my six-month mark

I’ve had a few beers and decided to write a blog post because why not? It’s nine thirty and Cesia’s sleeping. She’s feeling ill and has been in bed for two hours, poor thing. She kept trying to clean up after dinner, or put clothes away. I had to wrestle her in to bed.

We’ve been married for about six weeks now. I’ve been an illegal immigrant for two days. My tourist visa expired two days ago, when I hit my six-month mark, and the local government people have yet to return my papers, making me legal.

As it stands, even though we are married, we technically can’t live together. For Cesia and I to live together in England I would need a huge amount of money in my account to support her as a dependent immigrant or something. I think it’s £85,000, which, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the conversion rate, is more money than I will ever see. They might as well ask me to make a deposit of my beating heart.

In Mexico, I can be here for six months before I either have to leave the country for a few days, or get my immigration status changed. We opted for the latter, but may not have given ourselves enough time. I’m currently living in Limbo, not sure whether I’m here legally or not.

A few days ago, an app on my phone told me I could check in to my flight back to England. I had bought a return ticket before I came here, and it felt weird to ignore that notification. There were hundreds of pounds that would fly away in that empty seat, money we need, that we can’t get back. And it just feels weird knowing that some member of staff, somewhere, is going to be looking for you, to see if you’re coming. It was like ignoring a Tamagotchi.

Cesia worked from home today, taking pain killers when she needed them, and eating oranges for vitamin C. I worked for an hour and a half today. My morning class was cancelled, my lunchtime class held, and I was on standby for another class, but I wasn’t needed.

I don’t know the technical term for what my immigration status will be. I won’t be a resident. I won’t be a citizen. I’ll be an FF112M or something. And I want to be. It means I can find a legal job and open a bank account. It means, with my shiny new bank account, I can buy Cesia flowers, instead of us buying them together. I can get her a gift, or treat her to dinner, instead of us paying for it together, which is really her paying 70% of it.

So, if any Mexican officials are reading this, then to you I say Hola, quiero estar un Mexicano. Puede ayudarme, por favor?

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How to Make Five Cocktails and One Salad Dressing.

Rum and coconut espresso martini.

 

25ml each of rum, espresso, coffee liquer, and coconut syrup.

 

Put in a shaker with a lot of ice. Shake it.

 

Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with coffee beans.

•••••

A while ago we found a restaurant that plays the music I listened to as a teenager. The Killers, Jet, and a bunch of other bands whose songs are familiar but the names escape me. Almost everything on the menu is $18MXN. For those unsure of the exchange rate, this is cheap. Beer, tacos, burritos, and cocktails for $18 each. In England, Cesia and I made cocktails together. We’d crush cherries in rum and syrup, shake it and strain it and top it up with ice and lemonade. Or mezcal, lime juice, and ginger beer to invent the Mezcal Mule.

The Mezcal Mule.

 

25ml of Mezcal, half a lime, ginger beer.

 

Fill a large glass with ice.

 

Squeeze half a lime into the glass and drop the rind in.

 

Add the mezcal and the ginger beer.

•••••

I had never been a gin drinker until I found a bottle of what I understood to be good gin on a very good sale. The only drink I knew was gin and tonic.

Gin and Tonic.

 

Put gin and tonic in a glass.

•••••

I bought the gin and a four pack of tonic water and found that I enjoyed it. It’s a little like grapefruit juice in that it’s a very dry flavour, but very refreshing. And one warm evening, a tall refreshing G&T sounded perfect, and here, it was only $18.

I have no idea what I was served.

I am certain that there was no tonic in it. It might have been watered down lemonade, but it was not tonic. I’m pretty sure there was no gin either. There was probably no alcohol at all. Cesia had ordered a mojito.

Mojito.

 

25ml each of white rum, lime juice, simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar dissolved in a saucepan. Do not boil.) Soda water. Fresh mint.

 

Crush the mint in the rum and syrup.

 

Strain the liquid into a glass with ice.

 

Add lime juice and top up with soda water.

 

Garnish with more mint leaves and a wedge of lime.

•••••

The restaurant we were in had not followed that recipe. Again, there was no taste of alcohol, and we don’t know what the rest of the ingredients were. There was mint in it, floating like pond life on the surface of the pale green drink.

We switched to beer.

In most supermarkets in the UK there are often several brands of tonic water but in Mexico it is harder to find. We found a six pack of schwepps; little glass bottles the size of hand grenades that we mixed with Tanquaray gin. It was kind of annoying because Schwepps is expensive and back home tonic is so cheap. Also, it meant we had to deal with six little glass bottles. First world problems.

Then one day we found a bottle, a real size bottle, of agua tonica. There were two on the shelf and we bought them both.

I want to make cocktails again, and use the shaker and muddler I brought with me from England. I want to made Gin Fizzes, and Mojitos, and Martinis. Money is a factor, and the ingredients for these are luxuries that we probably shouldn’t indulge in right now.

Also, my cocktail shaker is stuck closed. I screwed the top on too tight the last time I used it and I can’t get it off. The last time I used it was for a salad dressing.

Raspberry Vinigerette.

 

50ml each of balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. A handful of raspberries. Sugar.

 

Sprinkle suger over the raspberries and leave for ten minutes.

 

Put raspberries, balsamic vinegar and oil in a cocktail shaker. Shake.

 

Strain slowly, directly onto salad.

 

Raspberries can be substituted with strawberries, cherries, probably a lot of fruits.

•••••

Last night we tried to make raspberry gin fizzes. This is the recipe:

Raspberry Gin Fizz.

Try to open your cocktail shaker. Fail.

Put a handful of raspberries in a glass and add 25ml of gin.

Muddle together with the muddler from home.

Try again to open the cocktail shaker. Fail again.

Attempt to strain mixture through a paper coffee filter.

Spill some on the counter top.

With one hand holding the coffee filter, grab a cereal bowl from the draining rack.

Put the raspberry gin mush into the bowl.

Consider giving up.

Take the plastic coffee filter from the machine and rinse it.

With a paper towel, mop up some of your mess so Cesia won’t realise how badly this is going.

Put the raspberry mush into the plastic coffee filter, put the filter into another cereal bowl, fill bowl with lemonade.

Wiggle the filter as if panning for gold. Do this until the only thing in the filter is seeds and raspberry flesh.

Clean the glasses you tried to use earlier, before you thought this through.

Fill with ice.

Pour the liquid from the bowl into one of the glasses.

Using a paper towel, clean up the mess.

Realise you need more paper towels. 

Decide to clean up later.

Over the sink this time, pour the remaining liquid from the bowl to the second glass.

Serve with confidence.

Help Cesia clean up.

The Water Feature on the Wooden Walkway

At the time, we didn’t notice the building across the river…

Outside our apartment there is a river, and along forty feet of it there is a wooden walkway. Next to the wooden walkway is a little ditch, and in the ditch there are fifteen evenly spaced jets. These jets, on the days that they are functioning, shoot water in an arc over the wooden walkway and into an oblong pool on the other side. The jets create a staccato tunnel, the imaginary ceiling of which is high enough that a person can walk along the wooden walkway without any worry of getting wet. It is an excellent place to take pictures.

Cesia took my picture under an arc of water on the wooden walkway outside our apartment. At the time, it was not our apartment. At the time, we didn’t notice the building across the river because we had no reason to. It was the 18th of February 2016, nine months and four days before I would propose to Cesia. 

Since moving in to our apartment I have looked out the window a hundred times and seen people playing in the water feature on the wooden walkway. They use their hands to redirect the water, splashing their friends. Parents hold the hands of toddlers who want to investigate the strange way the water moves. On windy days, or days where the water pressure is weak, people run and duck and dodge the jets, like they’re avoiding laser beams guarding a bank vault. A lot of people take pictures exactly like the one Cesia took of me. 

There is absolutely no meaning in this coincidence. We didn’t look at the building, back in February 2016, and determine to make this place ours. We didn’t decide, in May 2017, to live in a place that had any particular significance to us. Like almost everything, it just sort of happened.

Cesia just happened to attend a university thousands of miles away from her home. The university just happened to be in the city I was in. We just happened to be using Tinder at the same time. We just happened to be available the next day to get coffee. And so on.

The coincidence of us taking a photo outside the building we would later move in to, is nothing compared to the coincidence of us meeting and forming a relationship in the first place. Or it isn’t a coincidence. We have both had to be patient when an ocean separated us, and take professional and educational risks to prioritise our relationship. And so on.

It might be a coincidence, it might not. There might be meaning in these events, and maybe not. But either way, I don’t care. I’m just glad it happened.

New bed

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted so I’d like to apologise to my thousands of readers, however, as I don’t have thousands of readers, it’s impossible.

Yesterday the bed we ordered weeks ago arrived. We’ve been sleeping on a sofa bed that is a little too small, so a good night’s sleep has been a rare treat. When the bed arrived Cesia and I were caught off guard because we were expecting it next week.

The pool on our roof was empty and we were enjoying the sun and seeing who could do the best underwater handstand (me) when Cesia’s phone rang. It was one of the building’s administrators saying some furniture had arrived for us. We quickly threw on T-shirts and Cesia went down to the lobby and I went to the flat. Two men dragged the bed and mattress inside and had me sign something and they left. Both items were wrapped in plastic and cardboard and as we heaved the bed into the bedroom Cesia said that this is the first bed that she has ever bought.

‘I bought it.’ I said.

‘OK. And I bought the sofa, the dining table, the food you eat, the wifi.’ she said.

‘Don’t change the subject.’ I said.

We tore through some of the plastic and realised that there was a lot more than we first thought so I went to the kitchen to find something to use to cut it. It says something about our prioreties that, while we have not yet bought a pair of scissors, we do own four different cheese knives. We used two of them to open our bed.

We put sheets and pillows on it and then went out to run a few errands. Cesia needed to pay her phone bill and we needed a new shower curtain because the one we bought when we moved in has already started to fall apart.

We went to a mall that has fancy restaurants and shops that sell imported meats. There was a department store that reminded me of Debenhams and it was there that we found our new shower curtain. We needed a soap dish too so we got one of those, and then walked around the different departments looking at some of the weird stuff someone, somewhere, presumably wants. There were salt and pepper shakers in the shape of slices of watermelon. For some reason I thought the salt shaker seemed fine, but pepper? Who wants to pick up a little red piece of ceramic, patiently designed and painted to look like an idealised cartoon version of a sweet, fresh, fruity piece of melon and have a stream of black pepper fall out of it?

Near the melon shakers was a shelf of wine glasses that were on sale. I liked them and so did Cesia. They’re big, like the kind you see in the fancy restaurants we had walked past a little while ago. We took four over to the cashier and we (Cesia) paid.

Later that night we lay in our new bed and Cesia reminded me that on our first night here we slept on the floor. We spread a blanket over the tiles as if we were having a picnic. We pulled a sheet over us and slept badly. The next day we (Cesia) bought a sofa bed.

I thought about that night, and about how quickly things have changed since I got here. I have a few jobs and a few friends. I’ve been able to enjoy a handful of luxuries and try new foods and drinks. But it also reminded me that it’s the less dramatic, less showy things that make me happy, like being able to end evey day by falling asleep with the woman I love. Little things like making dinner together, and finding new Netflix shows we both like. Things like spending a weekday afternoon playing in a pool we have all to ourselves, and setting up the bed we ordered because our current sleeping arrangment was good, but not quite good enough, and buying wine glasses because we’re bored of the ones we have already, and coming home to our view of beautiful mountains surrounded by a fringe of tiny houses inhabited by people that know poverty I will never experience and will likely never fully understand.

I wondered if I have become shallow, or if I’ve always been this way.

This morning, as Cesia was getting ready for work, I asked her if she had any tweezers I could use.

‘For your eyebrows?’ she asked.

I had not planned on using them on my eyebrows.

Maybe I am shallow sometimes, or materialistic, or something like that. But I’m glad that I’ll always have Cesia who, without meaning too, is expertly able to keep that side of me in check.

Rain

 
Since the last post I have gotten two more jobs, and Cesia and I have booked our wedding venue. When it first occurred to us that getting married in Mexico would allow us to have an outdoor wedding, outdoors is the only way I’ve been able to picture it.
 
We went to the venue and looked around and Cesia asked several questions and looked at a bunch of papers. I took photos of the garden, set up with round tables and hanging lanterns, and the dance floor against a backdrop of green mountains and a blue sky. It was perfect.
 
We had a date in mind, in October, but it was already booked. We could gamble and choose a date earlier than we had planned, but in September the weather would be a few degrees closer to uncomfortable, and the chance of rain would increase to about 20%. You can take the man out of the UK but you can’t take the UK out of the man. 20% was too much. And it would mean less time to organise everything, and for my family to make travel arrangements and book time off work. We wanted that venue, but moving the wedding three weeks earlier seemed like a bad idea.
 
I was trying to convince myself that the 80% chance of no rain would be enough to give me confidence. I didn’t want to pretend like I knew more about Mexican weather than Cesia, and she was excited about the wedding being sooner. I couldn’t let it appear as though I wanted to push it back out of nerves or doubts about us, but I also didn’t want to be the one to disappoint her. It was as though she was throwing a parade and I was somehow going to cause it to be rained on. If only there was a fitting metaphor for the situation.
 
She spoke to her mum who came up with a good idea; ask for a different day in October. In Mexico, weddings take place on a Friday or Saturday, but that doesn’t matter to us. My family will be flying in from England. A weekday wedding won’t make a difference, and it’s still far enough in advance that Cesia’s relatives can make any arrangements they need to. We picked a day in October near to the first date we wanted. It was available so we paid a deposit and started picking our decorations and discussing the menu
 
Today it was Father’s Day and my family sat in my parent’s back garden and enjoyed the sun. It was 30 degrees in England. I spoke to them on the phone and they bragged about the sunshine. Later on I sent them a screenshot of my phone’s weather app. It said it was 40 degrees, and moderate.
 
I’m looking forward to the September rain.

Facebook

Mexicans are amazing. No wonder Donald Trump asks them to make a lot of his merchandise. I need a job while I’m here and I don’t speak Spanish so I’m pretty limited on what I can do and how I can find work. most job postings are in Spanish and google translate is not the most reliable resource so I was starting to worry about how I’m going to figure this out.

As a long shot I searched for English Monterrey on Facebook and found a group for teachers of English in my city. I joined the group and posted this:

Hello/hola,

I’m new to Monterrey, from England, and I’m hoping to start teaching independently. I want to teach individual students but I’m having trouble connecting with people that want to learn. Can anyone here give me any advice, or pass on my details to people they know who could help. I’m a native speaker with a degree in English. Sorry if this seems like spam.

I included my email address and then forgot about it. I probably started watching Bob’s Burgers and making a quesadilla. But then my phone exploded! And no, it’s not a Note 7. I got emails, Facebook messages, friend requests, messages from a creep with an English fetish, likes, and comments with advice and email addresses asking for my CV. Later that day I taught my first English lesson over Skype, and the next day I interviewed for a regular teaching job. I’ve had two more interviews and have more scheduled for next week.

It was the most response I’ve received to a Facebook post since 2010 when I got over 100 comments arguing about my status, “Fact of the day: penicillin is made from pencils.”

It took one Facebook post and those listless, lazy, drug smuggling gangbangers found me a job in less than 24 hours.

Gracias, amigos.

 

Also, this has nothing to do with this post, but the picture is the view from our bedroom.

Uber

We’ve moved! We have our own place and it is awesome. A pool, a gym, round the clock security and maintanance. It’s fantastic. I spend my days applying for jobs, wondering around in the sun, working out in the air-conditioned gym, and watching netflix.

Yesterday we needed groceries so, instead of Cesia coming all the way back here from work, we decided to meet at the supermarket. I put on my shades and stood on the pavement and ordered an uber.

The guy arrived later than the app said and, after checking that I was his customer, he said he tried to call me but couldn’t connect. I haven’t registered my Mexican phone number with uber yet. I tried to explain that the problem was my fault and that my number is no good.

‘Mi nombre es no bueno.’ I said, in perfect Spanish.

‘Uh?’ He said, in perfect Spanish.

‘Mi nombre,’ I said, ‘es no bueno.’ Again, in perfect Spanish.

‘O.K.’ he said.

While I had been speaking Spanish, and speaking it perfectly, I had not said that my number was no good. Number is Número. I had said Nombre, or name. I had stepped into this man’s car, and told him my name is bad. He had said ‘Uh?’ and I said it again.

The car ride passed in silence, and in the silence, I realised my mistake. It was like he had checked I was his customer by saying ‘Joe?’ and I had said ‘Yes, but my middle name is danger.’ He replied, ‘O.K.’ which is probably the best response I could have hoped for.

I wanted to say something else, not to correct myself, but to let the guy know that I’m not a total moron. I wanted to appear comfortable, as though there was a chance that what I had said was normal, and that he had misunderstood. I wanted to gaslight him.

I could go casual (Gracias, mi amigo) or formal (Gracias, señor) or, even better, I could extend it (Gracias, señor. Buenos tardes) and be both formal and polite.

We were at the supermarket and Cesia messaged me to say where I could find her. I typed a reply and sent it and saw that she had started typing back.

‘Está bien.’ I said, and the driver stopped. I opened the door and, before closing I fired my parting shot.

‘Gracias, mi amor.’

And then, after accidentally saying ‘Thank you, my love,’ to a complete stranger, I put my sunglasses in my bag, entered the supermarket, and considered that interaction one more success on my slow journey to fluency.