Fred and Pinky and I just got back from a road trip that we didn’t plan to take until we realized we had to. Even though I had researched every possible thing I could find about how to become a Mexican resident, there was one major thing I didn’t come across, and that thing is no bigger than a postcard, but it’s huge. It is the canje, the piece of paper with the little “x” that indicates you are on the way to temporary residency. We had diligently figured out what information and paper work we needed, driven to the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta, gotten the whole process started, and we knew we had to see an immigration lawyer (we had no intention of trying to do this ourselves) within 30 days of crossing the border. In other words, we thought we were on it.
But what we discovered was that Fred had a canje and I didn’t. That’s impossible to explain, but the solution was to be driving back to the border to get it. And that’s what we did. The key to making it all work was to be sure not to actually cross the border, but to go to the immigration office on the Mexican side. The traffic and direction signage around the border in Nuevo Laredo are terribly confusing, and we were approaching the office we needed from a completely different direction than when we had been there when coming from the north side of the border. When we saw that we were about 4 cars away from, in fact, heading straight to the good ole USA with no turning back, it was getting surreal. At that point there was a guy in the middle of the road carrying a huge cross with some sort of shrine tied to the bottom of it who was shouting at us and frantically motioning us on in the direction we were avoiding. At that moment I saw a blue sign saying “retorno.” There was one last chance to make a U-turn. We took it and ended up in what looked like a dead end parking lot with a few worker-type guys standing around eating lunch. Fred asked one of them how to get to the building we were looking for and he pointed us to a dirt path with just enough room to drive through, and then, Bingo! There was the road that took us immediately to the office we were seeking. We were ecstatic.
I took a deep breath, went in, and got my papers. The whole day took 12 hours of driving by Fred. It was grueling, but we could think of no other way to make it happen. (There is really no place to spend the night between Matehuala and the border.) We had driven from San Miguel on Sunday to Matehuala, an easy 4 hour drive, rented a room at the Las Palmas for two nights, gotten up on Monday morning, driven all day from 6 AM to 6 PM, and polished the whole thing off with a celebratory cocktail back at the Las Palmas Midway Inn on Monday night.
And speaking of cocktails, when we got back to our house in San Miguel this afternoon we found a package on our dining table. A lovely welcome home (as in Welcome to Mexico) gift from our friend in Oaxaca, Andrea Hagan. Today we were both aware as we were driving in from Matehual that we are feeling that San Miguel is our home. It has been an incredible 14 months since we started our big trip a year ago in September, traveled all the way down Mexico, and realized before we got back to Nashville that we really did want to live here, and that 6 months a year just wouldn’t get the job done.
Well, I see by the clock on my computer that it is 5:14 PM….I think it’s time to open that new bottle of Mezcal. Thanks, Andrea. It arrived right on time.