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.