastating to the community- but Memffis' mother kept saying that she would continue searching. However, on Tuesday, February  7th, DNA results confirmed that the body was in fact beautiful Memffis, and the continued autopsy showed that she died from asphyxiation on or around the day she disappeared and had no signs of sexual abuse. As the news came in, I felt the despair in my gut overtake me. How does a mother go on living after this? How can someone do this to a little girl?

Personally, this case is one that has completely shaken me the way that Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis had. I have a ten-year-old daughter, who doesn't look all that different than Memffis. The reason why Hector does not hold a job outside of the house is because I don't trust anyone with my children. Hector and I being without the children is so very rare that I don't remember the last time it happened. This horrific case has solidified my reasoning to never let Cecilia, or either of the boys, leave anywhere without a parent. We drop her off at the gate for school, and we pick her up at the gate. There's no reason for her to go anywhere without us. Visits with friends have to be supervised by one of us. We're considering homeschool for middle school for Cecilia and continuing homeschooling for the boys as well. I'm not ashamed when people accuse me of 'sheltering' my children. That's my job- to protect them. And since I know that the world is a scary place, I will do everything in my motherly capacity and power to make sure that I don't have to live the nightmare that mothers of missing or dead children live. I beg God in my prayers to never take my babies from me; to never have to bury one of my children. If God takes my child from me, I cannot stop His plan, but I won't give them up without a fight. I weep for Memffis, Ashley, and Miranda. I weep for their mothers. And I weep for this world, because there are people in it that do such things to children.

At the time of this posting, Memffis' killer(s) have not been found.