Saturday, September 18, 2010

Signing Out

Well, I need to apologize a little first about yesterday's posting. It was intended for an audience of one - me. I don't know why I felt the need to share it with the blogosphere.

Obviously I have a lot I need to work out. As such I can't continue this blog anymore. (Please, no crying.)

I hope you've found this space entertaining and informative. It was a pleasure writing for you and even a greater pleasure reading your feedback.

Good luck on all of your travels, and for those of you trying to get in, good luck with that as well.

And to you bloggers out there, keep up the good work.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Turning Over an Old Leaf

Yesterday was Mexican Independence Day (no, for the last time, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day). This year it is a big deal as this country celebrates its bicentennial.

But more than that, this year also marks the 100th anniversary of Mexico's second revolution, which culminated in 1917 with the new Mexican Constitution, so yeah, everyone here is pretty excited.

Entirely coincidentally, this period is marking a personal revolution for me as well. I'm locked in a war with myself trying to get rid of the person I've become and return to the person I used to be.

Like all bad habits, this version of me probably started a long time ago and continued to change me in small ways until I wake up and realize I don't even know myself anymore. Perhaps it started four years ago when I was denied a promotion I thought I had earned. Or maybe it was six years ago when my younger brother died. Maybe it goes back even further.

At one of those starting points, I became more of a pessimist whereas I had always been more of a happy-go-lucky optimist growing up. It was easy back then. I was given every opportunity to succeed, and for most of my life, I did. I took chances always expecting that if I worked hard enough, everything would turn out right in the end. And they usually did. And if they didn't, oh well, I'd either try again until I got it right or saw the error and moved on. Sure, there were frustrations, but I brushed them off easier.

Some where along the way, when something didn't turn out right, I'd blame part of the problem, or all of it, on someone else. How could it be my fault? I worked hard, am relatively intelligent and have a strong track record of success. Obviously, someone else is holding me back, maybe even intentionally.

All of this placing blame on others turned me into the angry, spiteful person I became. Which only made it easier to hold grudges, place more blame and so on and so forth. It consumed me, and it got to the point that even started blaming (in private) my wife for some of my hardships here. Though I never said it to her, my attitudes certainly were being reflected in my behaviors.

This came to a head, and after some long soul searching, I came to all of those realizations above. It took Mexico 100 years before the people said enough is enough and forced changes. I don't have that long. I've already started my revolution. I called my freelance editor and apologized for being a jerk for the past four years, as one example. Though as I replayed that conversation in my head after hanging up, I think she must think I'm going through the 12-step program. Whatever, it doesn't matter anymore, and maybe it will buy me some extra sympathy.

I'm trying to right my wrongs and along the way return to my old brighter outlook on life. Viva la revolucion, indeed!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Last week, we, the Endangered Families in Mexico (EFMs), had a scare-you-out-of-being-complacent meeting at the Consulate with all of the higher-ups there.

In other circles, I suppose this is considered a security briefing, but as this is a relatively secure city - look, I'm already pretty complacent about Hermosillo's violence, or lack there of - they talked mostly about the blood and carnage in Monterrey (which while upsetting and bad, is still no where near the disaster that is Juarez [can't pronounce Juarez without "war."]).

We are living in Prohibition Era America here where mob rule rears its ugly head from time to time. More so in the northeast, but it works its way into Sonora from time to time.

This wasn't my first security briefing since I've been here, and of course there are several unofficial security briefings in which you hear stories.

All in all, here is my list of findings regarding safety here:

Hermosillo is a safe city. So maybe this isn't a no-lock-your-door-at-night, American Heartland city, but I almost feel the only way you are going to be insecure here is if you go out of your way looking for trouble. Another American here describes Hermosillo as the eye of the storm, meaning that while all sorts of bad things happen around us, Hermosillo is quiet. My only problem with that analogy is that implies eventually the eye will pass and Hermosillo will go up in flames like some of the other cities, but I don't think that will happen here.

We are in the long narrow section on the left - no competition.
Life is better under single cartel rule. The big problem in the northeastern part of Mexico is that a part of one cartel broke off and created a rival faction. So now there are turf wars and competing interests. Here in Hermosillo, we essentially live under the thumb of the Sinaloa Cartel. Sure, it sucks that a cartel can have such a strong presence, but as long as it is one group calling the shots, we live in relative peace and tranquility.

The only threat is the effects of the war on drugs. The latest scare-you-out-of-complacency meeting did have one lingering effect on me. We were told that the Mexican and American governments' war against the drug cartels has resulted in fewer drugs and weapons crossing the borders, which is hurting the cartels' bottom line. This means they will look for alternative sources of income. One such source is kidnapping, and the fear is that there has been increased kidnappings in the northeast.

Red states have more cartel violence. Green has less.
We live in a dark green.
 As long as the cartels are strong, which will be for as long as I'm in Hermosillo, there is always the threat of danger. But in Hermosillo, we aren't exactly living in fear of potential outbreaks. Yeah, you are best off avoiding some areas at night and you want to stay off the highways at night for sure, but much of the crime here is similar to that you'd experience in any city with about million people, many of whom live at some level of what Americans would consider poverty.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

EFM: Earlier Football Mornings

I can't decide if this is the most or least appropiate
jersey to wear here. But if you were unaware, the
Bengals have a player who changed his last name
to Ochocinco (formerly Chad Johnson).
You can go ahead and move this one into the plus column: Mountain Standard Time = three less hours of waiting for football to start. At least for the time being. After day light savings, it will be two hours, but still an improvement.

Saturday morning, it was college football at 9 a.m. Today, the NFL kicks off at 10 a.m. It used to be in the States, I'd seldom stay up to watch all of the Sunday night game because it started so late as well as the Monday night game. Now they will be starting before dinner.

In my previous life before foreign service, I spent a week in London for work; tough assignment, but someone had to do it. It was about this time of the year, actually, and I remember how weird it was that the early games - the ones that start at 1 p.m. on the East Coast - didn't start until like 6 or 7 p.m. The afternoon slate didn't begin until 9 or 10 p.m. Forget about Sunday and Monday night football. Of course, I was in London for one week, so I really wasn't that interested in football anyway. I could survive a week without.

I don't know how those of you serving east of Eastern Europe get by. I love watching pro football, and even some college football, if there is a good match up. I found waiting until 1 p.m. to be a horrendous task at times. I couldn't imagine waiting until dinner, or later, or missing the season altogether.

It is just about 8 a.m., which means I only have two more hours until kick off. I am ready for some football.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stressful Friendships

A foreign service lifestyle is demanding and stressful. Many of us are moving to places we've never been too for, and in some cases, places we've never heard of before.

We are leaving behind our family, friends and much that is familiar to us.

It seems to me one of the few ways to remain sane (assuming we had some semblance of sanity before arriving - a large assumption in some cases, I suppose) is to make friends with the people at post, American or native.

If only it were that easy. Foreign service life is never that easy. There is always a curveball in store.

On Thursday morning, one of the families that we had become very close to moved back to the States.

The end of their tour will not mark the end of our friendship, but it highlights one of the frustrations of this lifestyle. During a short six-week period, we made new friends only to watch them leave.

I'm not trying to be overly dramatic about this. They weren't our only friends here, and they might not even have been our closest friends. But they are good friends to us, and having to say "See ya in a long later," after such a short period of getting to know each other hardly seems fair. It is enough to make you wonder what the point is sometimes. Should we only attempt friendships with those who arrive about the same time we did because we both will be here for a while. No time wasted in short acquaintances.

Of course not. Actually, I think that just goes to show how awesome this family was. When we arrived, they could have said, "Welcome, good luck, we're leaving in six weeks." They could have said even less than that.

But not only did they choose a different, more sociable route; they allowed themselves to make a connection with us. These are the type of people you want to make friends with.

I don't know when our paths will cross again. Probably not for a couple of years. Possibly longer. But I will miss them and look forward to a reunion. And this after just six weeks of knowing each other.