Friday, April 30, 2010

The Ex's Family

I had an interesting experience I just have to share. Eduardo took a taxi last weekend to drop the kids off at their other Grandparents' house. His ex-wife/kids mother lives in San Francisco and the kids spend the weekdays with the other grandparents and every other weekend here with Eduardo's mom. Anywho, when he dropped the kids off the grandparents said they would love to meet Liliana and me! This wasn't exactly my idea of a good time and we all new it was more of a wanting to size me up and pass the info on to their daughter. Well it cost $25 for the taxi there and back, so we decided we would pick them up in the van and take them back. The thing is that Eduardo doesn't have a license here either (long story) and there are checkpoints all over so I have to drive everywhere, therefore I would drive to pick up the kids and meet the family. Yay.

I dressed as cute as I could without going overboard of course and we headed over. It's about a 45 minute trip. We pulled up and I got introduced to his ex's mother and father. The father was super nice and seemed like a nice guy. The mother acted nice, but if looks could kill I wouldn't be here to tell the story. It was very odd. She seemed so disgusted I was there despite inviting me personally. There were two other girls there who I found out after were the wives of the ex's brothers. One was very sweet and the other was very pretty, but the look on her face to me was downright scary! I couldn't follow the conversation, but it all seemed cordial. Apparently they were making us lunch, but Eduardo made up an excuse about us having friends visiting so we had to leave. We had already been there a while as the kids were late getting home from school. Plus, Ana (MIL) had warned me several times before we left not to eat any food they gave me. It was kind of a joke, but actually wasn't! Since we weren't staying for lunch they said they would love for me to go with them to church on Sunday. We graciously declined again. What do these people want from me?! The father shook my hand and said good-bye, but the mother didn't even say goodbye. So weird.

Hopefully Eduardo gets his license soon. It costs about $150 and is very complicated to get, but he's working on it. Until then I will have to just put up with the weird ex-wife's family.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My New Friends

So things finally came to a head with Eduardo and I last night. We got in a big fight, but the tension got released finally and things are back to normal today. Big sigh of relief! I woke up feeling good and even Liliana is being super cute and happy today. The weather has cooled down a lot with the rain. I hear that in a couple weeks it will start raining and not stop for a long time. Should be interesting.

I made 2 new friends today!! American gals that live in ES too. I have been online friends with them for a while. We are all part of an online immigration support group. They are down here going through the same process as we are. It's super cool there are others to relate to. Eduardo had to go into San Salvador, the big city, and do some paperwork so he dropped Liliana and I off on the way and we met up with these 2 gals, Sarah and Kristen. We all hung out for a little bit and it was really great to get to speak English and share stories and complain together. It was great therapy and just what I needed! Sarah lives about 45 minutes away and Kristen is more like 2 hours, but we plan on getting together a lot more now that we have met. Yay!!

Eduardo got a used washing machine while they were in San Salvador for $150 and that's exciting. We don't have to make Ana, MIL, wash all our laundry by hand anymore and I can use MY natural detergent. Good day all in all.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I hate El Salvador!

This is a harsh statemtent, I know. But it seems to be the only way to sum up how my first week in El Salvador is going. We got here Friday night and it is now only Wednesday. It feels as if weeks have gone by and it´s been mere days. It could be because we wake up around 6am with the roosters and go to bed around 8pm well after dark.

Saturday and Sunday were super overwhelming. Almost all I can remember now is that I cried A LOT those first 2 days. The 2 kids and Eduardo´s niece, Diana, were here all weekend and I´m not really used to be around older aged kids. Older than Liliana atleast. Eduardo was with them most of the time and talking with what seemed like hundreds of people that stopped by the house constantly. My MIL went everywhere with us because she knows the towns. It was just all too much, especially after our 9 day car trip!

The last couple days have been better in the sense that I´m not constantly crying. It has been a very long time since I have experienced the intensity of emotions I have since being here. The anger, resentment, sadness and depression are super intense. The negativity surrounding me is disgusting. I barely even recognize myself. Who is this horrible person that has taken over me?! I knew this day would eventually come where life as I knew it would drastically change, but now that it´s here, I just want my old life back. I feel selfish that I don´t want to share my husband with anyone else. I´ve been the center of his attention since we met and Liliana has been papa´s little princess since she was born and now there´s a whole new family we have to share with. Please don´t judge me. I know these thoughts are horrible. I know I should welcome them all with open arms, that´s the type of person I am. But I can´t seem to get the negativity out of my head. It consumes me. I´ve been trying to find the positive things about our situation and I just can´t.

El Salvador seemed so different last year when I was here, but I don´t think it´s the country that has changed, I know it´s my view of it. This time I´m here, I know I will be here a long time. We did find a shower head that puts out hot water! That is a positive point. I couldn´t handle the freezing cold showers even for a day. We bought a king size bed for $260 for the 3 of us to sleep in and we replaced the shitty air conditioner with a brand new one yesterday. We slept well last night! It´s just the whole lifestyle down here that is so different and it will take a while to get used to. A friend of mine sent me a link to a definition of Culture Shock. It was actually really good to read to see I´m not just going crazy, that these feelings are very common for someone in my situation. I´m just praying I will start to feel better before my MIL starts to think I´m just a complete bitch! I´m really not, I swear!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Reunion

As we got closer to Eduardo´s house, I was so tired I almost forgot what he must be feeling. He started to get really nervous and was asking what he should say to the kids and what he should do. I couldn´t believe how nervous he was! Imagine reuniting with your children you have never really known except by phone and webcam. We arrived and his mom Ana cried and cried. The kids were excited, but somewhat reserved. We were all overwhelmed, but it was a great reunion and I was so glad Eduardo gets to spend some time with his family after all these years.

The Road to El Salvador

We left San Marcos around 5am again and headed on with high hopes of reaching El Salvador by the end of the day. We got directions several times and different points and everyone told us to follow this particular road straight and it would take us to the road we were looking for. Let me tell you, this road went anywhere but straight. It would come to dead ends, splits in the road, through towns, everywhere! Somehow we managed to stay the right direction and were making good time.

In the mountains we passed stands on the road that were selling very cool purses and bags and stopped to buy something. I got a bag and got Liliana a miniature version. It was so cute. The guy had 2 children with him and we gave them some treats we had with us for Liliana. it felt very good to share with these people. The man spoke to his wife in their native Indian tongue. She didn´t even speak Spanish, which I thought was awesome. That was the best part about Guatemala. Theare very in touch with their heritage and customs. A lot of women still wear the traditional dress and they all wear their babies on their backs or in make shift slings! It was so awesome. I know my mommy friends will appreciate this.

That is something El Salvador is lacking. It is actually against the law here to wear any of the old traditional clothing or speak the native Indian tongue. The wars here really did a number on the country and the old customs have been banished away. It´s actually very sad. Eduardo´s Grandma is 93 years old and is one of the only ones left that still follows the old ways.

Back to the road, we did take a wrong way at one point but found our way back and were headed to the border. Once again we experienced a horrific border crossing and to get out of Guatemala and into El Salvador took 3 hours! It was deadly hot and it was 5pm by this point. We finally got through and it was only 45 more minutes to Eduardo´s house!

Lost in Guatemala

We left from Arriaga around 5am. We got to the border around 9am and proceeded with caution. As soon as we got to the little border town out of Mexico and into Guatemala, the car was swamped with young men trying to help us. From what I had read, it was fairly easy to get in to the country so I didn´t understand why we would need their help. We kept refusing until we realized the hoops you have to jump through just to get out of Mexico. We agreed to let one boy help us and he took us through all the steps out of Mexico and getting us and the car into Guatemala. It was a complete nightmare! We couldn´t believe anyone would consider this any EASY thing to do. It took several hours, but we continued on our way. We drove through the lush landscape and were making good time. We had hoped to get all the way to El Salvador that day. We drove for a couple hours and came to a dead stop in the road. The road was stopped for a couple miles. We followed another car and bus and went around all the traffic only to come to a dead end a ways up the road and had to turn around. We later found out it was Earth Day and the road had been blocked due to a big rally in a nearby town. This info would have been very helpful at the time.

We had found a very bad map, which was the best they had in a local town. Liliana was getting upset and we were all grumpy and frustrated. I saw on the map another way to go around, though it would be longer. We wanted to just get a hotel, but there was nothing suitable in the couple hours we had driven. I just drove on to see where the road would take us. Well it took us up, up, up and away. I have been to Colorado, Canada and even Alaska in my life and have driven up mountains, but this topped them all! It was a very windy road that never seemed to end. Liliana finally fell asleep and Eduardo was getting nervous as to where we were going. I knew it was long, but also knew we were headed the right direction. It started getting darker the higher we went and very foggy. It was a little scary at times, but I drove as well as I could. The view in every direction was stunny, absolutely picturesque. I can officially say I have been in the mountainous jungles of Guatemala.

After several hours of intense mountainous driving, we got to San Marcos. This was the destination and we made it! This was my 3rd favorite place we encountered. It was actually quite a large mountain city, but had very few hotels. We found a very fancy one and we were so excited to stay somewhere nice. We went in and were told there was a carnival in town and they didn´t have any rooms! So sad. It must have been carnival season. They pointed us in the direction of the only other hotel and we went. We settled for the lesser place, but it was somewhere to sleep nonetheless. We walked around the carnival, ate some Chinese food for dinner and went to bed.

I must add this is the day I started to lose my cool. My enthusiasm was way down and I really started to lose my mind. We just wanted to be home so bad I could hardly take it any longer. I mustered up any strength left in me, mostly for Liliana´s sake and carried on.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Immigrants in Arriaga

We slept in until 7am in Acayucan and headed out. We thought it might be possible to get out of Mexico that day, but were just going to see how the day went. We read that if we got to the border town in the afternoon, to not cross and stay until the next day. We got as far as Arriaga and couldn´t go any more that day. It was around 5pm and we were still 3 or 4 hours to the border of Guatemala. We passed a hotel on the main road and went into the small town. As we drove around, we started feeling very sad. Eduardo was reminded of his journey to the US in 2002 by seeing all the immigrants that had traveled up through Central America and were headed to the U.S. via Mexico. There were dozens and dozens of people waiting by the railroad tracks. They knew when the train would start going and they would jump on with hopes of not getting caught. We watched all waiting and felt very sad. I saw Eduardo cry this day. It was only 1 of 2 times I had seen him cry at this point. I cried too and our hearts grew heavy.

I know there are so many people that judge illegal immigrants, but if you had only seen the things I have seen and heard the stories I have from loved ones, you may feel differently. It´s not as though these people just decide it would be cool to live in the United States. They do it to feed their families and find a better way of life. They have nothing and have even less to lose. They risk their lives trying to make the journey North and it´s a long hard struggle. It makes me cry even now just thinking about it. This part of the trip made me so grateful that we are going through this Immigration Process. My husband is the kindest, most giving, hard working, selfless person I know and I am happy to be helping him to be able to continue the life he has built for himself all these years. He has sacrificed being able to be with his family just to be able to provide for them and I know he will never give up trying to better himself and his life.


Our goal from Costa Esmeralda that day was to reach Acayucan and we did, but the rest of the day was not without it´s troubles. After we bought lunch and gas we realized we were running out of pesos. We knew there were lots of toll roads coming up and searched everywhere for a place to exchange money with no luck. We wasted a lot of time doing this. We finally decided to just go to the toll and beg them to take our American Dollars. We got there and they wouldn´t, but they din´t accept credit card. Thank God! I used my bank card for the next three tolls.

We finally reached the outskirts of Acayucan and stopped again for gas. After the gas was pumped I gave them my bank card and it was declined! I tried another card and got declined. Silly me had forgotten to tell my bank I was leaving the country, so they stopped my card for a fraud alert, I´m assuming. We begged and begged the gas attendant to accept our dollars and he did. Once again, Thank God!

We drove into Acayucan, which ended up having a carnival in town and looked for a hotel. We saw a couple nice ones, but quickly remembered we didn´t have any pesos to pay for it. We parked in one hotel and they told us where to go to exchange money. We walked all around never found a place, asking all kinds of people. It was the type of experience where to ask 10 different people and get 10 different answers with directions. Craziness! We went back to the hotel, got our car and drove to find somewhere. It was nearing 7pm by this point and we had reached our maximum toleration for the day. Finally got to a place, exchanged money and went to a nicer hotel we had seen on our journey.

I actually quite like Acayucan a lot. It was the 2nd favorite place of mine. We got the nicest room in the hotel, which actually had a king size bed and a private balcony overlooking the carnival and central area. We took Liliana to ride the carousel and ordered dinner in the restaurant, but had it delivered to our room. Liliana didn´t want to sit still any longer. I had high hopes of sitting on the balcony with my hubby and actually getting to chat and enjoy our alone time. What was I thinking? I fell asleep promptly after dinner.

Topes and Potholes

I didn´t sleep well in Tampico Alto. Liliana and I were sharing a twin bed and she likes to spread out! It was hot and I didn´t feel comfortable in the room. I slept for a couple hours and woke around 12am. I couldn´t go back to sleep after this. Around 3am Eduardo was awake and couldn´t sleep either. Then even Liliana woke up and was wide awake ready to go. I asked her if she wanted to leave and she shook her head up and down very fast! It was so funny! We decided just to get up and go. Once we did, we noticed there were cocroaches crawling around...this disgusted us to no end. We past as fast as possible and left.

Althought EVERYONE says not to drive in Mexico at night, we found it was the better option. We didn´t get pulled over, but we did hit every pothole you can imagine times 100! Every little town has topes, which are speed bumps, but like 10 of them within a mile. The potholes driving at night through the windy roads was enough to keep me alert at 4am! We drove and drove that day.

We passed through a town called Costa Esmeralda. I had really wanted to stay in this town, but the timing didn´t work out. It is right on the ocean in Veracruz and it´s lined with little hotels and restaurants. We decided to pull off and get lunch around 11am. We ate at a nice hotel right on the beach, literally. We were the only ones there and this was the best part of my trip! I´m so glad we stopped.

The Road to Tampico

We got up Monday morning ready to head to the border once again. We were told to be there before 9am, so we left by 8am hoping not to get stuck in too much traffic. We ended being stuck in a huge line that wasn´t moving. By the time it started going somewhere, we realized it was the line for the border, the wrong border crossing! There are 3 bridges going from Brownsville, TX to Matamoros, MX and each has a border crossing. Eduardo jumped out just in time to ask someone where to go and we were able to cut through traffic to get to immigration. We went inside and had to wait for the manager type guy to arrive. He told us he would give Eduardo the visa, but for $150.00. He said he called around and the other official was going to charge $280.00. Whatever!! You have to understand this money was going to this guy personally and we still had the pay the 3 visitor visas plus the car permit to Mexico. It was an expensive border experience. We were also told we had to give $20.00 to the checkpoint officer an hour down the road. We did all this just happy enough we were moving on with the trip.

The road to Tampico was not as bad as I had expected at all. I also had heard from several sources it would be a 13 hour drive and it didn´t take that long at all. I hadn´t even planned to reach Tampico. Once we got to the city, we were looking for the road that goes around the city opposed to going through. It´s a lot faster. As I was driving I noticed a policeman on a motorcycle behind me. I knew this couldn´t be good! He gestured for me to roll down the window and wanted me to pull over. I did this and Eduardo got out of the car to speak with him. He told him that our tinting on our windows was too much and we would have to pay him $300 or he would take us to a place where they would remove it for us. This was a bunch of crap of course! We then had to follow him to a place with not as many people watching. Eduardo told him he only had $20 and showed him his wallet. He said that wasn´t enough and that we needed to figure out what else we could give him. He was the biggest asshole ever!! After a LOT of negotiating, we finally got off with paying him around $50, some pesos, some dollars and went on our way.

We were so flustered by this experience that we got all turned around and went the wrong way several times. The police told us not to drive through town or we would get pulled over again. We finally found our way and decided to drive a little further to Tampico Alto. We reached Tampico Alto around 7pm and got a hotel. There were only 2 to choose from and we thought we got the better of the 2, but looking back who really knows! We had dinner and reluctantly got into our shabby beds and attempted to sleep.

Stuck on the Border

Eduardo woke me up in a hurry. It was 20 past 4 and we were supposed to be up at 4am. We hurriedly got ready and headed out the door. We stopped for gas and I noticed the clock on the wall. It was only 3am! I couldn´t believe it..all that precious sleep I lost. Well we continued on with Liliana asleep in the back. We finally reached the border by 10am. We pulled over and got questioned, they looked through the car a bit and we parked to go inside to get our visitor visas. Unfortunately they wouldn´t let Eduardo in the country. Salvadoreans have to get special permission to go to any other country not in Central America. WE were told he could get this permission and he would have to pay a fine, but we could do it. Thank Goodness! Well then the person who supposedly could do it for us was not there that day. It was Saturday morning and we were told we would have to wait until Monday morning! So many thoughts ran through my mind. What would we do? Eduardo couldn´t get back in the States or Mexico. The official told us we could stay in Matamoros on the border until Monday, but if we went any further we would eventually get to a checkpoint and then he would be in trouble.

We drove into the border town, which was WAY better than Tijuana so I wasn´t as worried as originally thought. We looked up hotels on the GPS and found a Best Western. We got there and it had gated parking, hot water, a restaurant and wasn´t too expensive. Once we got settled in we actually were happy to have the weekend to relax. We all slept and lot and the food was excellent in the restaurant so we ate a lot too! Although it added two full days to our trip, looking back it was a very nice vacation of sorts.

Friday, April 16, 2010

On the Road - Stateside

We left home yesterday at 6:45am. It was a tearful goodbye, but we were happy to finally start the journey. Liliana slept for almost 3 hours...yay!! We drove all the way to Memphis and went to check out Graceland. It wasn't very exciting so we decided just to head on to Texas. We stopped a little bit later around 3pm for the night. I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before so Eduardo had driven most of the way. We didn't even eat dinner, we all just fell asleep at 8pm :) That was after our failed attempt at taking Liliana to the pool! We were very happy she did very well in the car. We stopped at one point and let her run around and had a picnic for an hour. That really helped.

Today we got up at 4am and were in the car by 5am. We thought Liliana would sleep for hours, but she woke up an hour later! We stopped at Cracker Barrel for a lousy breakfast (indy is way better). Then we got back on the road and drove and drove. We finally saw our 1st Starbucks after a while. Yes, the 1st one!!! We were so excited. I got my soy Chai and stayed alert to drive the rest of the day. Today was a long one. The highway to Dallas was closed so we took a detour that went to Houston instead, which seems a little shorter, I think. Thank God for GPS. It's my new best friend. We saved hours of looking at maps, very worth the money :) We then hit Houston around 4pm rush hour. Spent a while getting through traffic and finally found a hotel, 12 1/2 hours from the time we left!! Liliana was a trooper. We stopped at a couple great rest areas, one with a playground. We all got out and played and ran around. That helped a lot. We are now at our hotel in our jacuzzi suite! Hopefully we get to use it! Eduardo went to get dinner just now and got pulled over. I knew when he left this was going to happen and I was worried sick. Luckily the guy let him go and just said he didn't want to see him driving here again! Thank God!!! This has been my biggest fear.

We are on to Mexico tomorrow. Hoping for an easy border crossing and hoping they don't want us to take EVERYTHING out of the car! Until next time...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

In Limbo

Since my last post we have gone through a lot of changes. Our March 29th date changed to March 31st. Then a couple days before we were to leave, we got an RFE (request for additional evidence) from the NVC (National Visa Center). We didn't know what it would be so the lawyer wanted us to wait to leave until we found out. This made us super depressed and we felt as if we are living in limbo. Eduardo has now been out of work for almost 3 weeks, so we have been living off our El Salvador savings. No good! When we were at our lowest feeling so hopeless, I received a call from our lawyer. She got the RFE and it was something very simple. We went on Friday and took the rest of the documents we needed and she said we can leave this coming up week. We have the best lawyer! She is going out of town, but she knows how bad we want to leave so she is preparing our waiver packet to be ready by Wednesday. We are super excited. We can finally leave. We will pick up the waiver (all of our evidence as to why they should give Eduardo residency in the States) and then we can leave any time. We picked Thursday morning of course! We hope to leave very early in the morning so Liliana can sleep as much as possible in the car the first day, although I know how any Liliana planning ends up, so I am just praying for the best :) My mom asked me today if I have butterflies in my tummy about leaving and I think normally I would. This process has just taken such a toll that I am actually completely ready to go. The future is scary because it is the unknown, but it's also exciting. We are mostly packed, but will pack the van on Tuesday and see how much we want to take actually fits. It will be interesting.

We will most likely be gone about 14 months at this point, I am hoping not longer. The El Salvador Embassy unfortunately is one of the slowest at processing these waivers and they are very far behind. Please pray for us to get an easy and speedy approval!