Preparing for Juarez

I belong to a few groups on Facebook. I guess one might call them support groups–as they are made up of people like us trying to get visa approval for immigration to the United States of America.

It was there I first learned that my understanding of the process for Victors waivers was incorrect. It was there I learned of the change in processing time for waivers. (They used to be processed in 4-6 months. Now the processing time is officially 13.5-18 months.) It was in one of these groups that I read something welcomed: the calendar of appointments in Juarez was updated to included new appointments for April, May, and June.

We changed Victor’s appointment from July to the last days of April. Now we are preparing for his appointment.

Once the appointment is made, we can start really preparing. Victor will have to have several appointments prior to his actual visa appointment (in which we know he will be denied). He will have an in-depth medical appointment, which costs a couple hundred dollars. The price includes of they determine that he needs additional vaccinations, etc. Some people end up paying around $500 just for the medical appointment. We are going to try to get Victor’s immunizations here at the clinic to save us $250 or more…

Additionally, he has to get fingerprinted well ahead of his visa appointment. If we were like most people, we would also need to rent a hotel room for Victor for around a week. That’s an added expense we are hoping to avoid by staying with friends.

Of course, when it comes to expenses, Victor will still need to pay for the visa appointment ($320) and for the travelogue and from Juarez. Additionally, he will need money for food, etc.

You’ve heard me tell you before this isn’t an easy process–now let me tell you that this is also not a cheap process. We will be lucky if we spend less than $1,000 USD for this step. And this isn’t even our complicated step…

Once he is denied, he will be notified of the waivers that he can file. Together, to file those papers will cost just shy of $2,000 USD. Oh, and you must pay for all of these items in advance. The payment isn’t upon approval–you pay, and really hope you get approved, because who can afford to do it all again?

The money is secondary to the stress that I feel preparing for the visa appointment. There are so many papers required, it feels like a struggle to get them together. Additionally, all documents in Spanish must be translated. That costs around $12-15 per page. Copies of the documents are to be made and labeled for quick access. The originals must accompany Victor–as they might also be requested.

Remember when I mentioned how hard it is to immigrate? I’ve said this before: I am an intelligent, literate, educated citizen…and I struggle. Now, let’s think of all the people who cross the border from a place of desperation. This isn’t easy. It isn’t quick. There is nothing about it that makes this an enjoyable experience for any of us. The only comfort Victor and I have is knowing that we serve a God who has good things planned for us.

On that note I will sign off for now.

Immigration Costs (in USD): I-130 $420+travel costs $300+translations $100+photographs $10=$830 total

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A Letter to Mexico

Dear Mexico,

Happy anniversary!  I wanted to write you to thank you for what you’ve done for me.  It was three years ago that I came to meet you–and I remember my loneliest New Year’s Eve in a hotel listening to fireworks booming outside.  I was nervous to say the least.  I had heard the worst stories about you!  In fact, that night in the hotel, I huddled beneath the blankets with great trepidation.

They said to be careful.  After all, my countrymen were disappearing by the dozens.  They said to watch what I ate and drank, and I admit, I was worried too those first few days!  They encouraged me to try to communicate with you–but it took me a few weeks to open up to you.  They weren’t always right about you, but they said what they said with the best of intentions.

Mexico, I have to tell you, they don’t really know you like I do.  They are used to walking around with their noses stuck in their smart phones.  They don’t look up enough.  If they did, they would see the curiosity on the faces of your people.  They would see the colors of the buildings (just as bright as Charleston’s Rainbow Row).  They don’t know you very well, or they wouldn’t write so much about the scary things.  And they most certainly haven’t had enough of your street food and lemonade with questionable ice.  You offer so much more than cartels, mass graves, and dishonesty.  There is a side of you that they don’t get to see enough of–and it is time you let that side show!

You have been good to me.  He used to say, “Give me your tired, your poor…” but he doesn’t really mean it.  I know.  I left when I was poor and broken– and YOU are the one that healed me.  You picked me up, and dusted off my britches.  You put band-aids on my wounds, and told me that everything would be alright.  You helped me stop looking at what I had left behind long enough to see what was ahead of me.  And the wooing… oh, how you wooed me!  Before I knew it, I was your’s for the taking.  YOU did that, Mexico.  You helped me to love again.

The first year with you, I found my heart.  What a gift you gave me in my sweet husband!  The second year you stretched my capacity to love even more–and that sweet man gave me a sweeter hijita.  She shines with the brightest of light–and I know that God’s plan for her is great.  Finally, in year three I became permanently yours–free to go and work where I will within your borders.  What will this year bring me?  What do you have in store for me now, Mexico?

I am ready.  If I have learned anything in three years, it is to embrace you with open arms.

Your’s truly,

Jania

Home Is Where God Puts Us

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I’ve been thinking about coming home. Or more specifically returning to the United States. Maybe it is just because it has been almost a year since our last visit. Maybe it’s because I miss my family. Quien sabes?

With this thought comes me entertaining the idea of beginning the lawyer talk. The immigration talk. I’ve had friends and family offer contact information for immigration lawyers, but much like Algebra at age 14, I wasn’t ready for it. Now it’s on my list of things to do this summer–sandwiched in between buying new underware and eating Vietnamese Pho. Hey! A girl has priorities!

This is scary for a couple of reasons:
1) I don’t know if I actually want to live in the U.S.
2) It is a pretty lengthy/ expensive process.
3) I don’t know that I should make that move it God wants us here.

In reference to number three, I remember life one year prior to my Mexico move. All I wanted was to be in my “place.” To be used by God. To have a family that loves him. And some pretty rotten things had to happen to get me to the point of surrender for his work in my life.

Last week at church, one of the ladies spoke along this line–about a time when she was thinking of leaving Torreón. Ultimately, she decided to stay because she felt like it was her will verses God’s will for her life. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

But still, I will begin talking to a lawyer. Because even if we decide to stay in Mexico–or head somewhere else for an international position, it would be nice if my whole family could come home together.

Someday.

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Wow… Happy Birthday to Me!

I’m a little embarrassed. 

I am a little embarrassed, as it has been nearly ONE month since I last posted.  I feel like this is the difference between being a student and a teacher.  I am always there to remind my students to write every day.  Who’s been around to remind me?

It is, however, a rather important day.  I turn 30 today!  It’s even nationally recognized, and we don’t have school today.  Just kidding.  It’s a Mexican holiday–but not one of the really important holidays (so we’re agreeing to pretend that we have no school due to the nation-wide recognition of my birth.

I can’t believe I am thirty.

I am really going to milk this one for all it’s worth:

1)  I started the day with a chocolate doughnut, chocolate milk, and then a Chocolate Covered Cherry Green Smoothie.  (The last item is actually pretty healthy–but all the health benefits were cancelled out today by the previous two items…)

2)  I woke up at my regular 4:30 to have my “Me Time.” “Me time” is usually spent working, but this morning I’ve used it wisely watching Harry Potter.

3)  I washed the dishes this morning because we got back too late last night (so they were actually yesterday’s dishes), but I won’ be washing any more today.  That means that I will probably have to wash them tomorrow, in case you were wondering…

4)  I will be eating at a restaurant today.  I will also be drinking coffee in leisure with my family.  (Can I just say something about family time?  Everyone always talks about taking dates without their kids.  Maybe it hasn’t been long enough, but we don’t really see the point.  I mean, I waited 30 years to become a mom.  Why would I let someone else watch her so that we can do something without her?)

5)  I will spend an itty-bitty teensy-weensy amount of time working.  This is actually pleasurable, as it is in preparation for my soon-to-be job as literacy coach.  My mentor and vice-principal and I will be conducting a training this Friday on Early Childhood language development.  

6)  I will look for an excuse to have people sing Las Mañanitas to me–and I won’t even feel bad about it.  I’ve waited a long time to have someone sing that to me.  I will be hoping for a mariachi for future birthdays.  

7)  I will celebrate what God has given and I am oh-so-grateful for:  life, love, and family.

Thirty will be great–I just know it!  I don’t feel the least bit sad to leave my twenties behind.  Here’s a little recap though, just for old-time’s sake:  

When I was 20 I moved to Minnesota.  When I was 21 I started college.  When I was 22 I made it a point to watch as many mid-day movies as possible. When I was 23 I graduated and moved to Florida.  When I was 24 I moved to Virginia.  When I was 25 I learned to accept myself.  When I was 26 I lived by myself for the first time.  When I was 27 I quit my job and moved to Mexico.  When I was 28 I met my husband.  When I was 29 I had my precious pichita (“baby” in Chiapas).  

Whew!

I can’t wait to see what the thirties have in store!

Take That, Taxi-Man

I like to believe the best in people.  Really.  It’s not that I am naive, but I think it does have something to do with my mama spoon-feeding me Love and Logic.  So despite the fact that I get disappointed again and again, I walk right back through the same old door.  I give people opportunity to do what’s right.

If you are white and in Mexico, someone is bound to take advantage of you.  If you’re a woman and speak very little Spanish, you can bet that will happen more often.  I love this country, so don’t get me wrong.  I love the people!  I love the culture!  I understand that taxi drivers work hard for their money every day.  But it’s just the principle…

One day, Victor and I came home from Sam’s.  We had this sweet old taxi driver, and he chatted with us the whole way.  I’ve learned that the silent taxi drivers are the ones who are usually pretty fair.  Sometimes I will get a taxi driver that wants to practice English, and I always try to chat with them.  (Like with most people, this comes out after I butcher the language a little.  I think they either feel more comfortable screwing up English or they feel sorry for me.)  In any case, this sweet old man charged us 50 pesos for a 23 pesos fare.  And we paid it.  Because he was old.  And sweet.  And you shouldn’t talk back to your elders.

But as we walked into the house, we vowed never again.

It really shouldn’t be a problem here in Torreon.  But it is.  They have a law here that every taxi is required to have a meter.  But they don’t.  The meter starts at 8 pesos.  Often you’ll get in a taxi, drive three blocks, then realize they aren’t running the meter.  This is annoying.  Victor and I have decided not to ride in taxis without meters anymore.  It’s just not worth haggling over.  We don’t even argue about it–we just wait for a taxi driver who is following the law.

I hate that it’s making me resort to my mean American ways.  While Victor tells stories about how my doctor showed up to deliver my baby without gloves (He was appalled that we had to buy the gloves.  Then we were scolded by the doula for buying the wrong size.  How does a doctor go to work without HER tools? he asked me.), I resort to guilt.  (Thank you, Mama.)

Victor will say, “This is your job.  You have to have what you need to do your job.  What if I went to put a roof on a house without tools?”

“Why don’t you have a taxi meter?” I ask.  Regardless of the driver, I always get a story about it being broken, etc.

“Well, it’s the law.  I don’t understand how you don’t have one in your car,” I say.  I tell myself that this helps…

More often than not, I just make a plan on the way home from wherever I happen to be.  If he gives me a fair fare, I will give him a tip.  If he tries to charge me too much, I won’t.  What really gets me though, is when they don’t give me my change back correctly.  This is often the older middle aged men as well.  I am sorry, I don’t buy that they can’t add.  These guys work all day for their pesos.  They can count out change like nobody’s business.  This is also a  take-advantage-of-the-nice-lady act.  I don’t give them tips either.

Victor says I need to call them out on it.  But there’s the whole issue of respect.  How do I tell an old man that he’s being dishonest?  He also says I need to just speak English when they pretend to not understand me–just to show them how it feels.  I say Victor was probably not treated too kindly in the States either…

Today, I finally did it though.  I had an eye doctor appointment.  I struggled out the door of the place lugging my car-seat with my hunk-of-burnin’-love inside.  She was fussy, wanted to eat, and wanted to sleep.  So once outside, I put the seat down and picked her up.  I put my super cute diaper bag inside her seat.  And I waited.  Before long, I heard a honk, saw a wave, and the bright yellow taxi turned around.  The man hopped out to help me.  This isn’t unusual, as I am a woman with a baby.  But he also had a broken beer bottle in the back seat, so I was grateful.

We drove back to my house, and he got out to put my car-seat up on the curb.  Then I asked the price.  And he told me a price too high.  So I gave him my I’m-so-disappointed-in-you look (Once again: thanks, Mom!) and replied with the correct price.  Do you know what he had the nerve to say?

“But I helped you.  There’s no tip?”

Ahem.  Perhaps, taxi-man, you should come into my second grade classroom for a day.  We learn that we shouldn’t expect anything for helping others.  What happened to you?  Did your teacher reward you with candy when you did things that you should do?  I didn’t say this, of course.

Instead, I just said, “Well, don’t help me if you’re going to charge me extra.”

Take that, taxi-man!