First impressions

It feels like we’ve been here for at least a week, but as I look at my [empty] calendar, I see it’s been only five days. Today has been an unexpected lazy day since they released Aaron this morning after formation. It’s also been a much-needed lazy day. In the past three weeks, we’ve had maybe two of these.

Here are some observations I’d like to make about El Paso, some first impressions, if you will…

  • It’s hot. Like, 95-101° for the high. However, it’s not humid. The relative humidity is usually around 20% or lower and decreases throughout the day. The weather in the past 24 hours or so has been a little different… it rained last night and it was only 81° until about lunch time. It felt, well, cool. However, I’m thirsty all the time. Water, water, water.
  • People actually go the speed limit. On I-10 through town, the speed limit is only 60, and guess what? People go 60-65, not the crazed 80-85 in a 55 like through Chicagoland. It’s strange, people not riding your butt or cutting you off, and if they do they apologize by a wave of the hand.  I’ve heard it’s a $500 fine for driving and texting. I’m doing my best to not drive like an Illinoisan, especially on post. Traffic violations on a military installation are not cheap.
  • There are soooo many “left turn only” and “right turn only” lanes… you’re just driving along and then you find you need to get over to the center lane to avoid turning unexpectedly. It seems even people with Texas plates have to change lanes quickly sometimes.
  • I found this out today: El Paso was ranked the safest city with the lowest crime rate in cities with a population over 500,000. How about that? I’m not sure why… maybe it’s because in this state, you just don’t know who’s packin’, so you just don’t mess with people. Or maybe that with all the violence in Juárez, law enforcement is that much more diligent.
  • The interstate around the city doesn’t have cloverleaf ramps… there are one-way roads that run along the interstate, and if you need to go the other way, they provide a u-turn only lane that goes under the interstate. Pretty cool.
  • So many people are bilingual. We went to Joann Fabrics today and the cashier spoke perfect Spanish and perfect English with no accent in either language. It’s crazy that I spent four years and thousands of dollars learning a language when I could have just come down here and learned it for free.
  • People don’t seem to care which language you speak, or if you speak both. They just go with the flow. Our waiter last night at Applebee’s helped us in English, but spoke Spanish with the two little old ladies sitting across from us. It seems in Illinois, there’s a much more harsh expectation. I heard about it every day in my classroom, “Mrs W., why do we even need to learn Spanish? We’re in America.. shouldn’t everyone speak English?”
    • Well, regardless of one’s political stance on that, the fact is that people speak Spanish. Lots of people. The cultures here are so intertwined and have been for so long, that you just go with the flow. It’s refreshing. I know that if I started speaking Spanish, I wouldn’t feel ridiculed for pronouncing something wrong or saying the wrong word. They would do their best to understand me, just as I do my best to understand people who try speaking English when it’s not their first language.
  • Gas is cheaper down here, especially on post. Yesterday, I filled up my tank for about $44, at $3.26 per gallon. Awesome. I love the benefits of being military.

Here are a couple pictures… today for lunch we stopped by this German café and bakery… yum. For two lunches (included a sandwich, side salad and drink) and four pastries (we got those for later), it was only $20. It is called Pascuale Bakery, but used to be Peter’s German Café and Bakery, started by a German soldier who relocated to the El Paso/Juaréz area.

one of the cases
menu
aaron got the bratwurst sandwich + caesar salad, i got the caprese sandwich + garden salad... apple soda to drink!

So far, I like it here. In the past five days, I’ve learned where the basics are and how to get there. I’ve learned what gates are open all the time, and which are closed on weekends. I love the [mostly] seamless mix of culture and language… I’m eager to brush up on my español.

Friday we get keys to move into our house. We are also supposed to get our HHG (household goods) from Illinois. I cannot wait to make this place our home! Our home. It’s about time.

I have applied for a couple jobs.. one for the education office on post and one for a clerical position in an elementary school within a very short walking distance from the house. Thursday I go to take the clerical test and finish up my application. Either job would be awesome because since we have one car, I could take Aaron to work and then go work on post (or vice versa), or with the other job he can take the car and I can walk to work.

If it crosses your mind, please pray for continued patience and peace for me, and for this transition. It’s been great most of the time, but we have our moments. 😉

>This Spanish major will be happy! and thoughts on immigration and language

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There is so much culture in El Paso that as a Spanish major, I am ecstatic to explore! There is a museum of art, history, and archaeology. Good thing my husband likes museums, too. In fact, one of our first dates was to the Lakeview Museum. This site has some really awesome pictures of downtown El Paso, including one of an Aztec Calendar. I’ve never seen one of these in person. Heck, I’ve never been to Mexico. A shame, huh? Because of the dangers there and being a military family member, I may not get to go for some time. Bummer.

Because of my career choice (as a teacher, I obviously have an educated and extensively researched commentary on every major problem that plagues this great nation), many people have asked me what I think about illegal immigration, and many students have asked me, “Why do we even have to learn Spanish?” to which I wanted to reply, “If you don’t like it, then why are you in here?!”

This is what I think about illegal immigration from Mexico, or anywhere: it’s illegal. Therefore it’s wrong. I know many people who have come to this country and built their lives here by going through the correct channels. People who come here illegally mar the process of immigration for everyone else. Sure, all our ancestors were immigrants unless you’re Native American, but times have changed… laws have changed.

Why is it important to learn Spanish? Well, besides “needing” it for admission to college (not true; there are many other things that merit admission to college), why not learn another language? When you learn another language, you inevitably learn another culture. Even if you merely study vocabulary of British English, you will learn about Britain’s culture. It enhances one’s outlook on the world and helps in other areas of learning as well.

Suffice it to say that our children will be fluent in at least my two languages. After piano at age 7, Spanish was my second love and I long to pass that on to our children. Besides, if they start young their pronunciation will be lovely and much more native-like than mine. My accent is definitively American + Bolivian + Honduran + Enrique Iglesias (haha, I kid about Enrique).

As far as children go, they are our future. I know that sounds really typical for a teacher to say. We shouldn’t punish the children of illegal immigrants. They had no control over their parents’ actions, and by law if they are born on U.S. soil, they are U.S. citizens. It’s said and done and there’s nothing that we can do about it. There are people of every race, ethnicity and class who take advantage of services provided by our government.

The truth is that El Paso used to be part of Mexico. Boundaries, laws or prejudice cannot remove the Mexican influence, just as generations cannot take away the history passed down to me from my grandpa about my family who came here from, you guessed it, England, to be farmers. Yes, farmers. In Illinois. You can stop chuckling now. No wonder this gringa loves traveling so much…

I’m not going to lie and say I know how to solve any problems facing education today, as they are many. I really did not plan on writing about it in this entry, but I know that all children should have a right to education and to succeed in this country if they so choose (and are legal). It’s sometimes hard for us to see, but the opportunities here despite the current economy are unfathomable.

In conclusion, living in El Paso will be like living in a foreign country to me. The cool thing is, it used to be. According to statistics, El Paso is 80% Hispanic (shocker, right?)… this blonde-hair-blue-eyed-girl-from-the-Midwest-who-really-loves-Spanish-but-is-just-so-white-that-even-the-Europeans[Spaniards]-saw-right-through-me will learn a lot!