Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back On Track

It's time for some updates. There won't be any in this installment but I need to write something to get the process going. In a day or so I'll tell about the Despedido (special party), the trip, the arrangements and the final few days before the big day this Saturday.

Thanks for checking.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jumping to conclusions

We have an amazing translator. I sent Ana’s birth certificate and our marriage license to her this weekend and she sent back the results on Monday. If you’re in Mexico and need documents translated, talk to Lenka. She returned to Mexico a few years ago after living nearly 30 years in the US and is completely fluent in both Spanish and English. She’s also a pleasure to visit. I’m compiling our documents now and will finally send them in soon.

Occasionally Ana and I talk about children. Early in our relationship she asked me how many so I told her seven. I didn’t hear anything from her right away after that. We talk seriously and joke about the topic still, wavering between one and, sometimes, seven. Apparently I’ve been teasing her too much lately about the number lately. I about fell out of my chair one night when she told me, “I don’t know if you want a wife or a rabbit!”

This week I discovered I may be a little overprotective. I received a text message on my phone at 4:00 one afternoon from Ana that said, “I’m in my bed.” No explanation, no warning. I shot back a message asking, “Why?!” She answered, “There’s not enough space to tell you here. But I know you’re perfect for me.” The last message really confused me. I told her I would be home soon and would call her then. She was planning a making a doctor’s appointment so I was imagining all sorts of possibilities like a sudden illness, an accident or who knows what! When I got home I called her cell phone. She answered sounding very calm, cheery and alert. The noise in the background didn’t sound like her neighborhood. I asked her where she was and she answered “In my office.” After a few minutes of head clearing conversation, I discovered that she had sent that message the night before, when she went to bed! She had just sent me another message a few minutes before I received the old one and she thought I was responding to that one when I asked “Why?!”

It was all kind of funny once I understood that everything was ok. We’ve had problems with text messages being delayed several hours before but never had this kind of confusion before.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

More paperwork

I can understand the “I’m the luckiest man alive” feeling some guys have when they are married to the right woman. The difference between them and me is that I’m actually the luckiest (most fortunate) man alive! I am in awe when I think about the time Ana and I spend together and when I think about the plans we’re making and the future we have. We put a lot of thought into the timing of the civil and religious weddings. Our intention was to consider the civil wedding as just part of the process or one of the steps. Sending her back to Mexico and waiting here without her is proving to be much more difficult than I had expected. I can’t wait to have her back but I will miss one of our rituals once she is home with me. Every morning that we’re apart, for ten months now, I’ve sent Ana a text message in the morning to greet her or encourage her for the day. I’ll miss that but I think it will be worth giving up when I can open my eyes and see her first thing in the morning.

The immigration paperwork is nearly ready. I started to work on translating Ana’s documents for the application. Instead, we’ve decided to hire again the translator we used before the civil wedding. She is much faster and creates beautiful documents. We’re also working on getting a translator for the wedding. It’s unclear how many of my friends, family and clients will make it to Mexico but there are enough coming that we want to have someone translate during the service. We met someone who would be perfect and are waiting to hear his response. I should have the translated documents in a couple of days and hope to put the application in next week.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Starting the paperwork

Generally, I'm one who likes to enjoy the journey as much as arriving at the destination. But waiting until the end of August for our second wedding is going to drive me crazy! Hopefully I’ll be able to travel to Mexico to see Ana within the month.

The copies of our marriage license arrived last week with Ana’s biographical form and birth certificate. I was working out of town again and didn't pick them up until Friday. I'm starting to get the marriage license and Ana's birth certificate translated and hope to submit the application this week. We still have over 11 weeks until the wedding to get the 8 week process completed.

The weeks following Christmas were filled with phone calls and chat sessions where we planned the next trip and more specific wedding plans. We researched the immigration options during this time and looked into the licensing requirements for Ana to practice here. I had a project in Houston, TX in January and Ana met me there for a weekend. Her family has relatives there that they haven’t seen in over 10 years. We spent a day with them. I enjoyed watching them catch up on family news and sharing pictures. I learned a new work too. Before coming to visit, Ana was talking with her aunt and told her about me. Her aunt exclaimed, you’re dating a “bolillo”!? Apparently, I am “plain white bread.” So now I’m trying to think of breads that are made with brown sugar. We joked about the new name and had a great time with the family in Houston on Saturday. Some of them came to church and lunch with us on Sunday as well.

I made a couple more trips in March and April. On one of those trips, Nery’s fiancé, Farzin, was there at the same time. Farzin was born in Iran and is a dentist in Illinois. I don’t think the parents knew what to think that week with such variety in the house. As always, we had a great time eating, talking, translating and sight-seeing. One night at dinner, I was trying to tell a story in my broken Spanish. Ana was helping it along in Spanish for her parents and Nery was translating it back into English for Farzin. It was a very comical, ironic moment. Another night, Nery, Farzin, Gaby, Ana and I were having dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and Laina, a friend from Indiana sent me a text message asking me if we were married yet. I replied “No, but we’re enjoying the honeymoon.” Laina was having dinner with several other friends at the time and I got several responses asking “What??!!” On the menu was a “Honeymoon Salad” that Ana and I were sharing. I took a picture of it and sent it to everyone later. I don’t know what they were all thinking.

Laina asked the wedding question because we were hoping to start the process for the civil ceremony on one of these trips. We had been told that there was a 35 day waiting process once I applied for permission to marry in Mexico. There are several steps to go through when applying for permission. Ana had already acquired an instruction page listing all the documents we needed. Documents from the US need to have an apostille attached. An apostille is a state certification of a county document. They are available from the Secretary of State’s office in each state. Each Secretary of State can only certify documents from their respective state. I discovered this when trying to get an apostille in Indiana for my California birth certificate. Because of that oversight, we weren’t able to do anything in March. Thanks to my mother’s help, I was finally able to get the apostille for my birth certificate in time for the April trip. We drove two hours to the immigration office to apply for permission to marry. We started at the information desk to get directions. There are over a dozen desks or windows to visit depending on what you want to accomplish. We were sent to our first location to get the payment form. We then had to find a bank to pay the fee since the government offices don’t accept payments. We returned, with our receipt and a couple more copies of documents, to the next station where our documents were inspected and accepted. At the third station, the documents were reviewed and we were told that there was no 35 day waiting period, it was only 7-10 days. That was the good news. The bad news was that I couldn’t leave the country until after the wedding. Unfortunately, I only had three days available before returning to complete a critical project. We had to wait until the next trip when I could plan on staying long enough to complete the process.
The next trip was in May when we were able to complete the application and we had the civil wedding. This part of the story is told back in the first entry. Therefore, this concludes the historical overview. Occasionally I think of additional events or Ana reminds me of something interesting that happened along the way. I’ll add those in new posts along with the progress reports. By the time we are married, someone should be able to use our experiences to understand a little more of the immigration process. I’ll continue to add links to the variety of resources needed to enjoy the process.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


The entries for the next couple of months may be a little sparse. There’s not nearly as much life to write about when Ana is not with me. We are making progress though. Ana was able to pick up the marriage license copies and they are on their way here. I’ve been reading through the immigration forms and instructions again and it appears that she won’t have to surrender her tourist visa while applying for permanent residency. That’s would be great! I still have to confirm that though. I will plan for at least one trip to Mexico before the wedding but perhaps she can come up here once also before August.
We have our wedding date confirmation now. It will be August 30 at the hacienda. 13 weeks from today. We were hoping to have 12 weeks before the wedding to complete the residency application. We only expect it to take six to eight weeks but wanted a buffer. By the time the certificates arrive we will be down to 12 weeks. Everything has been completed… Oh, just a minute please…

Sorry about that. I had to put clothes in the dryer. I learned something interesting several months ago. I get to do the laundry! Ana informed me early on that she had never done laundry in her life and didn’t know how to use the machine. It’s true. I confirmed it with her mother. I’ve offered to teach her but I haven’t been able to drum up much interest yet. It’s not a problem though. When I think about how much life she adds to the home and how much we enjoy our time together; a little laundry (little?) is no big deal.

Where was I… Every application, up ’til now has been completed ahead of schedule. Even with setbacks. If I had been able to pay the copy fees at the bank and submit our copy request back at the civil office (see the May 15th entry) on the day of our wedding, we could have had them in time to bring them with us to Indiana and could have started the application two weeks earlier. Anyway, we should be in good shape to return after the religious wedding with the “green card” or Ana’s tourist visa or we’ll extend the honeymoon in Mexico a little.

We had been planning for months on spending Christmas together. I flew down a couple days before Christmas to get acclimated (no snow), finish shopping and prepare for some new traditions. We arrived at Esther and Humberto’s (Tete y Beto) house on the west side of the city early Christmas Eve. Tete had already started cooking and we helped, a little, off and on, for the rest of the day. There was a turkey and a shredded fish dish with a little of everything in it. No cranberry relish though. I think I need to bring that next time. My contribution this time was celery with peanut butter. Tete was starting to cook a soup and asked me if I liked celery. I answered “yes, especially with peanut butter.” The room was silent and everyone looked at me like I was a little more alien than just gringo. They were horrified at the thought of the combination. I had to find some peanut butter and show them how to do it. Tete tried it and liked it. After several minutes of coaxing Ana tried it. She was more horrified after tasting it than she was earlier just thinking about it. Most of the others wouldn’t even come near it. The best reaction was Ana’s father’s the next day. We were all sitting around the table and the topic came up again. We brought some in for the rest of the family to try. Ana’s father took one bite. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the look of shock and panic on his face. He couldn’t find a place fast enough to spit it out. Therefore, I think next time I need to bring cranberry salad.

The family Christmas starts with cooking (no cookies, candies or fudge though) for a day or two. At midnight on Christmas Eve, everyone gathers for the Christmas dinner. After eating and talking for a while, when the children can’t wait any longer, the gifts are opened. Around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, after playing games, talking and eating some more, everyone starts going to bed. Sometime Christmas day everyone starts to get up to play and eat again. Someone bought and American football so after a late breakfast, a few of us went outside to play. The elevation and thin air were working against me but I held in there. Next time we’ll have to play soccer (futbol). We left late that afternoon to return home and spent the rest of the trip recovering and relaxing.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Back Home Again in Indiana

We made it back to Indiana. That was a long trip. We left around noon for the airport; flew to Detroit; flew to Indianapolis and drove to Alexandria. Sounds easy but twelve hours can take their toll.

We spent the week meeting friends, looking for a dress, preparing the apartment and digging through the house for usable appliances and dishes. After two trips to that old, tired house, I know she loves me!

Ana has been checking online and in stores for months for a wedding dress. She has a pretty good idea of what style she wants and is armed with pictures and numbers of a few dresses. A couple of her favorites are at David's Bridal so we made a trip there on Friday to check them out. She found one there that made her smile. It was on sale too so it really made her smile. She decided to look around a little more first though. We weren't able to go dress shopping the next few days. On Tuesday, the day before her flight we took some time to check the local shops. There aren't many left. We found listings for three but the second went out of business the day we got there. We arrived in time to see a woman walking out with the last dress. That was alright though. The first shop we went to is out in the country outside Daleville, Indiana. It took a while but we found it. There was a lot more to choose from than I expected. After a while there, Ana found what she was looking for. Again, it was on sale. $50!! She saved almost $900. I suggested that she should buy it even if she wasn't sure. She could always sell it in Mexico for $100. Ana called her sister to tell her about the dress. When she mentioned the price, Esther said "Buy it! You can always sell it here for $100."

We had a dinner at church on Sunday for Memorial Day. Ana made Tinga. Something made with shredded chicken, chile-tomato sauce, Mexican sour cream and placed on a tostada. I would have taken a picture but it went too fast. We are going to have to start making two batches for these dinners; mild and fire!

We had several opportunities to make personal adjustments this week. I’ve learned that I like to do things in specific ways; most things, very specifically. And that Ana doesn’t always do things in the same way. After politely listening to my explanations of how things work here, we had a talk. Things are much better now and I don’t think my eye will bruise.

Ana really was wonderful this week. She spent a lot of time and effort working on the apartment and cleaning old dishes. This place finally felt like a home. But without her here it’s pretty empty again.

We left eeearly Wednesday morning for the airport for Ana's return flight. Unfortunately (fortunately) they decided to cancel the flight. Ana had to cancel a few dental appointments but we got a free day together. I thought about all the times I've heard someone say "I wish we could have had one more day together" and decided to try to make the most of it. We were able to finish a few more things on our list and had a wonderful time together. This morning we returned to the airport again and this time she was able to make her 6:45 flight (what was I thinking!). She will pick up our marriage certificates tomorrow and, if necessary, get apostilles for them and send them up to me. We should be able to get this process going any day now!

The Sunday morning of the family dinner at the Arroyo, I called to make reservations. Ana has been telling me for weeks now that because I am hers and we are marrying in Mexico, I’ll be Brian Campos. That was just supposed to be a online joke between her and I but her family seems to be catching on to the idea. Therefore, I used Brian Campos when I made the reservation. Everybody came in separately and no one seemed to have any trouble finding the reservation or the table.

At Thanksgiving we were still trying to decide when, where and how to marry and immigrate. One of the requirements to marry in the US is that the couple must have met at least once in the two years preceding the wedding. Our main purpose in spending time together was to spend time together but a secondary purpose was to have witnesses and documentation of our time together. The Thanksgiving dinner and other times spent with friends is an important part of that. I also tried to schedule time with my friends so they could start to warm up to Ana and she could see me in a more natural habitat. I know it was a dangerous idea but I think she deserves it.

We finished out the week with church on Sunday and a couple of stops to see clients. They all loved her and still ask about her and how things are going, hence the blog. I think they like me better after bringing Ana by. We left together for Mexico after that and spent a few days sightseeing, planning, talking and playing dentist. I was the patient! I’ve got to learn to pay more attention to what’s going on when she says, “sit here, drink this and relax.”
I returned to Indiana alone and started to prepare for the Christmas trip. Wait ‘til you hear about peanut butter and celery in Mexico..

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Going Home

One of the street vendors here, a camotero, pushes a cart with a wood fired oven. In it he roasts camotes (sweet potatoes) and platanos (bananas). Both are sprinkled with sugar before roasting and sweetened condensed milk is poured on before serving. It’s very rich and definitely better with a glass of milk. Every so often he opens a valve which releases some water into a pipe running through the coals to create steam. It sounds like the whistle from an old steam engine off in the distance.

We spent part of the afternoon yesterday with Geninne and Manuel and their two, very creative, boys. They have an incredible history and a story about how God can, and will, find you, anywhere, to bring you back home. Geninne is a freelance artist and Manuel is an architect/builder who actually designed her wedding dress. And she liked it! We fed tortillas to some of the wild and local ducks and Geninne showed us a little more of the hacienda than we had seen before including the 400+ year-old aqueduct that provided water to the hacienda and the old mill.
I finished my two weeks in Mexico and right now, we are flying back to Indiana. I’m not sure what we just ate but it wasn’t too bad. It was difficult leaving, as always but Ana is sitting next to me with her head on my shoulder, editing the story, so everything is ok. She will be with me for one week while we work on immigration and she looks for a wedding gown. For some reason she won’t let me go with her to look for a gown. She says she only needs a map, the Blazer and my credit card. Hmmm! Something about this sounds familiar. Perhaps it’s because I suggested I only needed her car and a map to explore Mexico City while she was working. I’m looking forward to this week but not to the eighth day.

The immigration process may start slower than I had hoped. We don’t have the copies of our marriage certificate yet and her sister mentioned today that Ana may need a background check performed. Nery’s took two weeks. Nothing I’ve read, or heard from the attorney, suggested that we needed one but we will be checking.

After returning to Indiana in October, we started talking more about travel plans and timeframes for the wedding. I’ve saved our online conversations and during the first week of October I told Ana that I felt she only had about six months to prepare for the wedding. We were married (civilly) seven months later. When I left Mexico I was ready to bring her to Indiana to show her around and to show her off. Thanksgiving was coming and I didn’t want her to miss it. She had never experienced Thanksgiving or any of its traditions. We worked through several optional schedules and decided that she would come just before Thanksgiving for a few days and I would return with her to Mexico for a few days.

Those seven weeks between proposing in Mexico and Thanksgiving took years to pass but the days we spent together only lasted minutes. I had big plans to decorate and cook and invite friends over to share the experience. I even bought a practice turkey; which never got cooked. I thank God for the work I have but because of the work schedule I had nothing prepared. We were fortunate enough have dinner with the Adams family where we sampled just about everything and listened to stories from Grandma. Ana left contentedly uncomfortable and better informed.

Ana reminded me that I left out a humorous detail about the family dinner last Sunday. I’ll have to remember to mention that next time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Preparing to Leave Mexico

So much to write and so little time! I have new pictures of new foods and stories about another wonderful couple, also with two boys. Geninne and Manuel live two blocks from the Hacienda in a brand new house they designed and built. We spent hours that felt like minutes again. We discovered that they and Ana know some of the same people. In a city of 20 million people, I think that’s incredible. I have pictures of us feeding the ducks as well. I’ll come back and replace this with a fuller story a little later but it’s late and we are getting ready to return to Indiana tomorrow. Ana will be looking for a dress and we will start the immigration process as well as we can.

Unfortunately, the application process requires documentation supporting the marriage but the fee we paid to get married doesn’t include documentation. I had to print a form from the internet requesting copies; take the form to a bank to pay the fee; make copies of the validated form, receipt and some other pages and return to the civil office to submit the paperwork to ask for the copies. I was told the copies would be ready on Friday. Not too bad but we are leaving on Wednesday. Unless I can get someone to pick up the copies and send them on Friday, I will have to wait until Ana returns to Mexico to send them. This is not atypical based on our experience so far. Check this page again in a day for the updated, fuller version.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday with Family and Friends

It was a long and simple day today. We went to church today where nearly 20 were baptized. Each had written a testimony that was read just before their baptism.

In the afternoon the entire family met for our wedding dinner. We didn’t go to El Arroyo but to Enrique’s instead. Enrique’s also has a dinner show and thanks to Homero, Ana’s oldest brother, we had a table next to the stage. During the show the performers were congratulating those with birthdays, anniversaries or other special events. They called our names and announced our wedding and then asked “What are you doing here?!”

Everyone in the family has been incredibly kind and supportive throughout this entire adventure. Ana was concerned in the very beginning about how her father and oldest brother would respond to someone coming to take their little girl/baby sister away. They have been the best though. I told Ana early on that I realized marriage included the entire family and I couldn’t be happier with hers.

After dinner we met new friends Anna and Aaron and their two sons. We were there two or three hours but it seemed like 15 minutes. Anna is Mexican and Aaron is Canadian (I didn’t know that happened) so they understand what we are, and will be, experiencing. I’m looking forward to coming back and enjoying more of their enthusiasm and encouragement. I’m kicking myself though because I took the camera in with us and forgot to get a picture. Next time!!

I didn’t learn until some time later that this relationship almost ended. About two weeks before the trip, three days after buying the tickets, Ana was ready to cancel the trip. Here she describes what happened…

After work one day, I was speaking with a friend about
men, marriage, God and His plans. While driving home
I remembered that one verse that says husbands must
love their wife as Jesus loves the church. So I decided
that Brian could not love me that way or even half than
Jesus loves the church, and that the best thing was for
him to not come, and that I needed to cancel the trip and
to stop this madness! When I arrived at the house we did
not have power and therefore we did not have Internet
and obviously then we could not chat online. That night
Brian called me on the telephone and we spoke a little and
I thought that it would be best to wait until the next day
to break everything off. The next day, in the morning,
Brian sent a message to me that said the previous night
he was praying because God taught to him love me as
Jesus loves the church… After that I could not tell him
that he could not come… I had to discover that it was
what God had for us!

Thank God for prayer!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pendientes (Honey-do list)

You know you’re married when you’re on vacation but you still have a honey-do list that takes the entire day. And I don’t know how to do anything here yet! Even so, I got the laundry done (with help); had new keys made; took Ana’s purse to get it repaired (And yes girls, I carried it myself); found a computer store, bought a CD drive and fixed the office computer; and a handful of odds and ends as well. I think I need to go back to work!

Tomorrow and Tuesday we’re planning on meeting new friends. In the process of preparing for the wedding I did some searches for San Martin, the location of our religious wedding. In one of those searches I came across an artist named Geninne who lives in the neighborhood next to the hacienda. She has a shop on the internet where she sells a few of her pieces. I am amazed by her diversity, sense of order, sensible whimsy and the quality of her “work” (I think she’s really just playing hard). She shares much of her work and life on flickr.com. While enjoying her pictures I was inspired to try and share my snapshots on flickr as well. After signing up and posting some pictures I was invited to submit one of my flower pictures to a vibrant group called "The Best Flower Shots" created and managed by Anna (not Ana) who happens to live near here. Both of these women share, online, their strong faith and exciting cross-cultural marriages.

Also planned for tomorrow is the family dinner with everyone in attendance. We are going to the Arroyo which is an enormous site. In the restaurant there are regional singers and dancers from around the country and a bullring, adjacent, that is used for all sorts of events.

Something I’m enjoying is the regular supply of fresh juice. Today we have watermelon; well, we had watermelon. The new taste for today is cajeta. It’s a mixture of honey, goat’s milk and sugar. It’ll put you in sugar shock but you’ll be happy about it. Yesterday’s flavor was esquites. Slooowww cooked corn in a cup with layers of mayonnaise and piquin chile powder (muy picante).

The time in Mexico was passing way too fast. Every trip has been too short though. When we returned from California I only had three days left. I had hoped to declare my intentions to Ana’s parents before the California trip but there weren’t any opportunities. I knew that I wanted to propose before leaving the country but I had to talk with the parents first. I had to create an opportunity and I needed Ana’s help to do it. Of course, this raised questions. When she asked what I wanted to talk to them about, I just answered “Important things.”

Finally I had an opportunity to walk to the family store, alone, and had “the talk” with Leobardo. We had spent a few hours together, a couple of times, on his buying trips but they didn’t afford the opportunity to talk about marriage to his daughter. Because of those trips though, we had a relationship where we could have a serious conversation. I announced my intentions, explained our history and plans and asked for the blessing. After a short speech he gave us his blessing saying that on his part, there was no problem.

Next, I was able to send Ana to the store for a little while and I had the same conversation with Dalinda, her mother. She told me that she was comfortable with her girls at home but she needed to think of them. She had been praying that God would send husbands to her daughters and believed that I was the answer to that prayer. As I mentioned, the time was passing way too fast. On the day before I was to leave, Ana was picking me up in the hotel. She was going to give me an opportunity to drive but I needed to get my license out of the room safe. Unfortunately, I also had the ring in the safe. When she noticed that I was hedging a little bit, because she was too close to the safe, she was determined to see what I was hiding. After playing around a while, I relented and opened the safe and she saw the box. I’ve never seen eyes as big as Ana’s were. It was the first time she was speechless too. After a few moments she asked if she could see it. Again I relented and showed her the ring. Fortunately, she loved it! What I didn’t realize at the time was that she had been joking with friends earlier in the year saying that if someone was going to give her a ring it would have to have a certain number of diamonds. My ring had one diamond more than what she wanted. Whew! She wanted to take it with her but I was done relenting. At this point I hadn’t spoken with her parents yet and she couldn’t have the ring. I wrestled it away from her and put it back in the safe. With her help, I was able to have those conversations and finally, on the last day, in a not too romantic setting, I proposed. She accepted. That was a bittersweet time because we only had a few more hours together before my flight. Later, at the airport, after tears, prayers and declarations of love, I returned to Indiana to start preparing for the wedding and my next trip back.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Day After

I love married life. Ana makes it easy though. Even when she’s angry and frustrated (I didn’t do it) she’s a pleasure to be around. The first day was, actually, fairly normal. We spent the morning talking about the lack of lights and preparing for the day.

Since parts of this area have been dark for a day and a half now and there is no sign of anything happening soon, there is talk of an uprising in the neighborhood. They are talking about shutting down the Pereferico in protest. This is one of the main routes that circles the city and passes through here. A community meeting was called for this morning. About half a dozen people showed up so there was no civil disobedience staged but the group did head down to the light and power office to see what could be done. Later this morning, inspectors and crews were in the area and tonight, we have lights!

Anyway, Ana worked all day and I stopped in occasionally, between errands, to check on her. I brought her back to the house after work where we finished the day talking with the family, talking alone and praying.

If this sounds like a strange way to spend the first day of marriage, refer back to the Mother’s Day entry. It will help explain what’s going on and what will happen later.

Something new I come across this week is tamarindo. Here is a “before” picture and an “after” picture. The fruit is a pod, similar to a green bean but much larger, with a thin, dry, hard shell. Inside is the fruit which encases a handful of large seeds. It tastes like a chewy Sweetart. The shell and seeds are removed and the fruit is ground up and made into a drink that tastes a lot like apple cider but with a little something extra.

There was so much to take in that first night in Mexico that I don’t remember many of the details. Ana’s dad was in bed but her mother was waiting for us. We talked for a little that night and then called it a day.

The week was spent sightseeing and continuing and deepening the conversations from the previous couple of months. We saw El Torre (The Tower), once the tallest building in Mexico and possibly Latin America; the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Beautiful Arts), one of the beautiful museums in town and El Museo Mural Diego Rivera (The Diego Rivera Mural museum) in Bellas Artes. They are in the historic district which includes many Spanish mansions which are hundreds of years old.

We took a taxi to the subway station and rode the train into town. At every stop a vendor got on the train and started hawking his wares, usually MP3 CDs. At the next stop he would get off to ride the next train back and a different one got on. This occurred at every stop throughout the entire trip. After we spent the day in town, and got caught in the rain, we used public transportation to get back. I’m glad we did it but once was probably enough. Imagine an airport shuttle bus designed to hold 20 people with 45 people on on board. This is a daily routine for a few million of the residents each day. There were, literally, people hanging on to the door frame, riding outside the shell of the bus. And this is normal!

During the visit I also met Gloria and Gaby, two sisters that are very close to Ana and Nery. When the four of them get together, there is not a dull or quiet moment for quite a while. Gloria works full time for a missions organization in the northern part of the country, travels the world regularly and has written a book to help travelers translate common phrases from Spanish into Hindi. Gaby is trained as a dentist and is an incredible gourmet cook. The spinach crepes and mushroom crepes actually weren’t too bad.

After a few days in Mexico, we left for a week in California. It was tight but we managed to meet the entire immediate family. Ana was very comfortable in Santa Maria, which is 80% mexican now and in San Luis Obispo (SLO town) with it's very relaxed pace. I had a good time showing everyone the ring and discussing the plans while hiding it from Ana the whole time. We also had an opportunity to visit Yosemite for a few hours. A few hours can't begin to do it justice. It's an incredible place to visit and we're ready to return for a week or two; every so often. I'm anxious to see some of the lodges where my grandfather worked as a finish carpenter.

After we returned to Mexico I looked for opportunites to speak privately with Ana's parents and then to propose. As always, my time here was way too short but it came together in the end. I'll put the details in the next post.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wedding Day!!!

We did it! We got hitched; tied the knot, took the plunge; jumped the broom and got married! (civilly anyway) In the interest of equal time, we “la soga al cuello” (cut the throat), (more coming when I can find them)

We made it to the civil office this morning. The secretary asked us what happened yesterday. Ana told her about the delays in immigration and that we have everything together and in order. We were able to drop everything off for review and keep our 12:30 appointment with the judge.

The next several hours were spent in a relaxed hurry. Immediately started down the list calling all of her brothers and sisters to let them know we were on. We haven’t had any power in the house since yesterday afternoon which added another interesting dynamic to getting ready. It also meant that we couldn’t get online which has been making me a little stir crazy. There is a public internet site around the corner so I left to get online for a few minutes. Just after I rounded the corner Ana caught with me to escort me to the shop. Her mother was worried because I looked like a gringo, alone on the street with a laptop. We returned to the house a little later to finish getting ready. The siblings started arriving around noon and we all left together.

At the office, once we got the secretaries attention, we were given a sample document with our information to review. We corrected some typos, signed the new sample document and put our thumbprints on it. We only waited about 10 or 15 minutes more and were called into the judge’s office. After a minute of picture taking, the judge entered and we started the ceremony. I don’t know what all he said but I agreed with it when he asked me. Actually he spent a couple of minutes explaining the significance of marriage and the responsibilities of the husband and wife to each other and their children. We then signed and thumb-printed official copies of the document we signed earlier followed by the declaration of the judge and applause of the family. I was busy kissing the bride so I didn’t check to see if everyone applauded.

The wedding was followed by a surprise dinner at a family style steak house and then Ana had to see a patient in the clinic. She is also planning on doing some surgery on one of my gums this afternoon but I’m hoping I can distract her enough to forget about it. It was working until I let her read this! Great!

For several weeks before the first trip to Mexico, we had been telling each other “Te quiero.” It’s saying something between “I really, really like you” and “I love you.” I wanted to see her in person when I told her that I loved her for the first time. I had planned a somewhat detailed, very full trip for two weeks. I would arrive in Mexico on Thursday, spend a few days meeting the family and then Ana and I would fly to California for a week to meet my family. We would then fly back to Mexico together for a few more days before I returned to Indiana.

Ana was waiting for me after I passed through immigration and customs at the airport in Mexico. I immediately dropped my bags and gave her a long, special, hug. We walked off to the side of the concourse and said a prayer together. I’m sure we walked back to her car after that but I don’t remember taking any steps. After putting the bags in the car, once we finally found it, we stopped again, embraced and, after looking into her irresistible brown eyes, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I told her that I loved her and gave her a kiss. I won’t go into details about that, and don’t think I could!

We left the airport and I entered a very strange world. I’ve heard about the traffic. I’ve seen the traffic in Mexicali. I can’t describe the traffic here. You have to experience it. It’s a lot like those films we saw in school of blood passing through the body, separating and blending rapidly, except the traffic doesn’t flow nearly as smoothly. Sometimes after a particularly close pass the driver will ask the passenger if they still have their ear. We are often only inches from the next car. And to merge you only need enough room to get your bumper into the next lane. Forget about watching for enough space for the whole car! We weren’t ready to go back to the house yet so we decided to stop and get something to eat. I was excited to experience real Mexican food. I was a little surprised when she took me to Applebee’s! Later that evening we returned to the house and started to meet the family…

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Everything Changes Tomorrow

Mornings here are very different from what I’m used to. They tend to start early; 4:30-6:00 normally, but they take a while to get going. Sometimes it’s 9:00 or 10:00 before we really get going. A lot gets accomplished in that time but I’m not always sure what it is.

On Wednesday afternoons Ana works in another dental office. We started the day at her office gathering supplies and instruments for the afternoon appointments. Then we were off to the immigration office. We were told that my document would be ready by 12:30 but we got there around 10:00 and started waiting. The drive took less than an hour this time. That was much nicer then the 2 ½ last time. After waiting three hours, they called us to ask about one of the documents. We provided the originals for them to copy again and heard that it would be about 10 more minutes. 40 minutes later I approached the desk to see if there were any more problems. Before I could ask, the agent asked me to wait, got up and started searching for our file. After a few minutes he found it and disappeared behind a partition for about 10 minutes. He then called us up to the desk, had me sign a page and we were done. Once I finished reading and translating the document, I was relieved to see that I had my permission and they weren’t going to deport me. Once we got something to snack on and started back to Iztapalapa, Ana started to relax again. She has given me permission to say that she was an ogre for a while, back in the office. She was very ready to get someone’s attention!

It took her a while to relax afterward. The new problem is that the juzgado closes early each day. Because it took four hours of waiting and two hours of driving to complete a two minute task, we couldn’t get to the juzgado in time for them to review our documents today before the wedding tomorrow. Because of that, there is a chance that we will have to move the date again. We had the 7th scheduled but had to move it to the 15th because of paperwork issues (more about that when I explain “apostilles”). We are going to the juzgado at 8:30am tomorrow to be there when they open to see if we can still marry in the afternoon.

I started looking at rings a few weeks before the trip in September. I found a few that I liked but it didn’t make sense to start a marriage with a monthly payment that was going to last several years. And then the work calendar filled completely. I had planned to finish everything the week before the trip to have time to prepare. Unfortunately, the last project went waaayy too long and I lost that week of preparation. That included time to find the ring. On the Wednesday before the Saturday departure, I decided that I had no chance of finding time to get a ring. And then on Thursday, my crew and I were heading south to the project and I pulled off the freeway one exit too early. As it turns out, it was a better route to the project. We were working at night so I didn’t see the jewelry store, in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cornfields on the new route. The next day I decided to take the same route to the project. We were able to start early Friday morning and when I saw the jewelry store, there was a sign out front that read “One week only. Everything half off.” I immediately had a sense that the ring I was looking for was inside. Nery, Ana’s sister, had been helping me with pictures and criteria of the rings that Ana liked. I went back to the store at lunch with the pictures (I always kept them with me) and found two rings that were perfect. After 30 or 40 minutes studying them, I made a decision and bought the ring just in time to take it with me the next morning. In addition, this was the last day of the store's first ever, week long half-price sale! Again, I was anxious to tell Ana how God was providing for us but since the ring was to be a surprise, I had to wait. Now all I had to do was get to Mexico (a little scary), meet the family (very scary) and see if I knew enough Spanish to ask permission from her parents. More about all of that next time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Two days to go

This morning we stopped by the juzgado to have our documents checked and to ask some questions. We’ve received a lot of information from people who have been through the process or know someone who has. Much of that information has been either almost right or just wrong. We heard recently that we will need witnesses at the civil wedding on Thursday. When we asked about that at the juzgado we were told that none were needed unless one of us is a minor or pregnant. Ana tells me that I’m definitely not a minor but she’s close.

We also stopped by one of the malls in town.

I’m glad Ana is working to “support me” because the days are getting so full I don’t know how I would have time for a job. After she finished working this afternoon we spent several hours driving and running errands. Except for the local market, there aren’t many places you can get to quickly. Most everything is 20 minutes to 3 hours away, depending on traffic. Nereyda’s (Ana’s sister) drive to work can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Late tomorrow morning (yea!) we will head to the immigration office to see if I’ve received my permission to marry. They’ve met me three or four times now. I can’t imagine that they would have any objections.


Before I can describe that first trip to Mexico in September I have to tell about the events leading up to the trip. Of course, it started with paperwork. In order to get a passport I had to get a certified copy of my birth certificate. That part wasn’t too difficult. I used an online service and expedited the process. I had my three copies in about a week and a half. Then I applied for the passport.

At the time, the US State department had been requiring passports for flights to Mexico but would allow you to fly, until October, if you provided proof of your application for a passport. The process was supposed to take 2-4 weeks but at times it was taking 6-8 weeks because of the new travel requirements. I didn’t apply early enough to ensure that I had my passport in time but with the exception available, I was OK as long as I left before October. I stopped at the post office on a Thursday evening shortly before closing time. This particular post office can take the passport picture when you submit the application. There is no additional cost and they know exactly what they need so check with your post office before spending extra money someplace else for a passport photo.

The next Wednesday, I checked online at the State Department’s website to see if the application had been received and if I could print my Proof of Application. I was amazed to find that my passport had been put in the mail the day before! Three business days and it was done. That never happens! I wasn't completely surprised though. The day after submitting my application, I remembered the story about Peter when he was in prison and an angel appeared telling Peter to follow him out of the prison. His chains fell off and the doors opened and he walked out unnoticed. I decided to pray that God would see the application through its process. I feel like He said, “Watch this!” I couldn’t wait to tell Ana what happened and how God was preparing the way for us.

By this time I knew I was ready to propose and confident she was ready to accept my proposal. Therefore, I needed a ring. I find this sequence of events fascinating also but this post is getting long so I’ll continue it next time.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Adventure in the City

(This story is best read from the beginning. Click here.)

I went on an adventure today; possibly the only one for a while. Here, most payments for utilities and government fees and fines are paid at the bank. We paid the immigration fee last month but have another one to pay for the juzgado (judge and civil office) services. Ana needed to work all day today so I went to the bank to pay the fee. The only problem was that I didn’t know where to find a bank. I asked a few questions and took off with the car and an educated guess. It actually turned out well. I found a couple of banks within 10 minutes, paid the fee and, with minimal sightseeing, found the house again. I was fairly pleased with the accomplishment but Ana was a little crazy when she found out I was out alone in the city. I thought we had made these arrangements the night before but apparently she is still working on her Spanish. Her father warned me not to try it again because I have the face of a gringo and there are many muggers around. Well, it was fun while it lasted. After spending two hours cleaning dental instruments for the dental mission team this afternoon, we made it back to the house and called it a day.

Back to the story…
We are spending the evening completing and verifying our paperwork for the juzgado. Only three days to go!! What amazes me is how comfortable and natural this whole experience is. I feel like I’ve waited my whole life for this one woman. If only I had “waited” better. But that’s another series of stories.

In February of 2007 I received an email from Ana. As surprised as I was to receive it, I was more surprised by how pleased I was to receive it. If only it had been meant for me. Ana actually was writing to a friend of hers to make plans to get together. Somehow, she had included my address in the message. Fortunately, the month before, Ana removed many of the blocks that she had placed over the years. I wrote back asking her if the message was meant for me. Two days later, she responded with a polite note, apologizing for the mistake and asking about Joseph and me. We started writing more after that. She answered once more in February; five times in March and a little more in April. I think she might have been playing it cool. Women! We started chatting more online until I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to call her and tell her what I was feeling (Hmm. In print that doesn’t seem very masculine). On July 15th, 2007, after a looong weekend preparing for the call I sent Ana a message asking if I could call. She told me no! It was late and her father was already in bed, but maybe the next day. The next day I called her and told her how marvelous she was and that I couldn’t go on without trying to see if this was meant to be. Ana has several points to make about this period of time so I will leave her reaction for her to write. Fortunately for me and my sanity, she agreed that we could pursue something deeper. By this time I was pretty well convinced that she was the one and the following weeks confirmed it. We made arrangements for me to fly out and visit in September. Wait until you hear the thoughts going through her head! That was the most amazing trip! There is way too much information to start sharing it here so…

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Farmer's Market and The Early Days

Every weekend here in Iztapalapa(a “suburb” of Mexico City) there is a farmer’s market. I spent part of Saturday wandering the market, taking pictures and talking to a few of the people. I met a photographer who is using a 106 year-old Century view camera that belonged to his grandfather. The camera and stand are beautiful. He has another view camera that is over 100 years old from Kodak that’s for sale if you know anyone that’s interested.

A significant event in a girl’s life here is her quinceañera; her 15th birthday party. It’s like a Coming-Out party. One of the neighbors will have her quinceañera this Saturday. She and her entourage were rehearsing their dance routines in the street. When I assured her mother that there would be no cost, she permitted me to take a few pictures. Mom is so proud of her daughter and is looking forward to seeing the pictures.

Back to the story…
Tomorrow we will finish the paperwork for the civil wedding. It’s nearly the same process that we went through, a few times, with immigration. It shouldn’t be too complicated. In just a couple more days we should be ready for the first wedding.

After Ana returned to Mexico back in 2002, we started to write each week and chat online. Sometimes she would call me Brian, sometimes Mr. Leddy and sometimes her “little friend”. What a blast to have an international pen pal; especially one who is so intelligent, enthusiastic and funny. Sometimes I needed nearly an hour to translate an email but in short time my Spanish improved. After a few months, I realized that I could develop a more serious interest in this girl and I couldn’t let that happen. I had decided back in college that I wouldn’t pursue a girl if she was in a relationship or, especially, if I were in one. At the time I was seriously dating someone and decided that I couldn’t continue writing to Ana. I stopped writing as often and then stopped altogether six months after she left. Except for some forwards and prayer requests, which she sent to everyone, I didn’t hear from her again for nearly four years. Occasionally I would send her a note during a holiday but I never got a response. Turns out she had blocked my address! She did it to protect my relationship at the time. That’s not the end of the story though…

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day in Mexico

It’s Saturday and Mother’s Day here. The street vendors were out all day yesterday preparing flowers and I saw lots of children dressed in traditional costumes on their way to school to dance for their parents. The lightning pictures in the slide show on the right are from one of the nightly thunderstorms this week.

Ana is working in her consultario today like she did yesterday. She apologized for working but said that she needs to support me while I’m here doing nothing. What a great sense of humor! I think. She also has plans to do more dental work on me this afternoon. All I have to do is show up. I may have to be busy later. I’ve decided to stop telling people that I only need one or two more trips to her office and the ring will be paid for.

Back to the story…

In Mexico, pastors don’t have the authority to conduct legal weddings. A civil wedding is still required even if there is a church wedding. Many families also prefer, or require, a religious wedding. We are going to have both here. We could have married in the United States using a Fiancé visa. With this visa, I would apply to bring Ana into the country specifically for the wedding. Ana would be able to use the visa once, and we would have to marry within 90 days. After the wedding we would petition for her Permanent Residency (green card); a process which takes 6-8 weeks. It’s not a bad option but she would be unable to work or visit family for 2-5 months. She could also come with her tourist visa but it would look suspiciously like immigration fraud if we were married within two or three months of her arrival. We decided to have the civil wedding here. This way, the marriage is recognized in both countries and I can petition to bring her into the country as a family member. This process still takes 6-8 weeks but she will be able to continue working in her consultario and when she has her green card, she will be free to come and go as she pleases. We are trying to consider the civil wedding as just part of the application process and we are planning the religious wedding in August. That gives us 11-12 weeks to complete the immigration process.

The “official” wedding will be in the 450 year-old chapel of the Hacienda San Martin in the mountains outside Mexico City. The brunch reception will be in the garden behind the chapel. There are pictures of the hacienda grounds at www.flickr.com/photos/ba_leedy. Just look for the Hacienda San Martin set.

We met in Indiana in August of 2002. Ana was spending the month working in several of the migrant camps in the state. The last week of her trip was in Anderson and the surrounding camps. I had been talking to our pastor about Hispanic missions for a year or so by this time and we had just received Juan and Leticia Escobar, a pastor from Michoacán, Mexico a few weeks earlier. Because of these events and my friendship with Juan and my availability I was chosen to spend the week with this dentist in the migrant camps. We spent the week discovering that we had many things in common despite very different histories and cultures and language. Fortunately Ana was, and still is, very patient with my Spanish. By the end of the week I had a friend for life. Nothing in my life is that simple though. I’ll explain more about those early days next time. Ana should be contributing her perspective here soon as well.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The middle of the beginning of the story

I start this story in an odd place… right in the middle of the beginning. This is a story of how God can prepare two people, across miles, across borders and cultures, against all odds and bring them together at just the right time. This is the beginning of 50 years or more of an amazing adventure. This is the middle of the beginning because Ana and I are waiting for paperwork which will allow us to marry in Mexico and start the immigration process needed to start our lives together. The series of events that brought us to this point amaze me and as I try to recount them to friends and family, I find there is too much history to tell all at once. Therefore, I’m going to tell the story here, starting from the middle, so that we can enjoy it for the next few decades and maybe you can enjoy it now.

Ana was born and raised and lives in Mexico. I was born in California and have spent most of my life in Indiana where Ana and I met in 2002. She was in Indiana on a dental mission trip and I was her driver for a week. It was a very good week. I’ll share more details about that week and the following weeks soon. Since we enjoy different nationalities, we get to enjoy the immigration process as well.

I arrived in Mexico two days ago, Wednesday, May 7th. Early Thursday morning, Ana and I gathered our papers, again, and at 6:30am drove 2 ½ hours (about 15 miles) to the immigration office to submit our petition, again, to marry. We had tried two weeks earlier to petition with the understanding that there was a 35 day waiting period. We discovered that the process only requires 7-10 days but requires my immigration form and my presence in the country until the process is complete. The last two months have been a series of steps such as 1) research 2) apply 3) learn the real facts 4) repeat. I have to say that I’m enjoying the process though.

This trip to Mexico is part of a much larger plan. We discovered that there are at least three good ways for an American and a Mexican to marry. There are a few other options as well, but we decided to play it safe. The story, at this point, requires a bit of history so I’ll stop here by adding that, if all goes well, we should have our permission on Wednesday in time for our appointment at the Juzgado (local courthouse) on Thursday the 15th for the civil wedding.

In the next post I’ll include a description of the two types of weddings in Mexico and a little more of how we got to this point. I have to say that we believe we are together only by the grace of God and by following His lead. Many of the events of the last few years that brought us together and allowed us to be together are miraculous.