20 March 2017

Playas de Tijuana

I had a day off. I get these weekly, like most people, but my days off are usually just as busy, or busier than the days that I go to work. I finally needed to get some air, so I decided that we should go walking on the boardwalk at the beach here in Tijuana. It turns out, the boardwalk, and the adjoining city park that butts up against the border fence is a vibrant and alive place full of art.

First of all, last year there were some very high tides that erroded a huge chunk of the beach away, exposing muddy cliffs. People have taken advantage of this medium to make some amazing sculptures in the cliff faces:
So much love

The sun and the moon

Horses in love

The greatest love story ever told

Love the planet

Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the artists. I didn't even know these were here until I followed Cecilia aross the pebbled beach looking to see if any tide pool/sea gardens have started growing in the rubble from last winter's storms (they haven't). The walk is pretty inaccessible for anyone unsteady on their feet, and in located directly under the cliff at the southern end of the boardwalk, down by the firefighters/lifeguards.

Heading north on the boardwalk means that you run right into the ugly border fence, However, Tijuana is a city with an exploding art scence, and the world is the canvas of these artists. They've managed to take something as ugly as the giant fence and turn it into something that causes people to think about its underlying meanings.
Isn't it already high enough?

At least it's trying to blend in

Looking up

Mexico is putting these metal signs all over. I love them.

In distress.

The northen-most limit of the Republic


In Memoriam

Two sides of the same wall

I liked this whale. 

Tabasco is an Eden.

I posted this last picture on my Instagram account. Hector had never really been here to the park before, and I had only come this close to the fence a couple of times on my own. We never talk much about the fence, but I thought this image of Hector was rather powerful. There is a life we lived before, and a life we live now. He was glancing through the fence, something I don't ever recall him doing, back at a life that we will never live again. 

Playas de Tijuana is a great, inexpensive escape for the people of Tijuana. Yes, we could drive further south to Rosarito or Ensenada, but Playas is a 15 minute drive, and it doesn't have a lot of the extras geared to tourists. It's a place for picknicking and being with family. Most of our Playas trips are just fun days at the beach. On this particular day, our trip was full of surprises and emotions that we had tried not to feel for some time. 

17 March 2017

52WGC|Week Eleven

So, welcome back to the 52 week gratitude challenge. I have been struggling to keep up with the challenge, but I'm trucking right along. Week eleven's post is a little late, and it asks me to focus on a person who inspires me. I wrote in the intro to my last 52WGC post that I do not like writing about people other than my immediate family, as it is rude and intrusive to their privacy, but today I am writing about someone who has made my life in Mexico a bit more liveable. Hopefully, she'll forgive me and get over it.

My sister-in-law Corrina picked up and moved to Mexico almost right after her husband was deported. She loaded down her car and her kids and moved into the world's crappiest apartment. She didn't speak the language that well. She didn't have a job. She sold almost all of her belongings and said good-bye to Oregon. Her first year in Mexico was probably worse for her than mine was for me. She didn't hesitate to come like I had. It's true our situations of our previous lives were different, but at the end of the day, she was braver than I was. She inspired me to take the plunge and come. Seeing her survive made me realize that maybe I could survive.

I think she might wish that I had a different picture for this post,
but it was in my phone. Ill take another soon, I promise.
When I first came, we lived with her in her apartment. We shared food and tried to make our lives work. We butted heads a lot. It's difficult when ten people are shoved into one house. We moved out and have been pretty solitary since, but Corrina and I still always depend on each other. Sometimes, it's a simple thing, like needing a ride to work when a car breaks down or picking a kid up from school. Other times it's something serious, like being at the ER when the other is too sick to drive, and our husband's can't cross. Sometimes Mexico is not a fun, happy, colorful place. Sometimes homesickness gets the best of us, and there's no one else who can rally relate. Sometimes the culture shock still gets to you, and you have to talk to someone who really understands the sacrifices that you've made.

Corrina is that person for me. We have not always seen eye to eye. In fact, sometimes I wonder if we really even like each other. We are very different people with very different backgrounds and experiences. Her bubbly personality is sometimes more than my poor introverted self can handle. But she is always there when I truly need her. She is family, and that is a precious jewel to hang on to when you've completely uprooted your entire life.

Oh yes, she also inspires me to get off my butt and head to the gym. She'll keep me from premature death that way, I suppose. Thanks for looking out.

12 March 2017

52WGC|Week Ten

So, first of all, I owe you an explanation. I've missed 3 weeks of this challenge. I've been insanely busy, more so than usual. I've been working and doing a lot of stuff around the house that needed some attention. The past three weeks of the challenge also encouraged me to be grateful for a friend. Unfortunately, I don't have any friends in my real life that I'm comfortable sharing about publicly. I can talk about myself for years, but I can't share about those around me.  So, I'm moving on to week ten. Week ten invites me to look at myself and find 5 things that I like about myself.

I have suffered from low self-esteem since I knew what self-esteem was. I can easily pick apart my most obvious flaws, obsessing over the physical features or my lack of social skills. Finding a quality, much less five, that I like about myself is a long walk down the path of self-discovery. I have been able to learn to stop second-guessing every compliment, but accepting that there are good things about myself has taken awhile.

1. I am resilient. I have shown myself that I am brave and strong. I didn't move to Mexico right after Hector's deportation because I was afraid. I knew that I would fail. I feared the prospect of starving, of homelessness, of my marriage falling apart. I eventually did come. And it's been hard. I've faced things that I never expected to face, done things I never dreamed of doing, and gave up parts of me that I was clinging to for dear life. But I've met and overcome every challenge that I've come across. 

2. I have a knack for languages. This skill has come in handy more than I could ever imagine. Besides English and Spanish, I also speak Portuguese, and I'm beginning to learn French. I feel that speaking foreign languages is an important part of any education, because English is not theonly language in existence. It takes me about two years of daily study to become proficient in a language that I am not immersed in. When immeresed, it takes much longer for me to learn the language correctly, because I pick up too much local slang.

3. I am awkward. This is not something that love about myself, but it is something that I think I appreciate. I like being at home. I love devouring an amazing book. I am not a fan of crowded places, or being touched, or carrying on conversations with strangers. It's exhausting. Even ordering food is an activity that takes a giant pep-talk. I am perfectly content with the fact that I need to be alone a lot. I have learned that my awkwardness is just part of my personality, the way that God created me.

4. I am loyal. I am fiercely loyal to my friends, the few that thet are, my work, and of course, Hector. I defend them even when they probably don't deserve it by society standards. I stay in jobs for long periods of time, which is unusual in my line of work.

5. I am crafty.  Not cunning, but I enjoy making things. I've kept scrapbooks since 8th grade. I knit. I crochet. I make party decorations. I have an eye for things like that. I try to add a little beauty to the world every day. I have that talent and I'm proud of it. It makes me happy to make things and share them with other people. 

So, there you have it: 5 things about me that I like. As I age I recognize that I am set in my ways by now, and they're not all bad. 

08 March 2017

0% Luck, 100% Hustle

THREE SOTB blog hops in a row?! I'm on a roll! As I mentioned before 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 now March, and the theme is luck, but I'm pretty sure I'm not Irish.

I don't believe in luck. Perhaps it's my lifelong history of never being able to do something the easy way, or win much of anything, but I quit believing in luck a long time ago. I've spent my life running across people who've found ways to cheat the System, get a break, or even get ahead. But every time I've tried to copy them, I get shut down at every turn. Everything I have, I've had to hustle for.

I don't mind working hard. Well, sometimes I do. Sometimes, I'd like to take it easy, slow down, play hookie from work. But I know that I can't. There's no help for me if I slow down. While Tijuana is exceptionally cheaper than San Diego  to live in, the life of a border crosser is expensive. There's gas and food, buying household necessities, clothes, school supplies, work expenses- the costs of being alive. While my choice to live in Mexico saves me from needing a second job, I lose out on all of the "help" and "assistance" available to my coworkers from the government. I don't know how people who live in TJ manage to get help from the U.S.; most likely through less than honest information on their applications. I don't care if people do this. However, it's not an option that's ever been open to me. My only option is to work hard.

I wasn't always a hard worker. There was a time in my life when I was waiting for a rescuer. I thought that someone would come along and right all of the wrongs in my life. I pictured a life where I'd stay at home making Pinterest projects with my kids. I pictured a life that was very different than the one that I have now. Then, my plans and desires changed and I thought that I could be anything I wanted. I went to college and tried to plan for a future. But then Hector was deported and I began to learn that luck, like happiness, is what you make it.

I get tired. I'm worn out. The daily border crossing is emotionally draining. I get burned out in my career. But I keep going. Money doesn't rain from the sky. God gave me a body, and so I use it to work. Nobody is coming to help me but me. If the Lord sends a blessing that's fine, but usually it's just me and my abilities.

I don't have any luck, I have hustle. I can't stop for little men in green at the end of rainbows. I have to go to work.

07 March 2017

La Bufadora

Mexico is not all spring break parties, cacti, and loud mariachi music; Mexico is a place of rolling, green hills, wine country, and geological phenomena. La Bufadora falls into that last category. We took a little day trip from Tijuana down the coast to Ensenada, then out to this little treasure. La Bufadora is an ocean blow hole. The sea shoots up through a crevice in the rocky shoreline and sprays spectators. People come from all over to see this display of the sea. 

La Bufadora is located on the back of the peninsula on the southern edge of the Ensenada bay. To get there, we took a very scenic route through Wine Country, but the simplest way is to head south from Tijuana on the toll road from Playas, through Rosarito, and then keep heading south. Once in Ensenada, follow the signs. Once you pass the city, you come across the town of Maneradero, and you take a right down this inconspicuous road that looks like it goes nowhere. The road twists and turns through camping areas and some lowland farming areas. There are plenty of roadside shops selling home-pickled olives, fresh Olive oil, and fresh honey, along with other canned goods. You follow the road until it ends. There's a parking lot that cost us about $5. From there, you have to walk down to the cliffs. 
Ensenada is a huge port town, and cruise ships headed to Mexico almost all stop there, so there's a big tourist industry in the area. At La Bufadora, you walk down a path lined with people selling all of the usual Mexican souvenirs- ceramic knicknacks, ponchos, knock-off purses, leather sandals, and of course, there's a ton of food. Seafood is the typical choice, seeing that the ocean is about 10 feet away. We didn't stop to eat that day- we should have. The prices were typical for a tourist place: expensive for people who live in Mexico, but cheap by American standards. We also didn't buy any souvenirs because it's the same stuff sold in Tijuana's tourist areas. 

At the end of the path, there's a white building with restrooms- $10 pesos per person. They were relatively clean, but there was no soap to wash with, and no towels to set with. That is very typical in Mexico in all public restrooms. Outside of building, is a path on the cliff edge. There's a lot of nice places to take pictures, and watch the tides. However, at the back of said building, sits the bottom of the viewing area for La Bufadora. Even for a blustery February Sunday, it was really crowded. People all clambered to get a spritz of ocean on their faces. We couldn't get through to even see the water come up, so we had to go higher. 

There was a path that headed up the cliff above La Bufadora someone had built a higher viewing platform. There was almost no people up there except for a few peddlers selling coconuts.  We got a great view, looking down into the waterspout. The kids were more entertained by the hills and boulders above us than by the spraying water down below. Hector's fear of heights made us not stay for long, but we did have some fun climbing around, in places not above stone cliffs. 

La Bufadora is a fun addition to any Ensenada trip, and it made for a lovely diversion from the fast-paced life in Tijuana. I recommend heading out in the morning, because the drive from Tijuana to Ensenada takes about an hour, and La Bufadora is about 45 minutes past that. Bring change for parking and bathrooms. Exchange your dollars for pesos in Tijuana before you leave. The exchange rate in Ensenada is not as good as it would be closer to the border, and out towards La Bufadora, there were no casas de cambio. It is much easier to deal in pesos than dollars, since any merchant can take the dollar at any rate they want. Bring a sweater and mind the safety signs and railings- it's a long way down without a soft landing. Finally, enjoy one of the natural wonders that Mexico has to offer. It really is more than cheap liquor and loud parties.