Sunday, January 4, 2015

Settling

Well, we're here. We made it. The "homelessness" of December came to an end. And our new house is great. A little overwhelming, because I've never (as an adult) had a home this large before, and I'm not convinced that four toilets are really necessary (especially not if I'm the one who has to clean them), but I do like the house. It is nice to not have to shush the older children the entire time the youngest is napping, because I finally have a home where the upstairs is just for sleeping and the downstairs is for living, and the family room is not at the bottom of the stairs making sound travel easily. So yay!

I also really like that the closet in the master bedroom is actually in the bathroom. It is nice to already have your clothes where you get dressed after a shower. So convenient.

The laundry room is on the second floor, which is pretty fantastic.

There are lots of windows and sunlights in the ceiling, so during the day I don't need to flip light switches, which I also really like about the house.

The house is super noisy right now—all of the children's noises echo massively. We're planning on buying some rugs, and once our stuff arrives, we'll get our pictures and paintings hung. I'm hopeful that will cut down on the echo.

The entire house is floored in tile. Entire house. I assume this helps the house stay cool during the months of 100+ weather. Right now it is making me grateful that I own slippers. Jeff just ordered some for himself online. It is pretty cold.

It may be because we moved here in the winter, but it is very brown. Lots of dirt, sand, and rocks. It is a desert, so perhaps I will just get used to the brown, or maybe there will be more color in the spring and summer. However, the Mexicans have compensated for the lack of color in the landscape by having very colorful homes. I love it! I love all the reds, yellows, greens, oranges, and blues! These houses are so pretty. Our house is a neutral color, but our garage is a bright color that really pops. It makes it easy to direct people to our house, because it is the only one on the street with that color garage. So cheerful. The kids love it, too. Jill has proclaimed it to be her new favorite color.

We attended our new ward (congregation) today, and everyone was really nice. Jill was pretty nervous during sacrament meeting, but after primary and Sunday school, I asked her how it went. She said, "It was good. I didn't understand what they were saying, but it was fun. My teacher knew some English words." Alice and Daniel seemed to do fine as well. Being older, Jill has been the most sensitive this move, so I am glad that she declared church as "good." I am curious to discover how long it will take them to learn Spanish.

I'm trying to think of some of the things I have noticed about Mexico that are different from the US, or at least things about Ciudad Juárez that are different from the parts of the US that I have lived in.

Happy meals come with pineapple slices instead of apple slices.

You can buy apple yogurt and grape yogurt.

The green traffic lights start flashing to warn you they are about to turn yellow.

The street lane lines are either faded or nonexistent, so I'm not always sure how many lanes there are or where my car is supposed to be.

The street name over the intersection in green is the street coming up at the next intersection. The street name over the intersection in white is the street you are currently crossing.

Police officers have their lights on at random, seemingly all the time; it does not mean you are being pulled over.

Strangers ask to have their pictures taken with my children or just pictures taken of my children, because they think my children look like dolls. I have to admit that I find this flattering. Ha.

That's all I can think of so far.

Oh, here is something I need to google or ask around about—the grocery store had a large display of fresh cactus being chopped up and bagged. What dishes do you cook with cactus? I wonder if I would like it.

The grocery store was also full of hundreds of cakes for January 6, a holiday called Epiphany, or Day of the Kings, or Three Kings' Day. Originally a Catholic holiday, it celebrates when the magi found the baby Jesus. Apparently it was traditionally the day in Mexico when gifts were exchanged, but American gift-giving on Christmas has rubbed off, so now they give gifts then as well. Or perhaps instead, I'm not sure. But January 6 does still (from what I've heard) mark the end of the Christmas holiday season, and it is when you put your Christmas decorations and lights away. Another part of the tradition is the ring-shaped epiphany cakes we saw at the grocery store. From what I've heard, you have a Kings' Day party and serve the cake, which has a figurine baked inside. Whoever discovers the figurine in his or her slice of cake gets to (has to?) throw a party for everyone present on February 2. (Mexican friends, please educate me if I'm getting any of this wrong.)

Some of our belongings are supposed to arrive in about two weeks. The remainder is supposed to arrive in two to three months. I'm hoping that since we only moved to Mexico, as opposed to Turkmenistan or Saudi Arabia or wherever, that it won't take the full two to three months. Right now, we are living off of what we had in our van and the "welcome kit" provided by the Consulate, which includes linens, dishes, kitchen items, trash cans, etc. The house is also fully furnished, so we are quite comfortable.

We are looking forward to our next two years!

The view as you drive into Mexico from El Paso.

On a sadder note, I am quickly becoming acquainted with one of the harder aspects of Foreign Service living. I had a taste of it last year while we were in Brasilia. My sister had a complicated birth with her fourth (umbilical cord prolapse), and it was very hard to be so far away, feel so helpless, and not know whether she and her daughter would make it through unscathed. Thankfully, their story has a happy ending—modern medicine worked as it can, and they are both healthy. But the waiting was so hard.

Three days after arriving here, I received an email from my mom saying that my aunt had had a heart attack. Then that afternoon, I received an email from my dad saying that my aunt had died. The viewing and funeral are later this week in Indiana, and my mom will be giving the eulogy. My mother has five brothers, so some of her sisters-in-law have been like sisters to her. This particular one, my aunt Ramona, became a Homer the same day that my mom traded in Homer for Boling. (They were married on the same day in the same temple.) So, they began with that fun connection of a shared experience and shared anniversary. Then they both had kids who were the same ages as each other, and since Aunt Ramona and her family lived near my grandparents, we got to see them a lot while I was growing up.

I got to see my aunt the day before Thanksgiving. She and my uncle had made cute little Santa Clauses for my kids with applesauce heads, juice box bodies, meat stick arms, and raisin legs. My kids ate them during this long road trip we had in December, and I was grateful for the gift and my loving aunt and uncle. I meant to tell her and Uncle Steve how much their treats were enjoyed after we arrived, but I ran out of time.

Her health has not been the greatest in recent years, but she always valued family time and made the effort to travel. She came to my wedding and the blessings of my babies.

Here is a picture of Aunt Ramona and Uncle Steve at my home in Cincinnati for a family gathering after Daniel's baby blessing in 2011.

You will be missed, Aunt Ramona.

I wish I could be closer and hug my mom on what will undoubtedly be a hard day for her. I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of wanting to be closer during hard times but instead being very far away.

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for the kind words about Aunt Ramona, Mimi. I printed this picture for Uncle Stephen. You have a generous way about you, very reminiscent of Ramona.

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  2. Great job on your blog. So sorry about your aunt. Wish Indiana were closer for you. BTW I can attest to the 3 Kings' Day. I'm on the hook for tamales Feb. 2nd. If I learn how to make them, I'll share some with you. I may just have to find a good source, though. Glad you guys are here.

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  3. Rogelio, if you have a chance to read this, you'll have to let me know if I got the January 6 holiday description all wrong and if you've ever eaten cactus. (It was being sold in the produce section, so I assume it is for consumption.)

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  4. Yes Michelle, you got "día de reyes" right, and sorry about your aunt. I think I met her one time she came here. Going back to día de reyes, I must say that hat I never had the February follow-up party hosted by whoever got the figurine. In my experience and among my circle of friends-relatives, it's never held and getting the "niño" (figurine) is just seen as something fun (or to make fun of if you get it). Some of the cakes even have more than one "muñequitos". Yes I've had nopales (cactus) before although it wasn't part of my mom's menu. Just look up "nopales recipes" and you'll find lots of options. And since we're talking about food, make sure you visit burritos Crisostomo (rajas con queso and barbacoa are my favorites, although the first one might be too hot for you but maybe not for Jeff), and finally, taquería Aaajijí for some nice tacos (look it up on Fb). They should both be close to where you live. —Rogelio

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  5. Have a great time there and remember to be safe. —Cynthia L.

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  6. Yeah that's what I remember too for Día de Reyes. Nopales were never my favorite. What ward/stake are you in? So sorry to hear about your aunt. —Dylan H.

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  7. Sorry about your Aunt Ramona Mimsy. what color is your garage? —Susi

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  8. Welcome to post! I'm so sorry to hear about your loss- that is definitely the hardest part about this life.

    Which neighborhood are you in (feel free to send it privately) and which ward do you attend? I think in our neighborhood there's only 2-3 consulate folks and we're the only ones with kids, but maybe we got lucky and have you for a neighbor! —Alicia J.

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  9. Very sorry about your family's loss. Sending love across the miles. Grateful your home is spacious and hope it is soon cozy. We miss you! —Jill F.

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  10. Nopal con cardne de puerco y salsa verde mmmm que ricismo —Jamie A.

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  11. Sounds like your getting settled ok. Sorry to hear about your aunt. —Chelle Belle

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