Monday, August 30

get this off my chest

Ok - this post is dedicated to anyone who may be (now or in the future) googling their fingers off trying to find information about: 

•Mexican Fiance Visas (also known as K-1)
•The Ciudad Juarez Consulate

I find myself compelled to write this all down and put it out there for anyone who might be going through this process. You can find loads of info from the government but I really lacked a competent and informed personal perspective/experience. Ask Jaime, my close family & friends and they'll tell you how many times I broke down, cried, pulled my hair out while trying to get this figured out. And if you never have to go through this process - you can just thank your lucky stars that all you have to do to get married is get that pesky marriage license. ;D I can't say every situation will be the same...but here's Jaime & my experience in a nutshell (up to now). 

First, the USCIS (US Citizen & Immigration Service) will be your master. As a fiance of a foreigner, you have to petition to the USCIS. This petition is the I-129F and it is basically a load of paperwork that covers personal facts about you and your significant other. It is also the time to prove to the USA that you are in a legit relationship. You do this by providing communication evidence, pictures, flight info, passport stamps from visits, etc. (my creative memories skills really came in handy for the photo section). I followed the instructions for the I-129F that accompanied the form on while crosschecking with this very helpful website. My motto has been more is better & safer - so I sent extra passport-size photos and tons of pics meticulously marked with locations and dates (a little overboard...but they love that, right?). 

STEP 2: 
Send your petition and wait patiently for a response in the mail. Jaime and I received our petition approval in about 3 months (supposedly it can take longer so plan far ahead of any wedding plans). The fiance approval was valid for four months - which means that Jaime just had to show up at the consulate for an interview before the sheet's expiration date. We soon after got other letters telling us that his case was going to be handled in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua (surprise! Jaime gets to travel to drug cartel zone!). As far as I can tell, all immigrant visas (the visas for people who aren't coming back to Mexico anytime soon) are handled on the border.

Check over the visa process that is nicely organized by the people at the Ciudad Juarez Consulate to know what to expect/bring (remember, more is safer - I threw in some extra papers that I wasn't sure we needed). The paperwork and interview are used to prove that the Mexican & US citizens still have the intention to get married. It is also the time to prove that someone has a home where the foreigner can live and $$ to support the foreigner while he/she gets residency papers. The affidavit of support, I-134, is the form to put together to prove that economic backing. The foreigner can do this for themselves - but the petitioner (Mexican's fiance) can also do it. A co-sponsor is ok too in the case that you're currently spending lots of time in your fiance's country and don't really have a house/US apartment/job paying you over the poverty line...hmmm...sounds strangely familiar.

Buy your ticket to Ciudad Juarez. Book a hotel that is close to the Consulate because you don't want to be at the end of the line and not get accepted that day. Your first task is to get a medical exam. Get in line at dawn (or start checking the line situation out of your hotel window around 4am) at one of the two consulate-approved clinics. They draw a bit of blood, check your eyes and do a quick physical. If you're lucky - you can come back later that day to pick up your closed results (take the envelope as it is to your opening!).

Visa interview day consists of more waiting in line (get out there early and don't trust the Juarez locals who tell you to go get your documents checked at sketchy offices nearby...that's NOT official and not necessary). There are a number of checkpoints (metal detectors, "did you bring your approval notice?"...) but once you're inside - someone collects your paperwork and takes it behind the scenes. Later, after what I assume is the time they take to glance at your documents, they call you back to talk to an immigration official. All of these "interviews" take place at bank-like transaction windows so don't expect an interrogation lamp above your head - it's not THAT bad. They'll ask you the normal questions about your relationship..."when did you two meet?", "how did you meet?". Then they get into the official questions..."have you tried to cross the border illegally?", "have you stayed in the US illegally on a different visa?". They take your fingerprints - so if you did run or swim across the border before - I'm sure they'll know and that's merit for denying your visa (and asking you to go through another process I don't even want to try to figure out...sorry!).

Go over to another part of the consulate buildling and pay DHL the fee for their receiving and holding of your passport/visa from the consulate. Jaime called the DHL people two days after his interview and his stuff is ready already. I was warned that most people have to go to Juarez twice because you need to pick up your visa in person (unless you know someone who can pick it up for you with a legal letter transferring power). If we had realized it would be ready so quick (they say the norm is 5-10 days), maybe Jaime could have just had a little vaca in Texas and swung back to get his visa on his way home. But oh well - he'll head up north before too long to open his little package. My bet is that he'll have a shiny new visa in there - but no champagne until the day I get his call saying "La tengoooooooo!!".    

Get married! From the day you get your visa approved - you have six months to enter the US. After you're in, three months to tie the knot. 

GOOD LUCK! (phew)

Friday, August 13

buy me love

The Beatles are wrong - you can buy me love. I loved this morning and all it cost me was 20 pesos. After morning class, I walked over to Le Café du Monde and ordered my americano (make that twooo americanos...second one included in the price = bliss!). It's the perfect temperature of 22 degrees Celcius with the burny Mexican sun hiding behind a few gray clouds. To be honest - I think I love today because it feels like Wisconsin outside. I'm prancing around in jeans and a little cardigan in the open-air café while the barista is shivering in a fall jacket. 

Besides the perfectly gloomy $1.67 investment has allowed me to plug in my faithful iBook, sit down, sip espresso and...

*listen to music varying from Lady Gaga to Fanny Lú
*finalize plans for visiting friends
*reconnect with other friends
*finish some visa preparations to help me relax about this awful process
*check my favorite blogs
*look at flights to visit home...

I guess I should stop complaining about having too much free time - there's no excuse to take a relaxing morning with all of these little accomplishments for granted. 

Saturday, August 7

get off the road!

We've all seen/hit/squashed a raccoon/armadillo/squirrel on the street, right? I have to raise my hand and cringe a little bit about the armadillo & squashed combo... Maybe you've even seen a deer or a bear!! But one thing I don't understand is whhhhhy someone would let their domesticated animal wander near or ON the street. Exhibit 1: 
This little guy was taking a stroll on the exit ramp near where Jaime had to park his overheating truck on the way to Acapulco when Alicia & Dustin were visiting (sorry again about that guys). We were walking (on the highway as well...oops) to get to the bus stop close by and caught a glimpse of this donkey that Alicia decided to name Jose (or some other stereotypical Mexican name). Luckily he was clever enough to hop back to be with his buddy. We anxiously anticipated that four-legged hurdle - he nailed it!
Exhibit 2: Horse family having a snack on the rural highway to Tepoztlan. I can't believe mama caballo would allow her bebé so close to the street - that's just plain irresponsible. Don't tell Jaime that I told you - but when he was a teenager, he and his friends were going to Tepoz and in the midst of navigating those curvy Mexican roads...he clipped a horse! Can you imagine!? Luckily (for Jaime's extra-sensitive conscience) the horse survived. Phew!
When I told Jaime that I wanted to take pictures of these horses to write about it  - he told me, "all you do is find weird things about Mexico to put on your want to tell the world how crazy you think we are". I guess he has a point - I do write about things that make me go, "seriously!?"...I'll try to be more positive next time. But come on - this is a little nuts, right?  :D 

Monday, August 2

what i'm getting myself into...

If I hadn't realized by now - my first (early) wedding gift made me get it through my head. I am marrying a Mexican. This is a mortar & pestle made out of bona fide Mexican rock, an essential for every salsa-making household.Maybe that sounds really weird - how would I not be conscious of my being a bit...different? What with Jaime's cafe-au-lait look and that oh-so-luscious Spanish he speaks. But even international or bilingual life becomes just your normal everyday life. However - I do have those moments where I look around and think to myself..."waaaaait a minute - you live in Mexico!! you speak Spanish really well and are the only gringa in the restaurant!" And I guess I've realized that there's a lot to share - starting with the simplest salsa recipe Mama Yadi could offer: 

The Mexican standard would be 10 serrano chiles per plum tomato - but let's bring it down to 2 (unless you like to sweat while you eat like Jaime's dad seems to be fond of). Boil 2 tomatoes and 4 destemmed serrano chiles in about an inch of water (covered) for 10 minutes. Crush the chile peppers first - do you dare leave the seeds? - with a pinch of salt in your mortar (or maybe a good alternative could be in a bowl with a potato masher). Add the tomatoes and crush to a rustic consistency. Add a little of the water to thin it out if you like. This is the perfect salsa to put on your tostadas, alongside your eggs, basically on anything you can imagine. This is just a starter recipe - so try it out and we'll see if we can graduate up to enchiladas & chiles rellenos!     
I can see myself loving this already - can't wait to break it in!