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Day 6

Friday, Feb 24, 2006

Crossing over

7:35 am

Fr. Jim has gotten up early, so he can look at all the birds. He identifies the local species as:

bullet Boat tail grackle
bullet White tail dove
bullet Junco
bullet Song Sparrows
bullet Pigeon
bullet Awesome roosters

The mention of roosters leads naturally to a discussion of cockfighting (very popular, here in Mexico), which naturally leads to talk of gambling.

Guinea Pig Ed explains about how, as a child, they would get a guinea pig and put it in a box. They would surround the guinea pig with numbered boxes that had holes in them and bet on which box the guinea pig would run into. When they lifted the box off the guinea pig, he would immediately dart into a box, and whoever bet on that box would win.

The details of what happened to the guinea pig are left to the reader's imagination.

8:25 am

We found out where we are actually staying (St. Mathias) in the nick of time. Our erstwhile researcher (Elizabeth Sinclair) sent us information that today (Feb 24) is the Feast Day of St. Mathias(!). Fr. Zuniga (the Anglican priest for 2 million people) stops by and we impress him with our knowledge (well, Fr. Jim, through Guinea Pig Ed, impressed him with our knowledge).

Elizabeth also included the traditional prayer for St. Mathias, so we were able to get everybody to pray the prayer and look incredibly cool ("Whoa! How did you guys know that?").

Elizabeth Sinclair rocks! Thank you Elizabeth!

Robert is starting to get very nervous, as there is no Raisin Bran (El Raisin Bran) on the table. Only "Zaca Dinos" (pure sugar cut with a small amount of corn flakes).

But, as it turns out, we get scrambled eggs with ham mixed in! Our first hot breakfast—especially because there's this side dish that looked very innocent, like a mixture of onions and green peppers, but turned out to be hot enough that after eating it you could fry an egg on your tongue.

9:00 am

We begin packing up our stuff, and then cleaning up the area because we were guests of Fr. Zuniga, and we don't want to look like a bunch of lazy gringos.

9:50 am

Everything is mopped and clean and ready to go, and we head for the border.

10:15 am

We're riding with Fr. Dan (better music—he's got the iPod that broadcasts through the van's radio). We're driving through Juarez when suddenly this guy pulls in back of us and starts honking his horn like crazy. Fr. Dan pulls over.

The guy runs up to the driver's side window and asks (in Spanish) if Fr. Dan speaks Spanish.

"Si," replies Fr. Dan.

The guy runs back to his car and then runs back to the van with his wallet. He pulls out 400 pesos (about $40—a good week's wage in this area) and in impassioned Spanish presses them into Fr. Dan's hand.

Fr. Dan is stunned and manages to say "Muchas Gracias" before the guy runs back to his car. He says this has never happened to him before, but he'll put the money in the "sponsored house" fund and when there's enough, they'll build another house.

We, being good Christians, immediately try to take credit for the whole thing, saying that Holy Crucians give out vibes that inspire others to give money (or we look so sad and forlorn that people feel compelled to give us money).

10:20 am

As we drive through downtown Juarez, Fr. Dan fills us in on some local history: The Kentucky Club, just two blocks down, is where the margarita was invented, just after "the" revolution. ("The" revolution always refers to the most recent one, which was when? That's right! In the 1920s.)

Needless to say, our request to sample the original is met with Fr. Dan's patented sudden deafness.

10:25 am

We're waiting in line for US Customs. Fr. Dan has drilled us on what we are to do:


Don't wave your passport around. If you show it, they have to examine it, and that will just make them grumpy.

bullet When they look at you, you say "I am a US Citizen." If you say something else, we'll be sure to drop you a postcard care of INS. (The teens want to know what happens if they claim to be Canadian or something, and Fr. Dan's answers help them realize the importance of not screwing around in this situation.)

Since the last time we went through customs (coming in from Canada) consisted of Robert and the customs guy bitching about how dreadful Canadian coffee was, we're not too worried. We have yet to have any kind of movie-level experience with customs ("And what is this in your suitcase, eh?").

Sure enough, after making everybody in the van say the magic phrase (and after Fr. Dan uses "sir" more times in one minute that we've heard him use it all week), the guy waves us through.

Either that or he couldn't stand to look at Robert's shirt any longer.

We wait to make sure that the other van (driven by Fr. Jim) makes it through, and it does, so we're all Back in the USA!

10:35 am

Of course, we're back in the poorest zip code in the entire United States, which is where Fr. Dan's mission is located (it's called "St. Anne's"). The local high school has a higher dropout and teen pregnancy rate than all the rest of the high schools in El Paso combined.

11:00 am

We stop at St. Anne's so Fr. Dan can say "Howdy" to his wife and deliver the mirror he bought in Juarez. There are roofers working on the roof of one of his buildings and we offer to help—now that we're expert roofers. Fr. Dan declines, explaining that we're expert Mexican roofers, and this is the US.

We try to figure out what our beliefs are about returning from the airport. We believe we don't know how we're getting back. Ed believes that 11 of us and our luggage will fit into one van. We believe that Ed ate a few too many guinea pigs when he was a kid.

Finally, we believe that Kim Eichner will arrange for two vans to magically appear and transport us back to Holy Cross on Saturday after our flight arrives.

11:45 am

We're at a scenic lookout, scenically looking out over El Paso and Juarez.

Flash! Bulletin!

The Asarco smokestack we have been working next to all week is THE WORLD'S LARGEST SMOKESTACK. As aficionados of World's Largest stuff (http://www.wiztext.com/largest/index.html), we are totally awed by this very cool fact.

There are telescopes at the lookout that have degrees at the bottom so you can tell where they're pointing. There's a legend at the bottom that tells you what angle the various places are (Stadium = 87, Mexico = 7 to 80, etc.).

If you are ever at this lookout, go to the telescope on the far left and point it at 5.5. You will be looking at St. Anne's (and a couple of blocks around it, but St. Anne's will be in there).

1:00 pm

We arrive at the Texas Roadhouse, which was founded 'way back in 1993 in Clarksville, Indiana (really—it's on their menus). After becoming a success in Indiana, they decided to open a branch in Texas.

Robert gets a salad and Laura gets a "half slab" of ribs.

1:30 pm

Apparently, "fast service" isn't part of their mission statement. Although we are seated at five separate tables and we have separate checks, the waiter is under the impression that everybody must eat at the same time, and frankly, it's a little too much for him to deal with.

1:45 pm

Our food arrives! Each serving is enough for two people (actually, we're pretty sure Robert's salad could serve three). And after the spare (but filling) meals in Mexico, there's a lot of leftover food (although Laura does a pretty good job of plowing through her half-slab of ribs, sweet potato, and green beans).

2:50 pm

We stop at the Texas Store, which is full of all kinds of amazing things printed with "Texas" on them. Robert and Chris Fraley try to find something in the store that was not  made in China. Robert finally finds a rack of locally thrown pottery near the back of the store ("Maybe the label fell off," points out Chris).

Still, if you need a souvenir of Texas, this is the place to visit. Robert finally can't stand any more country music and flees from the store to go outside and listen to traffic ("If I hear one more country song, I'm going to shoot my dog!" he cries as he exits the store).

3:30 pm

A motel! Running water! Hot showers!

Fr. Dan, who is the most caring and wonderful priest of all priests in Texas, gets us his group rate for our private room. (The group has six rooms, but male/female separation is strictly enforced. Since we like sleeping together, the only way to do it is to get our own room, and Fr. Dan just got us half-off the regular price.)

Robert takes a shower, gleefully shouting: At last! I can pee in the shower!

Laura doesn't care to know any more than that.

Robert & Laura
Mexico Housebuilding Trip

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