Thursday, March 19, 2009

Who Doesn't Love Singing Mexican Cuties?


Most importantly: I survived! Hurray!

I flew to El Paso, Texas early Monday morning and spent three days in El Paso and across the border in Juarez, Mexico. Just to be clear - I didn't quite choose to go on this trip - it was a fact-finding mission of sorts. (How cool do I feel saying I went on a fact-finding mission? Very.) We're taking a group of students there in a few months and we went to see what the situation is like firsthand.

I was insanely afraid, as you might have guessed. I may or may not have cried. Twice. Maybe. I just didn't understand why we would even slightly risk our lives for no good reason.

The trip was surprisingly wonderful, though. After I realized that my heart couldn't physically beat out of my chest like it felt like, and after I got used to seeing this:


I mean, we saw a LOT of these guys lining the streets and driving around in Jeeps with their guns pointed at everyone. (Including pointing them straight at our car, which was admittedly unnerving.) Wait. Actually, I never got used to seeing this. You know how when a police car drives behind you your heart suddenly starts pounding? (Or is that just me? I have a strong aversion to speeding tickets. Even if I know I wasn't speeding or doing anything wrong, I'm certain he's hunting me down.) Anyway, imagine that feeling, only times A BAJILLION. With huge guns and Jeeps and men who never smile. *shudder*

My room.

Time for happy pictures! We stayed in El Paso with a few Mexican immigrant families - some of the kindest, sweetest women I've ever met, who had some of the most adorable children I've ever seen. This picture was taken in the room I was staying in - the Cesar Chavez room, compelete with awesome vintage mirror. I fell asleep each night with loud Mexican radio that drifted through the vents, and woke up each morning to pitter-patter of little feet and Spanish versions of children crying and fighting and taking care of each other while their mothers comforted and quieted them.

(Psst - don't mind my semi-frowny face here. It's just the way I look. Seriously. I have an uncontrollable furrowed brow issue that needs to resolve itself before it gets me into a fight someday when it furrows at the wrong person.)

Jesus is the same in Spanish.

We visited a lovely little school and women's co-op run by an American nun. After I took this picture, I walked over to find the first of SEVERAL dead dogs I saw in Mexico. I was seriously traumatize by the sight of its rotting head. (Uh, maybe I shouldn't share this stuff? But it was awful! I've never seen four dead dogs in one day. Wait, how did I turn a happy picture into a gross story?)

Laundry and Mountains.
Laundry and a mountain.

A Juarez Street Corner.

Coca Cola.
The little village we'll stay in if we spend the night in Juarez. I will definitely buy a glass bottle of Coke from this guy.

And, now, prepare yourself for adorableness: (Uh, Spanish speakers - can you tell what they're saying?)

Adorable Children in Mexico. from Ashley Marie on Vimeo.

After being serenaded by a group of children in a chapel that was built on an old landfill in Juarez, it was hard to feel fear. It was also difficult to look at someone who lived there and ask, "Is it safe to bring people here? Is where you live, go to school, and work - is it safe? But not for concern to help you, just out of concern for our OWN safety." I understand our obligations to keep our students safe. And, heck, I was and am concerned about my personal safety when traveling to dangerous areas. I just felt incredibly aware of my privilege when asking about violence. Because no one deserves to raise children and live in violence, and how privileged I am that I can make that choice.

As the nun from the US said, "Pray for the good people of Juarez." (And the "bad", too - but the the "bad" are really ruining it for all of the wonderful, kind, and generous individuals who work so hard everyday. They didn't choose to live in neighborhoods and cities where the drug cartels fight.)

Here are more pictures from my trip.

On a sad note, Mike's grandmother passed away while I was gone. Her calling hours are tomorrow, so I'm driving five hours there and back, just in time to fall asleep before the first day of my new graphic design class early Saturday morning. (!) Plus, Mike left for a four day conference in North Carolina early this morning, so we're apart for a whole week. I'm looking forward to a weekend that doesn't involve travel, being away from Mike, and some quality lazy time. Someday.


  1. Very glad you made it back safely. Sorry to hear about Mike's grandmother. And no, you are not alone in the heart pounding when you see the police car behind you even when you KNOW you've done absolutely nothing wrong. It makes me so nervous I will occasionally make side trips to get away from the police car. (Stopping somewhere or turning at a street I don't need to go down, for instance).

  2. It's so awesome seeing someone be able to witness and visit a place like this. For people like me, who've barely been to more than 5 states in the US, places like that are almost unrealistic to me because I've never had the opportunity to see them. It's like they only exist in movies, or on television. Granted, I obviously know this isn't the case, it's really cool to see your pictures and videos of what you got to experience. Thank you for sharing! I'll be sure to check out the rest of the pictures from your trip.

  3. I'm glad you are back safe and sound. I'm sorry to hear about Mike's grandmother.

    May you finally have one restful day without travels in your near future.

  4. Wow. You are so brave to go to such a dangerous location for work! I'm so glad you came back unscathed!

    As for Mike's grandma, I'm really sorry to hear that.

    Here's hoping for peace in your future.

  5. so glad you made it to and back safely!! sounds like it was a very moving experience.

    sorry to hear about mike's grandma.

  6. What a trip--welcome back! Those kids are really cute. . . my Spanish is a little too rusty to translate from my lousy laptop speakers. I got "mesa" and that was about it. Is it a song they sing for Mass?

    Condolences on the death of Mike's grandmother. Safe travels again!

  7. Wow, that pic of you in the mirror is really intense. I like it!

    Sorry for your loss. Hug.

  8. What great pictures. I went to El Paso several years ago and I love how you brought back memories of my few days there.

  9. I'm sorry to hear about Mike's grandmother! Big hugs honey.

    Oh, and "laundry and a mountain" is such a great title for something. Keep that around for some random day in the future.

  10. I was just over at your Flickr and you got some great shots! I ADORE mexican popsicles...seriously. There are a few stores in the right parts Fresno that sell them and i LOVE them, my faves are coconut, watermelon, rice & the creamy strawberry ones. gahh, now i'm fiending for one! LOL I'm SO glad you made it home safely, I really was worried about you!
    And i'm so sorry to hear about Mikes grandma <33

  11. I am so happy you made it back safely! Your photos are gorgeous, even though the stories about the dog and the military are a little unnerving. (I wouldn't be able to get used to them pointing guns, either.)

  12. Hi, I'm from Juarez, I was born here, the city has change a lot, I still remember when everything was more peaceful, but I still love to live here, it such a nice city,


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