We are just short of two years in Ciudad Juárez, with just over two months remaining before we leave. The time seems to have just vanished. It hardly feels like months have passed, let alone years. My memories of arriving are as vivid as thoughts of yesterday or the day before. The only way I can really understand the passage of this time is to consider how much has changed since we arrived. A lot has changed, I have to acknowledge. So maybe two years isn’t quite as short as it seems.
Spanish has gotten easier. When I arrived it had been decades since I regularly used Spanish. Living in Oak Cliff I had certainly heard plenty, and I had helped the kids with their dual language studies at Rosemont, but it had been since my United World College days (some 25+ years past) since I heard and used the language on a daily basis. It was surprisingly difficult at first, but I generally understand what’s going on around me now without having to focus intensely. I don’t have to practice too much in my head before tackling a new conversation. Usually I can respond to direct questions without sputtering and flailing (too much). I don’t have random words of other languages I’ve tried to learn popping into my Spanish sentences.
I also don’t get lost in Juárez any more. I’m amused and baffled by the thought that for a few days I had a hard time remembering which way to turn out of our neighborhood to get to the border crossing we use, or that I was once so confused crossing back in to Juárez about where to go and where to stop that a CBP officer knocked on my window to ask if I was OK. I must have looked intoxicated.
Marisela has gone from knowing only a handful of words and simple sentences to rattling on in Spanish just as quickly and tirelessly as she does in English. Isaiah has tackled physics and chemistry in Spanish, not to mention French and Japanese – taught in Spanish. They’ve both learned to love comida picante.
Andrés has become well-versed in an incredible array of visa classes and ineligibilities. He’s adjudicated well over 10,000 visas and has served as deputy fraud prevention manager at what we’ve heard is the busiest fraud prevention unit in any U.S. mission.
Isaiah has grown from a relatively tall but still “little” boy to a 6-foot-tall teenager. He’s had braces put on, adjusted, and removed. He’s learned to play tennis to the point that I’m a bit afraid to play him when he’s really on form. He’s started writing a novel and is further along in it than I have ever been in any writing project.
In addition to learning Spanish Marisela has learned how to swim, how to do long division, how to play the recorder and read music, how to play a bit of piano, and how to navigate friendships across cultures and over long distances. She can whack a piñata like nobody’s business. She can also use a sewing machine and bake a delicious cake from scratch, complete with real buttercream frosting.
We’ve taken full advantage of our proximity to the U.S. and visited family and friends frequently – multiple trips to Dallas, Lubbock, Santa Fe, and the Oklahoma farm. We’ve also visited the family cottage in Leland and taken trips to Big Bend, City of Rocks, the Chile Festival in Hatch, Truth or Consequences, the Davis Mountains and Fort Davis, Tucson, Las Vegas, Colorado, Cancún, and the amazing Mexico City.
So I guess despite it feeling like no time at all has passed, things have, in fact, changed pretty significantly during our two years in Mexico. We’ve accomplished a lot, grown a lot, seen a lot, done a lot. We’ve met friends we’ll never forget. And we still have two more months to go. The temptation is great to start to disconnect, to loosen the ties that bind us to Juárez to make departure easier, but I’m going to try to resist. Two years is a short time, after all, but there is still so much that can be seen and done – I don’t want to miss chances and make the time even shorter than it actually is.