Today is a strange day. I’m not exactly sure why, but it just feels weird. It’s actually quite gloomy outside today. The torrential rains overnight have ensured that the ground is still saturated. And the forecast is for more rain later on today. It is apparent that the rainy season here in Guadalajara that was to have ended in August still lingers on into October. I’m a little skeptical of what scientists have labelled “Global Warming”.
I check my Facebook page and note that one of my Canadian friends has shared more than twenty links in the past five minutes. Most are the usual affirmations but not a personal note on any of them. I wonder what she is up to besides her Facebook addiction.
And I must admit that I have a new addiction. It began when I was recovering from surgery last year and it is called Candy Crush. I have a significant number of friends who are also addicted, and we conscientiously send each other lives and extra moves every day. I justify this activity as a great stress reliever, although sometimes I wonder if it merely adds to the stress.
Stress? You have stress in your life? But you live in Mexico. How can there be stress in your life? Let’s see…………deciding where to live, finding a job, obtaining a work visa, trying to get health insurance, avoiding flash flooding in the inclement weather. I think you get the idea. It doesn’t matter where you live. Stress is everywhere. The trick is to manage stress so as to minimize the damage it is capable of doing.
I also have a major publishing deadline coming up at the end of October. I am about to publish my second book. Those of you who know me well fully understand the reasons which have caused the delay in getting this book out. But it is now finally happening, and I have a confirmed date of May 5th, 2015 for a book launch back in Winnipeg. “Alive Again! “
My neighbor just stopped by for a short visit. Carlos is a Mexican who spent most of his life in the USA. He’s probably about twenty years old than me, but is young at heart and I enjoy spending time with him. When I was ill a couple of months ago, he cooked for me and brought me food down to the chocolate he knows I treasure. He is also a wealth of information about many things Mexican.
It was nice to sleep in this morning and spend the day writing and studying Spanish, but it’s time to prepare for the English classes I will teach later on this afternoon. And I think I will publish this blog post now before I change my mind.
When I was in Texas having an interview at the Mexican Consulate in order to obtain a work visa, I was asked some very pointed questions. Upon my return to Guadalajara, I decided to retreat to my favorite place, Parque Mirador, where I often go to contemplate life. I felt the need to ponder these questions further.
I arrived in Culiacan on Day of the Dead, November 2, 2010 after about eighteen hours of travel through five airports. The temperature was in the high 30’s celsius and the humidity was overwhelming. My house was not air-conditioned but thankfully there was a unit in my bedroom. My mantra: “You can do this Karen. It’s only for eight months!”
It is now almost four years later and I live in Guadalajara. My life is simple here. I teach, I write, I study Spanish and I travel. There are no rigid schedules to adhere to and the fast pace of life in Canada is behind me. I enjoy my relatively stress-free lifestyle immensely, although it is not by any means completely carefree.
So how did an eight month commitment become a multiple year adventure? Indeed I now find myself in a position where I am considering permanent residency here.
I miss my children. I miss seeing their faces. I miss sharing meals with them. I miss their pets. Occasionally I do hear a voice on the phone, although way too many times it’s merely a voicemail message. I feel like I am missing out on so much by not being there with them. And they have no real idea of what my life is like here in Mexico as they are reluctant to come and visit. I highly doubt that they even read my blog as it is never mentioned in our infrequent conversations.
A few times this past winter I texted my kids, concerned for their safety with all the inclement weather. Their reaction was the usual “You worry too much”. But that has always been my job as a mother. No. Wait a minute. It was never just a job. It was my life! And it still is, although my children are adults in their 30’s and I live thousands of miles away in another country.
Every day I see families together wherever I go. They enjoy picnics in parks, go to movies, go out for ice cream and go on vacations together. A flood of memories wash over me as I remember these special times with my own children. And I long to go back in time and linger for one or two minutes more in Disney World or Rawhide. Yes, I even now treasure sitting in the Minneapolis airport for hours on end during flight delays listening to Alf tell stories and buying my daughter endless cups of hot chocolate at Caribou Coffee.
My daughter is engaged and is planning to get married next year. I recall the many conversations my mother and I had planning my wedding and it saddens me that this will not be an experience I will share with my own daughter. It hurts that I will not be with her when she shops for a wedding gown or chooses invitations. In fact, by the time the wedding rolls around, it will have been more than two years since I have last seen her.
Just as I have had to accept this situation and so many others regarding my family, I question if my children have accepted my decision to remain in Mexico. It has never really been a topic of conversation for us. And I often wonder why we discuss the most trivial things while the appropriate words are never spoken about the more important things in our lives.
Communication. Do we ever truly express our feelings and concerns to others on a regular basis as we should? Or do we tiptoe around in an attempt to shelter and protect others from uncomfortable and perhaps awkward situations in our lives? And how does this affect our relationships? These are just some of the thoughts racing through my mind as I gaze out at the canyon.
Reflection and meditation. The canyon provides a safe haven for me where I can rest in the moment and view my world. For I am forever traveling on a perpetual journey to preserve an inner peace and tranquility in my heart.
It’s taken months, but I finally have my residente temporal status. I can legally work in Mexico. I can open a bank account. I can obtain health insurance. I can get a card offering discounts to seniors. I can stay here in Mexico without having to leave the country every six months.
But what an ordeal! When the new government changed all the laws in November 2012, the process became more complicated instead of simplified as promised. Piles of notarized documents were only the beginning. Thank God for FedEx!!!!!
Next came the many visits to Immigration by the director of the school where I teach. Then came the wait for the approval from Immigration in Mexico City. And weeks later the notice came that I had fifteen days to report to a Mexican consulate outside of the country.
I chose to go to McAllen, Texas as I had been there before when my tourist visa had run out back in April. I boarded an overnight bus bound for Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. ETN luxury buses are quite comfortable. I watched a movie, listened to some music and slept most of the way. In Monterrey I then took another bus to McAllen via Reynosa, Tamaulipas. After a long wait on the bridge at the border, I breezed through U.S.A. Immigration and was soon in McAllen and on my way to the Mexican Consulate.
Upon my arrival at the consulate, there were more documents and more photos required. And I was told to return the following day for an interview.
By then it was mid-afternoon and the Texas heat and humidity was taking its toll on me. I checked into a hotel, jumped in the shower and collapsed on the bed in my air-conditioned room.
A few hours later, I set out to explore and ate dinner at a restaurant nearby. I then went for a long walk before returning to my hotel room to watch a movie.
The following morning I had breakfast at the hotel and returned to the consulate. After another photo session and fingerprinting, it was time for the never ending interview. The only comment I have for that is that when it was finally over, the officer said to me “This has been a successful interview. Congratulations!”
As the official document that was required to be stamped into my passport would not be ready until later in the afternoon, I headed for the mall. The locals all told me how “huge” this mall was and I was quite disappointed when I got there. La Plaza Mall is a typical small American mall and I much prefer the malls we have here in Guadalajara. But I did have a few hours to kill, so I wandered in and out of stores and made use of the food court at lunchtime.
I returned to the consulate to pick up my passport after lunch. I then headed back to the bus station to return to Mexico. At the border I was given a 30 day tourist visa upon presentation of the visa imprinted in my passport.
Back in Guadalajara, I went to Immigration to apply for the necessary work visa. I was inundated with more documents to fill out. One of these was to be completed on the computer in the Immigration office,and it was out of commission that day.
Totally overwhelmed by all these new forms, I took the list of requirements and haled the first bus back to Tlaquepaque. I needed time to process all this unexpected flurry of required information. McAllen had assured me that I would just have to exchange the visa for a card. I was not prepared for the mountains of additional paperwork.
One of the documents was for payment of fees for the visa. I had already paid a fee in Texas, and now there was an additional fee here in Mexico. In Texas it took two minutes by credit card. In Guadalajara it took ninety-two minutes; three lineups, three staff and a multitude of forms. And of course cash only.
Once I had completed all the forms, there were all the required photocopies to contend with. And then more mug shots to be taken.
I arrived back at Immigration and was delighted to discover that the computer was working properly. I finally got to speak to an officer who declared that all my papers were in order. Interestingly enough, most of the photocopies apparently were not even necessary. But I now had the coveted number and password to check the progress of my status on the internet. And I had it within the 30 day time period allowed after visiting a consulate outside of the country. And I do understand why you are given 30 days……you need them!
I checked the status on the internet periodically, but all it told me was that the visa was being processed. And then at 10:58 pm on a Monday night I received an email advising that I had forty-eight hours to go to Immigration to be fingerprinted. And only two more forms as well as mug shots were required!
The next morning I headed for Immigration, as it was my day off. One lineup to check in and a second one to get fingerprinted. And it turns out that the forms were not even needed, just the photos. I was then told to return in five days to pick up my card.
So six days later I arrive at Immigration, eagerly anticipating picking up my card. Instead I am given a slip of paper with a phone number and told to call before I return. And the voice on the other end of the phone line speaks only Spanish, and speaks very quickly. I passed the phone number on to the director of the school where I teach. For two days she called that number. Each time she was greeted by a recording that there was no-one available to take the call. I decided to just go there and hope for the best.
I will not put into writing what transpired at that last visit to Immigration. Suffice it to say that I finally left the building with my green card. The process began in March and was completed in time for Mexican Independence Day in September.