Wednesday, July 27, 2011


We're home! After 664 days in Mexico, Jose arrived in the United States again on June 21st. It was exactly 2 weeks after his waiver appointment. Decisions are suddenly taking longer now, so we are lucky that it was only that long.

I had a flight to San Francisco booked for 9:30 am on Tuesday. I was dreading leaving Mexico without Jose again, even if it was for the last time. Jose and I spent Monday night packing all of his stuff from the last two years into a few suitcases in a great display of organization and dedication. At 2 am, just before going to sleep, Jose checked the visa website one more time for a tracking number. He had checked at 10 and there was nothing, so we were shocked when we not only had a tracking number, but an update saying the visa was ready for pick-up in Ciudad Juarez.

We immediately started planning. I canceled my ticket for the morning flight to San Francisco. The first flight to Ciudad Juarez couldn't be booked online, so we got to the airport at 4 am to try to by tickets last minute. It worked, and we left Mexico City at 6 am. At 8 am, we arrived in Ciudad Juarez, at 8:30 we were at DHL to pick up his visa. At 9:15, Jose had a visa! At 10:30, we were at the bridge at the border. At 11:00, he crossed over in the United States! At 11:00 we arrived at the El Paso airport, bought last minute tickets, and left El Paso at 11:30 to LAX. We arrived in LA and got to the plane to San Francisco during the final boarding call, so close that my parents had already recieved a call from the airline saying we missed the flight and wouldn't get in to San Franscico until 11:30 pm. On the plane, we surprised my sister, who happened to be on that flight and had no idea we'd be there. At 2:15 pm, we arrived in San Fracisco. It was the busiest, craziest, and most perfect timing I've ever seen. It truly felt like Jose was meant to come home, and we were receiving sign after sign that it was true.

It's been a little more than a month, but it feels like half a year. We have been so busy and working hard to get life started again. I thought that it would be more emotional to get home, but it felt just like normal life very quickly. Rather than the U.S. feeling new, Mexico just feels like it was a 2 week vacation a few years ago. Almost two years of suffering down there now feels like the blink of an eye.

We're home!
-Emma and Jose (the American)

Friday, June 17, 2011


We're approved! That's right, Jose will soon be home!

We called the call center again today, after I was ordered to call by my family who knew that today was going to be the day. They've been saying that we would hear on the 17th since Jose's appointment. They were right, and we were told that our waiver was approved yesterday, on June 16th. Jose's case is back at the Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, where the visa will be issued and sent off via DHL to be picked up. Waiting for the visa to be ready should be exciting and I'm sure we'll be impatient to get home, but it will be so much easier to deal with than waiting to hear about the approval.

We don't know when Jose will have his visa in hand and actually come home, but all that matters is that it will be soon. It will take 4-6 days for the visa to be issued, and could potentially take a few more days to have the visa ready for pick up in Ciudad Juarez. We are hoping, and it seems very likely, that the visa will be ready next Wednesday or Thursday. Jose would then be home at the end of next week!

We're going out to celebrate Jose's approval, what should be his last weekend in Mexico City, and his birthday. We're feeling really good!


Life Lesson

I took a psychology class from the junior college a few years ago. It was a bad class and I only remember two things from it: eyes roll back and forth during REM sleep and happiness is made from the small things in life, not the big things. REM sleep has nothing to do with this. The saying about happiness does. Since we've been in Mexico, we've had a lot of the big things that seem like they would make happiness. We've had a nice apartment, money, food, and safe families. We've been spoiled and had an easy life, but we haven't had happiness, and I think it's because we didn't have the small things that my psychology class said are necessary to be happy. We had enough food in Mexico, it wasn't the food of our choice and it was always a struggle. The right food can do a lot for happiness, because it is so simple and so comforting. With language barriers, even for Jose, we couldn't effortlessly joke and have fun with friends. Actually, we didn't have real friends, just fellow partiers. Our favorite ways to spend free time in the U.S. didn't all work in Mexico City, especially going to the ranch and playing disc golf. My parents and godfather provided us with everything we needed for a happy life, if happiness came from the big things. But the happy life never came, and I think we're proof that it really is the little things that count.

Maybe that's our life lesson from all this.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

No News (Again)

We called the call center today, even though we promised ourselves we wouldn't until Friday, because that blessing/curse of a forum showed us that someone with a June 7th appointment was approved two days ago. He was approved exactly one week after his appointment. We were told that there was no update on our case. Luckily, we weren't given a DHL tracking number, which means that there really isn't a decision yet.

I'm trying to be well-behaved and patient, when honestly I am furious and jealous. So many people on the forum talk about having such a hard time with their husbands gone, and they've only been in Mexico for three months. My life has been so stressful for two years, and hearing people complain about three months like it's the end of their life, and then be approved before us, sucks. For 22 months, everything in my life has been based on dealing with Jose being in Mexico and it's been a constant struggle. Hearing that other people are approved so fast, while we are still waiting, makes me want to beg someone to give us a break. This whole immigration process has been hard for us every step of the way, and every single time we've heard the average processing times, our processing time has ended up taking longer. I wish that two years of misery earned us break and we had found out in a week, too. I hate to whine, but we've gotten the short end of the stick enough times and I'm tired of it.


P.S. I'm sick and being sick always make emotionally weak. Thanks for reading my illness induced rant.

Back from Queretaro

We got back from Queretaro today, and are going to stay in Mexico City until I leave on Sunday. It was a nice trip, but I got a bad cold and spent most of the last two days sleeping. Luckily we didn't have a lot planned for the trip, so I could handle walking around admiring how pretty the centro historico was for a few hours a day.

The biggest problem with the trip was that finding food was always a battle. There weren't many restaurants in the area. Most were too expensive for us. Many in our price range only had comida corrida, which is a cheap three or four course meal with only a couple dishes to choose from. Over and over again, the comida corrida only had options that weren't gluten free. The agua frescas were even more disappointing. It was clear that Queretaro does not have our same taste in cuisine.

We walked along Queretaro's aqueduct today. It was built in the early 1700's and is 3 miles long with 74 arches that are up to 75 feet tall. I've been wanting to go to Queretaro just to see the aqueduct since we came to Mexico in 2009, and to be honest, I was disappointed. I couldn't help but think that if the Spaniards hadn't murdered all the Indians, the Indians would have built something way prettier. It looks kind of chunky and poorly proportioned to me. Jose, with his civil engineer mind, thought it was cooler than I did, especially after seeing that it is an internationally recognized civil engineering monument. To my untrained eye, it is practical but not very beautiful.

Queretaro was still nice to visit, and I don't appreciate Jose's effort in organizing the trip any less.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Call Centers and No News

Thanks to the forums, we know we can call 2 numbers to ask about the status of Jose's case. Both call centers are in Washington, D.C. and only see an update when a case has been returned to the consulate from U.S. Immigration.  The representatives usually tell people they've been approved a few days before the packet is ready to pick up at DHL with the passport.  They often refuse to tell people anything when they have been backlogged, and will just say that the decision is pending and to pick up the packet.  We're really hoping that we hear we've been approved from the call center, and hear it before I go back so that we can pack and plan and buy plane tickets accordingly. Hopefully.

We started calling today for the first time, but were told there was no decision and to keep waiting.  We knew it wasn't likely to hear anything yet, but we read on the forum that two people with appointments on June 6th, the day before Jose's appointment, heard their approval from the number yesterday.  Decisions don't come back in perfect chronological order, so that doesn't guarantee that we will hear anything soon, but it gives us hope. It also makes us a lot more anxious. I'm getting really sick of waiting.


Monday, June 13, 2011


This is our first night in Queretaro, the capitol of the state of Queretaro.  We spent 2 nights at Anna and Benjamin's apartment after getting back from Cholula, which was fun but crowded.  We ate a ridiculous number of paletas, did lots of Google searches (currants, is it legal to have a kid in a taxi without a carseat? Yes, but parents on Yahoo Answers will judge you), and watched Pineapple Express, the stoner movie of our generation, in Spanish (the jokes didn't translate so it wasn't really funny).  Lots of fun, but their apartment is tiny and short on windows.  It sometimes feels like a bunker, and being confined in a small, dark place when we're trying not to panic about the visa decision wasn't helping us stay calm.  I would really like to be with Anna and Benjamin now, because they are so fun to be around and distracted us a lot, but as they know well after six months, their apartment can really mess with a person mentally.

We spent hours researching where to go next.  We really wanted to go to the beach, but a lot of beaches in Mexico suck.  To be fair, I am incredibly picky because I don't like the water that much so I only get in if it's perfect.  Most of the Pacific Coast was out, just because it is too rough or not blue enough.  The Mayan Riviera was ideal, but too expensive.  We gave up on beaches and looked at too many cities, hotels, and bus schedules to remember before finally deciding on Queretaro.  I've wanted to see the aqueducts since we first came to Mexico, so even though swimming in the warm ocean sounds great to this NorCal girl, I'm happy we're here.  I'm even more happy because, for the first time ever, Jose took charge and planned everything.  I didn't even know what hotel we were staying in until we got here.  I understand why people (used to?) use travel agents, because it feels much more like a luxurious vacation when you haven't worried about logistics.  This must be why all-inclusive exists.

Thanks to Jose, we are now staying in an awesome hotel in a building from the 1700s with narrow, cobblestone streets and pretty old buildings.  It is calm, gorgeous, and perfect for what we need. We'll be distracted and comfortable here until we go back to Mexico City on Thursday for a Cuban music event with Anna.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Keeping Busy

The waiting isn't nearly as bad as I expected.  Its day three since the appointment and all is going well.  We have even decided to not start checking the website until Monday.  I think the key is to stay busy.  Wednesday we flew back to Mexico City and stayed with Anna and Benjamin for the night.  Thursday morning we took a bus to Puebla and are now in Cholula, Puebla.  This is probably our favorite town in Mexico, because it's an awesome place and because it is where we got our dog.  We've been walking almost nonstop during the day and enjoying the sights.  There is perfect weather, by far the best I've been in for months.  Last night it rained and hailed, but Jose was watching the basketball game and I was reading a funny book, so it only added to the vacation feel.

We've got a pretty tight budget, but we're going to travel for as long as we can while we wait for Jose's decision.  It seems like the best way to pass the time and stay distracted.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

And Now We Wait

Jose went to his appointment this morning and turned in the waiver packet.  The person at the Consulate wasn't super friendly to him, but Jose said her briskness didn't bother him because it was obvious that it's just a job to her.  I think it sucks that the futures of so many people are decided by Consulate officials who see it just as a job.  I want some emotion involved when they're deciding our damn future!

The official Jose talked to refused to tell him how long it would take to hear a decision, except for to say "we take some days, and DHl takes some days, then you can pick it up."  Thanks, lady, really helpful.  Other people have come out of their appointments in the last few days reporting that their officials told them it is taking about 10 days, but we don't know if that is business days or not.  Our attorney told us today that she thinks its more like three weeks.  Jose keeps telling me not to ruin his excitement over what is happening, so I'll complain on here that when we first started the appointments in 2009 decisions were made in 3-5 days.  People just stayed in Ciudad Juarez until they got their decision.  Now, the wait is too long for us to be able to afford a hotel, or handle being trapped in the room, so we're flying back to Mexico City tomorrow to wait.  Once we are notified of the decision being ready to pick up, we'll fly back to Ciudad Juarez.  Hopefully we will know before we arrive if we were approved or not.

My classes in Berkeley start on June 20th.  We are hoping that we will know the decision before then, even if the visa isn't ready to be picked up, but it doesn't look promising.  If it doesn't work out before, I'll fly back to Berkeley on Sunday, June 19th (extra sucks that that is Jose's birthday) and then fly back to Mexico as soon as Jose can pick up his visa and fly back to the U.S. with him that day or the next.  Excessive, I know, but the last two years have been hard and I need to to there when he comes back to have a sense of conclusion.

In conclusion, we're hanging in horrible suspense and wondering how the hell people get through this.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Night Before

Jose's appointment is tomorrow morning at 8 am.  We are staying in a different hotel that is a little farther from the Consulate, so he is going to take the hotel's free shuttle to the Consulate at 7 am.  I'm going to stay in the room and sleep, which is what I do best.  Jose is ironing his fancy outfit now and worrying about how his hair will look.  I convinced him to let his hair grow out and he is regretting it now that the 2-months-uncut hairstyle doesn't look as put together as he'd like for his appointment.  I think it looks fine, but worrying about his hair is a pretty harmless way to release his stress.

We took a 6 am flight from Mexico City and got to Ciudad Juarez at 8 this morning, after the longest 3 hour flight ever.  If you are doubting my math there, be aware that Ciudad Juarez time is an hour earlier than Mexico City.  I finally convinced Jose to let us try  a different hotel.  He has refused in the past to change anything, including our hotel choice, in case it messed up fate or something ridiculous like that.  But, I won at last, and we're staying in a nicer and cheaper hotel room with a microwave and fridge so we don't have to eat out.  We stocked up on cereal, beans, and tortillas at the Oxxo, although I have to admit I now kind of miss being forced to eat out.  Microwave quesadilla does not compare to Applebee's apple walnut blue cheese salad. Shocker.

Most importantly, we have the waiver packet with us, signed, and ready to turn in.  The Forum Family says waiver appointments have been taking about 2 hours.  Hopefully Jose will be back by about 10:30 am (9:30 California time) with a positive report.  Then the real stress begins.

Until tomorrow,

Online Forums

Jose and I are in the hotel waiting for tomorrow's appointment and I'm alternating between trying to distract us and obsessively reading the online immigration forum.

Jose found the forum about a month ago and I've checked daily since, where we've learned good news and bad.  Bad news: last week we found out that there is a website for checking available waiver appointments, and most of the people on the forum have been able to move their appointments up by more than a month.  People with first appointments after Jose's, which was on March 29th, are already back in the U.S.  Lame.  Good news: 17 of the 21 people with waiver appointments in May have been approved! I'm hoping/thinking we will jump on that bandwagon and have Jose home this month.

The forums have helped us understand the process and what is going on better, so even with the bad news we sometimes get, they've been a great resource.  Each month, the "forum family" as the members, mostly wives of applicants, call themselves, post a list of every member with their waiver appointment that month.  They celebrate when someone is approved, and provide support when someone is backlogged (being backlogged means the hardship wasn't convincing enough for an immediate visa, and adds another 6-12 month wait).  Each day, they update the list with the developments in each case.  That's been most helpful for us, because we've been able to track how many people are approved and how long it has taken to get the visas (usually about 2 weeks).  We even learned about two phone numbers where applicants can get updates about their waiver, including hearing that it was approved days before the decision packet arrives at DHL. 

I haven't actually posted anything on the forum, I'm more of a invisible stalker, but I'm tempted to register and have Jose added to the list of June appointments.  I kind of want random wives sending me words of encouragement and supporting us no matter what the outcome is.  It's always nice to be in contact with people going through something similar.  I just don't want to have to be as emotional and obsessive as them. Sorry, Jose, but it's a little much.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One Week to Appointment

There's one week left until Jose's waiver appointment in Ciudad Juarez on June 7th.

At the appointment, Jose will drop off the waiver packet the attorney has made that proves the hardship I will suffer if Jose is not allowed into the U.S. for 10 years.  The hardship comes either from me being in the U.S. without Jose, or from me moving to Mexico for 10 years to be with Jose.  There are 14 categories of hardship that the consulate accepts, and we have focused on the medical, educational, and financial hardships.  It seems that the medical hardship is strongest, because of my Celiac Disease and ulcers from stress.  I've also been diagnosed with depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from living in Mexico, the violence I've seen in Mexico and being separated from Jose.  Basically, the less healthy I appear, the better Jose's case, and I'm not looking healthy.   For the education hardship we have focused on how being separated from Jose affected me in school last year, and how my future educational goals would be harmed by him not coming home.  My professors wrote letters about how my participation changed after Jose was attacked in April and how I am a promising student who would not be able to succeed academically in Mexico.  I don't contribute very much to the financial hardship since I am a student, instead that is mostly hardship on my dad.  Since he has had to pay for everything, he wrote a letter saying that he cannot afford to continue supporting us in Mexico.   The waiver packet has come together really well, and we are all feeling good.  The paralegal at the attorney's office told my dad she thinks this is the strongest case they have ever had.  That's promising, considering that the attorney has had 11 cases since January and 9 of them were approved.  Of course, everything comes down to who looks at our packet and how they feel about us.

We have been collecting documents for the waiver packet for the last few weeks.  I spent dead week before finals driving from Berkeley to Santa Rosa for lots of appointments, once even twice in the same day.  I didn't get much studying done.  I've been in Mexico for two weeks, and many of our days have been spent on the waiver.  We are ready to be done with it. Luckily, we are close.  The attorney is sending the packet to Ciudad Juarez on Thursday and Jose will pick it up on Monday before the appointment.

At the appointment, Jose just pays a fee, leaves his passport, and drops off the packet.  We don't hear if he is approved until a week or two after the appointment.  It will probably be the most stressful one to two weeks we've ever experienced.  When he is notified that his decision has been made, and he will go to the DHL office in Ciudad Juarez to pick up the decision.  His passport will be in the envelope either with or without a visa.  We're hoping for a visa.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Waiver Packet and Appointment

For the last 2 weeks we have been working on getting together all of the new supporting documents we need for our hardship waiver packet.  Now that we are getting closer to our appointment on June 7th, our lawyer has given us a checklist of all of the documents she needs to update and put together our final waiver packet.  Most of the things on the list are things she needs from Emma in order to show the hardship she has gone through and how being away from me has affected her.  Emma had to get together recent medical records, doctor letters, psychologist letter, work letter, volunteering letter, and letters from friends and family about how these past 2 years have affected her.  Getting this list from our lawyer was very exciting because it reminded us of how close our appointment is but at the same time very stressful.  When we got the list Emma was in the middle of papers and getting ready for finals, so it was very bitter-sweet for her.  Like always, Emma took on another project on top of school and work, and was able to manage working on all three things at once.  The week before finals Emma spent most of the time traveling from Berkeley to Healdsburg and back.  Monday she had a doctors appointment at UC Berkeley, on Tuesday a doctors appointment in Healdsburg, and then Thursday night an appointment with a psychologist in Santa Rosa.  I am pretty sure she spent the majority of that week at doctors appointments and in her car.  She managed all of that while sending emails to professors and volunteer supervisors asking for letters, working, and studying for finals.  WOW, I get exhausted just writing and thinking of all those tasks at once, I can't imagine the stress Emma felt.  That is the list of things Emma had to get together before she came down to Mexico this Friday.  There are smaller and much easier things that we still need to get together.  The majority of the stuff left on the list we already have and will just have to get together or print them out.  My tasks are getting a few documents together that I already have and finding proof of the conditions in Mexico and how dangerous it is.  I have been focusing on finding proof of violence in the places we have lived. Monterrey and Chimalhuacan were a piece of cake and Coyoacan was surprisingly not that difficult.  Of course the incidents I found did not occur in the colonia we live in, but luckily what is considered Coyoacan has many colonias, and a few of them are not all that safe.  I am also having people I have met in Mexico write letters about my good moral character.  Once we get all of those things together, which is nothing compared to all the things Emma had to get on her own, we will be ready for our waiver appointment.

At the appointment I will pay the fee for review of our waiver and drop off the waiver packet.  This appointment is pretty straight forward and quick.  I will first pay and turn in the packet at the same time and then will be asked to see a consular official.  The interview with the officer is just to verify that what we are including in our packet is accurate and true.  Once the packet is turned in and I take the oath, we will be one step closer to me coming home.  After the waiver appointment it can take up to 2 weeks to hear back from the consulate about  the decision they have made.  Our lawyer mentioned that it has been taking 7-10 days for her other clients who have recently gone through this part to get the visa in their hands if they are approved.  We are hoping for a fast approval so we can get the visa and come home as soon as possible.  If we are to get approved in 7-10 days we will be able to come home before my birthday on June 19 which would be the best birthday present.  If it takes 2 weeks for us to get the visa, which would not allow us to come home before my birthday, it would still be the best present ever.

For now we work on the last few things for our packet, then wait and cross our fingers for good news.  Hopefully we will be seeing you back in California very soon.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Adios Monterrey

I am back in Mexico City.  My professors have been really supportive during the last month and have done everything they could to help me after I was robbed.  Their first concern was my safety and well being.  Right away they let me know that I should take off as much time as I needed to get better.  Having so much support from my professors was really nice for me because at the time I was convinced that everything that had to do with Monterrey was working against me or just hands down terrible.  Although I had no desire to go back to Monterrey, I got myself back to school a week ago.  It was really weird and stressful being back in Monterrey and the 100+ degree weather was not helping in making my return pleasant.  My first night back I was welcomed with gunshots which made me really question my decision to go back to Monterrey.  Unless I had class, the weather and danger of Monterrey kept me locked in my apartment.  Luckily after talking with my professors, they gave me two options: stay on campus in the dorms for free so I could be completely safe, or leave Monterrey and finish my school work online.  Of course I decided to get out of Monterrey ASAP.  So here I am, happily back in Mexico City with Anna and Benjamin, the best hosts in the world.  IIn the few days that I have been back in Mexico City, I have rented an apartment for a month in Coyoacan for Emma and I, and been here with Anna when she found out she got into UC Berkeley.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Back in Monterrey

I was in Mexico City for three weeks and I must say that I had no desire to return to Monterrey.  But opposite to what I would have loved to do, I got on a plane and now I'm back in the boring and scary city of Monterrey.  While in mexico city I spent my time relaxing and preparing myself for the last three weeks I have to be in Monterrey. Three more weeks and I am free and never to step foot back in this city.

Being back in Mexico city was nice.  After being in Monterrey for three months and finally getting out of there, I realized how unhappy I am in Monterrey.  Mexico City is definitely better than Monterrey but does not compare to Healdsburg.  I am more than ready to be back home and finally be able to se my family and friends.  I visited Coyoacan many times while I was back in Mexico City because it is one of the only places in Mexico where I feel somewhat comfortable.  I was able relax in Mexico city, as crazy as that sounds, but even with 20 million people around me, it is less stressful than being in Monterrey.  In Coyoacan and in Condesa (Anna's area) I was able to go on walks when I need to clear my mind without having to worry about my safety.  Just that alone was really helpful after I was robbed.  It helped me relax and remind me that I don't have to be worried about my safety 24/7.  Physically I am doing much better.  My ribs are the only thing that bother me now.  Its been 3 weeks since I was attacked so the pain is not as bad but definitely still there.  The bruising on my ribs and face are gone along with the scratches I had on my cheek, arm, and neck.  I am really glad Emma insisted I go down to Mexico City because now I feel much better emotionally and can feel I can power through the last of my time in Monterrey .  I do not know how I would have done if I had stayed in Monterrey.  Like Emma said, I would have probably beeen a basket case.

After I was robbed and beaten, our lawyer sent in a request for an expedited waiver appointment.  She was told that the consulate was not going to send a request for an expedited appointment to the USCIS because request for expedited appointments are only considered for active duty military applicants or for serious medical illnesses.  I guess being robbed at knife point, a fractured rib, and a concussion don't count.

The waiver appointment will be on June 7th like planned.  Right now I am working on updating and making our hardship letter as strong as possible.  We will have 15-20 minutes to convince the USCIS officer reviewing out case that Emma needs me home so this letter and the supporting documents are my number one priority from now to June 7th.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

I Got a Beating

I have been staying at Anna's apartment in Mexico City for the past week, after being mugged in Monterrey while buying tacos in the evening.  I am fine now, but it was an eye opening experience.  After living in Mexico for almost two years and seeing and hearing violence, but never being the recipient of it, it was a shock to be attacked.

Last Saturday, I was walking a few blocks from my house when a guy came up from behind me and shoved me to the ground.  He held a knife to the back of my ear and demanded everything in my pockets.  I only had about 250 pesos, or 20 dollars, and a really cheap cell phone.  I gave up my money and cell phone without a fight, but the robber got angry with how little I had and didn't believe that that was it.  He kneed me in the ribs a few times and demanded more.  Once he realized I actually did not have anything more on me, he cut my shoulder with his knife, just for good measure, and left.  Also for good measure, he threatened to find me and kill me if I told anyone.

After going home and calling Emma (yes, crying) and letting her know what happened, I went to the closest clinic to get checked out.  I hit my head pretty hard on the pavement and got a minor concussion, a bump on my eyebrow, a fractured rib, a gash on my shoulder, and a couple of scratches here and there.  Nothing is really bothering me anymore except the rib, but that is hurting enough to make me curse the robber multiple times a day.  After being checked out at the clinic I went to campus to report the incident, and the campus security along with 2 police officers assigned to the Tec area were there within minutes.  I told them what happened, and they said that this is becoming common in the area.

 I was freaked and and in a lot of pain, so the next day I flew to Mexico City and am now staying with Anna and Benjamin.  My professors are letting me take my exams after Semana Santa, the Mexican Spring break, so I'll be in Mexico City until April 24th.  By the time I get back to Monterrey, there will only be three weeks until the semester is over and I am out of there for good.  Being beaten up sucked, but it is nice to have an unexpected few weeks in Mexico City.

I am taking some anti-anxiety medicine that lets me relax and sleep.  I've been surprised by how much this got to me mentally.  I felt angry, scared, sad, and confused for a few days after and wasn't acting like myself at all.  When I got jumped in Healdsburg a few years ago I wasn't nearly as bothered as I was this time, and that was surprisingly similar to this attack, down to the knife cuts and hurt ribs.  A lot of people have been making comments, usually joking, about what good are my muscles if they don't even keep me from being beaten up.  But put a knife to my neck any day and  I won't even consider fighting back.

Whenever I tell people in Monterrey that I lived in Mexico City they think I am crazy because they say it is so dangerous.  Even when I say that nothing happened to any of us (except that one time Emma got groped a little on the metro), Mexico City is clearly, in their opinion, a lawless wasteland.  I don't understand how people in live Monterrey where they see and hear gun battles and corpses on the street, and where random attacks and kidnappings are common, and they think that Mexico City is too dangerous to visit.  I have always felt safe in Mexico City, and I do even more now that I compare it to all the danger and crime in Monterrey.

Our lawyer is trying to get my waiver appointment expedited on the basis of extreme hardship for Emma because she has to choose between being with me and giving up school or staying in school and being so stressed out she isn't able to do well.  It is not very likely that it will happen, but its worth a shot.  She sent out the request yesterday and it takes about a week to get a response.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Waiver Appointment

I received an email from our lawyer today letting us know that they were able to schedule a waiver appointment.  The appointment will be on June 7th at 8:00 am.  The date is a little later than we were hoping for but I am just as excited because it is one step closer to coming home. 

If all goes well at this appointment and they determine that Emma will suffer extreme hardship if she were to have to live without me or move to Mexico to be with me, I will receive my visa within 2 weeks of June 7th.  My birthday is June 19th and being able to come home would be the best present I could wish for. 

The next step is updating our waiver packet and making it as strong as possible so I can come home in June.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

First Appointment Success

I had my first appointment today and I got some great news.  I was approved for the waiver appointment!  I am now officially closer to being home than the first time around in 2009.  I was approved at the appointment in 2009, but a few weeks later got a letter saying that I was approved by mistake and had to wait three years.  It took 2 tries and a year and a half, but I got through it and can start on the next step now.

The appointment was very short and to the point.  I was only asked when I came to the US (1991), how I got there (my parents carried me accross the river), and when I returned to Mexico (2009).  The officer asked if I had tried to cross back since I was denied in 2009 and I said no.  She asked me if I have been using drugs, and I said no and the drug tests from the medical exam were clean so that was all.  I am guessing that I was not asked about my marriage and relationship since I had been interviewed once before and she had all the answers.  I had a big packet of proof of our relationship that we had been collecting over the last few weeks, but she didn't want any of it.  It is weird that I only have that appointment because I am married to Emma, but she wasn't brought up once so it was like she isn't a part of the application.

After the consular officer was done asking me questions, she told me I have a 10 year bar from unlawfully being in the United States and informed me that I qualified for a waiver to the bar.  Until recently, I would have been given a form right then to schedule my waiver appointment, but since the immigration process is going through some changes, I have to wait until it is mailed to me before I can schedule the appointment.  We don't know how long it will take for the letter to arrive at the office in Monterrey.  Luckily, our lawyer informed me that she has been successful in scheduling some waiver appointments without having to wait until the form is sent.  She will try to schedule an appointment as soon as possible and let us know what she finds out.  The waiver appointment is usually around 8 weeks from when the appointment is scheduled.  At this next appointment I will be submitting a hardship packet that will be used to determine if my visa is approved within a couple of weeks and I get to go home, or if I will have to wait for 8-10 moths from the waiver appointment before I get my visa.


Friday, March 25, 2011

First Appointment Packet

I received the packet for my first appointment in the mail from the attorney.  At the appointment on Tuesday, I am going to present my medical exam results and the packet.  The consular official will ask me about myself, Emma, our relationship, and go over the documents.  She will then decide if I qualify for the second appointment on the spot.  If she approves me for the waiver appointment, it would allow me to submit the hardship packet that determines when I get to go home. The appointment I have on Tuesday is the same appointment where I was given the three year bar in 2009, so I'm really nervous.  I'm so close to already being farther along in the process than I got last time.

The packet has all the documents we collected proving that Emma and I have a bona fide marriage.  We have copies of joint bank account statements, joint magazine subscriptions, e-mails dating back from 2005 (those are kind of embarrassing), cell phone records, Emma's ID showing she took my last name, IDs showing the same home address, mail addressed to both of us, apartment leases with both our names, pictures, and our wedding invitation.  It makes us look pretty bona fide, but I have always known we are, so my opinion might not count for much.  The hope is that our packet and my correct answers to the official's questions about how and when we met, got engaged, and married will be enough to prove to her that I should be able to qualify for the second appointment.

I have a phone appointment with the attorney on Monday to go over everything before the appointment on Tuesday.  Since the policy changed so recently, none of know what to expect.  It is possible that the consulate has changed their policies but not their actions, but its also possible that they changed their policies and are going to approve a lot of people.  I sure as hell hope the consulate is following the policy changes, but actions speak louder than words. It all comes down to the outcome on Tuesday.

Black Bag

I went back to the clinic this morning and got the sealed black bag with my medical exam results.  Just that I got the bag is promising.  They usually don't give the bag to people when there is a problem or the panel physician decides that someone isn't eligible.  I won't know what the panel physician decided until my appointment on Tuesday, but I feel good enough about it to relax until then. 


Medical Exam

I had my medical exam today.  In 2009, they were much nicer to me than they were this time.  When I went to see the psychologist, she was rude to me from the very beginning, starting with giving me a hard time because I look a lot different than I did at my last exam.  Then she kept trying to have me admit to using cocaine by slipping it in random sentences and asking me about it over and over again.  She even asked how my wife feels about my cocaine usage, after I had said three or four times that I have never used cocaine.  She asked me about why I wasn't in school until this January, what my friends in Mexico City were like, and what we did together.  I'm not really sure how that fit into the medical exam.  To be honest, I don't know why the entire exam went the way it did.  I've heard horror stories about how mean they can be and how they try to trick people, but I wasn't prepared for how inhumane it felt.

The consulate doesn't actually do the medical exams.  There are two private clinics next to it that contract with the consulate or something to provide the medical exams.  I think that lets them get away with treating people worse, because they don't have to even pretend to uphold American values.  No one even speaks English there, so I spent my entire exam trying to explain things in Spanish that were too medical and complex for my Spanish, but I could have done immediately in English.  I don't understand why I can't speak English at my appointments for immigrating to the United States.  It would make more sense for everything to be in English than in Spanish. 

I pick up my results from the medical exam tomorrow morning.  I think that if I get the black bag with the results I am good to go to my appointment on Tuesday.  If I don't get the black bag, it might mean that they tagged me as having some issue.  Apparently it happens pretty often.  I don't think I would have even been worried about getting my results if I hadn't been treated so badly in the exam today.  Just a few more hours, and hopefully this small part of the process will be behind me.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Break

I flew into Monterrey on Saturday and was there for a few days before we left to Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday.  Jose's apartment is pretty awful, with bad air circulation, no oven, a lukewarm shower, and a mattress of pure metal.  The weather was hot and humid, so combined with safety concerns, we didn't go outside much. 

Jose had his kitchen filled with food for me, and I'm ashamed to admit, he did all the cooking.  We spent our time talking, doing homework, watching TV, and eating.  It sounds relaxing, but the awfulness of his apartment succeeded in making it slightly miserable.  That he manages to live there with so little complaining shows his patience.

Just a few days after Jose and I arrived in Monterrey in January, there was a gun battle between some cartel men and the police.  Jose was at school and I was sitting in the living room when it started.  At first I convinced myself that the noise was a jackhammer, but once the big automatic guns (my knowledge of guns is limited) started, I knew it was serious.  I ran to Jose's closet and sat in there until the battle finished, and then some just for good measure.  About an hour later, Jose came running into the apartment after seeing the Oxxo on one side of his block shot up and the dead police officer on the other end of the block, both just two buildings away.  It was pretty traumatic, for me to have heard, and for Jose to have come home to and not know what had happened.  Obviously, it wasn't a great start to Monterrey and neither of us are super excited about being there.  This time was better, and we didn't hear a single gunshot while I was visiting.

Everything in Monterrey made us excited about going to Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday for an "indoor vacation."  We are staying in a hotel with a swimming pool, internet, and a gym.  It's close to restaurants and the Consulate. Pretty ideal, but when we arrived the hotel did not have our reservation even though Expedia had already charged us for the seven days Jose is going to be here.  We sat in the lobby for an hour before we were given a room, and it wasn't even cleared up until tonight.  Not a great start, but the mattress is soft and the shower gets hot.

I've had a kind of weird Spring Break--Monterrey and Ciudad Juarez aren't really what I dream of when I think "Spring Break in Mexico," but we're here for something important.  Let's hope it pays off!

Changes to the Process

Last Friday I went to an appointment at the American Consulate in Monterrey.  They are changing the appointment process a little by adding a new appointment at the beginning to fingerprint and photograph people, in an attempt to cut down the time in the first immigration appointment.  There was some confusion about whether I could get the appointment or if I needed it, because this is the first month that they are scheduling the new appointments.  The attorney's assistant couldn't schedule one, but I tried later and scheduled an appointment for last Friday.  I was pretty excited about it, even though it wouldn't change anything for the appointment on the 29th, just because it would make this really start again.  When I got to the Monterrey Consulate for the appointment, they told me I had to fill out a form online, but I don't have a barcode that is required for the form.  I didn't end up getting my fingerprints or photo taken.

I wasn't bothered that I did not get the appointment in Monterrey, but it does make me very nervous that they are changing the process right when I am starting again.  My attorney doesn't really understand what is going on because the changes are so new, and all the people I talked to at my medical exam today are also confused and nervous.  I originally got the three year bar at my first appointment in 2009 because things had changed suddenly and without proper warning for attorneys to understand them.  After waiting a year and a half in Mexico and getting my hopes up again, even though I am trying not to, it scares me to hear that I am the first to go through the new process.  I don't want to be punished again because no one knew what to expect.

I'm trying to stay calm and be positive, but everything feels out of my control.  Tuesday seems like it will never get here.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Jose's going back to Ciudad Juarez!

Two months ago, our original attorney called us and said that policies have changed and Jose might be eligible for a new appointment.  So we worked with her, and our new attorneys, and did all kinds of research and still weren't sure.  Jose called the Consulate at the end of January about scheduling a new appointment and they let him put in the request, but said it would be 2-3 months before we got more information.  Today, our original attorney (who we are using again, the San Francisco attorneys sucked) didn't seem to believe that Jose had been able to request an appointment over the phone.  Jose, being awesome, called the Consulate back to confirm he had put in the appointment request and was told, to everyone's surprise, that his appointment is MARCH 29, 2011 at 7:15 AM. 

That's three weeks away!

That's all we know at the moment.  I assume there is a ton of work to do before the appointment, and I assume we can get it all done by then, but I really don't know.

We're going to keep the blog updated now, for reals.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Tecnologico de Monterrey

I have now been in school for about 2 months and I am really enjoying it and happy to be back in school.  I am only taking three classes this semester because I didn't meat the prerequisites for two other classes I signed up for.  The three classes I am taking are: Thermodynamics, Music Appreciation, and Design of Reinforced Concrete Elements.  The quality of education here is unbelievable.  My professors are all female and very good professors.  They might be the best professors I have had so far during college.  They are all very good at presenting the material we cover in class.  My professors at Cal Poly were very good in their respective field of work but most lacked the teaching experience needed to able to present the material correctly in order for the students to understand it.  Music Appreciation is my only class taught in English. It has been really nice to be taught in Spanish at university level for the first time. At first I was a little worried about my classes in Spanish because although I speak Spanish, my vocabulary isn't the broadest out there, but it was not a problem at all.  At first I struggled with the professors' accents but it only took about a week to get use to.  Everyone here speaks with a very different accent than what I grew up hearing in California or what i grew accustomed to in Mexico City.  The students at the Tec are all from very wealthy families.  The Tec is the most prestigious and expensive university in Mexico and one of the best in Latin America.  Tec students pay around $6000 USD for tuition per semester which is a lot of money here in Mexico, well in the US too.  Walking around campus I feel as if I was back in California.  Everyone has very light skin, blue or green eyes, and are very tall.  Everyone looks like they could be American so sometimes as I walk through campus  and see a group of students talking I think to myself, "they are speaking English, I know they are," but sure enough they are speaking Spanish.  Out of all the students who are here studying as International Students, I am hands down the one who stands out the most.  All of the European students blend in with the regular student body.  It's been a little difficult making Mexican friends here at the Tec but I have made friends with a German and two Singapore International students.  I am really enjoying school and I am glad I am getting to experience university life in Mexico.

Sorry for not writing in so long.  I will try my hardest to keep you guys updated.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Catch Up

Obviously I have failed at blogging in the last six months. I'm not a journal writer, so this doubles as the written account of our "immigration experience" and its really important to me to have this to look back on.  So, I present my New Year's Resolution--blog often and blog well.  I've never had a resolution before, but I'm hoping for the 45 year old me who needs to lose weight that I am good at keeping them.

I'll begin six months of catch up with summary:
June: Anna left Mexico.
         Jose and I went to Huetamo, his hometown in Michoacan.

July: I left Mexico to start at UC Berkeley for the 6 week summer session.
       Jose must have passed his time somehow, but I don't know what he did. You'll probably never know, either, because he stays away from this blog like its poison.

August: I finished school (2 A's!) and went back to Mexico for 10 days.
            We celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary!
           Jose did...

September: Emma in school.
                 Jose started working, kind of.

October:  Emma in school.
              Jose working, kind of.

November: I went to Mexico for a few days and brought the dogs home with me. They are living with my parents.
             Jose worked, kind of.

December: I finished school (all A's!) and went back to Mexico.   My family visited for Christmas.
                 Jose got ready for our visit.

January: Jose moved to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico for school!
             Emma is leaving January 17th for school.

There's a short run-down of the last half year that I'll expand on in the next week or so until, and I'm serious about this, I get caught up.