I don't mean "finally" as in Christmas morning, but rather "finally" as in that dreaded dental appointment.
The last work day, the last hug goodbye, the last look around our house and garden, the last time we turn the car north and head for the border, the last crossing over the big sandy depression that is the Rio Bravo/Grande, the last chat with CBP and then we're away and into Texas.
Time is such a mercurial, fickle friend and sometimes enemy. Time has both flown and crept since our February 2013 arrival. May to January slipped by in a blink, and yet it seems as if I've been aware of the passing of every hour in our last week. Yesterday we drove by the El Paso hotel where in Feb 2013 we spent the last night of our road trip south before meeting our social sponsor and heading across the border for the first time. I saw the window of the hotel room where we stayed and remembered what I had been thinking as I looked out over the twin cities that would be our home. During the day it was all very beige (very beige!), and at night Juarez spread out beneath El Paso in a rolling, twinkling blanket of lights. But the skies were so crisp blue (they still are) with the widest and brightest horizon I'd ever seen. I think that horizon was emblematic of my time here: broad and full of possibilities.
Professionally, this assignment could not have been better suited to me. Back in Bogota when I was an OMS and hoping to be a Consular Officer, I got some advice from one of the Consular managers that, should I make it to A-100, I should seriously consider going to the border for everything I could learn there. (Sorry Canada, but when we say "border post," we're usually talking about the southern border.) I'm sure I smiled and nodded, tucking away her advice, all the while privately thinking that I wanted to go somewhere far more exotic. But she was right. Cutting one's teeth in arguably one of the most complex immigrant visa sections in the world has been an incredible learning experience for me.
Personally, our time here has been equally satisfying. That's such a milquetoast word, "satisfying," for something so meaningful. The most important elements to a successful tour are often completely unrelated to the actual job. Is your family happy? Do they like their jobs/schools? Are the pets safe and comfortable? How do you like your house/apartment? Do you like the local food? What is the weather like? Are there fun things to do outside of work and friends to share them with? Everything has come our way in each of those categories. In fact, I'm a bit worried that we've used up all our Foreign Service luck in that respect.
I think I've made my point that I've loved it here. And that's why it's so sad to see that the time has come to close the doors on this experience and move forward. And why I feel so guilty thinking that time is now my enemy, barely crawling by when I just want to get it over with and go. This is by far the hardest part of a Foreign Service life: the departures. Not the technical pain-in-the-butt stuff like pack-out and writing EERs, but the "it's not goodbye, it's see you later" when you're pretty sure it really is goodbye.
So I'm just going to leave you with a really snappy song and video about our dusty, ole' city and a few pictures that I hope show this place off. It's not a beautiful city, but the soul of the place and the people here make it as warm as it is hot. Our Consul General, in giving a going away speech for a few of us, said that there are some posts worldwide that are "snakebit," meaning that no matter how lovely the setting - they're just full of bad juju that persists year after year. He didn't know what the opposite of that was to describe this consulate, sunkissed perhaps, but he's right. Through all the tragedy the city and post have endured, the soul and spirit continues to welcome. I'm proud to have been a little part of it all.
Ciudad Juarez es Numero Uno! Just try to get this song out of your head afterwards.
|A blanket of lights on both sides of the border|
|Amazing skies and Juarez's mountains to the west.|
|The Equis (X) at the crossing of countries and cultures|
|La bandera grande, slowly waving in the sun rays|
Thank you for everything my friends. It's time to head north.